Archive for February, 2009

Group 4 Securicor Attacks South African Shack Dwellers’ Movement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on Sunday, 22 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

shack

Group 4 Securicor  private security guards are being used on the increasingly violent war on the poor in South Africa as the ANC continues with its project to drive the poor out of the cities. For useful links giving background to this statement see http://abahlali.org/node/4807

Electricity Disconnected and Three Women Arrested in Arnett Drive

Yesterday at around 10am ten cars of Sydenham SAPS and Securicor Security Guards came with their guns to the Arnett Drive settlement to disconnect electricity from 200 households. The private police came into Gertrude Cele’s house and said “Can you please turn on your radio.” She turned it on. Then, they said “The electricity is working so now we are arresting you”. She said “You can’t arrest me because I am just a visitor here, and I don’t know anything.” They said, “We found you in this house, so we are going to arrest you.” This is how the police and private security make it a criminal offence to be a poor person in South Africa.

Gertrude Cele is 60 years old. She told them that she is sick and is taking some high blood pressure medication. The police said you will do that in the police station. While she was at the police station, she collapsed, went unconscious and when she woke up the police asked her, what is wrong? She told them that the high blood pressure is high now, and that she needed to take her medication. Then they said they were going to bring her back to the settlement, and that they would not arrest her. While she was at the Sydenham police station, they asked her if she could pay R500 bail. She said she does not have that money. They brought her back. The other two ladies remained in police custody. The names of the two ladies are Sisi Ndlovu, who is 18 years old, and Nozolile Khathi, who is 30 years old. Nozolile is also sick and was a visitor in the house where she was arrested. She was supposed to go to hospital today. When they told the policemen that she is sick and is supposed to go to the hospital, the police said, there are also hospitals at the police station, and then they took her.

Your Criminals Are Our Heroes!

Yesterday the whole community mobilized and went to the Sydenham police station to demand their release, and they were told to come back today. They were denied the right to see to see them. While they were still at the Sydenham police station, Mr. Mtshali, who is the owner of the shack that Nozolile was at, said that at least they should arrest him instead of her, the police refused. They insisted that they were arresting the person they found inside the shack. When today they went back again and they were told they were at the Pinetown Magistrate Court. Today, they appeared at the Pinetown Magistrate Court. They were released on R500 bail. The case is adjourned until 2 April 2009 at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.

The police and security officers first began disconnections at the road near a generator. They then proceeded to go house to house, arresting those who they could find inside. In some houses, they not only pulled out the electrical wires found inside, but also people’s possessions, breaking household items.

While in custody, none of the three women – despite the fact that two were known to be ill by the arresting officers prior to arrival at the police station – were able to see a doctor. After being kept in jail overnight Nozolile was not able to see a doctor.

At no point during the arrests were the women told what they were being officially charged with.

Most of those at Arnett Drive during the police and security official raid were women.

Three months ago the same security company came to the settlement to disconnect electricity, and they shot Thokozani Mkhotli through the thigh as he was coming from the toilets. Still, nothing has happened about that case. These are the same police who have often violently attacked Abahlali baseMjondolo marches and who have tortured our leaders.

We need to emphasize that while the city is still denying shack-dwellers to electrify their shacks, community connections will continue because it is not us who needs electricity, but it is our lives that need electricity. We are tired of getting burned in the shacks. Therefore we will continue to connect ourselves to electricity for as long as the government refuses to allow us to have access to electricity. If they disconnect us we will reconnect the same day. If they arrest us we will all put money together so that the bail costs are shared. We will welcome our comrades home as heroes.

Electricity is the answer while we are waiting for houses that we are being promised since 1994 and we are still living in shacks with no toilets, with no electricity, with one standpipe that caters to 600 families. These armed disconnections and arrests raise a question if this is the kind of democracy that we were all being promised when we were going to the voting station in 1994. Is this the better life for all that the ANC is always talking about in their manifestos?

Viva Operation Khanyisa!

Your Criminals Are Our Heroes!

No Land! No House! No Electricity! No Vote!

Contact

Ntombifuthi – 0733279300
Thobekile Magwaza – 0793345627
Abahlali baseMjondolo Office – 0312691822

Abahlali baseMjondolo
Homepage: http://abahlali.org/node/4807

Sex, slaves and citizens: the politics of anti-traffi cking Bridget Anderson and Rutvica Andrijasevic

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on Tuesday, 17 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

“A focus on the evils of trafficking is a way of depoliticising the debate on migration”.

Trafficking is in the news. It is on the political agenda, both nationally
and internationally. Thousands of individuals, hundreds of groups,
dozens of newspapers are determined to stamp it out. This focus
on trafficking consistently reflects and reinforces deep public concern about prostitution/sex work, and also about immigration, and the abuse and exploitation it so frequently involves. So to challenge the expression, or some of the actions taken as a response to this concern, is akin to saying that one endorses slavery or is against motherhood and apple pie. Trafficking is a theme that is supposed to bring us all together. But we believe it is necessary to tread the line of challenging motherhood and apple pie while not endorsing slavery, because the moral panic over trafficking is diverting attention from the structural causes of the abuse of migrant workers.

Concern becomes focused on the evil wrongdoers rather than more systemic factors. In particular it ignores the state’s approach to migration and employment, which effectively constructs groups of non-citizens who can be treated as unequal with impunity.

What is trafficking?

