Review: Another Darkness, Another Dawn: A History of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers by Becky Taylor

Review: Another Darkness, Another Dawn: A History of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers by Becky Taylor Reaktion Books (2014)


Becky Taylor’s book covers a lot of ground. Stretching from the movement out of India around 500 CE (according to genetic evidence) to the varied experiences of those latterly labled Gypsies and Travellers as they arrived in Europe. The book, rather than relying on heavy handed use of fashionable theorists, lets the experiences of Gypsies, Roma & Travellers speak for themselves – with apposite quotes from them throughout. Use of wide-ranging archival sources in several languages enables Taylor to give us a rounded picture.

Given the centrality of movement, both of people and borders to the story at hand, it would have been helpful to have more maps than the one provided.

Unsurprisingly, given the experiences of Gypsy’s in Europe the book is often distressing to read – a litany of persecution, prejudice and murder. However, it is far more than this – and Taylor is careful not to generalise, nor reduce their experiences to mere suffering. Indeed, one of the strengths of the book is that it covers their experiences under a number of regimes from the the Ottoman and Venetian empires to the Soviet and Nazi regimes to the modern day ‘liberal’ and not-so-liberal states – and the way that Gypsy’s were able to survive – and in some instances thrive.

It is also a history of “othering” – a strong part of the Gypsy identity has always been their “foreignness” (1). It was on entering Western Europe on the 15th Century that they became known as “Egyptians”- one source suggested that that is where they stated they originated themselves to be from – but it is equally likely that there”Moorish” appearance suggested to the European that they must be from Africa.

The book is also primer on the growth of social control – and the wider growth of the ambition and power of the state to shape people’s lives. Attempted control of poor people’s movement far pre-dated In/Out migration controls – and Gypsies were the pre-eminent target of the developing States’ experiments in social control.

Even while national boundaries were largely uncontrolled – those labelled as “Tsigane”, “Gitano”, “Bohemians”, “didikais”, “Zigunermischlings”and “Gyptians” were required needed permits to travel and trade even within them.

In the pre-modern state Roma’ were often the subject of forced labour – enslavement of varying degrees; thus their contemporary association with Modern Day Slavery obscures their far more substantive historical connection as victims of slavery – a useful tool for amenesiac society.

As we move nearer to the era of the modern state the subject of a number of racist laws – for instance ”The territories of The Holy Roman Empire passed 133 anti-gypsy measures in the years 1551-1774”(2). Hideous and grotesque laws such as legalisation condoning the killing of gypsies- and in Germany the occurrence of “Gypsy Hunts” (3) in the 16th to 18th centuries.

However, despite these and many other similarly drastic laws and proclamations the ability of the state and willingness of local administrators to carry them out was extremely limited. Deportations – perhaps a defining feature of the contemporary punitive nation state – were also carried out – though ineffectively – for there were no camps or prisons to contain them in – yet. Taylor underscores this point – the ambitions of the pre-modern state to control were often confounded by their lack of ability to do so.

Unfortunately, the fragmented and weak powers of the old European empires were replaced by the coming of the modern nation State which began to assert a total monopoly of authority within their self-defining boundaries. This, combined with the new racial ‘science’ of the 19th Century proved most deadly for it’s Travelling population, as it did for other minorities. There is compelling evidence within the history of the nation state for suggesting that rather than being a ‘break’ or ‘fissure’ in European history the genocide of Gypsies and Roma (as with other victims) is a on a continuum(4).

Evidence for this is plentiful. but one example linkking 19th Century ideas to 20th Century genocide is “Anthropometric measurement”.  Invented by a Frenchman Alphonse Bertillon in 1883, it was already being employed by French police by the end of the 19th century as a method of surveillance. It used various measurements of the human body including: “height, stretch (as defined by the length of the body from left shoulder to right middle finger), bust (as defined by the length of one’s torso from the head to the seat, when seated), head width (measured from temple to temple)…” (5) and so on. It’s purpose was two-fold; to identify individual recidivist criminals for future conviction (a forerunner of fingerprints) ; and more sinisterly to identify physical features supposedly common in criminal or deviant types.






While for the general population only convicted criminals were recorded in this way, from 1912 all nomades or gypsies were measured. They were issued with a ID card containing this information which they had to present at the police station each time they entered a departement(6) or face punishment. This was used to stop Gypsies stopping in the area, but also to enforce further requirements which were only demanded of Gypsies – relating to hygiene and as well as bizarrely to vehicle maintenance.

Unsurprisingly, the Nazis themselves utilised anthropometric methodology – and used the records the French had already collected after the invasion to help round-up Gypsies to the camps. This is probably one of the best arguments against centralised databases in history.

However, even before the Nazis had occupied France, Gypsies had started to be interned in camps in 1940 – which again the Nazis and the new Vichy regime found very convenient.

A estimated 250,000 Roma died during the holocaust.

Perhaps the most distressing part of the book is the fact that Gypsies were continued to held in camps post-WWII – the events of the immediate past unrecognised by Germany. The Nuremberg trials “barely mentioned Roma and Sinti in their considerations”(7). Not only that, rather than an a apology or compensation the mass murder and internment was instead rationalised in the years after the war: “Gypsies and gypsies of mixed race…[have] not been persecuted and imprisoned for racists reasons, but rather because of their asocial and criminal attitude”(8).

A civil rights movement inspired, as many others were by the African-American one in the US, for the first time, Roma and Gypsy led organisations, independent of government raised their voices. However, this couldn’t stop the consensus of Cold War-era policies which“…were remarkably similar on both sides of the Iron Curtain that promoted.“… policies pushing settlement and assimilation…”(9).

Taylor focuses on the persecution of Roma in France in her afterwood to demonstrate that persucution of Gypsys, Roma and Travellers continues to this day; the forced evictions and state prejudice marked by a special task force and database for “travelling crime” and criminals.

Sadly, Taylor could have chosen numerous other examples from across Europe to illustrate her point; The eviction of Dale Farm, the everyday prejudice Roma face in the Czech Republic, the demolition of their homes in Bulgaria…the list could go on.

The quote from which the book under review takes it’s title from perhaps sums it up most eloquently:

“It’s the end of the war, we’ve survived. After the darkness, comes the dawn. But also after dawn comes the darkness. Who knows what’s in store for us.”

Ilona Lackova, Writer, Slovakian Roma and Holocaust Survivor.



(From the book under review unless otherwise stated).

(1) pp14

(2) pp65

(3) As antediluvian as they sound , are Gypsy Hunt’s differ that much from the EU wide migrant hunts – such as operation Mos Maiorum which took place this year?

(4) A point that Mark Mazower makes in his short, bloody history of Europes 20th Century “Dark Continent” (1998).

(5) Wikipedia contributors, “History of anthropometry,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 22, 2015).

(6) pp152

(7) pp190

(8) pp190



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Are you a “Modern Slave”?

As the “Modern Slavery” Bill is made into law, some of you may be left wondering whether you are a slave or not. Here is a simple guide for the perplexed.

We can all agree that slavery is bad, right? Real bad. We thought we had done with all that ages ago but apparently there is this thing called ‘Modern Slavery’. Unlike slavery in the past – for instance the triangular trade – it isn’t sanctioned by the British State, or British Corporations – it’s illegal – or if its not – it’s about to be. Teresa May says so.


So, what is this ‘Modern Slavery’? Well, for a start ‘Modern’ here simply means contemporary. Nothing to do with ‘Modernism’ – this seemed to cause some confusion amongst some intellectuals at a Conference: “Slaveries Old and New: The Meaning of Freedom”  -which this piece is largely based on. Guys, the British Government isn’t about to legislate retrospectively on the period 1870-1945.

‘Slavery’ is more tricky to define then you may think  – especially if you are looking for a definition which can accomodate slaveries’ both old and new. I would suspect that most people when you mention the word ‘slavery’ think of the plantation of the Caribbean and the Americas, the often fatal and mass transportation of Africans to those places – and perhaps ancient slavery in Greece and Rome. This doesn’t sound too much like Modern Slavery. Trafficking of People – a oft used example of Modern Slavery happens in secret, perhaps with a handful of people being transported at once -either against their will (sometimes) or at least with some kind of deception involved.  Working on a cocoa plantation, or perhaps quarrying (especially as a child) are more tasks we associate with slave-like conditions. Some of this work is done to pay off a debt -so is unpaid – but is still servicing a debt nonetheless (perhaps has more in common with the coolie labour system that replaced slavery on abolition?) This still isn’t Chattel Slavery. The debts will (at least theoretically) be paid off. The classic example being women who were promised ‘good’ jobs being lured into sex work. They are not subsequently sold on the open market as African slaves were. That’s not too say that it’s not pernicious.

One of the key features missing from contemporarily configured slavery is legal ownership of one person by another. In most forms of ‘old’ slavery – Greek, Roman, Saxon down to the triangular trade – one person was another persons (legal) property to do with as they wished (chattel slavery). This was enshrined in law. Such ownership is of course, anathema today and if it exists at all  it is outside of the law – it is all ready criminal – so we may ask :What is the purpose of the new legislation?

