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US refugee deal winds up with hundreds in limbo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 9:21pm in

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refugees, refugees

Marc Ablong, Deputy Secretary Resettlement and Cyber Security Home Affairs (yes, you read that correctly), told October’s Senate Estimates hearing that the deal with the US to resettle refugees from Nauru and PNG would finish in March or April 2021.

According to figures presented to the Estimates hearing, by that time, up to 1140 refugees will have been resettled in the United States. 

The deal, to resettle up to 1250 refugees, was first negotiated between Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama in November 2016, and then confirmed with Trump in February 2017.  It looks like the numbers that will get to the COVID-ridden US will be 100 short of 1250.

The miserable end of the US deal reveals that it was never an acceptable alternative, made even worse when the level of COVID, and the scale of economic collapse, means the US offers far less than a safe or secure future. 

But as Solidarity has reported since the deal was first announced, even if the US takes 1250 refugees, hundreds are being left with no future.

With 20 in PNG and about 30 in Nauru waiting to be transferred to the US, there will be 240 people still held offshore (125 in PNG and 115 in Nauru) with no future. Onshore there are 1226 (including those transferred under the Medevac Bill), who are being held in hotel-prisons and detention centres, or are in the community without a permanent visa.

In one final effort to push refugees into returning home, the government is now depriving people of even the most basic support.

Hundreds of the 1226 people here are being driven into destitution on final departure bridging visas, evicting them from houses, cutting off income support and expecting them to find work in the middle of the COVID recession.

Churches, charities and refugee support groups are desperately trying to find housing and support for the hundreds being dumped in the community and deliberately driven into poverty.

They have joined the ranks of the million workers on temporary visas, the thousands of asylum seekers still waiting for their refugee assessments, and thousands more on temporary protection visas who are also being denied the basic welfare support of JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments.  The refugee movement needs to renew its demands for full rights for refugees and asylum seekers onshore. 

For the hundreds still in PNG and on Nauru, it still matters that the refugee movement continues to fight to, “bring them here, and let them stay—on permanent visas”.

Stop the spread of the Australian solution

Europe’s leaders have long been attracted by the “Australian Solution”. In 2003, then British Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was explicitly inspired by Australia’s “Pacific Solution” to propose establishing “transit processing centres” outside the borders of the EU.

In 2015, Australia’s just-deposed Liberal Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, urged European leaders to adopt Australia’s brutal border security policies. Since then, as European countries have increasingly slammed their borders shut, their leaders have increasingly adopted elements of the Australian Solution, in particular the interception, turnbacks, and denial of asylum that characterise Operation Sovereign Borders.

Thousands of lives have been lost as Europe’s leaders abandoned rescues or turned back asylum boats on the Mediterranean Sea.

November 2018 saw the first desperate efforts of asylum seekers to reach safety in Britain by crossing the English Channel in makeshift boats. So far in 2020, 7000 asylum seekers have crossed the Channel.   

Now, the Conservative British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is openly considering the “Australian Solution” of detaining asylum seekers in remote offshore prisons.  Britain is also considering a “turnback” policy of intercepting asylum boats (including the use of nets) and returning asylum seekers to France. Laws to implement the specific Australian policy of denying protection to asylum seekers who arrive in Britain by boat are already being introduced to parliament.  

The insidious international export of the “Australian Solution” has given an added urgent dimension for activists in Australia to redouble their efforts to end offshore detention and free the refugees.

By Ian Rintoul

The post US refugee deal winds up with hundreds in limbo appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Diary entries on Brexit, defending refugees & writing postcapitalist fiction – THE NEWSTATESMAN

