Child Detention: The Lowdown

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on Thursday, 10 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders

In May 2010, the new coalition government committed to ending child detention for immigration purposes. The ‘commitment’ had to wait another few months to materialise (only last week reports revealed that a 11-year-old girl had been detained at Tinsley House detention centre, near Gatwick, over Christmas). Meanwhile, the UK Border Agency has been experimenting with a new deportation process for families, spun as “a new, compassionate approach to family removals.” Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg went as far as claiming that this marked “an enormous culture shift within our immigration system.” But while many serious concerns regarding the rights and welfare of migrant families remain, the new system appears to have created a new market for detention and deportation profiteers.

New old pilots

The new deportation system for families involves three stages, euphemistically named Assisted Return, Required Return and Ensured Return. The idea is that measures taken to persuade or force a family to leave the country will get increasingly tougher the further through these stages the case progresses (for more details on the new system, see this ILPA info sheet). Along with these, three new schemes have been piloted in London and the North West: Family Conferences, Limited Notice (of removal) and Open Accommodation. Until 22nd November 2010, only the first two stages of the new process were being tested. In the six months since 1st June, however, out of 96 cases only two families took up the Assisted Return option and only one family was deported under Required Return. The Home Office appeared to be rather disappointed with the results, of course (see this interim assessment). And thus, two secure hostels, run by private accommodation providers, were identified in Liverpool and London to “ensure” the return of families who have exhausted the Assisted and Required Return routes but have “failed to comply” with the deportation orders. Here, families will be kept for a minimum of 72 hours before being forcibly deported, but can be kept for up to a month where removal is not possible for one reason or another. In line with the immigration newspeak, these new deportation hostels are being called ‘open accommodation’. A UKBA document, dated November 2010 and titled “Open Accommodation: Accommodating Families Outside of Detention”, describes the pilot scheme as “a radically different approach” to the way the UKBA deals with migrant families due for deportation that is designed to “secure departure without the need for immigration detention.” Explaining the rationale behind the pilot, the document goes on to state that, “We know that there will be some families who, despite our best efforts, will not comply with offers to leave… We consider that moving such families out of their existing accommodation and away from community links and ties they have built up will signal to them that they have reached the end of the road and enable them to understand that their removal will happen.” In other words, uprooting families from their communities will make deportation easier as families would not have access to the support networks they would have if they stayed in the community. Similar practices are followed by other European countries that already operate similar systems. This is not the first time that different types of temporary accommodation to house families prior to deportation have been used, with one such scheme still ongoing in Glasgow. A similar pilot was also tried for 10 months in 2007-2008 in Millbank, Kent. Evidence suggests that this pilot actually decreased the likelihood of families complying with the immigration authorities and many reported feeling “coerced and frightened” (see this independent evaluation). However, the use of the new deportation hostels differs from past attempts in that it is part of the last stage of a new deportation system to ‘ensure return.’ In other words, families are not taken to these hostels with the aim of ‘persuading’ them to leave the UK ‘voluntarily’. They are, rather, flagged for ‘open accommodation’ by a newly formed Family Returns Panel, on the recommendation of the UKBA ‘case owners’, due to their perceived ‘non-cooperation’ in the past. In most other cases, deportation will be carried out from the families’ existing accommodation (provided under sections 4 or 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999). But this might change soon if deportation hostels are rolled out. That, in essence, is the coalition government’s response to ending child detention.

Brigstock House

One of the places identified for the ‘open accommodation’ pilot is an anonymous-looking hostel in Thornton Heath, near Croydon. Brigstock House (57 Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath, CR7 7JH) is an eight-room, double-fronted detached Edwardian house, which has undergone some alterations. Since January 1991, it has been used as a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities, run by BDC Supporting Services, an umbrella group incorporating four residential care homes in the area (see here). According to UKBA documents, it has recently also been used for initial asylum accommodation, where people are housed temporarily upon arrival before they are ‘dispersed’ to other parts of the country. Following the announcement of the pilot scheme, it was decided to ‘convert’ part of Brigstock House to accommodate a selected number of families to be deported under the Ensured Return option, who will apparently be kept in a separate wing of the hostel on a full-board basis, with access to the communal bathrooms. Until June 2010, most asylum and bail hostels in the Greater London area were managed by private accommodation provider Clearsprings (Management) Ltd. The company is the third-largest asylum accommodation provider in the UK after the Angel Group and United Property Management, and is the main provider in the London area. In March 2006, it was awarded, along with seven other companies, a five-year contract worth £153,119,067. The Angel Group’s contract’s value was £275,441,736, and UPM’s £170,152,129. The division of the Clearsprings Group responsible for short-term accommodation has recently been renamed Ready Homes (see here). In June 2007, a new a government-funded scheme called Bail Accommodation and Support Service (BASS) was introduced to provide accommodation and ‘support services’ to people released from prison on bail or home detention curfew (HDC) but do not have a suitable address. For three years, BASS services were provided by ClearSprings. On 18 June 2010, a new three-year contract was awarded to housing charity Stonham (see here). A division of Home Group Ltd, Stonham is one of the UK’s largest providers of housing and support services for vulnerable people (see here). The UKBA has indicated that the new deportation hostels will be initially run be third-sector organisations – a typical first stage in privatisation processes. Brigstock House has a 24-hour ‘reception’ service, which will register families when they move in and out of the hostel and ask them to sign a daily register. The UKBA claims staff will not monitor the normal comings and goings of individual people but will know if a family does not return to the hostel and inform the immigration authorities immediately. The local immigration enforcement team to be responsible for Brigstock House is based at Becket House immigration reporting centre, near London Bridge.

How open is open?

