Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/330/5586
Asylum Seekers Fast For Their Rights
ASYLUM SEEKERS held a 48-hour fast in Nottingham city centre from 9 January to 11 January, protesting at laws making many asylum seekers in Britain destitute.
Gary Freeman spoke to the socialist.
"Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has denied asylum seekers any support to pay for housing, food and basic necessities. It is now a year since the Act came into operation.
12 people slept overnight at the (closed) cafˇ where the fast took place. This included eight asylum seekers and two Socialist Party members. Over 50 people visited the centre during the fast and the stall ran out of leaflets. The response was good considering what an emotive issue this is.
Capitalism can spend billions on war but isn't prepared to put the money where it is needed. Yet the atmosphere surrounding the fast and the sense of community we had shows that a better, socialist world is possible."
"Its Important to Keep Fighting"
Gary Freeman spoke to some of the asylum seekers and refugees on the Nottingham fast
S IS from Sulamania in the Kurdish area of Iraq and a socialist who opposed former dictator Saddam Hussein. He has been refused the right to asylum. The Home Office have told him that it is now safe to return but right-wing Islamic and nationalist groups still dominate the region.
He has been refused support under Section 55. S says it is very difficult for many people to argue for more help as they don't know what they're entitled to and don't understand the language.
"There has been no happiness in my life," said S. "In the three and a half years I have been here I have not had my human rights respected. But it's important that we continue the campaign after the fast."
HALLAM COMES from Iraqi Kurdistan near the Iran border in an area controlled by right-wing Islamists. He was 15 and owned a small barbers' shop. He was not allowed to move around without the Islamists following him and listening to his conversations.
"We had to talk quietly. It means that you can't even trust your friends. The Islamists objected to they way we cut some peoples' hair or the way we cleaned hair off people's cheeks.
"Once I was playing a Turkish cassette in the barbers and they objected because the singer wasn't a Muslim. I took it off but put it back on later so they came round and slapped me and broke the cassette.
"I organised parties and picnics. At one picnic people started to dance. I got a letter from the office of the Islamists saying I should come there. I was tied up and beaten with a piece of heavy wire on my knees and legs. I was told that dancing was not allowed and if I carried on they will beat me more. I am fasting because of my friends who have nothing to eat."
SECTION 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act denies all support to asylum seekers (without dependents) that fail to make their application for asylum as soon as "reasonably practicable" on arrival in Britain.
It also hits those whose appeal to remain in the country has been denied, and who have now come to the end of the appeal process. Section 55 is interpreted so harshly that many asylum seekers have become homeless, and driven to begging on the streets.
Under pressure, the government has announced that they will use a 72-hour deadline for applications - completely inadequate when the whole process is unknown to asylum seekers.
At the same time, the government wants to extend Section 55 to asylum seekers with dependents, who will not agree to their own deportation even though it could be back to countries they fled in fear from.
They suggest that asylum seekers' children should be taken from their parents and put into care as their parents will be made destitute by that planned legislation! The government is using threats to children to force asylum seekers to be deported.
The government wants to reduce the right of appeal for asylum seekers because, even under the very restrictive legislation that exists, appeals can be won. The latest figures show that, at present, the largest group of applicants in Britain are from Somalia and 39% won their appeal. This shows how poor the initial decision-making is.
This harsh policy has forced about 20% of new applicants for support into destitution. In the fourth richest country in the world, there are people who have to survive on food parcels from the Methodist Church in Nottingham, which supports at least 69 asylum seekers.
The media give the impression that there are many more asylum seekers in Britain than elsewhere. Yet 19 out of every 20 refugees and asylum seekers are not even in Europe. Even in Europe, Britain is only eighth in the number of asylum applications per head of population at 1.7 applications per 1,000 people.
These asylum seekers are the victims of the government's attempts to placate the tabloid press and the far-right parties. They are the most vulnerable section of the population who, in most cases, are fleeing from persecution in their country of origin.
In The Socialist 17 January 2004:
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