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 4:10am in

Reading the newspapers last Monday, I was reminded that negotiations with Brussels are always an occasion for second-rate theatre. Ultimatums are usually issued by EU negotiators facing UK governments that talk enthusiastically of red lines and sovereignty. But now, if the Telegraph is to be believed, it is Boris Johnson who has given the EU 38 days to propose a postBrexit deal – or else. While history is not on Johnson’s side, there is a difference between him and other premiers who buckled: he is not bluffing. It seems he would like a deal, but is not desperate for one. Let’s see how the EU deals with this in October, when trade talks are supposed to conclude. Setting aside this latest episode of the Brexit saga, I began preparing for a leaders’ debate in Greece’s parliament over our government’s handling of Covid-19. Our party, MeRA25, was not the only one to chastise the government for failing to hire extra doctors and nurses, leaving our national health service in a dilapidated state after a decade of austerity. However, I was the only parliamentary leader to absolve the government of incompetence and instead claim that it was its explicit policy to drive public health into the ground for a parasitic oligarchy seeking to privatise it.
Saddened and angered
Two days later, I awoke to the news that the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos had burned down overnight. Assembled in 2015, when nearly a million people passed through the island, it eventually became an EU-sanctioned prison camp, with 13,000 people packed in a space designed for 1,800. While at first they were free to move in and out of the camp, more recently the gates were locked shut. In response to reports that refugees had started the fires intentionally to burn down the hideous camp, xenophobic yells filled the airwaves. Politicians, bureaucrats and commentators competed to find ways to condemn the “ungrateful” migrants. One minister said the state must not be blackmailed into providing better conditions, and that the refugees should be taught a lesson by being left to suffer in makeshift tents for months. Saddened and angered by this cacophony, I posted the following in my blog: What would you do if you, your family and another 13,000 people were incarcerated in a prison camp built for 1,800 people, without running water, without heating, without knowing when you will be given a hearing to decide between deportation and asylum (some people have been in there for four years) and, to cap it all, you heard that 35 positive Covid-19 tests were returned in an environment where it is impossible to self-isolate and where there are zero doctors to look after you? Would you not try to find a way to break down the gates so that you can escape the living hell? Would it be wrong to start thinking that maybe starting a fire is the answer? No, you would be right. Indeed, it would be your duty to start that fire! Soon, the Greek media were reporting that the leader of MeRA25 was siding with violent foreigners against his own people. Funnily enough, I felt honoured to be on the receiving end of their venom.
Missing main characters
Tuning into Radio 4, I was greeted with the news that Boris Johnson had introduced his “rule of six”. Switching to Greek stations, I heard that hordes of officials and riot police had disembarked on Lesbos intent on “turning the screw on refugees”. I so wished the rule of six applied here too. Trying to turn my thoughts elsewhere, I remembered that it was 10 September, the day my new book (Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present) was released in the UK. Readers would soon be dissecting my first political science-fiction novel. Using that medium proved to be the only way I could do what I spent decades avoiding: sketch a plausible alternative to capitalism. What, I wondered, will people make of Iris, Eva and Costa, the three characters I conjured up to tell the story of how, after the financial crash in 2008, humanity built a type of democratic socialism – characters from whom I ended up learning so much and whom I now miss badly?
The weight of the past
Two awful anniversaries are marked on 11 September; images of the falling twin towers mix with echoes of the 1973 coup d’état that killed Salvador Allende and brought the Butcher of Chile into office. I met Chilean refugee friends at the University of Essex in 1979, and I remember the courage with which they hid their pain. Back in our strange times, the UK commentariat was going ballistic over Johnson’s manoeuvre to threaten the sanctity of his Withdrawal Agreement. Has politics become unbearably dull? Or does the weight of these two anniversaries make it seem so? Before long, the Greek prime minister forced me to refocus. With our public health system and economy in tatters, he gave a speech to fan the flames of nationalism. Greece, he declared, would be buying fighter jets and frigates from France for billions, boosting our already unpayable debt. There we have it: a new arms race with Turkey, which Greece can only lose, is underway – and it will bring more austerity and sink our people deeper into debt bondage.
Entering post-capitalism
On 12 August it was reported that Britain’s economy was in its worst slump since records began as GDP fell by more than 20 per cent over the first half of the year. Half an hour later, the London Stock Exchange shot up, the FTSE100 rising by more than 2 per cent. The world of money had finally decoupled from capitalism. Money markets were divorced from profit. What we now have is a dystopic variety of post-capitalism. Maybe my book saw the light of day at the right time. Then again, maybe not. l Yanis Varoufakis leads MeRA25 in Greece’s Parliament and is a Professor of Economics at the University of Athens.

