Socialist Worker

Solidarity with refugees as Tories pass racist immigration bill

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2504

Refugees and their supporters protesting in Calais last October

Refugees and their supporters protesting in Calais last October (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Britain’s draconian immigration controls were tightened last week with the passage of the Tories’ Immigration Act 2016.

People must prove they have a legal right to be in Britain to access public services, open a bank account or rent a home.

This will increase racist discrimination.

Landlords face criminal charges if they don’t take “reasonable steps” to check prospective tenants’ immigration status.

Checks introduced in 2014 led more landlords to avoid tenants without British passports or, as one survey found, those with “foreign accents or names”.

The new act extends this logic, even creating a new offence of “driving while illegal”.

But there is a growing movement of solidarity with refugees and migrants. Campaigners across Britain are building for a convoy to Calais on Saturday 18 June.

Tim Flossman is from Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) Bristol. He told Socialist Worker, “We plan to take three minibuses, join another from South Wales and meet the rest of the convoy in Dover.

“The campaign has been a really energising experience.

“We’ve held street stalls, had big public meetings, and trade unions have been really good with providing money.”

Campaigners have forced the government to make concessions—but the Tories are fighting every one.

Some 157 children in the Calais “jungle” have been identified as having relatives in Britain who they are entitled to join.

Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act means more unaccompanied child refugees should be brought to Britain.

A letter from a child in west Yorkshire to children stuck in Calais

A letter from a child in west Yorkshire to children stuck in Calais (Pic: Sally Kincaid)


But Wakefield NUT union member Sally Kincaid told Socialist Worker, “There should be a government official in Calais finding these children, and it’s not happening.

“So we have a campaign to get them brought over in time for the new school year in September.

“Last weekend we spoke to 2,500 people in two days on a stall inside the local Lush shop.

Letters

“We asked children to write letters to the children in Calais.

“These were just superb—saying, ‘There’s room for you in my school, I can’t wait to be your friend’.”

Activists are also organising to support asylum seekers who are detained in Britain. The act introduces electronic tagging for migrants liable to be detained.

It claims changes will make sure they are held “for the shortest period possible”. The reality is very different.

East London student Nadia Sayed joined a solidarity visit to Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire last week. She told Socialist Worker, “They seem to have no interest in letting people out.

“There are detainees who have been there for months or even years, and it really takes a toll on people.

“One detainee had been locked up just two weeks before her wedding because the authorities decided her relationship wasn’t real.

“What really upset her was that they didn’t even seem to have tried to find out.”

The Tories also back the European Union’s (EU) clampdown on migrants in the Greek islands, which escalated last week.

The EU now plans a migrant prison ship off the coast of Libya. This makes the convoy all the more vital.

Tim said, “We should be able to make a significant donation to the people in Calais.

“But it’s also about taking people over to show we stand in solidarity with them—and put pressure on the government to change its policies.”

Go to bit.ly/1OuwaQu for more information about the 18 June convoy to Calais or to sign up

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