The Home Office insists that “open accommodation is not detention.” Accommodation to be used in the pilot scheme is described in the afore-mentioned UKBA document as “a residential building where families will be free to come and go as they please.” This will apparently be similar to the initial accommodation used at the beginning of the asylum process before people are dispersed to privately provided accommodation in other parts of the country. Detention under immigration powers is defined as holding a person on UKBA-designated premises, whether they are taken there by an immigration officer or after attending there voluntarily, for any length of time (Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009). In other words, their freedom of movement is restricted and they are deprived of their liberty. Deportation hostels are clearly not ‘open’ in that sense as families are required to stay there overnight and their movement is constantly monitored. If anything, it is more like a house arrest. This is illustrated more clearly in another proposed ‘open accommodation’ facility in Crawley, Sussex (see below). A letter by the Home Office consultants sent to local residents to ‘reassure’ them about the new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ states that the facility will have a 2.5-metre perimeter fence. The UKBA also claims that transfer to Open Accommodation will be “on a voluntary basis.” However, families will be threatened that, if they refused to move, they might lose their existing accommodation and become destitute. That is hardly voluntary. The initial length of stay for families in ‘open accommodation’ will be 72 hours, or three days and three nights. Should their removal fail, however, their case will be referred back to the Family Returns Panel for further consideration, while the family remains in the hostel. The Panel will then consider whether any extension of stay is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. According to the pilot scheme proposals, the Panel may authorise an extended stay for up to 28 days. Where removal fails again (for example, if travel documents could not be obtained), the family will be transferred back to Section 95 or Section 4 accommodation in their previous region, but not at the same address where they were previously housed. It is not difficult to see how things could go wrong at each and every step of this process. After all, how many asylum seekers have been staying at the same ‘temporary’ accommodation, often in bad, uninhabitable conditions, for months and years?

Short notice

As indicated above, another new scheme introduced recently, besides Open Accommodation, is known as Limited Notice. This means issuing Removal Directions, or deportation order letters, without specifying the precise date for which the removal is set (see here). Like with charter flight deportations, which are subject to “special arrangements”, the letters only state that the removal will take place within 21 days and no sooner than 72 hours. There have already been legal and other challenges to this practice, as it often creates practical barriers to migrants accessing legal representation to challenge their removal and, therefore, increase the risk that people who have well-founded fears of persecution in their countries of origin may be forcibly deported from the UK. The uncertainty that this situation creates is also proven to cause considerable distress to families (see here, for example). Other options that are being considered by the Home Office include increasing the use of electronic tagging, increasing reporting restrictions, detaining one parent, or any combination of these. In the new family deportation system, when the local Immigration Team refers a ‘non-cooperating’ family to the Family Returns Panel, it will only notify the family and their legal representatives, seven days in advance of the move, that they will be moved to another accommodation in a different area, without making it clear that this will be to an ‘open accommodation’; “just in a different area and in different accommodation,” as the UKBA instructions state. Once there (at Brigstock House, say), they will be served with removal directions by an immigration officer from the local London region, with the ‘no sooner than 72 hours, no later than 21 days’ notice. Moreover, the immigration authorities will also inform the local authorities of the family’s move and that the family will “continue to be supported by UKBA, just in a different area,” in order to pre-empt any request by the family to the local authority for emergency accommodation on the basis that they will become homeless.

Welfare?

The UKBA documents outlining its ‘open accommodation’ plans claim that vulnerable families with specific medical needs are “not suitable for the open accommodation pilot.” However, the UK’s detention history shows that the agency simply disregards such concerns unless it is, occasionally, forced to revise its decisions by campaigners or courts. Indeed, hundreds of torture victims, people with HIV, pregnant women, children and people with serious medical problems have been swallowed by the brutal detention and deportation machine. The plans also claim that ‘open accommodation’ is consistent with Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, which requires the Home Office to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom,” and with the recommendations of the Child Detention Review that ended child detention. It is difficult to see how uprooting families from their communities and forcing them into poorly equipped, temporary hostels can be regarded as safeguarding their welfare. For example, the UKBA does not intend to “provide an exhaustive list of medical issues” that may prevent families being moved into open accommodation. Instead, the Family Returns Panel will be assessing families “on a case-by-case basis.” Brigstock House is allegedly provided with an “on-site health facility” that is staffed by a nurse. A GP is said to visit two days a week. Yet, it is well known from previous experience (in family detention centres) that this structure of provision is not capable of dealing with serious issues, such as distress and other psychological problems created by the asylum system. In fact, whereas detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood were provided with some sort of schooling for children, deportation hostels will have no such facility. Instead, children will be offered “age-related work packs.” This is justified with the argument that “families will be in Open Accommodation for as little as 72 hours,” despite admissions that they may stay for up to a month in some cases. Moreover, families in the pilot scheme will not be provided with any cash support. They will, therefore, have no money for travel to visit legal representatives, for example.

Trained?

The UKBA claims that all deportation hostel staff will be “fully CRB-checked, have had disability training and food safety training where appropriate, and have received training in conflict management.” However, judging from similar facilities run by private providers, such as initial asylum accommodation hostels, this sounds rather exaggerated. For example, many migrants who have been through such hostels confirm that ‘conflict management’ often means simply shutting people up or, where a distressed person or child may have caused ‘disruption’, calling the immigration authorities or police. Deportation hostel staff will also be instructed to immediately call the police when “third parties (for example, family associates or campaigning parties) interested in a particular family’s case” turn up at the hostel and “cause disruption.” The Family Returns Panel will be made up of members of the UK Border Agency and professionals from other agencies, who “may include” representatives from social services, the Department for Education and, “in some cases,” a health professional. The aim is that the Panel will consider the welfare of the family to decide what is the “most appropriate way” for the UKBA to ensure that the family leaves the UK. This aim, or assumption, will inevitably lead to a culture of institutional abuse and negligence, as detention centres have long shown.

New business opportunities for detention profiteers

As the ‘open accommodation’ pilot was being devised, the UKBA insisted that “any new approach to managing families must be affordable within the UK Border Agency’s settlement in the Comprehensive Spending Review.” The other consideration was “improving the speed of asylum decisions and case conclusions.” Indeed, the document outlining the plans was “first shared with corporate partners” on 8th November 2010, before being released to the public. The UKBA’s Corporate Partner Group, which provides “a forum for the agency’s chief executive and board to work more closely with our key partners on strategic issues and to share information regularly,” consists of representatives from a number of selected business and NGOs involved in the immigration and asylum system. These include the Board of Airline Representatives, the Confederation of British Industry, Refugee Council, the UNHCR, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association and so on (you can find a full list here). The group meets quarterly, enabling “open and constructive discussion” about how the UKBA should develop and deliver its policies. The agency also publishes a bi-monthly update for its corporate partners called UK Border Agency News (see here). These may be a good source of information but are also places where commercial intentions and plans are communicated to businesses looking out for new opportunities in the immigration market. Another such channel is the Commercial Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services (COMPASS), which was launched in 2009 to “provide ongoing contract provision for asylum and refugee support services.” After two ‘successful’ supplier conferences in October 2010, the UKBA has held a series of one-to-one meetings with “interested potential commercial partners” to “discuss the feasibility of the different contract delivery models.” And this brings us to another recent ‘open accommodation’ plan.