18-24 SEPTEMBER 2020 | NEW STATESMAN | page 23

Refugees need permanent protection not fruit picking

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 10:49am in

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refugees, refugees

A proposal from the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) to a Parliamentary Committee to consider granting residency to 17,000 refugees on temporary visas in return for picking fruit has attracted support from across the political spectrum.

Under RCOA’s proposal refugees would get residency after one year of working in the bush. Parliamentary committee members from Labor, Liberal and the Nationals have all indicated interest in the proposal to solve the COVID-created shortage of backpackers to pick this year’s crop of fruit and vegetables.

Yet, astonishingly, although Labor’s policy is to abolish temporary protection visas (TPV) and the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), Labor’s committee member, Julian Hill, is reportedly in agreement with the Nationals’ Damien Drum, saying that the refugees should have to work for two years to get residency!

It is not just that Hill seems to be flouting Labor policy, there is a fundamental problem with the proposal. The Tamil Refugee Council has called it a “bonded labour scheme.”

The refugees are boat arrivals most of whom have been here for eight or nine years already. They have been found to be owed protection because of the persecution they have suffered in their home countries. It is already an abuse of their human rights that they are only granted temporary protection.

Yet Labor’s Julian Hill backed up his support for the scheme, saying, “If they do the right thing by the country and prove their commitment then we should embrace them in return.”

Embrace them in return!? Refugees don’t have to prove anything. They should be embraced because they need protection from persecution.

The working conditions in the bush are notorious. The Fair Work Ombudsman has just announced an investigation into the case of a young woman, sexually harassed in a fruit-picking job and paid as little as $2.50 an hour.

The government reinstated its seasonal workers program in August to try to address the labour shortages in the agricultural industry. In September over 160 workers from Vanuatu were brought to the Northern Territory to work on farms after two week’s quarantine.

Those seasonal workers are also treated as a reserve army of labour; they should also be given permanent residency. 

It is shocking that tens of thousands of refugees in Australia are on temporary visas, with no right to family reunion, no right to study, and no right to travel. Thousands face destitution because they are denied JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

But requiring refugees to work in rural areas for a year (or two) before granting residency only helps to legitimise the government’s anti-refugee policies and its discriminatory treatment of them. Refugees need permanent visas, nothing less.

Mobile phone ban stalled

A massive mobilisation of refugee supporters across the country—with protests, petitions and lobbying—has stalled government moves to ban mobile phones from detention centres.

The Bill will give wider search and seizure powers to Border Force officers, as well as giving power to the Immigration Minister to prohibit certain items, like mobile phones, from immigration detention.

Although the Bill passed the House of Representatives, it was not put to the Senate in the September sitting. 

Parliament sits again in October. It will be Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s vote that will determine whether or not the government can pass the legislation.

Removing phones from people in immigration detention would cut off a lifeline to family and legal support as well as make it much easier for Border Force to maintain secrecy and prevent scrutiny of detention abuses.

There has been no visiting allowed in immigration detention since March this year, and an SBS investigation showed that rates of self-harm are escalating.

In Melbourne’s immigration detention centre, for example, between 2016 and 2019 there was an average of 71.5 incidents a year. In the seven months of 2020, there have already been 99 incidents.

In Melbourne, the Refugee Action Collective is holding a social interaction, ‘rally in pairs’ event over 3 and 4 October, outside the Mantra Hotel.

In Brisbane, a “Free the Refugees; Close Kangaroo Point” protest will be held on Saturday 10 October, 1pm, in Raymond Park, marching to the Kangaroo Point Hotel where 105 refugees brought from Manus and Nauru for medical treatment are still being held.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Refugees need permanent protection not fruit picking appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Close Kangaroo Point: refugee protest defies ban

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 4:33pm in

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refugees, refugees

Around 400 protesters defied the strenuous efforts of Queensland’s Labor government to ban a pro-refugee demonstration outside the Kangaroo Point hotel, which is holding around 105 refugees transferred from Manus and Nauru for medical treatment.

