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IRR statement on Stansted 15 verdict

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 03:56

IRR vice-chair Frances Webber comments on the standsted 15 verdict, a trial where laws designed to deal with terrorist threats at airports have been brought against human rights defenders.

The crime of endangering airport security, under the Aviation and Security Act, was designed to deal with terrorist threats at airports – not peaceful anti-deportation activists armed only with equipment to lock themselves to an aircraft to prevent a deportation charter flight from taking off. The Stansted 15 took the action to stop the individuals on the flight from being deported to the risk of serious human rights abuses – and they have been vindicated by the fact that eleven of the sixty deportees who did not fly that day remain in the UK and two have been granted leave to remain, in an implicit admission that they should not have been subject to deportation. The evidence given at the trial has highlighted these secretive charter flight deportations, marked as they are by brutality and inhumanity.

But the trial judge’s refusal to allow the jury to consider a defence of necessity or duress of circumstances – the argument that the defendants’ actions were necessary to prevent serious harm to those on board the plane – made a guilty verdict inevitable, in a trial which appears choreographed from start to finish to send out a tough message to deter human rights defenders.

Frances Webber is the Vice Chair of the Institute of Race Relations 

related links

Stansted 15 face trial

Investigations and prosecutions for crimes of solidarity escalate in 2018 

Calendar of racism and resistance (22 November – 5 December 2018)

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:00

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM AND MIGRATION Asylum, migrant rights and citizenship

21 November: The European Court of Justice rules that a 2015 Austrian regulation giving minimal social assistance to refugees is not compatible with EU directive on the recognition of ‘third-party’ nationals. (Deutsche Welle, 21 November 2018)

24 November: Following the Freedom party’s (FPÖ) unverified claims that it has got hold of the Turkish electoral register and that Austrian citizens of Turkish heritage are illegally holding dual citizenship, eighty-five Austrians of Turkish heritage are stripped of their citizenship by the interior ministry, which is controlled by the FPÖ. Thousands more are threatened in an administrative nightmare that is being dubbed Austria’s ‘Windrush scandal’. (The Telegraph, 24 November 2018)

25 November: Slovakia becomes the eighth EU member state, and the fourth and final Visegrad state, to withdraw support for the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. (Reuters, November 25)

28 November: Svein Ludvigsen, 72, a former high-ranging conservative Norwegian government minister, is charged with sexually abusing three asylum seekers over a period of several years and taking advantage of his position as regional governor to exploit an asylum-seekers vulnerable situation. (The Local, 28 November 2018)

28 November: The Decree-Law on Immigration and Security, dubbed the ‘Salvini decree’, is passed in Italy, abolishing humanitarian protection for refugees, vastly reducing the Sprar system of  asylum reception, and making it easier to strip naturalised citizens of citizenship. (The Local, 29 November 2018)

28 November: The Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens wins the right to judicially review the Home Office over the £1,012 fee it charges to register a child as a British citizen. Around 120,000 children are the victims of Home Office ‘barefaced profiteering’, it says. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)

28 November: A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission finds that asylum seekers are being deterred from using the NHS because of the introduction of upfront charges in England last year, and fears that their information would be shared with the Home Office. Many are having to choose between buying food and paying for medicine, with pregnant women and disabled people the worst affected. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)

3 December: Six refugee families from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia and Syria, stranded on a RAF base in Cyprus for more than twenty years, are given indefinite leave to enter the UK for permanent residence, as the government finally abandons its argument that the 1951 Refugee Convention did not apply to the sovereign base. (Guardian, The Times, 3 December 2018).

Reception and detention

21 November: The Croatian interior ministry’s refusal to extend a cooperation agreement with the Centre for Peace Studies ends its work over fifteen years providing legal advice and teaching refugees Croatian. (, 21 November 20128)

A protest calling for the closure of Yarl’s Wood detention centre on 12 March 2016. © Nilüfer Erdem

25 November: Forty-three women detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre begin a hunger strike to protest an imminent charter flight that will deport at least ten people to Nigeria and Ghana. (Independent, 26 November)

26 November: In the first ever action against the Moria reception centre in Lesvos, Greece, the family of Ahmed Elgamel, a 20-year-old Egyptian migrant who died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the centre in 2017, file a lawsuit for compensation. (ekathimerini, 26 November 2018).

30 November: The Greek ministry for immigration announces that bad weather and deteriorating conditions in refugee camps on the Greek islands has resulted in a plan to evacuate 5,000 refugees from the islands to the mainland, where they will be hosted in hotels for six months. (International Balkans News, 30 November 2018)

30 November: The Danish government announces that by 2021 all convicted foreign nationals and failed asylum seekers who cannot be deported to their country of origin will be detained in a facility on 17-acre Lindholm Island, two miles from the nearest Danish shore (The Local, 1 December 2018)

3 December: Following FOI requests, it is revealed that senior managers in Glasgow city council, who previously claimed to be ‘blindsided’ by Serco, knew months in advance about the private security company’s plans to issue seven-day eviction notices to around three-hundred refused asylum seekers living in accommodation it provided. (The Ferret, 3 December 2018)

3 December: A report reveals that staff at the G4S-ran Brook House immigration removal centre, near Gatwick airport, acted in a ‘draconian’ way and with ‘laddish behaviour’, and that violence at the centre was not properly investigated. The review was commissioned after an undercover reporter for BBC Panorama, broadcast in September 2017, filmed detainees being verbally and physically abused. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)


2 December: Souaro Jaiteh, an 18-year-old Gambian migrant, dies in a fire at the San Ferdinando shantytown in Calabria, Italy, with the region’s president, Mario Oliverio describing the area as a ‘death camp’. His death comes after charities predict that thousands will be left destitute by the ‘Salvini decree’. (The Local, 3 December 2018)


28 November: The captain and crew of a Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto, which rescued twelve Africans from a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean, are left stranded for days with no country willing to accept the migrants and the captain unwilling to return them to Libya. (AFP, 28 November 2018)

3 December: After ten days, and amidst worsening sea conditions, Malta finally agrees to take eleven migrants rescued in the Med by the crew of the Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto, with a twelfth migrant evacuated to hospital after falling seriously ill with dehydration. (Al Aribya, 3 December 2018)

Immigration enforcement

1 December: Calais-based human rights observers and French group L’Auberge des Migrants report that police clearances of makeshift camps around the port of Calais increased to a high of twenty per week in September and October. Read the report here. (Guardian, 1 December 2018) 


23 November: A Home Office review of its use of a controversial, terrorism-related provision in immigration law reveals that between January 2015 and May 2018 it attempted to remove at least 300 ‘highly skilled migrants’ from the UK, and actually deported around eighty-seven. (Guardian, 23 November)

27 November: For one month, a Protestant church in the Hague maintains a 24-hour church service aimed at protecting the Tamrazyans family, who have sought sanctuary there, from being deported to Armenia. Dutch law prevents the police from entering places of worship during religious services. (ABC News, 27 November 2018)

28 November: In response to a question by Caroline Lucas MP, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes reveals that the Home Office has made no attempt to inform 49 individuals deported in 2017 from the UK to the Commonwealth countries of Ghana and Nigeria they may have been deported illegally, or to provide details of the Windrush taskforce. (Independent, 28 November 2018)

Crimes of solidarity

21 November: In Riace, Italy, the Associazione Città Futura, coordinator of the city’s award-winning efforts to integrate refugees, is evicted from its offices in a move which is seen as connected to the vindictive prosecution of the city’s mayor for ‘aiding illegal immigration’. The Network of Solidarity Municipalities vows to help rehouse the association. (, 21 November 2018)

Police and criminal justice

21 November: A West Midlands police constable is charged with racially aggravated wounding after a man who was with a group of travellers was bitten by a police dog in Northfield, Birmingham. (Bromsgrove Advertiser, 21 November 2018)

24 November: BirminghamLive reveals that racism allegations against the police in the West Midlands have prompted more than 250 internal investigations in the past four years. (BirminghamLive, 24 November 2018)

28 November: The CPS rules that there is not enough evidence to pursue charges against the retired Assistant Chief Constable Steven Heywood (facing an IOPC investigation for gross misconduct), in relation to evidence given at the inquiry into the death of Anthony Grainger, who was shot by a firearms officer in Cheshire, 2012. (BBC News, 28 November 2018).

28 November: Although the inquest into the death of Branko Zdravkovic at the Verne Immigration Removal Centre returns a suicide verdict, the coroner does not close the inquest. The Home Office is asked to provide more evidence on the management of vulnerable detainees, with a view to preparing a public report to prevent future deaths. (Inquest, 28 November 2018)

30 November: The Mayor of London is asked to intervene after the Met sends an email to community leaders advising them that armed police foot patrols could be introduced as a response to knife crimes. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right

22 November: A Guardian investigation finds that Steve Bannon’s political consultancy ‘The Movement’, aimed at influencing the May European parliament elections, may be illegal under electoral law in nine European countries. (Guardian, 22 November 2018)

23 November: Ukip leader Gerard Batten appoints Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also know as Tommy Robinson, to be his personal special advisor on gang rapes and prison reforms, advising on ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ and prison conditions. (New Statesman, 23 November 2018).

26 November: In Finland, thirty members of the far-right Soldiers of Odin and the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement march through an East Helsinki shopping centre, as Somali community leaders warn that the far Right are getting ‘bolder’. (YLE, 27 November 2018)

28 November: Bristol anti-fascists protest against Generation Identity’s anti-refugee activities across the city, including spraying a prominent water fountain with red dye and leaving a sign reading ‘rivers of blood’ , a reference to Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech, beside it. (Bristol Post, 27 November 2018)

30 November: The lawyer for the Syrian schoolboy racially bullied in  Huddersfield (see education and racial violence sections below), announces that the family are taking legal action against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also know as Tommy Robinson, for posting two ‘defamatory’ videos on Facebook claiming that  ‘Jamal’ had attacked two girls at the Almondbury community school. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)

2 December: In regional elections in Andalucía, Spain, the far-right Vox party takes twelve seats in the regional parliament, an electoral breakthrough that marks the first time a far-right group has won at the ballot box since the death of General Franco in 1975. (Guardian, 4 December 2018)

3 December: Far-right Jobbik MP István Szávay resigns his parliamentary seat after Hír TV releases a recording of him making antisemitic comments and discussing a verbal and physical assault on a woman in a pub who had called him a ‘stinking Nazi’. (Hungary Today, 3 December 2018)

3 December: Following an undercover BBC investigation, Cardiff MP Stephen Doughty calls for the System Resistance Network (SRN), a neo-nazi group that preaches zero tolerance to non-whites and says homosexuality is a disease, to be banned. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)

Electoral politics

22 November: Hillary Clinton, echoing the strong-borders rhetoric of Donald Trump, calls on European leaders to combat right-wing populism by reassuring electorates that ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ to migrants. (Guardian, 22 November 2018)

26 November: Bruno Weber, an extreme-right Freedom party councillor in Amstetten, Lower Austria, is convicted of posting racist and homophobic comments, which included the Austrian equivalents of the term ‘faggots’ and the n-word, and is ordered to attend a workshop to learn good behaviour online. He claims that he did not realise the n-word was offensive. (Kurier, The Local, 26 November 2018)

25 November: Voters in a referendum introduced by the extreme-right Swiss People’s Party overwhelmingly reject the ‘Swiss law first’ proposal which would have seen the Swiss constitution take precedence over international law. Not a single canton voted in favour of the initiative. (The Local, 26 November 2018).

27 November: A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims calls on the government to adopt a definition of Islamophobia, which it says will help tackle what it describes as a growing problem. (ITV, 27 November 2018)


25 November: Three black schoolgirls who made it to the finals of a NASA school competition have spoken out about the racially-motivated sabotage they faced during the competition, during which online users urged others not to vote for them because they are black. (The Voice, 25 November 2018)

26 November: Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema says she will not enforce the law banning the wearing of  full-face covering clothing in public buildings, unofficially known as the ‘burqa ban’,  and that police capacity could be better used elsewhere. Administrators in Rotterdam and Utrecht agree. (Dutch News, 26 November 2018)


30 November: As the Syrian refugee schoolboy Jamal pleads for people to not use social media to advocate violence against the schoolboy excluded from Almondbury community school for racially bullying him (see anti-fascist section above, and racial violence statistics section below), a Guardian analysis reveals that a record number of schoolchildren (4,590 cases in all, up from 4,085 last year) have been excluded from schools for racist bullying.  (Guardian, 30, 30 November 2018)

30 November: As the government is criticised by teachers’ unions and charities for removing the duty on schools to monitor racist bullying, the Department for Education announces that it has launched an internal review. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)

4 December: The Equality and Human Rights Commission launch an inquiry into racial harassment at UK universities. Students and staff have until 15 February 2019 to submit evidence. (BBC News, 4 December 2018)

Media culture

26 November: A comic called A suicide bomber sits in the library due to be released in May 2019 has been pulled from publication after an open letter signed by more than 1,000 writers, teachers and readers, criticise the book and say it is ‘steeped in Islamophobia and profound ignorance’. (Guardian, 26 November 2018)

3 December: The Bild newspaper is accused of pandering to the German far Right after describing a guide aimed at helping teachers and parents deal with racist attitudes among children as a ‘snooping manual’ that encourages children to ‘spy on their parents’. The publishers of the guide, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, receive hundreds of violent threats since the newspaper ran the story after picking it up on far-right German blogs. (Deutsche Welle, 3 December 2018)

3 December: The 2019 annual Wales Theatre Awards are cancelled after judges face criticism for shortlisting an opera featuring white actors playing non-white roles. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)


21 November: Half of UK football fans witness racist abuse at games, with only forty percent knowing how to report it, according to a survey conducted by Kick It Out and Forza Football. (Guardian, 21 November 2018)

3 December: Kick It Out, with the support of Chelsea and Eni Aluko, have released a short film aiming to tackle antisemitic abuse in football, after Kick It Out statistics from the 2017/18 season revealed that 10 per cent of discrimination reports they received related to antisemitism. (Sky Sports, 3 December 2018)


 21 November: A woman who racially abused her neighbour, a member of the travelling community and smashed the windows of her housing association home in Flintshire, Wales, is given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs. (LeaderLive, 21 November 2018)

22 November: Police appeal for information after a man, claiming he had a knife and acid in his possession, racially abused and threatened a woman while travelling on a train between Gatwick Airport and Bedford. (Crawley Observer, 22 November 2018)

25 November: Police appeal for information after a Sri Lankan shopkeeper is racially abused and spat on, before having his shop windows smashed, by a gang of youths in Scartho, Grimsby. (GrimsbyLive, 25 November 2018)

Attacks on people

23 November: A husband and wife report that both they and their three-year-old daughter are  racially abused and attacked by a couple, who punched and kicked them before trying to remove the wife’s headscarf in Banbury, Oxford. (Oxford Mail, 23 November 2018)

28 November: A 16-year-old boy is charged with assault after a video of a 15-year-old Syrian refugee being pulled to the ground before having water poured over his face in a school playground in Almondbury, Huddersfield, goes viral on social media. The schoolchild, who cannot be named for legal reasons, recounted the harassment he has received since coming to the UK on ITV News. (ITV News, 28 November 2018)

30 November: Fresh footage emerges showing the sister of the Syrian schoolboy, now named as Jamal, being physically abused at the same school. The family lawyer confirms that the girl, aged 14, has been bullied by another group of pupils, with a schoolgirl excluded for forcibly removing her headscarf. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)

Attacks on property

23 November: Police appeal for information after Nazi graffiti and racist slogans are found carved into wood at Swansea University’s Bay and Singleton campuses. (WalesOnline, 23 November 2018)

Attacks on asylum centres

25 November: In Ireland, an arson attack on a former hotel in Moville, Donegal which was set to open as an asylum accommodation centre, leaves one man injured and needing hospital treatment. (the, 25 November 2018)

Charges and convictions

25 November: A judge at Carlisle county court convicts three men for assault but spares them from prison on the grounds that the incident in Botchergate started when they were continuously racially abused by two men and ‘being…victim[s] of racial abuse was significant in their mitigation’. (News and Star, 25 November 2018)


28 November: A third of people of African descent who responded to an European Fundamental Rights Agency survey say they experienced racial harassment in the last five years, with one in twenty respondents saying they had been physically attacked, with the most incidents reported in Finland. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)

30 November: Freedom of information figures from thirty-nine local authority areas obtained by the Guardian shows a rise in racial incidents in schools from 2,702 incidents in 2014 to 3,660 in 2017. Huge surges in Glasgow and Rochdale are reported. Childline says that there have been more than 2,500 counselling sessions in the last three years about racial and faith-based bullying. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)


Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee, Jamie Wates, Joseph Maggs and Ifhat Shaheen-Smith for helping compile this calendar.


