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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EU Migration Policy Put on Trial

Tribunal 12 is organised by Shahrazad – Stories for Life in close collaboration with Kulturhuset in Stockholm and the Swedish Forum for Human Rights.

Tribunal 12 advocates a change within the European system that currently treats people who flee to Europe disrespectfully and exposes them to systematic violations.

In order to achieve this, Tribunal 12 sets out to make visible what refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are experiencing in their encounter with Europe and:

– Investigate whether human rights are violated.

– Expose the hidden structures that allow for the inhumane treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

– Locate the moral, legal and political responsibility for the current situation in Europe.

lick to view Trailer

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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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X-rays, Surveillance and Secret Justice


Written by Frances Webber

X-raying migrant children to determine age and proposals to monitor all communications, as well as the proposed secret justice measures, further target ‘suspect communities’.

The pilot x-ray scheme to assess the age of young asylum seekers whose claims to be children are disbelieved, which started at the end of March with virtually no notice, has caused outrage among children’s and migrant groups and grave concern to Children’s Commissioners. The UK Border Agency says the trial is voluntary. It will take dental x-rays of young people already assessed as adults to test the reliability of the x-rays. But the Children’s Commissioners pointed out in a joint statement that exposing young people to medical radiation is dangerous, and those invited to take part will feel pressure to consent because of their status as asylum seekers.[1] X-rays, even dental x-rays, are believed to increase significantly the risks of certain cancers in children. X-rays were commonly used to determine ‘bone age’ of children seeking to join their parents from the Indian sub-continent in the 1970s. Campaigning by migrant groups led to a government inquiry chaired by Sir Henry Yellowlees, whose report confirmed that as well as being dangerous, they were a very unreliable way of assessing the age of teenagers, with a margin of error of around two years either way. In 1982, home secretary William Whitelaw stopped the practice, announcing that the continued use of x-rays in the immigration context could no longer be justified.[2]

Thirty years later, the health risks have not changed (the Royal College of Radiologists say they are inherently intrusive and carry a degree of risk) and there is no evidence to suggest that x-rays have become any more reliable indicators of age. What’s more, statutory duties now require immigration officers to safeguard the welfare of migrant children in taking decisions about them. The government is supposed to be more, not less compliant with human rights requirements, particularly concerning children. When in 2007 the Home Office proposed reintroducing ‘bone-age’ x-rays for young people whose age was disputed, the Children’s Commissioner obtained a legal opinion which said that the tests would be unlawful, and the proposals were withdrawn. So what is the purpose of these tests, given their known risks and unreliability? Their re-introduction can have no beneficial purpose. In its response to the measure, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association accuses UKBA of pursuing the ‘chimera of certainty’ despite official acknowledgement that ‘you cannot date stamp a child’, and says the policy of giving the benefit of the doubt to age-disputed children is frequently flouted.[3] Could the x-rays be a way of deterring young asylum seekers from coming to the UK or from claiming asylum?

Racism and Big Brother surveillance

The proposal to monitor all electronic communications – phone calls, emails, text messages and internet social networking – in real time, without a warrant or other judicial supervision, represents another intrusive invasion of privacy. The government justifies the proposal, first introduced by the Labour government in 2009 but abandoned in the face of strong opposition by the Tories and Lib Dems, by ‘the fight against serious crime and terrorism’. This time, the outrage at the proposal reached the libertarian Right as well as the civil liberties lobby. The director of policy at Liberty, Isabella Sankey, pointed out the potential for race discrimination in the way the vast cache of information about our communications is mined.[4] Racism is often built in to the algorithms which search vast databases, via assumptions about what certain types of behaviour reveal. We have seen such racist assumptions in operation in the hugely inflated stop and search figures for young black men, and more recently, in the ‘terrorist profiling’ which subjects whole Muslim communities to intensified policing. With such vast quantities of material, it is almost inevitable that ethnic and religious ‘filters’ will be used to narrow searches. Cyberspace offers unlimited opportunities for the criminalisation of minorities.

