THE INHUMANITY of New Labour's treatment of asylum seekers seems to have no limits. The principle of the United Nations and European Union conventions on the rights of the child and the rights of families is that, in any case affecting children, it is the interests of the child that must be the guide.
This is not the case, it appears, if that child is an asylum seeker. The Guardian last week reported on the case of the mother who had to take the government to court in order to get milk tokens for her baby. She is HIV positive and cannot risk breastfeeding. But she is an asylum seeker. Milk tokens used to be given automatically to every mother from the time her pregnancy was confirmed until her baby reached one year old.
Now they are only given to mothers on income support, but not to asylum seekers even though they get only 70 percent of income support. This government does not care if their babies suffer from malnutrition. Milk tokens can be exchanged for powdered baby milk or fresh milk. Even breastfeeding mothers need them, because they need to drink extra to make enough milk for their babies.
The same issue of the Guardian had an article reporting on the increase in the detention of babies and children. Pregnant mothers with small children seeking asylum are held in detention centres with razor wire and uniformed guards.
Asylum seekers are NOT criminals. We must campaign in their defence and spread the message 'Refugees are welcome here'.
SARAH COX, West London
Ken Livingstone has caved in to the privateers
KEN Livingstone's cowardly decision to drop his legal challenge to the government's privatisation of London Underground is a kick in the teeth for Londoners and tube workers. Livingstone's election as mayor, against New Labour's Frank Dobson, was a massive rejection of Blair's policy of privatisation.
While it was always going to be difficult to win in the courts, Livingstone could have mounted a serious campaign with demonstrations and protests. This could have been organised in conjunction with the tube workers' unions who are taking strike action over safety issues.
However, this would have meant tackling Labour head-on at a time when Livingstone seems to have tailored his strategy around his other goal of getting back into the Labour Party. Fortunately, as our strike last month showed, we have the power to take on the privatisers and win.
Nonetheless, Livingstone has caved in at a time when the possibilities for building a movement that unites workers in the unions with campaigners for better transport and public services has never been better.
MAC McKENNA, tube worker, South London
I feel betrayed
ON HEARING that Ken Livingstone had abandoned his court battle over the London Underground PPP proposals I felt betrayed. His opposition to PPP was the single most significant issue in his mayoral election success. He should have fought to the bitter end.
Abandoning the case, on the grounds that there was little chance of winning, seems highly suspicious and smacks of a deal with Blair.
Helen Murphy, South London
We have to stop killer companies
THE GLOBAL AIDS Fund has stalled. The G8 set this fund up to combat HIV, TB and malaria. But G8 countries have only given $1.3 billion to the fund. Kofi Annan, the UN general secretary, called for a minimum of 7 to 10 billion dollars a year for HIV alone.
The courts in South Africa have made another landmark decision-that expectant mothers should be given Nevirapine, an AIDS drug, free of charge to stop mother to child transmission.
They should give all South Africans free AIDS drugs. GlaxoSmithKline, the biggest drugs company in the world, spends millions stopping people getting generic AIDS drugs which are much cheaper. Global capitalism is killing people, and it doesn't care because it is making profits.
'The money is there-just ask for it,' as Nelson Mandela said at the closing ceremony of the World AIDS conference in Barcelona recently. We also have to demonstrate. The next big HIV/ AIDS conference will be in Glasgow in November. We need to organise a demonstration against the drugs companies.
GARY KELLY, Glasgow
Socialists should oppose the euro
I WAS encouraged to read that members of the Socialist Alliance in England (Socialist Worker, 27 July) have succeeded in persuading their branch to campaign for a no vote in a future referendum on the single currency. My branch of the Welsh Socialist Alliance in Swansea also recently backed a motion urging a no vote in the euro referendum.
Just as important perhaps was that the motion also called for the establishment of a socialist campaign against the euro. This is vital, as every socialist would find it impossible to work with people like Iain Duncan Smith and other Little Englanders.
I don't give a damn about saving the pound, but I do care about the huge cuts in public services that will come about if we join the euro. Here in Wales we are already attempting to lay the foundations of a left-led no campaign, linking up with trade unionists, left wingers in the Labour Party, members of the Green Party and socialists in Plaid Cymru. There are crucial issues at stake for working class people in the debate on the euro.
LEIGH RICHARDS, Swansea
Court and councils hit the poorest
A MEMBER of Crawley Pensioners Action Group, Ken Clement, was in court last week for non-payment of council tax. His combined industrial and state pensions, he argues, had risen by some 5 percent, while the council tax had risen by 10 percent, which amounts to a cut in income.
The action group turned out in force to support him. As we waited for him to be called in, a young woman came out of the court and joined the protest. She was very angry at the way she had been treated-the court demanded payment of her council tax despite the fact that she was unable to work because of a broken leg.
Council tax and rent rises cancel out rises in pensions. The surprising thing is that there is not already a national protest movement against this unfair tax which devastates anyone on low pay. In the end Ken didn't appear in court. They offered him until next August to pay off the backlog, rather than next April, when, of course, the next bill will arrive.
MURIEL HIRSCH, Crawley
How will society be run differently?
I HAVE been reading Socialist Worker for two to three years, and enjoy reading information that is not available in the standard press. I do not argue that the capitalist system shouldn't be replaced with something better, but people in the SWP have failed to convince me that they can offer a real alternative.
Are there books outlining the replacement institutions: banks, parliament, stockmarkets, and an alternative to the market system? How will funds be raised for projects like healthcare, transport and pensions? Are there any writings on the psychology of such a system-what would provide incentives to continue and believe in that society?
There are also issues of crime and corruption. Are you convinced that a change of society would eradicate these?
EDWARD MOLLOY, Glossop
Open borders to refugees
THE 'NO Borders' camp recently saw 2,500 pro-refugee activists take part. The camp was held in Strasbourg to oppose the Schengen Information System-a computer system that establishes the building of Fortress Europe. It is a massive database through which governments and security services can share information about people passing through 'Schengen territory'.
Some 90 percent of the information on the database relates to refugees. The protest camp was a chance to promote the work being done in Britain, and to build international support for the defence of people attempting to cross borders in Europe in order to find safe havens.
Actions against the deportation and detention of refugees are planned outside the Dover removal centre on Saturday 19 October. The week 14 to 19 October will see demonstrations across Europe. We aim to make the defence of the refugees who are trapped on the north coast of France the focus of this week.
THOMAS McGOWAN, Kent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers
Bill will give firms a grip on democracy
I THINK people should be aware of one of the most undemocratic bills in recent history currently passing through parliament. The City of London Bill intends to allow companies in the City of London to vote depending on their staff numbers for the City's government.
Residents' votes will be swamped, disenfranchising them. This will effectively mean that big companies will run the City's local government and can buy votes. As a campaigning paper I think it is extremely important that Socialist Worker brings this issue to the attention of your readers.
More information can be found on www.poptel.org.uk/scgn/articles/0006/page5.htm
Keep up the good work.