Perhaps people mean this when they say ‘Modern Day Slavery’.

So are there any common features between slavery modern and old? There does seem to be two key features. Coercion and poor working conditions. That that the labour is not entered into voluntarily ( that there is no legal contract). Labour is not given freely, and it is unpaid. There are a couple of features here. One that unfree labour is intrinsically bad (or even “Evil” – as it says on many anti-slavery posters) and that the non-contractual element of the relationship allows unjust labour relations and unacceptable working conditions to flourish. or to put is another way, the labour relations are so that one party dominates another.

So, are we to conclude that all labour that is coercive and has poor working conditions counts as slavery? I think we concede then we are not saying that Modern Day Slavery isn’t really like Old Slavery. What we are talking about is a variety of work which is coerced. But this is question begging – who is coerced, by whom,  within what context?

This seems an especially pertinent questions as while some types of forced or coerced Labour are labelled “Modern Day Slavery”, others are not. The table above probably gives us some clues as to why. There clearly is a right way to exploit, and a wrong way.

Spot the Difference

This TedX Talk on Modern Day Slavery was shown as a example of the main stream narrative on the matter at the British Academy conference. Its heroic white rescuer (Photographer Lisa Kristine) presented some undoubtedly appalling (and even some unargubaly slave-like conditions). But her illustration of ’emancipation’ merely replaced the hideous, gruelling, unpaid labour with hideous, poorly paid, gruelling, labour at a stone quarry in Uttah Pradesh and was therefore somewhat underwhelming. In her own words :

“…now that they do the same back-breaking work but they do it for themselves and they get paid and they do it in freedom”.


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Strip Search


In Imogen Tyler’s book Revolting Subjects there is a chapter entitled Naked Protest and the Feminist Commons. It begins with detailing a protest at Yarls Wood Immigration prison after a mother and her baby were going to be deported:

“…a pregnant woman was forcibly restrained, separated from her six-year old son and placed I solitary confinement. The following day the Yarls Wood mothers staged a second protest in a corridor outside a staff office demanding to know what had happened to the women who had been removed. During this gathering several of the mothers proceeded to remove their clothes, some baring their breasts and others stripping to expose their genitals.”

What struck me about this naked protest – and especially its physical context within the prison estate was firstly the vulnerability that as they initially stripped off they must have initially felt, but also a sense that they were actually only repeating what they were forced to do at various points by immigration and other authorities- strip naked- but this time they were asserting control.

Indeed, Mercy Guobadia one of the protesters said:

“I took my clothes off because they treat us like animals.”

Being strip searched is both a everyday and extraordinary part of being incarcerated. Whether that is in a detention centre, prison, police station or port of entry being forced to strip in front of hostile strangers is a humiliating and degrading experience.

It is no accident that one of the first things you will be forced to do on entering prison is to strip naked. This is part of the “Reception” process. Your powerlessness is underscored from the outset; the power relation between you and the prison guards is made crystal clear, as you shiver masking your gentials with your hands as they make sarcastic comments about your body. Its institutional-ritualised abuse with a mission to oppress and dehumanise that is repeated thousands of times across the detention estate(s) and police stations.

In the opening scene of In Darkness (2011) a group of naked Jewish women are being chased through the woods by some Nazi Soldiers. The fact that they have no clothes on, adds to the sense that they are not considered human by their pursuers. Slaves were often sold naked in public, emphasising their status as property not people.

The strip-search can be perhaps be rendered as metaphor for the invasiveness of the state in general, the era of near total surveillance we are entering- the x-raying of all our lives. This should not be allowed to take us away from the fact that strip search is a legimitised tool of violence by the state against the individual, against our very sense of self. It should be seen in the context of other tools of alienation from the self; the prison uniform, the denial of choice in everyday matters such as when you sleep, eat or wash or what you wear. The claims of the rehabilitative effect of prison, must be set against the overall destructive nature of the prison experience, especially to those who endure it at a young age.

Recent figures show that the Metropolitan Police have stripped-searched 4,500 10-16 year olds in the last 5 years. My own research has found that the local police force to me – Avon & Somerset Police – have stripped-searched some 877 11-19 year olds over the same period (and 5207 of all ages). The difference between the population sizes of the areas covered by The Metropolitan Police and Avon & Somerset means that the rate per head are similar for young people.

Being strip searched while young makes its impact greater, as you are likely to be more vulnerable at this age. However this process is going to be a ordeal for anyone:

(e) If necessary to assist the search, the detainee may be required to
hold their arms in the air or to stand with their legs apart and bend
forward so a visual examination may be made of the genital and anal areas
provided no physical contact is made with any body orifice;

It is no surprise to find that young black men are disproportionately effected by this practice. Almost 30% of males strip searched between the ages of 12-19 self identified as BME origin. This compares with a general BME population over the Avon and Somerset area of 6.5%

This reminds us of the more publicised targeting of Black people with Stop and Search powers, as well as back to those women in Yarls Wood whose skin colour is masked by their immigration (non) status.

Data Source:

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When Did It All Go Wrong? – The Antecedents of Today’s Punitive Immigration Policy

The Antecedents of Today’s Punitive Immigration Policy

As we await yet another further prohibitive immigration act, theorists often look to the past to explain how we arrived here. Competing dates, normally relating to a Act of Parliament or series of legislative acts when it all started to go wrong are held up to be the ‘turning point’. But just when was that?

The 1999 Immigration & Asylum Act would be perhaps the most recent starting point we could look at. This is significant, as it was the first time Asylum Seekers (formally commonly known as Refugees) became ineligible for welfare benefits that UK citizens were able to claim. A seperate and inferior system of social security was set-up. Money was replaced with vouchers and Housing Benefit was replaced with no choice accommodation (provided by private contractors). The right to work for Asylum seekers had already been restricted by the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. Together, these restrictions effectively ghettoised this part of the population. So, maybe we should start here? Indeed, outside of Parliament the 1990’s were the time when the phrase ‘Asylum Seeker’  was often qualified with ‘bogus’ or ‘illegal’ by many tabloid editors. Incarceration of asylum seekers and other migrants started to become the norm rather than the exception. Securitization of immigration policy across the richer nationals grew at this point, especially post 9-11.


Imogen Tyler in Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain: Revolting Subjects (2013) locates the beginning of the real slide to the 1981 Nationality Act (though  she also acknowledges it’s forebears). This also seems a reasonable starting point as Tyler says it contains for the first time the power for the British state to revoke someones citizenship “…if it is conducive to the public good” – as long as they had dual nationality.  This power lay pretty much dormant until Teresa May became Home Secretary, stripping a unprecedented 20 people of citizenship in 2013, two of these these lost their lives in drone strikes – presumably their new non-citizenship being the go-ahead for the murders. Even those without dual nationality will be vulnerable to these powers under the 2014 Immigration Bill (See Stateless Terrorists).

For Tyler, the most damaging part of 1981 Act was to “remove the entitlements to citizenship from British nationals in the Commonwealth…”. Residency was no longer a right to those born in the former colonies, unless you could trace your ancestors back to ‘Mother England’- a  de facto colour bar as Tyler notes. She convincingly concludes: “The passage of this act…was thus a significant event in the history of British race relations…when, through citizenship racism was implicitly incorporated within the judicial body of the state…”. Certainly, I can bear witness to the significance of this as many Jamaican nationals are forced to spend years reporting to my local border post despite strong family ties to the UK – waiting ‘regularisation’ that may never come. The abolition of birth right citizenship (Jus Soli) adds weight to Tylers’ case – the fact that you can be born here and grow up without the right to remain. This of course was also the age of the new radical Conservative government, a set of racialised riots and the neo-jingoism of the Falklands conflict.

The Independence of former British colonies, and the restrictive legislative reaction to the possible influx of former subjects – with the : Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 which restricting subjects from those countries the right to residence in the UK could also perhaps be put forward? Those without a sense of irony may suggest it was the decline of the British Empire which is at the root cause of our harsh immigration policy. Until 1948 we were all British Subjects. However, the British Nationality Act 1948 only replaced subjecthood with citizenship -so no one seems to be trying to locate it there.

British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 according to some historians is where immigration restrictions start.

With the increase of the minority ethnic population in Britain from the turn of the century, popular concerns about interracial relationships grew.  ‘Aliens’ – that is, foreign-born residents had to carry a registration card. British women across the Empire who married such men automatically lost their British nationality. However, while the onus to carry ID cards for ‘aliens’ seems to foreshadow similar conditions for asylum seekers today, the first  20th century racialised restrictions came in the Aliens Act 1905.

For the first time introduced immigration controls and registration. It was passed in the context of anti-Semitic/immigration agitation by the British Brothers League and Jewish emigration fleeing the poverty and persecution of the Pale of Settlement on the Russian/Polish border. The Act was also had a economic or social class element to it: paupers or criminals  were prohibited from entering the country and could be deported if they slipped through. This cartoon from Punch seems to underline the paradigm shift:








The law apparently had little practical effect, but it is significant in two ways. First of all it anticipates the way that right-wing lobbying effects immigration on the 20th & early 21st Centuries. Also, its main aim to stop “paupers” and “criminals” from entering the country forms a continuum with much earlier legislation.

