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Calendar of racism and resistance (20 July – 15 August 2018)

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 04:22

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

Asylum and migration 

18 July: Liverpool City Council passes a cross-party motion calling on the government to end the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, saying the system is ‘inhumane’ and ‘not fit for purpose’. (These Walls Must Fall, 19 July 2018)

18 July: Hungary’s right-wing government withdraws from the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, a pact approved by 191 UN member nations that lays out objectives to open up migration and manage flows of people, claiming that the document goes ‘entirely against Hungary’s security interests’. (Al jazeera, 18 July 2018)

19 July: EU commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and the interior minister for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Oliver Spasovski, initial an agreement to allow EU border guards to be deployed in Macedonia. (Ekathimerini, 19 July 2018)

19 July: Berlin’s migration policy comes under scrutiny as a 23-year-old Afghani man is deported despite an ongoing legal appeal. (The Local, 19 July 2018) 

19 July: Refugee Action finds that asylum seekers are at risk due to lack of access to legal advice. Download Tipping the Scales of Justice: Access to Justice in the asylum system, here. (Guardian, 19 July 2018) 

19 July: The Home Office admits that the lawful basis of taking DNA swabs from asylum seekers to prove their origins, as part of a pilot scheme that operated until March 2011, is ‘dubious’. The practice emerged during a legal challenge by an unaccompanied asylum seeker in France seeking reunification with his brother in the UK. (Guardian, 19 July 2018)

19 July: The Home Office announces that victims of the Windrush scandal could have compensation payments capped so that no one receives a ‘disproportionately’ high payment. (Guardian, 19 July 2018)

19 July: The EU Commission takes Hungary to the EU’s Court of Justice over its treatment of migrants and begins infringement proceedings on its new laws attacking those supporting them (the ‘Stop Soros’ package). (Politico, 19 July 2018)

19 July: Members of the Italian coastguard, including an admiral, speak out against Italy’s new hardline policy of closing ports to rescue ships. (Digital Journal, 20 July 2018)

22 July: Thousands gather in Munich to protest right-wing populism and the immigration policies of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU). (Deutsche Welle, 22 July 2018)

23 July: Twenty UK medical staff awarded medals for helping to tackle the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone hand back their medals in protest at undocumented migrants being denied free NHS care. (Guardian, 23 July 2018)

24 July: An HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report into deportations finds that restraint belts are routinely used with little or no justification, and that people were restrained for up to seventeen hours. Download the report, Detainees under escort: Inspection of a Third Country Unit removal to France and Bulgaria, here. (Independent, 24 July 2018)

24 July: A mass walkout takes place in London’s Chinatown in protest at immigration rules restricting the numbers of chefs allowed into the UK and at increasing immigration raids, including one in which an elderly woman was injured after lying in front of an immigration van. (Guardian, 21, 24 July 2018; Migrants’ Rights Network, 31 July 2018)

24 July: The Home Office publishes: Assessment of government progress in implementing the report on the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons: a follow-up report to the Home Office by Stephen Shaw. Download it here.

24 July: The European Commission publishes a proposal to pay EU member states €6,000 per migrant to encourage governments to take in more migrants, after Italy closed its ports to recue vessels. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini says it is not enough. (Al jazeera, 24 July 2018)

25 July: Student Elin Ersson, 21, stops the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker from Gothenburg, Sweden, by refusing to take her seat until the man is removed from the flight.  (Guardian, 26 July 2018)

26 July: In north-west Bosnian border-towns Sarajevo and Velika Kladusa, mayors and around fifty councillors stage a protest against the state’s abandonment of migrants in makeshift camps, demanding ‘humanity for migrants and safety for citizens’. (Reuters, 26 July 2018)

26 July: Six hundred people from sub-Saharan Africa storm the barrier between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Ceuta in at attempt to reach Europe. (The Local, 26 July 2018)

28 July: An Italian prosecutor launches an investigation into twenty-two people for allegedly ‘favouring illegal immigration’ into Italy by conducting rescue operations on the Iuventa ship in the Mediterranean. The charge carries a sentence of up to fifteen years in prison. (Solidarity at Sea, 29 July 2018) 

31 July: The Court of Appeal rules that the government ‘materially misled’ the High Court on the ‘unfair and unlawful’ screening process for 2,000 children seeking to enter the UK from France before and after the demolition of the Calais refugee camp in 2016, which amounted to ‘a serious breach of the duty of candour and cooperation’. (Guardian, 1 August 2018)

31 July: The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that an Italian operation rescuing 108 people and returning them to Libya the previous day would be a violation of international law if, as NGOs claim, it happened in international waters, as the EU and the UN recognise that Libya is not safe. The Italian coastguard claim the rescue occurred in Libyan waters. (Guardian, 1 August 2018)

31 July: Musicians including Peter Gabriel and festival organisers warn that performers will refuse UK gigs after several are denied visas and are unable to perform at Womad and the Edinburgh Festival. (Guardian, 31 July 2018)

1 August: The Ministry of Justice publishes Legal aid for unaccompanied and separated children, view it here.

1 August: Bavaria opens its first ‘Ankerzentrum’, a controlled centre for holding and fast-track processing of asylum seekers who will be kept there until their right to stay is determined.  (Deutsche Welle, 1 August 2018)

2 August: No Name Kitchen, an NGO that helps migrants at the Bosnian border with Croatia, publishes a picture of a severely injured migrant who they say was beaten with plastic batons by Croatian police and kicked in the face with their boots. (Balkan Insight, 2 August 2018)

2 August: LGBT rights campaigners, performers and MPs call on British Airways, a sponsor of Brighton Pride, to stop accepting Home Office contracts for deportations, and over 50,000 people sign a petition. (Morning Star, 3 August 2018)

4 August: The Independent reveals that the Home Office is imposing non-disclosure agreements on Windrush victims in return for fast-tracking compensation payments, three weeks after home secretary Sajid Javid assures MPs no such deals will be sought. (Independent, 4 August 2018)

5 August: In the wake of widespread criticism of Donald Trump’s policies which see children separated from their parents, an Observer report reveals that, according to the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), 322 children were separated from their parents by the Home Office in the year to the end of July. (Observer, 5 August 2018)

6 August: The government of Gibraltar notifies the search and rescue ship Aquarius (operated by Médecins sans Frontières and SOS Mediterranée), stranded between Italy and Malta with 141 rescued people on board, that the ship will be stripped of its Gibraltar registration on 20 August, as its registration as a survey vessel does not permit search and rescue. Italy meanwhile demands that Britain take responsibility for the rescued migrants as the ship flies the flag of a British territory.  (Sky News, 6 August 2018)

7 August: Four refugee support charities release a report, Calais, the police harassment of volunteers, revealing over 600 incidents of harassment of volunteers in the eight months to July 2018. Download the report here. (Guardian, 8 August 2018)

8 August: A new Amnesty International (AI) report blames EU policies, particularly those of Italy and Malta, for the deaths of 721 people at sea in June and July. View the report, Between the devil and the deep blue sea, here. (Guardian, 8 August 2018)

13 August: The bodies of two Syrian refugees are recovered from a forest in Croatia. Doctors Without Borders say that more than eighty migrants have died along the Balkans Route since the start of the year. (The New Arab, 13 August 2018)

Policing and criminal justice

22 July: The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announces an investigation into the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) unit after allegations of ‘serious corruption and malpractice’ including racial discrimination. Three officers are served with gross misconduct notices. (Guardian, 22 July 2018)

25 July: The IOPC releases figures on deaths in police custody revealing that at least twenty-three people died in 2017, seventeen of whom were restrained, which is the highest number in a decade. Download the IOPC report and statistics here. (Guardian, 25 July 2018)

26 July: Torson Sharp, a former police officer from Hitchin, Hertfordshire is dismissed for airing ‘racist, sexist and homophobic views’ on Facebook. He had received a verbal warning for his ‘extreme right-wing views’ when he served as a PCSO, before becoming a PC. (BBC News, 26 July 2018)

27 July: Met police officer PC Joshua Savage is cleared of assault and possession of a bladed article for an attack on Leon Fontana as he sat in his car in Kentish Town in September 2016, which was filmed and posted on social media. The officer now faces a police misconduct hearing. (Ham & High, 27 July 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right 

21 July: The Scottish Defence League holds a ‘free speech rally’ in Glasgow with forty supporters who are met with a large counter-protest. (Glasgow Live, 21 July 2018)

26 July: The Met police release images of nine people wanted in connection with violence at a protest in support of Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, in June, in which police officers were attacked. (Independent, 26 July 2018)

26 July: Seventeen members of the far-right ‘Identitarian Movement’ (IBÖ) in Austria are found not guilty of criminal association and hate speech in connection with several of the group’s stunts in recent years. (The Local, 26 July 2018)

28 July: A counter-protest is held in Ards as Britain First members gather for their first meeting in Northern Ireland. It is also announced that independent Belfast City councillor Jolene Bunting has left the far-right group and has been ‘proscribed’. Party leader Paul Golding is in attendance after recently being released from prison. (Belfast Telegraph, 28 July 2018)

28 July: Anti-fascists hold a counter demonstration against a rally organised by Gays Against Sharia UK and Standing for Britain in Stockton-on-Tees. (Teesside Live, 28 July 2018)

29 July: In Menton, France, on the Italian border, the youth wing of National Rally (formerly National Front) and Italy’s League hold a joint anti-immigration protest to oppose migrants ‘overwhelming’ Europe. (RFI, 29 July 2018)

30 July: In Graz, Austria, a judge acquits seventeen people connected to the far-right Identitarian movement, including co-leader Martin Sellner, of belonging to a criminal organisation and hate speech. (Vice News, 30 July 2018)

1 August: Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, wins his appeal against a conviction for contempt of court and is released from Onley Prison pending a retrial. (Guardian, 1 August 2018)

4 August: A dozen far-right protesters, some masked or with ‘Make Britain Great Again’ caps, attack the socialist bookshop Bookmarks in central London, wrecking displays and ripping up books and magazines while chanting far-right slogans. It appears they had been attending a free speech protest. (Guardian, 5 August 2018)

10 August: The German interior ministry admits that at least 360 crimes related to glorifying the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror cell have been detected since 2011, but none have resulted in a conviction. (Deutsche Welle, 10 August 2018)

11 August: In Sweden, a member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) is arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder two journalists working for Mittmedia. (The Local, 11 August 2018)


19 July: Students at Manchester University paint over a Rudyard Kipling mural depicting the poem ‘If’ and replace it with a poem by Maya Angelou, arguing that Kipling ‘dehumanised people of colour’. (Guardian, 19 July 2018)

19 July: The Department for Education publishes data on Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England: 2016 to 2017, view here.