‘Pease pottage hot, pease pottage cold’

It has recently transpired that the UKBA has applied for planning permission to convert another facility, a residential school for children with behavioural and learning difficulties in Pease Pottage, Crawley, Sussex, into a ‘pre-departure accommodation facility’ – another euphemism for deportation hostels. The Crawley Forest School is owned by Crossroads Childrens Education Services Ltd., a private company wholly owned by its director Sunita Arora, the wife of Surinder Arora, the owner and founder of Arora International Hotels. No open procurement tendering process for the facility, as required by EU and UK legislation, has taken place, which suggests that there may have been some dodgy, behind-closed-doors deal between the UKBA and the Arora Group, following the latter’s failure to gain a slice of the detention market last year (see below). The school itself, which has been told to vacate the property by 1st April 2011, was apparently unaware of the new plans until it was contacted by campaigners. The new facility, which will have the capacity to accommodate eight families, is intended to open in mid-May. The Home Office will lease the building from Crossroads, whilst the day-to-day running of the centre will be outsourced to a ‘third-sector’ provider. In an attempt to avoid a repeat of previous embarrassing experiences, a ‘consultation letter’, dated 25th January 2011, has been sent to local residents on behalf of the Home Office by private consultation firm CgMs Consulting, trying to convince them of the new project (a copy of the letter can be found here). Citing the coalition government’s policy on ending child detention, the letter argues that “the need remains to provide a suitable facility to accommodate families whose removal from the UK is being enforced.” And this “pre-departure accommodation,” it claims, “provides that solution.” This is partly justified by the site’s proximity to Gatwick and Heathrow airports, implying that this would make deportations easier. The letter then reassures residents that the facility already has a 2.5m palisade fence, with electronic entrance gates, and that “there is no requirement to alter this boundary treatment.” It also claims that families will be accommodated for a maximum of 72 hours or, in exceptional cases, for up to one week, which is not exactly accurate. As to the timescale, the letter apologises for the short notice and claims that this was due to “the closure of previous facilities” (meaning family wings at immigration detention centres) and that it is important for the government’s new plans that the new facility is operational by 11 May 2011. The letter also claims that the Crawley Forest School currently has only 8 residential pupils, despite having the ability to house 35 residential and 35 day pupils, making the project “unviable.” The school management, however, disputes this claim and says the school was only ever equipped to accommodate 12 to 18 pupils. CgMs has worked for the Home Office as a “consultant on property matters” since 1997 (see here). Its portfolio includes “providing advice on numerous existing and new Removal Centres nationwide.” These apparently include “20-30 proposed Immigration Accommodation Centres nationwide before the Accommodation Centre policy was changed by the Government.” The company has also been involved in “advice, applications and appeals for related Reception, Induction, Reporting and Hearing Centres.” The reason for this, in the words of the company, is that “because of the nature of the users, these have nearly always proved controversial, involving sensitive and comprehensive consultation with local residents, councillors and other stakeholders.” In 2009, Arora Management Services, which owns a series of luxury hotels close to airports, applied to the Crawley Borough Council for permission to convert its four-star hotel Mercure, near Gatwick, into an immigration detention centre, driven by “a decline in business” (see this Corporate Watch article for details). The move sparked a concerted campaign against Arora by No Borders and other anti-detention activists, with protests and actions taking place at Arora hotels across the country. The Crawley Borough Council’s Development Control Committee eventually rejected the planning application. Since news of the plan for the new deportation hostel in Pease Pottage transpired, No Borders has announced that it will immediately start a campaign against the new facility (see here). “If Arora thought they can get this through without anybody noticing it,” a spokesperson for the group said, “they have failed”.

Article Produced by Corporate Watch

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Cameron’s Munich speech marks securitisation of race policy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Tuesday, 8 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders

> By Liz Fekete (Institute Race Relations)

7 February 2011, 4:00pm

Cameron’s speech signals a fundamental departure in British race relations.

Why did British prime minister Cameron choose to attack ‘the doctrine of state multiculturalism’ and indicate the parameters of the government’s new counter-terrorism policy at an international security conference in Munich?

The Munich International Security Conference was founded in 1962 and focuses on transatlantic relations and global security, attracting an audience of leading US and European politicians, military, security experts, scientists. media etc. In delivering his speech, Cameron clearly had in his sights a domestic audience, wooing the Sun and the Daily Mail, both of which, in calling for the disciplining of Muslim communities, have promoted a crude British nationalism based on uncritical support for the armed services and military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Only the day before. the Daily Mail had carried a feature attacking two Birmingham Muslim councillors, Salma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq, for refusing to participate in a standing ovation for a British soldier awarded the George Cross for bravery in Afghanistan.) But Cameron’s speech was also intended to send a clear signal to the United States and the European center-Right that Britain would no longer pursue different ethnic minority and race policies from its European counterparts. In particular, Cameron was showing his support for Angela Merkel and her German Christian Democrat party’s idea that security and cohesion are brought about not through integration and pluralism, but through monoculturalism and assimilation into the dominant Leitkultur (lead culture).

Cameron’s speech was reported as a trailer for the up-and-coming government counter-terrorism review and Lord Carlile’s review of the Prevent strategy. And it is here that Cameron indicated to a German security audience support for the German intelligence services’ approach to the compartmentalisng of Muslim organisations into ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’, with greater surveillance of those deemed ‘illegitimate’. In his speech, Cameron promised that the British government would no longer fund or share platforms with Muslim organisations that, while non-violent, were also a part of the problem because they belonged to a ‘spectrum’ of Islamism. While those who openly support terrorism are at the ‘furthest end’ of this spectrum, it also includes many Muslims who accept ‘various parts of the extremist world view’ including ‘real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values’.