Definitions and the UN Convention

In November 2000 the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime was adopted by the UN General Assembly. The purpose of this convention was to promote interstate cooperation in the combating of transnational organised crime and to eliminate ‘safe havens’ for its perpetrators. It is supplemented by three additional protocols, which deal with Smuggling of Migrants, Trafficking in Persons – especially women and children – and Trafficking in Firearms. The definition of trafficking in persons in the Protocol contains three elements: it is defined as an action, consisting of ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons’; as one which occurs by means of ‘the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person’; and as being undertaken ‘for the purpose of exploitation … (which) … shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’.

It is important to remember that the Palermo Protocol, as it is known, is not a human rights instrument. It is an instrument designed to facilitate cooperation between states to combat organised crime, rather than to protect or give restitution to the victims of crime. States are to strengthen border controls to prevent trafficking and smuggling. Border controls and police cooperation, not human rights protection, lies at the heart of both the smuggling and trafficking protocols. The emphasis is on intercepting traffickers and smugglers and on punishing and prosecuting them. While states are encouraged to offer protection to trafficked persons, in particular to consider providing victims of trafficking with the possibility of remaining, temporarily or permanently, on their territory, actual obligations are minimal and the protection provisions are weak. Though there do exist other more progressive legal instruments governing trafficking, even in these the protection of trafficked persons is dependent on their cooperation with authorities.

Special reference is made in the protocol to sexual exploitation and exploitation of the prostitution of others. Media, policy and research on trafficking have for the most part focused exclusively on sex work, and trafficking is commonly associated with ‘sexual slavery’ and organised crime. Journalists, politicians and scholars are quick to depict migrant women in the sex industry as victims of abuse and violence, and traffickers as Mafia-like individuals and/or organisations that enslave women in prostitution.

This helps to install the image of trafficking within a simplistic and stereotyped binary of duped/innocent victim (foreign women) and evil traffickers (usually foreign men). Trafficking appears as an activity that takes place outside any social framework: it is criminal individuals that are responsible.

Governments, particularly in Europe, also blame traffickers for the proliferation of irregular migration and the abuse of migrant workers. For example, in his foreword to the Home Office document Enforcing the rules (2007), then UK Home Secretary John Reid said:

“Failure to take on the people traffickers who are behind three quarters
of illegal migration to this country leaves vulnerable and often desperate people at the mercy of organised criminals.”

The image of the Victim of Trafficking is used to invoke an emotional reaction and an image of large numbers, echoing fears of ‘floods’ and ‘hordes’ of (‘illegal’) migrants. (There has been a recent shift in discourse, so that the dominant emotion has become pity rather than fear, but the effects are very similar.) The portrayal of trafficking as a main driver of illegal migration is a relatively new development – contrast John Reid’s claims with Home Office statements of 2002, when numbers of victims of trafficking were ‘small’ and the majority of illegal migrants were held to be in the UK ‘by their consent’.There is little evidence to sustain the figures that are bandied about.

For example, the US State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders annually, but the US Government Accountability Office has severely criticised these and other estimates, describing them as ‘questionable’ and relying on weak methodologies.3 It points out that since 1999 fewer than 8000 migrants in 26 countries have received assistance through the International Organization for Migration (which is one of the main inter-governmental organisations dealing with the issue).

There is a significant gap between estimated numbers and identified victims, and the estimates resonate with fears of being overwhelmed by ‘illegals’. Thus in the UK there are some 35 places for women identified as victims of sex trafficking, and in 2007 there were only 17 convictions for trafficking offences, all for sex trafficking. This equation of illegal migration and trafficking is not supported by the Palermo Protocol. Indeed the UN protocols state that entry into a state can be legal or illegal in the case of trafficking (whereas smuggling can only refer to illegal entry). They also state that trafficking can take place within national boundaries. One does not need to be ‘illegal’ in order to be trafficked, as one does not need to be a ‘prostitute’. Hence, in practice, there are crucial definitional problems about what actually constitutes trafficking that have not been resolved. This lack of clarity has not stood in the way of success for the Palermo Protocol; perhaps it has indeed facilitated it.

While the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, approved by the UN in 1990, had only 15 signatories by July 2008, the Palermo Protocol had at that time 117 signatories.

Trafficking as ‘anti-politics’

This lack of definitional clarity allows a constant slippage between ‘illegal immigration’, ‘forced prostitution’ and ‘trafficking’. Everyone agrees that trafficking and (sexual) exploitation is wrong, in spite of the problem about what these words actually mean. This helps to create a humane consensus outside political debate – no one can doubt that ‘trafficking’ must be stamped out. The slippage serves to de-politicise anti-trafficking interventions, and avert attention from the role of the state in creating the conditions in which exploitation occurs. Our argument is that this de-politicisation is actually a form of ‘anti-politics’: it smuggles politics in under a ‘humanitarian agenda’ seemingly geared towards the assistance and protection of victims.

The Victim of Trafficking is not an apolitical figure, as we have seen: it is one that has been taken up by the state. The question then becomes: what are the politics that are being smuggled in? In addressing this we will consider three
key areas – the politics of sex, the politics of labour, and the politics of citizenship. (The fact that these can be imagined as separate terrains of political engagement is perhaps in itself the point most worthy of note.)