Controlling the movement of the poor has always been a preoccupation of the British State – and before that the English Crown. Bridget Anderson in Us and Them:  The Dangerous  Politics of Immigration Controls(2013) makes a case for a start date of 1349. This was the date when the Statute of Ordinance (later to become 1351 Statute of Labourers) was made into law. In a country ravished by the Black Death an acute labour shortage appeared. This meant that serfs once tied to estates, fled their tied labour conditions often for better conditions in towns which where they had no feudal obligations.  The statute aimed to keep wages down to pre-plague levels. It also attempted to enforce labour contracts by the threat of imprisonment.  Lastly, anyone found “idle” would be forced into (unpaid) service. Most relevantly the 1388 Statute of Cambridge forbid a “servant or labourer” leaving their parish, unless they had a “letter patent” – a medieval forerunner of a passport.  Idleness or “vagrancy” became the threat of the Elizabethan ‘Golden Age’. The prosperity of the state did not mean any generosity towards those “masterless men” who appeared under -employed and therefore a threat.  “Great national searches” were carried out looking for these “valiant beggars” in which a staggering 13,000 people were rounded up and punished.

Those who  are apparently idle today are also  being “rounded-up”.  Those who choose to live in rent free accommodation (squatting) have recently seen their way of living outlawed and imprisoned  (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012). Vagrancy is also an apparent priority today: “The Met says it has “joined forces” with six London boroughs, including Croydon, to “combat begging and rough sleeping”. UK Border Force are also involved.  A soup kitchen was closed down and police seized food & sleeping bags to “reduce the negative impact of rough sleepers”. UK Border Force are also involved and those who are (EU) foreign nationals are likely to be deported as they have “no visible means of support”.

This a partial and parochial account of how we got where we are today. The impact of technologies of control from the Birth Registry to the iris scanner are not mentioned. Neither are developments outside the British State examined, and perhaps most importantly the intersecting histories of  capitalism and colonialism  – which the two books I have mentioned address.

Where do you think it all went wrong?


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Total Policing comes to Bristol

Avon & Somerset Police have been left looking for a justification for doubling the use of ‘Stop and Search’ powers since 2007, which was was reported by the BBC this week. I wonder how they explain the 67% increase in the use of electronic surveillance requests since 2007? The requests made under Part 1, Chapter 2 of the Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2000(RIPA) “…relate to requests of acquisition of communications data to assist with all manner of police enquiries and is not necessarily associated with surveillance of mobile and other phones.” That’s alright then.

While ‘Stop & Search’ powers are not generally thought of a surveillance tool, given the fact that only 10% of searches result in arrest, it;s use as a form of ‘hands on’ surveillance seems to be the best justification they can muster. Putting these pieces of information together we can see the use of increased surveillance via the internet by National (effectively transnational) organisations like the NSA is mirrored by our local police service.


Sue Mountstevens, our not very enthusiastically elected police commissioner stood on a ‘drone platform’ for election, its unclear whether any UAV’s have been bought or deployed. FOI requests on this subject have been refused.

Unarmed Police?
As was my request for use of CS gas,as apparently no regulation exists that compels forces to centrally record its use, beyond the individual copper’s notebook. However, tasers are a different matter as they are rightly classed as a firearm. Since their introduction by Avon & Somerset in 2010 they have been “deployed” 654 times (This figure was correct on 15/04/13).

Interestingly in the relatively short time of their use there was a peak in use in 2011 of 272 deployments, this could be explained by the riots that year but surely not as use of tasers in that situation would amount to randomly firing into a crowd?

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Control and Resistance Mon July 15th


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EXCLUSIVE!! We reveal the luxury housing being built just for foreigners

Harmondsworth-detention-c-006As David Cameron has said the allocation of public housing is a scandal. However, we can reveal that as well as council and housing association property being occupied by undeserving foreigners, some are allocated exclusive apartments at the cost of £120 per day to the tax payer*. Whether they like it or not. Residents at these designer apartments are treated to three meals a day, uniformed servants, and are handed highly sort after jobs –  earning up to 90p an hour. Many are then treated to a all expenses paid trip to a destination definitely not of their choice.

In fact, contrary to the tabloid-UKIP pleasing policy announcement made today, the expansion of UKBA’s detention estate is the only form of housing being built for foreign nationals. However,  the scarcity of affordable housing is something that the right has often  made the most of. Not only do they sell it off, they then profit politically from it’s scarcity.

However, with the rise of Ukip and the economic depression the kind of racist narrative that was once only winked at by the mainstream political parties is now part of a regular spiteful and normally xenophoboic weekend press release to feed the reactionary media.  When Steve Garner wrote in 2009:

“Housing is a basic right and is surrounded in emotive discourse about belonging and entitlement. It is therefore easy to manipulate politically. As a dwindling resource, social housing has become a flagship issue for the BNP.”

He probably hadn’t considered that 4 short years later the British PM would be making it a “flagship issue” for the governing party, with it’s coalition partners and opposition parties helping create a anti-immigrant consensus, rather than providing an alternative explanation.

The essay  “Home Truths: The White Working Class and the Racialization of Social Housing” from which the above quote comes from  tells the depressing story of how both new immigrants and a “undeserving” indigenous under class are blamed by the working class which was once given affordable housing as a right but which is now denied to them.

However, as Steve Garner explains it isn’t a “black and white issue”:

“The boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’are not always drawn in the same place. “I’m not racist”, begins another of our Bristol interviewees whose opening phrase is a familiar one. “I’m not racist … but I am prejudiced. I am prejudiced, but I’m not only prejudiced against people that are black. I’m prejudiced against people who are on the dole who don’t do nothing, and still get it all”.

The concern with”queue jumping” newcomers, or undeserving  is perhaps is understandable. They can be seen taking what is percieved to be “theirs”.  What is more mysterious to me is how those who create the conditions for the queue to form get away without being blamed. Of course, there is the biased media, the spineless labour party but perhaps as relevant is the “allocators” of this increasingly scarce resource are invisible to those who want it, so remote and untouchable that a more tangible and targettable neighbour, or near neighbour. What Steve Garner call the “Proximity Effect.”

His conclusion at least leaves a space for hope:

“Were a space to be created in which the white British working class, migrants and BME people could tell each other their stories of being refused housing, being obliged to live in sub-standard conditions (while paying a premium), and of asylum-seekers placed en masse in motels and in unwanted properties on estates (or even in detention centres!), our white respondents would probably find much more in common with these groups than they imagine. Feeling that you have less and less control over your life is not the monopoly of Britain’s white working class.”











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‘Vile liars and truth distorters’

Truth, trust and the asylum system

by Melanie Griffiths

“Asylum seekers and refused refugees are some of the most
mistrusted persons in British society, and are commonly
assumed to be manipulating the immigration system. The
majority of the some 300 asylum applicants I spoke to
during research on identification requirements, were at
some point accused by the UK Border Agency (UKBA)
of providing untrue information about who they were and
what had happened to them, or requesting asylum when
they had no valid claim under the Refugee Convention.
Such accusations are crucial, given that the notoriously
difficult decision of whether to grant refugee status is
often bound up in assessments of the applicant’s honesty
or ‘credibility’”

For the full Open Access Journal Article click this:


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The Politics of Forced Labour

The recent trial of a group of Irish Travellers (or Parvee) accused of forcing vulnerable people into forced labour or slavery unsurprisingly hit the headlines. A perfect reactionary story, a specific instance distorting the wider truth: that in fact that Irish travellers as an ethnic group are the most marginalised in terms of education, wages & housing in the UK is instantly drowned out by this one story.  Here, through the lens of the media they become the oppressors, the torch bearers in fact, for a outmoded & outlawed & barbaric practice that only people continuously portrayed as beneath, or outside of the realms of reasonable human behaviour would be capable of.  An Ostracism, justified.

Slavery, or forced labour, then, is universally and incontestably condemned. Its contemporary versions, most commonly  encountered through the shocking stories of people smuggling & sex-trafficking are the targets of both legislative and media attention.

With Sex Trafficking, the “victim” is portrayed as a coerced “prostitute”. Young, vulnerable, female & powerless – always a victim in need of protection by the benevolent state. This has also led to a law-making and a policing practice which has little to do with protecting the sex worker and everything to with satisfying tabloid editors & the sex work prohibition lobby. Moreover, it provides a human rights cloak for ever harsher immigration legislation.

With the  2012 Olympics  almost upon us we are being told to prepare for  a horde of foreign “prostitutes”  descending on London. Only the “terrorist threat” is apparently more concerning than the STD apocalypse than all these smuggled foreign whores will bring upon us. Of course, as with the predicted terrorist activity, this feared mass influx of sex workers, forced or otherwise will prove to be a baseless myth, as it had done with  so many other recent sporting events.