In this, what should be feared is that Cameron is indicating that the government’s review of counter-terrorism policy has been greatly influenced by the approach taken by the German intelligence services (Verfassungsschutz) which has at its base a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate Muslim organisations coupled with the most widespread system of religious profiling in Europe. Verfassungsschutz manuals also outline a ‘spectrum’ of radicalisation’ and include a classification scheme for Muslims which regard the highly religious as just a notch or two below the potentially violent on a continuation of radicalisation. (In fact, the pyramid structure that the German intelligence services use to express this spectrum of radicalisation has already been adapted by the British intelligence services.) The upshot of the German approach is that a number of representative Muslim organisations, while not proscribed as terrorist organisations, are deemed unconstitutional and a threat to German values. As such, they are kept out of official government dialogue mechanisms and do not receive any public funding. Not only are they placed under state surveillance, even though the government acknowledges that they do not promote violence, but members of so-called unconstitutional organisations may also be subjected to reduced employment opportunities in certain professions, and excluded from citizenship via naturalisation. It is an approach that, in 2007, came under severe criticism from the International Crisis Group which defined it as comprising a ‘slippery slope’ view of Islamic extremism, which by lumping together many non-violent organisations with ‘a few potentially violent group’s created a blunt instrument for countering terrorism that leads to stigmatisation (Read an IRR News story: ‘Germany: intelligence services target Muslims’ (http://www.irr.org.uk/2007/april/ha000010.html)).

Another point of note is that Cameron in attacking ‘the doctrine of state multiculturalism’ was sending a signal that government policy in future will not be built on pluralism or integration but monoculturalism, assimilation, exclusion (and surveillance) of those Muslim organisations which refuse to play ball. With the ditching of multiculturalism, also goes the ditching of ‘race relations’ based on the Roy Jenkins model of ‘equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’. And if we are really to go down the German route of monoculturalism, ‘race relations’ policy will also transform beyond recognition, as monoculturalism presupposes the subsumption of the minority under the majority. From now on, ‘ethnic minority’ policy will not only be securitised but will act as an adjunct to anti-terrorist laws.

—-
FOOTNOTE

Is Child Detention Really to End?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on Friday, 4 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders

...because London No Borders have got hold of a letter from a hotel company planning to turn a former childrens home into a immigration detention centre.The letter makes no secret that the facility is planned to replace the use of Yarl’s Wood and nearby Tinsley House detention facilities for holding families and children, and explicitly refers to this fact as an explanation of the need for urgency. The letter also explicitly refers to children inside the holding centre.

Lets make One thing clear: imprisonment  is unacceptable for adults or children.

Full article by London No Borders Below:

ondon NoBorders has received information that the hotel company Arora
International ( in form of their branchArora Management Services
Limited) has started a second attempt to make money from the Home
Office’s deportation business. The company plans to use the site of a
residential school for children with behavioural and learning
difficulties in Pease Pottage, Crawley, Sussex owned by the Arora Group
subsidiary “The Crossroads Childrens (sic) Education Services Ltd.”,
into an immigration detention facility. It is the second attempt by
Arora Hotels to extend their business into detention following the
company’s failure to gain planning permission to turn one of their
hotels in Crawley into a holding facility for immigrants in 2010.
Crawley Forest School has been told to vacate the property by 1 April
2011.

First Contact

On 25th January planning consultant CGMS sent out a letter informing
about Arora Hotel’s plans. They plan to push the process through within
weeks, having the detention facility ready by mid-May.

The letter makes no secret that the facility is planned to replace the
use of Yarl’s Wood and nearby Tinsley House detention facilities for
holding families and children, and explicitly refers to this fact as an
explanation of the need for urgency. The letter also explicitly refers
to children inside the holding centre. Not only is the UKBA extending
their detention capacity, but the government is also breaking their
pledge to end the detention of children.

Arora try to legitimise their rush by starting some kind of “community
process”, but silently hoping that the process would go through
unnoticed. In this they have failed.

CGMS ends their letter saying that they “would welcome any comments you
may have on the proposal and [they] would be happy to answer any
queries.”

So they want your feedback, and we think they should get it.

What to do?

We are asking people to do exactly what they ask for: contact CGMS and
Arora Hotels and let them know your opinion about the planned detention
centre for families. To make it easier for them to deal with incoming
queries and to bundle the feedback nicely, we propose that you contact
them

between Monday 7 February 10am and Tuesday 8 February 5pm.

Stay polite, stay firm!

Spread the word!

Arora/CGMS wanted to push this through without being noticed. Help us to
spread the word, ask your friends to join #Operation_FirstContact.

link to : http://london.noborders.org.uk/firstcontact

Who to contact?

Convieniently, we have collected a list of public contacts of both Arora
Hotels and CGMS here:

CGMS
London:
Tel: 020 7583 6767
london@cgms.co.uk

Birmingham:
Tel: 0121 616 4850
birmingham@cgms.co.uk

More contacts at:
http://www.cgms.co.uk/page/Contact_9/1.html

Arora
Head Office:
Marketing
Marketing@arorahotels.com

Press and Media
PublicRelations@arorahotels.com

Head Office enquiries
HeadOffice@arorahotels.com

Public Inquieries:
+44 (0)20 8757 7770
PublicRelations@arorahotels.com

+44 (0)1293 530 000
Gatwick@arorahotels.com

+44 (0)20 8759 7777
Heathrow@arorahotels.com

+44 (0)161 236 8999
Manchester@arorahotels.com

Bristol No Borders: Solidarity Statement to Greek Hunger Strikers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on Wednesday, 2 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders

On January 25, 300 migrant workers went on hunger strike in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Their main demand is to be legalized. As of 2nd Feburary their struggle continues.

Messages have come from all around the World. We wish to add ours.

The Border between Greece and the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most heavily militarized in the World with the EU’s unaccountable and armed paramilitary security force – FRONTEX – patrolling, now not only the seas, but more recently. the border between Turkey and Greece..

Hundreds have perished in the seas, some having their boats deliberately capsized by FRONTEX patrols..

