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Issue #1776      May 10, 2017

Activist heroes

Britain: Activists on trial for blocking a mass deportation flight to Nigeria on March 28 are sticking to their guns. The action by End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Plane Stupid was the first of its kind to successfully prevent a deportation flight from going ahead.

It’s easy to dismiss this sort of dramatic intervention as a stunt, which might delay the deportation of certain individuals but doesn’t prevent it. Certainly the government’s response was simply to reschedule the flight.

But as the groups point out, some of those due to be deported on the March 29 flight were able to escape this fate. This is partly due to the chaotic nature of the government’s deportations policy – with Home Office figures showing that more than half those placed on chartered deportation flights last year were taken off them due to last-minute legal challenges.

This is not because Britain is a “soft touch,” as Theresa May would have us believe. Such a claim holds no water when our government’s response to the global refugee crisis has been distinctly uncharitable – pledging to take a meagre 20,000 Syrian refugees when David Cameron was prime minister, in contrast to the hundreds of thousands taken in by Germany and the millions sheltered in far smaller and far poorer countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.

It becomes a sick joke when we hear it from the lips of a government which cancelled the Dubs amendment scheme in February – turning its back on orphaned children fleeing the horrors of war, many of whom risk being trafficked into slave labour or prostitution.

No, the high incidence of successful legal challenges to deportation carries the same worrying message as the number of successful appeals against privateer Atos’s “fit for work” assessments of disabled people – that the original decision-making process has been hasty, brutal and riddled with errors.

In both cases, the reason is the same – political pressure for quick results. And that means travesties of justice, such as individuals with valid asylum claims being deported, or people being forced out of the country before their case has been decided on.

The situation is no more just when we look beyond refugees to people who have made their lives in Britain already. Individuals who have lived here for years, who have worked and have families, have been sent packing without warning – such as Irene Clennell, whose 27-year marriage and two British children did not stop her being deported to Singapore, having made the mistake of spending time there looking after her parents.

Some on the left blame the decision to leave the EU for this brutality, but the truth is more complicated.

Open borders within the EU have counter-intuitively resulted in much harsher immigration rules regarding non-EU citizens — who are, of course, less likely to be white. The difficulty of obtaining the right to live and work in Britain for people from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean has grown whatever the strength of their ties to this country.

The Conservatives were also whipping up anti-immigrant fever well before the referendum – hence May’s Go Home or Face Arrest vans, or her pledge to create a “hostile environment” for foreigners in this country, all made when Home Secretary.

Racism and xenophobia are on the rise here, as they are across the EU and beyond.

The direct action heroes who stopped that flight on March 29 saved some individuals from being sent to face persecution and violence. They also highlighted the callous and unjust system of mass deportations that disfigures our country. We express solidarity with them as they have their day in court.

Morning Star

Next article – Seeing Guernica with clear eyes

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