In Refugee Week Support The SOAS 9

Refugee Week is in part funded by the Home Office/Border Agency. While its Simple Acts are worthy, only one out of twenty suggest joining a ‘campaign in support of refugees‘ and none suggest direct action helping migrants & refugees currently under attack by the government and the racist thugs of the Border Agency. So may I suggest adding the Simple Act of supporting the SOAS cleaners- 3 are currently disappeared, whereabouts unknown and 6 have supposedly been deported by force already, one of whom is six months pregnant. All because they won the fight for fair wages, their employer ISS [contracted by the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)] responded by arranging an ambush with over 40 immigration officers in full riot gear and had those without proper papers bitte hauled away to the immigration gulag. Clearly their immigration status was only an issue when profits were threatened. It also does not speak well of the values of the SOAS. Maybe they could get someone in to teach fairness and basic common decency to those who run it.

Keep checking

Rally Wednesday 12pm outside SOAS

Join occupiers, staff and others for a rally to show SOAS management that the fight for justice for the SOAS 9 continues! Demonstrate the campaign is growing and we won’t give up till management meet our demands!

Sign this petition.

And Facebook.

And some on the spot citizen journalism from HarpyMarx.

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‘Preventable National Disgrace’

Border Agency? Lying thugs? Govt. covering up? Who’d a thunk it?

In October last year, The Independent ran a front-page article revealing 200 allegations of racist and physical abuse committed by British guards against failed asylum-seekers. Most of the cases involved abuse of immigrants during the process of being sent back to the countries from where they were fleeing persecution. The then Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) said it could not find evidence supporting such high levels of allegations and demanded to see all the cases so they could investigate. We agreed but said that permission first needed to be sought from the alleged victims and the groups representing them.

When the story was raised in the House of Commons, ministers defended themselves by accusing The Independent of failing to hand over full details of the claims. In short they were accusing us of exaggerating or inventing the story.

Since then, the Home Office’s own audit complaints committee has confirmed the similar high numbers of allegations of mistreatment made by failed asylum-seekers. It also reported serious failings in the investigations carried out by the BIA.

In July, asylum groups and lawyers working for the victims of abuse were able to hand over a dossier of complaints which had now reached 300 cases, around 50 of which were suitable for investigation by ministers. Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons who read the report, said if only one of the allegations was proved it would amount to a “preventable national disgrace.”

How To Profit From The Migrant Gulag

Fire staff and replace with prisoners paid at 83p an hour. Kerching!

GEO, the multinational corporation that runs Campsfield under contract from the Home Office, not content with making huge sums of taxpayers money to imprison people whose only crime is to have come to the UK in search of a better life, is currently paying migrants £5 for six hours of work – either in the kitchen or cleaning.

In a bid to extract as much profit as possible from the misery caused by the migration regime, GEO (since taking over the running of Campsfield) has cut back on both staffing levels as well educational, recreational and other provisions at the centre. The Home Office says that migrants imprisoned in detention centres are exempt from the minimum wage and are not forced to work. But those migrants that we have spoken to have said that there is so little to do in Campsfield that working gives them something to do and takes their minds of the uncertainty of what possibly lies ahead.

More @

Read about Jean Pierre Gueutchue a torture survivor currently imprisoned there with our govt. intent on returning him to the torturers. And a good takedown –They have no compunction– of the bullshit tabloid xenophobia inflating a report by two sidelined politician’s with racist form into what some papers termed an ‘all party call’ for caps on immigration.

Hurray For The New Statesman, But A Small Whine

The New Statesman had a readers poll for what they should investigate/campaign on, the options they gave were

  1. Conservative Party Funding.
  2. Lobbying.
  3. Prince Charles.
  4. The State of British Childhood.
  5. Asylum Crisis.

The response as described by Martin Bright (ooh now I feel dirty!) was-

There has already been a phenomenal response to our New Statesman Investigates feature. At the last count more than two-thirds of people were voting for us to look into the scandal of the treatment of asylum seekers in this country. There are still large numbers voting for us to have a dig around the UK’s lobbying industry. But not so much interest in Tory party funding, Prince Charles or the state of British childhood. We will keep the polls open, but so far asylum is the run-away choice. Already the campaign has grabbed the attention of asylum activists at the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns.This has already been an interesting process. I was convinced that Tory Party funding would have been of most interest to NS readers, but I appear to have been completely wrong. Such exercises can be perverse (the fact that so few of you seem to care about the state of British childhood may well be further evidence that we should be looking into the subject). But the vote is so overwhelming that it looks like asylum will almost certainly be our first subject. I was also impressed by the suggestion that we should into the business of human trafficking. I’ll make sure we add that one to our next poll.