Extension of secret justice

When you put these sorts of powers together with a justice system which denies those accused of support for terrorism the right to know the detail of what is alleged against them, depriving them of the opportunity of clearing themselves, what you get looks a lot like a police state. Of course such a system already operates in relation to foreign terror suspects whom the home secretary seeks to deport on the basis of assessments put together by the security services. The proposal to extend this system of secret justice to all civil courts, and to inquests would, if it went through, deprive those falsely accused, perhaps wrongly convicted or deported or ‘rendered’, of any effective remedy for their treatment in the civil courts, because they would never have access to the material demonstrating exactly what had happened and why. They would also prevent the families of those killed, as a result of state action, from being able to find out what led to their death.[5]

The parliamentary joint human rights committee has said the proposals for extension of secret justice are not justified by evidence, unnecessary and disproportionate. It expressed concern that the government relied on ‘spurious assertions of the catastrophic consequences of information being wrongly disclosed’, while refusing to acknowledge how radical a departure from fundamental principles of open justice the proposals represented. As the special advocates pointed out, ‘Closed proceedings represent the most extreme incursion into [the open justice] principle because the opacity in relation to the proceedings is total … a party does not know the case against them, or a significant part of it, and so cannot answer it, and that is contrary to the principle of open justice.’[6]

Virtually all the victims of this opacity are Muslims, and on current projections it is Muslims whose cases will most frequently be subjected to secret hearings if the regime is extended to civil cases where national security is an issue. If, in line with the government’s intentions in the Justice and Security green paper, secret justice is extended to cover other ‘public interest’ situations such as protecting informants and operations against ‘serious crime’, Black and Minority Ethnic communities will also be disproportionately affected.

Inverse accountability

The x-raying of children, scandalously, needs no legislation and has already begun. But the proposals to monitor citizens’ communications and internet use, and to extend secret justice procedures, do need legislation. The very breadth of the snooping proposals is likely to prove their undoing, just as it was the undoing of Labour’s ID card legislation, repealed by the coalition as part of its ‘civil liberties’ programme (the requirement for migrants to have biometric residence permits was however extended to cover refugees and other permanent settlers). The idea that some official (or these days, more likely a G4S employee) will be able at all times to check who any member of the public is in touch with, what internet sites he or she is visiting, and to collate that information in individual files on all of us, hits the same nerve that the ID laws did; despite the enormous level of surveillance to which the internet already subjects us, this is a step too far. The message it sends out is that we all must account to the government for whom we contact and what we do. At the same time, the joint human rights committee’s report on the secret justice proposals shows that the demand for citizens’ transparency comes just as the government seeks to draw the veil of secrecy more tightly around its own operations, prompting questions about who should be accountable to whom.

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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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First they come for the Asylum Seekers…

By John Gray (Institute of Race Relations)

Asylum seekers were the guinea pigs for all kinds of brutal and unacceptable policies that are now beginning to be applied more widely.

Private security firms are in the news – a national contract worth £3.5 billion is being rolled out to privatise police functions. Eight public prisons are being market tested with future private contracts worth £2.5 billion. The largest security company in the world, G4S, figures in all these developments. G4S and two other security companies are also set to take over asylum-seeker housing, privatising the last ‘humanitarian’ public housing for those fleeing persecution. But this is only the latest evidence of asylum seekers being used as ‘guinea pigs’ to test unsavoury policies in such areas as welfare reform, legal aid and now housing.

The growing and now endemic ‘common sense racism’ of political and media discourses with regard to asylum seekers and foreigners has meant that a fundamental erosion in the legal rights and status of social citizenship in the UK has over fifteen or so years been piloted by governments in ‘the Orwellian world of immigration controls’.[1] As Judith Shklar describes it, a world where there is ‘a symbolic glass floor – citizens exist above the floor and can look down on those beneath who are excluded from citizenship and are thus the most deprived in society’.[2]

Over the past few years, the derisory value of state support for asylum-seeker families and single people has been reduced even more in value and scope. It was very difficult in 2009 and 2010 to find any political support for the campaigns of asylum rights groups to oppose cuts and to defend the income of asylum seekers pilloried in the press and attacked by politicians in election campaigns. Just as later, in 2011 and 2012, the press and the populist narratives of ‘scroungers’ have dominated the rhetoric and ‘bloody battles’ over welfare cuts separating claimants out from ‘hard working families’.