Review of ‘The UK border regime’ – a goldmine for activists?

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 02:51

Frances Webber explains why Corporate Watch’s ‘The UK border regime: a critical guide’ will be an essential resource for activists.

In the overcrowded market of books on immigration control, Corporate Watch’s 331-page book, The UK border regime: a critical guide, is one which will not only be read, but will be an indispensible resource for activists. My initial doubts that yet another book on immigration could tell me anything new were quickly dispelled: it is a goldmine of basic, vital information about how the UK’s immigration control system works and to whose benefit.

In the first section, entitled ‘Background’, after a brief history (from Henry III to the Hostile Environment, including a moving graphic of the Iranians’ hunger strike in 2011) the infrastructure of control is described. All the various departments, units and commands within the Home Office immigration directorate are set out, with acronyms such as RALON (Risk and Liaison Overseas Network), NRC (National Removals Command), ISD (Interventions and Sanctions Directorate), what each does, and how they all work together – but that is just the beginning; as the authors explain, the border regime also comprises transport and security companies, local authorities, homelessness charity workers, NHS receptionists, employers, the media and the far Right..

The second and longest section describes the features of the control system, starting with the reporting system which applies to 80,000 migrants, from which officials, we learn, detain twice the number needed to reach removal targets, as half those detained will not be removable. The Home Office is seeking to make detention on reporting’ the main source of volume removals’, including same-day removals, using both fear and hope to keep migrants reporting, but with NATT (the National Absconder Tracing Team) and the Police National Computer to fall back on if they don’t . Chapters on asylum dispersal, immigration raids, detention and deportation are all packed with useful information. We are taken through the process from receiving a tip-off through a raid to the deportation, learning en route that morale is a huge problem with enforcement officials, made worse by constant rebranding, budget cuts and bullying, and not helped by rewards such as cake for the officer making the most arrests.

Fence surrounding port at Calais

As we would expect from Corporate Watch, we are given a wealth of information about the contractors who profit from enforcement. Who knew that dogs and handlers used in border controls at Calais are provided by a company called Wagtail? The Calais chapter describes – and costs – the massive and hugely expensive infrastructure of walls and fences, drones and sniffers, policing and juxtaposed controls – an infrastructure responsible for the deaths of a hundred migrants in the past decade, even sniffing out a French security company linked to Calais mayor Nadia Bouchart, whose efforts to discourage migrants have extended to closing community centres as well as criminalising food distribution.

Another chapter in this section which is revelatory is ‘Hostile data’, which goes into detail on the databases the Home Office has, their links with each other and with police, HMRC and other databases, and the creation of integrated platforms, data sharing agreements and arrangements, and private sector links such as Experian, a company which sells a ‘right to work’ checking app for businesses and acts as the middleman between state and private sector needs, making money from both sides, The Mosaic profiling database, built for corporate marketing, uses Experian’s data to sort households into 67 ‘geodemographic’ categories, and is sought after by local authorities, government agencies and police to assess risks of re-offending and to help in custody decisions. The implications are terrifying, and the immigration exemption in the recent Data Protection Act means we often won’t even know about them.

Docs Not Cops and Tower Hamlets Keep Our NHS Public outside the Royal London Hospital

The third section, ‘Consent’, recapitulates Corporate Watch’s recent report Who is immigration policy for? The media politics of the hostile environment. After a discussion of how collaboration works, based on a case study in which the Department of Health sought to convert frontline NHS staff to the practice of charging for treatment, we are taken through the ‘show of control’ that is all immigration policy can do, in the context of the electoral politics of migration, the dense ecosystem linking corporate interests, media, politicians, and the processes whereby far-right slogans become mainstream party positions through the politics of fear and the ‘anxiety engine’. The final section, How can we fight it?, draws lessons from the resistance described in each chapter, and prescribes new relations of solidarity and the finding of common cause between citizens and migrants, linking, for example, citizens fighting gentrification and social cleansing with migrants fighting raids. Two extremely useful annexes detail major Home Office immigration contracts, and profile the major companies involved in their performance.

The UK border regime is eminently readable, and has many hand-drawn illustrations making it a pleasure to look at – a rare feat in books dealing with such a subject. Accessible, up to date to October 2018, and written from a grassroots, activist perspective, it is a hugely valuable resource.

Related Links

Book available from the Corporate Watch website, price £9.00.

Investigations and prosecutions for crimes of solidarity escalate in 2018

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 02:47

At least 99 humanitarian volunteers and anti-deportation activists have been placed under criminal investigation or prosecuted so far in 2018

In 2017, the European Commission (EC) published its long-awaited evaluation of the 2002 Facilitators Package which regulates member states’ national penal laws against human smuggling. Pleas from NGOs throughout Europe for an end to the criminalisation of humanitarian actions assisting refugees and migrants fell on deaf ears. A complacent EC argued that there was no case to change the directive and ‘limited evidence’ that ‘citizens acting out of compassion have been prosecuted and convicted’.

Below, the IRR, in documenting evidence of eleven investigations and prosecutions (involving 81 people) using anti-trafficking and aiding illegal immigration laws in 2018, draws the EC’s attention to a massive escalation in criminalisation, since it failed to change the regulatory framework (1). The majority of these cases occurred in Sicily and were against the crew and supporters of NGO search and rescue missions.

Crimes of solidarity

Recently, a European citizens’ initiative (ECI) petition was launched, calling on governments to stop punishing volunteers and civil society organisations for offering shelter to refugees. Since the launch, the IRR has received a number of requests for up-to-date information on current cases of crimes of solidarity. We intend to report thoroughly on this issue at the start of 2019. In the meantime, and in order to assist ongoing campaigns, we provide information on eleven cases that we have been following this year, none of which are documented in previous report Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity.


Twelve private individuals: The twelve, who provided shelter for refugees and migrants in their homes, are accused of human trafficking and being part of a criminal organisation. Those charged include Anouk Van Gestel, editor in chief of Marie Claire Belgium, and journalist Myriam Berghe. Case ongoing. More information here.


Briancon 7: Seven men and women accused of ‘aiding illegal entry’ of migrants as ‘part of an organised gang’ during a demonstration in April 2018 against a Generation Identity anti-migrant militia. Court case ended in November 2018 with the accused receiving suspended prison sentences ranging from six to twelve months. More information from the refugee and migrant support group La Cimade here.


Three supporters of Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI): Two humanitarian volunteers (Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini) and ECRI field director Athanasios Karakitsos ‘Nassos’ have been released on bail after over 100 days in pre-trial detention. The three humanitarians have been charged with people-smuggling, espionage and membership of a criminal organisation. More information here and here.


Twenty-four crew members and supporters of Aquarius: Twenty-four people connected to the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, including its captain and the deputy head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium, under investigation in Catania, Sicily, for ‘trafficking and illegal management of waste’. No charges as yet. More information here.

Twenty-two crew members and supporters of Iuventa: Twenty-two individuals, including ten crew members of the search-and-rescue ship Iuventa operated by Jugend Rettett under investigation in Sicily for aiding illegal immigration to Italy while conducting rescue operations in the central Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Ship impounded but no charges as yet. More information here.

Two crew members of Open Arms: Despite the release of the impounded vessel (run by the Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms) by the prosecutor in Catania, Sicily, the captain, Marc Reig and the mission’s coordinator, Anabel Montes are still under investigation for ‘aiding illegal immigration’. The case was brought after they rescued 218 people in the Mediterranean in March 2018 and took them to Sicily where the ship was initially impounded. No charges as yet. More information here.

Mayor of Riace and his partner: Domenico Lucano, mayor of Riace, in Calabria, and his partner, Tesfahun Lemlem placed under house arrest and charged with encouraging illegal immigration including organising ‘marriages of convenience’ for immigration purposes. Case ongoing. More information here.

Six Tunisian fishermen: Six Tunisian fishermen, including Chamseddine Ben Ali Bourassine, known in the city of Zarzis for his heroic work saving migrants, are under investigation in Sicily for illegally escorting a boat into Italian waters after towing a vessel with fourteen migrants onboard to safety, off the coast of Lampedusa. Case ongoing.


Captain of Mission Lifeline vessel: German national Claus-Peter Reisch charged with filing incorrect registration documents and entering Maltese waters illegally. The Lifeline crew had rescued 234 people near the Libyan coast but Malta initially refused to allow the boat to dock, and then impounded it, arresting the captain who was later granted bail. Case ongoing. More information here.


Helena Maleno Garzón: A Spanish national and founder of Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders), Maleno Garzón, who lives in Morocco, was initially investigated by the Spanish authorities for her work alerting the Spanish coast guard about migrant boats in difficulty during crossings. After the Spanish could not find enough evidence to prosecute, she was charged in Morocco with aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Case ongoing. More information here.


Anni Lanz: A former Secretary General of Solidarité sans Frontieres, Anni Lanz has already been prosecuted once but now faces further court appearances owing to her refusal to pay fines amassed after attempting to help an Afghan asylum seeker, deported under the Dublin regulations, return to Switzerland. Case ongoing with next court appearance in December. More information here.


Prosecutions of anti-deportation activists

Unlike in previous years, we include in our monitoring of 2018 three cases involving criminal prosecutions (including the use of anti-terrorism provisions) against eighteen individuals arising from attempts to prevent deportation flights. While these actions – aimed at disrupting flights carrying deportees – would not be protected by any change to the Facilitators Package, we include them now, because of our concern that the kind of disproportionate and politically-motivated charges being brought by European states appears to imply a coordinated approach. Those who have attempted to stop deportation flights are acting from the same idea as those who try to provide shelter, food and transport, or rescue people in the Mediterranean Sea. Why people act in particular ways is of course individual to them, but in all the cases we identify (at borders or on deportation flights) those who stand accused speak of a humanitarian impulse to protect life, or a political impulse to defy an unjust law, or both. While those who rescue at sea might be responding to an immediate threat to life, those who intervene to prevent a deportation flight do so because of the future life-threatening consequences of deportation.


Two anti-deportation activists: Ragnheidur Freyja Kristinardottir and Jorunn Edda Helgadottir were arrested in May 2016 after attempting to stop a deportation flight by standing up and explaining to passengers that there was a Nigerian deportee onboard. They were not charged at the time, but two and a half years later in October 2018 charges of jeopardising the safety of a flight were brought on the same day that Elin Ersson was charged in Sweden (see below). Case ongoing. More information here.


Elin Ersson: Student Elin Ersson charged with violations of the Swedish aviation act after an incident in July 2018 when she prevented a Turkish Airlines flight with an Afghan deportee from taking off at Gothenburg airport, by refusing to sit in her seat when the plane was set to take off. Case pending. More information here.


Stansted 15: Fifteen activists from a number of anti-deportation groups face charges of endangering airport security under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act after they chained themselves to an immigration removal plane as an act of conscience to protect the lives of deportees to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone who they believed were being deported unlawfully. More information here.


Related Links

Details of Crowdfunding page for legal defence of Nassos, Sean and Sarah here.

London Migration Film Festival: Babylon + Q&A

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:37

As part for the Migration Film Festival the Migration Collective is showing the 1980 film Babylon followed by a panel Q&A. 

  • 6:45 – 8:45 pm, Tuesday 4 December 2018
  • Migration Museum at the Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London, SE1 7AG

Babylon tells the story of DJ for Brixton reggae sound system ‘Ital Lion Sound’, Blue is getting ready for the local sound system showdown with rival crew, Jah Shaka. In the year when the Windrush scandal came to light, this film will help us explore how much (or how little) things have changed for members of the Windrush generation living in London and the UK.

Related links

Event details and tickets here

Details of Migration Film Festival here

Calendar of racism and resistance (8 – 21 November)

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 06:06

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM AND MIGRATION Asylum and migrant rights

8 November: A total of six EU states, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Croatia, have so far refused to sign the UN’s non-binding Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. (Deutsche Welle, 8 November)

10 November: At least 20,000 people, chanting ‘we are all illegals’ and coming together under the slogan #indivisibili (indivisible), march in Rome against the government’s security and migration decree and the ‘growing climate of hatred’ in Italy. (Al Jazeera, 10 November 2018)

13 November: An investigation by the Independent reveals that asylum seekers attending compulsory reporting sessions with the Home Office are forced to travel a five-hour journey each week, costing them up to three-quarters of their weekly allowance. (Independent, 13 November 2018)

13 November: Around 150 remaining residents of the Baobab camp, an informal refugee camp close to one of Rome’s train station, are evicted by the police and with only 65 people relocated, many now have nowhere to go as winter sets in. (Al Jazeera, 13 November 2018)

14 November: The chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee accuses the Foreign Office of allowing government asylum policy to be dictated to by a mob after it emerges that it urged the Home Office not to grant asylum to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan, due to fears for the safety of UK consular staff. (Guardian, 14 November 2018)

19 November: Seventy-seven people, rescued by a cargo ship while trying to reach Italy but taken back to Libya, are refusing to leave the vessel docked at the port of  Misrata, saying they want to reach Europe and would rather die than be taken back to a Libyan detention centre. (Al Jazeera, 19 November 2018)


Borders: violence and militarisation

14 November: The Guardian obtains video footage that backs claims that Croatian police are beating migrants and refugees with truncheons and inflicting multiple injuries on them as they attempt to cross into the EU from the Bosnian cities of Bihac and Velika Kladusa. (Guardian, 14 November)

Reception and detention

8 November: The trial of thirty security guards, police officers, European Home Care administrators, municipal government employees and social workers accused of abusing refugees at an asylum-centre in Burbach, Germany, opens. A 155-page indictment details widespread systematic abuse and lays out the charges against the accused, which include grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, coercion and theft. (Deutsche Welle, 8 November 2018)

The Campaign to Close Down Campsfield

9 November: The Home Office announces that, in response to the Shaw review into welfare of vulnerable people in detention, Campsfield House immigration removal centre in Oxfordshire will close by May 2019. The Campaign to Close Down Campsfield and End All Immigration Detention welcomes the ‘long overdue’ announcement, and remembers Ramazan Kamluca and Ianos Dragotan who died there in 2005 and 2011 respectively. (Gov.UK, Campsfield campaign press release, 9 November 2018)

20 November: A Guardian investigation reveals that child refugees are facing abuse, violence and malnutrition in a network of twenty-six Libyan detention centres part-funded by the British government. (Guardian, 20 November 2018).