27 July: Wolverhampton University is criticised for a ‘racist’ poster advertising a BSc in Public Health, with academics claiming ‘the concept is disrespectful and has undertones of colonialism, patriotism and racism’. (The Tab, 27 July 2018)

30 July: Parents at Lipson Co-operative Academy, Plymouth, claim that racism at the school is forcing children to leave; one mother claims her 11-year-old was called a ‘n****r’ almost every day at the school and another has moved her daughter because of racist bullying. (Plymouth Herald, 30 July 2018)

1 August: A father claims that a Swindon school has failed to act after his son was racially bullied, a claim which the school denies. (This is Wiltshire, 1 August 2018)

Employment and labour exploitation

21 July: Richard Hastings wins his employment tribunal against King’s College Hospital for racial discrimination and unfair dismissal. The IT expert was sacked following an incident in the hospital car park in which he was subjected to a racist attack. (The Voice, 21 July 2018)

6 August: The High Court grants permission for the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), a union representing many migrant workers, to challenge a refusal to allow it to negotiate directly with the University of London over outsourced workers’ pay and conditions.  The university refuses to recognise the IWGB, saying it negotiates with Unison. The government is an interested party in the case, arguing that human rights law relied on by the IWGB has no application. (Independent, 7 August 2018)

6 August: Cleaners, mostly migrant workers, picket the Ministry of Justice and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea at the beginning of a three-day strike demanding that outsourced contractors are obliged to pay them the London living wage of £10.20 per hour. (Guardian, 7 August 2018)


23 July: The Government Equalities Unit publishes the results of its consultation: Caste in Great Britain and equality law, here

4 August: In Denmark, a 28-year-old Muslim woman is the first person fined under a new law banning the wearing of full-face Islamic veils in public places. Police issue the fine after responding to an incident in a shopping centre in the region of Nordsjaelland involving another woman trying to tear the niqab off. (Guardian, 4 August 2018)



27 July: Italian authorities defy the European Court of Human Rights by evicting over 300 Roma from a camp on the outskirts of Rome, with no offers to rehouse them. Media reports claim some are still outside the gates of the camp with all their belongings and nowhere to go. (The Local, 27 July 2018)

27 July: Security firm and asylum housing contractor Serco announces its decision to evict up to 300 refused asylum seekers from accommodation in Glasgow on just one week’s notice, under a programme code-named Move On. (Glasgow Herald, 30 July 2018)

30 July: Research finds that homes for asylum seekers in Belfast fall below basic living standards, with reports of water leaks, damp and infestations. Read the report by the Participation and Practice of Human Rights Project: “We came here for sanctuary”: Syrian refugee familiesexperience of racism and substandard housing conditions in West Belfast here. (BBC News, 31 July 2018)

31 July: The residents of Longton’s Stockwell Grove and Kendrick Street in Stoke join together to form a residents’ association after complaints that their housing estates were rife with anti-social behaviour, with residents afraid to leave their home due to racism.  (Stoke Sentinel, 31 July 2018)

1 August: Glasgow council establishes a task force to deal with a potential humanitarian crisis if Serco makes homeless hundreds of asylum seekers in the city, while two men from Afghanistan go on hunger strike outside Home Office offices in Glasgow in protest at their impending eviction. (Guardian, BBC News, 1 August 2018)

4 August:  Following a week of protests against its proposed evictions, involving politicians, religious and civic leaders, housing associations, social workers, teachers and others and the launch of a legal challenge, Serco agrees not to evict families with children, to extend the notice period on the first six evictions and to pause further evictions. (Serco, 1 August, Politics blog, 8 August 2018)


30 July: The Football Association begins an investigation after a brawl between Mansfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday players, with the Mansfield captain Krystian Pearce claiming he was racially abused in their pre-season friendly. (BBC News, 30 July 2018)

Media and culture

17 July: New research by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) finds that only 1 per cent of British children’s books feature a BAME main character. View the study here. (Guardian, 17 July 2018)

25 July: The Bradford Telegraph & Argus stops readers commenting on its website after ‘hate-filled, racist, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic tirades’ were added to articles, and the paper accuses extremists of using the comments function to ‘sow the seeds of division’. (Guardian, 25 July 2018)

26 July: The play Trojan Horse, based on interviews with ninety witnesses and seeking to explore the effects on teachers, pupils and parents of the allegations of radicalisation in Birmingham schools, opens in South London before a run at the Edinburgh Festival. (Guardian, 23 July 2018)

28 July: A pantomime being held at Bedworth Civic Hall is forced to changes the names of characters in Aladdin after allegations of racism. (Birmingham Mail, 28 July 2018)

1 August: Two YouTube vloggers remove a video after allegations of racism for claiming that Lewisham is dangerous and that people there made them feel ‘uncomfortable’. (Evening Standard, 1 August 2018) 

6 August: The Daily Mail removes a report claiming that the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis (population 110,000) has been ‘devastated’ by drug dealing, crime and poverty because of 300,000 undocumented migrants, after many inaccuracies are challenged. (Guardian, 6 August 2018) 

Electoral politics

17 July: Richard Alderman, an independent councillor at Rutland County Council, is referred to Leicestershire police over comments made on social media about Diane Abbott MP. (Rutland & Stamford Mercury, 18 July 2018)

30 July: Stephen Ardley, a district and county councillor, is expelled from the Conservative Party after posting offensive comments about London mayor Sadiq Khan. (Eastern Daily Press, 1 August 2018)

July/ August: Labour’s row over anti-Semitism continues, with Jewish groups, MPs and three union leaders urging the NEC to concede on adopting the full text of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association, and eminent Palestinians, lawyers and other Jewish groups fearing that its adoption would lead to the curtailment of freedom of information and of expression. (Guardian, 27, 31 July, 11 August 2018; Independent, 14 August 2018)

13 August: The Muslim Council of Britain urges the prime minister to set up a public inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party, a week after Boris Johnson compares Muslim women wearing burqas to letter-boxes and bank robbers in a Daily Telegraph article and subsequently refuses to apologise despite dozens of complaints. (Guardian, 13 August 2018) 

Violence and harassment: attacks on people

20 July: A bus driver in his 40s suffers an injury to his arm and broken glasses after he is attacked at Nuneaton bus station. (Coventry Telegraph, 23 July 2018)

23 July: Police appeal for information after a 19-year-old Polish man is ‘seriously injured’ when he is attacked and racially abused by a gang of more than ten youths in Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh. (Edinburgh Evening News, 23 July 2018)

25 July: Police appeal for information after a man is racially abused and spat at while in his car by another driver in Andover. (Andover Advertiser, 26 July 2018)

3 August: Italian anti-racist groups record twelve shootings, two murders and thirty-three assaults since far-right League party politician Matteo Salvini became interior minister. On 29 July, a Moroccan man was beaten to death Aprilia, near Rome, and in another incident in July a 13-month Roma girl is shot in the back with an airgun pellet. (Guardian, 3 August 2018)

8 August: A 50-year-old man has come forward to police following a photo appeal after a taxi driver in his 40s is allegedly racially abused and assaulted in Poole, Dorest. (Bournemouth Echo, 8 August 2018)

13 August: Police appeal for information after a man in his 40s is racially abused and assaulted inside the toilets of a pub in Hagley, Worcestershire, by a group of men aged between 20 and 24. (Express and Star, 13 August 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on property 

21 July: Sion Tomos Owen paints over Britain First graffiti that he spots on a watchman’s hut while driving near the Rhigos Mountain. (ITV, 23 July 2018)

23 July: Racist graffiti and swastikas are daubed on an underpass in Brighton. (The Argus, 23 July 2018)

24 July: Racist graffiti are sprayed on children’s play equipment in Tyttenhanger Green, St Albans. (Herts Advertiser, 27 July 2018)

29 Jul: A man living in East Belfast who has racist graffiti daubed on his home believes he has been wrongly targeted as Romanian families also live in the area. (Belfast Live, 29 July 2018)

29 July: A Lithuanian woman who had to rebuild her East Belfast beauty salon after a racially motivated arson attack is targeted again with racist graffiti. (Belfast Telegraph, 31 July 2018)

4 August: In north-west Romania, the home of the late Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel is defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. (Guardian, 4 August 2018)

8 August: ‘No blacks’ and ‘no n******’ are among racist graffiti sprayed onto the home of a family who had just moved to Milnow, Rochdale. They say they are leaving as they don’t feel safe. (Guardian, 8 August 2018)


15 August: The List, a piece of artwork that lists the names of the 34,361 refugees and migrants who have lost their lives trying to reach Europe, has been destroyed twice in Liverpool. The artist has decided not to install it for a third time, ‘as a reminder of this systemic violence exercised against people’. (Guardian, 1, 15 August 2018)

Violence and harassment: abuse

20 July: British Transport Police release a picture of a man wanted in connection with the racial abuse of an Asian family on a train between Leeds and Manchester on 10 June. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 20 July 2018)

20 July: A Czech family in Wigan say they have suffered constant racial abuse over the ten years they have lived there. (Wigan Today, 20 July 2018)

23 July: Police appeal for information after a have-a-go hero is racially abused after chasing a suspected shoplifter in Plymouth. (Plymouth Herald, 1 August 2018)

24 July: In a video posted online of a man and woman racially abusing a woman on a Sunderland bus is posted online, they are heard saying ‘don’t underestimate the whites’. (Chronicle Live, 24 July 2018)

27 July: In footage posted on Facebook, a man in Barnsley is filmed racially abusing a woman. (Daily Mirror, 30 July 2018)

Violence and harassment: charges

25 July: Louis Cairns, 31, is charged with causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm and distress and criminal damage after the Chabad Student Centre in Cowley Road was attacked on 19 May. (Oxford Mail, 25 July 2018)

1 August: Neil Froggatt, 48, faces six counts of racially aggravated damage to property after allegedly posting racist stickers across London. He will face trial in November. (Court News, 1 August 2018)

Violence and harassment: convictions

18 July: Sunderland man Calvin White, 25, is given a twelve month community order after pleading guilty to racially aggravated harassment for sending a racist tweet to footballer Ivan Toney. (BBC News, 18 July 2018)

19 July: Sean Gormna, 18, admits the racially aggravated attempted murder of a 25-year-old Syrian asylum seeker, who was stabbed after intervening in a row involving his female cousin in an Edinburgh hostel. Sentencing is adjourned until 17 August. (Guardian, 19 July 2018)

20 July: A judge orders 70-year-old Barbara Fielding-Morriss, who twice stood as an independent candidate in Stoke-on-Trent elections, to undergo a psychiatric assessment after she was convicted of three counts of stirring up racial hatred for publishing pro-Hitler material on her website. (Guardian, 20 July 2018)

27 July: Levi Eastwood, 26, who racially abused, chased and threatened a man with a hammer in Strood, Kent, in May 2018, pleads guilty to racially aggravated common assault and is jailed for five years and three months. (Kent Online, 27 July 2018)

27 July: David Hickman, 28, and Liam Hawes, 21, who racially abused and attacked a Bangladeshi taxi driver on Boxing Day 2017 in Wallasey, Merseyside leaving him with a fractured eye, are given custodial sentences of four years and twelve months respectively. (Liverpool Echo, 27 July 2018)

1 August: Andrew Dobbin, 30, who racially abused and spat at a police officer in a ‘shocking and disgraceful’ attack in Dumbarton, January 2018, is given a one year community payback order, 180 hours of unpaid work and ordered to attend for alcohol treatment after. (Dumbarton Reporter, 1  August 2018)

7 August: Olivia Sian Harris, 22, pleads guilty to grievous bodily harm and is given a suspended forty-week sentence for throwing a glass at a man and racially abusing him at a nightclub in Swansea. (WalesOnline, 7 August 2018)

8 August: Andrew Lewis, arrested for multiple racially aggravated offences in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, is released the following day after being ordered to pay a fine of £350. (The Star, 8 August 2018)

8 August: Ryan Steer, 18, pleads guilty to racially aggravated assaults on two 16-year-old boys in Corsham, Wiltshire and is given a suspended twelve-month sentence. (Gazette and Herald, 8 August 2018)

9 August: Jonathan Jennings, 34, admits online threats intended to stir up racial hatred and is jailed for sixteen months after using a social media profile to threaten to kill ‘Muslims, Jews and members of the Labour Party’. (BBC News, 9 August 2018)

10 August: A father and son of 48 and 23, both named Jason Deathridge, admit racially abusing and attacking a taxi driver in Halesowen, West Midlands, and are given suspended jail sentences and unpaid community work. (Halesowen News, 10 August 2018)

Violence and harassment: research and statistics 

20 July: Tell Mama finds that Islamophobic attacks have increased by 26 per cent from 2016-2017, with more women being targeted. (Guardian, 20 July 2018)

25 July: Figures from the Community Security Trust reveal 727 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2018, many linked to political events. (Guardian, 26 July 2018)

30 July: Greater Manchester Combined Authority publishes a report on racial violence following the Manchester Arena bombing, finding that two-thirds of people in Manchester experienced hateful behaviour. Download the report, A Shared Future: a report of the Greater Manchester Tackling Hateful Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion Commission, here. (Guardian, 30 July 2018)

Data protection: suppressing official wrongdoing

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 06:35

The government intends to make future ‘Windrush’ scandals impossible to uncover with the sweeping immigration exemption from new data protection obligations. Can campaigners and lawyers prevent the cover-ups?

We are all data subjects now. The new data protection legislation which entered into force on 25 May gives us all rights – to see what data organisations hold on us and know what is done with it, to correct it, to restrict its processing, and in some circumstances, to have it deleted. This accords with justice and common sense.

But not for migrants. The Data Protection Act specifically excludes from the scope of most data protection rights – including subject access – all data acquired, held and passed to third parties ‘for the maintenance of effective immigration control’ or ‘for the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control’.  (The right to rectification of data remains, but it is hard to see how it can be used without the right to know what information is held by the Home Office or one of its private partners, or to have access to it.)

Amid all the kerfuffle surrounding the new data protection obligations of businesses, charities and civil society groups, the warnings of migrants’ rights groups and of civil liberties campaigners such as Open Rights and Liberty, about the dangerous breadth of the ‘immigration exemption’ went largely unheard. But as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights’ deputy counsel observed,[i] measures interfering with privacy must include legal protection against arbitrary interference by public authorities, and there is widespread concern that the immigration exemption is disproportionate and discriminatory.

The UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 is designed to complement the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This contains no ‘immigration control’ exemption, although it does allow data subjects’ rights to be restricted in pursuance of prescribed aims, including national security, crime prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment and ‘other important objectives of general public interest’. This makes sense: authorities should not have to provide all the data held on them to those planning major crime. But as the GDPR says, restrictions must respect the essence of fundamental rights – which must include the right not to be detained for deportation, or sacked, or denied work or livelihood or housing on the basis of information which is unavailable to the subject of it.

Hostile environment context

The government’s hostile environment policies have involved a lot of data sharing between the Home Office and other agencies, as more and more sectors of society have been conscripted into immigration policing, and enforcement – getting numbers down and people out – has become the absolute priority. The NHS, schools and landlords have joined the ranks of employers, universities, colleges, local authorities, marriage registrars, banks etc, in being required to pass on information to the Home Office or to check someone’s status with them before providing services. The information passed back to them has frequently been inaccurate – the Independent Inspector of Borders and Immigration recently found that denial of a bank account after a Home Office immigration status check had a ten per cent error rate, and that hundreds of driving licences had been revoked on the basis of wrong information from the Home Office. And numerous cases have been reported of lawful residents being told, sometimes by text, that they have no right to be in the UK and must leave.

Home Office errors such as these are the inevitable by-product of a culture of disbelief entrenched and solidified into a shift in the burden of proof: anyone who looks or sounds like a migrant is suspect and must prove their legal right to be here. It was this shift which produced the Windrush scandal, revelations that Commonwealth pensioners who had lived and worked in the UK for half a century or more, many of whom held British nationality, had been sacked from their jobs, rendered homeless and destitute and in some cases threatened with removal or even deported, because they were unable to prove their lawful status in the UK.

The recent scandals have surprised no one with experience of the Home Office, with its combination of institutional cruelty, indifference and incompetence – but many of the cases would never have come to light if lawyers had not been able to get access to clients’ Home Office files. Until now, the right of migrants, as ‘data subjects’, to see the Home Office files on them has enabled them or their lawyers to see where mistakes have been made and try to get the record corrected. Often it is obvious from the file itself, which will contain information that demonstrates legal status but has not been read or understood by the Home Office official.

Subject access requests don’t just uncover errors; seeing the Home Office file is a routine and vital way of understanding how someone’s case has progressed and been handled, what stage it is at, whether all the relevant arguments have been made and evidence marshalled and presented, and what more can be done to protect migrants’ and refugees’ rights. As the Open Rights group noted in its arguments to the Public Bill Committee, often, people seeking legal advice are ignorant of their actual status in the country; legislation and immigration rules are impossibly complicated and so badly drafted as to be unintelligible (often even to lawyers), Home Office letters are formulaic, Tribunal decisions and notifications legalistic, procedures opaque. Without the ability to make a subject access request to find out what’s been going on, what stage has been reached in any procedure and what can now be done, the task of advising someone on their status and what steps need to be taken becomes impossible. Far greater numbers of people will be vulnerable to enforcement action and unable to challenge it.

What safeguards?

In parliamentary debate, the minister said the safeguards in the Data Protection Act would prevent abuse, as data subjects’ rights can be restricted only to the extent that exercising them would prejudice the maintenance of control or the investigation of activities undermining it. The problem with this is that Home Office officials themselves will, at least in the first instance, be judges of the ‘prejudice’ which would ensue from the disclosure of data. This does not inspire confidence, especially as the success rate of internal administrative review (which has replaced appeal against wrong decisions refusing entry or leave to remain as appeal rights have been whittled down almost to vanishing point) is around one per cent, compared with forty per cent of appeals. The statistic reveals both the worrying level of bad decisions and judgments made by the Home Office, and officials’ reluctance to overturn them. Now, with the wide exemption in place, if an official refuses a subject access request citing the ‘prejudice to immigration control’ formula, how will anyone know what information the Home Office has acquired, or has passed on to a private partner?

Challenges to the immigration exemption

The question then is how the immigration exemption, or refusal of a subject access request under it, can be challenged. Already, the3million, a group campaigning for EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit, is joining up with the Open Rights Group to mount a legal challenge to the breadth of the exemption, which they say breaches the GDPR, and is disproportionate and discriminatory as well as unnecessary, since the DPA already contains restrictions and exemptions related to crime and to national security.

In addition to the broad challenge to the exemption, lawyers will be carefully scrutinising every subject access refusal from the Home Office citing ‘prejudice to the maintenance of an effective immigration control’, and in many cases will be challenging the Home Office to explain the alleged prejudice. Legal challenges are very likely. Then, it will be up to the judges to curb the government’s instinct for secrecy, knowing as they do how often secrecy has been used to cover up official wrongdoing or embarrassing errors. 

Moving from the legal to the political arena, campaigning in the wake of Windrush has already achieved the suspension of some hostile environment policies, such as health authorities’ sharing of patient data with the Home Office for enforcement purposes, and the abolition of the nationality and country of birth questions from the schools census. It will be important for campaigners to highlight cases where a subject access request has provided decisive information in support of an application to stay, or proof of a claimed right to reside, which was previously denied by the Home Office.

As Liberty reminded parliament in its Briefing on the Bill, this is not the first time the government has tried to limit data protection rights for ‘immigration control’ purposes – it was tried in 1983, and decisively rejected by MPs. Since then, the fear of appearing ‘soft’ on immigration has dominated parliament – but the Windrush scandal revealed a public distaste for rank injustice which can be mobilised again.

Daily Mail – ‘you’re in a league of your own’

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 04:10

A French Muslim activist gives the Daily Mail a lesson on how to avoid racial and religious stereotyping.

French activist Marwan Muhammad was so incensed by a Daily Mail article that linked ‘immigration on a mammoth scale’ to drug dealing, crime and poverty in the French neighbourhood of Saint-Denis, in northern Paris, that he sent a series of hilarious tweets  to the Daily Mail ridiculing the newspaper for its inaccuracies. Below we reproduce an edited version of Marwan’s critique of Andrew Malone’s article which first appeared in the Daily Mail on 28 July and was subsequently removed from its website.

Hello @MailOnline. I’ve read your ‘devastating’ article on ‘illegal migrants in Saint Denis’. We too in France have tabloids which couldn’t care less about the truth, but I really have to say, you’re in a league of your own. Everything in your paper is wrong.

Mistake 1.  From beginning to end, your reporter confuses Saint Denis (the city) and Seine Saint Denis (the département).  There’s a small difference between the two. Seine Saint Denis includes 40 cities, over 236km2.  A simple look at a map would have saved you the trouble.


Mistake 2.  Your reporter misinterprets the facts. It might be useful to know, as a ‘journalist’, that in France it is forbidden to take pictures of someone without explicit consent. This is punishable by law, with fines of up to 45,000 Euros.

Also, Saint Denis includes 90+ nationalities (also including, presumably, white people).  So the ‘odd looks’ your reporter refers to have nothing to do with his skin colour, but rather (if it is true), with his stalking and impolite attitude towards inhabitants (as we’ll see).

Mistake 3.  Your reporter claims that [here] it’s more difficult to ‘sell’ for real estate agents.  A quick look at the data on this website shows that buying/selling in Saint Denis is as dynamic as anywhere around Paris. There are loads of new building programmes.

Mistake 4. (The worst).  Your reporter claims there are ‘as many as 300,000 illegal immigrants’ in Saint Denis ‘according to French parliamentarians’.  They say the exact opposite, i.e. ‘The only thing we are sure about is that the State doesn’t know how many illegal immigrants there are’.

Now let’s look at the population data in Saint Denis. Since 1968, the population has only increased 11.5 per cent, reaching 110,733 in 2014.  So please explain to us (with all due respect to elementary arithmetics), how could 300,000 of these 110,733 human beings be ‘illegal immigrants’

So where did your reporter get his fake story of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants in Saint Denis?  Simple, on far-right websites which are known to invent statistics, spread fake news and stigmatise communities.

Mistake 5.  There are no religious courts in France (unlike in other countries) and no Sharia councils (except in the mind of the worst Islamophobes). The same laws apply everywhere in France, to everyone. Where precisely did you see this?

Mistake 6. Your reporter refers to the 2010 ban on the niqab as a law ‘promoting integration’.  There is absolutely no such thing in the [text of] the law.  It focuses on security. And has produced the exact opposite impact on.

Mistake 7.  The word ‘clearly’ covers no fact. What evidence does your reporter provide to substantiate his claim that these items are stolen?  Suburbs around Paris have dozens of markets (sometimes informal) where these items (mostly second hand) are sold. And yes, SOME are stolen.

Quote from Article

Mistake 8.  Your reporter presents the fact that police officers are armed and that there are several in the vehicle as something exceptional. This is standard procedure… teams on patrol and carrying their weapons is standard policy in France (unlike in the UK).

Mistake 9. There are a dozen mosques in Saint Denis, not 160+.  If you have this list of the mosques you’ve visited, please share. I’m sure Muslims in St Denis would love to enjoy new places of worship, unbeknownst to them so far… And thanks for the discovery (or the creativity).


Mistake 10. There are no ethnic/religious statistics in France (least related to criminality), so where did you get this quantitative assessment of drug-related criminality in Saint Denis?

Mistake 11. You suggest in your article that somehow, Christmas is cancelled in Saint Denis? Here’s [a picture of] the Christmas market in Saint Denis, right in front of the city hall, where everybody can come. There are dozens of activities during the holiday period, all across the city.

Mistake 12.  You suggest in your article that the average pattern for Muslim woman to wear the hijab is for safety reasons. An anonymous study shows that 23 per cent of Muslim women wear it. Are the 77 per cent others in serious danger? As for those who wear it, 76 per cent do so for religious motivations.

Mistake 13.  You quote Yasser Louati of CCIF. Mr Louati left this organisation in June 2016 and has started another NGO since then, Comité Justice & Liberté. Hit refresh on your computer and respect both entities, by properly crediting them.

Mistake 14.  You imply that Jean Louis Borloo is a ‘left winger’. Lol. He’s a very well-known politician in France…. from the centre-right. A simple visit to Wikipedia would have saved you this one.

Mistake 15.  Your reporter claims that after a week in Saint Denis and dozens of interviews, only ONE person accepted to shake hands. Others consistently ‘offered their wrist’ (because he is) an infidel’.  I was dead laughing when I read this part…. At least when you invent a lie, try to make it look credible.

So, in summary, from the very first line to the last, your article is a sum of lies, inaccuracies, factual mistakes and data/quotes with no sources.  If this is your definition of journalism, then don’t be surprised when people call you a racially obsessed tabloid, with no ethics.

UFFC 20th Anniversary Procession

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 08:42

The twentieth annual United Families & Friends Campaign remembrance march for those that have died in custody.

  • Saturday 27 October 2018, 1pm
  • Assemble at Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N
Related links

United Families & Friends Campaign

Migrant Media 


Interrogating State Violence: Custodial Deaths, Justice and Resistance

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 08:40

A conference to mark the twentieth anniversary of the United Families & Friends Campaign.

  • Friday 26 October 2018, 9am-9pm
  • The Light, Friends House, Euston Road, London NW1

Speakers include:

  • Janet Alder – sister of Christopher Alder who died in Hull Police Station in 1998 and who has since campaigned for justice
  • Sherene Razack – Distinguished Professor and the Penney Kanner Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies
Related links

Book a ticket on Eventbrite here

United Families & Friends Campaign

Migrant Media 


The lethal consequences of the ‘hostile environment’

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 07:43

On 30 June, 23-year-old Mustafa Dawood, who was from the Darfur region of  Sudan, was found dead after falling from a building in Newport, Wales as immigration officers carried out a raid at a car wash. 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the death, and its  press release noted: 

‘A 23 year old Sudanese man fell from a height and died after being taken to hospital.

Immigration Enforcement staff attended the Shaftesbury car wash on Albany Street, Newport at around 10 am on Saturday as part of an operation. It is understood, following the arrival of the officers, a man working there climbed onto an adjacent factory roof. A short while later he was found on the floor of an annex building next to the factory with critical injuries.

Officers called an ambulance and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. He was transferred by ambulance to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where sadly he was pronounced dead soon after.’

One witness noted that the raid, carried out by immigration officers acting on ‘intelligence’, ‘was a bit like a Carry-On film’ and that Mustafa Dawood’s death was ‘needless’. 