This week the House of Lords attempts to prevent drastic cuts in legal aid for a whole range of civil cases affecting housing, family cases, and personal compensation. Lobby groups are realising that legal aid and access to justice is the last remaining pillar of welfare rights and social citizenship developed in the 1940s along with education, health, housing, employment, and universal benefits. But massive cuts in legal aid for asylum and immigration cases were already made in 2010 and 2011, resulting in the collapse of the two major voluntary sector providers, the Immigration Advisory Service and Refugee Migrant Justice. But the ongoing demonising of foreigners and asylum seekers ensured then that few voices were raised against cuts which of course affected immigration lawyers – the butt of attacks by successive home and justice secretaries from Jack Straw and David Blunkett to Theresa May and Ken Clarke.

Outsourcing punishment, detention and state violence

British governments since the 1990s have sought to outsource key functions of the modern state – such as the confining and rehabilitating of criminals – which has been rapidly achieved through the rise and rise of global private security companies such as G4S and SERCO.

Almost unnoticed, the UK has now the largest private prison sector in Europe – larger than that of the USA. In December 2011 in England and Wales 11,446 prisoners (13.1 per cent) were in private prisons. By the end of March there will be fourteen private prisons. The market testing of a further eight public prisons, at present underway, could mean another 5,700 prisoners in private prisons in the next year or so. The value of these eight contracts over fifteen years is estimated at £2.5 billion.[3]

The private security companies have profited massively from this management of the prisoner market which just three companies share. G4S will have seven contracts by April 2012, SERCO five, and Sodexo three including the only private women’s prison at Bronzefield. On 1 October 2011, HMP Birmingham became the first publicly-run prison to be contracted out to the private sector and G4S with a contract worth £468.3 million.[4]

The G4S and SERCO prison empires have also hoovered up voluntary organisations. G4S has been jointly providing family services for visitors at its Wolds prison since 2004 with the PreSchool Learning Alliance ‘the largest third sector provider of quality childcare’.[5] SERCO won contracts for prisons with its voluntary sector partners Turning Point and Catch 22 providing ‘rehabilitation and resettlement solutions’ (for instance for Belmarsh West in 2010) and is currently running a pilot ‘payments by results scheme’ with Catch 22 and Turning Point on rehabilitation at its privatised HMP Doncaster where it already runs a successful ‘Families First’ programme.[6]

Alongside the prison estate market, the criminalising and ‘securitising’ of immigration and asylum has meant the development of what G4S has described as ‘asylum markets’.[7] Private security firms have come to dominate detention, transport and escort services for asylum seekers, displacing politically accountable public provision. G4S Justice Services opened the first designed, constructed, managed and financed private prison in the UK, HMP Altcourse, Fazakerley, Liverpool in 1997. By 2011 it had seven prison contracts and managed four of the detention centres for asylum seekers including the family-friendly Cedars centre (already attracting criticism for detention of families who are allowed fewer rights than in the prison and detention system).[8] Its management of detention centres was also somewhat problematic. In 2010 there were a record 773 complaints lodged against G4S by detainees including forty-eight claims of assault.[9]

G4S, despite this record and the fact that three of its escort staff are still on bail facing criminal charges related to the death of Jimmy Mubenga an Angolan man, (read an IRR News story: ‘Jimmy Mubenga remembered’ (, is finalising its contract to take over asylum-seeker housing in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. (Other security firms, SERCO and Reliance, share contracts in other regions.) The company is extending its interests in the asylum market but these contracts signal a further shift in public policy, this time in housing.