Politics of sex

Negotiations over the Palermo Protocol brought together states and feminists who were particularly concerned with prostitution, and until recently the policy discussions and research on trafficking have been very much focused on attitudes to sex work rather than migration. The discussions around the Protocol itself were affected by the polarised debate between those who might be termed ‘feminist abolitionists’ and those arguing from a ‘sex workers’ rights’ perspective. Abolitionists
argue that prostitution reduces women to bought objects, and is always and necessarily degrading and damaging to women. Thus they recognise no distinction between ‘forced’ and ‘free choice’ prostitution, and hold that in tolerating, regulating or legalizing prostitution, states permit the repeated violation of human rights to dignity and sexual autonomy. Prostitution is a ‘gender crime’, part of patriarchal domination over female sexuality, and its existence affects all women negatively by consolidating men’s rights of access to women’s bodies. All prostitution is a form of sexual slavery, and trafficking is intrinsically connected to prostitution.

From this vantage point, measures to eradicate the market for commercial sex are simultaneously anti-trafficking measures, and vice versa.

Feminists who adopt what might be termed a ‘sex workers’ rights’ perspective reject the idea that all prostitution is forced and intrinsically degrading. They view sex work as a service sector job, and see state actions that criminalise or otherwise penalise those who make an individual choice to enter prostitution as a denial of human rights to self determination. They also strongly challenge the simple equation by feminist abolitionists of the demand for trafficking and the demand for prostitution. From this standpoint, it is the lack of protection for workers in the sex industry, whether migrant or not, rather than the existence of a market for commercial sex in itself, that leaves room for extremes of exploitation, including trafficking. The solution to the problem thus lies in bringing the sex sector above ground, and regulating it in the same way that other employment sectors are regulated.

Most of the EU states adopt a prohibitionist approach – prohibiting prostitution and penalising sex workers. However, the Swedish government has a ‘neo-abolitionist’ model, which the British government has been considering adopting. This criminalises the buyers of sexual services and outlaws the purchase and the attempted purchase of sexual services. Within this logic, prostitution and sex traffi cking are seen as a matter of supply and demand: supply is created by men’s demand for women’s sexualservices.The solution then becomes one of restricting demand.

The proposal to criminalise prostitution in order to combat sex traffi cking and the exploitation of migrant workers in the sex sector is often based on a simplistic view of the sex industry and the way the sector operates. To focus anti trafficking efforts and policies on the buyers as those causing the demand, and/or on ‘traffickers’ as exploiting migrants’ labour, diverts attention from the much wider economic, social and political context within which the sex industry is located; and in particular, for the purposes of our argument here, it diverts attention from the role played by residency and employment regulations in the destination states. This approach also reduces women’s migration and participation in the sex industry to the idea of (sex) slavery, and simplifies social relations by viewing them exclusively in terms of patriarchal oppression or criminal activity, leaving no space for sex workers’ agency. Moreover it adds force to the idea that trafficking equals coerced and illegal migration, and fosters an imaginary clear-cut separation between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ forms of migration. Finally, a focus on sex work as the main feature of trafficking does little to dissipate the moral panic that feeds fears of illegal migration. On the contrary, it strongly reinforces the idea that increasing restriction is called for. Those advocating the criminalisation of clients are failing to consider that it is precisely the tightening of immigration controls and restrictive labour laws that create the conditions for the proliferation of illegality and labour exploitation.

Politics of labour

State concern with trafficking seems to offer some space for those who are concerned with the human and/or labour rights of migrants; there is increasing pressure to widen the debate from its focus on sex traffi cking to a broader concern with forced labour. Here academics, migrants’ organisations and some trades unions, as well as the International Labour Organisation, have sought to exploit the common ground apparently share with governments in their desire to stamp out trafficking and forced labour. A focus on workers’ rights highlights a number of contradictions in policy.

A key problem here arises from what is actually meant by ‘force’ and ‘exploitation’. How to distinguish traffi cking from legally tolerated
employment contracts (also from legally tolerated forms of exploitation of women and children within families)? Questions about what constitutes an exploitative employment practice are much disputed – indeed they have historically been, and remain, a central focus of the organised labour movement’s struggle to protect workers. In the absence of a global political consensus on minimum employment rights, or of cross-national and cross-sector norms regarding employment relations, it is extremely diffi cult to come up with a yardstick against which exploitation’ can be measured. Low-waged migrant labour is permitted, and sought by employers, precisely because it can be exploited. How to draw a line in the sand between ‘traffi cked’ and ‘not traffi cked but just-the-regular-kind-of exploitation’migrants? Indeed, given that movement across international borders is not a requirement for trafficking to take place, how can this distinction between trafficked migrants and exploited workers in general be made, and why make it? Abuses can vary in severity, which means they generate a continuum of experience rather than being definable through a simple either/or dichotomy. Ideas about the precise point on this continuum at which tolerable forms of labour migration end and traffi cking begins will vary according to our political and moral values.

Whether migrant or not, workers cannot be divided into two entirely separate and distinct groups – those who are traffi cked involuntarily into the misery of slavery-like conditions in an illegal or unregulated economic sector, and those who voluntarily and legally work in the happy and protected world of the formal economy. Violence, confinement, coercion, deception and exploitation can and do occur within both legally regulated and irregular systems of work, and within legal and illegal systems of migration. The question then arises of why movement matters at all in these debates. Why is being forced into prostitution or to labour in your home town less heinous than being forced into prostitution or work elsewhere? It is the outcome – exploitation and abuse – that is the problem, not where it takes place. It is here that the elision between illegal immigration and traffi cking comes into play. For it allows the sidestepping of the question that is key for activists but that states want to avoid: what is the role of immigration controls in heightening vulnerability to exploitation and abuse? Certain immigration statuses create marginalised groups without access to the formal labour market, or to any of the protections usually offered by states to citizens and workers. The state itself thereby equips employers with labour control and retention mechanisms that would not otherwise be available to them, and which have the potential to be abused. But attention is almost always diverted from this question and on to ‘evil employers’.
The fi gure of the evil employer and trafficker throws a shadow over the role
of the state in constructing vulnerability. For the individual Victim of Trafficking or victim of exploitation it is the employer, pimp or trafficker who denies access to basic social rights such as hospital treatment. But if these individuals were not denying access, the state would. Indeed, one of the key sources of vulnerability is state-legitimated restriction of access to social rights. A highly political reality about the state’s role in constructing vulnerability for non-citizens – a reality with potential political solutions – is obscured by calling on the states to protect the human rights of victims of trafficking. It is notable that there is no similar call by the state for the protection of the ‘human rights’ of ‘illegal immigrants’.

