While the UK gutter press sinks to new lows of vicious nationalism and racism (giving us a taste of what to expect in the EU referendum) …
…serious and decent people like the author of Obsolete (a blog that I’d wrongly assumed was EU -sceptic) recognise that the only hope of a fair, rational and reasonably humane response has to be Europe-wide – in other words depends upon the EU operating as a trans-national, federal body:
“The only way to deal with the numbers coming fairly is to distribute them evenly between EU member states on the basis of a country’s wealth, size and number of those already settled of the same heritage, to identify just three possible factors to be taken into consideration. This approach would have some major problems: the resettling would have to be done almost immediately after the application is made, to ensure a family or person isn’t then wrenched away from somewhere they’ve come to call home a second time. It would almost certainly have to happen before an application is either approved or rejected, with all the difficulties that entails for cross-border information sharing and language barriers. It would also mean countries that have previously experienced mainly emigration rather than immigration needing to accept some newcomers. As has been shown by both the deal forced on the Greeks and the abortive attempt to do something similar to this earlier in the year, such solidarity is already in extremely short supply.
“None of these problems ought to be insurmountable. It’s no more fair for Italy and Greece to be the front line in both rescuing and providing for migrants in the immediate aftermath of their reaching Europe than it is for Sweden and Germany to bear by far the most asylum applications (if not in Germany’s case by head of population). The main reason Britain would oppose any such change to the regulations is that despite the Calais situation, we would almost certainly end up taking in more asylum seekers than we do now. For all the wailing, Cobra meetings, cost to the economy of Operation Stack and the closure of the tunnel, it’s seen as preferable to any further increase in the immigration figures … “
Snowden: no Daniel Ellsberg
Opinion differs, even on the left (and I use the term in its broadest sense), as to the significance of Edward Snowden’s revelations. Francis Sedgemore reckons it’s a pretty big deal whereas Workers Liberty seems somewhat more sanguine.
But what most of us could agree on, at least until now, was that Snowden seemed to be a well-intentioned and quite brave individual, entirely worthy of our support.
But his decision to flee rather than face the consequences of his actions, has inevitably diminished his credibility. And worse, his apparent willingness to seek refuge in some of the most repressive states in the world, can only make things worse. The hand of the tyrant-lover and arch-hypocrite Assange is obviously behind this, manipulating a second vulnerable, idealistic young man (poor Bradley Manning being the first).
Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon papers, has been unstinting in his support for Snowden, but the truth is that there’s a fundamental difference between the two: Ellsberg faced up to the consequences of his actions and stood before his accusers. Come to that, so has Bradley Manning. Snowden has slunk away (and yes, I know it’s easy for me to sound off from the safety of my comfy little home, but the point stands nonetheless).
“It’s a tragedy that Snowden’s made this mistake because what he had to reveal about the US security state was very troubling. But while the message remains important, the messenger has been exposed as unworthy of it. Snowden’s totalitarian tour is an embarrassment to his cause.”
From Abdul M via Avaaz.com
Dear friends across the UK,
The Taliban called me, saying I’m “an infidel spy”, they know where I live and will “punish” me. My crime? To work as a translator for British troops and journalists here in Afghanistan. But together we can get Britain to save me and a few hundred others who have risked everything!
Right now, Foreign Secretary William Hague is wondering whether to give me and other Afghan translators asylum, as the UK did for Iraqi translators — and we’re worried he’ll say no. We’ve worked with the British to help set our country free, and we’ve saved many British lives. But now my family and many others have had to go into hiding: every day we stay here it gets more dangerous.
Hague could decide whether to save or snub us any day now. If enough people call on him, he may grant us asylum. In days it’s the 10 year anniversary of the war in Iraq, and former British servicemen are ready to go to the media then to grab Hague’s attention on this. Let’s demand he does the right thing — sign and share our petition with everyone:
There are roughly 600 translators doing this dangerous work in Afghanistan – not just helping the army, but also helping journalists and aid workers. Many of us have already been killed or injured just for doing our jobs – a few years ago my brother was blown up on a patrol, and was left with horrific scars and 163 stitches. Many more of us have received death threats from the Taliban — and we all desperately fear what will happen when British troops leave soon.
