|Welcome to this edition of SNN newsletter where we are covering a number of items that will be of interest to everyone involved in migrant and refugee solidarity work.|
The first article calls for a discussion to re-launch our campaign for migrants’ rights in the present political turmoil
The second highlights the important outcomes of the Trade Union Congress and their relevance to further develop solidarity and union between the workers’ movement and the anti-racist movement.
Our third article reports a network meeting in London to discuss the impact of cost of living crisis on migrants. The meeting was organized by our signatory Migrant Voice and a representative of Status Now for All was one of the speakers.
The last article reports an event organized by Status Now North West in Manchester to celebrate Black History Month.
Finally we update on SNN plan for an away weekend strategy event.
|New opportunities for campaigns for migrant rights|
Is the immigration policy crisis creating new opportunities for campaigns for migrant rights?
The long crisis of immigration policy is reaching its crescendo at the present moment, with the incompetence of government ministers having to be reported with hourly updates by the news media.
Asylum processing has ground to a halt, causing misery for tens of thousands of people, with some being detained in the dreadful conditions of the Immigration Removal Centres and others in inadequate hotels across the country. Stories are emerging of people who have been abandoned by the authorities and left to fend for themselves, without accommodation or other resources.
For people with limited leave status, the periodic requirement to renew their residence status is leading to delays in the order of ten months or more, leading to people losing their jobs and accommodation,
Meanwhile the Home Office flounders under the direction of Suella Braverman, causing so much chaos that the union representing her civil servants is taking action through the courts to bring a halt to policies that would require officials to breach human rights standards.
At the most sinister level, as the policies of the last twelve years plunge into even deeper turmoil, government ineptitude is stirring up a response from the far right, with an attack against a Home Office processing centre among other threats of violence fuelling the idea that even more extreme measures against migrants and refugees is required if control of borders is to be achieved.
How do migrant rights campaigners respond?
All this is happening in a period when migrant and refugee rights organisations have been making significant progress in their campaign to influence public opinion and win support for their call for a comprehensive reform of the immigration control system. The revelations of the harm done by the hostile environment together with a positive view of the contribution of migrant people during the Covid pandemic are parts of the reasons for this change.
Also important is the work done by hundreds of grassroot organisations across the country which have worked hard to bring communities together during a period when austerity and wage stagnation has produced greater levels of hardship across the population. What has emerged from all this is the basic elements of a migrant and refugee solidarity movement, and we need to think how it can use the influence it has gained in recent times to find a way out of the current crisis.
Status Now for All was set up at the start of the Covid pandemic to explore the ways we could cooperate across our organisations during a time when migrant communities would be subject to exceptional stress. It initiated a discussion around the call for the regularisation of undocumented migrants and also to provide others in the ‘grey’ areas of limited and conditional leave to remain with a secure status. Our call on their behalf was the demand for ‘Status Now For All!’.
Stepping up the discussion – invite to a Zoom meeting
We are now in a different phase of the policy crisis and there is an urgent need for the migrant rights sector to come together to discuss how their campaigns for regularisation can be upgraded in the context of all the things happening now.
We are planning a preliminary discussion over Zoom on these issues, which will take place on Wednesday 9th November at 5pm. It is open to everyone who supports Status Now’s call for Status Now For All.
If you would like to participate and contribute to the discussion with your group’s experience of fighting for the rights of migrant and refugee people, email your details, including the group you represent, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will send you the Zoom link in return.
|The Trade Union congress and the fight against the hostile environment|
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a federation of most trade unions in the UK which have a total of 6 million members. Its reach is wider if we include families and work colleagues who may not be in a trade union. It is the Britain’s largest voluntary organisation having thousands of volunteer lay representatives.
Over the last two years Status Now Network has worked hard to involve Unions in our campaigning. Our work and that of many other organisations have contributed to the development of the increasing role played by the Trade Unions in the anti-racist movement and the fight for a human immigration policy. A number of Unions have become signatories of Status Now Network and support our campaign, the Anti-Racism Task Force established by TUC in 2020 in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement has increasingly tackled racism at work and in British society, and the recent congress of TUC has signed a further development that can be seen as a vital breakthrough.
Unions tend to put resolutions forward that focus on their internal matters such as pay, health and safety and pensions, as well as government attacks on trade unions, but this time something happened: a number of Unions put forward resolutions that dealt with racism and attacks on migrants.