Asylum housing as ‘house arrest’

Asylum seekers and asylum rights campaigners perceive this extension of the role of for-profit security companies in the prison and immigration estate as creating a form of ‘house arrest’ for asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their claims. Could this be an initial step towards the policy, called for recently by former home office junior minister Anne Widdecombe, of ‘detention centres on arrival’ for all asylum seekers?[10] There was after all an earlier attempt in December 2005 to introduce such a regime with a Home Office contract for the security firm Reliance to pilot voice recognition and tagging of 200 asylum seekers in Glasgow and two other areas.[11]

For G4S the asylum housing contract may signal their hope to enter the international privatised social housing and for-profit private rented sector markets. G4S has set up a separate housing division as part of its Yorkshire contract headed by a former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing. Its management methods will be tested on upwards of 500 asylum-seeker families and individuals who will be dispersed from local authority housing in South Yorkshire over the next six months. None of these residents will of course have any rights as tenants nor even as customers – these are all stripped away by the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. Asylum seekers are treated as if they have no real legal presence.

Not just a matter of cost

The language of the market and the current climate of ‘austerity’ often justifies these private contracts in terms of cost.[12] Research actually suggests that private prisons, detention centres and other asylum market services are not always cheaper options.[13] Private prisons certainly tend to be more overcrowded than publicly run institutions,[14] The privately run detention institutions in ‘the Orwellian world of immigration controls’ are certainly not cheap, but costings are rarely reported. The Home Affairs Select Committee reported some figures in November 2009. The average cost of detention was £130 per night per person in an immigration removal centre which amounts to around £45,000 per place per year. This is thus much higher in the mainly privatised detention centre world than the average in the mainly publicly controlled prison world (most prisoners are in category C or local prisons where the costs per male prisoner are £32,109 and £35,157 per annum respectively).[15]

Whatever the costs, the detention centres certainly have a disgraceful record As a recent research study has documented over the past few years. ‘In the UK’s detention centres there have been 16 suicides, alarming rates of self-harm, hunger strikes and appalling levels of mental and physical illness. Thousands of innocent men women and children have been put through the detention wringer’.[16]

In a rather surreal moment in a recent meeting between UK Border Agency (UKBA) ‘enforcement’ staff and asylum rights organisations in Sheffield, the UKBA disclosed that it was striving to get a ‘customer service and satisfaction award’ for its direct and outsourced escort and detention services. An outsourced escort service then operated by G4S was involved in the death of Jimmy Mubenga and three of his escorts are under investigation for possible prosecution.

The sheer power of the European private security industry

Recent disclosures about the massive £3.5 billion national contract for privatising police services (at present taken up by West Midlands and Surrey police forces)[17] follow the news that G4S has already won a £200 million contract to transfer half the staff of Lincolnshire police authority and build and run a new police station there.[18]

The private security market in general across the EU is displacing routine state policing duties? In all the countries of the EU there is an average of 31.11 private security personnel per 10,000 people as compared to 36.28 police personnel per 10,000. As one commentator has said this is actually changing the assumed ‘norm’ that it is the state and not private companies which have a monopoly on state violence.[19]

The UK is amongst the most intensively covered by private security with one private guard to every 170 people compared with one police employee to every 382 citizens -figures comparable to Hungary and Serbia. Germany on the other hand has much lighter private security with one private guard for every 484 citizens and one police employee for every 326 citizens. The private security business in the UK is worth £3.97 billion annually. Across Europe this is a very powerful lobby for privatising and marketising state functions. Just three companies have 46 per cent of the market in the UK. Just three companies have 56 per cent of the market across the EU. Published data from the EU does not directly name them but it would be strange indeed if G4S and SERCO were not amongst them.[20]

The private asylum market is not neutral, it comes with unsavoury values

Conor Gearty, in a lecture to Asylum Aid ( in November 2010, suggested that: ‘We are I think close to or at a paradigm shift in our approach to asylum seekers and immigrants in Europe, that moment when we stop thinking in ways made inevitable by our past ethical truths, and start talking and thinking in a far nastier vein. The latter is becoming normal the former increasingly the exception. The rule is drifting from civility to incivility, from respect for humanity to celebration of inhumanity, from universalist idealism to parochial hostility. And all of this is seemingly supported by a new fast emerging “social consensus”.'[21]