When I went to the British authorities in Afghanistan about the death threats, they told me to go to my local police — the same police force that has a fearsome reputation for corruption, kidnapping and worse! Now, the UK government has said it is reviewing its policy and will assess asylum applications on a case by case basis, but this is a lengthy and difficult process with no guarantee of success – and in that time, I could be dead.
Our situation is desperate. I am the sole provider for my family — my parents are old and I have three young children. They have no way of supporting themselves if something were to happen to me. We’ve already had to go into hiding, and it’s harder and harder for us each day.
Our fate lies in the British government’s hands. Please join our call to William Hague now to free us from the terror that plagues us every day:
For years, my colleagues and I have stood shoulder to shoulder with British soldiers, journalists and aid workers. We’ve risked everything for them, and for our country’s freedom. Please don’t abandon us now, in our hour of need.
In peace and hope,
Is the UK abandoning its Afghan interpreters?
Afghans who served Britain ‘should be allowed to settle like Iraqi interpreters’
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum at Ecuador’s London embassy, the country’s foreign minister has said.
“Ecuador is studying and analysing the request,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.
Last week the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed Assange’s bid to reopen an appeal against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes he denies.
The Foreign Office says it will work with Ecuador to resolve the situation.
On 14 July the Supreme Court gave him until 28 June before extradition proceedings can start.
He says the allegations are politically-motivated.
Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former Wikileaks volunteers in mid-2010.
Mr Assange, whose Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, claims the sex was consensual.
In a statement, Ecuador’s embassy said he had arrived there on Tuesday afternoon to seek asylum.
“As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito,” it said.
“While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean government.”
It said the decision to consider the bid for asylum “should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”
NB: Assange’s Afghan victims never had the opportunity to seek asylum:
David Leigh of England’s Guardian newspaper has leveled a shocking accusation against Mr. Assange…
He recalls a meeting he was invited to about the publication of the war memos. He remembers pleading with Assange to redact the names of tribal elders and U.S. informants who were exposed cooperating with the U.S. and could be the subject of deadly retribution. He comments, “Julian was very reluctant to delete those names, to redact them. And we said: ‘Julian, we’ve got to do something about these redactions. We really have got to.'”
“And he said: ‘These people were collaborators, informants. They deserve to die.’ And a silence fell around the table.”
Mr. Assange seemingly denied the allegation calling it “absolutely false… completely false.”
But he qualifies, “We don’t want innocent people with a decent chance of being hurt to be hurt”- from: Daily Tech
I’ve decided to keep my powder dry on the issue of Fabrice Muamba for a couple of days as I was genuinely worried that if I started writing anything by the time I finished it could end up having to be his obituary. Such was the seriousness of his condition following his collapse at White Hart Lane during the FA Cup tie on Saturday. Indeed he remains in intensive care at the time of writing, despite small and encouraging signs of improvement.
The response of the staff at WHL was exemplary and if Fabrice’s condition does improve then they have to take a great deal of the credit.
The reaction of all of us who follow the game has been one of profound shock because it is such a terrifying tale. This all-action, quick and immensely athletic midfielder seemed to be literally at his physical peak and has not yet even turned 24. To be there in the stadium, watching him struck down mid-game, must have been horrifying for those present. The looks in the eyes of players and supporters in the photos told their own story. I was only semi-attentively keeping tabs on the game on the Guardian’s text-based minute-by-minute but even I felt a lump in my throat after news spread of what was happening.
People up and down the country, whether fans, players or celebrities, have been deeply upset by what has happened, largely because Fabrice is such a popular and genuinely nice guy. And he is that most rare of professional athletes, someone with a hinterland beyond his sport.
Fabrice is the son of a political refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. His father and later his family fled here and sought political asylum as they were in genuine fear of their lives if they had stayed. One can imagine the right-wing press having a field day with such a tale of an ‘immigrant scrounger’…….if Fabrice hadn’t turned out to be a millionaire footballer. Instead he is a hero and a man that the tabloids will now dare not criticise in even the mildest of terms. At every turn he has rejected call-ups from the DRC national team as he considers himself British, and has instead represented England and u-16, u-17, u18, u-19 and u-21 levels.
