ASYLUM SEEKERS are a vulnerable group who are being scapegoated.
The government is making every effort to curtail the appeal process, effectively wiping it out altogether. At present there are up to seven different stages you can go through to get asylum. I went through them all.
Still they did not believe me when I showed them I would be in fear of my life if I were to be sent back to Nigeria. There was a military dictatorship and I was well known for my political views.
Finally I appealed to the high court through the Human Rights Act and I am able to stay here.
These appeals are important. Many minds are able to look at a case. Sometimes an erroneous fact comes to light or a point of law. It took me 13 years. I could not have done it without the support of my work, Liverpool city council, and the Unison branch there.
I treasure my victory and now I am an ally to other asylum seekers.
The government is making it more difficult for asylum seekers. Every time I get annoyed the light inside me burns a bit brighter.
I HAVE read the full text of the new Asylum and Immigration Bill. If it becomes law it will effectively undermine the operation of the Refugee Convention in Britain.
For many years New Labour has responded to the incessant demonisation of asylum seekers by frantically passing ever more draconian laws and regulations. These have deliberately driven many asylum seekers into complete destitution.
Now we have the sickest attack yet-the threat to remove asylum seekers' children into care if the family does not "voluntarily" leave Britain.
While Britain remains formally a signatory of the Refugee Convention, Labour's policies have made it increasingly difficult for anyone to really exercise their right to seek asylum.
The new bill goes further than ever before. It now threatens criminal prosecution and up to two years in prison against anyone who enters Britain without a passport. This will hit most asylum seekers. Because it is impossible to enter Britain legally to seek asylum, most asylum seekers have to pay people-smugglers to get them in.
The Refugee Convention itself recognises that refugees often have to use false documents. At the same time the Home Office routinely claims that an asylum seeker who has managed to flee using their own passport cannot be in any danger from their own government.
The bill also gives government the power to electronically tag all asylum seekers from the moment they claim. This criminalises people who have committed no crime. And just to make sure that asylum seekers cannot use the legal system, the decision of the new Asylum and Immigration Tribunal will be final.
Past experience does not breed confidence in the courage of Labour MPs. But in a rapidly changing political situation it would be wrong to assume Blair and Blunkett will automatically win over this.
What is for sure is that if we do not fight, we will get the ugliest of outcomes.
Not cheering on the rugby team
WHEN SCHOOL students across the country walked out last year in protest at the war the right wing press attacked them.
Yet during the England rugby team's parade through central London, the school students who had bunked off weren't condemned-they were congratulated. Ed Walker, who wrote a passionate defence of the Rugby World Cup (Letters, 20 December), might like to ask himself why.
Sport under capitalism is never just "a thrilling competition with a fantastic climax". Capitalist social relations have taken the joy of physical activity and turned it into a multibillion pound industry with all the nationalism, brutality, greed, competitiveness and racism in society in general. We are encouraged to cheer for the "home" team and to boo everybody else's team.
And what our rulers want is for workers to feel that their "national" identity is more important than their class consciousness.
There have been rebels who have used the attention sport has given them to make progressive gestures. In 1968 the clenched Black Power salute electrified the Mexico Olympics.
Ed Walker can try to enjoy sport but he can't separate it from the filth that comes with it, which is why Socialist Worker was right on the ball on the Rugby World Cup.
I HAVE spoken to a few people, Unison members, at my work about the new left coalition that will stand in June's elections as an alternative to New Labour.
Two people are very enthusiastic.But another has raised the point, what about the Green Party? Are we in danger of making a tactical mistake if we split the radical/left vote in the elections?
Another member backs the idea of a new electoral organisation. But, she wonders, would it stand against the likes of the Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd, that is to say Labour MPs who opposed the war although only in a quiet way and not like Jeremy Corbyn did?
No justice for deaths in jail
THERE WAS overwhelming support shown at the demonstration for Mikey Powell in Birmingham on 15 November.
It is evidence of the growing awareness of the increasing numbers of deaths in custody. There is a realisation among ordinary people that such deaths are an affront to a society that seeks to be a civilised democracy.
I attended the national demonstration against deaths in custody in October. Six of us were allowed to deliver a letter of protest to Tony Blair.
Black deaths in custody are a cause for outrage. So too are white deaths in prison. My late daughter Sarah Elizabeth Campbell was taken to Styal prison where she died several hours later without regaining consciousness.
Styal prison has an appalling record of deaths. Six women have died in the 12 months ending August 2003. There has only been one inquest, which recorded an open verdict.
The Crown Prosecution Service vigorously pursued a manslaughter charge against my daughter for a non-violent offence. I see no reason why the CPS cannot pursue criminal charges against the officers involved in the death of Roger Sylvester, who died in police custody in 1999.
What's a scruff degree worth?
I READ the very good articles on top-up fees (Socialist Worker, 13 December). But there is one small point I have not seen mentioned.
Will first class universities select against graduates from the "scruff universities" for postgraduate and research work? What happens to the fees for these? I am particularly nervous in light of my own experience as a working class student in the 1950s.
Questions on Georgia revolt
IN THE article "Can Uprisings Bring Fundamental Change?" (Socialist Worker, 13 December) it was not mentioned that the US was acting behind the scenes.
It has so often done this providing money, arms or technical expertise in most countries. For example it provided support for a Georgian lawyer trained in the US to lead the recent peaceful revolt in Georgia.
How can these corporate-backed special interest groups be described as popular uprisings?
Israel's terror in Guatemala
The main argument of Zionism is that Jews can only be safe in the state of Israel and that hostility towards this state means military measures are justified.
In the 1980s Israeli special forces trained the Guatemalan army in counter-insurgency tactics in a country teeming with US-backed death squads terrorising landless peasants and trade unionists.
Perhaps a Zionist could enlighten me as to this implied anti-Semitism in Aztec, Maya and Inca culture. Or maybe it's something to do with US global interests?
Stoppage at student fees
THE STUDENTS of Rennes took to the streets again before Christmas after voting for an indefinite stoppage over the government's education reforms.
The students recognised that when the government appeared to withdraw the reforms it was a ruse to try to slow up the militancy. In Rennes 3,000 students arrived at the Department of Education to throw fireworks and fruit at the police positioned to prevent any occupation. They had previously picketed the town's wealthy district, where the private university and economics faculty have ignored the strike call.
The major hope now is that the students can build the links with the sections of workers who face redundancy.
Our readers are everywhere!
I WOULD like to thank you for sending me your newspaper.
I have been receiving it regularly since I met some of your representatives while in Paris during the European Social Forum.
I must congratulate you for having such a strong mouthpiece, which could, and should, be a role model for many, particularly for media and society in central and Eastern European countries like Romania.
As I am a high school English teacher I also use some articles in your paper as working material during my classes. But I have to do it with care as we are not allowed to do any politics in schools.
Check out of Wal-Mart?
THANK YOU for printing the excellent article about the strike in California (Socialist Worker, 20 December)
It highlighted the awful behaviour of the giant US corporation Wal-Mart, who incidentally pay money to Bush's party. I wonder if other readers are aware that Wal-Mart own Asda. Asda is trying to undercut the supermarket business in Britain. We could support the fight of the US workers by boycotting Asda.
We could support local small shops-there is always an alternative to the large supermarket.