By Isabel Ringrose
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Pushbacks and vile texts by deportation staff show reality of state racism

A scandal over racist messages comes as the Tories enlist the help of a notorious anti-migrant Australian politician
Issue 2793
Protesters in Athens shout with their fists in the air

Protesters in Athens rage against ‘pushback’ border tactics (Picture: Workers Solidarity)

Home Office contractor Mitie has admitted it ignored racist WhatsApp messages sent by its employees after receiving complaints. The messages sent in a chat of around 120 immigration staff included anti-Asian hate about Chinese people after restaurants closed during the pandemic.

Mitie carries out escorting and deportations for the Home Office in a contract reportedly worth tens of millions annually. It received complaints about the messages two years ago but failed to do anything about them.

In a reference to Syrian refugees arriving by sea a Mitie worker wrote, “They can only stay if they swim all the way,” with another replying, “What, you mean from Syria?”  A photo of migrants in a dinghy was also shared with the caption, “Where Gary Lineker’s house?”—a reference to the television ­presenter who was housing a refugee.

Mitie has sacked eight workers as a result and is reporting to the Home Office. But the job—deporting migrants—encourages racism. One Mitie worker spoke out and said, “Things are the worst they’ve ever been with bullying and racism. People are too scared to speak out for fear of facing further bullying or being sacked.”

In June 2021 an employment tribunal said it was “deeply concerned” about Mitie workers describing black colleagues as “cotton pickers”. But the claim of discrimination brought by a worker of Pakistani heritage was rejected.

Islamophobic posts by a worker on Facebook and staff making racist comments about colleagues in work have also circulated. The scandal comes as the Home Office is set to start work with former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer. He was behind Australia’s harsh “push back” system that sent boats carrying migrants as far away as Indonesia. Now the Tories have chosen him to review Britain’s border force.

The reality of what pushbacks mean was revealed off the cost of Greece earlier this month. Some 19 refugees died at the beginning of February because of the brutal Greek border force policy supported by the European Union. The refugees froze to death in Ipsala—a town on the border between Greece and Turkey. Each state blamed the other.

Hundreds of anti-racists joined a protest in Greek capital Athens on Sunday against deportations and pushbacks. It was called by anti-racist group Keerfa and supported by the Bangladesh Driving Rights Council of Greece. Keerfa said they demanded “justice, papers, legalisation for immigrations” and an end to “deportations, murders and pushbacks at the border”.

The global assault on refugees and migrants shows the need for a united movement against racism. Demonstrations held to mark UN anti-racism day will be held in cities across the world on the weekend of 19 March as part of a global day of action.

In Britain, anti-racists will march as part of Stand Up To Racism demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff supported by the TUC.


For more on the 19 March protests go to standuptoracism.org.uk

Citizenship is a Right protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill, Sunday 27 Feb. Assemble 12pm at the Home Office, London, SW1P 4DF for a march to Parliament Square


Attack on ‘woke’ teaching

The Department for Education (DfE) is using “political impartiality” as a guise to attack anti-racist and anti-colonial teaching.

New guidance in England’s schools demands teachers cover recent and historical events “in a balanced manner”. The DfE particularly target Black Lives Matter saying the demands of the movement “go beyond the basic shared principle that racism is unacceptable”.

The guidance also covers climate change.  “Where teaching covers the potential solutions for tackling climate change, this may constitute a political issue,” it says.

Joint NEU general secretary, Mary Bousted said, “The losers in the DfE’s 34-page game of obfuscation about what is and is not a ‘political’ issue will be the students who are denied the opportunity to engage with the most challenging issues of our time.

“The warning lights that the government is flashing around climate change, racism, world poverty and the legacy of empire as topics of exploration are more likely to decrease students’ engagement with learning than to stimulate it.”

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