The Guardian reported that despite his falling from a height, there are few signs of visible injury on Mustafa Dawood’s body. His family, who have now travelled to the UK, are calling for a full post mortem. 

He had arrived in the UK in July 2015 and had claimed asylum, but this was refused in April 2018. As a result financial support was withdrawn, and it appears that Mustafa Dawood began working, although asylum laws did not permit him to work. 

The immigration officers involved in the death have neither been placed on restricted duties nor suspended.

Mustafa Dawood’s death is not the first in such circumstances; at least four others have died in similar circumstances.

  • Frank Odame (2008), a 36-year-old from Ghana, died after falling from a block of flats in Woodford Green as immigration and police officers called at 7am.
  • Joseph Crentsil (2001), a 36-year-old from Ghana, died after falling from a third floor window of a flat in Streatham as two immigration and two police officers questioned five other men at the flat.
  • Noorjahan Begum (1996), a 35-year-old Bangladeshi woman, died after falling 30 feet from the balcony of the flat where she was living; two immigration officials were calling at the flat at the time.
  • Joseph Nnalue (1994), a 31-year-old Nigerian, died after falling from a balcony in a flat in Stockwell as police and immigration officials, acting on a tip-off, called at his flat.

And two others, Joy Gardner and Jimmy Mubenga, have died as a result of being restrained during their deportation.

  • Joy Gardner (1993), a 40-year-old Jamaican mother, died after being arrested by ‘specialist’ officers from the Extradition Unit of the Met who used 13 feet of tape to gag her. 
  • Jimmy Mubenga (2010), a 46-year-old Angolan man, died after being restrained by three G4S guards on board a BA plane at Heathrow. An inquest jury ruled that he had been unlawfully killed by the guards ‘using unreasonable force and acting in an unlawful manner’ when they restrained him for between 30-40 minutes. The three guards were later acquitted of manslaughter.

And finally, in a poignant note, Mustafa Dawood’s death comes as the family of Joy Gardner plan a commemorative event to mark the twenty-five years since her death with a showing of the Migrant Media film, Justice Denied

Related links

IRR Research: Roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 1989-2010

Read an IRR report: Driven to desperate measures: 2006-2010 (pdf file, 432 kb)

Read an IRR report: Driven to desperate measures: 1989-2005 (pdf file, 401kb)

Calendar of racism and resistance (6 – 19 July 2018)

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 06:57

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

Asylum and migration

July: Sentina D’Artanyan-Bristol, the mother of Dexter Bristol, ‘a child of the Windrush generation, who died this March, following a year of being rejected as a British citizen’ is raising funds to cover the legal costs of an inquest into his death. You can support her CrowdJustice appeal here.

July: The EU Ombudsman upholds the complaint of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights that EU asylum officials’ admissibility procedures for asylum claimants in Greek hotspots were unfair, but takes no action. (ECCHR, July 2018)

2 July: The Law Society condemns delays of up to two years in the Home Office handling of children’s asylum claims and calls for a dedicated and transparent asylum process for minors. (Law Society, 2 July 2018)

2 July: Corporate Watch publishes an updated version of its Charter flights factsheet, view it here

5 July: The European Parliament passes a resolution calling on EU member states to ensure that solidarity actions are not criminalised, and on the EU Commission to issue guidelines on what forms of ‘facilitation’ should not be criminalised, to allow NGOs to continue their work. (European Parliament, 5 July 2018)

Independent story on Mustafa-Dawood

5 July: The Independent Office for Police Conduct launches an investigation into the death of 23-year-old Sudanese migrant Mustafa Dawood, who fell from a factory roof on 30 June following an immigration raid on an adjacent car wash in Newport, Wales. Read the IOPC statement here. (BBC News, 5 July 2018) 

8 July: It is revealed that the Home Office has refused to extend the visas of children of a Grenfell Tower victim to enable them to stay in the UK during the public inquiry, in which they have core participant status. (Guardian, 9 July 2018)

(Credit: Daniel Renwick)

9 July: JUSTICE issues a critical report on the immigration and asylum appeals system. Download the report here. (EIN, 9 July 2018)

9 July: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announces that it will open a ‘transit centre’ in Tripoli to process 1,000 asylum seekers, and might open similar centres in Chad, Burkina Faso and Sudan. The move follows the EU’s stated policy of ‘offshore processing’ of asylum claims in Africa. (ECRE Press Review, 10 July 2018)

9 July: Refugee Action reports that destitute asylum seekers are being forced to wait months for asylum support and housing. (Guardian, 10 July 2018)

10 July: The Red Cross calls for reforms, including a 28-day time limit, to ‘damaging’ immigration detention. (Independent, 10 July 2018) 

10 July: After announcing a ban on all international rescue ships, the Italian interior ministry bans a private Italian ship carrying sixty-six rescued migrants from docking at any Italian port. (The Local, 10 July 2018) 

10 July: NGOs working in the hotspot in Lampedusa, Italy, say the rights of asylum seekers are being routinely violated and Tunisians in particular are regularly subject to forced repatriation. (InfoMigrants, 10 July 2018)

10 July: Presenting his ‘migration masterplan’, the German interior minister Horst Seehofer jokes that sixty-nine Afghan migrants were deported on his 69th birthday. (Deutsche Welle, 10 July 2018) 

10 July: The Aire Centre begins an appeal against the lawfulness of Operation Nexus, which deports ‘high-harm’ foreign nationals even if they have not committed any crimes in the UK. (Morning Star, 10 July 2018)

11 July: Calls grow for Germany’s interior minister to resign after one of the 69 Afghans deported as part of a tougher line on migration is reported to have killed himself on his return to Afghanistan. He was a 23-year-old who had lived in Germany for eight years when his asylum claim was rejected. (Guardian, 12 July 2018)

11 July: Thirty migrant and refugee support organisations and rights groups, including the Refugee Council, Liberty and JCWI, sign an open letter calling on the home secretary to remedy the ‘culture of disbelief’ towards migrants and asylum seekers. (Freedom from Torture, 11 July 2018)

11 July: An Indian man is awarded £50,000 damages for being detained under immigration powers for three months and separated from his 3-year-old daughter, who was placed in care and nearly adopted. (Channel 4 News, 11 July 2018, Independent, 12 July 2018)

12 July: Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, writes to the Home Office over its ‘unacceptable’ failure to respond to any of his reports on immigration detention centres. (Free Movement, 12 July 2018)

13 July: The High Court rules that a 29-year-old Sri Lankan refugee from torture is entitled to ‘substantial damages’ for being unlawfully detained by the Home Office. (Morning Star, 13 July 2018)

15 July: A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh criticises the unlawful deportation of 27-year-old Solomon Getnet Yitbarek to Ethiopia whilst he had an active asylum claim, and orders the Home Office to issue travel documents and tickets to enable his return. (Herald, 15 July 2018)

18 July: The Italian government refuses to accept the bodies of a woman and a young boy retrieved by Proactiva Open Arms from a shipwreck in the central Mediterranean. The NGO sails on to Spain, declining an offer from Italy to receive the sole survivor, saying her wellbeing could not be guaranteed. (Reuters, 18 July 2018)

18 July: A Freedom of Information request reveals that the Home Office has illegally nullified the citizenship of hundreds of British citizens since 2013. (Free Movement, 18 July 2018)

Policing and criminal justice

3 July: In Nantes, France, young people clash with police after Aboubakar Fofana, a 22-year-old black man, is shot dead by the police. A demonstration of around 1,000 people calls for Justice for Abou. (Guardian, 6 July 2018)

5 July: The Ministry of Justice publishes a report: The effectiveness of rehabilitative services for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people: a rapid evidence assessment, download it here.

5 July: Victims of undercover policing launch a legal challenge to the refusal to appoint a diverse panel to sit with Judge Mitting, to bring an understanding of issues of racism, class and misogyny to the inquiry. (Guardian, 6 July 2018)

6 July: Portuguese man Andre Moura, 30, dies in hospital after being arrested following a domestic disturbance, and taken to Ashton-under-Lyne police station where he was found to be unresponsive. A video on social media allegedly shows Andre Moura being kneed in the head repeatedly by an officer. Ten police officers are placed on restricted duties. (Manchester Evening News, 12 July 2018)

8 July: The police officer who shot dead Aboubaker Fofana in France, sparking several nights of rioting, is charged with manslaughter and granted conditional release. He initially claimed self-defence but now says it was an accident. (The Local, 8 July 2018)

9 July: South Yorkshire Police begins an internal investigation into allegations of racism by 75-year-old Joy Sulph-Johnson, who says she has been forced to move from her home after police failed to properly investigate attacks on her and her property. (Yorkshire Post, 9 July 2018)

11 July: The Ministry of Justice publishes: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report: 2017 to 2018, download it here

Mikey Powell

11 July: The family of Mikey Powell, 38, who died in the custody of West Midlands police in 2013 after being hit by a police car, sprayed with CS spray and restrained, is awarded £300,000 compensation. (Birmingham Mail, 11 July 2018)

11 July: A West Midlands police officer receives a final written warning at a misconduct hearing after being filmed searching a property in Coventry in August 2017 and asking a black man, ‘you going to go Black Lives Matter on us are you? … You would be the first one I’d shoot if I had a gun’. (Coventry Observer, 11 July 2018)

17 July: Research reveals that young black men in London are disproportionately prosecuted for breach of dispersal orders under controversial powers given to councils and police in 2014. (Guardian, 18 July 2018)

19 July: The Ministry of Justice is conducting a review into the provision of legal aid and is asking bereaved families and their lawyers to share their experience of inquests. View further details here.

19 July: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary finds large-scale failings in the way hate crimes are dealt with, despite the issue supposedly being a priority. Download the report, Understanding the difference: The initial police response to hate crime, here. (Guardian, 19 July 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right 

10 July: Middle East Monitor reveals that a pro-Israel think-tank, Middle East Forum, has claimed that it is funding the legal expenses of ex-leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, as well as funding recent ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ protests. (Middle East Monitor, 10 July 2018)

11 July: After a five-year trial, Beate Zschäpe, a former member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose members murdered ten people between 2000-2007, is sentenced to life imprisonment. In other verdicts described as ‘unbelievably soft’, Ralf Wohlleben is found guilty of supplying the gun for the murders and sentenced to ten years; André Eminger, who wore the logo of a far-right heavy metal band in court, is sentenced to thirty months for assisting the cell in hiring apartments and vehicles. (Guardian, 11 July 2018)

14 July: Councillor Jolene Bunting, who a year ago attended a Britain First rally and applauded its leader, joins a ‘UK freedom rally’ in Belfast city centre attended by around 150, and opposed by twice that number. (Belfast News Letter, 15 July 2018)

14 July: The Guardian reveals that a representative of US President Donald Trump raised the case of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who has been jailed for contempt of court, with Britain’s ambassador to the US. And twelve people are arrested after thousands of protesters and counter-protesters clash with police at a ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ rally in support of Donald Trump and jailed far-right activist Robinson in central London. (Guardian, 14 July 2018)

15 July: Steve Bannon, alt-right activist and former-advisor to Trump, voices his support in an interview with LBC radio, allegedly claiming off-air that ‘Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country’. (Guardian15 July 2018)

16 July: Jack Coulson, 19, who was previously given a rehabilitation order after being found guilty of making a pipe bomb, appears in court again and admits possession of a document for terrorist purposes. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 16 July 2018)

18 July: Christopher Lythgoe, 32, is jailed for eight years and Matthew Hankinson, 24, is jailed for six years in connection with the activities of banned far-right group National Action. They were on trial with four others including Jack Renshaw, who admitted preparing an act of terrorism (he planned to murder Rosie Cooper MP) and was convicted earlier this year on two counts of stirring up racial hatred in speeches he made in 2016. (BBC News, 18 July 2018)

18 July: Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, remains in prison as the Court of Appeal considers his appeal against his ‘excessive’ thirteen-month sentence for contempt of court. (Guardian, 18 July 2018)


4 July: It is announced that UTC@Harbourside, a university technical college in Newhaven, is to close in August 2018 after allegations of racist bullying and poor leadership. (The Argus, 4 July 2018)

9 July: Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman accuses minority groups ‘with a sense of religious or cultural entitlement’ of attempting to exert undue influence on school policy on the wearing of the hijab. (Guardian, 10 July 2018)

12 July: Lancashire county council bans meat from animals that have not been stunned from council-supplied school meals, prompting accusations of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. (Guardian, 12 July 2018)