The protest called immediately for the free movement of the refugees being held in the Kangaroo Point hotel, and for the release of all refugees into the community by Christmas 2020.

In events reminiscent of the days of right-wing premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, police staged late-night visits on presumed organisers of the planned rally serving Supreme Court notice-of-appearance documents on them.

The Supreme Court action, brought by the Labor Attorney-General, sought to ban individuals from, “attending or encouraging others to attend” the rally that had threatened to sit-in on the Story Bridge.

Despite Labor ministers publicly presenting COVID-19 restrictions as the excuse to ban the rally, a theme beaten up by the media, the court documents did not refer to COVID at all, only “public rights of way” ie blocking traffic.

It was an unprecedented use of the Attorney-General Act and the Supreme Court to issue injunctions in an attempt to stifle the right to protest.

On the day of the rally, despite scores of police being mobilised to intimidate the action, protesters successfully took to the streets, marching around the Kangaroo Point hotel-prison. The police did manage to push protesters off the road outside the hotel, where the rally re-assembled to hear more speakers from both inside and outside the hotel.

With the refugees’ daily protests on the hotel balcony continuing, the Kangaroo Point hotel will remain a central focus for the campaign in Brisbane.

Close Christmas Island

Three days after the Kangaroo Point rally, an early morning rally marched through Brisbane streets to protest against the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention centre.

The re-opening of the main detention centre there, the most isolated of Australia’s detention prisons, has been universally condemned, including by the island’s residents. While the government has said that the Medivac refugees being held in detention and the Kangaroo Point and Mantra hotels will not be transferred to Christmas Island, the government cannot be trusted.

Opening Christmas Island expands the onshore detention regime and gives the government more detention options, when we want all the detention centres closed. The centre has the reputation as being one of the most brutal elements of Australia’s detention regime.

Anyone sent there is cut off from family as well as community support. Although many being transferred there have pending legal cases, the island’s remoteness makes legal support more difficult. There is no wi-fi and the internet cannot be accessed on their phones.

The lack of medical facilities on Christmas Island is notorious. The inquiry into the death of Iranian refugee, Fazel Chegeni Nejad, who was found dead outside the detention centre fence in 2015, made particular recommendations relating to the mental health risks for people in detention on the island.

Meanwhile, despite the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 associated with moving large numbers of guards and people from one detention centre to another, there have been at least three flights from Yongah Hill to Christmas Island, carrying around 48 people. Two flights from Villawood in Sydney, and one from Brisbane, have transferred people to quarantine in Yongah Hill before they are moved to Christmas Island.

Among those transferred to Christmas Island are refugees whose visas have been cancelled.

The government tries to justify re-opening Christmas Island with the claim that only non-citizens who have committed crimes will be transferred there. But it is a draconian aspect of the Migration Act that allows Border Force to impose extra-judicial punishment on non-citizens, including refugees, even though they have served any sentence imposed by the courts. 

Immigration detention is the real crime. Christmas Island and all the detention centres should be closed.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Close Kangaroo Point: refugee protest defies ban appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Seven years is enough: protest builds to free the refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 11:15am in

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refugees, refugees

The 19 July marked seven years since the Rudd Labor government infamously declared that no asylum seeker who arrived by boat and was sent to offshore detention in Manus Island or Nauru would ever be settled in Australia.

Rudd’s disgraceful shift to the right was the last in a long line of concessions to Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party’s relentless campaign to “Stop the Boats”. Rudd lost the 2013 election and gifted the Liberals with a policy that enshrined offshore detention, to which they ruthlessly added the turning-around of asylum boats.

This began seven years of detention and uncertainty that has been described as “tantamount to torture” by Amnesty International. Of the 2700 victims of that policy, there are around 380 asylum seekers and refugees still on Manus and Nauru. Another 200 refugees brought from offshore for medical treatment in Australia are being held onshore in closed detention in hotels and detention centres.

But pressure has been building on the government to free the hundreds being held onshore. Hundreds of refugee supporters held physical and online protests in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on 19 July.