His case is a timely reminder of the stupidity of the right-wing press and their racist, vitriolic campaigns against ‘foreigners’ that are designed to divide us amongst ourselves. Here we have an ‘asylum seeker’ who has worked damned hard, contributed a huge amount to his new home and conducted himself like an utter gentleman throughout. Like most people who come to Britain seeking a new life in fact. The only difference is that he is famous and has the good fortune to be blessed with a talent that can earn him a massive wage. One would hope that Muamba’s case will make the likes of the Express and the Daily Star reflect on the poison they spread daily. I won’t hold my breath though.
Fabrice first came to my attention nearly 6 years ago when he signed for Birmingham City on loan for the season from Arsenal, along with Nicklas Bendtner and Sebastian Larsson. Although not the most prodigiously talented of players (he has a habit of occasionally giving the ball away and the label of ‘the new Vieira’ was only ever liable to be a millstone around his neck), his workrate, tenacity, honesty and total commitment to the cause made him a fan favourite in Blues’ successful promotion season of 2006-07, and along with Larsson was signed permanently as Blues tried to stay in the Premier League the following season.
I vividly recall reading an interview with him during his stay at Blues where he explained how he devoted much of his week, when he wasn’t training, to studying, and how he intended to gain a master’s Degree. Fabrice met his future wife, Shauna, in Birmingham while she was studying for her master’s. He was something of a child prodigy at school, which is even more impressive when you consider that he arrived in England aged 11 not being able to speak a word of English. Not your average athlete then.
As per usual it was not to be for Birmingham and we were relegated from the Premier League after one season in 2008. Muamba though had done enough to impress Premier League clubs and he was snapped up by Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers, where he has been ever since (unlike the hapless Megson). He left with all of the Birmingham fans best wishes. He had given everything to the cause in the previous two years, had conducted himself with complete professionalism throughout and he deserved the chance to keep playing at the highest level.
He has proved to be equally popular at Bolton, winning their player of the year award in 2010 and making 130 first team appearances so far. The reaction of his teammates and fellow professionals (many of whom will have been on the end of his robust challenges over the years) following what happened tells its own story. He is dearly loved and I have trawled through the web trying to find one bad word against him. Aside from a handful of cretins on Twitter in the last couple of days, I have found nothing. He is genuinely one of the nice guys and throughout his career everyone has spoken of him in the highest possible terms. His humility, devotion to his family and consideration for others has always shone through and it was regularly commented on well before the awful events of last Saturday.
Here’s hoping he makes it 131 appearances one day. I’m sure I speak for everyone who reads this when I say that our thoughts are with him and his family.
So apparently there *is* such a thing as a good asylum seeker. Shame not everyone can be a Premiership footballer, I suppose. (And get well soon, Fabrice).
Bob Sutton reports:
At lunchtime on Friday 29 July Women Asylum Seekers Together, a group based in Manchester, marched through Liverpool’s city centre
demonstrating against the treatment of migrants by the UK Borders Agency. There
were at least 60 people, mostly but not solely women, many with children. Their
leaflet agitated against both the ways in which all migrants are oppressed by
immigration controls – denial of the right to work, detention etc. as well as
the ‘double’ oppressions they face as women such as sexual humiliation and
denial of healthcare.
Even though the police seemed to be doing everything
in their power to take us down back alleys, preventing all but four people
getting anywhere near Reliance House – Liverpool’s reporting centre, the
demo was spirited and lively – comrades from Zimbabwe were leading the singing
and a load of leaflets got given out to people on the pavements.
A small group (8-10) with a couple of flags calling
themselves ‘Huyton EDL’ popped up at several points to sneer. They were all
young and most were probably not much older than 14, but the police showed no
intention of preventing them get as close as they liked to the march, and
apparently after we had left there was some pretty vicious verbal abuse directed
at some of the women. When I’d asked them what they thought they were doing
one of the older ones started gabbling about the ‘asylum system not being strict
enough’ – at which point an officer intervened as I had apparently been
intimidating the EDLer!
However overall there were far more people visibly
showing support for the demo, and most people on it ignored the EDL. I imagine
if you’ve escaped political persecution in Sri Lanka or Cameroon, then faced
Britain’s Immigration system, and still had the courage to take part in a
political deminstration, surrounded by police, in the knowledge that doing so
might have massive implications for your case and circumstances, the fairly
pitiful and confused bunch of misled kids that the far right was, on this
occasion, able to mobilise is probably put into perspective.