The x-talk project, a education project run by and for sex workers has this to say:

“These claims can lead to anti-trafficking policies and policing practices that target sex workers. In London, anti-trafficking practices have resulted in raids on brothels, closures and arbitrary arrests of people working in the sex industry. This creates a climate of fear among workers, leaving them less likely to report crimes against them and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. “

While condemning the apparent use of forced labour at the Traveller site and legislating against sex trafficking, in April this year the Home office brought in legislation that will ensure far wider spread exploitation and abuse. Domestic workers who apply to accompany their employers to the UK will now be tied to one employer. In other words they become  – to use UKBA’s odious label  – an “immigration offender” if they leave their employer – and likely homeless and destitute. Domestic Worker pressure group & union Kalayaan stated:

“Migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to horrific abuse and exploitation as has come to light in a number of recent high profile cases in the criminal courts. Of the 326 individuals who registered with Kalayaan in 2011, 54% experienced psychological abuse, 18% physical and 7% sexual abuse. Exploitation was also rife, with 76% not allowed a day off, 53% working 16 hours-a-day and 60% paid under £50 per week.”


Nandita Sharma, in a paper given at Nottingham earlier this year  provides further analysis within the North American context on this  apparent inconsistency on forced labour. While it is within control of the State & the employer it is good and their unfree status unremarkable. When it operates outside its control it is bad and worthy of headlines and firm action. It is slavery. She also points out how on the one hand the topic of “illegal workers” is an incendiary subject, while on the other workers brought in by employers to work in US territory under conditions & pay unacceptable to most US citizens is not a subject of controversy or even discussion  – despite their working conditions being in breach of the US constitution.

Even  against the severe risks of  incarceration and deportation which Sans Papiers face its no longer clear that being a “legalised” foreign guest worker with such conditions attached has much or in fact anything to recommend it. In fact, it may seem the contrary is the case, and perhaps that is the point.  The ever-so- temporary work visa is fast becoming the only route of entry for non-elite workers into the EU & North America.

Further Reading/Links:

Anderson, Bridget and Andrijasevic, Rutvica (2008). Sex, slaves and citizens: the politics of anti-trafficking. Soundings, 2008(40), pp. 135–145.

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Cafe Film Night Thurs 3rd May: “Le Harve”

Update from Calais, Wedges & dips from 7pm film start 7.45pm.

In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbour city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight.

Kebele Social Centre, 14 Robertson Rd, Bristol. BS5 6JY

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Child Refugees to be X-Rayed

The UK Border Agency is to trial dental x-rays of child asylum seekers in the face of fierce opposition from the medical profession, immigration lawyers and the UK’s children‘s commissioners.

The agency has started a three-month trial of volunteer applicants to establish whether the x-rays would be a useful tool in establishing the ages of asylum seekers, who are treated differently if they are under 18. The move comes three years after the previous Labour government dropped plans to introduce such checks.

Any UK-wide introduction of such tests would be likely to involve hundreds of children and young adults each year.

The children’s commissioners said in a joint statement that they were appalled at what they believed was “a clear breach of the rights of vulnerable children and young people and may, in fact, be illegal”.

Lawyers also warned that the planned trial was unethical and that to x-ray children in such circumstances might constitute assault.

Liam Donaldson, when he was chief medical officer for the government in 2008, backed the medical and dental professions’ warning against the use of checks involving potential harm from ionising radiation when there was no intention of clinical benefit. He also supported their concerns about the scientific evidence over establishing age in such a way.

The resurrection of an idea dropped by ministers in 2008 was revealed in a letter to interested parties from Zilla Bowell, the Border Agency’s head of asylum.

She insisted those who chose not to participate would not jeopardise their claims for asylum or humanitarian protection but said: “Many of you will be aware of the difficulties that arise when we are not able to establish, with any certainly, the age of the asylum applicant. We are keen to utilise any appropriate tool which can increase our levels of certainty (as long as it does not have a negative impact on the individual in safeguarding terms, of course).”

Child asylum seekers are usually cared for by local authority social services departments but the agency has complained that young adults claim to be under 18 to avoid removal.

The pilot will involve volunteers who are assessed as adults by Croydon council, in south London, but maintain they are under 18. They will be given the opportunity to have a dental x-ray at Guy’s hospital, London.

Bowell’s letter states that if x-rays indicate that the individual is likely to be under 18, Croydon council will be invited to review their assessment of the asylum-seekers’ age.

Alison Harvey, general secretary of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, said in a letter to the Border Agency: “Age is disputed with a frequency that gives rise to the most grave concerns, and despite official acknowledgement that you cannot date-stamp a child, the Home Office continues to pursue the chimera of certainty in this area, to the most grave detriment of children who are subjected to doubt, to disbelief, detention and denial of services and now, it is proposed, to irradiation.”

Colin Yeo, a barrister who specialises in immigration issues, said on a blog he edits at Renaissance Chambers, London: “This practice is highly controversial … This brings to mind another example of the application of false quasi-scientific ‘certainty’ to another unmeasurable: measuring skulls to determine race.”

The Refugee Council also criticised the trial. Deborah Harris, its chief operating officer, said: “The fact that numerous professional bodies have previously stated that this is not a sound method leaves us very concerned for vulnerable children caught in the process.”

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Hackers Take down Geo Group Asylum/Prison Profiteers Website

Bristol No Borders writes: In the UK they run Harmondsworth Immigration Prison, as well as numerous other things we don’t like. Cheers hackers, if you want any companies for further actions, just let us know!

“Anonymous have struck a blow against the Prison-Industrial Complex and eliminated the online presence of prison for profit scumbags GEO group from the face of the internet…

The website was defaced with a youtube hip-hop video paying tribute to US political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal and a statement from Antisec.

Statement from Antisec :


wiped off the net:




Welcome again to another round of attacks on our most favorite of days, #FuckFBIFriday. We hope you got a quick laugh out out of that Dayton Ohio Infragard defacement earlier. But rest easy fellow pirates, more mayhem is on the way.

As part of our ongoing efforts to dismantle the prison industrial complex, we attacked one of the largest private prison corporations in the US – Geo Group.

Despite the well documented history of corruption, scandal, and atrocities that companies like GEO perpetuate each and every minute our friends are locked behind their prison walls, the private prison industry is still booming. While most folks are suffering under the economy, many billions of dollars are being funneled into this sinister conniving alliance of capitalist and statist forces to try to build dozens upon dozens of new prisons across the world.

What they did not figure into their plans was a determined effort to shut them down.

What did they not expect was that anonymous has been lurking their shitty windows vhost for months, and finally pulled the trigger.


We are acting in solidarity with all those who have ever been wrongfully profiled, arrested, brutalized, incarcerated, and have had all dignity and humanity stripped from them as they are cast into the gulags of America. On February 28th, our fellow anons and occupiers will be marching in the streets of the US to demand an end ot the suppression of the occupation movement. But our solidarity does not extend only to occupiers or political prisoners: we do not give any legitimacy or credibility to a justice system that look after their own prosecuters and pigs who get away with brutality and corruption, while they routinely murder innocent people on death row and locks up immigrants they deem “illegal” while profitting by forcing them to labor for far less than minimum wage.

When our comrades are locked up struggling against a repressive regime that has no concern for due process, we do not forget.

When our comrades are ripped off their civil liberties and human rights, we do not forgive.

We will abolish their prisons in all forms, and run the pigs off of our streets. We will burn down their prison society, because only on the ashes of the old world can we hope to rebuild a new one.

Solidarity means attack!

*** On February 28th, fellow anons and occupiers will take to the streets to demand an end to the suppression of the Occupation movement. BE THURRR!!!!

The Shocking Ways the Corporate Prison Industry Games the System

The GEO Group Cashes In Business is Booming for the Prison Profiteer

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Court Order Turns Journalists into Police Evidence Gatherers

While I get really annoyed with photojournalists  –  especially during the G20 in London where they were actually obstructing the action they were supposed to be recording – I am by no means at the extreme end of the activist-anti-media position. Even those  working through the corporate media sometimes do a good job, especially when their editors are on holiday, or on the golf course.

From the Dale Farm Supporters website:

There has been strong condemnation by supporters of Dale Farm residents of a ruling to force Sky, ITN, BBC and other freelance journalists to hand over their footage of the Dale Farm eviction. The journalists had argued in court that it put them in the position of evidence gatherers for the state.

Ali Saunders, a Dale Farm supporter, said “It is shameful that rather than confronting the brutality and racism of Basildon Council’s eviction of Dale Farm the police is criminalising protest and using the media as an extension of police “intelligence” gathering. Families are still struggling to live on the side of the road at Dale Farm- Basildon Council and the Government is proving yet again that it doesn’t care about Travellers in the UK.”

Saunders continued, “The biggest crime that happened at Dale Farm is being ignored here. Standing up to the injustice of the eviction was the right thing to do…”

For Comment:

Clearly, this judgement has implications way beyond dale farm for the already problematic relationship between those who act & those who record & report these actions. I hope that the NUJ seeks a judicial review on this matter.