Two days later, the Brisbane demonstration was followed-up with the Queensland Council of Unions calling for union members to join an evening picket of the hotel. Unionists are convening again on 28 July to re-launch “Unions for Refugees” in Queensland.

Pressure is set to escalate with refugee activists, who have been blockading Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point hotel since 11 June, declaring a demonstration and sit-in to block the Storey Bridge on Saturday 8 August. 

The Brisbane blockaders are demanding “free movement” for all those detained to exercise and walk outside the compound, and for their release into the community by Christmas.

The blockade is also calling for the end of forcible transfers from Kangaroo Point, where refugees hold very visible protests from the hotel’s balcony, to Brisbane’s detention centre where they are invisible behind the detention fences.

The Brisbane protests have also won support from local Labor MP, Peter Russo, a state MP, who called for the federal government, “to free the detainees into the community.”

Darebin City Council has also voted unanimously to begin an investigation of whether the use of the Bell City Mantra Hotel in Melbourne to detain refugees is in breach of local planning regulations.  Among other things, the council is questioning the use of hotel rooms as COVID-19 isolation cells and its general compliance with quarantine regulations.

“This place [the Mantra Hotel] has metamorphosed from a hotel into a prison,” Darebin Councillor Gaetano Greco told local media following the passage a council motion that has also called for a commercial boycott of the Mantra hotel group.

The UNHCR has also broken its usual silence on offshore detention, revealing that its shadowy agreement with the Australian government to facilitate the US resettlement deal included an understanding that Australia would resettle “some” cases, particularly those with close family ties, in Australia. The UNHCR says that Australia had finally told them that they had reneged entirely on any undertaking to resettle in Australia.

The UNHCR had also flagged Australia’s undertaking in 2017 with the Turnbull government, to no avail. But it helps explain why there are refugee fathers from Nauru in Australian detention still separated from partners and children.

“Eight Years Enough” was one of the chants on 19 July, re-stating the movement’s determination to free the refugees, onshore and offshore.

Unions for Refugees re-forms in Queensland

Unionists have been playing an increasing role at the Kangaroo Point hotel protests. The ETU Youth crew mobilised for the 21 June rally, and were there again on 21 July, as part of a union-called rally and blockade with around another 50 unionists from ETU, Together, NTEU, IEU, MEAA, CPSU, Queensland Nurses and Midwives and other unions.

In Queensland, unions played a crucial role in 2016 blockading Lady Cilento hospital to prevent baby Asha and her family from being returned to Nauru.  In 2018, teachers in Victoria and Queensland became the first unionists in Australia to explicitly take industrial action over refugee policy, as part of the movement demanding “Kids Off, Everyone Off, Nauru”. The open support for the Kangaroo Point blockade has been a shot in the arm for the campaign to free the refugees.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Seven years is enough: protest builds to free the refugees appeared first on Solidarity Online.

2001 Private Eye Article on Israeli Assassinations and Atrocities Against Palestinians, Americans, and Lebanon

Keir Starmer has shown himself determined to purge the party of any and all critics of Israel on the utterly specious grounds that they are automatically anti-Semites. They must be, despite the fact that very many of them are self-respecting Jews and equally self-respecting non-Jewish anti-racists. This is because the Israel lobby and the British establishment and media have declared that anybody who supports Jeremy Corbyn and/ or shares his conviction that Palestinians should be allowed to live in peace in their traditional homeland has to be a horrible Jew-hater and a Nazi. Even if, like Corbyn, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Mike, Martin Odoni and any number of others, they are determined anti-racists. So let’s remind people just what the Palestinians are facing, and why criticising Israel is entirely legitimate and is based on what the Israeli state and its armed forces do, not because they’re Jewish.

I found this ‘Letter from Israel’ in Private Eye’s edition for 30th November – 13th December 2001. This was a time when the Eye didn’t flinch at criticising Israel, even when outraged Zionists complained that it was being anti-Semitic by doing so. The Eye has said that the ‘Letter From…’ pieces are written by journalists from countries described, so that this piece, although anonymous and possibly reworked by someone else in the Eye to cover up the author’s identity, comes from an Israeli journo. And it’s a long list of Israel’s attacks, not just on the Palestinians and their leaders, but also the Americans and Lebanon. It runs

Terrorism is the topic of the year, and whatever the current focus, history shows that we in Israel have a certain historical experience.