Now they have launched an investigation/campaign- No Place for Children -Yes they are looking into the migrant gulag (not that they call it that) but they are making it about children in migrant jails so I guess they subsumed their keenness for a series about childhood into the issue the readers democratically plumped for. So yes it is good they allowed their readers to throw aside their rather rubbish suggestions (they put asylum at number 5, does that mean amongst the staff it had the least votes?). I mean Bright doesn’t seem exactly thrilled at what the readers have very rightly voted for. Perhaps it is because it will entail an examination of New Labour’s abject tyranny against migrants rather than a chance to stick the knife into tories, which hey, who doesn’t enjoy but it’s nowhere near as pressing as the prison camps throughout the country under the guise of a ‘border policy’, as Kyle and Brownfemipopwer say about the US-

I continue to be thankful for an independent new media at the conventions.  It’s where I get all my worthwhile news.  I just got this from brownfemipower:

Cold Snap Legal is staying on top of what is happening to protesters at the RNC. Among some of the latest updates:
#ICE agents are entering jail and pulling out arrestees with “foreign-sounding names!
#Men in jail have been on 23 hour lockdown, They are on hunger strike until this ends and they are either charged or released.
#f you’ve been released from jail and have NOT had your property returned, please call the Coldsnap hotline (651.356.8635). We can help out!

brownfemipower – La Chola (3 September 2008)

This after “raids” were conducted on protestor’s homes in advance of the Republican National Convention.  It’s what pro-migrant bloggers have been saying for a long time now.  The U.S. migration debate affects everyone residing in the U.S.  If you think it just affects migrants, you’ll get your answer when the government bashes your front door in.

The New Statesman, a major magazine, are covering asylum issues and maybe it is smart tactics to go for the child angle but personally I find it a little patronising and ‘Children in Need-y‘. I do hope it doesn’t descend into a facile -ahh poor kiddies- conscience soother, it must fully connect with the real issues, our complacency & guilt, the economic & political -neoliberal globalisation, imperial wars of agression/client regimes- and also cover the inhumanity of New Labour in their imprisonment of migrants young/old of whatever sex. Anyway that quibble aside this is very good news and I feel some hope the migrant gulag is about to see some sunlight through this human rights campaign and the seeping racism our immigration policies are a symptom of is confronted. So go have a look-

The New Statesman No Place for Children campaign calls on the government to end the detention of children for immigration reasons

Self Harm Up 73% In Six Months In Migrant Prisons

This is a Red Alert that the jails and the Border agency system are absolutely wrong and inhumane in their approach. This is an expression of human pain that tells you the migrant gulag must be dismantled, for such activity to rise 73% in such a short time is profoundly indicative of the inequities and brutality of the institutions. Kudos to Emily Dugan for this report in The Independent-

Incidences of self-harm in immigration detention centres rose 73 per cent in the first six months of this year, Home Office figures have revealed. The sharp increase has provoked calls for the Government to re-examine its policy of treating asylum-seekers as prisoners. .

In the first six months of this year there were 109 cases of self-harm requiring medical attention. Colnbrook detention centre in Berkshire had the highest number, with 32 incidents so far this year. The numbers on self-harm watch have also risen – with 722 cases in the first half of 2008, up from 678 in the last six months of 2007. The total population of the country’s immigration detention centres is typically below 2,300.

When the Independent Asylum Commission concluded a review of the entire system earlier this year, it recommended the detention of asylum-seekers be reconsidered. Sir John Waite, the former High Court judge who chaired the commission, said: “This alarming figure confirms the anxiety which was expressed by us about the appropriateness of detention for asylum-seekers. It also confirms the need for a root-and-branch review of the entire policy.”

The UK Border Agency has already been criticised for its detention of vulnerable migrants and for the extended stays that many are forced to endure. Contrary to UN recommendations, there is no legal limit to the length of time a person can be held in a UK immigration detention centres. The Home Office no longer publishes a breakdown of the length of detention. Experts say it is not uncommon for asylum-seekers to be held for more than six months at a time. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It is unacceptable to detain people without charge for long periods. There is only one proper response to the unacceptably high level of self-harm in detention, and that is for the Government to end the use of detention as part of its asylum policy.”