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Seasons greetings from Athens: migrant street traders and anarchists cancel out police raid

We’ll have a print of analysis of the start, growth & inevitable attempted repression aof the migrant struggle in greece available at the film showing tonight, but in the mean time have a look at the video & article from the occupied london blog.

click here for video

The side streets by ASOEE, Athens’ Economic University, have oftentimes been a scene of an obscure battleground, recently. Migrant street traders who try to sell their goods there have been repeatedly attacked and arrested (and have their products confiscated) by scores of riot police, DELTA motorcycle forces and the like.

Slowly but surely, the street traders started to organise some elementary defense. Along with anarchists in solidarity (some of them ASOEE students) they have recently attempted to push back police whenever they decide to attack, and to effectively cancel out their attempted raids.

The astonishing video below is one such example, of what happened to a riot police unit that tried to raid one of the streets near ASOEE.

The people fight back! (Please ignore the racist commentary by the terrified citizen shooting the video)

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Dale Farm supporters reject police cautions for obstruction

Today (20 December 2011) and yesterday, over thirty Dale Farm supporters who were arrested during the Dale Farm eviction rejected police cautions for obstruction of a bailiff under the Town and Country Planning Act. [1] They now face a court hearing in the new year

A number of the supporters issued a joint statement:

“We stand by our decision to attempt to prevent the brutal forced eviction that took place. It has left Dale Farm a wasteland, with 83 families homeless and living in inhumane conditions. The cynical use of greenbelt planning laws does not change the fact that this was a racially motivated eviction by Basildon Council. We believe that the eviction was unjust and therefore our actions were justified; we cannot accept ‘guilt’ for standing side by side with the Dale Farm community.” [2]

Mary O’Brian, a member of the Dale Farm community, said “Nobody has ever stood up in history for Travelling people. And Dale Farm comes along, and we had people, really good settled people, that stood up for us. I’ll never forget that, and my people will never forget that. We lost our homes, but it made history.”

Notes to the editor:

[1] Dale Farm was subject to a huge policing operation on 19 October 2011. Several Travellers and their supporters were injured and hospitalised due to police brutality.

[2] The Dale Farm community are now largely living on the private road leading to the evicted site, in crowded and unsanitary conditions. A forced clearance of the road by Basildon Council is feared in the new year. Basildon Council is not offering any culturally appropriate alternative housing, and therefore families will be forced to live in lay-bys and car parks.

Media enquiries: 07040900905, 07583761462
Twitter: @travellersol
Please email to be added to our press list

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Undettered by last month’s brutal clearance, many
families are returning to Dale Farm for Christmas.

In response Tory council leader Tony Ball is threatening
to have them committed to prison for contempt of court
if they breach an injunction preventing re-occupation.

“They have nowhere to go,” says Patrick Egan, owner
of Dale Farm House, who is presently giving refuge
to l5 caravans on his property. “If forced off here
they’ll have to move onto car parks. We’re not leaving

Next week, however, Travellers are meeting head on
Ball’s challenge to seek planning permission before
occupying another location. A public inquiry opens on
Tuesday (22 Nov) into Dale Farm Housing Association’s
bid to open a mobile-home park on nearby land for all
those made homeless

The land at Church Road, Laindon, was originally
offered by the HCA, a government quango, to Basildon
council to help it meet its duty to provide 62 new
plots for homeless Travellers in ther district. It refused
the offer.

Under the new plan, Basildon could be required
to facilitate the release of funds by the HCA for the
development. This envisages 12 permanent and 60
temporary plots, which would be made ready as soon
as possible for those left without homes at Dale Farm
since the eviction.

Meanwhile, costs arising out of the direct action
operation continue to multipy. Residents are mounting
numerous claims for injuries and damage to property,
which may add further millions to the original £18m
bill for the police-led assault and clearance, which
now appears to have been entirely futile.

Residents are urging supporters
to attend the Inquiry which opens
at 10 am on Tuesday (22 Nov) at
the Basildon Centre, St Martins Square,
Basildon SS14 1DL.
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No Border Camp in Stockholm, summer 2012

We invite you to the transnational No Border Camp in Stockholm summer 2012: a week of civil disobedience, discussions, film screenings and direct action against the European migration policy.

In the last 15 years No Border Camps have been situated in border areas and conflict zones around the world. They have functioned as autonomous zones for the international movement for the abolition
of all Earth’s nation-states. It has been a part of the work for a world
where no one has the right to oppress others because of where they were born. To struggle against and question a world which at birth, sorts people into categories of nationality, gender, class, race and
functionality. categories of below and above the order; authority and
obedience, right and wrong. The exclusion following the borders of these categories are not limited to around geographical territories, but also runs within states, in the middle of cities, between and through
people. This is the policy needed to maintain an authoritarian and
capitalist social order:

-Frontex border guards stationed in the east and south, with a military
budget soon to be 150 million Euros.

– Police seizing people without legal documents, in collaboration with
ticket inspectors on the subway.

-Refugees imprisoned in “detention centers” for an indefinite period, for
undetermined cause, while waiting for “removal” by forced deportation or what may as well in some cases be called murder.

-The EU’s development agency maintaining radar installations in the Libyan desert to “Manage migration flows”.

– Restaurants and nightclubs exploiting migrants’ insecure and desperate situation and through that separating us even more.

– You will never be a part of the nationally unifying ‘we’ called citizenship. if you do not deny yourself, customize yourself, makes you a white blank page in the service of capital.

It is these borders, the deeply anchored structures of systematic racism
that are made clear in the “Stockholm Programme”, EU’s five-year plan for the mixing of the problem areas’ internal and external security and migration. According to the EU, free movement of people are a security problem. The Stockholm Programme is, as the borders it has at its directive, not connected to a certain place. Its shadow which falls upon
us all creates barriers in our daily lives, between those who get to
influence, the lucky ones who are included and those that are deprived of the right to exist.

Next summer, the Stockholm Programme has reached half its lifetime. In
connection to this we will focus on, seek out and attack the places and
structures that are the physical manifestation of a program for the total hegemony of whiteness norms. This applies to governments, institutions and all companies that in some way benefit from the
implementation of the deportations, construction and operation of detention centres and all the people who are “just doing their job “.

We organize this camp because we believe that humanity is worth a vision of another life, an existence of mutual trust, love and helpfulness. We want to gather, to share each other’s creativity, to live our vision and
to turn our anger against that which makes these things impossible. For a world where local and global compassion and responsibility are not opposites. Therefore we invite all organizations, groups, individuals and public to participate and contribute in what ever ways they are able to.

The movement for global solidarity and freedom from oppression in the past years has shown that we will not take no for an answer: if you don’t step down, we will step it up.

You can be sure that you will hear from us again — for what we do is
important, and you are needed.

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Marciano Flora Must Stay

PLEASE add your name to this petition NOW. Railway cleaner and RMT member Marciano Flora faces deportation as soon as WEDNESDAY following a ‘sting’ by his employer, who called him and others in to work then handed them over to immigration officers. Marciano has been in London for more than five years, lives with his family, and is settled here.
More information:
Marciano Flora is a cleaner on London Overground, working for the contractor John Laing. The Home Office wants to deport Marciano. But he, his family and his workmates want him to stay in London. Please support our campaign.
Marciano Flora is 42 years of age. He came to London in October 2006, invited by his brother-in-law to work as a plumber in his company. He had a five-year working visa.
His brother-in-law describes him as “such a hard worker, who never complained, and got on well with our clients.”
Unfortunately, the business went into liquidation in December 2009 due to the recession.
Marciano immediately looked for another job, and began working for John Laing as a cleaner in March 2010. He showed all his details, including his passport, and was assured that it was legal to work in this job.
Within six months working for John Laing, Marciano was nominated for an ‘employee of the month’ award. He is hardworking and popular at work, and actively involved in his church.
On Tuesday 25 October 2011, John Laing told several of its employees to carry out cleaning duties, and then gathered them inside a school hall for the UK border police to arrest them.
Marciano had applied for leave to remain in the UK before his visa was due to expire in October, and has a receipt letter from the Home Office that this application is being processed. He explained this to the officers, but they arrested him. He is now being held in a detention centre in Dover, and has been told that he must leave the country by Wednesday 9 November.
Marciano Flora is very much settled here in London. He lives with his sister and brother-in-law, and has a very close relationship with them and their two daughters, Chloe and Chanelle.
Marciano is a member of the RMT trade union. The union is helping Marciano to fight this unjust deportation, and we need your help.
Please sign our petition: LET MARCIANO STAY!
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More Border Agency Persecution of Cleaners

Last week, London Overground cleaning contractor John Laing contacted several of its migrant workers and told them to report to a particular place to do overtime. When they arrived, they found there was no overtime – instead, there was a squad of immigration officers who took them into detention.