Take the bombing of American targets. Our chaps bombed the US cultural centres in Cairo and Alexandria as early as 1954, planning to let Abdul Nasser’s new Egyptian government take the blame. Unfortunately the scam went wrong and our defence minister Pinhas Lavon had to resign, though the director-general of his ministry, Shimon Peres, managed to hang on. Today he is Ariel Sharon’s foreign minister.

Or take political assassinations. If you ever wondered why Yasser Arafat’s lieutenants are hard to understand, the answer it simple: we shot most of his organisation’s top foreign language speakers. In fact in one glorious year, 1972, our Mossad secret service managed to kill both the PLO’s political representative in Rome, Wael Zouetar, and his counterpart in Paris, Mahmoud Hamdan.

Admittedly we make the odd mistake. There was the embarrassing 1974 incident in Lilienhammer, when a Mossad hit squad shot dead Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchiki in front of his heavily pregnant Norwegian wife, having mistaken him for a PLO man.

Still, we maintain a sense of proportion and have never believed in simply takinig an eye for an eye. In 1982 when an assassin from the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon wounded (but not killed) our London rep, Shlomo Argov, we invaded Lebanon and more than 20,000 people there died, mostly civilians.

Then there is the bombing of local public buildings, one of our specialities. In recent months we have shelled not just West Bank police stations, but hotels, an orphanage and the Bethlehem maternity hospital. (Not that many Palestinian women reach the hospital. Our boys at the checkpoints surrounding their townships are particularly mistrustful of women claiming to be in labour and so refuse to let them through).

None of this would have happened, of course, if the Palestinians would agree to live happily while surrounded by our soldiers and settlers. But they won’t and we must protect ourselves. Not for us any lily-livered effort to apprehend the actual perpetrators. We prefer hostage taking. This is certainly what we did when some Palestinians recently shot that nice man, ex-general Rehavam Zeevi, the founder of a party whose sole platform is the expulsion of all Arabs. Such a view had resulted in his being invited into Mr Sharon’s government as a tourism minister.

Anyway, whenever that sort of thing happens we just hold the entire population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip at gunpoint and station tanks in their streets. Then we smash the place up (just look at Manger Square after we finished with it!) and kill a few dozen locals of mixed age and sex.

And, oh yes, we also use helicopter gunships to blow to smithereens any Palestinian we suspect of planning any attacks on us, though not usually the actual perpetrators. Those we expect Yasser Arafat to hand over, in exchange for the goodwill we have shown in our peace talks with him, which have been dragging on for a mere eight years. Why are those Palestinians in such a rush?

That we have spent those years building thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank is a mere accident, not a lack of sincerity. True, this may have involved confiscating Palestinian land, arresting its owners and shooting demonstrators, which slows down agreement; but it makes sense: we just like holding peace talks so much we never want them to end.

Of course, we cannot negotiate with just anyone, and so we are currently helping improve Arafat’s administration by picking off any unsuitable figures. And we don’t just mean military men: one of those killed by us was Dr. Tahbed Thabed, the director-general of the Palestinian health authority.

In the 19 years since then, we’ve had the blockade of Gaza and now Netanyahu has declared his intention of seizing 1/3 of Palestinian land on the West Bank. But organisations like the Chief Rabbinate, Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Leadership Council, the entirely wrongly named Jewish Labour Movement, whose members don’t have to be Jews or members of the Labour Party, and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, founded to bolster British support for Israel after the bombardment of Gaza, will denounce anything more than the mildest, token criticism of Israel’s actions.

The Israeli state has been engaged on a decades-long campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and many of its own citizens have protested against it. Israel is a country. It is not, and never have been, synonymous with the Jewish people, no matter what law Netanyahu passes to claim that it is. Criticising Israel and its leaders is not anti-Semitic, no matter how much the Board and the Chief Rabbis howl that it is.