Immigration enforcement

12 November: Following a legal challenge by Migrants Right Network and Liberty, the Home Office scraps a memorandum of understanding which would have allowed for data-sharing between the Department of Health, NHS Digital, and the Home Office, with the data then used to track down patients believed to be in breach of immigration rules. (Guardian, 12 November 2018)


12 November: In a monthly report to the Home Affairs Select Committee, home secretary Sajid Javid reveals that it is now known that eleven of the eighty-three people wrongfully deported to the Caribbean died following deportation. The government had previously acknowledged three Windrush generation deaths. Read a Home Office update here. (Guardian, 12 November)

14 November: Kweku Adoboli, a junior banker convicted of fraud while working at USB, who has already served a prison sentence, has been deported to Ghana despite having come to the UK at the age of twelve. (Guardian, 14 November 2018)

15 November: Lord Blunkett, home secretary in Blair’s Labour government (2001 – 2004), admits to a parliamentary Human Rights Committee that he ordered home office staff to ‘up removals’ to satisfy the anti-immigrant press. (The Independent, 15 November 2018)

16 November: The Home Office, under pressure from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, revises its methodology for calculating the number of the Windrush generation wrongly deported or detained. Officials now admit that they misclassified a number of affected people as criminals and excluded them from the official tally of 164. (Guardian, 16 November 2018).

Crimes of solidarity

9 November: In France, the trial of the ‘Briancon 7’, accused of ‘aiding illegal entry’ of migrants as ‘part of an organised gang’ during a demonstration in April 2018 against a Generation Identitaire anti-migrant militia, ends with the accused receiving suspended prison sentences ranging from six to twelve months. (Le Monde, 9 November 2018)

20 November: Twenty-four people connected to the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, including its captain and the deputy head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium, are placed under investigation in Italy for ‘trafficking and illegal management of waste’. The National Aids Trust condemns the Sicilian prosecutor’s claim that clothes worn by rescued migrants could have been contaminated by HIV, meningitis and tuberculosis, for perpetuating ‘myths about HIV and infectious conditions’ and ‘stigmatising’ both ‘people living with HIV and migrants fleeing hardship’. (Guardian, 20 November 2018)


13 November: Victims of the Windrush scandal criticise the length and complexity of the consultation for the government’s proposed compensation scheme, pointing out that many people are facing destitution for want of financial aid. (Guardian, 13 November 2018)

Police and criminal justice system

8 November: The inquest into the death of Adrian McDonald who died in 2014 after being tasered by Staffordshire police and bitten by a police dog opens in Stoke-on-Trent with his family criticising the long delay in securing a hearing. (Inquest, 8 November 2018).

9 November: The Information Commissioner launches an inquiry after the Metropolitan police admit that the names of young people on its Gangs Matrix had been shared online on social media with the data breach carried out by an ‘unknown professional’ working in Newham. (Evening Standard, 9 November 2018)

12 November: Junior Home Office minister Nick Hurd denies a Guardian report suggesting that the government is set to change the ‘reasonable grounds’ requirement to stop and search but confirms that the government has plans to help police use stop and search more efficiently. (Guardian, 12 November 2018)

16 November: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issues an enforcement notice against the Metropolitan police, finding that the Gangs Matrix breaches data protection laws, fails to distinguish between victims of crime and offenders, and potentially causes damage and distress to a disproportionate number of young black men. (Guardian, 16 November 2018)

19 November: The inquest into the death of Jamal Mohamoud, 21, who was fatally attacked by prisoners at HMP Pentonville on 16 October 2016, opens. (Inquest, 18 November 2018)

19 November: The inquest into the death of Branko Zdravkovic, who in April 2017 was found hanging in the Verne immigration detention centre in Dorset where he was facing removal, opens. (Inquest press release, 19 November 2018)

19 November: A police misconduct hearing, expected to last five weeks, opens at Sutton Coldfield police station against three West Midlands police officers accused of giving false or misleading accounts of events, including the inappropriate use of force, leading up to the death of Kingsley Burrell in March 2011. (Birmingham Live, 19 November 2018).

Anti-fascism and the far Right

8 November: A Polish court overrules a ban on far-right groups marching in the capital on annual Polish independence day, that was initiated by Warsaw’s mayor on the grounds that the threat posed by ‘aggressive nationalism’. (Deutsche Welle, 9 November 2018).

9 November: As events are held across Germany to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht anti-Semitic pogrom of 1938, historian Wolfgang Benz draws parallels with events earlier this year in the eastern city of Chemnitz and discusses the rise of Alternative for Germany (AfD), pointing out that Hitler ‘began his career as a ‘populist’. (Deutsche Welle, 9 November 2018)

9 November: The far-right movement ‘We are for Germany’ demonstrate in Berlin on the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht after a court lifts a ban on the protest on the grounds that it poses no threat to public order. (Deutsche Welle, 9 November 2018)

9 November: PayPal bans Tommy Robinson, stating that the company does not allow its services to ‘be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory’. (Guardian, 9 November 2018).

9 November: A package containing white powder and addressed to judge Geoffrey Marson, who previously jailed Tommy Robinson, is delivered to Leeds Crown Court. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 9 November 2018)

11 November: The Polish president Andrzej Duda addresses the 200,000-strong March of Independence organised by nationalist and far-right groups and attended by the National-Radical Camp (ONR), the successor to a pre-war Polish fascist movement, and Italian neo-fascists from Forza Nuova. (Guardian, 11 November 2018)

13 November: Birmingham crown court finds Oxfordshire couple Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas guilty of being members of National Action, a far-right terrorist organisation banned in 2016. Daniel Bogunovic, from Leicester, is also convicted of membership of National Action. (Guardian, 13 April 2018)

13 November: As reporting restrictions were lifted following the verdict in the Birmingham crown court, it emerges that Cpl Mikko Vehvilainen, a British army veteran who served in Afghanistan who was jailed for eight years in March, was a recruiter for National Action and a key part of its strategy to expand its membership with the armed forces. (Guardian, 13 November 2018).

16 November: Former Donald Trump strategist and Breitbart News editor Steve Bannon is escorted to the Oxford Union by riot police after around 1,000 protestors demonstrate against his speech at the union. (Mirror, 16 November 2018)

17 November: Tens of thousands of people demonstrate in London in a unity march against the rise of the far Right and and to mark Islamophobia awareness week. (Morning Star, 18 November 2018).

20 November: The Home Affairs Select Commitee writes to Facebook and Twitter asking why a video promoting National Action has not been taken down, and seeks clarification on the training that moderators receive on identifying content relating to banned UK terrorist organisations and far-right material. (Guardian, 20 November 2018)

Electoral politics

7 November: Conservative Birmingham Solihull councillor Jess Potts has been readmitted into the party after being suspended for sharing tweets calling for the deportation of all Muslims and for describing ‘Pakistani hospitality’ as ‘having a daughter raped by men who think she’s “white trash”’. (Birminmgham Live, 7 November 2018)

18 November: Cornwall Conservative MP Derek Thomas refers racist leaflets inflaming hatred of ‘non-white migrants’, to the police. The leaflets, which claimed that ‘mixed-race worker drones’ are replacing Europeans, were handed out before a public meeting Thomas organised on Brexit in Helston. (BBC News, 18 November 2018)

Media and culture

9 November: Roma community worker and former police officer Peter Torák criticises the Guardian for falsely claiming in an article that tensions between Roma and Pakistanis across England are on the rise. The article by Helen Pidd has also reinforced racist media frameworks in the Czech Republic, he says. (, 9 November 2018)

12 November: More than 700 organisations, individuals, journalists and public figures in Croatia sign an open letter, criticising the media’s ‘one-sided’ and ‘dishonest’ reporting about migrants and refugees which they say is fuelling a rise in hate crimes. (Balkan Insight, 12 November 2018)

14 November: In response to an article in the New York Times revealing that Facebook hired a US Republican research firm to stir up animus towards George Soros, the Open Society Foundations calls for a through and independent inquiry into Facebook’s lobbying and PR work. (Open Society Foundation, 14 November 2018).

Constablequackers via Wikamedia Commons


14 November: The Majority Perspective Foundation, representing people of African descent in the Netherlands, loses its legal challenge to get ‘all racist characteristics’, such as curly hair, red lips and black face make-up, removed from Santa Claus’ helper Zwarte Piet. (Dutch News, 14 November 2018)



Employment and labour exploitation

16 November: The families of five Spanish-African migrants who died in July 2016 after a concrete wall collapsed on them at the Hawkeswood Metal Recyling company in Birmingham express disbelief after an inquest returns an accidental death verdict. The five men who died are Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana. (BBC News, 16 November 2018)


7 November: Controversy mounts over the appointment of controversial right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton as chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission after it emerges that he described Jews in Budapest as forming part of a ‘Soros empire’ in 2014. (Guardian, 7 November 2018)

16 November: Six of ten rough sleepers who died in Redbridge this year were Indian men, prompting the Refuge and Migrant Forum of Essex and London to call for changes to the No Recourse to Public Funds rules.  (Guardian, 16 November 2018)


9 November: The new chair of the Parole Board reveals that that none of its 240 members is black, a factor she puts down to unconscious bias. (BBC News, 9 November 2018).

9 November: An employment tribunal finds luxury goods group Richemont UK guilty of racial discrimination against an employee seeking promotion after displaying a ‘preference for white continental Europeans’. The company was also found guilty of using convert surveillance on the employee whilst she was on sick leave. (Drapers, 9 November 2018)

13 November: The UN Human Rights Council says that negative stereotypes about parents of African descent amongst Dutch social workers have resulted, in some cases, in children being forcibly removed from their parents and placed in care. (Dutch News, 13 November 2018)


8 November: Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) football team admit that since 2013 its scouts outside Paris categorised promising young talent according to ethnicity (North African, French, African and West Indian) but denied that such illegal racial profiling was part of official club policy. (Al jazeera, 9 November 2018)

10 November: Greek TV sports commentator Takis Tsoukalas faces charges under anti-discrimination laws after describing black basketball player Thanasis Antetokoumpo on air as a ‘monkey’. (Ekathimerini, 15 November 2018)


10 November: The National Union of Black Students is amongst those criticising the University of Reading for categorising an essay on the ethics of socialist revolution by the late renowned University of Manchester academic Norman Geras as ‘security sensitive’ under the government’s Prevent strategy. (Guardian, 10 November 2018)

National Security

6 November: Fouad Belkacem, a former leader of Sharia4Belgium currently in prison for membership of a terrorist organisation, launches an appeal against the decision to strip him of his Belgian nationality on the grounds of severe violations of his duties as a citizen. (Brussels Times, 6 November)

Racist violence and harassment  Abuse and harassment

15 November: Police appeal for information after footage showing a man racially abusing a Chinese couple on a train from London to Bristol went viral. (BBC News, 15 November 2018)

16 November: North Yorkshire Police apologise to Uber driver Mohammed Shafaq after the man who racially abused him whilst he was driving his taxi in York was only given a caution, which ‘was not a robust punishment for a hate crime’. The case has been reopened and Mr. Shafaq has been invited to make a formal complaint. (York Press, 16 November 2018)

Attacks on people

5 November: Police appeal for information after a taxi driver was racially abused and assaulted, having his hair and beard pulled whilst driving, by a passenger in Grays, Essex. (Echo News, 5 November 2018)

9 November: Police are treating as racially motivated an arson attack on the home of a family of five in east Belfast. (Belfast Telegraph, 9 November 2018)

17 November: Police appeal for information after a man is racially abused, before being pushed to the floor and spat on, by another man in a car park in Wolvercote, Oxford. (Oxford Mail, 17 November 2018)

Attacks on property

5 November: Swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans are daubed on the wall of a house in Beverley, Yorkshire. (HullLive, 5 November 2018)

10 November: A swastika and graffiti reading ‘KKK’ are daubed on the side of an accommodation building on the University of Kent campus. (The Tab, 10 November 2018)

16 November: Anti-Roma graffiti is daubed on the wall of a pedestrian subway in Ballymena, County Antrim. (BBC News, 16 November 2018)

19 November: Swastikas are daubed on the wall of a community centre in Oxford before being removed by the council. (Oxford Mail, 19 November 2018)

Charges and convictions

6 November: John Lock, 28, is sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to racially aggravated criminal damage and racially aggravated threatening behaviour at a bar in Burmantofts, Leeds. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 6 November 2018)

9 November: John Reilly, 41, is sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after admitting racially aggravated assault causing actual bodily harm, with the sentence running consecutive to an existing conviction, for racially abusing and pouring boiling water into the eye of a fellow inmate at HMP Altcourse, Liverpool, whilst they were sleeping. (Liverpool Echo, 9 November 2018)

15 November: Joseph Brogan, 27, admits racially aggravated threatening behaviour and is jailed for six months after shouting antisemitic abuse and giving a Nazi salute at a rally against antisemitism in Manchester. (Metro, 15 November 2018)

15 November: Craig Douglas, 24, pleads guilty to assault and is jailed for eighteen months after racially abusing and attacking a shopkeeper, kicking and punching him and leaving him with a broken cheekbone and nose, outside the victim’s shop in Musselburgh, East Lothian. (East Lothian Courier, 15 November 2018)

16 November: Kane Powell, 20, pleads guilty to two counts of assault and another of causing racially aggravated fear/provocation of violence after repeatedly banging and kicking the door of a residential property whilst shouting racist abuse before assaulting a Pakistani man in Redruth, Cornwall. (Cornwall Live, 16 November 2018)

16 November: Two men are charged with religiously aggravated assault, after both men, along with a third unidentified suspect, allegedly racially abused, punched and kicked an Italian bartender, who the group mistook to be Muslim, at Canada Water underground station in London. (Daily Mail, 16 November 2018)


Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee and Joseph Maggs for their help in preparing this calendar.

The IRR History – the first fifty years

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 06:23

Slide show explaining the first 50 year of the Institute of Race Relations History from its creation in 1952 as part of Chatham House, to its take over by staff in 1972 and transformation into an anti-racist ‘think tank’." frameborder="0" class="__youtube_prefs__" allowfullscreen data-no-lazy="1">


The Windrush scandal exposes the dangers of scaremongering about ‘illegal immigrants’.

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 07:05

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) publishes today a background paper showing how the injustices meted out to the Windrush generation are not anomalies but the logical result of an immigration system that, over many years, has weaponised the idea of ‘the illegal immigrant’.

How can people who considered themselves British over a lifetime suddenly be told that they are no such thing? How did a person’s immigration status become so life-defining? When did ‘illegal immigrant’ change from a regulatory phrase into a badge of criminality?

These questions, thrown up by the Windrush scandal, are addressed by Frances Webber, a former immigration lawyer and vice-chair of the IRR, in her background paper The embedding of state hostility, published today.


*examines the Windrush scandal in the context of three decades of immigration law, based around a set of interlocking policies of denial, exclusion, surveillance and enforcement that, taken together, have coalesced into today’s ‘hostile environment’;

*shows how the good immigrant/ bad immigrant dichotomy, and the term ‘illegal immigrant’, have, at different times, been deployed by politicians, aided and abetted by a constant scaremongering from sections of a hostile media.

According to author Frances Webber,

‘The roots of some hostile environment policies are very deep and the idea that they have been dismantled overnight, simply by a change of phrase – not “hostile environment” but “compliant environment” — is wishful thinking.  The UK’s immigration policies have turned all foreigners into a suspect population and our society into a nation of border guards.’

This 30pp background paper has sections on: the build up to the Windrush scandal; case studies of those affected; the roots of hostile environment policies; the role of the media in weaponising ‘illegality’; the government’s retreat from universal human rights standards; the role of campaign groups and professional organisations in challenging the hostile environment and standing up for the Windrush Generation.


The embedding of state hostility: a background paper on the Windrush scandal can be downloaded here

Telling the Mayflower Story: Thanksgiving or Land Grabbing, Massacres & Slavery?