Politics of citizenship

The discourse of traffi cking needs to be seen as part of a more general attempt to depoliticise the question of migration. Managerialist discourses are also an important part of this process: the question becomes one of managing what makes economic sense, of appointing experts to determine the niceties of labour supply and demand. Migration policy thus becomes a matter of operationalising technical judgements rather than a political process, and ‘reassurance’ consists of assuring the public that the right technical decisions will be made. In fact migration is one of the most fundamental political questions of all: who constitutes the polity?
This is not simply a formal question: it addresses questions of how a polity is
created, how it is engaged with. Citizenship is not simply a legal status bestowed by the state. It is a dynamic process, and is actively constructed. Citizenship is enacted by a variety of actors, and their acts are enabled or restricted by the social structures and the material conditions of their lives. As Balibar argues, we can view the demands of migrant workers for legal rights as ‘partial but direct expressions of the process of creation of rights, a dynamic that allows the political constitution to be recognized as “popular sovereignty” or democracy’.

Citizenship is not an abstract manifestation of state power; it is embodied and enacted by individuals, who enjoy, negotiate, or fail to negotiate, the privileges and/or barriers of membership.

It is a subject of contestation, and is constituted through a continuous interaction between practices of citizenship and its institutional codification. The question of the rights of migrant workers is part of this political interaction. The denial that this is an arena of political contestation, either by treating migration as an economic question, or by regarding abuses of rights as originating from free-floating individuals, closes down the debate. While illegal immigration and trafficking are frequently conflated by the media and by successive Home Secretaries, only the most victimised – those who are unable to act for themselves – can qualify as Victims of Trafficking and become entitled to the state’s assistance and protection. To pass the ‘test’ of trafficking one must be a‘true’ victim: injured, suffering, and enslaved. Since victims are defined as those who are in need of help (by the state, NGOs, police or clients), they are not seen as political subjects but rather as objects of intervention. Victims cannot engage in the realm of the political. Others need to act on their behalf – and indeed there has been
a plethora of anti-trafficking organisations and initiatives. The language of trafficking obliterates any idea of struggle, and works to stabilise the political and social transformations brought about by migration, as it confines migrants to victimhood. This reinforces the notion that one cannot engage with citizenship as a process, but only with citizenship as formal legal status administered by an omniscient state.

Yet even citizenship as a formal legal status is a long way off for Victims of
Trafficking. In the fi rst place, it is extremely diffi cult to be granted VoT status. In contrast to the large numbers that are invoked, the state recognises very few people as VoTs. Moreover, the status carries only temporary rights. The thirty-day refl ection period – an opportunity for the VoT to consider whether or not they might take legal action against traffickers and thereby stave off removal or deportation – was only implemented after considerable NGO lobbying. VoT status does not grant an automatic right to stay in the UK; it simply indicates a temporary right to assistance and to stay in the country, which is removed after the victim has collaborated with the authorities to assist their prosecution of the traffickers.

What follows, in the language of the Home Office, is the reintegration and resettlement of victims – alias deportation. The legal category of VoT is not aimed at the protection of victims but rather at the prosecution of traffickers. In its allocation of temporary and conditional rights, VoT status normalises the exclusion produced through restrictive immigration and labour policies, and serves to uphold the hierarchical organisation of access to rights and citizenship. Reference to the abuses conducted by individual actors – brutal traffickers and exploitative employers – obscures the importance of formal citizenship/legal status, and the role of the state in constructing vulnerability through denial of legal status. Anti-trafficking measures and rhetoric turn political confl ict into a patching-over of contradictions, or negotiated adjustments of interests – and the negotiation and patching is not usually being done by migrants.

Conclusion

Many people feel deep concern at the widespread injustice endured by so many, particularly when it is happening close to home, and is a clear manifestation of global inequalities. And the enthusiasm with which ‘anti-trafficking’ campaigns and policies are embraced is one manifestation of such concern. But if exploitation and abuse is to be ended, solutions must be sought that move beyond identifying victims and imprisoning traffickers. In signing up to anti-trafficking policies and campaigns, there is a danger of being taken in by a sleight of hand that confl ates illegality and
traffi cking, and presents ever harsher immigration controls as being in the interests of migrants. Immigration controls produce groups of people that are ‘deportable’ and hence particularly vulnerable to abuse. The state is responsible for the maintenance of a legal framework within which certain occupations and sectors are deregulated, and exist outside labour protection rules; and it is complicit in permitting third parties to profit from migrants’ labour, whether it is in the commercial sex or other sectors. It is therefore important to put the state back into the analysis, and to address the role played by the state’s immigration and labour regulations in creating the conditions in which trafficking and the exploitation of migrant labour are able to flourish.