Despite the latest figures, the Government is determined to expand the immigration detention capacity from 2,500 to 4,000. Dr Cornelius Katona, of the asylum charity Medical Justice, said: “There is an enormous body of evidence that says detaining asylum-seekers is bad for their mental health. These are people who are very vulnerable.” Dr Katona estimates that at least half of the UK’s detainees suffer from mental illness. John O, of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, said: “I speak daily to people in detention and there is no solace you can give to a detainee who does not understand why they have been detained.”

A Border Agency spokesman insisted detention centres were “safe and secure”.

A detainee’s story: ‘They don’t treat you like a person’

Terri Matsvimbo, a 28-year-old asylum-seeker from Zimbabwe was held in Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire for four months this year. She was so distressed by her incarceration and her fears that she would be sent home that she began to self-harm.

In the worst of these incidents, she slit her wrists with razors that were provided by staff at the centre, despite her medical history of depression.

“I was just desperate,” she says. “They don’t treat you like a person there; people keeping animals would treat them with more respect.

“Being in Yarl’s Wood was the lowest I’ve ever been: it was mental torture at its worst. Now I’ve got mental and physical scars that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

More Refugees on Hunger Strike in UK Migrant Prison

I missed this in the week, but saw it on Jim Jay’s blog. I remember vaguely when Bobby Sands was on hunger strike, that was a big deal, now 50 people are striking but as they are ‘unpeople’ in one of our migrant prisons this is largely ignored in mainstream national media (one PA story and the Grauniad), disgraceful. So thanks to IndyMedia [go to the report for fully linked text]-

Some 50 refugees held at Campsfield immigration prison, near Oxford, are on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention. The hunger strike was started on August 9th by 13 Iraqi-Kurdish detainees, who demanded that forcible deportations to Northern Iraq are stopped. This is the second such protest at Campsfield this year and one of many throughout the UK detention estate.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi-Kurdish refugee has taken his own life after being forcibly returned to Iraqi Kurdistan. Hussein Ali shot himself in his home in Sulaimania on August 10th, two days after he was deported to Erbil via Jordan. An emergency demonstration in support of the hunger strikers, called by the Campaign to Close Campsfield, was held outside the immigration prison on August 12th.

On August 9th, campaigners received reports from detainees inside Campsfield saying that 13 Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers detained at Campsfield immigration prison are refusing food in protest at their continuing detention and demanding that forcible deportations to Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq) are stopped. Later reports confirmed that some 50 other Campsfield detainees from around the world have joined the hunger strike. A message from the hunger strikers read:

“We are protest[ing] because we are human beings; we are not criminal. We are locked in the cell like prisoners. We want freedom and justice.”
The UK is one off the few European countries to forcibly ‘remove’ asylum seekers to Iraq. In 2005, an agreement was reportedly signed between the Iraqi Government, the Kurdish Regional Government and the UK Home Office to accept forcibly returned asylum seekers. Since then, over 500 rejected asylum seekers have been deported to Iraqi Kurdistan on special charter flights.

The argument the Home Office has used to deport Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers to Kurdistan (northern Iraq) is that the northern parts of the country, unlike the rest, are “relatively safe”. This is, of course, totally unfounded. In its position paper on Iraq, UNHCR recently said that the security situation in the three northern governorates (Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Duhok), “remains tense and unpredictable” and that “careful consideration” must be given before any returns are carried out.

Who’s responsible?
A day after the hunger strike started, an Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seeker, who was forcibly removed to Northern Iraq after 50 days in detention, took his own life. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) was told by a detainee in Oakington detention centre that his friend, Hussein Ali, shot himself in his home in Sulaimania on August 10th, two days after he was deported to Erbil via Jordan.

Hussein Ali was 35 years old. He had arrived in the UK six years earlier but his asylum claim was rejected. Whilst in detention, he wrote many letters to the Home Office asking to remain in the UK but all fell on deaf ears.

This is the second this year suicide by Iraqi-Kurdish refugees on return from the UK. The other man, known as Heman, hanged himself from a tree shortly after return. Another Iraqi-Kurdish refugee, Kadir Salih, was kidnapped last month in front of his house in an area controlled of Patriotic of Union Kurdistan party shortly after returning home. His daughter was so distressed at his disappearance that she committed suicide. After five years of fighting for asylum and not being able to work, Kadir had given up and signed on the IOM’s ‘voluntary return’ scheme.