This is an all too familar story, and you can’t help wonder if this is in any way connected to the fact that the RMT forced John Laing Contractors last August into recognising the union, after they refused to do so voluntarily.

Of course, detention and deportation of unionised cleaners is nothing new. Staff working for  Amey, Bristol-Based Mitie have all had the Border Agency brought in to attempt to quell there increasing radicalism and challenge to the poor conditions and pay that come with one of the most physically demanding proffesions.

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How to Have A Racist Conversation About Immigration

Paul Collier’s summarises his book Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World in his article ‘How to have a sensible conversation about migration’, New Statesman, 21 November, 2013. This is a belated response to it.

The use of the word ”sensible” in any article about immigration rings alarm bells these days. Sirens are further sounded as Collier follows it with a complaint that we haven’t been allowed to have a “serious discussion” about immigration since – wait for it… Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of blood speech” – which he later partially endorses.

Frankly, I can’t be bothered to look at all the “ten blocks”  -with which he elucidates his immigration policy in the NS article – so we shall have to make do with examining a couple that will show that his claim to authority is at best, over stated.

Collier is a serious political scientist who – he claims – is bravely confronting a social science taboo – talking “honestly”(Ding! Ding!) about immigration. Further, his “liberal” friends will be appalled at him for doing so – and to be fair he is probably risking a decline in dinner party invites in Hampstead. Whatsmore in a world where the chairman of Migration Watch gets a peerage he is really sticking his neck out.

Having set up this straw man of a open border consensus he starts building his argument.

In Block 3, Collier outlines one of the unwelcome truths about migrants is their propensity to “cluster” and “not be absorbed” into the “general population”.

The clustering tendencies according to Collier of (im)migrant diasporas – slows absorption. This is bad and is made worse both by larger (uncontrolled) migration – and further excacerabted by multicultural as opposed to assimilative policy (Yes, this article is quite like playing racist-immigration-discourse bingo!). Absorption or assimilation seem to be similar, though one also seems to actas  the cause of the other.

By “absorbing” I take Collier to mean to be evenly distributed socially, economically and geographically evenly across and into the receiving state – not to be a a noticeable blip in any statistical analysis of the Census. Perhaps they are two different aspects of the same thing – with assimilation being the socio-cultural aspect. In any case, Assimilation/Absorption normally means conforming to the dominant (if not majority) culture.

For instance, within the US context this means Anglo-Saxon culture despite many other major populations including those of First Nation and African origin. Top-down assimilation has negative consequences, mainly as one culture is promoted at the cost of less dominant ones. However, I would argue that a more egalitarian assimilative process is possible, but I won’t argue for it here.

To delve slightly deeper into Collier’s mind set, I think we need to look carefully at the language that he deploys. An apposite example is provided within his full length book – Exodus: How Migration is Changing our World. It seems the more culturally different the migrant community are from their hosts, the more problematic their presence within the host society. They bring with them undesirable qualities from their countries/cultures:

“Uncomfortable as it may be . . . migrants bring their culture with them..For example…unsurprisingly, Nigerian immigrants to other societies tend to be untrusting and opportunistic.”1

This quote is telling in a number of ways. It reveals one of Collier’s arguments to be based on questionable assumptions about national character – though to be sure he’s careful to make it societal not racial. They bring not their inferior genes but their inferior governance with them. Collier previous works tells us how it’s the global souths’ corruption that is the source of its economic woes. It also assumes a rather rose tinted view of the population of the receiving country; If only we didn’t leave our borders open, we could still leave our doors unlocked without concern.

There is a further implicit assumption is seemingly being made about the “indigenous” population of receiving countries: That we are all happily assimilated into a otherwise contented general population; there are no other alienated groups within these societies. Ever widening gaps in income levels (for instance in the UK) suggests something rather different2.

Collier goes on to detail how migrants damage their hosts well being:

“Yet diversity also potentially jeopardises co-operation and generosity. Co-operation rests on co-ordination games that support both the provision of public goods and myriad socially enforced conventions. Generosity rests on a widespread sense of mutual regard that supports welfare systems. Both public goods and welfare systems benefit the indigenous poor, which means they are the group most at risk of loss.”

Collier seems to conflate two separate issues here.

1) True, there is some social science research – which suggests that “trust” or “solidarity” is lower in areas of higher diversity (not higher immigration) areas. Though the study by Robert Puttnam’s that Collier bases this assertion on finds that diversity is good for us in the long run and “…an extraordinary achievement of human civilization is our ability to redraw social lines in ways that transcend ancestry.”3 Further, Collier doesn’t acknowledge the results of other studies which don’t support Puttnam’s thesis linking diversity and lack of social capital. For instance, Gesthuizen et al (2004) suggest there is a positive relationship between social capital and diversity within the European context.4

2) Welfare cuts or rationing are carried out by governments not newly arrived migrants. Myths of “benefit tourism” are just that – myths used to justify reduction and withdrawal of social security and are part of a larger narrative which paints most recipients (not just migrants) of welfare as undeserving5.

As for the weakening of social solidarity due to the influx of migrants, its noticeable in articles of this kind that internal migration of rich people into previously economically deprived areas (Gentrification) are not considered despite substantial evidence of it’s impact on homelessness, and displacement.6

Paul Collier’s blocks are not a firm foundation for future migration policy, but rather a crumbing edifice which merely reflect the the unworkable and injust status quo.


1Quoted in “Let the People Go -The problem with strict migration controls”. viewed 11/10.14


3E Pluribus Unum : Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture

Robert D. Putnam* pp161

4 Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital in Europe: Tests of Putnam’s Thesis in European Countries

Maurice Gesthuizen,* Tom van der Meer & Peer Scheepers

5The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control, Chapter

6: Rowland Atkinson (2004) The evidence on the impact of gentrification: new lessons for the urban renaissance?, International Journal of Housing Policy, 4:1, 107-131

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Bristol No Borders is back!

Yes, after a two year pause, there is a all new Bristol No Borders group. We meet weekly on Fridays at Kebele at 7pm.

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Review: The Social, Political and Historical Contours of Deportation


 The Social, Political and Historical Contours of Deportation

 Bridget Anderson, Matthew J. Gibney & Emmanuel Paoletti  (Editors) .


This slim, but wide ranging collection of essays on the theme of deportation, as the editors state in the introduction, examines the effects of deportation not just on those expelled from one state to another, but also the effects that the process of deportation has on those public bodies who are involved with it. Unfortunately, due to cost and the fact that this book won’t be borrowable outside academic libraries, practitioners in the field often won’t have the benefits of the insights contained within, so with this in mind I will attempt a critical explication from activist’s point of view, that at least in theory is more accessible.

Le centre de rétention administrative du Mesnil-Amelot au nord de Paris Stéphane de Sakutin AFP/Archives

One piece that captures a ongoing wider debate of what point resistance to the system turns into collaboration with it is “Negotiations Deportations: Ethnography of the Legal Challenge”. In this piece, Nicolas Fischer does not enter the debate  head on but instead provides a analysis of the peculiar way that legal challenges are mounted to deportation orders within French detention centres (Centre de Retention) he in particularly focuses on one charity’s part in the process.

The French detention-deportation system differs from the UK’s in many ways. First of all, the maximum length of detention is 32 days, compared with the unlimited time that migrants can be held in the UK. The detention centres themselves, though subject to national standards are administered at the local level. Most importantly, and what is the focus of this essay, is that there are organisations who advocate for the prisoners, embedded within the centres themselves., These groups are often outspoken critics of many of the decisions made both in the case of individual cases at  the policy level as well.

The main charity, Cimades  had been involved with the detention centres since they came into ‘regularised’ existence in 1984. Cimades, though had been active in refugee camps since the organisation’s formation in 1939. As well as working within refugees camps during the occupation, they assisted Jewish people escape the Nazis.

However, I would argue that we should see Cimades as both as a critic and a collaborator of the system.

Cimades workers thought of  “each legal action taken against an allegedly abusive deportation order was commonly presented as a “fight” against state officials, ending up in a “defeat” or “victory”[1].  A seemingly oppositional stance to the system then? Fischer sees though that the opposition runs alongside tacit support for  the system, encapsulated by this quote from a Cimades lawyer directed towards a  inmate with a ‘weak case’:

“I am sorry, but you have to understand that there is the law and a civil service to enforce it. We at Cimades disagree with that law, but all the same, I have to do something that is compatible with it if I want to help…”[2]

In all the interviews that the lawyers had with the detainees, they ran through a check list of the most obvious legal reason to stop the deportation, for example; Were they seeking political asylum? Did they have family who were resident in France? At the end of one legal advice interview, the detainee suggested that he may physically resist his deportation. The lawyer agreed that he could do that, though also warned him that could lead to prosecution. Here for me is the ‘activist’s dilemma’: Once you enter the system, the advice and assistance that you can offer is prescribed by the system you are fighting. Is your participation  a  fig-leaf which  is necessary for its existence? Certainly, there appear to be clear cases where NGO’s have chosen to administrate with elements of the deportation system e.g.  “The  Voluntary Returns Scheme” or “Pre-Departure Family Accommodation” where the line has clearly been crossed.

