|Welcome to this edition of SNN Newsletter!
We are covering a number of items in this issue that will be of interest to everyone involved in migrant and refugee solidarity work.
First up is the report on our campaign for better asylum seeker accommodation. Our SNN colleagues in the North West are particularly active in this area and after a first online event during Refugee Week are now planning new initiatives to fight for better provision of safe and decent homes for people in the asylum system.
The second article is dedicated to the campaign “Our place is here” developed by Kanlungan together with other organizations in defense of the rights of domestic workers.
The third item reports on the SNN event organised during Refugee Week which assembled a roundtable of activists to discuss where we have got to with the campaign against the hostile environment and the steps that need to be taken for this to go forward. The key idea is the project underway to organise a People’s Tribunal on Migration Justice over the course of the next 12 months which will draw on the evidence of violation of the rights of migrant people to indict Government policies and help forge the sort of alliances we will need to bring about change.
The appalling news about the deaths of at least 37 people at the border between the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco is the subject of our fourth feature. In response to this massacre at the hands of the Spanish civil guard and the Moroccan police authorities the Transnational Migrant Platform has launched an appeal for solidarity and action to force an inquiry into how the tragedy happened.
Finally, our fifth article focuses on the important role assumed by the Union, particularly by the Public Services and Commercial Union (PCS), in the fight against the Rwanda offshore plan and stresses the need to fight all together for the rights of migrant and native workers in the UK.
In addition to these items we also have information on the call for a public demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 19 July to coincide with the opening of the judicial review hearing on the legality of the Home Office’s Rwanda refugee removal plan. Do join us at this protest if you can.
|Asylum Seekers and the Fight for Better Housing
Refugee Week celebrates the contributions of refugees and people seeking sanctuary in order to challenge negative stereotypes and create a space where refugees can be seen and heard beyond their experience of displacement. Also, World Refugee Day is about raising awareness of the situation and showing refugees that together we can work to end the crisis and help displaced people to find safe and happy homes.
Refugee week was celebrated from 20th to 26th June. Asylum Seekers and Refugees in North West England came together and shared their cultural dances, foods and stories with the community where they live, but they also denounced the horrible housing conditions that they are experiencing in Serco accommodations
Northwest StatusNow4all organised an online event on the 23rd where asylum seekers shared their stories explaining how the extremely poor housing conditions are their daily nightmares. Lack of safety and privacy for the absence of a key to lock the door, a high level of damp at the point that the ceiling in a room was close to collapse, persisting lack of electricity for several days were only some of the many troubles denounced by participants.
The purpose of the event was also to hear from other organizations that are tackling poor housing conditions, learn from their experience and discuss how to develop our campaign for safe and decent housing conditions.
Participants from Homes for All expressed a strong support to our campaign and a campaigner from Justice for Grenfell stressed how poor housing is connected with institutional racism and remembered to everyone that when tenants are not listened to bad housing can kill people, as it tragically happened at Grenfell Tower.
Guest speaker was John Grayson, a retired housing academic researcher, from South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG). He encouraged participants reporting the success obtained by the group in Sheffield, where they were able to obtain a change of the housing provider thanks to a large mobilisation supported by many people and by the local council. John stressed the importance of challenging the councils as they have a legal responsibility to housing conditions and anyone can report them their complaints; involve MPs who have direct lines to the Home Office; and, most importantly, the key role of tenants for the success of the campaign. John, who has campaigned on asylum accommodation since 2011, said that his work has totally depended on tenants, on their courage in putting complaints and willingness to be interviewed.
The meeting ended with the decision on the next steps of the campaign. These include: a new online meeting of asylum seekers on 8th July at 7 pm. and a following in presence meeting, a plan to engage local MPs sending them letters of complaints and asking to support our campaign, a demonstration called by Rapar in Manchester on 30th July (concentration is in Piccadilly Garden at 1:30 pm).
|“Our place is here”, a campaign for the rights of domestic workers by Status Now Signatory Kanlungan
Since the official launch of the hostile environment policy in 2012, domestic workers were stripped of their rights to switch employers and apply for extension of stay and settlement. With the change to the Overseas Domestic Workers (ODW) visa introduced in that year, stays are limited to six months and migrant domestic workers have become tied to individual employers as sponsors. They are denied the freedom to switch employer even in cases where a worker is a victim of modern-day slavery or human trafficking. The impact of this change on the life of dozens of thousands people has been devastating. A survey conducted in 2019 by the Voice of Domestic Workers found that 77% of migrant domestic workers experienced physical, verbal or sexual abuse; 51% reported that they were not given enough food; 61% were not given their own space in employers’ houses.
