Socialist Worker

Persecution of the desperate

Issue No. 1702

The disgrace of Tories and New Labour

Persecution of the desperate

TORIES AND New Labour ministers blame gangsters who profit from moving immigrants around the world for the death of refugees in Dover. But it is their asylum laws which have created trade for the gangsters. Imagine how desperate people must be to travel thousands of miles across several continents, risking their lives.

Imagine how unbearable life must become to be prepared to cram together with 60 others in a sealed container in boiling hot weather with absolutely no ventilation. Yet these are the people the press, the Tories and New Labour denounce as "bogus".

New Labour has stopped any immigrants without documents from getting into Britain. British immigration officers patrol French railway stations targeting those they suspect of being refugees trying to board Eurostar trains.

And both the Tories and New Labour have introduced visa restrictions on countries like Sri Lanka, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Colombia. You need a visa even if the plane merely has a stopover in Britain. Yet how can someone fleeing persecution ask those who are persecuting them to give them a visa?

Such barriers do not stop those attempting to flee persecution and desperate circumstances. But they do drive them towards taking more desperate measures and into the hands of the gangsters.

Straw's shame

JACK STRAW wants even more restrictions on illegal immigrants. Earlier this year he imposed a fine on lorry drivers of �2,000 for every asylum seeker found on board.

Now he is considering raising the fine and introducing more stringent checks. These measures INCREASE the likelihood of another Dover tragedy happening again. The fine is an incentive for any driver to dump the human cargo as quickly as possible.

A crew of Ukrainian sailors murdered eight stowaways from Ghana on a ship bound for Europe in 1992 because they could not pay the fines they faced if they brought the stowaways to a European port. The eight Ghanaians were beaten and shot, then their bodies were thrown overboard.

Innocent jailed

NEW LABOUR jails up to 1,000 asylum seekers a year for the "crime" of travelling with false papers. Yet immigrants are caught in a Catch 22 situation. They cannot get the correct papers to travel but the false ones turn them into criminals. If they are caught they face jail sentences of up to nine months.

A 27 year old Iraqi accountant, Dylan Sorani, was jailed for three months after arriving at Heathrow on a false Greek passport. He had fled torture in Iraq. Chouki Adimi fled Algeria on a false Italian passport. The Crown Prosectution Service tried to jail him despite the fact they recognised him as a refugee.

In a test case last August Lord Justice Brown ruled in favour of jailed asylum seekers and accused New Labour of breaking the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.

Laws fuel gangs

GANGSTERS WHO trade in refugees thrive off tough restrictions on asylum seekers. They are by no means all foreign gangs, as the popular press imply. Neil Acourt-one of the chief suspects in the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence-is one of those profiteers. He has been charged with smuggling illegal immigrants into Britain.

The gangsters' trade exists across the world wherever there are immigration controls. They know they can charge what they like to people who are desperate to escape. Their victims cannot complain to the authorities because those same authorities brand them as "illegal" immigrants.

Poverty is no 'bait'

JACK STRAW says he is clamping down on the "bait" that lures asylum seekers to Britain by reducing the benefits given to asylum seekers. Does he really think the refugees who died in Dover travelled tens of thousands of miles in appalling conditions to live a life of luxury on vouchers worth �36.54 a week?

Does he think they longed to be dumped in substandard accommodation, dispersed to all parts of the country where they may be cut off from anyone who speaks their language? The BBC's Panorama programme this week exposed the life some economic migrants face.

They are at the mercy of employment agencies who find them hard jobs where they have no rights. The undercover investigator in the programme paid a �180 fee to the agency. His first two jobs earned him just �34.80. The main supermarkets profited from this slave labour, as they could get produce from their suppliers for a cheaper price.

Economic migrants have always played a crucial role in building the economies of the countries they arrive in. Yet they face increasing hostility from government ministers and big businessmen who are happy to make a profit from illegal immigrants.

  • Why immigration is not the problem-centre pages

Why do people flee China?

IMMIGRANTS FROM China are the second largest group of people applying for asylum in Britain. Tony Blair warmly welcomed China's prime minister, Jiang Zemin, to Britain last year.

But the Chinese government is pushing through mass sackings across industry as part of its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The World Bank estimates that 35 percent of China's 140 million industrial workers will face the sack when these industries are opened up to the market. Amnesty International has blasted China for its appalling human rights record. Chinese troops mowed down demonstrators demanding more democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The government still uses the military to brutally clamp down on protests and strikes. The Chinese government carried out 34 executions a week in 1998-more than the rest of the world put together.

Why did they die?

THE 58 refugees who died at Dover were not the only victims of brutal asylum laws.

  • Vijay Saini, aged 18, was crushed to death by the wheels of a British Airways plane after he and his brother, Pardeep, stowed away on board in October 1996. Pardeep, aged 23, survived the ten hour freezing temperatures only to be locked up in a detention centre. The New Labour government then ruled he should be deported back to India.
  • The dead body of a man, believed to be from Cuba, was seen dangling from a British Airways plane as it landed in Gatwick on 25 August last year.
  • A woman refugee was crushed to death as she climbed out of the back of a truck in St Leonards in East Sussex on 9 April. She was trying to escape as the lorry stopped at traffic lights. She fell from the lorry's towing gear and was crushed by the trailer.

Politicians ignore plea

"Excellence messrs, the members and leaders of Europe, we appeal to your sense of solidarity and kindness to come to the rescue of Africa. Help us, we suffer too much. So if you see us sacrificing and risking our lives it is because we have too much suffering in Africa, and we need you to fight against poverty and end the war in Africa. We beg you to forgive us very much for daring to write this letter to you, great personalities to whom we owe much respect."

THIS LETTER was found on the bodies of two teenagers, Yaguine Koita, aged 15, and Fode Tounkara, aged 14, in July last year. The bodies were discovered in the undercarriage of a plane landing in Brussels. They were fleeing Guinea, where 40 percent of the population live on less than 65 pence a day.


TRANSPORT TO the demonstration leaves from around the country. For details, phone the number below: 

NEWCASTLE: 0191 469 6559 
MANCHESTER: 07947 645 289 
SHEFFIELD: 07949 089 589 
MERSEYSIDE: 07801 554 918 
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Assemble 1pm, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2 (Holborn Tube) Called by National Civil Rights Movement, Europe Roma Organisation, Tony Benn MP, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, NATFHE and Socialist Worker

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Sat 24 Jun 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1702
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