However, the question this essay raises is whether even the pragmatic engagement with the Deportation Judicial framework e.g. appeals, judicial reviews,  even while it makes the apparatus less efficient in terms of speed and number of deportations, makes the system seem more acceptable.

The other option  fighting on a purely oppositional  and confrontational basis has also profound problems.  Normally poorly resourced, any response to issues on the ground is often piecemeal and erratic. When you do become effective you will be liable to prosecution, state violence and imprisonment . The “protest method” often seems tokenistic and ineffective, even to those (or especially so in fact) to those committed to it. Of course, there are examples of good practice, for example in France where Calais Migrant Solidarity have managed (more or less) to maintain a constant presence and oppositional stance to state repression.

In Muslims, Mormons and U.S Deportation and Exclusion Policies, Deirdre M. Moloney writes about a early example of  what we would call Islamophobia;  How some Muslims were effectively excluded from entering the United States due to their “un-American” way of life. This was not because they were thought of as potential terrorists at the time, but on the pretext of their (purported) practice of polygamy, or even their mere refusal to condemn it outright.   This chapter shows how immigration officials used the official view of polygamy as a threat to the well being of the nation to exclude non-Christians from entering the country.

19th Century Anti-Mormon Cartoon.

19th Century Anti-Mormon Cartoon.

We see how a particular (negative) attribute – polygamy – was erroneously attached to all, in the same way that Bolshevism was used against Jewish emigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, as ‘fundamentalism’ is used today to exclude Muslims.

In 1883, a group of Mormons migrated from Switzerland to the United .States. At first, officials tried to exclude them based on their poverty, as ever, seen as a legitimate reason to punish by the state. However, despite concerns that the Mormons were “being imported to the United States to strengthen the ranks of polygamists”[3] no specific legislation existed at that point to exclude them on that basis. By 1891, that had changed, with a new immigration law which included the provision to refusal entry solely based on polygamy.

Polygamy became the ‘catch all’ which also stopped entry from the Muslim[4] Ottoman and then Turkic Empire. In fact, all Muslims were excluded on this basis, even though it was unlikely that many actually practiced polygamy. This caused a battle between Trade on one hand, and Immigration Officials on the other. The former, who were eager to allow migrants from the Ottoman empire permission to enter, as had been agreed as part of a  bilateral economic agreement, and on the other hand immigration officials who appeared to want exclude them at all costs as a cultural (or deviant) threat. Even though it was evident that they most were unlikely to engage in polygamy, merely refusing to condemn what their religion allowed was sufficient grounds for exclusion. Moloney draws an obvious comparison with the way that 13,000 Arab and Middle Eastern men were deported post 9/11 despite no connection with ‘terrorist’ organisations.

Moving on to contemporary Islamophobia, Michela Sembron in Between Routine Police Checks and ‘Residual Practices of Expulsion Power’: The Impacts of the Anti-Terrorism Law on Phone Centres and the Resistance of Owners. An Italian Ethnography in the ‘Emergency Season’ examines one element of the indiscriminate backlash post-9/11 against Muslims was felt all over the world. In Italy, one of the terrorists who planned a attack in 2005 was arrested in a ‘Phone Centre’ in Rome.  This so called, Emergency Legislation was introduced to monitor and regulate and in effect persecute the owners and users of such centres.

Phone and Internet centres (shops as they are referred to in the UK) are a hub for new migrants. So, when the various branches of Italian Polizia failed to detect any terrorist activity, they quickly realised that it may instead a good place to search for unregulated migrants. The powers of surveillance, licensing and search provided by the emergency terrorist legislation was soon fully applied to the harassment of migrants.

One customer’s practical experience of the legislation is described:

“I saw five policemen entering into the phone centre. They immediately asked everyone to stop what they were doing, including the owner and every single customer…Even people who were there just to accompany were stopped. Children too! Everyone was then asked for their ID and residence permit…No one was allowed in or out of the shop [for an hour].”[5]


This illustrates how an everyday activity, in this case communicating with your relatives, or trying to sort out a bureaucratic task can become a risky activity if you are part of the target population of such powers. This is also evident in the ‘triangulation’ of  criminal stop and search, immigration and specific terrorist powers in the UK which effectively allow the state to stop anyone who  looks a ‘bit foreign’ without just cause. ‘Racial’ profiling is given a new legitimacy, being of the wrong skin colour; in the wrong place are again grounds for suspicion.

Of course, as is the case in London the application of these powers were not uncontested. Shop owners evaded the surveillance aspects, and refused to check their customer’s papers on the States behalf and use remote handsets to allow people to make calls without being on the premises.

The most fascinating and troublesome chapter for me was “Deportation and the Failure of Foreigner Control in the Weimar Republic”. We are treated to an in depth and widely sourced survey of attitudes and reaction of migration in the years following the First World War and the Russian Revolution. It gives a great insight into the debate about immigration in Germany in the run up to the World War II. What’s most striking is despite a gap of almost a 100 years how similar the anti-(im)migrant rhetoric and propaganda is  – along with a reluctance from even those who were sympathetic to those fleeing persecution and poverty was an unwillingness to publicly challenge it,  leaving a debate skewed towards intolerance and suspicion that we are familiar with today. While national Interior Minister Rudolf Oeser described  in 1923 the immigration in contemporary tabloid language as a: “…flooding of the Reich’s territory with foreigners”[6] the socialists and social democrats didn’t counter with positive arguments for immigration, though they did resist pressure for mass deportation and internment of “Ostjuden” (Eastern Jews).

Eastern European Jewish women are asked for ID cards in Berlin’s “Barn Quarter” in 1920

It hardly needs pointing out that the Weimar republic was the creaky, if relatively benevolent forerunner to the Third Reich. At some point in this essay, its apparent failure to control immigration is seemingly and dubiously implicated by the author in its collapse, and by that logic with the rise of fascism.

              “They [Nationalists] also used stereotypes about Eastern Europeans to describe those immigrants , contributing to a dangerous and reinforcing process, in which the failures to control immigration were projected onto Eastern European Jews while anti-Semitic stereotypes imbued immigration policy with an increased threat. The Weimar state was caught in a devastating spiral: lacking an aura of authority, its critics constantly hammered at its incapacity to control immigration. In yet another dangerous cycle, critics of Germany’s lax borders assumed qualities about Jews to affirm the dangers of immigration, while at the same time, the dangers of migrants were easily translated as problems posed by all Jews. Told from this perspective, the failure to pursue policies like deportation contributed to the state’s weak sense of legitimacy(my italics).”[7]

Though Anne-marie Sammarinto also identifies the problem was caused by the failure and unwillingness by the liberal establishment to challenge the anti-Semitic/anti-immigrant rhetoric – more echoes of the present.  Throughout the article there seems to be a sense that Weimar Germany’s (and Prussia’s) ineffective immigration controls are implicated in the following political crises, and therefore rise of The Third Reich. It should be said that her analysis is nuanced;. She also says herself that the figure of immigrant was commonly stereotyped as the ‘Bolshevik Jew’, even though perhaps less than 15% of German migrants were Jewish and one supposes if they were fleeing communist Russia, even less would be Bolshevik. Though even suggesting it was the popular misconception of immigration and perceived (as well as actual) lack of controls contributed to the rise of Hitler is still to me misstating the case. Let us imagine a Weimar Germany with effective immigration controls. As we see today in Greece, punitive and harsh migration controls do nothing to assuage the extreme right, rather they feed it’s rhetoric by confirming it and exaggerating the scale of the problem, distracting from the root causes of the economic crisis. It’s not hard to imagine a ‘effective’ deportation/border regime in 1920’s Germany similarly feeding the anti-Semitism of the era.  I also wonder if the author’s tagging of the word ‘immigration” with ‘illegal is appropriate within the historical context, if not actually anachronistic.

“The European Parliament and the Returns Directive:The End of Radical Contestation;The start of Consensual Constraints” tells the sad story of how the European Parliament (EP) once a champion of a human
rights approach to immigration, and a voice of constraint and opposition to the European Council’s more authoritarian tendencies became it’s collaborator in the post 9/11 world.  Ironically, it was the EP’s new power to legislate that it became less oppositional. The essay uses the example of the “Returns Directive” which aimed  to “harmonise national conditions [within the Schengen area] dealing with the voluntary or compulsory return of irregular well as stipulations to issue removal directions…”[8] The author notes that in four out of the six main issues a more punitive approach was adopted. This included a 5 year ban from the EU for those forcibly removed and migrants can be detained for up to 18 months (even this unfortunately compares favorably with no time limit set by the UK).

The result of this “harmonisation”  – the desperate impetus to reach an agreement – appears that the  harsher approach of the more Conservative/Right-wing elements with the EU seems to have prevailed;   ‘a race to the bottom’ then. Ariadna Servent’s conclusion is realistically downbeat; that the securitisation of the EP’s approach to (im)migration is set to further push aside any concern for human rights for the foreseeable future.