Notes
1. For example, the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against
Traffi cking in Human Beings and Council Directive on the Short-Term
145
Sex, slaves and citizens
Residence Permit have an emphasis on victim-protection schemes but these are
also conditional on co-operation with law enforcement.
2. Home Offi ce, Secure Borders, Safe Haven. Integration with Diversity in Modern
Britain, HMSO 2002.
3. United States Government Accountability Offi ce, Human Traffi cking: Better
data, strategy and reporting needed to enhance US anti-traffi cking efforts abroad,
US GAO 2006.
4. Hansard, Col. 1263W, written answer by Vernon Coaker, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary Home Offi ce, to Ms Dari Taylor, MP, 19.3.08.
5. E. Balibar, We, the People of Europe? Refl ections on transnational citizenship,
Princeton University Press 2004.
6. Ibid.
146
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Mitie Cleaners Demo Report

Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, 15 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

On Thursday 12th February twenty workers demonstrated outside the Willis insurance broker’s building in the City of London in support of five union cleaners dismissed there by Mitie cleaning company.

The five had been unfairly dismissed under the cover of redundancy because they were unable to switch to full time hours at night as part of changes in conditions which the company was demanding. However given that these were Unite union activists, including the building’s shop steward, it is believed that these ‘redundancies’ were in fact a cover for breaking up union organisation.

Mitie cleaners at the building include Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Portuguese workers. They were supported by other union cleaners at nearby Schroders investment bank and elsewhere at the ‘unofficial’ demonstration. They called the demonstration after postponing a previous one at the union officials’ request, in order to allow for negotiations to take place. However the demo was called again after negotiations broke down.

At the protest a manager claimed that the cleaners “ought to have gone through the proper channels and spoken with human resources.” Meanwhile one office worker, expressing his sympathy, told us that “Willis don’t allow us unions either”.

In a lively protest we chanted “Reinstate the cleaners” and “Queremos justicia ahora!”. Five City of London police briefly came to the protest, without incident. When they asked one cleaner who was in charge of the demo, he replied “everyone!”. Unfortunately, “everyone” did not seem to include the Unite union, who refused to sanction the protest with the argument that the terms of the agreement between the union and the company did not allow this.

The fight against victimisation continues – contact williscleaners4justice@live.co.uk

Dale Farm Prepares For Eviction Attempt

Posted in Dale Farm with tags , , on Saturday, 14 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders
Building Defences

Building Defences. Picture: © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

Scaffolding goes up at Dale Farm to defend the entrances of the largest traveler site in England from eviction by Basildon Council. The Travellers will apparently get 28 days notice, so that will hopefully gives all those who want to support the Travellers plenty of time to organise.

Fortnightly Picket of Trinity Rd Police Station

Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, 11 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

Next Picket Tues 17th Feb 10.00-11.00am

Because instead of signing at the immgration office, Those resident in    Bristol without secure immigration status, are forced to sign at Trinity Rd   Police Station. They do this weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Sometimes whole   families have to attend. However, some of the migrants never come out after   signing. This is beause immigration enforcement officers are hiding behind   the  desk at Trinity Rd , initially to detain those whose presence has been   suddenly declared illegal in the UK. They are then either taken to a  detention   centre, for later removal, or in some cases, taken straight to the airport to face   an uncertain future, possibly to a country where they are in danger.

On a number of occasions, people have accompanied those who are in danger   of removal to the police station. We think that a large number people greatly   reduces the risk that this will happen, as probably neither Avon and Somerset   Police nor the British Immigration Agency want to provoke a public order   situation in the middle of an area with a relatively high migrant population.

However, by our regular presence outside the Police Station we simply   want to  show our solidarity with all who are forced to sign their – we   want to tell them  they can fight deportation if they want to stay.

Crusade against the undocumented

Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, 6 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

By Frances Webber, Institute of Race Relations

5 February 2009

Every day, across the UK, aggressive raids are being carried out at workplaces to root out those without papers. Britain’s ethnic restaurant sector is under attack from government officials who, in their single-minded drive to meet ever higher targets for deportation, have no interest in the impact of their policies on small family businesses or the effect on Britain’s high streets. Workplace immigration raids, and raids on the homes of low-paid care workers and cleaners, carried out in unprecedented numbers and resulting in unprecedented rates of removal of people for transgressing immigration laws, see family assets wiped out, families criminalised, and skilled and hard working men and women jailed or deported.

Every day, somewhere in the UK, immigration officers, often with police, frequently wearing stab-proof vests, surround High Street restaurants, takeaways and convenience stores, seal exits and storm in, generally at the busiest time, to demand that workers prove their right to be working there. Sometimes they carry hand-held fingerprint terminals to perform instant identity checks on those they find working there. Those who can’t prove their entitlement are carted off to detention for further checks, possible prosecution and imprisonment for months, or at best, summary removal from the country. Managers or owners are served with penalty notices for up to £10,000 per irregular worker, and may also face ‘naming and shaming’ on the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) website. There is no compensation for the income lost as customers are told to leave midway through their meals and premises are closed down, nor for consequential loss as customers are put off returning by the aggressive tactics of the officials. In some cases, people unconnected with the business, who happen to be visiting or even in the vicinity, have been picked up and put to proof of their right to be in the country. We have already seen the way successive governments, in pursuit of their deportation targets, have ignored the basic humanity of failed asylum seekers. Now we see a similar ruthlessness and lack of proportionality in the crusade against the undocumented.

The needs of British business, and the rights of vulnerable individuals are alike being routinely ignored, as are notions of basic fairness. Many of those caught in the raids and sent to prison for using false documents are asylum seekers whose home countries, ravaged by war, invasion, famine, over-rapid industrialisation or globalisation, cannot satisfy even the basic needs of their people. For such people, return spells the final death of hope. For owners, many naturalised British, the massive fines spell financial ruin.