Another Iraqi refugee died from cancer on August 3rd. Mohammad Hussain had stomach cancer that went undetected and untreated while he was detained in Lindholme immigration prison near Doncaster (see here for more details).

Meanwhile, Iranian refugee Nadir Zarebee hanged himself in a Manchester park on August 5th after being asked to leave his home in Trafford by his private asylum accommodation providers, MNQ. An emergency protest was called last on August 9th by the International Organisation of Iranian Refugees (IOIR) and supported by the North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG) and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI). Protesters gathered in Piccadilly Gardens and then marched to the BBC offices, who protesters said censor the “racist treatment and brutal human rights abuses of migrants and refugees.”

Well maybe that had some impact as the BBC has some coverage (although only local & they now have relayed the UK Border Agency saying it’s 15 or less). But still it remains hugely under-reported. Check out

A Deliberate & Deadly Confusion

Confusion over the rules on NHS care for failed asylum seekers means people are being turned away from hospitals and GP practices, a report says.Trusts are currently told to decide if people should be treated on a case by case basis.

But an online article for the British Medical Journal reports trusts are making “appalling” decisions and denying people free care. The Department of Health says the situation is under review.

I would venture to suggest that the ‘review’ is one of those very long ongoing processes that is to allow the government not explicitly to say to the NHS- Do not treat failed asylum seekers (which = negating the Hippocratic oath and well, kill people) and to ‘let the trust decide’ is again a way of having responsibility displaced when people are killed by withholding of treatment. We already have deported a cancer patient who subsequently died-

Ama Sumani suffered from malignant myeloma and was receiving kidney dialysis at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, but was deported after her UK visa expired.

Her removal from hospital by immigration officials in January was described as “atrocious barbarism” by the leading medical journal the Lancet.

A pending appeal reveals their real disposition towards basic humanitarianism-

In April, a High Court judge ruled in the case of a Palestinian who claimed denying care for his chronic liver disease breached his human rights, saying banning failed asylum seekers from receiving free NHS treatment was unlawful. However, the Department of Health was given permission to appeal, and the case is due to be heard in November.

So whatever their current fudge we can deduce they are moving towards denying treatment to those people deemed ‘illegal’ as if killing someone classed in such a way is acceptable, they are…untermensch. The BMJ article (behind a paywall dammit -work arounds or emailed texts gratefully received- extract here) quoted by the BBC has some specific instances and it is hard not to conclude the personal prejudices and incipient officious cruelty of gatekeepers to treatment played into the decisions-

Adam Hundt, the lawyer who represented the Palestinian man, said he had been contacted by many doctors who were confused about what they should do. He told the BMJ: “They are telling me they’d been led to believe they didn’t have any choice about who they can treat.

“Some managers are interpreting the rules too restrictively and are saying unless someone is at death’s door you shouldn’t treat them unless they pay. This is wrong.”

He said he has learnt of some “appalling decisions”, such as expectant mothers being wrongly told they would not be cared for if they turned up to hospital in labour.

He added: “Three of my clients – including a child – have died after treatment was refused.” Mr Hundt said he was not directly linking the deaths with the decisions, but added: “We’ll never know whether they would have died anyway or not, but they weren’t given the chance to survive.”

The student group Medsin are pursuing with FOIA requests a government consultation that was dropped in 2004-

The government began a consultation in 2004 on whether failed asylum seekers should be eligible for free GP care, but never published its responses. Now Medsin, a student health group, has used the Freedom of Information Act to track down half of those who provided submissions, and found three quarters of healthcare providers were concerned denying care would put them in breach of their professional responsibilities.

So again they are basically using consultations and reviews to duck the issue -for years- and in the vacuum give a nod and wink to management of hard pressed trusts to take the decisions knowing full well the financial pressures the government impose on those hospitals.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said a review was under way, but there was no date set for publication.

And just to remind you the chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency is Lin Homer a NuLabour apparatchik who was involved in overseeing voting ‘discrepancies’ in Birmingham. Seems fraud was a gateway drug to widespread mistreatment of human beings and best of all she loves privatisation!- Outsourcing Abuse: the use and misuse of state-sanctioned force during the detention and removal of asylum seekers (pdf).

Take some action:-

Amnesty International UK on Asylum the National Coalition Of Anti-Deportation Campaigns