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:37

 Join authors Danny Reilly & Steve Cushion in conversation with Colin Prescod to discuss the overlooked aspects of the Mayflower‘s journey to America in 1620. 

  • Friday 30 November, 5:30 pm. 
  • UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN

In the autumn of 1620 the ship Mayflower, with 102 passengers, landed in North America and started the colonisation of the area that became known as New England. The creation of the New England colonies by thousands of English colonists in the seventeenth century involved the violent seizure of territory and slavery.

Related links

book eventbrite tickets here

Socialist History Society website

‘Reclaiming our collective past’; meeting Amrit Wilson

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 04:42

IRR’s Sophia Siddiqui has a discussion with Amrit Wilson, an activist and writer, whose seminal book Finding a Voice: struggles of South Asian women has just been republished, forty years later. 

Why did you write the book in 1978 and why is it relevant today?

Back in the 70s like many other community activists and South Asian feminists, I had become aware that our communities were being seen through a very colonial anthropological lens. Because race and gender are so intertwined there was a particular interest in women. A growing number of academics were becoming ‘experts’ by studying and objectifying us. They would gather material by meeting Asian women, and speaking to them, often via their husbands, and then come up with theories which were implicitly racist – that Asian women were ‘passive’, for example, or to that we have low ‘pain thresholds’, poor mothering skills and so on. What was worse was that often these stereotypes were used to justify government policies.

Many of us felt that a book in which Asian women could set the record straight was needed and because I was at the time a freelance journalist people suggested that I think of writing a book. Around the same time I was also offered a contract by Virago, the first feminist publishers in this country – so that is how Finding a Voice came to be written.

Actually writing it was not easy though because we were constantly told that South Asian patriarchy was something exceptionally violent and barbaric, or that patriarchy itself was something that had been imported from all those countries Britain had tried to ‘civilise’. To counter this I tried to write about the reality of women’s everyday lives, what we faced at home and the battles we fought at work and also how we felt and what we thought. How our experience of race (and class) is inevitably gendered while the patriarchy we face is shaped by race and class.

But conceptualising the book was not easy. In the end my conversations with many of the women made me realise that through these varied voices and individual experiences, feelings, and ideas I had to portray a collective experience. It was very difficult to begin writing but it was also very exciting because I felt I was doing something which had not been done before.

How did you find the women that you interviewed?

Amrit and Sophia at the Finding a Voice book launch

My activism and my journalism were very much connected. People would call me up and tell me about racist attacks. I remember I went to Coventry, where at the time there was a lot of racial violence. I went there and, of course, I was met at the station by a group of men and taken to a pub to speak with them. When they had told me what they wanted to I asked to see the women in their families. This was considered very strange and I remember them saying things like ‘why do you want to meet my wife, she doesn’t know anything’.

I found  my conversations with women gave me a far deeper understanding of situations. Sometimes people would ring me up and tell me about impending deportations, they would ask me to write about them because publicity might help the case and again I found talking to women essential. Occasionally women I had got to know would call me and say that I should interview particular social workers who had been incredibly racist to them. Because of all this, even before I started writing the book I had got to know a large number of women in different South Asian communities. And once I started writing I had the support of many progressive community workers and teachers and others, both South Asian and white. They helped me enormously by introducing me to others they thought I should meet.

In the 70s and early 80s, South Asians in this country were friendlier to each other, more open to each other. There were fewer divisions amongst us. In fact, one of my most powerful narrators in the book was a woman I met by chance one day when I got lost in East London.  I asked her in Hindi if she could direct me to the nearest tube station. She couldn’t, but she invited me into her house to look at her A-Z. And then we got talking, I told her that I was writing a book and she said she wanted to tell me about her life. I can never forget the way she told her story and the need she felt to do so. I remember she offered me some food and there was a very hot chutney – it was so nice but so hot. And then suddenly we were both crying, I don’t know if it was the chillies… She told me so much. She was the one who ultimately pushed me to begin writing the book.

How has the South Asian community changed? When reading the book, I felt that we don’t have this enveloping South Asian community, it feels much more fragmented now.

Amrit Wilson at a national demonstration, ‘Black People Against State Brutality’, in 1979.

The South Asian communities today are fragmented. Multicultural and later multi-faith policies in the local and national state created huge divisions by offering us funds according to nationality, language and religion, and from the 1990s on, the British state’s own rampant Islamophobia encouraged religious divisions in the South Asian communities. Also there was, particularly from the 1990s on, the growth of the religious right in our countries of origin, particularly Hindu supremacy in India and this has been replicated in our communities here, causing deep divisions.

But to return to multiculturalism, many people tend to see the era of multicultural policies as some kind of golden age – I don’t agree. While it did have positive aspects it did not recognise the differences of gender, caste or class. If anything, it heightened women’s oppression because it gave power to a host of very patriarchal community leaders who were willing to do the state’s bidding. And across the board it encouraged the most reactionary sections of our communities, the right-wing, Islamophobic and casteist Hindu organisations, for example.

Are there particular challenges when writing about your own community, did you for example get accused of attaching blame to your own community?

For me and for all those of us who come from a Marxist position, oppression has to be located within certain structures. If you centre a woman in your writing, then you have to see the different forces that have affected her – both historically as well as in the present. And those forces can be anything from colonialism, to the class she comes from, to the racism she faces, to the type of patriarchy which has been, and is, oppressing her. Once you see the structures and the way they interact, then the nature of oppression becomes clearer, and victim-blaming is exposed for what it is.

The past

I wanted to now discuss what has changed since you published Finding a Voice forty years ago, and what has stayed the same. Continuities between the book and the present day were depressing to read, for instance, the same detention centres mentioned in your book exist today. Have things just become even worse, particularly in terms of immigration?

© Nilüfer Erdem

Yes, one can feel very depressed by today’s horrific scale of deportations of people who have spent their lives in Britain, by the rapes, violence and suicides in detention centres, by the hostile environment policy, the massive criminalisation of Black people and Muslims, and much else in  this country…. But, in fact, the late 70s was the period when the foundations of the authoritarian state were being laid. A lot of what’s happening now can be traced back to that period – mass surveillance, terrorism laws and even police methods like kettling. The difference now is that we have a neoliberal state, public services are almost entirely privatised, big business, corporates have almost total power and the freedom to destroy lives in the interests of profit is complete. For example, G4S and Serco and other corporates now literally control the detention centres. At the same time capitalism now demands war, and endless war brings endless profits, and so countries are destroyed, people are killed in huge numbers or lose their homes and livelihoods and are forced to flee and become refugees. At the same time, in an enormous irony, we are being told that we as individuals have never had it so good, because we have choices of all kinds.

In the introduction you write ‘if we can remember our rich collective past, we will find ourselves stronger in battles ahead’. Why is it important to remember historical struggles? 

If we do not know our history we become rootless. These days people often talk of legacies, role models and wisdom, but I don’t know how useful those approaches are. I think it’s more useful to look at the past, and see the struggles which have been fought, how the present came to be the way it is so that we are more able to fight for the future we want.

Violence Against Women and Girls

To get to the specifics, I’d like to talk about your work in the Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) movement. Can you tell me about how you set up the first Asian women’s refuge in the UK, and why we need such provision?

Asha projects

Those of us who set up Awaz [the first feminist Asian women’s collective in the UK, whose name means ‘sound’ in Urdu] had noticed that VAWG was such a huge issue in our communities and that there was no provision at all for support. But to even begin the process of establishing a refuge we had to do a lot of work, to convince councils and other local and national agencies that we needed provision for Asian women, because their attitude at the time was, ‘Why do we need something separate for women, and then again why  for South Asian women?’ We had to explain that traumatised women and children not only need familiar food and kitchen arrangements but safe spaces free of racism. Explaining this was not easy because many of the white people in positions of power whom we spoke to immediately assumed that we were accusing them of racism – and being accused of racism was considered far worse than facing racism.

But ultimately we succeeded and set up the first Asian women’s refuge in London, the Asha refuge which still exists. By the 90s and even the early 2000s, we had an amazing network of refuges and services for South Asian women. There were not enough of them, but many of those that existed provided so much that was needed – facilities for mental health counselling, help with immigration cases, outreach work which was a lifeline for women trapped in their homes, and a whole host of provisions which had been improved through experiences over the years. Now so many of these specialist refuges and services have had to close because of cuts in funding or they have had to merge with large generic organisations which do not have the understanding of racism or the expertise to cater to the needs of women of colour.

Zlakha Ahmed speaking at a protest © Dorett Jones

Those battles which we fought back in the 70s and 90s to establish the need for special provision for women of colour are sadly having to be fought again. Apna Haq [a support service for BAME women to escape and overcome domestic and sexual violence in Rotherham], for example, had their grant taken away and given to a generic organisation. Apna Haq was told they were not any use, but now they have fought back and they have got some funding. It was a very inspiring struggle because although it was mainly women of Pakistani origin who used the service, those who helped in their struggle for funds included many other women of colour – Chinese women, African women and others. Zlakha Ahmed, who set up Apna Haq, has described these struggles in the new chapter ‘In conversation with Finding a Voice: 40 years on’.

What were the difficulties of writing about domestic violence – especially with continued racialised depictions about violence against Asian women, ‘honour killings’ and tropes of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’?

Patriarchy is systemic and exists in all societies, and if we remember that, it makes it far easier to understand and speak about violence against women in different communities. When we assume that patriarchy is something imported it is essentially a racist assumption. Many Black feminists in the VAWG movement have pointed out that what terms like ‘Honour Killings’ or ‘Honour Crimes’ do is simply exoticise domestic violence. Women facing violence do not exist simply in the context of the patriarchy they face from their families, they also exist in the wider world with all the other structures of oppression. It is interesting, for example, that one of the films being used by state agencies in the context of these so-called ‘Honour killings’ is a film ‘Honour Diaries’ that is supported by anti-Muslim groups and right-wing NGOs.

For all these reasons we must continue to speak out about violence women face. Silence cannot take us anywhere. As Audre Lorde has said, as so many others have said, we have to speak. That is the essence of Black feminism: we will not be silenced, about anything. And we will locate our experiences within a broader framework.

Unity across communities and generations

How did women of colour unite against colonialism and imperialism under the term Black, and why is unity between women’s struggles important?

When OWAAD [the Organisation of Women of Asian and African descent, an umbrella organisation that campaigned from 1978-1982 on issues including immigration, domestic violence and policing] was formed, Awaz joined as a member organisation. We co-organised a massive national demonstration against state brutality with Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Indian Workers’ Association GB. Also in 1989, Awaz organised a powerful demonstration at Heathrow against the ‘Virginity Tests’ of would-be South Asian fiancées, and later a sit-in with our sisters from OWAAD.

OWAAD flyer

Today, there is still a real need for solidarity between people like us of South Asian origin and people of African origin – not only because of our history of imperialist exploitation but because of what is happening now and also, of course, because the racism we face in Britain hasn’t gone away. I am not suggesting a merging of identities, rather the finding of commonalities and solidarities in struggles.

Looking at the economic aspects of imperialism in a broader context we can see that Africa is being looted as never before by global multi-national companies; the same thing is happening in the central belt of India, where minerals and metals are to be found under the earth, people are being displaced by mining corporates, and those who resist are being brutally murdered with the help of the state. These struggles are taking place in these two parts of the world, and we are here, linked to both of them. So while, of course, we need to confront anti-African and anti-Black racism in our own South Asian communities, unity is still possible because unity is created by us and by how we organise.

Why does a sense of sisterhood make us stronger?

Sisterhood of women of colour breaks our isolation as we realise that neither are we alone, nor are the struggles and oppression we face unique to us. I think that’s a very liberating experience in a neoliberal society which is so very focussed on the individual that blaming ourselves becomes easy.

The Grunwick strike, 1976-78

The same types of struggles are still going on today, although in a different terrain. [The Grunwick strike in 1976-8 connects to the current struggles of migrant workers, a connection Sujata Aurora makes in the new chapter of Finding a Voice.] Some of those battles are being won, which is very inspiring. It is when women of colour come together to fight these battles that identities of struggle are created which are so important for us as political activists. What are we other than what our skin dictates? Have we got other aspects of us that perhaps also shape our identity – what we dream of, what we want, what we seek in the future for ourselves and for others?

In the final chapter to the new edition, young South Asian women describe what Finding a Voice means to them. What strikes you about those responses?

 For me, the last chapter is the most exciting, because it shows the ways things have changed, up to a point, but also shows the ways struggles have continued, so in that sense it brings it full circle in a way which I could not have done. I was really quite bowled over, some of them were so moving, so powerful, so analytical.

Why is solidarity across generations important?

I’ve learnt so much from my mother, my daughter and my granddaughter and from so many other women young and old, that I wouldn’t be me without them. But on a more general level, I think to understand the oppression that a woman faces, and to understand how patriarchy functions, you need to understand the history of what has gone before. And you need to understand the dreams of the women that went before. To know them, to recall them, is so important

Not all mothers and daughters are in the same position as me, of course, but whatever our relationship with mothers may be, it’s so important that we know the structures of oppression that they faced, what they wanted in their lives and why they wanted it, why perhaps, sometimes, they were unable to take a stand against patriarchal violence. I think those things are very important for us to become strong ourselves, to face the world.

So much has been achieved by women, we cannot ignore that fact – women’s lives have changed so much. And yet at the same time, in many ways it is harder for young women than it ever was. We need to examine these contradictions and our own histories.

The upheavals and pain which women of the earlier generation endured must be acknowledged, because otherwise it can create a silencing, which weakens us all, and the amazing struggles they waged and the victories they won need to be remembered and celebrated.


Black People Against State Brutality demonstration in 1979.


Related links

Finding a voice: Asian women in Britain (New and Expanded edition, 2018) is published by Daraja Press and is available to buy here.

‘Reclaiming our collective past’: Amrit Wilson reflects on 40 years of anti-racist feminist work


Humanitarian volunteers detained in Lesbos must be released

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 04:27

Meena Masood, fiancée of Seán Binder and member of #FreeHumanitarians, calls for solidarity and support for the three humanitarians arrested and detained in Greece since August.

On 20 October, protests took place in Dublin, Berlin, London, Boston and Stockholm in support of three humanitarian volunteers currently detained in Greece. Seán Binder (24), Sarah Mardini (23) and Athanasios Karakitsos ‘Nassos’ (37) were arrested in August on numerous serious criminal allegations including espionage, illegally assisting ‘aliens’ into Greece and being part of a criminal organisation. Seán and his colleagues all worked for the organisation Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), a Greek not-for-profit set up in 2015 to offer assistance in humanitarian crises and natural disasters. They all, supported by ERCI founder Panos Moraitis, adamantly denied the charges. Seán and Sarah have now been detained for ten weeks despite not being officially charged and having no criminal convictions.

@Frhumanitarians Photo of Petition

The decision has been made to hold them until their trial, for which no date has been set. Greek law allows for up to eighteen months’ pre-trial detention. The authorities’ justification for this is that Seán and his colleagues will continue their alleged criminal activities should they be released. Additionally, as Seán and Sarah are not Greek residents they are presumed to be flight risks. For these reasons an application for their release was rejected in September, despite large campaigns supporting their innocence, and a lack of evidence proving their guilt.

Entrenching the criminalisation of solidarity

Seán and his colleagues are ‘collateral damage’ in the effort to secure European borders from those fleeing conflicts, to be held up as examples of what can happen when these efforts are undermined. This is because solidarity and search and rescue action are becoming criminalised; boats carrying refugees are being turned away and hundreds continue to drown trying to reach safety. The current EU ‘migrant crisis’ (the worst since World War II) has been met with the criminalisation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals such as Seán who work for them, in an effort to tackle the perceived threat from smugglers. Indeed, simply using the term ‘crisis’ evokes a securitised and militarised response. Migrants at sea are reduced to ‘potential fake refugees, as concealed terrorists or as traffickers’, and NGOs’ operations assisting refugees are described as ‘pull factors’ encouraging more migration. This is all despite research proving there is no correlation between the operation of NGOs and the number of arrivals.

