Socialist Worker

Make 22 June a huge protest for refugees

Issue No. 1803

THE FROZEN bodies of 19 asylum seekers were found last week buried under snowdrifts in the remote mountains of south east Turkey. The unidentified refugees included nine children found next to their mothers. All died for the hope of a better life in another country. There will be more tragic deaths if New Labour's home secretary David Blunkett gets his way.

He wants to resurrect the old Tory policy of a 'white list' of countries. Anyone coming from a country on this list will be immediately deported because the government rules it is 'safe'. There will be no right of appeal in Britain.

Yet the Refugee Council reports that 1,400 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, who were branded as 'bogus', were found to have a good case on appeal and were allowed to stay in Britain. The hated Tory home secretary Michael Howard introduced the 'white list'. New Labour scrapped it in 1999 for being 'unjust and poorly thought through.' Blunkett alone will decide which countries go on the 'white list'.

New Labour and the Tories are locked in a disgusting race. Each wants to be seen as the toughest on refugees. A United Nations (UN) body has condemned New Labour for hyping up the 'crisis' over asylum. 'If you look at the statistics you see very little support for the idea prevalent in several European countries that they are being deluged by fraudulent asylum seekers,' said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The number of refugees entering Europe has fallen by almost HALF over the past decade. New Labour's own figures show the applications for asylum to Britain this year are DOWN 10 percent on the previous year. The UN's figures show that Jeff Rooker, who has now been replaced as immigration minister, lied when he said refugees were 'single young men who have deserted their families for money'.

Most asylum seekers were driven out of their countries by war, says the UN. Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia are still in the top five countries of origin for refugees applying for asylum in Britain. In Denmark the right wing coalition government has introduced a barrage of anti-asylum laws. There will be fast track deportations.

Refugees who have lived in Denmark for less than seven years will not get welfare payments. No one over 60 years old can claim asylum and no refugees can marry each other. Press and politicians' hype over a refugee 'crisis' is dangerous. It can lead some to turn the words of hate into racist attacks. This seems to have happened in Hull last Sunday when a gang of white youths fought a group identified as asylum seekers.

New Labour's dispersal policy of dumping refugees in under-resourced areas has fuelled these attacks. Hull is in the Yorkshire and Humberside region which has received the largest number of refugees in the dispersal scheme this year-some 9,460 people. Blunkett just keeps adding vicious new measures against refugees to his Asylum and Immigration Bill that is currently going through parliament. His ruthlessness sickens many ordinary people in Britain. The demonstration for refugees on 22 June in London is a chance to show our opposition to New Labour's scapegoating.

Standing up against scapegoating

CAMPAIGNERS FOR refugees across Britain are mobilising for the 22 June demonstration in London. It will round off Refugee Action Week-seven days of activities in support of refugees from 17 to 23 June. New Labour's attacks have given a real urgency to the demonstration and week of action.

The week includes activities ranging from a play touring schools in Thamesmead, south east London, about Somali refugees, and a public meeting in Haringey, north London, to protests outside refugee detention camps. Many more local groups and activists are planning events throughout the week. They are also organising to get people to London to make the demonstration as big as possible.

Jo Benefield, a campaigner in Bristol, explained what they were doing to mobilise for the march.

She said, 'We have written to the 20 trade union bodies that are affiliated to our Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign. Already we have the backing of the local branches of the FBU, the post workers' CWU, the print workers' GPMU, Bristol City Unison and Rolls-Royce Test Areas AEEU/ Amicus. We have to take every opportunity to challenge the lies and distortions and to set the record straight.'

Campaigners from Scotland down to the south coast of England are organising to get to London. The march is just two weeks away. Seize the time to get as many people on it as possible.

Hand leaflets round your workmates, community, friends and family. Put up posters in your local area. Contact other groups to make sure they know about the march.
For details of the planned activities phone the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers on 07941 566 183 or the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns on 0121 554 6947.

Stop the war on asylum seekers


Saturday 22 June, assemble 12 noon, Malet Street, London WC1 (Goodge Street tube or Russell Square tube)

Called by Barbed Wire Britain, Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, National Civil Rights Movement, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

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Article information

Sat 8 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1803
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