Those who make it (and those who don’t) are actively challenging the rationale of the securitization of our borders and the social and economic inequalities that they protect.

We send our message of thanks to the hunger strikers for standing up to the brutality of the border regime(s) that will sooner or later effect us all.

Moughane Abdulhaq must stay!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Wednesday, 2 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders


Deportation successfully stopped
After 12 years in the UK, Bristol resident Abdul Huq Moughane was due to be deported from London to Morocco on Monday 31st January.
Moughane left Morocco after having been imprisoned, tortured and falsely accused of writing graffiti insulting the King in 1994. He had been imprisoned for eight months, had electric shocks in his head, and screws attached to him so that every time he moved they dug deeper into his body. He still has the scars.
On contemplating his return, his face contorted with fear, he says, ‘if I thought I would face a short time of torture, I could manage, I have come through that before. But if they hear I tried to claim asylum abroad, I will never see the sun again’.
After 12 years in the UK, Moughane has a wide circle of friends and supporters.
‘I will do all I can to prevent Moughane being snatched from us, he is like part of our family’, says Louisa Maynard, 29 year old drama therapist.
‘My 3 year old son always looks forward to playing with Moughane. When I try to explain where Moughane is, my son asks ‘but why?’ There is no answer I can give’, says Rebecca Yeo, 44 year old researcher.
Six Bristolians travelled to Heathrow to speak to passengers scheduled on the same flight as Moughane. Passengers were overwhelmingly supportive, many agreeing to talk to the crew and to refuse to fly with Moughane on board.
Other supporters were ringing the airline, contacting MPs, looking for solicitors, and demonstrating support at College Green.
Despite all these efforts Moughane was taken onto the plane. He began shouting for help, struggling in his handcuffs, severely injuring his arm.
At last, just moments before take off, the pilot announced he would not carry Moughane. He was taken off the plane and back to the detention centre.
The threat of deportation has not gone. He has been told he will be removed same time next week. Friends and supporters are working round the clock to find him legal help and prevent the removal.

Moughane left Morocco after having been imprisoned for eight months, and accused of writing graffiti insulting the King in 1994.
On contemplating his return, his face contorted with fear, he says, ‘if I thought I would face a short time of torture, I could manage, I have come through that before. But when they hear I tried to claim asylum abroad, I would never see the sun again’.

Moughane’s parents died in 2000, and he was unable to see them before they died. His brother committed suicide in Morocco in 2010. He is no longer in contact with any friends or family in Morocco.

After 13 years in the UK, Moughane has a wide circle of friends and supporters of all ages and backgrounds.
‘It is so unjust that Moughane is being snatched from us, he is like part of our family’ says Louisa Maynard, 29 year old drama therapist.
Support Moughane and his campaigners in his fight to stay in the UK.

January in Calais

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Sunday, 30 January, 2011 by bristolnoborders

NEWS AND REPORTS FROM ACTIVISTS ON THE GROUND: http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/

Friday 28th

This morning a Sudanese man from Africa house hurt himself when falling while running from police and has been taken to hospital.

Thursday 27th

Another raid of Africa house, 10 arrests in the morning.

Friday 21st January

There was a mass raid of Africa House this morning. PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) and the new unit of CRS arrived at the back of the building with six vans. CMS activists were immediately removed from the premises and could only watch as doors were kicked in, CS gas was sprayed and over 20 people were arrested. The officers were seen to be enjoying themselves while climbing about on the roof and kept posing for photographs with their guns. One officer remarked to the activists that it was all “just a game”.

Thursday 20th January

Still no news of the missing Palestinians. Instead, the PAF has been repeatedly raiding the squats of the Palestininas.

Cooking materials were taken over to Palestine House and a large communal meal was cooked between CMS activists and the residents of the house. Everyone had good fun with paint and decorated the walls with Arabic, English and French slogans of freedom.

A Palestinian man was arrested and interrogated by police about No Borders. He has now been released.

A new compagnie of CRS arrived this evening: unit 11.

Wednesday 19th January

PAF came to Africa House twice this morning; once at 5.00am and then again at 6.30am. No arrests were made but everyone was woken up by torches being shoved into their faces.

The police raided the food distribution place, taking tents that some boys had been living in. They also took all their personal belongings, like clothes and their ID papers.

A private squat was evicted – all people arrested. The house was then boarded up.

A sound system was taken to Palestine House. People spent all evening dancing and having an Arabic/English phrase swapping session. It was a beautiful night of incredible dance moves and the breaking down of language barriers.

Tuesday 18th January

PAF arrived at Africa House at 7.00am this morning and tried to batter their way in past the barricades. Once they discovered it was easier to get out of the car and move them by hand they were able to get in. At the moment it seems the police are enjoying playing games and so instead of even trying to arrest people they just drove about inside shining lights and disturbing those who wanted to sleep.

One man in Africa House was taken ill and an ambulance had to be called. At first they refused to come out but after the sixth call some paramedics arrived in a fire truck and took him to hospital. He was discharged later that day with a packet of pain killers even though he could barely walk.

Monday 17th January

PAF came to Africa House in the morning but made no arrests.

English and French lessons are continuing with great enthusiasm and attendance at Africa House. Todays lessons stretched on for hours – until it was too dark to see the board.

Sunday 16th January

Two young Palestinians missing while trying to cross

Two young Palestinians aged 16 and 18 went to try and cross to England via the Eurostar Tunnel. The two boys hid in a water pipe connected with the reservoir. Two other men who were behind witnessed the scene – one was arrested and held for 24 hours in police station, the other escaped; they say the security let the dog off the lead, the dog had a muzzle on and could not bite but it may have caused the boys to panic and go further into the water pipe, where they may have fallen into the water and drowned. The fire brigade has been searching the bottom of the reservoir, but there is a grill in the pipe before it joins the it. The two Palestinians who were with the missing boys went to the police station yesterday, together with two volunteers from associations to provide information, but there is still no news. It has been three days since the two boys went missing. They had just arrived in Calais and not even the other Palestinians know their names.

A CMS activist was also controlled in Carrefour.