@Frhumanitarians St Pancras Protest

There is now an effort to enshrine the criminalisation of solidarity and search and rescue in European law, although the obligation to help those in need at sea and the right to seek refuge is enshrined in international law. These obligations and rights have been sacrificed by the efforts to strengthen national borders and ‘fortress Europe’. The militarised response and corrosion of human rights is embodied in agreements made with states such as Turkey and Libya, now deemed ‘safe’ despite suffering similar structural problems to those countries which produce refugees. It also signals that in an effort to secure its borders Europe will make whatever deals it deems necessary. The EU’s response has led to the corrosion of human rights. For instance the Moria camp, where Seán and his colleagues volunteered, is severely overcrowded and is known as the ‘Guantanamo Bay of Europe’ due to the inhumane conditions asylum seekers suffer there. The situation remains so dire that people have died. Neither Seán, Sarah nor Nassos volunteered in order to challenge the authorities; rather they were trying to help prevent suffering. In Seán’s own words, ‘We refuse to accept that pulling families out of European waters is illegal. Whether you’re on the right or left, nobody should accept that parents cling to the cliffs at the edge of Europe in the middle of the night while their children go into hypothermic shock’.

The humanitarians

Seán is an honours graduate from Trinity College Dublin and the London School of Economics (LSE). Additionally, he is a trained and certified rescue scuba diver and has advanced search and rescue training. He came to Lesbos, Greece, in October 2017 after finishing his masters at LSE. Sarah Mardini, a Syrian refugee and competitive swimmer, shot to fame alongside her younger sister Yusra in 2015 when they helped swim their broken boat to Greece carrying eighteen fellow asylum seekers. Sarah is a scholarship student enrolled at Bards College in Germany. Before her arrest she expected to continue her studies in September. Nassos is a veteran of the Greek army, who volunteered in 2015 to help rescue refugees fleeing to Greece. He was shortlisted for the international Maritime Rescue Federation HERO award. Their friends and families have been tirelessly campaigning for their release.

Sean Binder

Their efforts have led to thirty-nine MEPs co-signing a letter to the Greek authorities stating that Seán and his colleagues are not a threat to society and ‘should not be treated as criminals’. Moreover, an open letter was signed by sixty organisations including Oxfam, Solidarity Now and the Greek Council for Refugees, detailing their concern that Seán and Sarah’s arrests are indicative of the criminalisation of solidarity. Human Rights Watch has also published a statement claiming that an ‘analysis of court records suggest these charges are unfounded and reflect a worrying trend that seeks to criminalise humanitarian activism’.

How you can help

The campaign to release Seán and his colleagues continues. Information on how people can help can be found here. A petition aimed at the relevant Greek authorities, which has over 7,000 signatures and calls for their release, can be signed here. Additionally, they are asking supporters to write letters to their MEPs, in the hope that enough attention will allow them to be released promptly.

Related Links:

Download IRR report of Crimes of Solidarity – Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity here (pdf file, 847kb)

Read about similar prosecutions of solidarity action such as: ‘Moria 15’ and Team Humanity and Proem-aid

Learn about the pan-European developments in the criminalisation of solidarity here

Calendar of racism and resistance (25 October – 8 November)

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 04:26
Asylum and migration

24 October: In northern Bosnia, around 250 people protesting at the closure of the EU Maljevac crossing at the Croatian border are dispersed with tear gas. (Are You Syrious, 24 October 2018)

25 October: Home secretary Sajid Javid apologises to Afghan and Gurkha immigrants who were unlawfully required to take DNA tests to prove a relationship to family in the UK.  (BBC News, 25 October 2018)

25 October: A private member’s bill is introduced to provide a legal route to full British citizenship for descendants of the Chagos Islanders expelled by British forces in the 1960s and 1970s.  (Guardian, 25 October 2018)

26 October: European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says that the EU is no longer considering setting up ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in North African countries for migrants rescued by European ships in the Mediterranean. (Reuters, 26 October 2018)

28 October: Freedom of information requests by migrant rights’ charity Project 17 reveal that Home Office officials embedded in local authorities are sitting in on interviews with destitute migrant families, violating the duty of care set out in the Children’s Act. (Guardian, 28 October 2018)

28 October: Research by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that English regions outside London could lose up to 90 percent of their EU workforce, who would lose their rights to legal entry under Theresa May’s proposals for a post-Brexit ‘global immigration system’. (Guardian, 28 October 2018)

30 October: On the sixth anniversary of the death of Prince Kwabena Fosu, a Ghanaian national, in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), the CPS announces that it has reversed its previous decision to bring criminal charges against the private companies which run the centre. An inquest has yet to be scheduled. (Inquest press release, 30 October 2018)

30 October: Immigration minister Caroline Nokes says employers would be required to check EU nationals’ right to work during the Brexit transitional period starting in March 2019. (Guardian, 30 October 2018)

30 October: The Home Office releases Javid Iqbal, a 49-year-old Pakistani man, five days after his arrest during an immigration raid provoked a seven-hour non-violent protest at a mini-market in Easton, Bristol, by a crowd of over 100. (Guardian, 26 October 2018; The Bristol Local, 30 October 2018)

31 October: The Austrian government refuses to sign the non-binding United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the first comprehensive agreement to cover all aspects of international migration, set to be adopted in December. Chancellor Kurz cites ‘the importance of defending Austria’s national sovereignty’. The Hungarian government previously refused to sign. (The Local, 31 October 2018)

31 October: A woman born in Northern Ireland, who identifies as Irish and possesses Irish citizenship, is asked by the Home Office to prove her entitlement to permanent residency in her home town, Belfast, after her American husband applied for residency. (Guardian, 31 October 2018)

1 November: Italian prosecutors drop charges of abuse of power against interior minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini, relating to his refusal in August to allow 150 mostly Eritrean migrants disembark from a rescue ship in a port in Sicily. (Reuters, 1 November 2018)

1 November: An investigation by Associated Press, using data from international groups, forensic records, death records and a variety of other sources, estimates that around 56,800 migrants have died or gone missing globally since 2014, almost double the total given by the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) of 28,500. (Al Jazeera, 1 November 2018)

1 November: Children’s and migrant rights campaigners complain that local authorities are neglecting the immigration problems of children in care, leaving them vulnerable to hostile environment policies when they leave care. (Guardian, 1 November 2018)

3 November: The Observer reveals that the UK has accepted only 20 unaccompanied child refugees from the Middle East and Africa since April 2016 under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VRCS), which aimed to settle 3,000. The Dubs amendment, which it was hoped would settle similar numbers of children from camps in Europe, has settled only 220. (Guardian, 3 November 2018)

3 November: Immigration minister Caroline Nokes admits that EU victims of trafficking and modern slavery will not be exempt from settlement fees under Theresa May’s proposals for EU citizens after December 2020. (Guardian, 3 November 2018)

3 November: A freedom of information request reveals that, after the anti-deportation protest which stopped a charter flight at Stansted airport in March 2017, the RAF Brize Norton base in Oxfordshire was used to deport hundreds of people to Nigeria and Ghana on five flights in 2017, described by the Right to Remain anti-deportation group as ‘ghost flights’. (JOE, 3 November 2018)

5 November: At the opening of their defence at Chelmsford crown court, fifteen defendants, known as the Stansted 15, argue that they chained themselves together around an immigration removal flight as an act of  conscience to protect the lives of deportees to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone who they believed were being deported unlawfully. (Guardian, 5 November 2018)

5 November: On the thirtieth anniversary of the first publicised migrant death in the Strait of Gibraltar, at least seventeen people die and seventeen are missing in the Western Mediterranean after travelling from North Africa to Spain, now the primary destination for migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East, in two rafts found by coast guards near Cádiz and Melilla. Deaths in the Western Mediterranean are estimated to have doubled in the past year. (Reuters, El Pais, 6 November 2018; El Pais 1 November 2018; IOM, 2 November 2018)

©Feminist Fightback Healthcare for All

6 November: Anti-capitalist feminist group demand ‘health care for all’ in a Parliament Square protest against the discriminatory treatment of migrants without settled status seeking NHS treatment, who are charged for life-saving services including abortion, birth and pre- and post-natal care at 150 percent of the actual cost. (Feminist Fight Back, 6 November 2018)

Police and criminal justice system

22 October: A Metropolitan police detective appears before a misconduct panel accused of racially abusing a Somali cleaner and threatening to ‘smash him against a wall’ after trying to enter a toilet at St Pancras International station which had been shut for cleaning. (BBC News, 22 October 2018)

27 October: Around 400 people attend the twentieth annual rally of the United Families and Friends Campaign, held the day after a conference on police violence, deaths in custody and resistance. (4WardEver.UK, 2 November 2018)

31 October: A former Thames Valley police officer, whom the force has refused to name, resigns after an internal investigation found that they had sent racist text messages to members of the public. (Bucks Herald, 31 October 2018)

Olaseni Lewis

1 November: New legislation to improve oversight of the use of force against patients in mental health units, known as ‘Seni’s law’, receives royal assent. The law is inspired by Olaseni Lewis, who died in 2010 soon after being restrained by 11 police officers in Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham. (BBC News, 1 November 2018)

5 November: Wolid Deeb, 34, reports that police took four hours to respond to his call after he was racially abused and attacked by ten teenagers, leaving him with a serious ligament injury, in Manchester city centre. Greater Manchester police say that they are investigating the case. (Manchester Evening News, 5 November 2018)

Electoral politics

27 October: Anti-fascists in San Lorenzo, Rome accuse interior minister Matteo Salvini of exploiting tragedies for political gain, blocking his path as he attempts to lay a flower at the site where the body of a 16-year-old girl was found. African migrants are accused of repeatedly raping Desirée Mariottini before killing her, and after one arrest Salvini posts on Facebook, a ‘fourth maggot’ who (what a coincidence), is an illegal immigrant’. (New York Times, 27 October 2018)

1 November: Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott reveals that police have collected evidence of racist and misogynistic letters, including threats of rape and violence, which she continues to receive both online and to her constituency office in Hackney, London. (Independent, 1 November 2018)

2 November: Scotland Yard opens a criminal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitic incidents linked to Labour party members, after the radio station LBC hands a leaked party dossier over to the police detailing 45 cases of alleged anti-Semitism. (Guardian, 2 November 2018)

Prawo i Sprawiedliwość logo

5 November: The ruling extreme-right anti-immigration Law and Justice (PiS) lose more towns in the second round of Poland’s mayoral elections while maintaining strong support in rural areas to remain the strongest party in regional government. Six towns  – Warsaw, Posnan, Lodz, Krakow, Gdansk and Kielce – are now under the control of a centrist pro-EU coalition led by Civic Platform.  (Deutsche Welle, 5 November 2018).

5 November: In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack which left eleven people dead, Jewish organisations renew calls on Ukip to dissociate itself from the ‘dogwhistle anti-semitism’ of the far-right US website Infowars, whose editor at large,  Paul Joseph Watson, recently joined the party. (Guardian, 5 November 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right

24 October: Britain First leader Paul Golding is arrested in Belfast and charged with public order offences including incitement to hatred after handing out anti-immigration leaflets in Ballymena, where many Romanian migrants are settled. (ITV News, 25 October 2018)

24 October: It is revealed that in April, Steve Bannon met Spanish far-right party strategist Rafael Bardají, whose Vox party has announced that it will join ‘The Movement’ Bannon is setting up in Europe. (, 24 October 2018)

28 October: Alternative for Germany wins 13 per cent of the vote in the Hesse state elections, entering the regional parliament for the first time and ensuring that the far-right party is now represented in all of Germany’s 16 states. (Guardian, 28 October 2018)

5 November: The former head of Germany’s intelligence services (BfV), Hans-Georg Maaßen, has been retired from all offices with immediate effect after a farewell speech given to fellow European intelligence officers where he repeated his claims that videos showing ‘hunts’ for foreigners during far-right violence in Chemnitz were fake and the hunts never happened. (Guardian, 5 November 2018)

National security

28 October: MI5 is to take over the monitoring of far-right extremism from the police as extreme rightwing activity is officially designated a major threat to national security, with around 100 investigations currently ongoing. (Guardian, 28 October 2018)

Media and culture

27 October: In a Times interview, home secretary Sajid Javid says that Pakistani members of grooming gangs have ‘disgraced our heritage’ and that there ‘must be some cultural connection’ to their crimes. (Times, 27 October 2018)

30 October: Fears grow that Rai, the Italian public broadcaster, is being influenced by the far-right government after a well-known chef resigns from a popular TV show claiming he was told to drop foreign recipes. Screenings of documentaries about migrant integration in the Italian town of Riace and police brutality against migrants in Lesbos, have been dropped. (Guardian, 30 October 2018)


26 October: An Austrian woman’s conviction for disparaging religion by calling the Prophet Muhammad a paedophile is upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, which rejects her claim that her freedom of speech rights were violated. (Deutsche Welle, 26 October 2018)


Philip Green

24 October: The Telegraph reveals that a ‘leading businessman’, later named under parliamentary privilege as Philip Green, has been granted an injunction to prevent the newspaper from revealing allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff. (Telegraph, 24 October 2018)


23 October: Evicted tenant of six-times convicted rogue landlord Bernard McGowan, Somali Daud Hussein, describes how, after he was hospitalised as a result of an accident caused by the landlord cutting off his electricity, McGowan sent a message via Daud’s family, ‘Tell that black bastard that I have evicted him and his shit is outside’. (Guardian, 23 October 2018)

24 October: A comprehensive Guardian/ITV News survey of convicted rogue landlords finds that the man with the most convictions is a letting agent who allegedly terrorised at least twenty migrant workers and students living about a dangerous former pub in Plaistow, east London owned by a property tycoon. (Guardian, 24 October 2018)


30 October: Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha reports that he has been sent racist abuse and death threats after his team drew against Arsenal on Sunday 27 October. (BBC News, 30 October 2018)

3 October: An exhibition  showing football’s historical Jewish ties aims to combat anti-Semitic chanting and Nazi salutes at the notorious Sparta Prague football club, as it hosts rival Prague team Slavia. (Guardian, 3 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: abuse

from Youtube

23 October: Barcelona city hall lodges a complaint with Spain’s public prosecutor about the racist abuse of an elderly British black woman on a Ryanair Barcelona flight. A call for witnesses is issued and Ryanair contacted about its ‘unaaceptable response’ to the incident. (El Pais, 23 October 2018)

27 October: A group of about ten men pose outside an Islamic prayer centre in Newtownards, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, in KKK outfits, in an incident police are treating as a hate crime. (BBC News, 29 October 2018)

29 October: A 32-year-old man reports that he and his fiancée were racially abused whilst waiting at a cash point before having what he believed to be a corrosive liquid thrown at his car and his window smashed in Chesterton, Cambridge. (CambridgeLive, 29 October 2018)

29 October: A 53-year-old man is arrested after racist and threatening letters were sent to mosques around the city of Stoke-on-Trent. (StokeonTrentLive, 29 October 2018)

31 October: Police appeal for information after a group of teenage school students were approached by a second group of teenagers who racially abused them and threatened them with a knife in Chislehurst, Kent. (News Shopper, 31 October 2018)

1 November: Police appeal for information after a woman travelling on the underground was racially abused and sexually assaulted by another female passenger. (Evening Standard, 1 November 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on people