Media and culture

8 July: German former central banker Thilo Sarrazin launches a legal action against publisher Random House over its decision not to release his book, Hostile takeover: how Islam hampers progress and threatens society, which will now be published by FinanzBuch Verlag. (Guardian, 8 July 2018)

17 July: A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary reveals that Facebook moderators ‘protect’ far-right activists and pages, because they generate revenue. (Guardian, 17 July 2018)

Electoral politics

6 July: Councillor Ian Hibberd, a former Tory mayor of Romsey, is expelled for making a racist comment about a Sikh Lib Dem parish councillor. (Daily Echo, 6 July 2018)

13 July: Tory MP Michael Fabricant apologises for sharing a racist tweet about London mayor Sadiq Khan. The MP is later interviewed on Channel 4 News with what looks like an apartheid-era South African flag on his mantelpiece. (The Canary, 13 July 2018)


12 July: The Hungarian Scout Association refuses to allow a group of children from Sajókaz to participate in a scout troop session, on the grounds that three of the group are Roma and so do not fit into the Hungarian Christian scouts due to their origin and faith. (Daily News Hungary, 12 July 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on people 

4 July: A 19-year-old Muslim woman is brutally assaulted in Anderlues, near Brussels, by two men who take off her headscarf and tear open her shirt, exposing her upper body. They call her a ‘filthy Arab’ and use a sharp object to cut a cross into her body. (TRT World, 4 July 2018)

9 July: Police appeal for information after a 28-year-old man was racially abused and glassed outside a bar on Queen Street, Oxford. (Oxford Mail, 9 July 2018)

10 July: A 16-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who had just arrived in Lesbos, Greece with his family, is hospitalised after being shot in the head and legs by a farmer in Moria. (Ekathemerini, 10 July 2018)

15 July: Police appeal for information after a teenage girl is hospitalised following a racially aggravated attack by a gang of twenty youths in Witham, Essex. (EssexLive, 15 July 2018) 

Violence and harassment: abuse

7 July: A Polish man is racially abused on a bus between Poole and Bournemouth in an unprovoked attack which is filmed and posted on social media. (Bournemouth Echo, 13 July 2018)

Violence and harassment: charges

9 July: Two 14-year-old boys are charged over an alleged racist attack on 26 May that left a 17-year-old boy with ‘serious facial injuries’ in Gorbals, Glasgow. (GlasgowLive, 9 July 2018)

Violence and harassment: convictions

4 July: Michelle Field, 46, who spat at a five-month-old baby and called the child and her grandmother ‘dirty, stinking Gypsies’ in Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire in July 2017, is found guilty of racially aggravated common assault and given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay the child compensation. (BBC News, 4 July 2018)

13 July: Four people are found guilty of a racially motivated arson attack on a Roma camp during a protest in Turin in 2011, which took place after a young Italian girl fabricated a story that she had been raped by Gypsies. (ANSA, 13 July 2018)

Windrush: Songs in a strange land

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 06:29

A review on a powerful exhibition at the British Library on the relationship between Britain and the Caribbean post-Windrush, which refuses to take the usual UK-centric approach.

The recent ‘Windrush scandal’ has woken the nation to the institutional cruelty at the heart of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment policies’. Now, a brilliant free exhibition running until 21 October in the British Library brings it home in a way that can’t be ignored. Celebrating seventy years since the docking of the Empire Windrush in June 1948, this small but comprehensive, nuanced but expansive exhibition provides chapter and verse on the complex British-Caribbean relationship.

From imperial expansion to slavery to the Windrush Scandal

Windrush – the making of a myth

Despite its modest size, ‘Windrush: Songs from a foreign land’ teems with ideas and connections, with a range of fascinating artefacts and audio-video material that captivates the viewer from the outset. In the central foyer of the British Library, you are drawn into the exhibition with Britain’s fifteenth-century imperial expansion, the ‘discovery’ of America and the Caribbean and the imposition of the slave trade. Travelling through time amongst notebooks, posters, plays, papers and even a man’s shirt printed with Caribbean islands, it makes you feel a little like you are walking through someone’s study – these items are important and impressive, but also personal. It ends in the present day with documentary footage of those affected by the ‘Windrush scandal’.

This is not an exhibition that shies from the uncomfortable or difficult. From the first narration board, it spells out just how brutal conditions were in the Caribbean during slavery, as well as after, and that ‘it was popular pressure that ended slavery, meaning freedom has been contested ever since’. More slaves were transported to the Caribbean than anywhere else in the ‘New World’, in large part due to the high morbidity rates on the islands. The money that was made from the sugar plantations has been integral to Britain’s continued affluence. Many British institutions such as Tate & Lyle, Lloyds Bank and even railways were built on money from slavery and the slave trade.

Not the usual UK-centric approach

Don’t Come Back – Freedom Fighter

This is no UK-centric exhibition. Key moments in Caribbean history, including independence, are discussed throughout. By telling a much fuller and more in-depth picture of the historical relationship than is usually taught in British schools it refutes the notion that the Windrush generation arrived in Britain as if out of nowhere. Not all Caribbean institutions were supportive of the Windrush generation’s decision to migrate, as shown by clippings from newspapers in Jamaica with one headline reading: ‘Don’t come back’.

It is to be expected that an exhibition on this topic would document the Caribbean contribution to the first and second world wars. But in line with its non UK-centric approach, it foregrounds the Caribbean sensibility, with Harold Moody’s League of Coloured Peoples publication The Keys and C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins on display. Less well-known artefacts, such as the 1938 Moyne Report that was suppressed by the British government until 1945, expose the dire living conditions in the Caribbean in part enforced to maintain colonial rule.

Other items include Bernard Cohen’s pamphlet, How the West Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British school system and Stuart Hall’s 2007 speech which explores how slavery has been remembered and forgotten. By including these items, the curators ask viewers to interrogate their own ways of remembering colonial migration as well as the Caribbean community’s contribution to society.

Cover of How the West Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British school system

By highlighting the breadth of Caribbean identities – not just across islands, but across the various ethnic groups – the exhibition refuses to essentialise or homogenise Caribbean communities. Letters written by Indo-Caribbean writer V. S. Naipaul to his brother whilst studying at the University of Oxford describes his feelings of isolation in a Britain that could not accept that someone who looked like him, due to his mixed heritage, was Caribbean.

A female perspective

A number of telling items explore the experience of migration and life in Britain for women. Beryl Gilroy was Britain’s first black head teacher. Her novel, In praise of love and children, though written in 1959 was not published until 1996. In its supporting card, Gilroy explains how she couldn’t get it past the ‘opinionated West Indian males playing the gender game’.

Other items that diverge from the standard Windrush narrative include the pamphlet Marry to Move? which reveals the particular problems some women faced having just married prior to passage. A fascinating glimpse is given of the limits placed on women and just how different society was in the immediate post-war period.

In their own words

New Cross Massacre Black Peoples Day of Action

In these and many other ways, ‘Windrush: Songs in a strange land’ foregrounds community feeling and activity, whilst never losing sight of British government policy and British media frames. Put simply, it tells the story of the ‘Windrush generation’ in their own words – with poems by James Berry written in ‘invoice’ dialect that won the 1981 poetry prize, a powerful video of Linton Kwesi Johnson performing ‘Inglan is a Bitch’ unaccompanied on the Old Grey Whistle Test, as well as the script of ‘Moon on a Rainbow shawl’ written by Errol John in 1957 to give parts to black actors that were severely lacking.

The exhibition may end with clips from Channel 4’s coverage of summer 2018, but the framing of the whole exhibition illustrates how this is a culmination of the prejudice, discrimination and racism that Caribbean people have always had to contest. On display are North Kensington Police Monitoring Group Rights cards, handed out at Notting Hill Carnival in the early 1980s so that attendees knew their rights around SUS laws. A continuation can be drawn to the use of facial recognition technology used at the carnival last year, showing how little has changed.

Stephen Lawrence

There are also newspapers from the British Defence League, posters for the 1981 National Black People’s Day of Action after the New Cross massacre and, most powerfully, for me at least, a copy of Benjamin Zephaniah’s 1999 poem about the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence. The inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s death was in the same year as the 50th anniversary Windrush celebrations in 1998.

As well as centring institutional racism and the harsh realities of the Caribbean experience in the UK, the exhibition leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of celebration and pride in the accomplishments made by the British Caribbean communities – despite all that has been, and continues to be, thrown at them.

  Related links

Windrush: songs in a strange land

Black Britain and Asian Britain resource at British Library

Race & Class: Catherine Hall, ‘Doing reparatory history: bringing ‘race’ and slavery home’

Discussing the UNITED List

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 04:49

A discussion on the list of deaths collated by UNITED for Intercultural Action which was published by the Guardian on World Refugee Day in June. 

  • Monday 23 July 2018, 7-9pm
  • Chisenhale Gallery, 64 Chisenhale Road, London E3 5QZ


  • Liz Fekete – IRR
  • Mark Rice-OxleyGuardian
  • Banu Cennetoğlu – artist

Related links

UNITED for Intercultural Action

Chisenhale Gallery

Book a seat here 

Stop Deportations to Zimbabwe

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 04:48

A protest in Sheffield to call for an end to forced deportations to Zimbabwe.

  • Wednesday 25 July 2018, 12-1pm
  • Sheffield Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH

Related links

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG)

SYMAAG on Facebook

Islamophobia in Denmark: from parallel societies to the ‘ghetto list’

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 06:02

Anti-Muslim discrimination is now central to Danish immigration and integration policies. 

It is ludicrous, not to mention unscientific to suggest that there are ghettos in Denmark, but fear of ridicule does not stop the Danish Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing producing a ‘ghetto list’ (ghettolisten). First published in 2010, and updated each year, the ghettolisten is accompanied by a highly stigmatising and inherently Islamophobic discourse about ‘vulnerable areas’ and ‘parallel societies’ of which there are fifty-seven, according to the government, twenty-five of which constitute ‘ghetto areas’, with sixteen within that described as ‘hard ghettos’. In March 2018, the government decided to introduce the ‘ghetto package’, consisting of twenty-two proposals aimed at regulating life in the ‘hard ghettos’ with the inherent threat that the package could be extended to the entire 57 ‘vulnerable areas’ if they don’t take improvement action. The neighbourhoods that most resemble a ghetto, according to the government, are Mjølnerparken in Copenhagen, Gadehavegård in Høje-Taastrup, Vollsmose in Odense and Gellerupparken/Toveshøj in Aarhus.

‘Non-western’ neighbourhoods: stigmatisation

The Danish government has five criteria for what constitutes a ghetto, and a neighbourhood has to flag up three of the criteria to be listed. A ghetto is defined as an area with a large number of immigrants from a ‘non-western background’, high rates of unemployment, with residents’ income, employment status, education levels and number of criminal convictions also taken into account.

The Almen Modstand Group conference (Common Resistance)

Needless to say, the very term ‘non-western’ is deeply problematic and seems to be used as a code for religion and/or skin colour, to stigmatise non-Muslim Danes and distinguish white Danes and Europeans from non-white Danes, immigrants and Muslims. While the very act of collating a ‘ghetto list’ is stigmatising, the rhetoric of politicians ensures that the stigma extends from a district to its people, with phrases like ‘ghetto children’ and ‘ghetto parent’ bandied about by powerful politicians who should know better and then popularised by the media. In his 2018 New Year’s speech, Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Liberal party) said he would do everything in his power to counter social problems in marginalised areas. He spoke in muscular terms of how he would, if necessary, ‘break up concrete and pull down buildings’ because ghettos ‘reach out their tentacles onto the street’, and ‘cracks’ were appearing ‘on the map of Denmark’.

With the ban, in May, on the wearing of full face veil coverings, and a citizens’ proposal to make Denmark the first country to ban circumcision of boys under the age of eighteen, 2018 has seen the intensification of processes that stigmatise Danish Muslims. Government spokespeople speak in highly assimilationist terms, warning that if families do not merge into the country’s mainstream through their own volition, they will be forced to do so, with immigration minister Inger Støjberg calling on Muslims to take leave from work during the Ramadan fast ‘to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society’, as ‘the practice was dangerous to us all’. Støjberg seems to enjoy the publicity that surrounds the issuing of provocative statements. In March, she posted on her Facebook page a picture of herself holding a birthday cake to celebrate her fiftieth law change restricting immigration.

