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Refugees welcome

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Working class Glaswegians have responded much more positively to the dispersal of asylum seekers to their city than many media reports have suggested, according to a recent study. The Building Bridges report, by Dr Karen Wren, identifies the voluntary work of local people within community networks as the single most positive aspect where the integration of asylum seekers in Glasgow is concerned.
Issue 1935
Refugees and locals unite in Sighthill, Glasgow  2001	(Pic: Jess Hurd
Refugees and locals unite in Sighthill, Glasgow 2001 (Pic: Jess Hurd

Working class Glaswegians have responded much more positively to the dispersal of asylum seekers to their city than many media reports have suggested, according to a recent study. The Building Bridges report, by Dr Karen Wren, identifies the voluntary work of local people within community networks as the single most positive aspect where the integration of asylum seekers in Glasgow is concerned.

Wren acknowledges that appalling incidences of verbal and physical harassment and assault of asylum seekers have taken place. However, she suggests that the mass media has highlighted such incidents while playing down, or simply ignoring, the positive stories regarding community drop-in centres and various forms of support offered to asylum seekers by residents.

The report identifies the key difficulties facing asylum seekers as coming from the policies of the Home Office and the government’s National Asylum Support Service (NASS). The withdrawal of asylum seekers’ right to work in 2002 is seen as a major barrier to the social integration of people applying for refugee status. This risks exposing asylum seekers to “exploitation and potentially dangerous working conditions” in the unregulated economy.

The report’s findings on the problems which arose when asylum seekers were first forcibly dispersed to Glasgow in 2000 are particularly significant.

Wren agrees with the original criticisms of many asylum seekers and asylum rights campaigners about the approach of NASS and Glasgow City Council.

She finds that, by bringing asylum seekers into communities, often in the middle of the night, without preparing those communities for their arrival, NASS and the council exposed asylum applicants to easily avoidable incidences of resentment and racism.

The report’s statistical research calls into question many of the arguments of New Labour regarding supposedly “bogus” asylum claims.

The largest increases in numbers of asylum seekers in Glasgow between 2001 and 2003 were from Zimbabwe, where the Mugabe dictatorship is guilty of widespread human rights abuses, and the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. These increases do not simply reflect NASS’s policy of creating clusters of asylum seekers from the same country in different parts of Britain. They also reflect general increases in asylum applications from countries where people are observably fleeing war or persecution.

Wren’s report is a comprehensive piece of work, and finds the response of working class Glasgow residents to be overwhelmingly positive, concluding: “Despite the racism experienced by some asylum seekers in Glasgow, there is another face to Scottish society which has sought to embrace values of social justice.”
Mark Brown Secretary of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees

The war on free speech

By any standards 2004 has been a bad year—perhaps the worst ever—for the killing of journalists and media staff. In a year overshadowed by war in the Middle East, media casualties have steadily risen to record levels.

By the end of the year there were 129 killings, murders, assassinations, crossfire victims, accidents and unexplained deaths.

A new report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reveals how journalists and media employees in every corner of the globe have been targeted, brutalised and killed by the enemies of press freedom. Many succumbed because they appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it wasn’t the wrong place, of course. Journalists have a duty to be on the spot when news is in the making.

Sometimes the consequences are deadly. In the Philippines, over a dozen reporters, among them hard-hitting, independent commentators, have been shot dead. Not one killer has been brought to justice.

The new report makes grim reading and explains in vivid terms why the IFJ continues to focus on the scandal of impunity and the failure of governments to bring the killers to justice and, in many cases, not even to investigate media murders.

On 8 April 2004, the IFJ led a worldwide protest over the failure of the US to carry out credible and independent investigations into the killings of journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

We are still waiting. On 8 April 2005 there will be another day of protest as we continue to demand justice for journalists killed in Iraq.

The loss of media lives on the scale set out in this report is hard to bear. It should remind us all to the sacrifice that journalists and media staff make in the cause of free expression.
Aidan White General secretary of the International Federation of Journalists
For more on the IFJ’s new report go to

Conditions that drive Chinese to despair

John Gittings’ article on China (Socialist Worker, 15 January) was really interesting and depicts a realistic picture of China today. Every time you have a conversation with a pro-market Chinese official, you are bound to get something like this: “Economy comes before politics. We’ll get everyone rich first, before we talk about political reforms.” Get everyone rich? Only the EU politicians who desperately want to win access to the Chinese market—forgetting about the Tiananmen Square massacre and planning to drop their arms embargo—would try to fool themselves with this slogan.

