10 years of hostile environment: It’s time to change!
Last month marked the tenth anniversary since the then home secretary, Theresa May, declared the aim of building a hostile environment for migrants in the UK.
The policies which followed have produced scandal after scandal, with the infamous undermining of the rights of people from the Windrush generation of Caribbean migrants being only the most well-known. There is scarcely any group of people who came from abroad – whether they be refugees, migrant workers, students, or the family members of people settled here who haven’t felt the harsh consequences of this set of policies.
The government made the mistake of thinking that the hostile environment would be popular with the majority of people in the UK, but that hasn’t been the case. Right from the early days of its ‘Go Home vans’ campaign, through to the refusal to provide sanctuary to asylum seekers corralled on the wrong side of the English Channel, the shocked response to what was inflicted on Windrush generation people, and taking in solidarity shown to migrant workers in the key posts that kept the country running during the worst period of the Covid pandemic, more and more people have been showing a willingness to take the side of people who are trying to settle into normal lives in the UK.
The Status Now Network grew out of this popular reaction to the hostile environment. We are working today to win greater recognition of the injustices being inflicted on people settling in the UK, and for the solidarity that will be needed to defeat the threat that the hostile environment poses to their lives. Our demands remain:
End the hostile environment!
Status Now, for all!
The Hostile Environment: How do we hold the Government to account?
The Home Office’s immigration policies have taken a battering over the course of the last few years. The public response to Go Home van campaigns and the Windrush generation scandal has shown increased awareness of the injustice being inflicted on migrant and refugee people.
Despite the mounting tide of criticism, Priti Patel and her colleagues have stuck firmly to the line of the hostile environment and are continuing to plot a new offensive against migrants and refugees that will come straight from the ‘culture wars’ playbook.
How should the grassroots migrant and refugee rights movement square up to this challenge? What sort of projects do we need to embark on that will unite the different sites of resistance to immigration policies and consolidate a united front opposition to entrenched racism in this area of policy?
The Status Now Network is working to open up a discussion about the role that a People’s Tribunal might play in indicting government policy and relating all its aspects back to a full frontal assault of all working people in the country today.
People’s Tribunals have been used to great effect in the past to rally public opposition to the US war in Vietnam, the military dictatorships in Latin America, and the assaults on the rights of indigenous people across the planet by transnational corporations and their government backers.
In 2018 migrant and refugee organisations ran a yearlong Permanent People’s Tribunal indicting governments across Europe for violations of the rights of migrant and refugee people. This has played an important role in forging cross border solidarity action across the continent.
During Refugee Week in the UK (20th-27th June) Status Now Network is planning to open up a discussion about the role that a People’s Tribunal might play in this country over the course of the next 12 months to consolidate opposition to racist immigration controls and build unity across the ranks of all organisations involved in resistance.
|Join us on Monday 20th June 2022 at 17:00|
Public meeting in person in central London and online: The Hostile Environment: How do we hold the Government to account?
Leah Bassel – Jury member 2018 Permanent People’s Tribunal on Violations of the Rights of Migrants
Grainne McMahon – RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research)
Loraine Mponela – Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG) & Status Now 4 All
Mariam Yusuf – WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) & Status Now 4 All
Other speakers to be confirmed
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This discussion is being organised as a hybrid event. Register now and get details of how you can join either in person or via Zoom
|Trade Union and the fight against racism|
The national conference of PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union), held in Brighton in the last week of May, confirmed the commitment of the largest civil service union (with about 180,000 members) to defeat the hostile environment and to support Status Now’s campaign for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Putting the trade union at the heart of the anti-racist movement was one of the points discussed in the 4 days of conference attended by 500 delegates, including many Home Office staff who denounce the culture of fear of the hostile environment and refuse to act illegally in dangerous and traumatic situations.
PCS (together with Care4Calais) already defeated the murderous policy of “pushbacks” in the Channel and is now legally challenging the government against its cruel policy of offshoring asylum seekers in Rwanda. The urgency to defeat this policy, that Chakrabarti defined in her speech to PCS delegates as a “moral and human disaster”, has been confirmed and strengthened at the conference.