25 October: Three men are arrested after a car is driven into a crowd of people leaving a Muslim community centre in Brent, London, leaving one man with serious injuries and two other men with minor injuries. (Get West London, 25 October 2018)

25 October: Police arrest a 56-year-old man on suspicion of racially aggravated actual bodily harm after a woman is racially abused and punched by a man who heard her speaking Spanish on a train in North London. (Islington Gazette, 25 October 2018)

29 October: Police appeal for information after a man racially abused, assaulted and spat at another man near a takeaway in Lincoln. (LincolnshireLive, 29 October 2018)

30 October: Police release CCTV images of a woman who racially abused and assaulted three other women, spitting on them and grabbing the neck and headscarf of one of the women in a fast food restaurant in Bethnal Green, London earlier in the month. (East London Lines, 30 October 2018)

31 October: Police appeal for information after two holidaymakers, a man and woman, were racially abused and assaulted by a group of five people in Weymouth. The male victim was hospitalised with two bite wounds. Two parked cars were also damaged. (Wessex FM, 31 October 2018)

Petra László

31 October: The Hungarian Supreme Court overrules the conviction of TV camera operator Petra László who in 2015 kicked and tripped migrants fleeing police near the  Hungarian-Serbian border. While her actions were ‘morally incorrect’ they did not break the law, the court rules. (Guardian, 31 October 2018)

1 November: An 18-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated wounding after racially abusing and attacking a 61-year-old taxi marshal, leaving him with a broken jaw, in Burnley, Lancashire. (Lancashire Telegraph, 1 November 2018)

Violence: attacks on property

27 October: Swastikas are daubed on signs and posts on Stanmore Common in Harrow, London before being removed by the council. (Get West London, 27 October 2018)

1 November: Racist and anti-migrant graffiti are daubed on a house in Belgrave, Birmingham. (BirminghamLive, 1 November 2018)

1 November: Swastikas are daubed on a notice board on the Warwickshire Moors before being removed by the council. (BirminghamLive, 1 November 2018)

Violence and harassment: convictions

29 October: Tommy Baird, 55, admits racially aggravated harassment and is given a community order, several restraining orders and a fine for shouting racist and anti-Semitic abuse at customers at a café in Queensferry, Wales. (Leader, 29 October 2018)

Violence: research and statistics 

31 October: Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) publishes documentation on six months of racist incidents on the Greek islands (RSA press release, 31 October 2018)

1 November: Figures provided by Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner show that the number of Third Party Reporting Centres (TPRCs) for hate crime in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has risen from three to nearly sixty during the last 18 months. (Petersfield Messenger, 1 November 2018)


Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee and Joseph Maggs for their help in preparing this calendar.

Deportation Disks: A Public Hearing

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 04:24

Two day free public hearing showing sonic portraits alongside a wall of texts; extracts from UK legal and policy frameworks looking at concepts of ‘coming home’ or ‘taking back’ from two individuals deported to Jamaica from the UK.

  • Thursday 15 November – Friday 16 November 2018, 9am-9pm
  • Bartlett School of Architecture, 22 Gordon Street WC1H0QB (first floor landing).

The exhibition is open from 9am to 9pm on the 15th and 16th of November. There will be an informal discussion on the work at 6.30pm on Friday 16th.

Related Links

Deportation Disks website

Calendar of racism and resistance (10 – 24 October)

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 06:04

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

Anti-fascism and the far Right

10 October: The army launches an investigation after Tommy Robinson posts a photograph and video footage of himself at Watford Gap motorway services surrounded by young uniformed squaddies who chant his name. (Express, 10 October 2018)

13 October: The Democratic Football Lads Alliance march from Pall Mall to Whitehall is met by anti-racist protesters who outnumber the DFLA and attempt to block its route. (Guardian, 13 October 2018)

14 October: In one of Germany’s biggest rallies in recent years, 242,000 people from a broad alliance of associations, labour unions, parties and rights groups march in Berlin against racism and the far Right under the banner Unteilbar (‘indivisible’). (Guardian, 14 October 2018)

15 October: In state elections in Bavaria, the far-right Alternative for Germany secures 10.2 per cent of the vote, entering the regional parliament for the first time. (Deutsche Welle, 15 October 2018)

16 October: Sikh Youth UK faces a barrage of criticism for arranging the screening of its Islamophobic film Misused Trust across university campuses and Sikh community centres and inviting former EDL leader Tommy Robinson to speak at a screening in Huddersfield. (Independent, 16 October 2018)

21 October: In Dresden, Germany, 10,000 anti-fascists outnumber around 4-5,000 PEGIDA supporters who march to mark the group’s fourth anniversary. (Deutsche Welle, 21 October 2018)

23 October: A judge at the Old Bailey refers the case against Tommy Robinson for contempt of court to the attorney general, to ensure a ‘proper and thorough examination and resolution’ of a ‘case that is in the public interest’.  (Guardian, 23 October 2018)

Electoral politics

20 October: Following the conviction of a grooming gang in Huddersfield of over 120 offences against 15 girls, home secretary Sajid Javid is criticised for defining the criminals by their ethnicity in a tweet about ‘Asian paedophiles’. (Guardian,  20 October 2018)

Media and culture

12 October: BBC Newsnight issues a statement defending its decision to broadcast a long feature on Tommy Robinson which the Muslim Council of Britain says gave him undue attention and will only boost his popularity. (iNews, 12 October 2018)

12 October: Guardian columnists Gary Younge and Nesrine Malik withdraw their names from the Society and Diversity category of the Comment Awards, saying that the nomination of Melanie Phillips makes a mockery of the category and legitimises her offensive attacks on immigrants and Muslims. (Gary Younge Facebook, 12 October 2018)

20 October: Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, withdraws from a BBC and European Broadcasting Union News Exchange conference in Edinburgh on the grounds that extending an invitation to Steve Bannon legitimises his  far-right, racist views. (Guardian, 20 October 2018)


11 October: Chelsea Football Club announces plans to send anti-Semitic supporters on educational trips to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz instead of imposing banning orders. (Guardian, 11 October 2018)

18 October: The Italian women’s football team Afro-Napoli excludes player Concetta Astarita after she announces she is running as a councillor for the far-right League Party. While her team-mates come out in support of Astarita, the team’s president stands firm. (Guardian, 18 October 2018)


18 October: A Scottish health board apologises after a racist internal memo is leaked saying that all facilities would be locked and advising staff to be vigilant because of the arrival of a Traveller community in the area. (Holyrood, 18 October 2018)

23 October: The UN Human Rights Committee says that the French government’s ban on the niqab is a violation of human rights and calls on it to review the legislation. (Reuters, 23 October 2018)

Police and criminal justice system

13 October: Black Britons are stopped and searched for drugs nine times more often than white people, despite lesser drug use, and the disparity has increased by half since 2010, according to an authoritative joint report by the London School of Economics, Stopwatch (a coalition of academics, lawyers and civil society organisations) and Release (a centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law). (Guardian, 13 October 2018)

15 October: The Guardian and the Undercover Research Group reveal that the police overwhelming spied on progressive left-wing groups, including nine anti-racist campaigns and sixteen justice campaigns around police misconduct, while only three far-right groups – the BNP, Combat 18 and the United British Alliance – were infiltrated over the same 37-year period. (Guardian, 15 October 2018)

15 October: Declassified documents from the 1960s reveal that MI5 officials believed that black people could not be trusted in high-level spying roles as they could be a security risk. (Guardian, 15 October 2018)

18 October: The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) asks the CPS to consider criminal charges against two police officers in relation to the death of Dalian Atkinson on 15 August 2016 following the use of force, including a taser and restraint, by West Mercia Police. (Inquest, 18 October 2018)

21 October: In Lesbos, Greece, an internal investigation into racism is launched and a police officer is suspended after a video shows him abusing an elderly woman queuing for food inside the Moria migrant camp. (Reuters, 21 October 2018)

22 October: Bedfordshire police sack three police officers, after a disciplinary panel finds them guilty of lying in their notebooks and in subsequent statements to investigators into events in Bedford in March 2013 that left black university student Julian Cole almost totally paralysed and severely brain-damaged. (Guardian, 22 October 2018)

22 October: French teenagers of Malian, Comorian and Moroccan descent sue the French state for a ‘racist’ police stop and search as they disembarked with their high school teacher and classmates at Paris Gare du Nord on their return from a school trip. (Guardian, 22 October 2018)


20 October: The Royton & Crompton E-ACT Academy denies on Facebook that an incident captured on video showing a Muslim schoolgirl having her hijab pulled off and being punched by a fellow pupil at a tram stop in Oldham, Manchester, was racially motivated, instead referring to the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’. (Metro, 20 October 2018)


10 October: A High Court judge describes Liverpool council’s treatment of a 15 -year-old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder from living in a war zone in Iraq as ‘atrocious’. The girl was subjected to ‘profound physical and emotional harm’ while in the care of Alder Hey children’s hospital. (Guardian, 10 October 2018)

Employment and labour exploitation

20 October: Relatives of the five Gambian Spanish men who died when a wall collapsed at the Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Centre in 2016 say that they would have had answers by now had they been white and British. The Health and Safety Executive will not report until after the inquest, which starts next month. (BBC News, 20 October 2018

21 October: It is revealed that most of the workforce building the flagship Beatrice offshore windfarm in Scotland are migrant workers from Russia and Indonesia who are paid a fraction of the UK minimum wage, with the Home Office providing employers with an immigration concession enabling their employment. (Guardian, 21 October 2018)

22 October: Ayub Patel, a job centre worker employed by the Department of Work and Pensions for over 25 years, wins an unfair dismissal claim, entitling him to compensation, after he was sacked for being ‘too political’ when criticising Donald Trump and Tommy Robinson on his private Twitter account. (Daily Mail, 22 October 2018)

Asylum and migration

9 October: Two Italian fishing boats and their crews are fired on and detained by the Libyan coastguard, in seas 29 nautical miles from the north African coast, which Libya insists is an exclusive economic area. (The Local, 11 October 2018)

10 October: A ‘snapshot’ survey of almost 200 migrants held in British detention centres on 31 August finds that more than half were suicidal, seriously ill or the victims of torture. (Guardian, 10 October 2018)

11 October: Following the threat of legal proceedings, the Home Office agrees to carry out an independent inquiry into abusive treatment of immigrants held in British detention centres. (Guardian, 11 October 2018)

12 October: Freedom of Information requests reveal that between April and June there was a 22 percent rise in suicide attempts in detention centres, and that the Home Office has received more than 10,000 medical reports of detainees who had been tortured. (Guardian, 12 October 2018)

13 October: The remains of eleven people, believed to be migrants, are found near the Greek town of Kavala after their car collided with a truck at around 5:30am. The driver of the truck was able to escape before the explosion, but all those in the car died. (Ekathimerini, 13 October 2018)

A protest calling for the closure of Yarl’s Wood detention centre on 12 March 2016. © Nilüfer Erdem

13 October: The Collective for Resistance against Centres for Foreigners (CRACPE) organises a protest outside the Vottem (Herstal) detention centre in Belguim after an Eritrean committed suicide, after four months in detention, while awaiting deportation to Bulgaria under Dublin III. (Brussels Times, 14 October 2018)

16 October: Over 100 refugee and asylum support groups, faith groups, trade unions and businesses launch the Lift the Ban campaign with a report, Lift the Ban: Why People seeking Asylum Should Have the Right to Work, demanding the right to work for asylum seekers after six months, and arguing that these new workers could make a net contribution of £42 million to the economy. Sign the petition here. (Guardian, 16 October 2018)

16 October: EU justice commissioner Věra Jourová calls for stricter controls on the sale of passports, visas, and residency rights by EU member states to wealthy individuals in return for inward investment. The  introduction of such ‘citizenship by investment’ schemes in the UK in  2011 coincided with the sharpening of  ‘hostile environment policies designed to deter poorer migrants. (Guardian, 16 October 2018; Guardian, 17 October 2018)

 19 October: Student Elin Ersson, who filmed herself on 23 July preventing the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker on a Turkish Airlines flight from Gothenburg to Istanbul, is charged with violating aviation law. (Guardian, 19 October 2018)

20 October: Protests calling for the release of humanitarian volunteers Sara Mardini and Sean Binder, Nassos Karakitsos, arrested in Greece for rescuing migrants, take place in  Berlin, Dublin, Lesbos and London. (Twitter, 20 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on people

10 October: Three women, believed to be migrants, are found stabbed in the neck on the bank of the River Evros near the Greek village of Pragi on the Greece/Turkey border. The bodies are found by a local farmer and Greek authorities are investigating the case. (Ekathimerini, 10 October 2018)

10 October: Police appeal for information after a man was racially abused and assaulted, sustaining facial injuries, by another man in his 30s after an argument at a petrol station in north Watford on 5 October. (Watford Observer, 10 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: abuse

10 October: Police appeal for information after a crew of firefighters are racially abused before having stones and bricks thrown at their fire engine whilst tackling a bonfire in West Bowling, Bradford. (The Telegraph and Argus, 10 October 2018)

21 October: Ryanair refers a racist incident to Essex police and promises to ban abusive passengers, after a public outcry over video footage showing a white male passenger on a flight to London from Barcelona launching a tirade of abuse against an elderly black woman, and staff failing to act. (Independent, 21 October 2018)

from Youtube/ David Lawrence

Violence and harassment: attacks on religious institutions

16 October: The Home Office announces it is extending its places of worship scheme which provides financial support for religious institutions vulnerable to attack. Nine churches, 22 mosques, two Hindu temples and 12 Sikh gurdwaras are awarded grants (Guardian, 16 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: convictions

10 October: Matthew Delahunty, 49, and Toomas Tepper, 47, plead guilty to racially aggravated public order offences after racially abusing, threatening and being aggressive to staff at Luton airport on two separate, unrelated occasions whilst drunk. Both receive community orders and are fined. (The Luton News Herald & Post, 10 October 2018)

10 October: Todd Jennings, 23, is fined and given a suspended sentence after racially abusing and assaulting a taxi driver and damaging the driver’s vehicle in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. (The Northern Echo, 10 October 2018)

12 October: Paul Adney, 53, is jailed for six months after racially abusing and threatening to shoot and kill passengers during a drunken rant on a flight from Antalya, Turkey to Birmingham. (Birmingham Mail, 12 October 2018)

12 October: David Parnham, 35, pleads guilty to over fifteen offences, including soliciting to murder and staging a bomb hoax, after sending hundreds of letters which included racist language and threats specifically targeting Muslims and calls for a ‘Punish a Muslim Day’. He will be sentenced at a later date. (BBC News, 12 October 2018)

13 October: Brute Declan Scott, 19, pleads guilty to racially aggravated assault and is given a suspended sentence after racially abusing and using a knife to slash the face of a man during an altercation outside the victim’s house in Paisley in April last year. (Daily Record, 13 October 2018)

19 October: David Cameron, 30, admits to acting in a racially aggravated manner and is given 200 hours of community service after racially abusing and threatening to slice the face of a Nigerian student on a bus in Perth, Scotland. (Daily Record, 19 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: statistics

16 October: Police announce a 17 percent rise in hate crimes in England and Wales, to 94,098, in the twelve months to March, and predict an upsurge in attacks in the run-up to Brexit. The annual total has more than doubled since 2012–13. (Guardian, 16 October 2018)

21 October: A businessman in Walmer, Kent, transforms his seafront cafe into a reporting hub and support centre for victims of hate crime, as Home Office statistics reveal that hate crimes in Kent have quadrupuled since 2013-14, with sharp spikes after the Brexit vote. (Guardian, 21 October 2018)


Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee and Joseph Maggs for their help in preparing this calendar.