Status Now signatory the Public Services and Commercial Union (PCS), which represents organised Home Office staff, got TUC agreement to oppose the Rwanda Deportation Scheme and other such measures. It called on the TUC to campaign alongside other organisations for a humane immigration policy and for safe legal routes. The National Education Union proposed opposition to the Nationality and Borders Act calling on support for those organisations, such as Status Now for All, that oppose it. Other Unions supported the work of the Anti-Racism Task Force.
The motion (C19) presented by PCS and seconded by the National Education Union to oppose the government’s unlawful immigration system was unanimously approved by the congress. It “condemns the Nationalities and Borders Act as a vicious piece of legislation designed to whip up racism”, condemns the Rwanda deportation plan and defines the government approach as “brutal and racist”, invites to mobilise alongside other campaign groups for a human immigration policy and to “oppose racist division when workers are being hit by attacks on living standards in the cost-of-living crisis”.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, presented the motion with a passionate speech expressing his confidence that the motion sets out a road map to expose and defeat the racist policies of the government.
The Action Plan to build an anti-racism trade union movement and the Anti-Racism Manifesto 2022-2027 describe the road map for trade unions to take on the path to racial justice, equality and diversity. This roadmap will allow to strengthen solidarity and unity between the workers’ movement and the anti-racist movement, our commitment is to support this process.
|The impact of cost of living crisis on migrants|
Tuesday, 1st of November, saw the coming together of migrant-led organisations to meet and discuss how the current cost of living crisis is affecting migrants, particularly those with irregular and precarious immigration statuses. Shout out to Migrant Voice for organising and allowing space at their own offices for groups and campaigns like Status Now Network, Iraqi Workers Association, RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London), Migrant Rights Network, Tamil Welfare Association and individual refugees and asylum-seekers, to share their heart-wrenching and horrendous struggles with the immigration system. In the presence of London Assembly Member Sakina Sheikh who listened intently and responded warmly to the discussion, attendees talked about the work done by their individual organisations to support these most marginalised communities. Individual refugees and asylum seekers present narrated their personal stories of neglect, abuse and exploitation by the UK’s immigration policies exacerbated by the cost of living crisis we are currently in. Proposals for improvements and changes to these policies were laid on the table and put forward to Ms. Sheikh who we hope will be our direct line to the London Mayor’s Office and ultimately to policy reform. Tuesday’s meeting was not only an opportunity to talk and hear about the current deplorable plight of migrants in the UK but more importantly a laudable and most necessary effort in community-building — migrant groups and allies coalescing to recognise the need for mutual investments in our own care, safety, wellness and prosperity. We must all come and work together to effect change in UK immigration policies and challenge the hostile environment that migrants, specifically those with precarious immigration statuses, continue to navigate. The necessity to build community has never been more urgent than now.
Below is the text of the speech Nina, representing Status Now Network, made at the meeting:
The cost of living crisis is a phrase that gets thrown about a lot at the moment. But what does it actually mean? It affects everyone but its effects are compounded on the marginalised, specifically immigrants with precarious immigration statuses who do not have access to social safety nets. I will not give you concrete examples of how this crisis affects us but I will tell you that for me the problem starts with the phrase itself: cost of living. Like a lot of things in this country, that language discriminates and excludes once again. For what of us who are not considered ‘living’? What of us whose existence are not acknowledged? Who are not in the system? Who are dying at the margins, dehumanised by this country’s hostile immigration policies? What does it take from us, if there is still any to take? We already die on boats trying to cross treacherous seas to get to some place that’s neither home nor hell. We already die in prisons for seeking a chance to live a life with dignity. We die of illnesses undiagnosed because we couldn’t access proper healthcare. It further takes away our will to live, our right to exist. The cost of living crisis is an existential question for an undocumented person like me if only because it further threatens my existence. For the ordinary person, there aren’t enough answers. But for us there are only more questions: how does not having enough money to buy food affect us if we haven’t got access to any money at all to begin with? How does doing too much work for so little money affect us if we are not even given the right to work? How do we keep warm when we have no shelter? In this crisis, the default for everyone is to further oppress the oppressed, to pass the burden on to us who, as it is, barely have anything.
At the start of the pandemic, when everything had to close down and all work had to halt, I was made homeless. I lost what little source of income I had from what little work I was able to do as an undocumented migrant. I couldn’t make the rent payments the landlord required and I was evicted. I was destitute, whatever monies I had saved had run out. If it weren’t for friends and migrant led charities like Kanlungan I would have been out on the streets with all my belongings in bin bags. I was living on a friend’s sofa for 5 months. Despite the lockdowns easing, being undocumented meant I struggled to find work, and a place to move into. Eventually the same friends who had put me up in their home managed to help me find an accommodation and work that I can do, but only to face further hardship with this crisis. I am only one of what the Status Now Network estimates to be 1.3million immigrants with insecure and irregular immigration statuses living in the UK.