In Sheffield and South Yorkshire some local authorities, many trade unionists, church and faith groups, and a network of asylum rights and refugee groups hold to the ‘social democratic’ world of those past ethical truths. In early April in Geneva the UK will be held to account in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights. The South Yorkshire asylum rights ‘consensus’ submitted their own review of the sustained attacks on the human rights of asylum seekers in Sheffield for submission to the UNHRC.[22]

This ‘far nastier’ social consensus on asylum is driven in the UK by a common sense and state racism in terms of public policy and is delivered in the market place by the practice of private security firms. These ‘far nastier’ assumptions about state policies are unfortunately often shared across the boundaries between private and public provision. On the Today programme on Saturday 3 March John Humphrys was challenging Chief Superintendent Phil Kay of the West Midland police about its proposed involvement in the privatisation of the police arguing that the values of a private company subject to shareholders was totally different to ‘sworn officers’ in police service. Superintendent Kay disagreed, he thought that ‘some of their values will be different’ but developing the potential ‘partnership’ he found they shared similar values to our own’. ‘You’d be surprised in some respects, there will be overlap.’ Unfortunately there may well be ‘overlap’ in values – but perhaps of the ‘far nastier’ variety.

Those living outside South Yorkshire might find it difficult to believe that Sheffield still declares itself a City of Sanctuary (in fact it started the national movement), and Barnsley proclaims it still provides ‘humanitarian’ housing for asylum seekers. A petition against G4S taking over asylum housing presented to the full Sheffield city council meeting on 1 February was applauded by the whole council.

Councillors and campaigners understand that the G4S contract not only privatises this humanitarian function but destroys it and replaces it with the clear message adopted by both Labour and the Coalition that asylum seekers are not welcome here. Indeed they should be treated like criminals with prison guards as their landlords, as part of a deliberate policy of deterrence. As one Zimbabwean asylum seeker in Sheffield declared, ‘I do not want a prison guard as my landlord’.

Future tenants and customers confronting G4S in its role as housing provider will no doubt be able to recognise that it piloted its particular brand of housing management on vulnerable asylum seekers ‘below that symbolic glass floor’.


[1] Cohen S. Deportation is freedom: the Orwellian world of immigration controls, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2008. [2] Quoted in Lavalette M. and Ferguson I. eds International Social Work and the Radical Tradition, Birmingham: Venture Press 2007, p118. [3] Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings Prisons Factfile December 2011, can be downloaded here ( (pdf file, 1.5mb). [4], ‘Ken Clarke privatises Birmingham prison amid union fury’ (, BBC News, 31 March 2011. [5] Win-Win : the leadership of private and third sector public service partnerships, pp 10-11, 2010, ACEVO and CBI, can be downloaded here ( (pdf file, 2.4mb). [6] Serco ( press release, 5 July 2010 and 11 October 2011. [7] John Grayson, ‘G4S turns a profit in “asylum markets”: who’s speaking out and whose lips are sealed?’ (, Open Democracy, 28 February 2012.