Saturday 15th January

The PAF (Police Aux Frontieres – border police) drove into Africa House (a squat home to large numbers of African migrants) with great speed, scaring many people onto the roof, but they did not attempt to arrest anyone. Instead, they collected all the artwork that was drying in the corner of the warehouse, bundled it into their van and drove out again blasting music.

The Hazara Jungle was raided at 12.30am. Eight PAF officers made three arrests including one man with papers and one underage boy (who was then held in Coquelles for 24 hours).

Friday 14th January

Africa house was not raided this morning but the CRS went there three times pretending to go in, then when everybody ran they went back to their van and drove off. They kept prowling the streets where people use to get to the food distribution site and chased a group of Pashtun children on their way, although no arrests were made. Most of the people in Africa house missed their breakfast for fear of being arrested.

Thursday 13th January

At least five people were arrested at Africa House just before 8.00am. The police entered from the back of the building and conducted a small raid on the language teaching cabins.

PAF were doing their usual sweep of town, this morning, when they recognised and stopped a CMS activist in the shopping centre. One officer threatened him with a beating and then told him that the police ´Don´t want Migrants here´.

At just past 8.00am the CRS pulled into the train station and stopped four Vietnamese people who were waiting for a train. They were questioned for papers and then detained on the pavement outside for over twenty minutes while the police waited for an arrest van.

The squat known as ‘Paradise House’ was raided this morning at 10.00am. There are no confirmed arrests.

Wednesday 12th January

Africa house raided, mass arrests made.

Africa house was raided this morning by PAF and CRS around 8 am. They arrived in 5 police vans and two cars with 2 arrest vans. They made an incredibly thorough search of the buildings with ladders, ripping doors from hinges and destroying the barricades to the upstairs rooms. At least 20 arrests were made; all those not arrested were made to leave, including CMS activists and charity workers who were present. Several blankets and the CMS tents were taken by council workers and they bulldozed the small barricade that was set up at the entrance to stop the police entering. After the police left the people returned and CMS activists helped to replace the doors and rebuild the barricades.

To lift the mood, paints, brushes and huge rolls of paper were brought to Africa House and some of the more creative residents painted beautiful pictures, wrote poetry and slogans of freedom and love.

The CRS have been roaming the streets arresting people at random, in the streets, at the train station etc. PAF breached the agreement with the associations and arrested one man outside the gates of evening food distribution. After a small scuffle with CMS activists and some of the charity workers, PAF drove the man away to Coquelles detention centre where he was held for 20 minutes, finger printed and released.

The Iranian squat was closed and boarded up, forcing all the residents to sleep on the streets, in the rain.

Tuesday 11th January

7.30am – Palestine House was raided this morning 7.30 am and six people were arrested.
They returned two times more during the day without arresting anyone.

PAF went to Africa house in the evening around 8 pm, apparently looking for Afghans who may (or may be not) sleeping there. They did not find any Afghans and went away empty handed after searching all the buildings.

The Iranians were arrested again and taken to Coquelles as soon as they went to their squat.

Monday 10th January

There was no breakfast provided this morning by Salam. CMS distributed pastries, bread and sandwiches but most people went hungry until lunchtime distribution.

The Kurdish Jungle was raided in the night, 5 confirmed arrests, maybe more.

The Iranian house was also raided twice in the night, everyone was arrested and taken to Coquelles police station, then, just after they returned to their squat after walking one hour in the rain, arrested and taken to Coquelles again – including a man who is sick with the flu. It seems sleep is a privilege only for those with papers.

Sunday 9th January

Hazara Jungle raided in the night, two arrests made.

Friday 7th January

It seems that the police have been spreading a rumour amongst the Migrants that the UK is closed to refugees and that there is ‘ no more asylum to give’.

No raid on Africa House this morning but the Iranian house was visited by PAF and everyone was kicked out onto the street. The police are just roaming through the streets picking people up. Many Africans and Afghans, some as young as 10, are being constantly arrested and re-arrested all day.

Thursday 6th January

The BCMO – cold weather shelter has now closed because the temperature rose to above freezing today. The temperature has since plummeted with a lot of rain and wind but no sign of the shelter opening again. CMS and all the charity associations have been kept very busy desperately trying to find bedding, tents and waterproof clothing for the over a hundred of people now sleeping on the streets. CRS and PAF have also been very busy chasing them and arresting them when they are most vulnerable.

Wednesday 5th January

Africa house raided this morning, all CMS Activists arrested.
8.00am – PAF and CRS did a joint operation, entering the property from the front and back. Activists were immediately shoved into a corner and were searched thoroughly. Despite protests, males officers searched female activists. Everyone was then handcuffed and given no explanation for there arrest. The police seemed perplexed that there were so few activists on the ground that morning and asked after specific activists by name..

Before the activists were driven away to the police station they spotted seven arrests of Migrants and what looked like a full scale eviction.
Upon arrival at Coquelles detention centre CMS were almost the only people in custody but by 1.00pm the cells were full, with mostly African Migrants. By 4.00pm most of the Migrants had been released but CMS still remained, ears ringing with police threats of jail. The whole operation in Coquelles was very unprofessional as interviews were conducted in busy offices. One activist was locked into a toilet and forgotten about. All activists were released around 7pm.

Tuesday 4th January

A relatively quiet day in Calais today for everyone. Not too many police on the streets, making only a few arrests throughout the day. CMS activists were able to catch up on the usual distribution of shoes, bedding and sim cards. A very well attended and lively english lesson was conducted at Africa House, (the subject today – irregular verbs) which involved much laughter as the activists had to mime all sorts of strange actions!

Monday 3rd January

Two cars of PAF officers arrived at Africa House this morning and decided that instead of conducting a raid on the Sans-Papiers they would beat up the CMS activists who were on morning watch, instead. Batons, fists, and boots were used as activists were thrown to the ground, slammed into walls and choked. A female activist was kicked in the stomach, hit round the head with a baton, thrown to the ground and strangled for trying to stop an officer hitting someone. Another two activists were kicked in the face and thrown into the road for blowing a whistle – the officer (once he had smashed the offending whistle) remarked that we blow the whistles and wake up everyone on the street every morning and that this was not good. He seemed to casually gloss over the fact that he comes to Africa House every morning to wake people up and arrest them, I guess it just goes to show the mentality of the French police – Migrants are not people in their eyes.