According to a parliamentary answer by immigration minister Phil Woolas in November 2008, in the year 2007-2008, 7,500 enforcement officers were deployed to work regionally, and carried out over 15,500 ‘enforcement visits’ or raids, resulting in 10,750 arrests.[1] The raids frequently involve large numbers of police and immigration officials and sometimes resemble military operations. * Seventeen UKBA officers and three police officers descended on Makbros, a cash and carry warehouse in Stanmore, Middlesex, and detained and questioned five men, all of whom turned out to be lawfully employed. An eye-witness said that it was ‘quite scary with all these people running up’.[2]

* Thirteen immigration officers raided the Unique Spice restaurant in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, to arrest two Bangladeshi men.[3] * A convoy of five vehicles descended on the Waverley Hotel, Yarmouth in a raid in which two Mauritian men and a Brazilian woman were arrested.[4] * Shabul Muhth’s two restaurants in Kent were raided by around eighteen uniformed officers and the restaurants closed at around 6.30pm on Friday and Saturday nights, the peak time for his business. No arrests were made. ‘Come in like gentlemen’, he said. ‘We’re not drug dealing, we’re selling curry.'[5] * A full-scale search with dogs and a police helicopter were deployed to hunt for two men who ran out of the kitchen at Thariks Indian restaurant in Paignton during a raid. An immigration officer fell through the roof of a building in the chase, in which the two men got away.[6] * The owner of the Bamboo restaurant in Exmouth, Martin Lai, who is chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Chinese Association, said that during an immigration raid on the restaurant he and his staff were treated as if they were terrorists.[7] ‘Officers wearing stab vests’ Press reports on the raids frequently include the information that the officers involved were wearing stab vests. This appears to result from (and in turn contributes to) a characterisation of undocumented workers as truly criminal, dangerous, liable to pull a knife to evade capture – which, from the total absence of any evidence to support it, whether in court reports, police charges or otherwise – appears wholly false. It is the undocumented workers themselves for whom discovery and pursuit can have serious, even fatal consequences. A soon to be released IRR report shows that for the first time, the largest number of deaths related to immigration controls Europe-wide in 2008 was during immigration raids (thirteen deaths).

Here in the UK, a man died in a fall from a second- floor window during a raid by immigration officials in Woodford in September 2008.[8] Injuries have been recorded too; in January 2008, a Malaysian suspected illegal immigrant broke his leg trying to flee immigration officers during a raid on the Chopsticks restaurant at Hersden, near Canterbury, during which five Malaysian and Chinese workers were arrested,[9] and, in March 2008, a UKBA operation on a restaurant in Tooting led to a man breaking both his legs after an immigration officer followed him onto the roof of the building.[10]

Ethnic Minority businesses targeted

In the drive to catch ‘illegal’ workers, it is overwhelmingly the small, ethnic minority-owned businesses which are targeted – the restaurants and take-aways, kebab shops and convenience stores whose visibility on the High Street makes them easy targets for a policy driven by numbers. Frequently, all the ethnic minority-owned restaurants or takeaways in a particular street or village are raided, simultaneously or sequentially on one day. Thus, two adjacent restaurants in Faversham, Kent (one Indian, one Chinese) were raided by immigration officers who arrested seven men,[11] and four Falmouth restaurants were raided on one Saturday evening.[12] Two restaurants were raided simultaneously in Barnstaple;[13] twice in three months, three Plymouth restaurants were raided on the same day;[14] and three restaurants were raided in one operation in north Essex.[15] False documents The raids result in detention followed by immediate removal (where this is possible) for irregular workers without documents. But migrants who have resorted to using false documents in order to work are generally prosecuted, and are frequently sent to prison and recommended for deportation. Very often, their resort to illegality has been caused by Home Office delays in deciding asylum claims, which can last for years, causing immense hardship and distress. This was the case for 49-year-old Zimbabwean paramedic Thomas Mvemve, who waited four years for his asylum claim to be decided before, in desperation to provide for his family, he got work with a care agency using a fake Home Office letter. He had already spent nearly three months on remand for obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception when the Home Office finally accepted his asylum claim. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, which enabled him to be released immediately, as the judge accepted that he was hard-working and dedicated, and had suffered in custody.[16]

Refused asylum seekers

Many refused asylum seekers are in an impossible situation. Only a small fraction of Zimbabweans, for instance, are successful in their asylum claims, yet they cannot return home – the Home Office has not returned anyone to Zimbabwe since 2005. But those refused asylum can’t work, and are frequently refused all support. Yet even they have been jailed for using false documents to work. * In April 2007 Daniel Moyo and Likhwa Mnkandla were sentenced to 8 and 12 months’ imprisonment respectively for obtaining pecuniary advantage (the ability to work) by deception (that they were permitted to work).[17] * When Zimbabwean Florida Ziki, who overstayed with her husband after being refused asylum, was arrested for using false Home Office documents to get work in a care home, she broke down and said, ‘What was I supposed to do? I can’t live or work here without these papers’. It was accepted that Florida, a former member of an opposition party in Zimbabwe, could not go back there, but as a failed asylum seeker, she could not work or obtain benefits. But she was still jailed for eight months. Her husband fled during the immigration raid, and has not been seen since.[18] * Iraqi Kurd Shaho Abdulkadr of Eastville, Bristol was sentenced to fifty-one weeks imprisonment suspended for two years and 150 hours’ community work for using forged papers to try to get a job. Abdulkadr was refused asylum in February 2004 but was not required to leave. His father was murdered when locals decided to take over the family farm north-east of Baghdad. A fresh asylum claim was being made for him.[19] * A failed asylum seeker from DRC who used a stolen French passport to work as a cleaner and support his partner and two children, had his sentence reduced – but only from 12 to 10 months.[20] And the court showed no sympathy to four failed asylum seekers from DRC who had bought false passports to find work, upholding 12-month sentences in order to send out a message to deter others, although they quashed recommendations for deportation.[21]