[8] Private Eye, no. 1303, December 9 to 22, 2011 p.31. [9] Dominic Casciani, ‘G4S immigration removal centres complaints revealed’ (, BBC News, 17 June 2011. [10] Ann Widdecombe, ‘Why coalition has given me cause to hope’ (, Daily Express, 11 January 2012. [11] Corporate Watch, ‘Scotland PLC: immigration and asylum in Scotland’ ( [12] Ian Blair, ‘The police: a chance to modernise’ (, Guardian, 5 March 2012. [13] In 2007 according to a parliamentary written answer the costs of private prisons per place were higher than public sector prisons in most categories cited in Bromley Briefings prisons Factfile December 2011, op cit. [14] Private prisons have held a higher percentage of their prisoners in overcrowded accommodation than public sector prisons every year for the past thirteen years, Bromley Briefings prisons Factfile December 2011, op cit. [15] Ministry of Justice, ‘Costs per place and costs per prisoner by individual prison’, NOMS Annual Report and Accounts 2010/11, 27 October 2011. [16] Melanie McFadyean, ‘Detention is no solution’ (, The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) ( website. [17] Alan Travis and Zoe Williams, ‘Revealed: government plans for police privatisation’ (, Guardian, 2 March 2012. [18] ‘ Lincolnshire police outsource £200m support contract’ (, BBC News, 22 December 2011. [19] Elke Krahmann, Private Security Companies and the State Monopoly on Violence, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt 2009. [20] CoESS (Confederation of European Security Services) (, ‘Private Security Services in Europe: CoESS Facts and Figures 2011’. [21] Conor Gearty, ‘Doing what comes naturally? Asylum, human rights and duties of humanity’, Asylum Aid ( 20th Anniversary Lecture, 2 November 2010. [22] South Yorkshire Asylum and Migration Action Group (SYMAAG) ( with Asylum Seeker Support Initiative – Short Term (ASSIST) ( and the Northern Refugee Centre (NRC) (, this evidence will be available at SYMAAG website (

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South Yorkshire Asylum and Migration Action Group (SYMAAG) (

Asylum Seeker Support Initiative – Short Term (ASSIST) (

Northern Refugee Centre (NRC) (

Read an IRR News story: ‘Response to G4S: 900 asylum seekers face eviction in Yorkshire’ (

Read an IRR News story: ‘G4S and asylum seekers’ housing’ (

Read an IRR News story: ‘Jimmy Mubenga remembered’ (

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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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Activists occupy Barnardo’s HQ demanding they quit the child detention business

Anti-detention campaigners argue that by agreeing to provide welfare and social care services at this ‘family detention centre’, named Cedars, Barnardo’s is used to legitimise the continued use of detention for children, which the government promised in 2010 to stop doing. [1]

The converted school is officially described as ‘pre-departure
accommodation’, but campaigners argue it has all the characteristics of a detention centre but the name. With a 2.5m perimeter fence and 24-hour security, it is run under the Detention Centre Rules by notorious security company G4S, which runs three other immigration detention centres. [2]

Jo Taylor, one of the activists taking part in the protest, said:
“Barnardo’s involvement with Cedars makes its motto, ‘Believe in children’, sound like a cynical joke. The charity seems to also believe in locking children up. Many of Barnardo’s staff and customers will be appalled to know about this involvement, and that’s why we’re here.”

In July last year, Barnardo’s set some ‘red lines’ for its involvement in the scheme, in what appears to have been a desperate attempt to reassure critics of its controversial decision. [4] The conditions included withdrawing services if more than 10 percent of the families deported in the first year of the trial went through the centre; if any family has stayed at the centre more than once or for longer than the one week maximum; or if disproportionate force is used with a family on route to or from the centre. [3]

Campaigners say many of these conditions have been breached repeatedly. Many families have reported suffering from trauma and being subjected to verbal abuse and physical assaults by the security guards. At least one family is known to have been held at the centre for over one week.

Hours before the protest started, a Kurdish woman with two daughters, aged 2 and 11, was due to be forcibly deported to Turkey, where she would have faced persecution and possible death. [5] The family had been arrested three days before in a dawn raid, described as “horrific”, and transferred to Cedars. Thankfully as a result of campaigns against the deportation the family have been released and are on their way back to Gloucestershire.

