Build support far and wide
SEVENTY people packed out a brilliant meeting of the Brent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers in Willesden last week. Asylum seekers, Labour Party members, socialists, trade unionists and local residents came together to talk about how they could organise against the press and politicians' witch-hunt.
The breadth of the platform reflected the growing coalition in support of asylum seekers, and anger at New Labour. People applauded Mary Turner, national president of the GMB manual union and Labour Party national executive member, who called for the scrapping of the voucher scheme, and for the right of people to move freely across national boundaries.
"The voucher scheme is the most offensive thing I've come across," said Mary. "The language our government has used I find disgusting and disgraceful. We wouldn't treat an animal the way we are treating asylum seekers. Instead of tax cuts, we should save the money for looking after people persecuted across the world."
The Labour leader of Brent Council, Paul Daisley, also defended asylum seekers and called for them to have a legal right to work. Speakers from the floor included two Labour councillors, black activists and
Peter Herbert from the Society of Black Lawyers. Those who attended gained more confidence to make sure Brent says, "Refugees are welcome here."
- ANNE DRINKELL, West London
I RECENTLY experienced a bizarre example of the anti-refugee hysteria whipped up by William Hague and other politicians. A neighbour told me I was famous on my estate for housing Kosovan refugees, and that people with clipboards had been directing refugees to various flats in the block.
Naturally I was surprised, because I live in a one bedroom flat and feel sure I would have noticed any refugees staying there. They were in fact three Spanish friends in London for a holiday! If the first assumption on seeing a group of foreigners is that they are "bogus asylum seekers", what other myths must be circulating?
Our local branch of the SWP has leafleted the estate, nailing the lies and campaigning for protest against the refugee voucher scheme outside the nearby Sainsbury's.
- TIM SANDERS, London
We accuse big business over GM crop trials
TWO WEEKS ago 11 local people took part in non-violent direct action against a genetically modified maize crop trial in Wivenhoe, Essex. A significant amount of damage was done and a lot of publicity has been generated.
The trial went ahead in the interest of big business despite the wishes of local people. In a Wivenhoe Parish Council referendum 88 percent of the electorate voted for the trial to be discontinued.
The local Conservative MP, Bernard Jenkin, labelled us as extremists. The 11 people involved have now pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal damage, due to the risk to human health and the environment.
- ANDREW CURTIS, ANDY ABBOTT and DAVID ISAACSON, Essex
- Send messages of support and donations c/o 17 Shrub End Road, Colchester, Essex CO3 3UB. Cheques payable to ERSA. Fax 020 7538 0140
Waynes get the blame
PSYCHIATRY IS supposed to be based on science, like other branches of medicine. But two recent surveys have suggested that prejudice also plays a big part in the diagnosis people are given. One study by the Institute of Psychiatry confirmed that African-Caribbean people are six times more likely than whites to be diagnosed as schizophrenic in Britain.
The researchers showed that this was nothing to do with genetics or biological make-up. Instead "social adversity" was blamed. But, as many service users know, institutional racism within psychiatry has a massive effect on what label you end up with.
Another survey showed how a patient called Wayne is much more likely to be negatively labelled as "feigning, malingering or suffering from a personality disorder" by psychiatrists than a person called Matthew. Not very reassuring!
- JOHN COOPER, Community Psychiatric Nurse, Birmingham
A lesson in profit
I'M WRITING to tell you about Nord Anglia, the private company which is now involved in running education services in parts of the country. I was employed by Nord Anglia to teach in Russia. The school there had no facilities when we arrived- floors were being made, desks had to be flown in and books hadn't even been ordered.
After one month we were told the rent in the apartments provided was treble the housing allowance we had been given and there was an "agent's fee" of one month's rent. This meant some teachers actually got no salary that month. This led to a protest meeting, a petition being drawn up, and we threatened a strike.
McNeany, a Nord Anglia boss, flew in to sort things out. But after everything had supposedly been worked out over the agent's fee and our accommodation, Nord Anglia started victimising those who had been most vocal about the rip-off staff had experienced.
There was more conflict and one staff member's contract was terminated. When I got back to Britain I read that the same Nord Anglia was providing education to schools in Hackney, east London.
- SW reader, London
Essex on the dole
Chevron Engineering recently announced the closure of its Hainault factory in Essex with the loss of over 150 jobs. The company, owned by the multi-million SPS Technologies, makes components for the aerospace industry.
It has only offered the workforce minimum redundancy settlements and says it will give 2,000 to employees willing to transfer to the site in Sheffield. It seems ridiculous that a company would close the Hainault site, which has a skilled workforce and full order book, to transfer to the Sheffield site, which is running at a loss.
It could be simply a cost-cutting exercise, taking into account the lower labour costs in the north of England.
- KATHERINE GILCREEST, Essex
Two say thanks
I WANT to thank all the Socialist Worker readers who have done so much to support the campaign to free Ruth Wyner and John Brock. They were jailed after, unbeknown to them, a few of the homeless people they worked with were found to be dealing in drugs. Without such public backing it is quite possible that Ruth and John would still be in prison.
There is still a lot to do. Ruth and John are out on bail pending their appeal against their conviction, which will take place in September or October. Whatever the outcome we need to keep the issue alive with the help of trade unions, and local and national activists, to ensure that no other charity workers get put through the same misery.
The campaign is circulating a new petition to the home secretary calling for a change in the law that led to the imprisonment of John and Ruth. There are new leaflets, posters, badges and a CD. If anyone can help us distribute these all over the country it is surely your readers.
- ALEXANDER MASTERS, chair, Cambridge Two campaign
Where's the peace?
THE RESURRECTION of the Good Friday Agreement has suggested that peace has finally come to British-occupied Ireland. Yet certain elements within the Unionist constituency continue to engage in acts of terrorism against the Catholic Nationalist population.
In June two arson attacks on Catholic churches were perpetrated by Unionist bigots. In County Antrim tyres were piled up outside the door of St Mary's church in Cushendall before being set alight. Then the Baptist Catholic church on the Garvaghy Road was also damaged in an arson attack.
Fortunately there were no fatalities in the arson attacks. They are examples of the many acts of terrorism routinely committed against the Catholic population of occupied Ireland. Surely it is time for Britain to leave Ireland so true peace, peace with justice, will finally come to the people of a united Ireland.
- BARBARA FINK, United States
THE ENGLISH Premiership is the richest division in the world, with a combined income of over 470 million. Football clubs have become limited companies, responsible not to their fans but to sharp-suited shareholders more interested in profits than points.
The fans must protest against, and take action against, a system which daily reveals its inequalities, injustices and general destructiveness. Value must no longer be measured just by wealth.
The fans will only again really enjoy the game when the laws of greed no longer govern it.
- JOHN EDMONDS, Cornwall