“The deeply unpopular government is insisting on pushing ahead with its shameful Rwanda policy as it provides a distraction from – and scapegoat for – the many crises it faces.”
By Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism
This year’s Refugee Week could not be more timely. The government’s refugee policy is facing widespread opposition.
Many marched against the Rwanda deportation and detention of asylum seekers and were warmly received at last Saturday’s TUC demonstration. “Victory to the RMT, let in every refugee” was the chant as the RMT passed the anti-racist bloc. The Stop Rwanda Deportation and Detention bloc at the demonstration was organised by Stand up to Racism, Together With Refugees and Care for Calais.
The deeply unpopular government is insisting on pushing ahead with its shameful Rwanda policy as it provides a distraction from and scapegoat for the many crises it faces.
However the policy is facing huge opposition from the courts, trade unions, refugee, human rights campaigners and anti-racists. The first flight deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last week.
This could be overturned by the government through its proposed changes to the Human Rights Act, which would enable the government to ignore ECHR injunctions.
Nevertheless the government is facing resistance to its anti-immigration and asylum policy. The ECHR intervention preventing the flight to Rwanda was preceded by a number of mass actions opposing the policy.
Over a thousand protested outside the Home Office on the eve of the planned flight to Rwanda, organised by Stand Up To Racism and Care4Calais and SOAS Detainee Support and Solidarity Knows No Borders.
The defiant protest was joined by MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Jeremy Corbyn, Zarah Sultana and Beth Winter, as well as union delegations from NEU, RMT and others, who condemned government plans for offshore detention in Rwanda and pledged to continue to mobilise the movement.
On the day of the planned flight to Rwanda a Stand Up To Racism and Care4Calais Britain-wide Day of Action to stop Rwanda offshore detention took place, with sizeable protests in towns and cities as well as outside Unison conference in Brighton where delegates joined a protest and a brilliant protest where activists chained themselves together to stop those detained and scheduled to be taken from being driven to the flight. It was fantastic to see to protests, including at Brook House detention centre at Gatwick.
Stand Up To Racism has also held a series of fringe meetings at union conferences, including NEU, CWU, FBU, PCS, ASLEF, BFAWU and Unison under the title “From Offshore Detention to the Nationality and Borders Act – No Rwanda Offshoring – End the Hostile Environment”. Joint protests over Rwanda offshore detention were also held at Unison and PCS conference alongside Stand Up To Racism and Care4Calais.
The trade unions, at the level of every workplace, are a crucial part of the opposition we must organise to Patel and Johnson’s intensification of their racist hostile environment.
It’s definitely a moment to take stock of the impact of the anti racist movement. In addition to the halting of the Rwanda flight, the PCS and Care4Calais legal action stopped the murderous ‘pushbacks’ of asylum seekers in the English Channel.
Recently hundreds of the local community mobilised and successfully prevented immigration officers from taking a man in Peckham, South London. This follows similar mass community actions in Dalston in east London, Nicolson Square in Edinburgh and Kenmure Street in Glasgow.
We must keep up the fight to stop Rwanda offshore detention and scrap the Nationality and Borders Act. Let’s keep opposing the racist hostile environment policy.
Stand Up To Racism is also organising a series of regional and local rallies this week under the slogan From Offshore Detention to the Nationality and Borders Act, End the Hostile Environment – #AllRefugeesWelcome to mark Refugee Week.
- Sabby Dhalu is the co-convenor of Stand up to Racism, you can follow the campaign on Facebook and twitter.
- As #RefugeeWeek2022 continues show your #solidarity with #Refugees at these important events in Sheffield & Birmingham