There was one Unite banner that I saw as well as the Merseyside
Women Against the Cuts International Womens’ Day one…
I’ve got a couple of photos on my phone of the demo
and of a couple of placards saying things like ‘Zimbabwe is no place to be an
NB: it’s a pity we at Shiraz didn’t know about this event in advance; we’ll do our best to publicise future activities by WAST.
Short notice, I know, but if you’re free during the day in London, this is well worth supporting:
Friday 6 May; assemble 2.00 pm Parliament Square followed by march to Home Office, Marsham Street SW1, 3.00 to 5.00 pm
Six Iranian refugees are now in their fifth week on hunger strike to demand asylum in the UK and protest against mistreatment by the Home Office. In Iran they were tortured and imprisoned for their involvement in opposition to the regime. But despite evidence of this, the Home Office has refused to let them stay in the UK.
Facing deportation, they have taken drastic action: four of them have sewn their mouths closed; by tomorrow, all six will have gone 32 days without food. They have been camping outside the UK Border Agency headquarters in Croydon and Amnesty International in Clerkenwell.
Their case highlights the rotten state of UK asylum policy. The UK Border Agency operates a systematic policy of disbelief: ignore, confuse, use every legal loophole to refuse asylum claims and keep the numbers down.
The hunger strikers will be on the march in wheelchairs. Bring banners, drums, music and passion.
The demo has been called by the hunger strikers and supporters including members of No Border Network, Stop Deportations Network, SOAS Detainee Support and the Cambridge Migrant Solidarity Group.
Desperate: The boat travelled from Indonesia with around 80 people on board. 50 feared dead
Next time you hear some asshole denouncing asylum seekers, remember this (and it applies to the UK as much as Australia): why would people risk their lives on unseaworthy boats, in the backs of unventilated trucks or the holds of planes, to get out of hell-holes like Iraq and Afghanistan? Because they’re human beings who simply want half-way decent lives. The way advanced countries like the UK, France and Australia treat refugees is a disgrace. This tragedy should wake us all up. Yes, the people traffickers and gangmasters are out-and-out criminals. But the policies of advanced, democratic governments are also to blame; the Australian government’s ‘hard line’ hostility to immigrants, for instance:
“The fact that there isn’t a welcome refugee policy…[makes] it less likely that people on boats are willing to contact Australian authorities and to rendezvous [safely],” said Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Both victims and survivors saw the sea for the first time in their lives probably a week or so ago as they were mustered on some Indonesian beach to be loaded on board. The stories of these voyages are all much the same. The asylum seekers are terrified. They can’t swim. They retch the whole way, arriving dehydrated and exhausted – certainly in no shape to deal with the crisis they faced yesterday.
“Their cries for help woke people in the houses along the cliff. As they threw ropes and lifejackets they tried to signal the boat not to head for the rough waters of Flying Fish Cove. Smoke was pouring from the engine as the boat struck the rocks, rolled over and began to sink.
“It was too rough to launch rescue boats from the cove. Calls to dive-shop operators brought more lifejackets to throw over the cliff. But where, the islanders wondered, were the hundreds of lifejackets Immigration kept down at the wharf?”
Australia’s shame: second asylum seeker suicide in two months
An Iraqi asylum seeker, Ahmad, committed suicide at Villawood detention centre on Monday November 15.
Fellow detainees found the man hanging in a bathroom and took him down. It took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Ahmad was 41 years old and had a wife and four children. He’d been in detention, on Christmas Island and in Villawood, for over a year.
He had been rejected twice under off-shore processing arrangements found to be invalid in a recent High Court decision.
“We’re shocked and very upset,” said one detainee, “People are crying. He knew about the High Court [decision] but there is no new policy.”
Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said “a number of us visited Villawood on Sunday to let people know about the High Court decision which seemed to provide s small window of hope. But for some the wait is too long… they’ve given up”.
“Incidents of self harm are daily occurrences. There needs to be a full inquiry into Ahmad’s death and into mandatory detention itself: a system that’s literally killing people.
“In 2008 Labor declared detention was a last resort. But it’s the first and only resort for asylum seekers arriving by boat. There are people here who’ve been found to be refugees but are still waiting after 18 months. This is the second suicide in Villawood in just over two months” said Rintoul.
