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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 June 2002

THIS WEEK is Refugee Week. Thousands will be demonstrating in London to defend the right of asylum.

Meanwhile EU ministers will be meeting in Seville to discuss further repression against refugees.

Naomi Byron looks at the question of asylum and what socialism has got to do with it.

Defend Asylum Rights

A RECENT poll showed that people in Britain are four times more likely to be sympathetic towards asylum seekers than negative or hostile. They also greatly overestimate the proportion of refugees worldwide coming to claim asylum in Britain. People said on average that 24% of the world's refugees came to Britain whereas in fact less than 2% actually do.

These overestimates and some of the hostility that has been shown towards asylum seekers, while rooted in a fear of overburdening inadequate and underfunded services, are fuelled by the media and politicians who are anxious to find scapegoats to blame for their unpopular policies.

A recent EU study confirmed that the main reason refugees seek asylum is not for what they think they can get in the country they seek refuge in but the unbearable situation and risks in their countries of origin.

The largest numbers of refugees claiming asylum in Britain last year were from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq; all countries wracked by war, conflict and repression.

Socialist Party members campaign to defend the right to asylum and for more funding for housing, health, education and services for all. However, we know that if the refugee crisis is ever to be solved, the root causes of the problems that force refugees to leave their homes must be addressed.

The British government hypocritically refuses people the right to asylum whilst funding and arming the very regimes they have fled from.

For New Labour the profits of the British arms industry (the second biggest in the world) and British big business are the priority, even if human rights suffer as a consequence.

Britain exports arms worth 64 million to India and 6 million to Pakistan, despite the threat of war.

Capitalist crisis

The problems refugees are facing, political repression, persecution, war, terror and economic devastation are overwhelmingly caused by the capitalist system, which puts profits before people's lives.

Capitalism has led to environmental destruction, forcing more people to flee their homes than ever before and resulting in environmental disasters becoming one of the biggest single reasons why people become refugees.

The extent of the floods in Mozambique last year, was enormously increased by the actions of logging companies, who cleared huge areas of forest, allowing valuable topsoil to be carried away by the floods.

The 'structural adjustment programmes' of the IMF and World Bank have destroyed the living standards of millions. They have forced governments around the world to open up their economies to foreign competition and capital.

This has resulted in the asset stripping of whole countries by big business internationally, a massive increase in food prices and the slashing of government spending on education and health in some of the poorest countries of the world.

The imperialist powers, the US, Britain etc. are more dominant economically in the world than they have been in the last 50 years. Unimaginable wealth is owned by a tiny, powerful minority. The assets of the 200 richest people are more than the combined income of the poorest 2.4 billion people in the world.

Yet, according to the United Nations "it is estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and safe water and sanitation for all is roughly US $40 billion a year... This is less than four percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people." (UN Human Development Report 1997)

The Socialist Party is fighting against the interests of big business. We are part of a socialist international which is fighting on every continent for movements of the working-class, poor peasants and the oppressed to take back the wealth and resources stolen from us all and establish a socialist society run for need not profit; where the resources of the world would be democratically owned and planned to provide for the needs of everyone, laying the basis for an end to war, environmental destruction and economic crisis.

Campaigning For Justice

THE SOCIALIST Party defends the right of people to asylum.

In Britain we campaign to raise awareness of the horrific conditions refugees are fleeing from, build and support campaigns against the unjust deportation of asylum seekers, fight for more resources for services for refugees and working-class people in general and expose the unjust and often dishonest decisions which the Home Office makes concerning many asylum applications.

The biggest single category of applications that get turned down on the initial decision are turned down on technicalities, without the individual cases even being looked at. For instance, an asylum application is automatically turned down if the applicant fails to return an 18 page form filled out in English to the Home Office within two weeks of making their application.

For many refugees, traumatised, homesick and in some cases not even speaking English, this is virtually impossible to fulfil.

But even when cases do get looked at by the Home Office, they often turn down applications on the flimsiest of grounds. For example, up until 1997 virtually no asylum seekers from Cameroon were getting asylum in Britain whereas this was not the case in the US.

This is because the Home Office said that Cameroon was a democratic country and members of the opposition party (SDF) were not at risk from persecution because they had MPs.

A number of SDF members from Cameroon joined the Socialist Party and from 1997 onwards publicity campaigns and a legal campaign using UN reports and reports from Cameroonian groups showed that the Home Office assessment of Cameroon not being a risk to SDF members was wrong.

Socialist Party members and others have been able to help significantly increase the number of Cameroonian refugees granted the right to asylum in Britain, including around ten of our own members.


Duman Family Must Stay

THE LEWISHAM branch of the teachers' union NUT is supporting a Kurdish family whose children are being taught in Lewisham schools from the threat of deportation.

Mr Duman was held in detention on 15 June after reporting to immigration officials at Dover, and is now awaiting deportation. His wife and four children, Mazlum, 12, Nazim, 10, Ali, 6, and Inan, 2, have also been served with notice that they should leave the country on 25 June.

Lewisham NUT support the Duman family's fight to remain in Britain. They came to England three years ago to flee years of harassment and persecution as Kurds in their part of Turkey. They were not allowed to speak their own language.

Mr Duman has suffered arrest many times and his life would be in danger if he returned to Turkey.

Inan was born in England while his three brothers have made enormous progress at their schools. Nazim for example has been chosen for a Gifted and Talented programme in Maths.

We support the family's right to remain in Britain. Mr and Mrs Duman do not want their children to suffer in the way they did. We want the children to remain amongst their school friends and playing their part in the local community.

Lewisham NUT and the Duman Family Must Stay Campaign are organising protests against this threatened deportation.

For further details, contact: Martin Powell-Davies, secretary Lewisham NUT 07946 44 54 88.

Fax your protests to: Beverley Hughes MP Minister for Nationality and Immigration Fax: 020 7273 2043 quoting Ref: D011628 Duman Family.

Demonstration to defend asylum rights

Saturday 22 June

Assemble: 12.00pm Malet St, London, WC1.

Nearest tube: Goodge St.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 21 June 2002:

Enough Is Enough: Time to fight back!

Hands Off The Post Office

Protesting At World Bank

Defend Asylum Rights

Does The Fall Of The USSR Prove That Socialism Will Inevitably Fail?

German Building Workers Strike

Unison conference: Delegates Back Privatisation Battle


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