Forcible integration

The twenty-two ghetto proposals currently being debated in parliament force home this negative message about Muslim minorities with repressive and discriminatory measures, including:

  • Courts to be allowed to double the punishment for crimes such as vandalism, burglary, threatening behaviour, arson and offences against the drugs laws if they are committed in one of the ghetto neighbourhoods.
  • A prison sentence of up to four years for ‘immigrant’ parents who force their child to take extended ‘re-education visits’ to their country of origin, damaging their ‘schooling, language and well-being’ in Denmark.
  • More powers to local authorities to increase monitoring and surveillance of ‘ghetto families’.
  • A mandatory pre-school programme whereby, from the age of one, ’ghetto children’ will be separated from their parents for at least twenty-five hours a week for mandatory instruction in ‘Danish values’. Noncompliance could result in welfare payments being stopped.
  • Fines or even prison sentences for anyone who fails to report parents suspected of hitting their children.
  • Quotas on kindergartens so that they can have no more than 30 per cent children from an immigrant background.

From right to left

The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party has attempted (so far unsuccessfully) to introduce other hard line measures, including an 8pm curfew for young people from ‘ghetto neighbourhoods’. Many political commentators refer to the kingmaker role that the Danish People’s Party plays in Danish politics, and the subsequent race to the bottom. In fact, the ‘ghetto proposals’ are supported by the mainstream political parties, including the Social Democrats and the Socialist Folkeparti, whose rhetoric on Islam has started to rival that of the Right in the last two years, with Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen calling Islam a barrier to integration, and suggesting that some Muslims ‘do not respect the Danish judicial system’, that Muslim girls are subject to ‘massive social control’ and that all Muslim schools should be closed.

The economics of Islamophobia

The Almen Modstand Group conference (Common Resistance)

For local Aarhus activist John Graversgaard, there are other questions to be considered if we are to understand the full impact of Islamophobia on society. Yes, this stigmatising discourse represents an attack on Danish Muslims, but it could also serve a wider purpose. He believes that behind the rhetoric is a neoliberal project to reshape and reduce the role of municipalities and break down Denmark’s popular system of non-profit housing associations, providing opportunities for developers to demolish housing estates and take control of valuable city properties and land and socially cleanse these areas of the poor and the ‘immigrant’.

Opposition to Denmark’s ghetto package is growing – with campaigning not just in Aarhus but also in Copenhagen where the organisation Common Resistance (Almen Modstand) unites people from districts such as Aldersroesgade, Lundtoftegade, Munkevangen and Bellahøj. In September, the Institute of Race Relations, which is researching the connection between the policing of inequality and redevelopment policies in north London, will be going to Copenhagen. We will be meeting with residents from Copenhagen to discuss their concerns.

Related links

Read an IRR News article by  John Graversgaard: Denmark’s ‘ghetto list’ must be scrapped

Denmark’s ‘ghetto list’ must be scrapped

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 06:02

Anti-racist activist John Graversgaard, from Aarhus, sets out campaigners’ objections to Denmark’s forced integration strategy. 

The recently released ‘ghetto list’ must be scrapped. It is through language that we express our understanding of reality, and it is scary what politicians are saying. Using the concept of the ‘ghetto’, and linking it to the ‘parallel society’ (ie, areas where Muslims live), the politicians have opened up a free-for-all whereby all sorts of ridiculous generalisations can be made about entire residential areas, deemed a ‘social problem’ no matter how many positive things take place there.

We do not have ghettos in Denmark. What we have are multi-ethnic neighbourhoods and residential areas where people from different minority ethnic backgrounds live. This racist rhetoric is poisoning the debate.

The attack on the multicultural society

The Almen Modstand Group conference flyer (Common Resistance)

In fact, these neighbourhoods are also ones with a unique housing model based on not-for-profit housing associations ensuring democratic participation through a process whereby residents are elected to represent tenants on management committees. It is precisely such areas that are now labelled ‘parallel societies’ and ‘ghettos’ and where we see not only a harsh and discriminatory attack on citizens but privatisation of apartments, house demolitions and stricter law and order measures. Not surprisingly, accusations of social cleansing and even ethnic cleansing of these neighbourhoods, are growing. By equating multi-ethnic residential areas with parallel societies and ghettos, the government has, according to housing expert Professor Hans Skifter Andersen, created the suspicion that its programme is not about doing anything concrete to improve conditions in these areas, but is all about demonstrating its opposition to immigration. Indeed, the concept of a ‘parallel society’ is part of the Right’s struggle to stop society becoming more multicultural.

In his New Year’s speech the prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre party) established the goal of dismantling the ‘ghettos’ completely, and on 1 March, the government went further, producing a new distinctive targeted strategy for ‘a Denmark without parallel societies’, promising they would be eliminated by the year 2030. Rasmussen spoke in terms of children growing up in a ‘counter-culture’ in areas where people don’t have a real job or a proper education, and where too many are reliant on welfare. In this way, the deeply reactionary debate about ‘parallel societies’ is part of an attempt to stigmatise residential neighbourhoods, starting from the deeply flawed statements that the citizens of these neighbourhoods choose exclusion, and deliberately set out to isolate themselves from the rest of society. Rasmussen must be aware that only a tiny minority of individuals living in these neighbourhoods practice a kind of conservative religious fundamentalism and seclude themselves from the rest of society. The use of the term ‘parallel societies’ to label the people of entire neighbourhoods has no justification whatsoever. In today’s politics, ‘parallel societies’ and ‘ghettos’ are words used to attack the poorest parts of our population, those who do not have a multitude of choices in terms of where to settle, but acquire their homes in neighbourhoods where property is cheapest and where they can live their lives without incurring a lifetime’s debt. The presence of a non-profit, democratically owned, housing sector in these neighbourhoods (around 500,000 apartments administered by 700 housing associations) is, as mentioned earlier, also important.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s narrow vision demonstrates his total lack of knowledge about the areas of Denmark where many nationalities and cultures actually live together. Despite attempts to label such areas ‘Muslim enclaves’, in 2016, eighty nationalities were registered as living in the suburb Gellerup / Toveshøj in Aarhus, which is targeted for demolition.

Citizens of these neighbourhoods are divided, in government language, into two groups, the ‘non-western’ and the ‘western’. It is the ‘non-western’ immigrants who are regarded as problematic and subject to targeted political and administrative measures. That the people of these neighbourhoods can have many identities, be they social, family, workplace, cultural, religious or non-religious, is ignored. Unbelievably, class is excluded totally from the discussion, even though the majority of people in these areas are from low income groups and/or part of the working class

Justifying repression

Maybe the terms ‘ghetto’ and ‘parallel societies’ work for the Danish Right because they are simplifying terms used in a political struggle to attract voters by breaking down society into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – to take the poor and the working class away from its common interests by creating enemy images.

To paraphrase, these are the two main arguments that the government deploys in its struggle against the ‘parallel society’.

  • The government wants a coherent Denmark. A Denmark based on democratic values ​​such as the rule of law, freedom, tolerance and equality and a Denmark where everyone actively participates.
  • Over the last few decades, Denmark’s ethnic composition has changed significantly. In 1980 we were 5.1 million people in Denmark. Today we are close to 5.8 million. Growth in the population – in terms of immigrants and their descendants – comes from the outside. The vast majority of the new Danes have non-western backgrounds.

Integration as a dialogue is replaced by a one-way process where you must be assimilated and adapt to Danish values ​​that are, in truth, difficult to define. We see a masked racism wrapped up in allegations of ‘the parallel society of the ghetto’ and the defence of ‘our community’.

Social and economic problems in these residential areas are reduced to cultural and religious problems, especially focusing on the Muslim minorities. The Danish People’s Party, which has been a major influence, has been chief amongst those propagating the lie about ‘Muslim ghettos’. But the Social Democrats and most of the Left have a great responsibility too, for being too passive and for failing to distance themselves from this development. The Left has failed to address directly either right-wing racism or the structural racism inherent in the twenty-two proposals that make up the ‘ghetto’. Instead, it is focusing on conservative imams and women’s oppression. But these are problems that ethnic minority communities, and Muslim communities in particular, are fighting themselves. It would serve the left-wing cause much better to more strongly identify and involve themselves in the fight against Islamophobia and racism.

Social Democrats and Socialists collude with the ghetto plan

In May 2018 a minority government, depending for its survival on support from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, came to an agreement with the opposition, including the Socialdemokraterne (Social Democrats) and Socialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party), on its harsh new measures. Only the left-wing party Enhedslisten (Red-Green Alliance) is strongly against this attack on the poor and the stigmatisation of their residential areas.

Let’s take a few examples from today’s Denmark to see the crossover of opinions from right to left. Prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is a right-wing politician belonging to the Liberal party (free market and neoliberal) while the mayor of Aarhus, Jakob Bundsgaard, is a Social Democrat.

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is a strategic game player and is in competition for votes with the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party. The daily newspaper Ekstrabladet (11 September 2017) wrote that ‘the challenge of the parallel society is high on the agenda when the government meets for a seminar in Esbjerg’. Lars Løkke Rasmussen expressed himself through deploying a picture of a map of Denmark in which ‘cracks’ were appearing, going on to say that ‘We have some urban communities that are pure parallel societies. We have failed historically.’

Now, he unveils a more brutal policy approach involving state intervention. And while extremists in the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party support more governmental control against ‘parallel societies’ and the ‘religious eclipse’ as they call it, the Social Democrat Thomas Kastrup-Larsen from Aalborg says that he will not completely reject the plan, although he cautions against moving in without the support of municipalities or local institutions: ‘A ministerial hero who rides in and believes he can do it all will not be successful. This can harm local involvement and aggravate the problems’, Kastrup-Larsen told Berlingske (13 September 2017).

Reshaping the power of the municipalities

But Lars Løkke has another vision, one that involves using the ‘parallel societies’ to reshape the powers of municipalities. According to Danmarks Radio (3 October 2017), ‘Løkke wants to remotely control municipalities for better integration. The prime minister will dismantle parallel societies, and if the municipalities are too weak, the government will manage them. Prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is ready to reduce municipal autonomy in order to combat the parallel societies where many live according to standards other than the usual in Denmark.’

In this way, the president of Venstre is attempting to jettison one of the party’s fundamental principles, namely, that municipalities should play a decisive role in managing local conditions such as housing and education. In addition to his proposals to wipe out the ‘parallel societies’, he is also talking about the state taking direct control of schools in the listed areas.

The prime minister is even more specific, saying that a parallel society can be anything from a school to a housing block, and that ‘we must identify the geographic areas and then put the whole force in action’ and that ‘the state should be able to introduce extraordinary rules that specify targets’ (JyllandsPosten, 14 September 2017). He is clear that the division of responsibility between state and municipalities must change. The problem now is twofold: how will he get the agreement of the municipalities to do this, and how will he do it without discriminating, ie, setting special rules for certain residential areas. Lawyers in several ministries are said to be working overtime!

On the other hand, the prime minister is not afraid to say that his laws are aimed against Muslims. Perhaps he thinks that if the laws are aimed at Muslims, there will be no protests. ‘In certain environments, where people of Muslim and Middle-eastern backgrounds live, you identify yourself against Denmark’, he claims, adding that ‘I get a picture that these parallel societies are based on a counter-culture against Denmark.’ (Jyllands Posten, 14 September 2017). After making a reference to those ethnic minorities who are doing well, Lars Løkke emphasises that ‘We are talking about ghettos where you live in a parallel society’.

The targetting of Aarhus West

In March 2016, Danish TV2 transmitted the documentary ‘The Mosques Behind the Veil’, which among other things used hidden cameras to secretly record imams and expose their views on integration as well as fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran in relation to women. The film caused a political storm and was used by politicians to advocate a hardline approach towards forced integration (assimilation).

In Aarhus the Social Democrat mayor Jakob Bundsgaard decided to take action. On 31 August 2016 the city council adopted a new action plan. ‘We do not accept subversive parallel societies’, he said. The plan was linked to extremism, radicalisation, violence, honour crimes, ‘repressive and self-governing legal systems’ (ie, sharia courts), social control, anti-democratic values, social services fraud and control of associations. Again, there was no attempt whatsoever to assess the extent of these problems or to address other concerns of ethnic minorities, including poverty, unemployment and lack of democratic involvement. At the same time, the mayor put forward a proposal to close down the Integration Council, which would ensure that ethnic minorities have no democratic forum to put forward their wishes and suggestions. The other mainstream parties voted against the plan, but only because it did not go far enough!

As the mayor halted plans to build a much-needed mosque in Aarhus West, where Muslims are forced to pray in small makeshift mosques and have no central place of worship, the Right began to call for the termination of housing tenure (which protects residents from eviction). And in calling for more demolitions, he even spoke of the need to reduce the presence of ethnic minorities in the neighbourhood.

