Defending asylum seekers
REFUGEE campaigner Mike Taylor was given a conditional discharge at Uxbridge magistrates court last week. This is the lowest sentence that that can be handed out. Mike faces 150 court costs.
Mike was charged with organising a protest on Heathrow airport property and refusing to leave a demonstration, after he joined a protest against the deportation of Iraqi Kurd Amanj Gafor in August last year. Protesters outside Mike's court case included members of the AEEU shop stewards' committee from Rolls Royce test areas in Bristol. Campaigners feel the case marked a victory.
"The protest outside the court meant the magistrate couldn't deliver a hammer blow," said Mike. "In the court they talked out my case in terms of 'issues of safety and anti-terrorist measures'. But the strong union presence had an effect and weakened their blow. They wanted to criminalise me for defending refugees. I really feel it's the government who should be in the dock over asylum seekers, not me."
Others who supported Amanj's right to stay in Britain included Labour MPs Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Alan Simpson and Valerie Davey, and the leaders of the GMB, MSF, BECTU, NUJ and FBU unions.
MORE THAN 100 people packed a Sheffield meeting last week on "Asylum seekers: the other side of the story" to hear a former Yugoslavian journalist describe Britain's appalling treatment of refugees. Zrinka Brald, who was denied asylum after fleeing war ravaged Sarajevo in 1992, took apart New Labour's immigration record since the 1997 election. The meeting was a memorial for Ruth Kaplan, a socialist lawyer and exile of South Africa's apartheid regime.
Zrinka said, "After the general election people thought Labour was now in power and everything would be fine.
"But what we got was the 'firmer, firmer, faster' white paper and a minister telling asylum seekers they would have to cash in their wedding rings." Members of Sheffield Socialist Alliance spoke from the floor to support calls for united activities to support refugees and an end to racist scapegoating. As a result last Saturday around 30 campaigners protested against vouchers outside the Somerfield supermarket in Sheffield city centre.