To mark a decade since the Government revoked the rights of domestic workers, Kanlungan — a signatory of SNN — has started a new partnership with FDWA-UK (Filipino Domestic Workers’Association), Kalayaan, and The Voice of Domestic Workers to campaign for the rights of migrant domestic workers in the UK. Together, we have developed our campaign ‘Our Place Is Here’ centred on advocating for migrant domestic workers’ belonging to the UK and their right to work and live here. We are joining together to call for the government to restore the rights of domestic workers.
Campaign materials and imagery have been co-developed with domestic workers through creative workshops led by daikon* zine. Gal-dem, an online and print magazine, also delivered a personal essay writing workshop. To determine campaign strategy and improve our support for domestic workers, we have organised community conversations on workers’ experiences.
We will be coming together in person Wednesday 20 July, 7-10pm, at Refettorio Felix (where we are having our campaign residency) in Earl’s Court to talk about the campaign and for workers to share excerpts from essays they have written as part of the gal-dem workshops. Event is free and open to all, but spaces are limited! Please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-night-with-gal-dem-tickets-354562675507
Domestic work is work! Migrants’ rights are human rights! Our place is here.
|SNN Refugee Week event: Hostile Environment – How do we hold the Government to account?
Status Now organised its first hybrid meeting on Monday 20th June during Refugee Week, with an in-person gathering in central London which was joined by participants online.
A roundtable discussion involving activists from a number of campaigning groups met to consider where we had got to in fighting hostile environment policies; where we thought progress was being made; the areas where more clearly has to be done; and what new initiatives need to be considered to keep the work fresh and invigorating.
SNN refence group members, Loraine Mponela and Miriam Yusuf were prominent in the discussion, along with the legal director of Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Zoe Bantleman, Filipino community organiser Francesca Humi, migrant worker rights advocate Julius-Cezar MacQuarie, and researcher and activists Grainne McMahon and Leah Bassel.
There was agreement across the panel that the term ‘hostile environment’ remains the best way to describe the suite of policies the Home Office is enacting which are designed to reduce the security of migrant people and to keep them under the surveillance of the immigration control authorities. But not everything was going according the plans the Government has laid out and the hostile environment has come in for a great deal of criticism as the news became public about its impact on migrants of the Windrush generation and the people who we had learnt to describe as ‘key workers’ during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To continue to push back against these policies participants agreed that it would be necessary to strengthen work in a number of key areas. Among these the crisis in asylum seeker accommodation was highlighted, together with the continuing vulnerability to exploitation which many migrant workers – particularly those employed in the night-time economy – were having to endure. The exposure of lawyers working conscientiously in support of the human rights of their clients to condemnation by right wing politicians and pundits was also condemned, on the understanding that we should also show out solidarity with them as they continued this important work.
With regard to the need for new campaigning initiatives that would amplify the voices of migrant and refugee people and strengthen united action across support and solidarity groups, the conversation moved on to discuss SNN’s plans for a People’s Tribunal on Migration Justice which was being organised over the course of the next 12 months. It was agreed that this type of activity, aimed at reviewing the hostile environment as unified field of aggressively controlling policy which excluded consideration of human rights, could provided the means to take the campaign for migrant rights onto the next state.
The discussion concluded by noting that a planning group for the organisation of the People’s Tribunal would be taking place online on Monday 11th June. Anyone interested in participating in this work is invited to contact the project working group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Migrant deaths at the Melilla/Moroccan border – Transnational Migrant Platform calls for action
The deaths of at least 37 people, with 150 suffering serious injury, at the border between Morocco and Melilla, the Spanish enclave city on the coast of north Africa, on 24 June figures as another example of the cost in human lives that European countries seem willing to pay in order to control the movement of people at their borders.
The Spanish and Moroccan authorities have long collaborated in a pact which aims at eliminating the movement of migrants and refugees at this border. The erection of metres-high fencing, arranged in ways designed to trap people attempting to cross in narrow spaces had the effect of crushing people falling from the height of the barriers as waves of migrants attempted the crossing fell on each other.