The CRS spent the morning roaming around and made several arrests of African Migrants who were walking back to Africa House from food distribution. They then followed and tried to arrest people walking back to the jungles out by the ferry port, three people got chased on foot and so climbed the fence into the locked up food distribution area. The CRS followed and climbed the fences catching and arresting two, one guy managed to get out the other side and hide in a garden, the police drove by several times and didnt spot him but unfortunately he didnt get away as a passerby called to the police and showed them where he was hiding. One CMS activist also got arrested after trying to intervene in the peoples escape, he was released four hours later after a full ID check in Coquelles with all the other Sans-Papiers.

Sunday 2nd January

Everyone got a surprise – including us – when they got to food distribution in the morning to find that all the barbed wire (which usually covers the tops of the fences, turning a space for meals into a prison) had been removed from the fences and placed in the big wheelie bins during the night. CMS activists with the help of some athletic Afghan lads then decorated the fences with banners in English, Arabic and French, wishing everyone a Happy New Year – Free from Borders!

English lessons are still continuing strong in Africa House and they are now being joined by art sessions too. Being able to let go of everything in Calais is something very important and so the recent arrival of a portable sound system has been very popular, especially with the young Afghan boys who have delighted in showing everyone some of their dance moves. This evening the music was taken to the BCMO cold weather shelter where within minutes there were over twenty people clapping and watching in awe at an eleven year old Afghan boy and his enchanting dancing. The CRS made an appearance but nobody ran, they just clapped and cheered louder, sending them on their way.

Saturday 1st January (New Years day)

Lunchtime food distribution was served by L’Auberge de Migrants who decided to brighten the mood by taping paper table cloths to the tops of the bins. A Samba band from Germany also played some awesome tunes and got people dancing. After about a minutes notice from CMS the Samba band moved out onto the street and (with banners appearing from nowhere) it turned into a small New Years Day noise demo processing up through town to the shopping centre. The locals looked on with smiles and cheers and the small group of activists and migrants grew by one when a passer-by stopped her car and left her husband and children to join in the march – fist raised and chanting loudly! The peaceful, colourful and cheery gaggle of people stopped outside of the shopping centre and a banner was hung from the christmas decorations proclaming – HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE NO BORDERS! Within moments of the banner being hung the police arrived and officers were seen to be putting on riot helmets and pulling out batons. Everybody scattered and the police took chase. Two activists were cornered down an alleyway and choked by police, the banner ripped from them. Two others were controlled and released – nobody else was caught.

Public spending cuts savage dispersal system

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Friday, 28 January, 2011 by bristolnoborders


By Jon Burnett (Institute of Race Relations)

27 January 2011, 5:00pm
Dispersal policies are polarising city councils, with some having their contracts terminated and others abdicating their responsibilities to house asylum seekers.

In January 2011 the North East Contracting Consortium for Asylum Support issued a press statement, through Newcastle City Council, announcing that it was considering mounting a legal challenge against the UK Border Agency (UKBA). UKBA had informed the Consortium that its contract for housing asylum seekers was being terminated and, instead, being awarded to a property development organisation, Jomast. The Consortium, made up of seven local authorities in the north-east, housed 1,100 people and had been providing accommodation for asylum seekers dispersed to the region for ten years. In its press statement, it maintained that, ‘Putting all delivery into the hands of the private sector could deprive asylum seekers and communities of the extensive expertise and resources which councils can provide … We have consistently been judged by the UKBA to provide a quality service and to base such a major decision apparently in terms of immediate price, rather than overall cost benefit, is disappointing’.[1]

If the legal challenge goes ahead, it appears that it will be the first of its kind to confront a decision to withdraw funding for housing provision. Yet the decision itself is the latest in a series of steps which have marked a gradual shift in dispersal policies: one which has seen local authorities abdicating, or being absolved of, their responsibilities to house and provide shelter for asylum seekers.
Asylum dispersal: a history of exploitation, vulnerability and racial violence

The dispersal of asylum seekers around the UK has been subjected to considerable criticism. Instigated by the Labour government in 1999, in an attempt to reduce the concentration of asylum seekers in London and the south east, it meant people being housed on a ‘no-choice’ basis in towns and cities throughout the UK. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) was established to administer dispersal, and effectively, removed asylum seekers from mainstream welfare services.

Financial support (initially in the form of vouchers) was set at thirty per cent less than the value of income support and a complex market of housing provision was created. Lucrative contracts to house asylum seekers were frequently taken up by local authorities, sub-contracted to accommodation providers and then sub-contracted further to private landlords. The result was a housing system which in many instances was poorly regulated, substandard and unsafe.

Complaints by asylum seekers were routine and when investigations were carried out they uncovered evidence of uninhabitable conditions. In 2004, for example, the Home Office announced that it was terminating its contract with Landmark Liverpool Ltd, stating that the majority of their properties ‘were below an acceptable standard. Many had insect infestations, damp and poor electrical installations’.[2]

Houses were often provided in hard-to-let and dilapidated areas. Racist attacks against asylum seekers dramatically increased as dispersal policies were introduced. In 2002 the Home Office disclosed that approximately 2,000 racially motivated attacks had been carried out on asylum seekers in the two years since the policy had been introduced. Some, such as those on Firsat Dag in the Sighthill area of Glasgow in 2001 and Peiman Bahmani in Sunderland in 2002, were fatal. Other people, isolated and frightened, took their own lives.[3]
Reduced local authority care

In 2004 six police forces were reported to have requested suspensions of dispersals within their localities, in part because of the frequency and severity of racist violence.[4] Yet, despite clear evidence that dispersal policies had created fertile ground for violence and exploitation, decisions on ongoing contract procurement appeared to be underpinned more by financial considerations than the protection of those seeking safety in the UK.