The protest coincides with a week-long ‘convergence’ of No Borders activists from across Europe in London. The event’s callout had called upon supporters to “take action against various aspects of the border regime in London and the surrounding areas.” [6]

This is not the first time that Barnardo’s has been the target of protest over child detention. Since Cedars was opened, campaigners have picketed and leafleted staff and customers at various Barnardo’s charity shops, as well as its headquarters in Barkingside, Essex. [7]


For further questions, please contact:
Email: noborderslondon[at-]
Tel: 07438 185537

Notes for editors:

[1] In May 2010, the new coalition government ‘committed’ to ending child detention for immigration purposes as part of a “new, compassionate approach to family removals.” However, while families with children due to be forcibly deported are no longer held in normal immigration detention centres, they are instead placed in new secure facilities, euphemistically named ‘pre-departure accommodation’. The first such centre to open in late summer was Cedars in Pease Pottage, near Crawley, West Sussex. For more on this and other planned family detention centres, see

[2] Families and children held at Cedars are arrested and administratively detained under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act. They are subject to the Control and Restraint Techniques used across the detention estate. Detained children are only allowed out of the facility under strictly controlled circumstances. This clearly amounts to a continued use of the detention of children for immigration purposes. For more on this, see

[3] See

[4] See

[5] See

[6] The No Borders Convergence 2012 (13th – 18th February) is a week-long event featuring workshops, meetings and actions against the border regime. The callout and programme can be found at

[7] For more details on previous protests against Barnardo’s, see

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No Borders Occupy Barnados HQ: Get Out of Child Detention!

No Border activists occupying @barnardos HQ demanding they quit child detention business #nbc2012 #noborders

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London No Borders Convergence – starts this monday

Seminars and workshops at the NoBorders Convergence

17 November, 2011 – 13:34 — London NoBorders

During the first three days of the Convergence there will be a series of workshops and seminars taking place at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, south east London. All workshops are happening in the Richard Hoggart Building (RHB) of Goldsmiths unless otherwise stated. There will be a welcome area in the Stretch in the Student Union building next door to the Richard Hoggart Building, with tea, coffee, and information about the Convergence. (See directions to Goldsmiths and more practical info here).

The programme so far is as follows. All workshops are free-of-charge and you do not need to book.


/ 10.30am-1.30pm / Stopping deportations: Workshop includes contributions from NCADC (National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns), IFIR (International Federation of Iraqi Refugees), Nicholas De Genova (Goldsmiths), Rutvica Andrijasevic and Stop Deportation Network. [RHB 342]

/ 2.30pm-4.30pm / Migrant workers: Organising Under the Radar: Many kinds of workers use their bodies to labour- sexworkers, cleaners, carers, nannies- often for low(er) pay and under precarious conditions. These kinds of labour are individualised, often working alone or in small numbers, making it harder to bargain for better pay or conditions, or to join trade unions. Join this discussion to find out what the fightback looks like- what does it mean for migrant workers to self-organise in the current climate? What solidarity work needs to be done, and what should it look like? Bringing together speakers from the x:talk project, Crossroads Women’s Centre, the Latin American Workers Association and No Borders Wales, this workshop will seek to build the solidarity necessary to transform society. [RHB 342]

/ 2.30pm-3.30pm / Border Controls and Freedom of Movement in an Age of Climate Chaos: Climate change is exacerbating factors which force people to migrate and at the same time is used as a justification for increasingly restrictive border controls. This workshop will consider two different perspectives from the South which call for the either the creation of the new category of climate refugee or for freedom of movement for all. [RHB 343]

/ 3.30pm-5pm / Economic crisis and migration [RHB 342a]

/ 5pm-6pm / Legal briefing [RHB 342]

/ 5pm-6pm / Borders and migrants in New Cross and Deptford: The area where the Convergence is taking place has a rich history of movements around migration, borders and racism. This illustrated talk by a local radical historian will cover land and maritime border points, slavery, prison ships, 1970s anti-fascism, 1980s New Cross Fire campaign and more. [RHB 343]

/ 6pm-7pm / Free discussion space [RHB 342, RHB 342a, RHB 343]

/ 6pm-10pm / Films: Injustice (6pm) / La Haine (7.50pm) – Hosted by the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths [Council Room, Laurie Grove, Goldsmiths]


/ 10.30am-1.30pm / Resistance in detention: This workshop will discuss struggles within migrant detention centres and in European and North-African contexts – hunger strikes, mutinies, escapes, struggles over conditions and “work”. It will also link these up with struggles in “penal” prisons.Workshop includes contributions from ex-detainees, Getting The Voice Out, Bristol ABC, SOAS Detainee Support and Corporate Watch

/ 2.30pm-4.30pm / Everyday solidarity: Here we look at how we can best address the day-to-day needs of migrants in ways which are radical and empowering. These needs cover everything from help with immigration cases and language skills, to issues of homelessness and police harassment. Workshop includes contributions from Calais Migrant Solidarity, Coventry Peace House, Detention Action, and Croydon Migrant Solidarity.