The cost of living crisis needs to end. But so does the hostile immigration system. This hostile environment isn’t our making and appealing to the humanity of the people who make up this government that dehumanises immigrants and sees us as inhuman is proving to be futile. While continuing to appeal to the British government’s compassion in its treatment of migrants is something we should not stop doing, we should also explicitly point out their inhumanity in their treatment of migrants and their lack of action on restoring their own humanity. In a way to hold a mirror for them to examine themselves. For what kind of human would revel in the suffering of another? What kind of human would dream of exposing another to further harm? I am so tired and angry that I can no longer find it in me to ask for compassion. This government and governments like them should stop putting the burden on us, on migrants to prove our humanity. Our humanity is absolute and unquestionable whereas theirs need to be confronted and interrogated. To this government and to allies, do the work. Not only for us but for yourselves. Setting us free will give us back the right to a life of dignity, restore your own humanity, the chance to help rebuild this flailing economy, and to imagine a more humane society. Hostile immigration policies birthed migrants. We will continue to campaign to change these hostile immigration policies against migrants. We will not be defeated! I hope you all join us in this fight!
|Time to Heal, Action not Words|
Status Now Black History celebration in Manchester
Status Now North West organised an event on 26th November in Manchester to celebrate Black History month, talking about the achievements of migrants and their contributions in the UK and inviting everyone to share their stories and campaign for asylum seekers’ rights. . People seeking asylum from RAPAR, Women Asylum Seekers Together(WAST), and other people seeking asylum were invited to the event and contributed to its success.
The BHM theme this year was TIME TO HEAL, ACTION NOT WORDS. Speakers from These Walls Must Fall, RAPAR and WAST, gave powerful speeches explaining the meaning of Black History Month (that not everybody knew) and invited asylum seekers to take action and have their voices heard. People living in the Serco managed hotel denounced the terrible conditions of their accommodation and the horrible food they are provided there.
Mariam Yusuf, Status Now North West coordinator, strongly encouraged meeting attendees focusing her speech on the inspiring story of Aderonke Apata, a WAST member living in Manchester, who became a legal expert while in Home Office immigration detention and is now a barrister. She was detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire from the end of 2011 until the beginning of 2013. During that time, many detainees –who either could not understand English or did not understand what the Home Office had written in refusal letters about their immigration claims- turned to Apata for help in explaining what was happening with their legal cases.
She learned about immigration law from reading all these letters and she managed to win her own case without legal representation. Her asylum claim, based on the fact that as a lesbian who had been persecuted in Nigeria her life would have been in danger if she was returned there, was refused and she was given removal notification and nearly deported to Nigeria. She fought the removal herself and won, her removal was cancelled just at the last minute while she was being taken to the plane.
Her story is a wonderful example of resilience and success and Mariam concluded her speech with a passionate call to action and hope. ‘Aderonke Apata is an inspiration to the people seeking asylum who have lost hope completely’ she said. ‘Despite the horrific treatment we’re going through there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to focus on how to push forward this light. Now is not the time to sleep in our houses/hotels, we need to wake up, go out there, speak out about what’s happening to us because if we don’t speak out nobody will know. Yes, many people have been speaking out, have been demonstrating, but it is not enough, we have to continue, defeat the hostile environment, and change this unfair asylum immigration system.’
|Status Now Network: Plans for an away weekend strategy eventSNN is currently planning to hold a weekend discussion on its campaigning strategy for the period ahead. The core of the discussion will be consideration of where migrant rights movements have got with their fight against hostile environment policies and how the standpoint of people who have lived experience of these repressive measures can be placed at the forefront.The event will take place on 20-22 January 2023. Our plans are still in development and we welcome the views of SNN supporters on what needs to go into this discussion. Spaces for attendance will be limited but anyone representing an organisation which has registered its support for SNN’s principles is eligible to attend.If you would like to offer your ideas on what needs to go into the discussion, or wish to register an interest in attending, please email us at info@statusnow|
|Join Status Now NetworkWe are looking for volunteers to help develop our work on social media|
Fight the anti-refugee laws and stop deportation to Rwanda
Sign 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!
Upcoming events24 November 6pm, Westminster Abbey20-22 January 2023Vigil demonstration on the anniversary of the 32 Channel drowningStatus Now Network away weekend strategy event
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.
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