Status Now attended the conference with members from several signatory organisations. We engaged in positive discussion with a large number of delegates; together with PCS delegates we attended the protest organised by Stand Up to Racism ( a SNN signatory organisation) against the Rwanda deportation policy; and a member of the Status Now core group, Don Flynn, spoke at the conference. Here is an abstract of his speech:
“Status Now was set up as a response to two decades of chaos in UK immigration policy which has worked across that time to deprive migrants and refugees of their human rights and their security of residence. Its efforts to create a managed migration system has led to a situation in which hundreds of thousands of people have been placed on a journey lasting many years, sometimes decades, before they have the assurance of a secure immigration status.
“But the cruelty involved in running this hostile environment for migrant people has also exposed the system in the eyes of many ordinary people in the country who have been confronted with its many injustices. The Windrush scandal was just the top of the iceberg. The evidence of the Go Home vans, the enforcement raids on communities and workplaces, the heartlessness of indefinite detention and chartered deportation flights, has mounted up and brought many people into campaigns for migrant rights and refugee justice.
“It is especially important that trade unions like PCS have stated their support for the fight against the hostile environment. We look forward to taking the conversation further with your members and hope that in the period ahead we’ll be finding more ways to involve them in Status Now’s campaigning work”
Status Now 4 All signatories in the North West of England are campaigning against the difficult housing conditions of asylum seekers
Housing is one of the many troubles faced by asylum seekers and refugees in this country. When they arrive in the UK they cannot choose where to settle, the government can send them anywhere and often they are forced into housing that is crowded, damp and unsafe. Those who obtain refugee status have the happiness for this achievement partially ruined by the urgency and stress to find a new accommodation. A “move on” letter gives them only 28 days to move, a very short period that easily leads to homelessness.
In the North West of England (as well as in other areas of the country) people seeking asylum face a lot of challenges as they try to integrate into their new communities. Having a decent place to live in would be their right, they are entitled to it, but this is not what happens. Most of them live in poor and precarious accommodations provided by Serco, one of the companies contracted by the government to lodge asylum seekers. Serco accommodations do not offer any privacy to their tenants who are also not allowed to lodge any visitor and to have direct contact with their housing officers. Housing conditions are generally very poor, people who are living in Serco-managed homes report failures to keep properties properly maintained and in good repair with long period of waiting to get a response to a maintenance situation.
Status Now 4 All signatories in the North West are campaigning against these issues. An event is being planned in July which will bring people with lived experience, the local community, local authorities and charities that work with migrants and refugees to a table. The aim of the event is to bring to the fore all issues experienced in home office accommodations at the moment and come up with actions that can help resolve the problems.
Also, during the upcoming refugee week, these signatories intend to have an online meeting, where speakers from other regions will be invited to come and share how they are tackling the housing issues in their areas, as a learning exchange.
Contact us at email@example.com to report housing troubles in the north west of England and to join the campaign.
Detention leaves invisible scars
Protest asking for the closure of Hassockfield women immigration detention centre
The Hassockfield (now renamed Derwentside) Immigration Detention Centre, located at 13 miles from Durham, has capacity for approximately 80 women. Many of the women incarcerated there did not commit any crime, but had their asylum claim refused or are still waiting for its result.
Since March 2021 the No To Hassockfield Campaign and other groups have campaigned to close the centre and free the women imprisoned there. On 14th May 2022 a national demo took place in Durham. Mary Kelly Foy, Durham MP, and representative of numerous associations gave powerful speech asking for the closure of the centre.
Mariam Yusuf, a member of the Status Now Network core group from Women Asylum Seekers Together, was one of the speakers.
Here is her short report on that demo with her reflections on the invisible scars that the traumatic experience of detention leaves on so many asylum seekers whose main “fault” was coming to the UK looking for shelter and here instead they were imprisoned and traumatised again.
That day all roads led to Durham, activists and organizations assembled in the town centre to protest. I gave my speech to call for the closure of all detention centres , especially the women detention centres for the trauma that affects women while in detention and when they come out.
When I arrived in the country I was detained after four days. The experience of being detained is a trauma that will stay with me for as long as I live. Other people seeking asylum will agree with me what it does to them. We are all affected differently from the trauma we had when we had to flee our countries.
People seeking asylum get re-traumatised again when detained, they lose confidence, suffer from mental illness. When released from detention, they suffer from loss of self-esteem, lack of trust from anyone, they are constantly fearful that they may go back to detention. We campaign for the closure of Hassockfield detention centre as it does not serve the purpose, instead the damage it causes to people is catastrophic. One may not see the scars, but we are wounded inside.
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