Socialist Worker

Refugee scandal that the tabloids ignore

Issue No. 1903

A 27 year old man was found dead at his flat in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow on 18 May after apparently committing suicide. He was Zekria Ghulam Mohammed, an Afghan asylum seeker. The papers that are normally so keen to splash pictures of refugees over their pages ignored his death.

Zekria is one of 15 refugees who have committed suicide in Britain over the last four years, according to the Institute for Race Relations (IRR). He had been living in Scotland for four years waiting for a decision on his asylum claim. "These people would rather kill themselves here than go back to their countries and face imprisonment, torture or death," said Robina Qureshi from Positive Action in Housing, a Scottish housing charity.

Zekria's death comes a week after a Yorkshire coroner criticised the "reprehensible" situation which led to 29 year old Iranian Sirous Khajeh taking his own life in Huddersfield on Christmas Eve, 2002. He had wrongly been told that his asylum claim had been refused and he faced deportation.

The other victims include Glynnis Cowley, a South African mother of three, who committed suicide in Liverpool in 2000 after her asylum claim was rejected. Saeed Alaei, a 26 year old Iranian living in Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged the same year after the rejection of his asylum claim. In 2002 Souleyman Diallo jumped 100 feet to his death from Redheugh Bridge, Tyneside, because he was to be deported to Guinea.

In 2003 a 42 year old Ukrainian asylum seeker, Mikhail Bognarchuk, was found hanged by his shoelaces at Haslar Removal Centre. He was due to be deported that day.


IN THIS WEEK

20 YEARS AGO: 1984

The Battle of Orgreave was a crucial point in the miners' strike. Thousands of miners converged on the coking plant near Rotherham in an attempt to shut it down.

A huge, brutal police operation was launched. Despite this, miners almost closed the plant. If they had been successful it would have been a crushing blow to Margaret Thatcher's government.

Miners' leader Arthur Scargill called for all miners to come to Orgreave. Yorkshire regional NUM union leaders defied his call and sent pickets elsewhere.


Becoming the 51st state

THE US wants to take over an area of central London, permanently occupy it and declare it "America". The US embassy wants to establish a permanent blockade round its building in Grosvenor Square. The US wants airport-style checkpoints, permanent concrete structures, a two metre high fence and police powers to shut down surrounding streets, effectively cutting off the whole square.


Banning the messenger

DONALD Rumsfeld is taking decisive action over the horrific abuse of prisoners in Iraq. He has banned camcorders and mobile phones with cameras in US army installations in Iraq.

According to a Pentagon source, "Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited throughout military compounds in Iraq." A ban throughout the US military is on the way.


Losing out in Burnley

FORMER LABOUR minister Frank Field has warned that the government's policy on pensions potentially gives a boost to the Nazi British National Party (BNP). He criticised the government in parliament last week for having a cut-off date of 1997 for those eligible to get compensation over the loss of their pension funds.

Before this date those employed in a company that went bust, robbing the workers of their pension fund, would not be entitled to claim from the government's new bail-out fund. Field pointed out that in Burnley, where the BNP has six councillors, the Belling company went bust in 1993.

New Labour's policy would ensure these workers were left angry, without the pensions they are owed. "Are we so naive, so idiotic, so proud, so boastful, that we are going to allow a measure through under which these workers will be excluded?" Field said.

"These are workers who are largely working class, male, and disenfranchised. Is that the message this House thinks it should send to Burnley in the middle of fighting elections against some of the nastiest people in the business?"


NHS man goes for profit

THE KEY architect of New Labour's health policy for creeping privatisation in the health service has decided he needs a new career challenge. Simon Stevens has been at the heart of government health "reform" since 1997. That includes his drive to get more private firms providing NHS care, which has driven up companies' profits and NHS costs.

Stevens will now be the president of a European subsidiary of the US health company UnitedHealth Group. He plans to work in "close cooperation" with the NHS devising better ways to provide healthcare. Blair's choice for Stevens' successor shows New Labour's disdain for the NHS and its workers.

Blair appointed Professor Julian Le Grand to replace Stevens. Le Grand said last year that public sector workers opposed to reform were "knaves" motivated by "plain self interest".

GMB leader Kevin Curran said, "Julian Le Grand's background suggests he identifies more with profit than public service." Former health secretary Alan Milburn has a £30,000 a year post advising a private company which is seeking to profit from the NHS.


FIGURE IT OUT

121,000

The number of council homes in London that are lying empty. That figure has gone up 21,000 since New Labour came to office. The biggest rises are in Barking and Dagenham, where the figure rose from 775 to 1,500, and Haringey, which rose from 3,500 to 5,300.


WHO SAYS?

"The Americans put electricity in my ass before they put it in my house."

IRAQI DETAINEE in Abu Ghraib prison

"The interests of business have been put at the heart of the government's negotiating position on the European Union constitutional Treaty."

JACK STRAW tells an audience of the CBI bosses' organisation that their interests will be protected by New Labour

"Seymour Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."

RICHARD PERLE leading Bush adviser and former top Pentagon official

attacking the man who first exposed in detail the torture in Abu Ghraib prison and the My Lai massacre in Vietnam

"There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

US BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT tries to justify massacring an Iraqi wedding party

"There is no connection between these two events. We don't live in a world any more where the majority of people are worse off because the better-off are rather more wealthy."

SAINSBURY'S SPOKESPERSON tries to justify top boss Justin King being given £1.4 million in shares on the same day the staff £100 Christmas bonus was axed

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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Thu 27 May 2004, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1903
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