/ 2.30pm-4.30pm / Hacking the Borders: We’ll discuss different ways that digital technology can support freedom of movement and the struggles against detention & deportation. By exploring the untapped potential of tech and sharing inspiring examples, we aim to generate innovative ideas that can be prototyped after the Convergence. The workshop is inspired by hacking, which is ‘creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations’ and ‘the reassembling of technology for unintended purposes’. This is not a workshop aimed at programmers but at anyone interested in the issues being tackled at the Convergence, and who has a feeling that social media & technology can help break through some barriers.

/ 2.30pm-3.30pm / Immigration Controls – Standing on the Shoulders of Fascism? Opposition to immigration has always been at the heart of the fascist movement in Britain and in most other countries. How much has fascist and racist agitation shaped immigration controls? What is the relevance today for the anti-fascist movement and No Borders activists?

/ 3.30pm-4.30pm / Traveller Solidarity

/ 5pm-7pm /Counter-aesthetics of the border – This workshop brings together researchers from Goldsmiths and activists to reflect on the struggles that happens around borders and their “representations”. Starting from images, maps, audio and video recordings, we will look at how the border is at the same time policed and contested through visual, acoustic and technological means.

/ 6pm-7pm / Free discussion space

/ 8pm / Film: Öffnungszeiten (Germany/Bulgaria, 2011, 33 mins) The film follows four anthropologists and filmmakers looking at the poor treatment of Bulgarian migrants by public authorities in Munich. [Upstairs @ Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, London, SE14 6TY]


/ 10.30am-1.30pm / At the borders: One of the roles that networks like No Borders can play is creating strong networks of support to facilitate the free movement of migrants across the border of Europe, which is increasing looking like a fortress that is impossible to get into. From building the infrastructure of resistance (contacts, information, resources and so on) to protest camps and mass actions at the borders. Come to share lessons and experiences from various border ‘flash points’ across Europe and beyond: Calais, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Israel and elsewhere. [RHB 342]

/ 11.30am-1.30pm / Sex, Work and the Olympics: It has now become common practice for anti-trafficking campaigns to target large sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, claiming that such events lead to an increase in trafficking in the sex industry. However research has shown that there is no evidence that big sporting events increase trafficking but the myth that they do often result in crackdowns on sex workers and other groups, such as migrant workers. In this workshop, collective members from the x:talk project will discuss their plans for a campaign to call for a moratorium on prostitution crimes – which involves the police not arresting or charging anyone with prostitution-related offenses for a period around the Olympics [RHB 343]

/ 1.10pm-1.50pm / Movement Songs: Musicians from Goldsmiths’ Community Music Course will play songs bringing stories of detention, resistance and escape dramatically (and rhythmically) to life [RHB 150].

/ 2.30pm-4.30pm / Strengthening the transnational No Borders network: Discussion on how we can strength our movement in the UK, across Europe and globally. This workshop will include discussion of the Stockholm and Duesseldorf No Borders camps this summer, as well as other upcoming events and initiatives. [RHB 342]

/ 5pm-6pm / Discussion on the Carnival (Saturday demo) [RHB 342]

/ 6pm-7pm /Free discussion space [RHB 342, RHB 342a, RHB 343]

/ 7pm-8pm / Challenging the mainstream narrative on migration: This workshop explores the way in which the press and the political elite work together to maintain a particular narrative on immigration, and the tensions that exist in this relationship. Workshop includes contributions from the Migrants Rights Network. [RHB 343]

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