The truth is, as revealed by Gittings’ article, life is getting harder and harder for ordinary Chinese working class people. The state security system that some of them believe they had benefited from in the past has been weakened since China began opening up to the world market.

Today working class people have to look elsewhere to seek security in old age and to find decent education for their children. This is the background which leads so many Chinese workers and farmers to risk their lives to migrate to the West for work. They would do anything to get out of China. One of the Chinese workers who had to endure the harsh conditions of cockle picking in Morecambe after the tragedy there last February said, “Working is tough in Britain. And we have to live with the fear of deporation. But I will stay and work here as long as I can.”
Hsiao-Hung Pai East London

Brutal history of ‘Salvador option’

The ghosts of a thousand dead South American peasants filled my mind when I read that the US occupying forces in Iraq are contemplating the formation of death squads—like the ones used in El Salvador in the 1980s. The creation of this US-sponsored Gestapo is supported unstintingly and unsurprisingly by Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi and his band of flunkeys.

This Pentagon proposal cynically takes advantage of ethnic divides. These squads will be made up of Kurdish and Shia militiamen and target leaders of the Sunni resistance. This thugocracy will be used to terrorise the population into submission. This is not the undertaking of a benevolent nation helping another in the spirit of friendship and trust, but a cold calculating act designed to crush the human spirit and bring about the death of hope.

The shifting tide of reasons for this obscene, illegal war against a country unable to defend itself ended with Bush and Blair stating that they were giving Iraqis the chance to become a just and free democracy. With this news of the death squads, the last vestige of any kind of morality expressed by our leaders disappears into the black hole of contempt.

By Blair’s explicit and unquestioning alliance with the US we are all tainted. For him to accommodate this course of action without condemning it outright is at best an act of gross negligence. At worse it is a tacit admission that the war in Iraq has been a complete failure.
Alan Haynes Chatham, Kent

My son died at Deepcut

I congratulate Barry Donnan, who is from my home shire of Ayrshire (Letters, 15 January). My son was one of the Deepcut barracks’ first fatalities. He was 20 years old when he died in 1992. His story can be read on my website ( I have fought for almost 13 years to find out what happened to Alfie.
Jan Manship-Milligan California

It’s a sick, sad world

The Investors’ Chronicle (7 to 13 Jan 2005) discusses the tsunami: “What really matters though, is… the relatively thin level of insurance penetration among the populations of the affected countries, means the outlook for the world’s insurers isn’t too grim.” This says it all.
Laura Paskell-Brown By e-mail

Overturning no-strike deal

The Safeway supermarket at Bellshill had a no-strike agreement with the GMB union for years. But the workers pushed the union lawyers to check it out, and they found that it could not be enforced.
John By e-mail

Thanks for your support

I would like to thank all the comrades who turned up to Michael White’s funeral on 10 January. I have known Mike since he was 14, and even then he could voice his opinions and hold a very good political argument.

His favourite subject was history—he watched the UK History channel morning, noon and night. Our appreciation goes to all who have supported us as a family over the past few weeks. Thanks again to Socialist Worker. Without socialist politics I am sure that Mike would have gone mad several times over the last 25 years.
Martine White Burnley

Workers show the future

John Gittings does an excellent job of exposing the harsh reality of life under China’s economic boom (Socialist Worker, 15 January). However I think we can be much more optimistic about the prospects for change through the emergence of a workers’ movement.

There has been a growing trend among public and private sector workers towards strikes and even factory occupations to defend jobs. These actions are frequently successful, so workers are learning that striking pays.

We should look to the emerging workers’ movement to break the log jam of political reform, rather than hoping for gradual change from within the regime, or from the “civil society” that many academics champion.
Simon Gilbert Oxford

Celebrate the rise of China?

THE ARTICLE on China in last week’s Socialist Worker misses a key point—for the past 300 years the world has been dominated by people of European descent.

Europe and the US have been the source of technologies, cultures and philosophical ideas that have been seen as the essence of the modern world.

The transformation of China into a major industrial and political power is changing this very rapidly, and billions of people around the world are celebrating.

What China can do, so too can India, Brazil, and Iran—a new world is coming, with China leading the way.

The rulers of the US do not want this new world, and will attempt to use their military strength to strangle China by depriving it of raw materials.

This is what the occupation of Iraq is about. We should not be neutral in the conflict between the US and China, but should instead celebrate the end of European domination.
David Leal London

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