What the recent High Court decision on offshore processing means (not much)
On November 11 the High Court ruled in favour of two asylum seekers who challenged the offshore processing system used to determine whether those who arrive by boat are given refugee status. While the decision is a slap in the face for the government, its legal effect is limited. It does not end offshore processing. It leaves excision and s46A of the Migration Act referring to “offshore entry persons” intact.
Federal Attorney General McClelland Robert has said that offshore processing will stay and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the result is “interesting” and applies to “some cases”.
Refugees and suicide
The following is an extract from the Australian Bureau of Statistics “Causes of Death” survey, 2008.
Refugees who are bereaved or have post-traumatic stress are at risk of suicide.
Factors that increase the risk of attempting suicide include physical illness, poorly managed mental or physical symptoms, disorientation, exhaustion, little social support, alcoholism, history of depression or current depression, history of suicide attempts and unresolved grief.
In many cases, suicidal ideation or the method of suicide by refugees is related to stressful events, especially torture experienced by them.
There is evidence that self-harm, suicide and suicide attempts may occur when an asylum seeker’s application of permanent protection has been rejected, and he/she is asked to return to his/her country of origin.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) found suicide attempts by asylum seekers in detention are not infrequent, with ‘numerous examples of detainees attempting suicide or serious self-harm’. The rates of self-harm were high for people in the 26-35 age range and predominantly men16.
The methods used by children to self-harm can be quite dramatic.
Yet most Australians are sympathetic towards refugees
Eight out of 10 people said they’d help a refugee settle into their community, according to the results of an Australian Red Cross survey published on 21 June 2010.
The survey of 1,000 people across Australia also found 67% agreed that refugees have made a positive contribution to society.
“The community empathises with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner. “Australians can relate, with 86% of people surveyed saying they too would flee to a safe country if they lived in a conflict zone and were under threat.
“Refugees and asylum seekers are very resilient. In spite of the extreme hardships and suffering they may have endured, they make a positive contribution to Australian society, economically and culturally.
“On this evidence there appears to be a disconnect between the strong sympathy of the Australian public and the unsympathetic nature of much of the public debate around asylum seekers and refugees,” Mr Tickner said.
Where do the unions stand on this major civil rights issue?
In a press release earlier this year the ACTU called for “politicians to stay calm on asylum seekers and maintain a humane approach”.
“Australia must not deviate from a refugee policy that is humanitarian, compassionate, and pays respect to international law” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.
“The Government is in talks with other countries about hosting regional processing centres. Unions are yet to be convinced this is appropriate…. Care must be taken to ensure Australia’s international obligations are not breached.
“Unions strongly reject any attempt to demonise asylum seekers for political gain,” said Kearney. “Migration – including the humanitarian and refugee program – has played a great role in Australia’s growth and prosperity and will continue to do so”.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions have long supported a rational and informed public debate about immigration, population and asylum seekers based on facts.
“Politicians have a responsibility not to inflame division or misrepresent the facts, and to show leadership to counter views that would demonise asylum seekers or abrogate Australia’s international obligations,” he said.
This stuff is long on “motherhood” statements but very short on specifics. The union movement itself has the responsibility to show a strong lead here and not cow down in front the racist right, as ALP politicians from Gillard down seem to be doing.
We have just a matter of a couple of days to save this 10-year old and his mother from deportation to the tender mercies of the mullahs.
“Child M” and his mother, Farah Ghaemi, face deportation to Iran where Farah and her 23-year old daughter face persecution for distributing the ‘Satanic Verses.’
“Child M” is already traumatised by his incarceration at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Now the family face deportation to Iran and the barbarous, gynophobic, islamofascist regime there.
Kaufman (not always our favourite MP) explains the position very well here:
Gerald Kaufman MP on Woman’s Hour, Radio 4
Friday 17th September CLICK HERE
The Graun‘s report, here
Details of the campaign, here
– include Home Office reference numbers: G1158044, G1158044/2 and G1158044/7
– ask for the whole family to be given leave to remain
– say why Child “M” and his family would be in danger if they are sent back to Iran
– express concern at how Child “M” and his family have been treated
– send it to the Home Secretary, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street London, SW1P 4DF, or email: Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary: email@example.com
Child M on Facebook