Confiscating wages

The sentences handed down to migrants who use false documents to work are similar to those imposed on people who use theft or fraud to enrich themselves, and do not take account of the fact that falsely documented migrant workers actually do the work for which they are (usually poorly) paid. Sometimes, adding insult to injury, workers find their hard-earned pay confiscated as ‘proceeds of crime’. A Liberian failed asylum seeker, Masdan Kamara, was jailed for 15 months for using false documents to obtain employment through nursing agencies in Staffordshire, and was told that an application for confiscation of her earnings would be made, as ‘proceeds of crime’.[22] In the West Midlands, police took away £4,000 in cash found in the possession of an asylum seeker employee at a Vietnamese-owned nail bar, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, claiming that the money represented his illegal earnings. An appeal against the confiscation is ongoing.[23] Businesses penalised It is not just the workers, but also their bosses who are targeted. Since 29 February 2008, employers are subject to a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for employing someone not entitled to take the job he or she is employed in, and can be sent to prison for six months if they can be proved to have known of the illegality. (Employers have been legally liable for employing unauthorised workers since 1996, but there were only thirty-four successful prosecutions in seven years.) The UK Borders Agency (UKBA, formerly the Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office) claims that in the two months after the law was changed (March-April 2008) 137 businesses were caught employing illegal immigrants,[24] and that over a million pounds was collected in civil penalties from May to October 2008. The average penalty paid is £5,000 per employee.[25] The agency now publishes the names of employers and companies against whom civil penalties have been imposed, in a ‘naming and shaming’ policy. The list on its website showed that 95 per cent of those targeted in the first four months were South Asian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Turkish businesses.[26] Six months later, the same pattern of raids is evident. In some cases, the combination of losing workers in raids and having to pay hefty penalties have forced small businesses to close.

The treatment of undocumented workers and their employers as ‘real’ criminals is generally taken up enthusiastically by the media. Some local reporters write from a position ’embedded’ with the immigration officials for a day, as if from a military front line, and report with evident excitement on the operations, the methods (sealing exits), the new technology (hand-held terminals for checking fingerprints). For these reporters, the officials are self-evidently heroes and the undocumented workers clear villains. None question the need for the raids or their methods, nor do they follow up on what happens to those arrested – unless they are prosecuted for using false documents, in which case the court case is reported like any other.

All accept, apparently unquestioningly, the characterisation of undocumented workers as ‘immigration cheats’, rarely discussing the reasons for their predicament, the services they perform and the high price they pay for the jobs they do. The only story deemed worthy of reporting is their ‘illegal’ status. In November 2007, a huge scandal ensued when it emerged that the Security Industry Authority, set up by the Home Office in 2003 to vet doormen and security personnel, had failed to check applicants’ entitlement to work in the UK.[27] In Birmingham, the fact that fifty City Council employees were found to have no entitlement to work was seen as more headline-worthy than that eleven (British) workers were sacked for downloading porn on their council computers, or that a worker on long-term sick leave was found working full-time for a neighbouring authority.[28]

When Ghanaian Prisilla Sarpon, who worked as a cleaner for Doncaster Council using false documentation, was jailed for eight months, the local paper reported that she had ‘illegally earned more than £34,000 over four years’ – neglecting to point out that she had worked for the money, which amounted to only £8,500 a year.[29] When 21-year-old Amanda Banda, a Liberian woman who was smuggled to the UK in 2004, was jailed for six months for using a Portuguese friend’s passport to work as a cleaner at Stansted airport, the security implications of someone working airside were deemed more significant than the traumatic story of a trafficked orphan. The court heard that after Ms Banda’s parents had been massacred when she was six, she was taken to Ghana, and then moved to Togo, Algeria and Morocco, where she was forced into the sex industry for some years before travelling to Italy and the UK without papers, documents or personal possessions.[30] Fighting back In April 2008, thousands of Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Turkish and Pakistani catering staff and owners came together in London in an unprecedented mass protest to demand an end to the raids and to new rules making it even more difficult to employ foreign workers.[31] The protest followed a three-hour strike called by Chinese community groups in protest at raids in Chinatown in October 2007.[32] Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the UKBA’s blanket policy of denying failed asylum seekers the right to work for years, when they could not be removed, succeeded in the High Court in December 2008.[33] The Home Office is appealing the decision, and meanwhile is refusing to change its policy. In January 2009, hundreds of Zimbabweans protested outside Downing Street to demand the right to work legally.

Demands for a one-off amnesty for irregular workers, made by groups such as Strangers into Citizens, are supported by a broad spectrum of people including London mayor Boris Johnson, while a permanent route to regularisation has been argued by JCWI among others. These actions could be the beginning of a movement, demanding recognition of the intrinsic worth of the work performed by ‘irregular’ migrants, the criminal waste of the ban on working, and the huge human cost of the criminalisation of workers.