And Starmer has no business kicking genuine anti-racists and opponents of anti-Semitism out of Labour, simply for supporting the Palestinians. And especially not when he is tolerating real, anti-Black racists and islamophobes.

Book note: Johny Pitts, Afropean

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 7:31pm in

Just finished Johny Pitts’s Afropean: Notes from a Black Europe (Penguin). It is a remarkable and highly readable book which I strongly recommend. Pitts, a journalist and photographer from Sheffield in England, embarks on a journey across Europe to discover the continent’s African communities, from Sheffield itself, through Paris, the Netherlands, Berlin, Sweden, Russia, Rome, Marseille and Lisbon. Pitts, the son of an African-American soul singer and a working-class Englishwoman, is a curious insider-outsider narrator of the book which ambles from meditations on black history and (often American) literary forbears to chance encounters with black and brown Europeans in hostels, trains, stations, cafés and universities.

Is there a unity in all this? Hard to say, since as Pitts observes, these different populations, linked by an experience of marginalisation, come to be where they are via very diverse personal and collective histories. Some have come in their best clothes from former colonies to nations they were taught about as the motherland, only to find they had to make their lives in a place that was disappointing or hostile and where the white population — British, French, or Dutch — remain ill-disposed to see their new compatriots as being part of themselves. Others have fled war, persecution and trauma in Sudan or South Africa, only to find themselves exiled on the periphery of Scandiavian social democracy. And then there are the residual African students in a Russia transformed in thirty years from somewhere professing — occastionally sincerely — the unity and equality of all humankind, into a place where it is dangerous for black people to venture out at night for fear of violent attack or worse.

This is a very personal story and not a work of objective social science. But it is characterised by often acute observation, particularly of the gap between the image that European societies have of themselves as being basically tolerant and inclusive and a reality of systematic disadvantage in which populations of African origin (and others) almost invisibly do the jobs that keep our societies running. We’ve seen this when it has been people of colour who have worked and died through the COVID pandemic. He discusses the difficulty the Dutch have had in acknowledging their colonial past and the sometimes violent reaction that black people in the Netherlands have received when they’ve challenged the role that Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) has in winter festivities. His image of Sweden as a utopia for black professionals take a knock when he encouters both white Swedish racism and the reality of Rinkeby on Stockholm’s outskirts. The Parisian banlieu of Clichy-sous-Bois is a story of police violence and concrete desert. And St Petersburg is, well, just terrifying. In passing, he notices the discomfort of African American tourists with the bustle of Afropean life in Paris and tells us of the weirdness of his encounter with German antifa in Berlin,

The place he comes to love most is Marseille. This won’t surprise anyone who has been there. In some ways it is a hard and edgy city. When I was there a couple of summers ago I met with a student who’d witnessed a gang murder in her first week of living there. But the life in the streets of Marseille is astonishing: the mix of peoples, cultures, races, cuisines, life is unlike any city I’ve visited. It far exceeds New York, for example, in this respect. The charm of the city and Pitts’s romantic engagement with it may explain one of the few false notes in the book, his encounter with a black Egyptian nomad who has travelled the world and values experience over work or wealth. Maybe, but in a world of securitized borders where some passports are worth more than others there must be some further fact about this traveller that explain his ease of passage through the EU and United States: either he’s got money or he’s got a more valuable legal nationality than the Egyptian one he identifies with.

One measure of a book is the further explorations it excites and provokes, and Afropean succeeds wildly on that front. I’ve been listening to new music, making notes about authors I ought to get to know and films I need to watch. But it would be wrong to see this fine book mainly as a treasure trove of recommendations. Its value for all Europeans is in making visible what is often invisible in our cultures and societies and I hope in chipping away at the barriers that disadvantage our Afropean members, keeping so many of them unseen in grinding jobs at low pay. In the Financial Times only yesterday, the ever-complacent Martin Wolf wrote that

We are not going back to a world of mass industrialisation, where most educated women did not work, where there were clear ethnic and racial hierarchies and where western countries dominated.

Pitts testifes powerfully that those ethnic and racial hierarchies are with us still and that in many ways not much progress has been made.

No Safe Haven

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 10:30pm in

Two books consider how U.S. policy ravages the Northern Triangle.