Language and vulnerability: interpretation in Immigration Removal Centres

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 06:02

Aisha Maniar discusses Stephen Shaw’s follow-up report on the detention of vulnerable people from the perspective of interpreting facilities for detainees. 

The United Kingdom has one of the largest immigration detention estates in Europe. While detention is punitive in nature, the measure itself is administrative and not criminal. In 2017, for the non-offence of not holding a British passport, 27,331 foreign nationals entered the detention estate (immigration removal centres and prisons). Over 5,300 European Union nationals were detained, or around 19 percent of those detained. Former or current asylum seekers make up the largest category of detainees, accounting for around 47 percent. 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid set out the Home Office’s rationale for immigration detention recently in the House of Commons: ‘It encourages compliance with our immigration rules, protects the public from the consequences of illegal migration and ensures that people who are here illegally or are foreign criminals can be removed from this country when all else fails.’

The Windrush scandal, involving the deportation and denial of rights to British residents lawfully in the UK for decades, demonstrated the arbitrariness of both the immigration rules and immigration detention. With more than half of immigration detainees being released into the community rather than removed, the purpose of immigration detention as a policy is questionable. 

Arbitrary, indefinite detention, by its very definition, renders detainees vulnerable. Pregnant women, survivors of torture, domestic violence and/or modern slavery, ex-offenders, individuals with learning difficulties and mental health issues are held in ‘unacceptable conditions’. Language also presents a major vulnerability for detainees: the inability to speak English, communicate with others, understand what is happening to you and make informed choices, and ultimately to trust those around you. The language barrier also maintains the secrecy that surrounds practices and policies at Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). 

The Shaw Review 

In 2015, the Home Secretary commissioned an independent review into policies and procedures relating to the welfare of immigration detainees. Published in January 2016, this became known as the Shaw Review, carried out by Stephen Shaw CBE, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales. In his critical review, Shaw made sixty-four recommendations. A follow-up review of the progress made was then commissioned by the Home Office in September 2017. The result, an ‘Assessment of government progress in implementing the report on the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons‘, also by Stephen Shaw, was made public at the end of July 2018. 

© Elly Robson

While Shaw welcomed positive action taken by the government since 2016, such as a reduction in the overall number of detainees, he found that the statistics hid ‘troubling’ realities, including the fact that ‘the number of people held for over six months has actually increased’ and that the reduction in detainee numbers had been almost wholly of male detainees. In addition, there remained ‘significant concerns about the current levels of demand and the provision of healthcare services’. 

Language Recommendations

Of the sixty-four recommendations made in 2016, fifty-six ‘were accepted or partially accepted’. These include two recommendations made on the use of translation and interpreting services: 

46: I recommend that the Home Office review the use of fellow detainees as interpreters for induction interviews. 

47: I recommend that the Home Office remind service providers of the need to use professional interpreting facilities whenever language barriers are identified on reception. 

These were counted as ‘minor operational’ recommendations, which were addressed in July 2016 by the re-issue of Detention Services Order (DSO) 06/2013 (updated in July 2018), providing staff with ‘guidance on the process for admitting, inducting and discharging a detainee from an immigration removal centre, short-term holding facility or the pre-departure accommodation.’ These guidelines include: ‘Professional  interpreting  facilities must be used whenever language barriers are identified on reception, induction or discharge’, and ‘Other detainees must not be used for detainee specific translation purposes due to confidentiality and quality issues, however peer support  detainee workers may be used to translate for general purposes, for example during group inductions.’ 

Quality of interpretation questioned

While in 2016, the main issue was lack of professional interpreters, in 2018 Shaw found that ‘use is now widespread but … quality remains an issue.’ Although reliance on multilingual staff and other detainees continues, there appears to be greater use of telephone interpreting, particularly via the thebigword agency, which since the end of October 2016 has been delivering the foreign language component of the Ministry of Justice’s second Language Services Framework Agreement across the legal sector, now expanded to include the prisons and probation service. Another company cited, Language Line, has been used less frequently. 

Interpreter quality concerns include: ‘issues with detainees trusting a third party on the telephone, and disclosing sensitive information when using interpretation services. Other problems include the presence of domestic noise in the background, and unwillingness on the part of the interpreter to describe sensitive subjects such as the details of sexual assault’. In addition, one NGO told Shaw: ‘The experience and expertise of interpreters is regularly a cause for concern, with some either being unable/unwilling to discuss matters relating to sexual orientation in asylum interviews because of cultural/religious bias. A lack of literacy skills amongst interpreters is also a cause for concern.’ 

In Stephen Shaw’s visit to Brook House, reception staff told him that telephone interpreting included ‘background noise including children and a dog’, and healthcare staff recounted ‘examples of poor conduct including an interpreter hanging up half-way through a mental health session, and background noises suggesting the interpreter might not be in private’. At Dungavel, ‘iPads were sometimes used as a supplement to the Big Word service for translation, and occasionally peers were used to translate where the information required was not medical in confidence or sensitive.’ 

Such criticisms match those made of the quality of interpreters supplied by thebigword in other parts of the legal sector, which also echo Shaw’s criticisms about the unavailability of interpreters. Although the Ministry of Justice seems to have got the memo about providing interpreting services, it seems to have overlooked the essential qualifier ‘professional’. Consequently, number 19 of Shaw’s latest recommendations states: ‘The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should conduct a review of the quality of interpreter services in IRCs.’ 

Interpreters in immigration detention

Given the high numbers of vulnerable foreign language speakers, quality written translation and interpreting services are essential within the immigration detention estate. Such services are required at all times; interpreters will be involved in the reception, induction and discharge of detainees as well as medical assessments and meetings. Legal representatives are expected to provide their own interpreters. 

A 2017 report by the British Medical Association (BMA) on health and human rights in IRCs lists a number of cultural barriers doctors may face during consultations, including different cultural understanding or stigma surrounding mental health issues. ‘Some detained individuals will have complex and sensitive health needs as the result of torture or violence’, it says, as well as a ‘a deep-rooted mistrust or suspicion of authority figures’ and ‘in relation to sexual health or drug or alcohol use’. 

Interpreters can help to overcome these barriers and ensure effective consultations are carried out in difficult conditions. The use of other detainees as interpreters is ‘inappropriate’, the BMA says, as ‘It raises potential problems with confidentiality, particularly where patients may wish to discuss intimate or sensitive issues such as sexual health or previous traumatic experiences. Depending on the nature of the relationship, there may also be questions about the accuracy of the information being shared.’ 

On the other hand, issues such as confidentiality, accuracy, dealing with sensitive issues, respecting the privacy of a detainee (even over the telephone) and lack of bias should already fall within the ethics and practice of a professional trained interpreter. These are some of the skills a professional interpreter brings to the table that multilingual staff and detainees cannot. 

Interpreting in such circumstances can be stressful and traumatic for the interpreter too, thus they would need to be trained to deal with vicarious trauma. Shaw recognises the impact of interpreting in such circumstances on IRC staff: ‘Given the emotional toll of such work, perhaps they would benefit from some formal recognition or incentive. In particular, staff who can speak foreign languages (e.g. Arabic, Urdu, Polish) are responsible for a lot of unrecognised work in immigration detention.’ 

Shaw further recognises that ‘Clinical discussions with patients are extremely difficult if the patient has little or no use of English’, and in such cases professional interpreters must be used. The BMA recognised the use of interpreters as ‘a crucial link in ensuring information is correctly shared and relevant services and support accessed.’ Nonetheless, whereas Shaw calls for the use of ‘professional interpreters’, the BMA calls for the ‘services of a professional and accredited interpreter’. In the UK, this would mean membership of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) or Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). For telephone interpreting, a professional accredited interpreter outside the UK may not be as suitable given the specific legal and medical framework operating in the UK. 

In practical terms

There are no statistics on language use or provision in IRCs. Nonetheless, prison inspection reports shed some further light on the quantitative and qualitative gaps. 

A November 2016 inspection of Morton Hall, weeks after the justice sector-wide contract between the Ministry of Justice and thebigword came into effect, shows that there were problems with the ‘professional telephone interpreting’ service immediately. In addition, ‘A small number of staff could speak languages other than English and detainees often assisted with non-sensitive conversations’. A recommendation to ‘include interpretation for non-English speakers where necessary’ from the previous 2013 visit was found not to have been achieved. Three detainees died at Morton Hall in 2017. 

An October 2017 inspection of Harmondsworth at Heathrow, the largest immigration detention facility in Europe, which has a high number of detainees with mental health problems and ‘many feeling depressed or suicidal’ on arrival, showed that ‘Many detainees did not speak fluent or any English. Apart from in health care, use of professional interpreting was low, although many staff spoke other languages.’ 

‘Although staff were aware of the professional interpreting service available, they were reluctant to use it and many staff we spoke to preferred to use other detainees to interpret or made hand gestures to convey their messages’. Indeed, ‘Professional telephone interpreting services were not used sufficiently, even though many detainees spoke little or no English. Although this was partially offset because many staff spoke languages other than English, other detainees continued to be used to interpret in confidential interviews’. The inspector recommended that ‘Professional translation and interpreting services should be used in all cases where confidentiality or accuracy is required.’ 

A protest calling for the closure of Yarl’s Wood detention centre on 12 March 2016. © Nilüfer Erdem

At Yarl’s Wood, the women’s and families’ facility in Bedfordshire, a mixture of practices was observed in a June 2017 inspection: ‘Professional telephone interpretation was used well in some areas, including health care, reception and immigration interviews. Staff who could speak other languages also did some interpreting and detainees helped each other and staff with day-to-day communication issues.’

An April 2018 inspection of Tinsley House found that although telephone interpreting was often used, ‘we saw some examples where it was not used when it should have been’ and ‘there was a reliance on other staff and on detainees’. In addition, ‘the immigration interviews we observed were mixed. Detainees said immigration staff did not always use interpreters when necessary.’ A recommendation was made that ‘Professional interpretation should be used for all immigration interviews where the detainee is not fluent in English.’ 

Compliance with the DSO is patchy at best. The quality of the telephone interpreting service offered may contribute to the preferred used of untrained multilingual staff and other detainees, particularly when the so-called professional interpreter’s skills prove inadequate. 

2017 – A Deadly Year

Perhaps the most damning demonstration that the implementation of the 2016 report recommendations has not improved the situation overall is that in 2017 more prisoners died in IRCs than in any year since 1989. In late November 2017, the Institute of Race Relations had the number of deaths down as six, including four suicides. Weeks later, The Guardian reported that ten detainees had died across the estate in the previous twelve months. 

The Home Office is slow to release details and even names of dead detainees, particularly in the case of suicides. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) carries out independent investigations into deaths in custody, but it has not published findings in respect of any deaths in IRCs since the January 2017 suicide of Polish national Lukasz Debowski at Morton Hall. Debowski had a history of attempted suicide and although he was given an interpreter on arrival, it was later decided that he did not need an interpreter as ‘he could speak a little English’. Although there were other important failings in his case, a Polish interpreter would have been crucial to assessing his physical and mental health. 

After the September 2017 death of fellow Polish national Marcin GwozdzinskiThe Guardian found that Polish detainee Marcin Malicki, who was deported days after Gwozdzinski’s death, was used as an interpreter, even though Gwozdzinski’s mental health had severely deteriorated and he was at risk of suicide. Why Malicki was used to interpret, in a situation that was no doubt highly stressful and sensitive for both men, is a further question that needs to be answered. In addition to the reasons given by the BMA for not using fellow detainees, such tasks can also be detrimental to their own mental health and wellbeing. 

Language is crucial to an individual’s sense of orientation and safety and feeling of wellbeing. It is thus inevitable that both the quality and quantity of language provision – interpreting and written translated materials – across the immigration detention estate has contributed to the increase in self-harm and suicide attempts by detainees. Behind bars and locked behind the language barrier, hostages to the current hostile immigration environment, cries for help are going unheard. [1]

Interpreting and translation are often viewed as ancillary. In an immigration setting, where distressed people speak many different languages, there is nothing secondary about the role of professional interpreters. Such a view and practice demonstrate, not a desire to make real progress, but a reckless disregard which continues to isolate detainees by preventing access to information about their situation and options, ultimately leading them, under the pressure of immigration detention, into making choices they would not otherwise make. 

The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office need to move away from the false notion that the simple provision of a person who speaks two languages is enough. If the Home Office is serious about implementing recommendation 19, that ‘The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should conduct a review of the quality of interpreter services in IRCs’, the basis must be the identification of what ‘quality’ means in interpreting provision in such a setting, as well as restricting the use of other detainees, IRC staff and telephone interpreting in favour of professional and accredited interpreters. 

In response to Stephen Shaw’s follow-up report, the Home Secretary announced four priorities, which include ‘staff training and support to make sure that people working in our immigration system are well equipped to work with vulnerable detainees’; this must include training on working with professional interpreters. With respect to the need for greater transparency, this must include data on interpreter use and language needs. 

This is an edited version of Aisha Maniar’s blog, ‘Can you hear us? Interpreters and Detainee Welfare in Immigration Removal Centres’, on one small window.  

Related Links

Read the Shaw progress report here.  

Read Shaw’s first report here.  


Calais two years after the ‘Jungle’

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 06:02

Eliane Edmond-Pettitt describes how the situation in Calais has changed for volunteers on the ground since the Jungle came down in 2016.

In October 2016 bulldozers entered the Calais ‘Jungle’, a shanty town built on an asbestos field on the edge of Calais near the port. The event gained a lot of media attention and many of the ‘Jungle’s’ residents were bussed to accommodation centres across France. But two years on, it is clear that the problem has not been solved. There is still a community of displaced people in Calais and the surrounding areas, and activists to support them. The displaced people are continuously evicted and ‘moved on’ from any makeshift camp to maintain the declaration made by President Macron at the closure of the ‘Jungle’ that no camp of this kind would be allowed to be established again in France. In addition from volunteers and displaced people continue to report police brutality and intimidation, making aid work incredibly difficult.

© Aidan Pettitt

The state’s role in Calais

The state authorities in Calais continue to provide the bare minimum in aid and support, and there have been legal battles around installing showers and water points in the area. As a result volunteer organisations are still needed to step in and fill the gap. The constant dispersal of displaced people creates a game of cat and mouse between the aid organisations, the displaced people and the CRS (the riot police). There are currently two evictions a day (apart from Sundays). Each time a temporary site is cleared the police confiscate refugees’ belongings. According to a French organisation L’Auberge des Migrants, who have been working with refugees and migrants in Calais for ten years, one tent or sleeping bag lasts just five days. This means a constant supply of new tents and sleeping bags is needed. Even with the hundreds of tents salvaged from UK festivals this summer and donated along with other donations, there is no way to keep up with the demand. This is of course an unsustainable situation.

In response to the difficulties and intimidation experienced regularly by volunteers, they are documenting any police transgressions by filming or reporting incidents whenever they happen. There have been a number of reports on the state of affairs in and around Calais, including Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity. In August 2018 a network of charities that work out of a central warehouse in Calais, namely Help Refugees, L’Auberge des Migrants, Utopia 56 and Refugee InfoBus, published a report on experiences of police harassment and intimidation. The report, Calais: the police harassment of volunteers, is based on the testimony of fifty volunteers from many of the organisations working on the ground in Calais.

