On Windrush generation and other immigrants: No Borders perspective

Public outrage and solidarity to the Windrush generation forced Amber Rudd and Theresa May to apologize. Yet these people’s fate is still unknown. The Movement for Justice have just made public that a woman detained in Yarls Wood will be deported. “Yvonne Williams- write the MFJ- has been given removal directions on Friday. The paper says she will be deported after 5 days on flight PV070 to Kingston Jamaica.PV070 is the same flight number as the notorious Jamaican mass deportation Charter flight of March 2017 which saw over 40 people swept up and deported. It was the first Jamaican charter flight since 2014. Now – in the middle of the  #Windrush  scandal- the Home Office dares to try and carry out another mass deportation to Jamaica? This shows how meaningless Amber Rudd’s apologies are – THIS CHARTER FLIGHT MUST BE CANCELLED, YVONNE WILLIAMS MUST STAY – AMESTY FOR ALL NOW!”

On Tuesday 1st  of May we will be demonstrating at the Home office to demand the charter flight is cancelled, and at the Jamaican High Commission to demand that they refuse to issue travel documents or accept any charter flights from the UK. Watch this space for updates on times/locations for the demonstration.

The Windrush generation includes all people who moved to the UK from a Commonwealth Caribbean countres between the 1940s and 1970s. They where invited to come to fill labour shortages, but May and Rudd demanded they provide evidence covering all the period of their residence in the UK: evidence they were never asked to keep in the first place. Some have been deported as a result, or have been threatened with deportation. That includes a 81 years old grandmother who was refused re-entry to the UK after a holiday in Jamaica, where she has no home and no family left. Many lost their jobs and their homes and at least two who were seriusly ill died for lack of medical care.

The Windrush scandal could open a huge can of worms: the entire UK immigration system is a scandal, all types of foreigners have been targeted for deporation for many years now, in the most cruel and arbitrary ways, even before May’s government racist actions. Since the 1980s at least, both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been working hard to close the UK borders to immigrants and make life very difficult for them.  The expression ‘hostile environment’ was first used by a Labour Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, but the practice is even older than the term.

Jeremy Corbyn is committed to implement Brexit, mantain closed borders and stop ‘cheap migrant workers’ from coming in. Diane Abbott promptly opposed any ‘amnesty’ to be extended to ‘illegal’ immigrants – she repeats the world ‘illegal’ many times on Question Time. While defending the Windrush generation’s right to be in the UK, Abbott is closing the gate on other migrants, outdoing in racism Boris Johnson, who proposed an amnesty for Commonwealth citizens who have been in UK for over 10 years. I think this really shows how deep the hypocrisy runs, and how strong racism is in the Labour Party.

Of course we are not calling for an ‘amnesty’ for some, we are calling for equal rights for all human beings and an end to immigration controls. There are thousands of immigrants working ‘illegally’ in the UK, at £2 per hour, 12 hours per day, watching over their shoulders for immigration raids, while the capitalists profit.

There are thousands of refused asylum seekers at risk to be sent back, even to countries at war or to countries where they risk persecution and torture. Refused asylum seekers have all their support withdrawn and end up destitute and homeless. There are thousands of men, women and children stuck in Calais and at other borders, risking their lives to reach safety.  But what safety? There are on average 4000 people in immigration detention in the UK at any given time, 3000 in purpose-built deporation centres for immigrants and 1000 in ordinary prisons, all detained without time limits and with very limited access to a solicitor, or to any other form of support. Torture survivors are routinely detained, against Home Office own rules. Some people try to commit suicide rather then be deported, many are beaten up by escorts when they try resist deportation. This is what immigration controls in UK look like. Where is humanity, and where is the opposition?

Diane Abbott was the main speaker at this year’s March against Racism, called by Stand Up To Racism, besides being the main speaker at the rally in support to the Windrush immigrants, also called by SUTR. I hope public outrage and people’s solidarity will extend from the Windrush generation to other migrants who live in our communities. Who is here belongs here. But this is certaninly not to be acheived by Abbott or by the Labour Party.

Despite xenophobic discourses, resulting in a sharp rise in racially motivated attacks, and government sponsored racism, immigrants are still very much needed in the UK to fill up labour shortags. Policies designed to curtail immigration to the UK not only are very unjust, they are also very irrational, not to say utterly stupid. Quoting the enemy: the International Monetary Fund has said that advanced economies such as Britain, the US and Japan risk having their economic growth stunted by their declining and ageing populations, and calls on them to open their borders to more migrant workers. When elders of the Windrush generation are told to leave, and some of their UK born children are told to leave too, new immigrants are being invited to come to the UK to work as nurses! Crops are rotting in the fields because there are no migrant workers to harvest them, while immigration officers go around raiding homes, workplaces and market places in search of people to round up and deport.

We are told people with a ‘genuine’ right to be in this country will be allowd to stay, and that the ones who have a ‘genuine’ fear of persecution will be protected. But that is not the case, when there is a ‘culture of disbelief’, judges are biased, and targets of numbers of people to be deported have been set. The elephant in the room is that to secure decent legal representation has became next to impossible, due to cuts in legal aid: a staggering number of legal firms have stopped doing immigration work, or have gone out of business. Most people do not have any legal representaion at all, or are in the hands of unscrupolous solicitors who do little or no work on their cases and let them be refused and deported; but even the very few ‘good’ legal firms left are forced to take on too many cases in order to be able to survive financially, and neglect a number of cases. Most asylum seekers and other migrants go to court hearings against  the Home Office decisions unrepresented, or very poorly represented, while the HO is always represented, and wins. The very complex UK asyum system has became just a fig leaf to cover the shame of the appalling abuses committed against refugees and other immigrants.

Do not despair, organize! Working class solidarity is our weapon aganist the State and the interests it represents. Look after your neighbour, welcome people who arrive because support really makes all the difference. Solidarity not charity! The Anti-Raids Network is a brilliant example of how people can resist immigration controls and raids by immigration officers and police. It has spread deep and wide in the communities affected, and many immigraion raids have been successfully twarted. The Movement for Justice are organizing demonstrations against detention centres that attract up to 2000 people. Groups like the SOAS Detainee Support Group, the Crossroads Women Centre and Unity in Scotland provide a lifeline to people detained and / or threatened with deportation. It may be worth note that MFJ and Crossroads are radical but not libertarian: they do very important work but have a defined hierarchy, therefore is not an option for Anarchists to join them. We need to organize autonomously, and alliances are possible.

Sadly the UK No Borders network has long collapsed, though there are still local groups and the Leeds one is very active. There are many possible broad alliances, the ‘hostile environment’ is not only affecting immigrants but all working class people, beginning with the disabled, the single parents and the low income families. All those who are not ‘productive’ enough are penalized and more and more people are made homeless, more and more people die due to the cuts to  the public services and to the NHS. We cannot expect Corbyn and the Labour party to change the situation for us, we have to change it ourselves.

First they came from the asylum seekers and I did not speak out, because I was told they are bogus and want to take our houses. Then they came for the migrant wokers and I said nothing, because I was told they are illegal, they are taking our jobs and there may be even terrorists among them. Then they came for the disabled and I said nothing because I thought they were scroungers. Then they came for the single mothers and the poor families and I said nothing because I was told they make children just to reap more benefits. And when they finally came for me there was nobody left to speak out.

Chiara Lauvergnac