For those of us  working at the grassroots level who see decisions made in Brussels and Westminster as     remote as they are inhuman “Studying Migration Governance from the Bottom-Up” by Matthew GravelleAntje Ellermann and Catherine Dauvergne is a intriguing first stab at quantifying the impact that  local and sub-national organisations have in the implementation of  nationally decided immigration policy. They look at both “deportation” specifically and “immigration policy “in general. They compare four countries, through the study of newspaper articles. Each of the countries varies in terms of “state strength” or centralisation of power, with Australia at one end (similar to the UK’s constitution) and the US at the other end, with many powers delegated to the State level.

What’s unsurprising is that local intervention and contestation is much more common across all four countries within the specific  “deportation” field than with “immigration policy” in general. This  reflects the daily struggle of opposing deportations involving many local actors every day of the week, from the church, community groups and local council. These are decisions that are made about people we know. What’s more, we are painfully aware that opposing immigration policies we don’t like hasn’t had much impact, whereas with individual cases we do.

The local-national interaction is a interesting one for campaigners. Not least in the light of opinion polls that consistently show a hostility to immigration in the abstract: “…vast majorities view im migration as harmful to Britain, few claim that their own neighbourhood is having problems due to migrants”[9] I wonder if it would be possible to propose restrictive, penalising legislation if it was controlled at the local level?

This local/national division is also mentioned in Arjen Leekes and Dennis Broeders contribution: Deportable and Not so Deportable: Formal and Informal Functions of Administrative Immigration Detention”. They write that the impacts of Dutch government restrictive immigration policy: homeless and pauperized “unauthorised  migrants” began to organise accommodation themselves, alongside the piecemeal services offered by the bizarre but now familiar mix of left-organisations, NGO’s and churches.

Dutch Detention Centre

However, their focus is actually on how the massive increase of immigration detention, and it’s “informal” or secondary functions”[10]. The study is wholly focused in the Netherlands, but it’s main contention  that since “the number of expulsions turns out to be relatively independent of the number of migrants detained” it must fulfill other functions – can be probably applied throughout Europe. For instance, the relationship between detention and expulsion in the UK seems to have a weak correlation as well.[11] Given the expense and political controversies of detention, some other purpose must be being served. The authors suggestion are threefold: (1) deterring illegal residence (2) controlling pauperism and (3) symbolically asserting State control[12].

Migration is often portrayed in reactionary discourse as ‘out of control’.  So: “The increase in immigration detention communicates the message that the State is still in control over the geographical (and social) borders that [some] citizens want maintaining.[13] It also punishes by “denouncing”[14] unauthorised migration. Incarcerating people, with, or without a criminal trial is obviously a way saying that they are a transgressor of one type of another.

‘Controlling pauperism’ is perhaps the least obvious function of immigration detention. However, Leerkes and Broeders describe a cycle where a sub-group of unauthorised migrants  enter and exit the detention estate on a  regular basis. They receive no welfare payments, and will never be regularised and for a variety of reasons fall through NGO safety net as well. These are the “undeportable- deportable”. Those who have picked up (normally minor) criminal records who even those who normally advocate for migrants prefer to ignore as their criminality disqualifies them from the status of the ‘deserving migrant’.

There is even a phrase for the release of such migrants: klinikeren “cobbling[15]”; onto the stoney Dutch streets. Detention “..may also be used a form of ‘relief of last  resort’”[16] for this group of migrants. For instance, the authors find that local police use detention to end “public disorder disturbances that are associated with immigrant pauperism”[17].  Immigration staff said that more “undesirable aliens”[18] are imprisoned during public events like the queen’s birthday – a familiar tale of social cleansing which seems to be an integral part of every  Olympics, World Cup and political summit.  Even more surprisingly, and distressingly, some migrants are so impoverished and traumatised by life on the streets, that they ‘self-admit’. One respondent they interviewed said he plead guilty to offences he didn’t commit “to recover in detention from life on the streets.”[19]

They conclude that while migration is increasing a de facto criminal offence,  one of the reasons why it hasn’t been incorporated fully into criminal law is for the reason of proportionality. In the Netherlands, migrants can be held for up to 18 months for “mere illegal residence”[20], this would “contrast  strongly with the major crimes leading to such a lengthy [criminal] sentence”[21] .  With no determined maximum length of detention in the UK  results with some held as long as 8 years[22]. This can only be compared with sentences passed for offences as serious as manslaughter and armed robbery.

The final chapter “From Migrant Destitution to Self-Organization into Transitory National Communities” by Clara Lecadet gives a insight how those marginalised by immigration controls and deportation keep their identity and their dignity. The description of the organisation of this multi-national and multi-ethnic community in Mali will no doubt have resonances with those who have worked in another migrant-transit involuntary stopping points, for instance Calais.

The abandoned village of Tinzwaten, Mali maybe almost 5000 km from Calais, but the organisation of the six ruined (and repaired) houses into micro-nations e.g. Nigerian, Cameroonian, Gambian has obvious similarity with the “Pashto Jungle”, or the various “Africa House” squats in Calais.  Their living arrangements in Northern Mali are harsh and after having been unceremoniously dumped in the desert by the Algerian army, they must be both exhausted and desperate. However, once in Tinzwaten, (unlike in Calais) the expelled migrants appear to be left to their own devices. No CS gassing, continual arrests beatings, confiscation of belongings that migrants suffer in “liberal” France., they procure food and cook, uninterrupted by a raid by the riot police. However, it should be said they have already passed through the Morocco’s abusive EU-funded refugee regime. You imagine that it must be a place of recovery as much as transit point.

Lecadet mentions that the migrants “use the term ‘ghetto’”[23] to describe the shelters they use. She mentions that this “recalls the ghettos of apartheid”[24] or “suburban areas of large American cities”[25]–   Indeed, but what about  the original ghettos of European Jews?

As with all communities, there are rules. In the Liberian ghetto, there is an enforced communism with a

obligation to “share their funds in order to pay for food and for the journeys of other members of the group through the desert”[26]. However, it is a authoritarian communism: “Obey, obey and obey”[27] is the watchword and a hierarchy with military ranks is adhered to.

In these descriptions, Lecadet avoids any easy sentimentalism, vividly portraying how both the positive and negative aspects of a culture are transferred and adapted to these micro-state(s) of limbo.

Taken together, these essays give a snapshot of deportation practices across both time and place. Volumes like this can be important because practitioners who work in the field barely have time to deal with what’s been thrown up by the latest bout of legislation, cuts and media scaremongering, let alone what happened in the past or in other countries coincides, or differs with what is happening in their immediate vicinity. This is a shame, as debates elsewhere or even in the past as this book clearly  demonstrates have lessons for the present.









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People Hunting Season is Open in Calais


From Calais Migrant Solidarity:

So far the month of September has seen:

Eviction of the Beer House squat where around one-hundred Africans and
twenty Syrians had been living for the last year.
Three immediate evictions of the big squats where those people had been
seeking shelter in the nights following the eviction.
Complete destruction of the Sudanese jungle with around twenty arrests.
Police and city workers destroyed all the tents they could find, while
taking the blankets and personal things to the to city dump. There they
were mixed together with what rotting materials were left inside the Beer
House. Everything would have been immediately destroyed if it weren’t for
people going to the dump to take them back that day.
Tents have been destroyed by the police in the Afghan jungle during their
frequent morning raids.
An illegal eviction of a new squat that would have been able to house
everyone during the cold winter months based upon falsified testimonies.

We are now only halfway through the month and police have promised another
planned closure/destruction of a large sleeping space for the next two
weeks, most likely forcing another one-hundred people on to the streets.
This will be in addition to the spontaneous evictions that occur as people
moved-on continue to try and find shelter in the city. As more people have
to take to the street, police controls and harrassment are increasing as

As the temperature drops again and the rains come there have also been a
series of attacks by Police on the garage rented by Calais Migrant
Solidarity, from where we distribute the blankets, tents, and clothes that
we have. Today, eight Police Nationale appeared at the garage as CMS were
distributing clothes and violently pushed those out-front away from the
garage, smacking people across the face and kicking them from behind. This
was before taking out their pepper spray and spraying everything inside,
making the clothes and blankets inside impossible to use. This is the
latest attack; however, last week the garage had already been peppered
sprayed, and in the mean time the locks on the garage door have been
forced and broken with people’s things going missing from inside.

People desperately need:

-Sleeping Bags
-Tents (make sure poles are included)
-Waterproof Clothes
-money to buy food as they are living off of the one meal a day provided

and most importantly people who are able to support them and defend their

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A State Monopoly on Racism?

I’m sure not the only one to query the consistency of Cameron criticizing that Ukip MEP for his “bongo bongo land” comment on the one hand, while defending the Home Office racist van camapign & transport hub checks.

However, there are those who claim not be racist (but think that Britain is “full -up”) and it seems that Cameron is articulating a position of those who do prefer to keep their racism discreet & carried out by the State, so they can keep their a clean conscience and have a good nights sleep.

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