Volunteers speaking out

The report, which is in three main sections, highlights a range of forms of police brutality: constant pressure (including images and films being taken of volunteers); obstructions faced by associations (including fines, banning of distributions and even prosecution); daily police violence (both verbal and physical violence as well as abuse of power).  Documented testimonies of police failings and  inadequate provision for refugees as well as abuse of volunteers show how this is not merely governmental negligence but a strategic way of making the already difficult job of aid organisations even harder within Calais and Dunkirk.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

I have volunteered in Calais a number of times since 2015, both when the ‘Jungle’ was still present and since, and I have seen how the police response towards both volunteers and refugees has changed. During my most recent visit to Calais in late August 2018, I noticed a lack of visible policing, particularly at the distributions which were held in Calais itself. Both of these actions mark a change from previous visits. The distributions were often smaller, between fifty and 150 people. The small numbers coming to the distributions have more to do with the dispersed nature of the displaced community now than a dramatic decrease in numbers. Their presence is seen most clearly in the evictions that are still happening at each site every day.

© Aidan Pettitt

There are multiple sites around Calais where small groups of refugees are currently residing. The French authorities will go to these sites once or twice daily, evict the residents and forcibly remove their belongings. So although there are fewer CRS vans visible in the city of Calais, there is still a clear and definite police presence. The report suggests that the decrease in visible policing towards volunteers is part of the new strategy that sees police brutality concealed through intimidation and excessive use of legal measures, i.e. traffic violations and identity checks.

There are continued reports of brutality and violence towards the displaced community. During my last trip to Calais I spoke with another volunteer who told me that whilst working at Dunkirk she had seen a six-year-old girl with a broken arm. When she asked how it happened she was told that it was pulled so violently by the police that it broke. Such accounts show that forcible removal and police brutality still exist for the displaced population. However, with them so dispersed along the border the violence is more easily committed out of the sight of volunteers.

Despite all the intimidation and violence experienced by volunteers, which is so powerfully and thoroughly presented in the report, they continue to do amazing work. All the organisations provide different services. For example; RCK provide hot food, Info Bus legal aid, IT support – Wi-Fi and technological support and L’Auberge des Migrants provides sleeping bags and tents. This allows for good working relationships between all the organisations with minimal overlapping of services. This in turn helps the displaced community as the same designated distribution locations are used by all groups every day.

As well as responding to the immediate needs of the displaced population, the aid organisations are also conducting a census to try to determine an accurate number and demographic of those living in northern France. For this all donations are logged and the number of people assisted so that Refugee Community Kitchen and other organisations know how much food to make, and how many tents and clothes are needed. They are trying to be proactive rather than merely reactive and filling the gaps left in the minimal state intervention. This shows the adaptability and resilience of aid organisations against the many challenges created by government policing.

Related Links

Help Refugees Report, Calais: the police harassment of volunteers (PDF 1081KB)

Refugee Rights Europe Report, A Brief Timeline of the Human Rights Situation in the Calais Area (PDF 6.84MB)

Help Refugees Summary, A Brief Timeline of the Human Rights Situation in the Calais Area

Rescue the Rescuers – Awareness Raising

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 06:22

An awareness-raising event in solidarity with Humanitarian activists Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nasso Karakitsos who have been detained, while doing voluntary work, saving lives in Lesvos, Greece.

  • Saturday 20 October, 1pm – 4pm
  • London King’s Cross Station, N1C 4TB, London – exact location to be confirmed.

This event will link up with demonstrations in Berlin, Boston, Dublin and Stockholm, which will be happening simultaneously.


Related Links:

Free Humanitarians website 

Free Humanitarians campaign Facebook page



Calendar of racism and resistance (25 September – 10 October)

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 03:45

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

Asylum and migration

25 September: A court in Boulogne finds 21-year-old Loan Torondel, a worker for L’Auberge des Migrants, guilty of criminal libel for an ironic tweet about police harassment of migrants, a conviction described by Human Rights Watch as setting a dangerous precedent in the official harassment of groups providing crucial aid to migrants in Calais. (Human Rights Watch, 27 September 2018)

26 September: The European anti-fraud agency launches an inquiry into misuse of EU funds after the Fileleftheros newspaper reports that companies closely linked to the Greek defence minister ‘routinely inflate’ charges for catering services at the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos. The minister sues three journalists, including the editor, for defamation. (Guardian, 26 September 2018)

29 September: Tens of thousands of people march in Hamburg, Germany, calling for protection of asylum seekers, safe migration routes, an end to deportations and more action against right-wing extremism. (Deutsche Welle, 29 September 2018)

1 October: As the trial of the Stansted 15 on charges of endangering airport security opens at Chelmsford crown court, Amnesty International announces it is sending observers to the trial, due to concerns that the use of such serious charges could deter non-violent direct action aimed at defending human rights. (Guardian, 3 October 2018)

2 October: Domenico Lucano, mayor of the southern Italian town of Riace, who has been widely praised for his integration policies which have kept the town alive, is placed under house arrest, together with his partner, on suspicion of abetting illegal migration. (Guardian, 2 October 2018)

3 October: In an action brought by Help Refugees, the Court of Appeal rules that the Home Office acted unlawfully and unfairly in its treatment of ‘Dubs’ children seeking to come to the UK from France. (UK Human Rights Blog, 4 October 2018)

3 October: In the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, the Guardian reports that grandchildren of Chagos islanders evicted from the islands to make way for a US airbase in Diego Garcia are now under threat of deportation from the UK, despite their mother holding British citizenship. The Conservative MP for Crawley has put forward a private member’s bill to enable everyone of Chagossian descent to claim British citizenship. (Guardian, 3 October 2018)

4 October: The Court of Appeal rules that thousands of asylum seekers may have been unlawfully detained since 2013 pending their return under the Dublin regulation, as UK law does not comply with stricter criteria and time limits for detention under EU law. (Guardian, 4 October 2018)

4 October: Mare Jonio, an Italian-flagged rescue boat funded and created by the platform Operation Mediterranean, sets sail for waters off Libya, in direct defiance of Italy’s interior minister who has closed all Italian ports to NGO search and rescue missions. (Guardian, 4 October 2018) 

6 October: Thousands of people rally in Marseille, Paris, Calais, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid and Palermo to show support for the SOS Mediterranée migrant rescue ship Aquarius, stuck in port in Marseille after Panama revoked its registration, while in Riace, southern Italy, protesters rally to support their mayor, under house arrest for supposedly aiding illegal immigration. (The Local, 6 October 2018)

8 October: The Residential Landlords Association warns the home secretary that another Windrush scandal will result if EU citizens are not provided with documentary evidence of their right to be in the UK. (Guardian, 8 October 2018)

Policing and criminal justice

1 October: Liberty warns that the law enforcement data service (LEDS), the largest ever database built for British law enforcement, due to become operational later this year, represents a grave risk to civil liberties. (Guardian, 1 October 2018)

2 October: Data obtained by the Guardian under a freedom of information request shows that a stun gun was used at least 107 times on mental health patients since 1 April 2017, when forces were required to keep data. Only half of the UK’s police forces supplied data. (Guardian, 2 October 2018)

3 October: Scotland’s chief prosecutor confirms that no charges will be brought against police officers over the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in custody three years ago after police used CS gas, pepper spray, batons and leg and arm restraints to arrest him. (Inquest, 3 October 2018)

6 October: Footage posted on social media shows up to six Metropolitan Police officers using allegedly excessive force to restrain a man in Harlesden, London, spraying him with CS gas and kicking him while holding him down, prompting community organisations to demand an investigation into police malpractice. (Independent, 6 October 2018)

8 October: A Guardian analysis of police data reveals that the Metropolitan police’s use of force (handcuffing, stun guns, CS spray, batons and guns) has risen 79 per cent in the last year, with  39 per cent of the 41,329 incidents that occurred between April to August directed at black people. (Guardian, 8 October 2018)

8 October: A disciplinary hearing begins in Stevenage against four Bedfordshire police officers accused of lying to paramedics called to treat Julian Cole, who was left paralysed and brain-dead following his arrest outside a Bedford night club five years ago. (Guardian, 8 October 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right

28 September: A Finnish appeal court upholds the decision to ban the Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL), as well as its regional chapters and the PVL-linked Pohjoinen Perinne or Nordic Tradition group. (YLE News, 28 September 2018)

28 September: In Germany, journalist Klaus-Peter Krummling is stabbed in Naumburg, Saxony-Anhalt, by three youths, one of whom performed a Nazi salute. (The Independent, 2 October 2018)

2 October: Raids by over 100 German police lead to the arrests of six men on suspicion of belonging to Revolution Chemnitz, a far-right terrorist group linked to attacks on ‘foreigners’ in Chemnitz and a plot to attack Germany’s Unity Day. (Guardian, 2 October 2018)

5 October: The mayor of Utrecht city, Netherlands, orders the dispersal of an anti-Muslim demonstration organised by Pegida in front of the Ulu Mosque after violence erupts, leaving a student injured. (Utrecht Central, 5 October 2018)

© Almen Modstand

6 October: Hundreds of people march in Copenhagen, Arhus and Odense, in opposition to the Danish government’s Islamophobic-tainted ‘ghetto package’ and in opposition to attempts to privatise social housing. (Communication from Almed Modstand)  

Electoral politics

8 October: Czech president Miloš Zeman refuses to apologise to the Roma community after asserting that most Roma do not work. His remarks sparked criticism, including from Roma people, who posted hundreds of pictures of themselves working on social media. (Euractiv, 8 October 2018) 

9 October: European Parliament posters promoting the upcoming European elections are branded ‘Islamophobic’ by Brussels and Strasbourg and pulled down. Part of the ‘this time I’m voting’ campaign, they depict a woman wearing a headscarf with the wording ‘because we need to work together to manage migration’. (The Drum, 9 October 2018) 

Employment and labour exploitation

27 September: An NHS Digital analysis of 750,000 NHS staff salaries reveals that Black male doctors are paid on average nearly £10,000 less than white colleagues. (Guardian, 27 September 2018)

1 October: Lambeth Black Workers, a group of around twenty council workers ranging from junior to senior staff, write to Lambeth council accusing it of institutional racism. Complaints made by staff centre on racist comments and slurs, and inequality of access to jobs and flexible working. (Guardian, 1 October 2018)

Media and culture

30 September: Campaigners complain that local authorities are destroying the meaning and purpose of Black History Month, celebrated for over thirty years, by turning it into a celebration of ‘diversity’. (Guardian, 30 September 2018)

2 October: Ida Marie Muller, daughter of AfD politician Nicole Hochst, performs a poem widely condemned as racist to a 100-strong audience in Speyer, south-western Germany, as part of Speyer Youth council’s anti-racism initiative. (BBC, 2 October 2018) 

2 October:  An installation intended to throw a spotlight on migration, whose title reflects the numbers migrating (10,142,926 on the opening day), opens at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. (Frieze, 2 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on people

27 September: Police appeal for information after a man and a woman were racially abused, threatened with attack by two large dogs, punched and kicked, by a gang of five men and two women after leaving a supermarket in Gateshead, leaving both needing medical attention. (The Northern Echo, 27 September 2018)

2 October: Police appeal for information after two men were racially abused and assaulted, leaving one with minor injuries, by a man at a supermarket in Cambridge. (CambridgeLive, 2 October 2018)

10 October: Police appeal for information after a black woman in her forties allegedly racially abused and repeatedly hit an 18-year-old Asian teenager and tried to grab her headscarf in Bethnal Green. (East London advertiser, 10 October 2018)  

Violence and harassment: convictions

1 October: Jason Downs, 46, is convicted of racially aggravated assault and receives a community order and an order for compensation after racially abusing and spitting in the face of a supermarket worker who caught him stealing alcohol at a supermarket in Newcastle. (ChronicleLive, 1 October 2018)

3 October: Zack Boakye-Yiadom, 22, and Connor Ian James Maher, 22, are each fined for criminal assault after punching and kicking a man who had pushed and shouted racial abuse at them at the Weighbridge, Jersey. (Jersey Evening Post, 3 October 2018)

4 October: Lewis Carl Tolson, 27, pleads guilty to racially aggravated assault after racially abusing and assaulting a doorman who had escorted him out of a club in York for harassing women. (York Press, 4 October 2018)

5 October: Barbara Fielding-Morriss, 79, who was convicted of three counts of stirring up racial hatred in June after making racist and anti-Semitic blog posts between September 2016 and September 2017, is jailed for twelve months. She stood as an independent candidate for the city central constituency of Stoke-On-Trent during the 2017 election. (BBC News, 5 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: charges

28 September: Alan Merry, 33, is charged with ten offences, including racially aggravated assault, after two women report incidents that took place on 17 August in Colchester. (Daily Gazette, 28 September 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on property

26 September: Police appeal for information after a car with Polish number plates was set alight by a man in his 20s in Taunton, Somerset. Police are treating the alleged arson as racially motivated. (Somerset County Gazette, 26 September 2018)

Violence and harassment: online racism

3 October: For the second time in 24 hours, the UK Black History Month website is brought down by hackers. (Guardian, 3 October 2018)

Violence and harassment: research and statistics

2 October: A report by the Safer Newcastle Board reveals a 17 per cent increase in hate crimes, with three-quarters of the victims from black or Asian backgrounds. Newcastle City Council’s third party hate-crime reporting system came under heavy criticism for being outdated. (Chronicle Live, 2 October 2018)

8 October: A report published by The Executive Office shows that the number of racially motivated hate crimes has overtaken the number of sectarian hate crimes in Northern Ireland for the first time. Figures from the report reveal that 609 racially motivated hate crimes were recorded in 2017, compared with 576 sectarian hate crimes. (BelfastLive, 8 October 2018)


Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee and Ifhat Shaheen-Smith for helping compile this calendar.

Stealing C. L. R James

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 05:34

The October 2018 issue of Race & Class brings together pieces on racialising domestic violence, #Grime4Corybyn, the rebranding of C.L.R. James for a neoliberal era and memorial tributes to A. Sivanandan.

Jessica Perera, who is currently assisting research at the Institute of Race Relations, explores how Grime artists in the 2017 UK general election came out in support of Jeremy Corbyn, revealing how Grime is a more than a music genre and more a way of life giving cultural meaning. Chloe Patton, a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, Australia critically examines media coverage of the forced marriage debate in Australia, a discourse that overwhelmingly understands forced marriages as a problem of Islam, and that marginalises the experiences of women and service providers. And in a daring lead article, New York college teacher Jonathan Scott takes issue with the way that C. L. R. James is now being reinterpreted, and de-Marxified by some in the US academy.



Review article


  • Urban rage: the revolt of the excluded by Mustafa DikeÇ (Parastou Saberi)
  • Incarcerating the Crisis: freedom struggles and the rise of the neoliberal state by Jordan Camp (Arun Kundnani)
  • The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale (Jasbinder S. Nijjar)
  • Lights in the Distance: Exile and refuge at the borders of Europe by Daniel Trilling (Frances Webber)
  • Voices from the ‘Jungle’: stories from the Calais refugee camp, edited by Marie Godin (Anya Edmond-Pettitt)
  • Kitch: a fictional biography of a calypso icon by Anthony Joseph (Chris Searle)


Related links

Follow Race & Class on Twitter and Facebook

Read What’s in name? Criminalising the unworthy

Read Stealing C. L. R. James


State racism, collusion and resistance

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 04:18

A two-day conference discussing the pervasive nature of racism, injustice and austerity in contemporary Britain and their impact on working class communities.

  • Saturday 13 October 2018, 9:45am – 5:15pm
  • Sunday 14 October 2018, 9:45am – 4:45pm

Speakers include:

  • Professor Gus John (Award winning writer, campaigner and consultant)
  • Liz Fekete (Director, Institute of Race Relations)
  • Stafford Scott (The Monitoring Group): The Government’s bogus war on gangs
  • Dr Omar Khan (Runnymede Trust): The May review on race disparity
  • David Lammy MP: The Lammy review
Related Links

Register for the event here