The mayor of Aarhus West is not as primitive in his formulations as the prime minister, but the intent is the same: to focus on so-called vulnerable residential areas and use the ghetto list to introduce special targeted measures; ever more control and management and surveillance of ‘immigrant’ communities. It is a suspicion that is made respectable through the use by Aarhus Council, in its plan against ‘parallel societies’, of the term ‘subversive of society’. Yet the real subversion comes through the state’s failure to support young people, and through discrimination, unemployment and poverty.

It is well known that the mayor of Aarhus works closely with the right-wing government and its ministries on building consensus. Indeed, the government says quite openly how inspired it is by the Aarhus plan, especially the council’s policies of demolitions and reduction of non-profit family apartments. In order to ensure consensus on future legislation, Løkke Rasmussen’s plans are being discussed with top Social Democrats. Specific ministries have sent delegations to Aarhus to investigate how the plan can be implemented without giving rise to claims of discrimination and brutality.

Related links

Read another article (in Danish) by John Graversgaard

Read an IRR News article by Liz Fekete: Islamophobia in Denmark: from parallel societies to the ‘ghetto list’

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is coming to London

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 03:12

A call for migrant rights organisations to sign up to support the Tribunal and to submit evidence.

The London hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT), the international public opinion tribunal established in the 1970s to draw attention to human rights violations worldwide, is scheduled for early November. One of a series of hearings on violations of the rights of migrants and refugees (others have been held in Barcelona, Palermo and Paris), the London Tribunal will focus on the rights of migrants in the chain of labour, violations and resistance. In seven charges, the Indictment lays out the responsibility of the British government (in its own right and as a member of the EU) for neglecting the rights of the domestic workforce and for the creation of an underclass of super-exploited, disposable, deportable workers.

The Tribunal hearing is a massive opportunity for migrant and refugee rights organisations, trades unions, civil society support groups and others to lay out clearly the effects of restrictive visa policies, extortionate fees, the ban on work for asylum seekers, employer sanctions, the right to rent, as well as the virtual abolition of legal aid and of appeals, and all the other policies which make it impossible for people to remain without working and simultaneously criminalise work, forcing people into precarious and illegal work. It is also a platform for the celebration of resistance – the migrant-led strikes and the campaigns which have forced a retreat on some ‘hostile environment’ policies.

See the indictment for the London hearing here; the call for support here; and the call for evidence here.

Macpherson definition misunderstood in Labour Party anti-Semitism definition

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 07:56

As the Parliamentary Labour Party and Labour’s National Executive Committee meet to discuss the adoption of a contentious definition of anti-Semitism, the IRR draws attention to the Chakrabarti Review, submitted two years ago. 

In June 2016, we drew attention to the dangers of introducing too much subjectivity into the definition of racism, by allowing the victim’s perception of the nature of a hostile act to be determinative, rather than (as Macpherson intended) the starting point of an investigation. We said:

‘in the present febrile climate as regards racism in the Labour Party, to introduce such subjectivity into debates would not in fact clarify matters of racism but open them to personal interpretations and thereby cloud the issue.’

The problem with allowing potential victims the last word as to what constitutes anti-Semitism goes deeper than clouding the issue. If it precludes all investigation into the intention of the impugned act, it interferes with the rule of law, which rarely if ever allows irrebuttable presumptions. In our evidence to Chakrabarti, we said that anti-racism is about justice, fairness, equity:

‘Penalising people for perceived racist feelings or attitudes is itself biased (because based on subjective opinion), contrary to natural justice and unproductive.’

The fundamental right to free expression, recognised in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is first and foremost the right to impart and receive information. In this context, we are aware of the legitimate concerns raised by Palestinians in the UK, and those who advocate for them, that information about their lived experience, history, and realities will be silenced: they point out that have a right to be heard, to make this information public, while others have the right to hear them and arguments on which these facts are based.

Related links

Read the IRR’s submission to the Labour Party Inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, including Islamophobia here

Justice Denied – The Life and Times of Joy Gardner

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 07:49

A screening of the Migrant Media film ‘Justice Denied’ on the 25th anniversary of the death of Joy Gardener.

• Saturday 28 July 2018, 2-5pm
West Indian Cultural Centre, 9 Clarendon Road, London N8 0DD

Related Links

Buy tickets on Eventbrite here

Migrant Media

Who we are is what we do

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 04:12

Jenny Bourne, IRR veteran, writes on what the memorial event for A. Sivanandan held on 23 June at Conway Hall, meant for her.   

Early in 1972, the whole staff of the Institute of Race Relations invaded a specially-convened meeting of its Council of Management in a Jermyn Street boardroom to tell these usually ‘absentee landlords’ that they would no longer accept their rule. Lords Boyle and Walston, Sirs Seebohm, Prain, Pedler, Birley, professors, MPs, media magnates and multinational CEOs heard in no uncertain terms that they knew nothing about the reality of lived racism and imperialism and had no right to determine what the IRR should research and publish and who should do it. Forty-six years later in Conway Hall (not St James’s) over five hundred people gathered to celebrate the person who had directed that invasion, the then librarian, A. Sivanandan, and the work that still follows in its wake.

Jenny Bourne ©Hubert Murray

It was a great tribute – but there was, too, a certain irony not lost on those of us who had been around in the early 1970s. We had been told by the Jeramiahs that without its traditional backers, the IRR just could not last; we had been told that there was no readership for a journal themed on racism and imperialism; we had been told by academics that it was they who should now determine our research; and Sivanandan had been told he just did not have the skills to edit a journal and certainly no right to change its title from Race to Race & Class.

There have been difficult years: months when we did not know how to pay salaries; moves that had to be done, with friends assembling library shelving overnight; attempts by fascist groups to intimidate us and the New Right to close us down. But our achievements and impact have been huge. We have a permanent home (for which in part we have to thank the Greater London Council); we have an internationally renowned journal Race & Class, now in its forty-fifth volume (distributed via an established publishing house, Sage, which contributed to the filming of the event); we have a research programme headed by Liz Fekete, one of the foremost analysts of European racism and fascism.

Chris Searle ©Hubert Murray

What was so significant about the event ‘The heart is where the battle is’: a celebration of Sivanandan’s legacy was the array of people and organisations represented there. Two members of the Upper House (come to laud not lord it) but also two former central committee members of Marxist parties; young feminists but also key figures in the formation of Britain’s black women’s movement; student anti-fascists, but also members of the former CARF Collective and the editor of Searchlight; doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists, academics and, above all, community activists. And not just from across the UK, but from the USA, India, Italy, France, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Germany. Artists like Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Pandit from Asian Dub Foundation, playwright David Edgar and poet Chris Searle paid homage to Siva from the stage, whilst I caught a glimpse in the audience of a member of a popular drum and bass band and Grenfell community videographer Daniel Renwick had edited film material for the event. A woman, who, as a schoolgirl, had first been helped to philosophical literature by Siva, then in Wembley’s public library service in the early 1960s, was rubbing shoulders with a generation of young Tamil activists who knew Siva through his novel When Memory Dies which had provided for them the backdrop to understand the horrors of the Sri Lankan government killings of 2009.

Siva and the Institute of Race Relations had stood the test of time. The Jeremiahs could not have been more wrong. What was important about the event was the way it showed up the issues and principles that Siva had stood for, the impact they had far and wide and the urgent need to now apply them to a new political climate of extreme repression and growing fascism.

This was a looking back only as a way of celebrating and honing a particular perspective and political practice. In the light of current moves – towards elevating identity politics, emphasising ‘unconscious bias’ and changing just attitudes and representation – the meeting was constantly recalling the aptness of Siva’s practice reflected in down-to-earth aphorisms: ‘who we are is what we do’, ‘the racism that kills not the racism that discriminates’, ‘thinking in order to do not thinking in order to think’; his method of ‘lived theory’ and the urgency to build ‘communities of resistance’.

The IRR will continue to keep his thinking alive and is working with a publisher on a new Sivanandan collection and creating a website of writings and speeches.

Related links

To see the programme for the 23 June event,(PDF 3MB).

To watch the event on youtube.


Calendar of racism and resistance (22 June – 5 July 2018)

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 03:29

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

Asylum and migration

21 June: The Home Office publishes a sixty-page ‘Statement of Intent’ for an EU citizens’ settlement scheme post-Brexit. Download the document here; read a critique here.

24 June: A parliamentary written answer reveals that MPs have reported 723 migrants to the Home Office as irregular since 2012, it is believed after seeing them at constituency surgeries. (Independent, 24 June 2018)

24 June: Search and Rescue NGOs call on EU leaders urgently to guarantee safe ports for migrants and refugees, saying the denial of safe ports has already cost lives. (Guardian, 25 June 2018)

25 June: The European parliament’s civil liberties committee puts forward a resolution for debate in parliament on 4 July, calling on EU member states and the EU Commission to ensure that humanitarian rescue and help to migrants is not criminalised. Read the resolution here. (European Parliament, 25 June 2018)

25 June: Doctors of the World issues an update to its report Registration Refused, dealing with difficulties of access to GP registration for migrants in England, and announces a new initiative, Safe Surgeries, a network of GP practices committed to helping undocumented migrants and refused asylum seekers. Download the report here. (Doctors of the World, 25 June)

26 June: Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee, says MEPs will not cooperate on the budget for offshore processing of asylum seekers, called for by Italy and other member states at the EU’s migration summit, saying such ideas are ‘extreme’. (Guardian, 27 June 2018)

26 June: The Irish Cabinet approves plans to remove restrictions on access to work for asylum seekers. (Irish Times, 27 June 2018)

26 June: Six staff members at a reception centre in Latina, Italy are arrested for maltreatment of residents. Of the €35 per day allowance per resident, they allegedly spent only €1 or €2, pocketing the rest, and leaving the 800 residents malnourished and in squalid conditions. (Latina Quotidiano, AYS, 26 June 2018)

28 June: The EU Council tells all rescue boats in the Mediterranean to ‘respect all applicable laws and not obstruct operations of the Libyan coastguard’ (LCG), despite the LCG’s violent attacks on rescue ships’ crew and passengers and on migrant boats, and the UN sanctions imposed on a regional LCG head on 8 June for human trafficking. (Guardian, 9 June 2018; EU Council, 28 June 2018) 

29 June: The parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee describes ‘systemic problems with wrongful detention’ at the Home Office in its report on wrongful detention of Windrush generation migrants, adding that Home Office files on Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan revealed that the Home Office had no right to detain them.  Download the report here.

29 June: The North Aegean regional governor’s decision to close the small community-based Pikpa camp in Lesbos on public health grounds is opposed by Lesvos Solidarity, which describes it as a political attack on solidarity. Read their statement here. (Harekact, 29 June 2018)

29 June: The Department for Education removes the requirement for schools to record pupils’ nationality and place of birth in the schools census, following a public campaign. (Guardian, 29 June 2018)

29 June: Virgin Atlantic announces it will not longer help the Home Office with deportations, following campaigning and the Windrush scandal. (Independent, 30 June 2018)

29 June: The Barcelona hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal begins, examining violations of the rights of migrant and refugee peoples. (Transnational Migrant Platform, 29 June 2018)

29 June: The EU’s migration summit ends with member states agreeing to send rescued migrants on EU territory to closed ‘control centres’ for ‘rapid and secure processing’ of claims, to tighten the EU’s external borders, to pay bordering states to prevent migrants leaving for Europe, and to set up processing centres in north and west African countries. (Guardian, 30 June 2018)

2 July: The captain of the rescue ship Lifeline appears in court in Malta on charges related to the vessel’s registration. The ship was stranded at sea for six days with 234 migrants on board after being refused landing in Italy and Malta, docking in Malta on 27 June after eight EU member states agreed to take the passengers between them. The ship has been impounded. (Times of Malta, 28 June 2018)

2 July: After hearing evidence that over 850 people were wrongly detained for deportation between 2012 and 2017, costing over £21 million in compensation, while senior and junior managers were paid bonuses for achieving deportation targets, the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee describes the Home Office as a ‘callous and hostile institution in need of root and branch reform’. (Guardian, 29 June, 3 July 2018)

3 July: The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and Amnesty International launch a legal challenge to the ‘extortionate’ level of fees which prevents many children born in the UK and entitlted to British citizenship from applying for it. (Guardian, 4 July 2018)

3 July: Bail for Immigration Detainees points to the large-scale separation of children from parents through immigration detention in the UK, saying they have dealt with 155 cases so far this year. In three cases in the past sixteen months, children were taken into care for lack of any other available carer, in breach of the Home Office’s own guidelines. (Guardian, 4 July 2018)

Police and the criminal justice system

23 June: A Travellers Movement report, based on freedom of information requests and a survey of forty-three forces, reveals that police routinely presume Travellers are more likely to be perpetrators rather than victims of crime, and that the role of Traveller community liaison officers (GTLCs) may contravene equality laws. (Guardian, 23 June 2018)

23 June: Home Office minister Victoria Atkins backs a trial scheme, pioneered as part of the Metropolitan police’s integrated gang strategy in north London, which involves threatening whole families in council homes with eviction. (Guardian, 23 June 2018)

28 June: Katie Barratt, 22, is sacked from her job as a police officer after racially abusing staff at a takeaway restaurant in Newcastle. (ChronicleLive, 28 June 2018)

29 June: The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy criticises police use of facial recognition during peaceful demonstrations in his interim report on a visit to the UK. (Guardian, 30 June 2018)

29 June: George Mpanga, aka George the Poet, speaks out after being handcuffed and strip-searched without cause outside his parents’ house in Harlesden three days before, following a performance in Islington. (Guardian, 30 June 2018)

Anti-fascism and the far Right

25 June: Ten far-right activists are arrested in raids across France, in connection with a plot to buy weapons to attack Muslims. (AFP, 25 June 2018)

25 June: A new Hungarian far-right party, Mi Hazánk (Our Country), is launched by László Toroczkai, the mayor of Ásotthalom. (Hungarian Spectrum, 25 June 2018)

25 June: A BBC Newsnight investigation reveals that in 2017, the Polish Embassy in London part-funded a book fair in Slough organised by the far-right group Polska Niepodlega. Marcin Rola, who runs the far-right online TV station Wrealu24 and is known for anti-Muslim hate speech, was one of the speakers. (BBC News, 25 June 2018).