The appalling scenes of suffering have led to protests in both Morocco and Spain and in other countries across Europe. The Moroccan Human Rights Association shared videos on social media that appeared to show dozens of migrants lying on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, as Moroccan security forces stood over them.
A tweet from the association said “They were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths.” It has called for a “comprehensive” investigation.
The Catholic Church in the southern Spanish city of Malaga also expressed its dismay over the events. “Both Morocco and Spain have chosen to eliminate human dignity on our borders, maintaining that the arrival of migrants must be avoided at all costs and forgetting the lives that are torn apart along the way,” it said in a statement penned by a delegation of the diocese that focuses on migration in Malaga and Melilla.
As a part of a civil society response to the massacre Status Now has been approached by representatives of the Transnational Migrant Platform (TMP) asking for support for a statement condemning the border control measures that exposed the migrants to the risk of injury and death.
The statement says:
This massacre urgently demands that the governments of Europe have to look beyond borders and recognize that its corporate driven development, trade and investment policy and agreements are a major contributor to the loss of basic livelihoods and forced displacement and out migration in the global south, including in Africa.
The statement argues that Europe is anticipating further pressure on the living standards of African people as a consequence of the deepening crisis being rolled out across the world by the stagnating, inflation-ridden economies of the Global North. The consequences of this will be the loss of livelihoods and increased hardship for people across the African continent, producing higher levels of migration as more people are forced to move to survive.
But rather than address the root causes of the crisis the response of the European countries and their Global North allies has been an increase in military budgets and greater efforts at borders which aim to impede the movement of people.
TMP says the response to this should be a Global Pact for Solidarity and renewed efforts made to challenge the anti-migrant policies as they are being enacted in Europe and the United States. The platform is currently organising a “March on Brussels” and a People’s Assembly in support of the rights of migrant and refugee people which will take place in the European Parliament in early October. We will report on this in further SNN Newsletter.
|All for One
“Detained migrants have the clear potential to take industrial and direct action, including strikes to enforce changes to the practical conditions of their detention and to the law itself. The workers’ movement must organise with them to do so.”
Unless we learn from it, history repeats. Acting now in the knowledge of that history is essential: to break free of the past and live differently.
In the UK, both direct and legal actions to stop immigration detentions and deportations are not new. Most recently, the public position taken to stop the first export of people to Rwanda by Status Now Network member the Public Services and Commercial union (PCS) is a vital breakthrough. Notably, when that legal challenge failed, the leader of that union (which represents organised Home Office staff) – described its consequence as workers: “[being] called on to carry out acts that I can only describe as inhumane.”
This happens now of course, in every action sequence that leads to a deportation flight taking off. The momentum though is shifting.
Current industrial action plans by many workers in the UK present an unmissable opportunity for all of us who call for Status Now to make direct contact with the grassroots trade unionists who we see on every strikers’ picket line. We express our solidarity as sister and brother workers who share this struggle for humanity and look for direct connection to move forward together on the ground and in the courts.
People are not stripped of their humanity in theory but in practice. Many of us in the Network have graphic experience of what that looks like, that’s why we have become displaced, others of us have historical memory from which we learn.
Let’s seize the moment.
|Fight the anti-refugee laws and stop deportation to RwandaSign and publicise the pledge to defend the rights of asylum seekers to find sanctuary in the UK. Hundreds of organisations (including Status Now) and numerous MPs have already signed it but we need to be more!
Mobilise on **19th July, when the judicial review hearing on the legality of the Home Office’s Rwanda refugee removal plan starts. Join us at the demonstration outside the Royal Court of Justice, London WC2A 2LL 9am – 5pm (Rally 1-2pm) **Please note that this has moved to 5 September as the Court hearing date has changed
Other upcoming events
16th July, Birkbeck, London
Labour Campaign for Free Movement National Conference
2nd – 4th September, University of Leeds
We Move: Race, Equality and Migrants’ rights Summit
A weekend of discussion called by Runnymede Trust to come together and strategise evidence based approaches to building a Britain in which we all belong
30th September – 2nd October, Brussels
People Summit on Migration and march in defence of the rights of migrant and refugee people around the globe. Transnational Migrant Platform
Please have a look at the website and send us your stories if we have missed them. The website is one of our outfacing sources of information, alongside Facebook and Twitter. Amongst other information you will find new and updated posts, our statements and related Early Day Motions, the Faith Calling Card, information for local councils, Trades Unions and political organisations.