Refugee supporters blockade Kangaroo Point Hotel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 1:52pm in

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refugees, refugees

After weeks of protests inside and outside the hotel-prisons and detention centres, the Kangaroo Point hotel in Brisbane has emerged as the immediate focal point for the campaign to free the refugees in Australia.

World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on 20 June. This year, 20 June also marked 80 days of protest by refugees being held at the Kangaroo Point hotel-prison on one of Brisbane’s main roads. 

Each afternoon the refugees hang their banners, made of black garbage bags taped together, off the balcony of the hotel.

The white-paper lettering is easily readable from the road and reads, “NO CRIME 7 YEARS IN DETENTION,” and “WHERE IS THE JUSTICE.”

On 11 June, Border Force and Serco guards tried to move Iranian refugee Farhad Rahmati from Kangaroo Point hotel to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) detention centre. Alerted by Farhad, scores of people turned out that night to stop the van carrying Farhad, preventing him from being moved that night.

Early the next morning, however, with more police, Serco guards managed to move Farhad into BITA’s high security compound.

Since then hundreds of people have surrounded the hotel 24/7. Sometimes strong enough to maintain a blockade, stopping vans, checking for refugees; sometimes a vigil keeping watch on the gates.

Farhad had been central to the protests being organised inside Kangaroo Point, and was a key media contact.

Four other detainees had been moved the day before Farhad, as part of the government’s attempt to stop refugees accessing the balcony that has given them such a platform for their protests and connecting with supporters on the outside.

As Farhad told a Refugee Action Coalition Zoom meeting after being transferred to BITA, “I was not surprised they moved me. It is a tactic we know well from Manus.”

Farhad Bandesh, a leader of the protests inside Melbourne’s Mantra Hotel was moved from the hotel to Melbourne’s detention centre on 23 April, for the same reasons.

On 13 June, as part of a “Free the refugees” national day of action, hundreds of protesters gathered at Kangaroo Point.

Hundreds more rallied at eight socially-distanced protests targeting the Mantra Hotel and MITA detention centre in Melbourne. And in Sydney 150 protestors defied a court order prohibiting a rally, and police harassment, to march through the city from Town Hall to the Immigration department.

‘Let him hug his son’

Late in the afternoon, the crowd outside Kangaroo Point surged at the fences calling, “Let him hug his son,” referring to Saif Ali who has been held in the hotel for a year.

Saif’s wife and son are living in community detention in Brisbane, and were with the protesters, but visits have been banned for weeks because of the COVID-19 risk. 

The Kangaroo Point protest has focused a lot of attention on the dreadful situation of refugees in onshore detention.

The stand-off has also drawn a huge amount of media attention. The Acting Minister for Immigration, Alan Tudge, went on ABC radio to tell a bunch of lies, including that the Medevac legislation requires transferred refugees to be held in detention facilities. The same radio station interviewed Farhad from inside the Brisbane detention centre the following day.

Like the blockade of Lady Cilento Hospital in 2016 that prevented baby Asha and her parents being returned to Nauru, the hotel protest is attracting support from Brisbane unions.

The ETU Youth Crew called for union members to bring flags and “wear your ETU shirts” to the rally on 21 June. The Queensland Council of Unions also promoted the rally.

Hayden Vandekruk spoke to the 1000-strong 21 June rally, “As far as the ETU youth crew is concerned, an injury to one is an injury to all, and we will proudly stand in support of these people whose only crime is seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

“We are here to send the message that human rights are union business, and will always be union business. We will continue to support these people until they are free.”

The government would like to snuff out the protests, but the blockade is continuing and refugee supporters will rally again at Kangaroo Point on Sunday 28 June.

Melbourne has called a rally for Sunday 19 July, to mark the seventh anniversary of offshore detention—seven years too long.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Refugee supporters blockade Kangaroo Point Hotel appeared first on Solidarity Online.

We Need Racial and Legal Equality in the US Asylum System Too

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 9:00pm in

Memorial coffins at the Tijuana-San Diego border for those who died crossing. Tomas Castelazo, tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 Saturday, June...

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