27 June: UKIP claims to have gained 500 new members since approving the membership of ‘alt-right’ activists Mark Meechan, Carl Benjamin and the editor of Infowars, Paul Joseph Watson.  (Independent, 27 June 2018)

28 June: In northern Greece, four far-right activists travelling to a demonstration in Thessaloniki are arrested in possession of knives, an electroshock weapon, eighteen firecrackers, a container of gasoline and twenty glass bottles. (, 28 June 2018)


26 June: The Dutch upper house of parliament overwhelmingly supports a bill banning the wearing of the burqa in educational institutions, on public transport, in government institutions and hospitals. (Guardian, 26 June 2018)

28 June: Stonewall publishes a report stating that over half of BAME LGBT people have experienced racial discrimination from within the LGBT community (Stonewall, 28 June 2018)

29 June: A week after the Italian interior minister calls for Roma to be counted and, if foreign, expelled, Rome city authorities clear 450 people, including 100 families, from a shanty town on the edge of Rome, claiming that the clearance is routine. (Reuters, 29 June 2018)

Electoral politics

25 June: Conservative MEPs on the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee vote against triggering an EU sanction process against Hungary, as other EU parliamentarians and the OSCE condemn violations of the rule of law under prime minister Viktor Orban. (Guardian, 25 June 2018)

27 June: The Muslim Council of Britain says the Conservative party chairman has not even acknowledged a letter it sent three weeks ago calling for an internal inquiry into Islamophobia in the party. The Conservative party claims it is now working with Tell Mama to improve its diversity training. (Guardian, 27 June 2018)

Media and culture

30 June: Morrissey, who recently voiced support for Tommy Robinson, postpones all his UK and European tour dates in July shortly after his manager attacks plans to hold an anti-racism party near the singer’s concerts in Manchester.  (Guardian, 30 June 2018)

2 July: Caribbean artists accuse the British Council, which is collaborating with the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas on an exhibition series about the slave trade, of censorship after it removed its text and logo from the exhibition’s catalogue, which it deemed too political. (Guardian, 2 July 2018)


1 July: The New York Times reports on the Danish government’s new  ‘ghetto list’ which details twenty-two policies aimed at forcibly integrating the inhabitants of twenty-five neighbourhoods, referring to ‘parallel societies’ and ‘ghetto children’ who must be separated from their families for at least twenty-five hours a week for mandatory instruction in ‘Danish values’. (The New York Times, 1 July 2018)

National security

29 June: The day after parliamentary reports reveal 598 instances of UK intelligence officials being involved in torture, thirty-one rendition operations planned, agreed or financed by the UK, and obstruction of evidence-gathering by the prime minister, senior detectives open an investigation and Labour shadow ministers call for an official inquiry. (Guardian, 29, 30 June 2018)

Violence and harassment: attacks on people

19 June: Police appeal for information on a suspected racially motivated attack after a man is stabbed several times and left ‘fighting for his life’ following an argument in Poplar, London. (Independent, 19 June 2018)

22 June: Police appeal for information after a gang of fifteen to twenty youths allegedly racially abused and assaulted a team of cricketers, throwing stones at the players and smashing a car windscreen as they played a match at a ground in Shinfield, Berkshire. (InYourArea, 22 June 2018)

22 June: Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board (BSAB) publishes a review highlighting how the murder of Kamil Ahmad, a Kurdish refugee who was stabbed to death in July 2016, could have been avoided. (LocalGov, 22 June 2018)

28 June: Police appeal for information after a gang of twenty youths allegedly racially abused and attacked a family on the Hoe Promenade in Plymouth, pushing and punching the father and son and throwing a drink over the mother. (Plymouth Herald, 28 June 2018)

Violence and harassment: charges

22 June: Lewis Cairns, 31, is charged with racially aggravated harassment and criminal damage following an incident at a Jewish centre in Oxford. (Oxford Mail, 22 June 2018)

Violence and harassment: convictions

2 July: Charlie Jeans, 23, is jailed for ten months for racially aggravated assault and criminal damage after racially abusing a colleague and smashing the victim’s vehicle with a baton at his workplace in Havant, Portsmouth. (The News, 2 July 2018)

The past in the present

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 03:26

Past oppressions are written into our statues, our architecture and our walls. This special issue of Race & Class brings a new perspective to reparatory history.

‘We are, at this moment, witnessing an eruption of active memory’, say Anita Rupprecht and Cathy Bergin. Resistances mobilised around Confederacy statues have provoked mass protests and fierce debate. In Baltimore 2017, statues of Stonewall Jackson and Robert Lee were carried through the streets. Following the killing of Heather Heyer in North Carolina, anti-racist protesters pulled down the statue of a Confederate soldier. The ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign, calling for the removal of statues of Cecil Rhodes, drove international debate about decolonising the curriculum at Universities, which spread from South Africa to Oxford. This special issue of Race & Class 60.1, ‘The past in the present’, brings a new perspective to reparatory history, as a way of recognising the wrongs of the past, and actively working towards repair in the present. Following the reparative history conference at Brighton University last year, we reproduce three articles by Catherine Hall, Anita Rupprecht and Cathy Bergin, and John Newsinger.

‘Could re-thinking the past, taking responsibilities for its residues and legacies, be one way of challenging rightwing politics and imagining a different future?’ asks Catherine Hall. Calling for an active reparatory history that ‘brings slavery home’, she argues that only by bringing the past into the present day will we develop an understanding of Britain’s involvement in slavery, and ‘our responsibilities, as beneficiaries of the gross inequalities associated with slavery and colonialism’. Hall founded the Legacies of Slave-ownership project, which followed the material traces of the £20 million, paid by the state to British slave-holders as part of the Emancipation Act, which was funnelled into financial, industrial, cultural and political institutions in the UK. By following the ‘economic and cultural after-life of slavery’ and the ways slavery and empire have been represented into the present, the author disrupts the distance between histories confined to ‘here’ and those confined to ‘there’ in order to trace ‘the dialectic between past and present, and the local and the global’.

Rupprecht and Bergin build upon Hall’s call to open up the ‘entangled histories’ of racialised capitalism by exploring the connection between Caroline Anderson, who lived in Brighton and received money from a family plantation in Brewer’s Bay, Tortola, and an aborted slave uprising on the plantation in 1831. The Tortola conspiracy is a little acknowledged contribution to the Atlantic-wide wave of black anti-slavery rebellion and resistance, which connects ‘metropolitan accumulation in UK to everyday resistances in the Caribbean’, illuminating, as Colin Prescod says, the ‘radical history of resistance to White supremacy, locally and globally’.

Rather than silencing violent pasts with narratives of ‘closure’, the past must be brought into dialogue with contemporary racialisations. John Newsinger uncovers the suppressed histories of Britain’s involvement in some of the bloodiest repression post-1945, and takes issue with the Labour party’s ‘progressive’ reputation in imperial affairs, deriving from Atlee being seen as a liberator of colonial rule in India. Revealing how this reputation is dependent on brutal wars of repression in Malaya, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Palestine, Kenya, Korea and Iran, Newsinger works to undo the omissions in British imperial history.

But how do we mark the past in the present when memory is silenced by political repression? Bill Rolston and Amaia Alvarez Berastegi explore how memory in Spain must be exhumed from under layers of fascist policies established by Franco’s authoritarian state from 1939-1975. ‘Franco’s victory was not simply a military one’ the authors argue, ‘but also a triumph of exclusive memory in the public sphere’. Much of the political significance of Miguel Hernández, one of Spain’s most popular poets who died in a fascist jail in 1942, has been silenced. The authors explore how ‘the authentic Miguel’ is exhumed through an annual mural painting event in Orihuela, Valencia, ‘the people are resurrecting the dream in a visual way… the dreams of Hernández and all who suffered at the hands of fascism’.

The collective mural painting event in Orihuela becomes an act of social healing, which not only remembers the dead, but ‘displays one’s remembrance in pursuit of respect, acknowledgement and inclusion’ in an overdue act of justice. Reparative history is about more than recognising how the legacies of the past live on in the present, but must actively work towards ‘hopes for reconciliation, the repair of relations damaged by historical injustice’.



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The rights of migrant dead and their families: a declaration of intent

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 08:58

Catriona Jarvis and Syd Bolton, co-convenors of the Last Rights project, celebrate real progress in the struggle for dignified treatment for migrants who lose their lives, with the signing in Lesbos of the Mytilini Declaration in May.

11 May 2018 can be put in the diary as a landmark date for future reference.

On that date, more than 50 experts and activists from around the world agreed the final text of the groundbreaking new Mytilini Declaration for the Dignified Treatment of All Missing and Deceased Persons and Their Families as a Consequence of Migrant Journeys. The Declaration calls on States and their authorities to comply with their human rights obligations to protect and promote the rights of all migrants to safe passage and to respectful, fair and just treatment when dealing with the grief and tragedy of those seeking answers, seeking justice and closure for their lost and missing loved ones. The full text is at, where organisations and individuals are also invited to endorse the Declaration. Already we are approaching 100 signatures and endorsements from across the world. The Mytilini Declaration has been signed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and has been recommended to the drafters of the soon to be finalised UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In June, the Declaration was presented and discussed at the recent world conference on Border Deaths at the Free University in Amsterdam. Also in June, Last Rights was invited to a conference in Rome hosted by the Swiss Ambassador to Italy and the International Committee for Missing Persons in relation to the experiences of families, which followed an earlier inter-governmental discussion concerning a pilot Independent Referral Mechanism. Last Rights has previously called for an independent mechanism in each country as the single or main place to which families can turn and which will answer their questions.


Endorse the Declaration!

We now encourage all people who work with refugee and migrant families or have an interest in their protection and well-being to endorse this document, to use it in their own work as a set of clear and unambiguous principles and standards, to hold agencies and authorities to account for how they treat migrants in these situations of distress and trauma. At all levels, whether local, national or internationally, these standards apply to everyone and offer concrete guidance on how to ensure that bereaved families are treated with dignity and respect and can obtain justice. In the next twelve months, the Declaration will be supplemented by a comprehensive set of guidelines, an explanatory note and glossary, in the form of a Protocol. We aim to launch this on the first anniversary of the Declaration.

Related Links

Read the Mytilini Declaration here.

Endorse the Mytilini Declaration here.

Look at the work of the Last Rights project here.

Room to Heal Summer Party

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 07:55

Join Room to Heal for an evening of storytelling, art work and music to celebrate their summer party.

  • Friday 6th July 2018, 6pm – late
  • Mildmay Community Centre, London, N16 8NA
  • RSVP:

Tickets: suggested donation

  • £7 (unwaged)
  • £10 (waged)
  • £15 (solidarity!)
Related Links

Link to Room to Heal website here