Contracts for housing asylum seekers were initially offered for a fixed number of years. In 2006, as the second round of housing agreements were being negotiated, the then immigration minister Tony McNulty announced his intention to further increase private sector provision, stating ‘We want that degree of flexibility and contingency built into the contracts to reflect numbers as they go up and down. I think the private sector is better placed to respond to that type of contract’.[5] NASS had already terminated its agreement with Southampton City Council, ostensibly in response to decreasing numbers of people claiming asylum in the UK. And the renewal of housing arrangements saw numerous public bodies losing their contracts as well. As a representative of the Yorkshire and Humberside Consortium for Asylum Seekers and Refugees warned, after several housing associations in the district lost their contract, such decisions could potentially cause disruption to families and to children’s education as new accommodation providers re-housed them.[6]

But whilst certain public authorities and bodies had their contracts terminated, other city councils voluntarily withdrew from their arrangements with the UKBA. In February 2006 Wigan Council announced that it was opting out of its housing pact, enabling private accommodation providers to fill the gap and to release council properties ‘to address local housing needs and create an opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees on the Gateway Protection Programme’.[7] And in 2010, as the second round of housing arrangements began to draw to a close, Birmingham City Council declared that it had turned down a renewal of its contract; maintaining that, ‘we must help the citizens of this city first and foremost … With a long waiting list for homes, we really need all our properties for our people in these difficult economic times. In the interest of local people, this decision has been made’.[8] Days later Wolverhampton Council took the same decision, stating that, ‘This has been a difficult decision to make, but one that is in the interests of local people on our housing waiting list’.[9]
A third round of housing contracts

Now, a third round of housing contracts is being negotiated, channelled through the Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services (COMPASS) project set up in 2009.

This venture, launched by UKBA, scheduled bidding events for March 2011. As such the contracts procured through the project will be overshadowed by the coalition government’s commitment to reduce expenditure on provisions for asylum seekers amidst a wider programme of savage public spending cuts. The outcome of the government’s spending review, on 20 October 2010, prompted UKBA publicly to state its intention to ‘drive down the cost of asylum support’; continuing to assert that ‘The agency will save around £500m in efficiencies by reducing support costs, improving productivity and value for money for commercial suppliers’.[10] About two weeks later one implication of this decision was made clear.

In November 2010 all of the (approximately) 600 asylum seeking families in Glasgow, housed by the city council, received letters from UKBA saying that the council would no longer be supporting them. They were told that they were to be moved to other locations in Scotland and that non-cooperation could lead to the withdrawal of all support. Families were informed that they would be given between three and five days’ notice of any decision and, the same day, the city council was informed that their housing contract was being terminated.[11]

After significant public campaigning these eviction letters were withdrawn and in January 2011 immigration minister Damien Green apologised for their ‘inappropriateness’. But the fear that families have, that they and their children will be uprooted once more, remains.
Lessons learned?

In over ten years of asylum dispersal the patterns of exploitation, racist violence and social isolation which initially emerged have persisted. In 2009 for example Jasraj Kataria, a 23-month-old child, died after falling from the window of a third floor flat in Glasgow provided by NASS. The company whose property it was, the Angel Group, insisted that the windows were fitted with locks, but refused to make public the findings of its investigation into his death.[12] A year later a NASS accommodation provider, which had provided properties in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, was reported to be in a legal dispute with the Home Office with both parties alleging the other owed it money. According to one analysis, the Home Office claimed that the accommodation provider ‘sometimes provided “sub-standard, uninhabitable, or unsafe” housing, with some properties suffering blocked drains, broken doors and windows, and vermin infestations’.[13]

The coalition government is casting aside a whole swathe of services of which housing support is one, including funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses and legal aid for migrants and asylum seekers.[14]

Read in this context; with some local authorities admitting publicly that they no longer wish to house asylum seekers in their locality and others losing contracts to more ‘flexible’ private accommodation providers, those seeking safety in the UK face being dispersed into areas which are potentially both increasingly hostile and under-equipped to provide for their needs. At the same time, the shift in the award of contracts may portend less regulation and less accountability.

References: [1] North East Contracting Consortium for Asylum Support, Press statement (January 2011). [2] Home Office, ‘Termination Of National Asylum Support Service (Nass) Contract With Landmark Liverpool Ltd’, Home Office Press Release (25 March 2004), http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/press-releases/Termination_Of_National_Asylum_S. [3] See Harmit Athwal, Death trap: the human cost of the war on asylum (London, Institute of Race Relations, 2004). [4] Dominic Casciani, ‘Asylum city dispersals suspended’, BBC news (15 November 2004), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/4013431.stm. [5] Andy Ricketts, ‘McNulty favours private sector for asylum provision’, Inside Housing (31 March 2006), http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/mcnulty-favours-private-sector-for-asylum-provision/1447452.article. [6] Ben Cook, ‘Asylum seekers face turmoil as NASS contract is ended’, Inside Housing (17 February 2006), http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/asylum-seekers-face-turmoil-as-nass-contract-is-ended/1447297.article. [7] Wigan Council, Committee Report: Update on Asylum Seeker Contracts and Gateway Protection Programme (Wigan, Wigan Council, 2006). [8] Neil Elkes, ‘Birmingham city council ends asylum seeker housing contract’, Birmingham Mail (9 October 2010), http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2010/10/09/birmingham-city-council-ends-asylum-seeker-housing-contract-97319-27434645/. [9] Express & Star, ‘Wolverhampton council says no to more asylum seekers’, Express & Star (11 October 2010), http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2010/10/11/wolverhampton-council-says-no-to-more-asylum-seekers/. [10] UK Border Agency, UK Border Agency News, Issue 4 November 2010 (London, UK Border Agency 2010), p. 3. [11] Frances Webber, ‘Asylum-seeking families in Glasgow face imminent move’, IRR news (18 November 2010), http://www.irr.org.uk/2010/november/ha000035.html. [12] Harmit Athwal, Driven to desperate measures: 2006-2010, (London, Institute of Race Relations, 2010), p. 18. [13] Jeanette Oldham, ‘Home Office in court battle over asylum missing millions’, Sunday Mercury (5 December 2011), http://www.sundaymercury.net/news/sundaymercuryexclusives/2010/12/05/sunday-mercury-investigation-home-office-in-court-battle-over-asylum-missing-millions-66331-27768242/. [14] Anne Singh and Frances Webber, ‘Excluding migrants from justice: the legal aid cuts’, IRR briefing paper no. 7 (London, Institute of Race Relations, 2010).
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.