Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Immigration and the race card

The Liberal Democrats’ call for a selective amnesty for immigrants in Britain without legal rights will have no impact on a government determined to play the race card at every opportunity. It may be “absurd”, as Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg said, to deport an estimated 500,000 “illegals” at £10,000 a time, but then New Labour is that type of government.

Its ever-willing enforcement agencies are meting out increasingly repressive treatment against immigrants and asylum seekers and those who seek to support them. Organisers of a camp being set up this weekend to oppose a planned new detention centre being built at Gatwick Airport have been forced to switch to a new site after overt state harassment. The farmer who had agreed to rent his land suffered such pressure from the police that he pulled out of the agreement with the No Borders organisation.

Ian Bros of No Borders, which campaigns correctly for papers for all migrant workers, said that every time he phoned the farmer, “there would have been yet another police visit. They were consistently trying to paint a nasty picture of the potential camp participants but their priority seemed to be putting pressure on him to sign an agreement with the police to let them on his land during the camp, which he refused to do at our request”. The plan is now to hold the camp near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex between 20-23rd September.

The harassment of farmers providing space for protesters is part of the increasingly ugly atmosphere being stoked up as New Labour and the Tories slug it out for the anti-foreigner vote. Immigration minister Liam Byrne claimed that the introduction of compulsory ID cards would make things tougher for illegal immigrants. He boasted that the Home Office was “now deporting someone every eight minutes and doubling our frontline enforcement resources". Using the language of old-style Toryism, he raised the spectre of “waves of illegal immigration”.

Even as New Labour fans the racist flames, government lies about asylum seekers are being exposed in the courts. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had to eat humble pie last month when Mr Justice Collins overruled her decision to deport 70 Congolese asylum seekers. The judge ruled that Smith was wrong to send them back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government had already chartered a plane to return the Congolese nationals but lawyers submitted evidence that some of those who had already been repatriated by the UK had suffered rape and torture at the hands of DRC officials or agents after arriving at Kinshasa by plane.

At the weekend a former member of the Congo secret police revealed that the regime is torturing its political enemies and that many returned asylum seekers faced horrific treatment. Jules Waka Ndumba told an Observer reporter that those most at risk of rapes, beatings and electrocutions at Kin Maziere are opponents of the government, both in DRC and abroad, and military deserters. Many of the victims had been deported from the UK, France and Germany. Plundering corporations, greedy despots and arms manufacturers, a pattern repeated over and over again, drives repression in the Congo and other countries.

Add to this climate disasters like the recent floods in Africa and there will be many more desperate people fleeing oppression and hunger, seeking a better life in the richer countries of Western Europe. They join the hundreds of thousands from Eastern Europe who toil for a pittance in the fields in Britain and other countries. Meanwhile New Labour continues to terrorise, lock up innocent people and deport them whatever the cost in a bid to win cheap votes at the expense of those without a voice.

Corinna Lotz
AWTW secretary

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