[1] Hansard HC, 18.11.08 Col 315W. [2] ‘Swoop on “illegal workers” falls flat’, Harrow Observer 16.10.08. [3] ‘Restaurant fined for illegal staff’, Bucks Free Press 19.8.08. [4] ‘Three removed in immigration raid’, Eastern Daily Press, 7.9.07. [5] ‘Curry house staff protest at new UK work rules’, Guardian 21.4.08. [6] ‘Manhunt’, thisissouthdevon.co.uk 15.6.07. [7] ‘Restaurant owner hits out at “heavy handed” immigration operation’, thisisexeter.co.uk 10.3.08. [8] ‘Man dies following raid by police and immigration’, IRR News 9.9.08. [9] ‘Immigration raid on Chinese restaurant’, Kent Messenger 23.1.08. [10] IPCC press release 4.4.08. [11] ‘Illegal workers caught in raids’, Kent Online 6.3.08. [12] ‘Immigrants taken away’, thisisthewestcountry.co.uk 4.4.07. [13] ‘Immigration staff arrest three Indian restaurant workers’, North Devon Gazette 28.10.08. [14] ‘Eight arrested in immigration raids’, thisisplymouth.co.uk 15.11.07; ‘Officials swoop on illegal workers’, thisisplymouth.co.uk 1.2.08. [15] ‘Tendring: ten held after immigration raids’, Gazette 3.9.08. [16] Deceit charge asylum seeker can stay’, Welwyn & Hatfield Times 13.12.06. [17] ‘UK jails Zim’s failed asylum seekers’, The Herald (Harare) 18.4.07. [18] ‘Zimbabwean illegal immigrant jailed’, icsurreyonline.co.uk, 3.10.07. [19] ‘Iraqi guilty of trying to work’, Bristol Evening Post 10.11.07. [20] ‘Jail term cut for illegal immigrant’, Oldham Evening Chronicle 12.12.07. [21] R v Mabengo and others, Times 17.7.08. [22] ’15-month jail term for false ID worker’, thisisstaffordshire.co.uk, 20.6.08. [23] Case files. [24] ‘Firms caught hiring illegal workers rises’, Caterersearch 6.5.08. [25] ‘Employers against whom notices of liability (NOLs) have been issued and civil penalties imposed for the use of illegal migrant workers’, UKBA October 2008. [26] ‘The kitchen classes’, Guardian 16.7.08. [27] ‘11,000 illegal migrants licensed to work as private security guards’, Guardian 14.12.07; ‘PM’s bomb checks run by an illegal’, Sunday Mirror 11.11.07; ‘Security failure as illegal immigrants given guard jobs’, Daily Telegraph 12.11.07. [28] ’50 illegal workers caught in Birmingham Council swoop’, icbirmingham.co.uk, 20.11.07. [29] ‘Illegal immigrants worked at council’, The Star 1.5.08. [30] ‘Illegal immigrant in airport ID fraud’, EADT24, 5.2.08. [31] ‘Curry house staff protest at new UK work rules’, Guardian 21.4.08. [32] ‘Chinatown workers go on strike’, Ananova.com 18.10.07. [33] Tekle v SSHD [2008] EWHC 3064 (Admin).

Uprising in Texas Immigrant Detention Facility owned by GEO Group

Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, 5 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders

GEO run Campsfield Detention Centre, in Oxfordshire.

smoke

Pic: Smoke floats over the prison yard and buildings of the Reeves County Detention Center Saturday night, Jan. 31, 2009, from fires set by inmates during a riot in the facility

Prisoners awaiting deportation who are being held in a private jail run by the GEO Group began a protest last Saturday, January 31. The protest began after a group of immigrant prisoners attempted to meet with the detention facility’s authorities, demanding that a gravely ill detainee be released from solitary confinement and be taken immediately to a hospital. The prison authorities refused to listen and did not take action.

After the inmates continued to raise their complaints to the guards and the warden about the treatment and deplorable conditions they were being subjected to in the “Reeves County Detention Facility” in Pecos, Texas, the detainees began a spontaneous protest. The prison authorities literally laughed at the immigrant detainees’ demands and told the prisoners that they had complete power over them and could do whatever they pleased.

After the detainees began a spontaneous protest, a melee ensued. A fire broke out during the protest and guards immediately left the premises, locking in the prisoners behind. Some prisoners broke windows to get to other detainees who were choking and fainting, overcome by the smoke. Then the guards got into SWAT vehicles (or some type of armored vehicle described as a “tortuga,” a turtle, by an inmate) and began firing teargas and rubber bullets at the prisoners who had been abandoned in the facility that was on fire.

Afterwards, the prison guards forced the immigrant inmates to stay outdoors in the prison facility yard on Saturday night. Since then, they have only been fed once a day; they have little or no water and have only three restroom facilities for almost 3,000 prisoners. Last night the prison authorities said they would let the inmates back into the facilities. But the prisoners are being forced back into a smoke-damaged building contaminated with carbon monoxide from the fire. The facility now has little or no ventilation since windows have been boarded up. The Geo Group already has more than 2,800 prisoners in a facility meant to hold 2,400. Now, GEO guards are trying to force them to be held in the hallways and in around the cells.

To see more on the Reeves County Facility:

Geo Group reported raking in $1.024 billion in revenues during 2007, with income totaling nearly $42 million. Besides the United States, the company manages prisons in several nations, including the United Kingdom, where it also provides immigrant detention services.

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org

Reeves County Detention Complex 98 West County Road 204 Pecos, TX 79772 Go to map TEL: (432) 447.2926 Fax: (432) 447.9224

Facility Operator: GEO Group This is a Private facility National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights