RAPAR will be supporting a protest in solidarity with the RMT rail union after their picket line at Manchester Victoria train station was targeted by members of the far right who also racially abused an Asian train guard.
The protest is supported by Manchester Trades Union Council and will be held this Saturday 12th January between 8.00am and 9.30am.
Find more information about the event here.
RMT members are currently on strike every Saturday in a dispute with Northern Rail in which the union is campaigning to 'Keep The Guard On The Train'.
RAPAR member who was on the plane stopped by the Stansted protesters shocked by their conviction under anti terror laws
Rally at 5.30pm-6.30pm
St Peter's Square,
December 18th 2018
Manchester-based human rights organisation RAPAR will be at the city centre rally today (December 18th) to show support for the 15 peaceful protesters convicted under anti terror laws after they stopped a Home Office charter flight taking people seeking asylum in the UK to Africa.
A RAPAR member was on the plane protesters prevented taking off at Stansted Airport in March 2017. He was one of 60 refugees who were on the charter flight bound for Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone – he informed the escort officers that he did not come from any of those countries but was told that the country he was being sent to was near to his home country and that he could “get a bus”.
Our member, whose case had not been resolved, was one of the unlucky people on the flight which eventually left Stansted the following day. But the courageous action of the protesters prevented 11 people seeking asylum from being removed from the UK. The delay meant that those 11 people were able to access their lawyers and their removal was stopped.
RAPAR's member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was very shocked by the conviction at Chelmsford Crown Court which could see the 15 protesters facing life imprisonment.
Today is International Migrants' Day and there will be rallies throughout the UK and Ireland to protest about the conviction of the Stansted protesters. In Manchester, there will be a demonstration from 5.30pm-6.30pm in St Peter's Square and RAPAR urges everyone to attend.
The charges facing the Stansted 15 were unjust. Commenting on the use of anti terror laws against the Stansted 15, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg (who was released without charge) said: “Despite being imprisoned under terrorism laws by both Britain and America, I have no convictions. The Stansted 15 on the other hand are convicted terrorists in Britain today.
“One day, as a nation, Britain will look back and ask itself 'What have we become?' Sadly, that day is not today.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said it was “intensely ironic” that all the refugee people on the Stansted 15 plane were being removed to one of three former British colonies – Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“As our refugee members often remark: 'We are here because You were there',” she said.
Dr Moran added: “This conviction is the latest attempt to criminalise public protest that RAPAR first detected - and successfully resisted - in 2010 in Bolton.
“Then, the State sought to prosecute anti-fascists for exposing and stopping the English Defence League from running amok in Bolton.
“Now, their use of anti-terror laws to criminalise young British citizens who take peaceful, direct, solidarity action with Refugees is the latest in a long line of backward and cynical moves on the part of the prevailing politico-legal elite.
“It demonstrates an abject failure to confront the fact that young British people are deeply and increasingly concerned about what the British State is doing in the name of its people.
“It is not the Protesters or the Refugees who are the dangerous ones here.”
RAPAR's Annual General Meeting took place on 30th October in the Friends Meeting House and was chaired by Barly Koyangbwa.
Nestor came safely out of Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre today. He has to report again next month.
Many thanks to Manchester Quakers, Manchester City of Sanctuary and other friends and supporters who came to Dallas Court to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nestor. Nestor is under threat of detention and removal from the UK despite the fact that he has lived in Manchester for 12 years. His case has been described as being caught up in a "whirlpool" of Home Office bureaucracy. Read more about Nestor's campaign here Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition and left supportive comments. They are greatly appreciated.
You can follow updates on Nestor's campaign and find out how you can help by visiting his campaign page.
LGBTIQ refugee conference calls for end to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and high standard of proof sexuality policy
Rhetta Moran from RAPAR attended the African Rainbow Family's annual conference in Manchester on August 11th.
Read their press release calling for an end to sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and an end to the Home Office's policy of demanding a high standard of proof of sexuality.
Manchester will host again, the second LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee conference today [11th August], shining the light on the extent of active and subtle sexual and domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, modern day slavery and trafficking that exists in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community in the UK. Mostly perpetrated by people who owe them duty of care.
The conference will, following the #METOO movement, feature LGBTIQ refugee speakers telling their personal experiences of abuse, exploring how the hostile environment which seeks to deport as many people as possible in order to meet Home Office's set targets, such as in the Windrush Generation; has reinforced a high standard of proof sexuality policy in the Home Office leading to many LGBTIQs being refused asylum and highlighting the plight still faced by LGBTIQ people seeking asylum today.
In many countries, particularly in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal and violent attacks on LGBTIQ people are common. Many are forced to flee, some to the UK, after being publicly ‘outed’.
Gay people seeking asylum coming to the UK face significant barriers. The Home Office culture of disbelief has meant that it refuses to accept that any LGBTIQ seeking asylum are homosexual unless they provide ‘proof of sexuality’. This position is an extremely toxic shift towards high number of deportation following the ruling in 2010 which prohibits the Home Office from deporting LGBTIQ people seeking asylum on the grounds that they could ‘be discreet’ about their sexuality in their home country to avoid harm.
We know that the Home Office has and continues to illegally and forcibly deport many LGBTIQ people seeking asylum through its brutal charter flight methods.
'Experimental' data released by the Home Office in November 2017 for LGBT+ asylum cases (01/07/15 - 31/03/17) shows that over two third of 3,535 asylum applications made partly as LGBT+ were rejected.
2,379 clear LGBT+ claims were rejected, with only 838 approved.
The conference is being organised by African Rainbow Family (ARF), a charitable group that supports LGBTIQ people of African heritage and wider BAME in the UK. ARF works with the growing African LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee communities including wider BAME who face harassment, hate crimes and discrimination.
It will see a call on the Home Office to abandon its ‘high standard of proof sexuality policy, which ARF says is demeaning, humiliating, dehumanising, cruel and a driver of the culture of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in their community.
Speakers will include:
Aderonke Apata, Founder of the ARF and a long-term campaigner on LGBTIQ asylum, who is also speaking at the conference, said:
"We are starting a cultural revolution which forms a platform to inspire LGBTIQ people seeking asylum to come forward, tell their experiences of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and let their voices to be heard in order for us to see consequences in terms of their perpetrators who owe them a duty of care to be brought to justice.
"The Home Office's high standard of proof policy drives a culture of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, modern day slavery and all forms of emotional, psychological and mental problems in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community
"I ask that the Home Office drops their high standard of proof in sexuality policy as well as the wider asylum applications."
CALL TO SOLIDARITY VIGIL
between 9 and 10am tomorrow morning,
19th July 2018
Outside Dallas Court
SALFORD, M50 2GF
The Home Office have rejected Nestor's application and told him to present at Dallas Court tomorrow morning. David and Branwen McHugh, longstanding members of the Central Manchester Quaker Meeting who worked with Nestor for several years on the boaz trust winter nightshelter project for destitute men write as follows:
"When Nestor first came to this country 11 years ago, there was an expectation that asylum seekers would show a commitment to their community, which he has obviously accepted and demonstrated. Such involvement inevitably leads to social and emotional attachments being formed. It seems that during this time he also had grounds for believing that his asylum claim might be successful and he would be allowed to stay here permanently, as he tells us that at one stage he was entitled to obtain a Visa, when historical applications or excepted for a limited period, but unfortunately the solicitor acting for him missed the deadline. A subsequent appeal appeal against the decision was then considered separately from his 'legacy papers' and refused. We feel strongly that after this length of time not only should Nestor be allowed to continue with the life he has established here but that he has proved that he would be an asset as a resident of the UK."
Please come and show your solidarity with Nestor. Please send messages of support to admin(a)rapar.org.uk
A Guinean man who has made his home in Manchester for the last 12 years has been caught up in a Home Office "whirlpool" of bureaucracy.
Nestor Sylla, who is vice-chair of RAPAR and is involved with other charitable organisations in the city, came to Europe at the age of 26 looking for his mother after the death of his father and the murder of his sister in Guinea.
Nestor did not find his mother but discovered new friends in Manchester who are now his family. He met Quaker Elizabeth Coleman through a hosting scheme for people who have come to the UK seeking asylum and have ended up destitute and homeless. Later, he helped Elizabeth and others run the Boaz Trust winter night shelter based at the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester.
Elizabeth, who is retired, said: “Nestor's home is England. He is like a son to me and has a lot to contribute to our society.” When Elizabeth was ill, Nestor visited her in hospital and was a vital carer for her when she was discharged.
Nestor also supports another friend and her five children, helping with homework, taking them to school and the dentist, and attending parents' evenings. He says: “All these people are now my only family.”
Nestor arrived in Europe looking for his mother, a French citizen who left the family home after the death of his father. His travel was paid for by a woman who said she was a friend of his mother's and a passport for him was arranged.
When he came to the UK, Nestor went to the job centre to find work and showed them his passport. He was accused of having a false travel document and was arrested and imprisoned in Strangeways but was cleared of the charge and released.
Nestor was advised to apply for asylum and his case was being considered under the old Legacy system but his immigration solicitor missed a Home Office deadline. His complaint against the solicitor was upheld.
Last year, Nestor was unlawfully detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick Airport – which featured in a BBC Panorama investigation and led to 10 members of staff being suspended.
He was detained despite having submitted a Further Leave to Remain application and having proof of postage and delivery. When his solicitor applied for bail, the Home Office misled the judge saying a decision would be made on the case by July 21st 2017 and, because of this assurance, Nestor remained in detention at Brook House. He was finally released the following month after it became apparent that the Home Office had not even looked at the application.
Earlier this year, the Home Office wrote to Nestor rejecting his application because they said he had used the wrong form. He enlisted the support of his MP Lucy Powell to show that the correct form had been used. The Home Office then claimed they had not received an application, despite the fact that they had also written to Nestor advising him that his fee waiver application, which is included in the Leave to Remain application, had been accepted. RAPAR asked how the Home Office had rejected a Leave to Remain application and accepted a fee waiver request on a document they claimed not to have received.
One solicitor has described the Home Office as having Nestor in a “whirlpool” of bureaucracy. RAPAR believes there are many queries over this case which have not been answered satisfactorily. Last week, the Home Office rejected Nestor's Leave to Remain application and have said he must now leave the UK or risk detention and removal.
“Nestor has been unjustly treated and unlawfully detained. The Home Office has made numerous errors and is not answering an important request for information,” Elizabeth says.
A RAPAR spokesperson said: “Nestor is a refugee who came to this country when his life had been threatened and he had lost his immediate family. On arrival in the UK, he was wrongfully criminalised and remanded in prison for several months. Yet, despite all this, he has led an exemplary life volunteering for organisations like the Red Cross and Mustard Tree, as well as RAPAR and the Boaz night shelter. He has helped care for Elizabeth and the children of his friend Marie and all these people are now his family.
“In their refusal letter, the Home Office says Nestor can go back to Guinea – where his life was at risk and his sister was murdered – and suggests that people whose immigration status is 'precarious' should not be making close personal relationships in the UK.
“Is it the Home Office's position that people who have fled death threats, torture and persecution should be making preparations to return to their home country while they are seeking asylum and safety in the UK? That I have cared for people while living here? Does the Home Office expect that a person can spend 12 years in a country and not form attachments to others and they form attachments to me?”
Video by Mark Krantz for Stand Up To Racism
Yesterday, demonstrations were held in cities up and down the country in protest against Donald Trump's visit to the UK.
At the Manchester rally, RAPAR's Rhetta Moran spoke out against Trump and his policies.
Moran highlighted the systematic abuse faced by migrants in the UK.
THE METRO - Rebecca Yeo: "Before he was murdered, here is what a disabled asylum seeker had to say about Britain’s ‘hostile environment’" >>>
THE GUARDIAN - Steven Morris : "Memorial to murdered refugees unveiled in Bristol " >>>
Human rights campaigners in Bristol pay tribute to Kamil Ahmad who was brutally murdered after suffering racist abuse.
Ahmad was one of the participants of the Disability Mural that brought to light the struggles faced by disabled asylum seekers, amongst them, RAPAR members Manjeet Kaur and Mary Adenugba.
Now the mural will grace the walls of Bristol City Hall in remembrance of both Kamil Ahmad and Bijan Ebrahimi who were both murdered in brutal racist attacks.
“By putting the artwork on the walls of City Hall I hope it sends a message that their lives mattered.” - Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bistol
Both the case of Ahmad and Ebrahimi showed that though both had been the victims of serious racist abuse, deep systematic failings and institutional racism meant that the authorities failed to protect both Kamil and Bijan resulting in their murders.
Learn about the Bristol Disability Mural here >>>
Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda was a mighty woman.
The first time she spoke for RAPAR it was at a Home Office organised conference about Refugees held at the newly completed Radisson Hotel at Manchester Airport in 2002. The stage was raised and Home Office officials were looking down upon us when Miwanda began to walk towards them from the back of the hall. She raised her hands as she approached, speaking out in a clear and utterly uncompromising tone: “We are here because you were there.” The hall became silent as she went on to explain to the assembled, in her own inimitably charming and humorous way, how all Refugees are part of the solution. Miwanda was always part of the solution.
During the three years that she lived with us here in Britain, many people felt her curious combination of indomitable will and deep empathy. ‘Superglue’ was how Bagenda affectionately nicknamed one early RAPAR member, a young Bengali mum of three young children. Like many others, she loved to be around Anna Maria because, no matter how anxious or traumatised an individual may be, Miwanda could inspire a sense of security and a feeling of love.
In late 2003, RAPAR became aware of the systemic racism being demonstrated by some bus drivers working along The Crescent in Salford who were refusing to stop for Muslim women who were covered. Bagenda strode into a University of Salford public meeting that was being addressed by then Home Secretary Hazel Blears and, during question time, extracted a public commitment from Hazel to take the matter up.
Of the many people who knew Miwanda, here are some memories:
“Anna Maria was larger than life, fearless and inspiring. I never forget what she said about what attitude we should have to the police: ‘They should stay in the station and not leave. If we need them we will call’." (Mark Krantz, anti-racist campaigner)
"She was a kind hearted, very firm, and dedicated activist. As an Exiled Journalist Network pioneer member, when she seconded my Committee Member nomination I got 23 out of 25 votes. As a pioneer member of RAPAR, she made a true struggle to help other people. She made a lot of difference in the lives of displaced, desperate people from all over the world and refugees seeking safety in the UK. Rest In Peace my Friend. " (Mansoor Hassan, RAPAR member and former Chair, NUJ member and editor www.saraikistan.com)
“I first met Miwanda in 2004 at the National Union of Journalists’ office in Manchester. I was a Union accompaniment representative and she was the Lead Development Worker at the Salford RAPAR SRB5 project. It was through this work that I came to know this African woman of short stature and great presence. I liked her sincerity and her humanity. She was, without doubt, principled and courageous. Miwanda was also a Roman Catholic and she lived her faith. I kept in sporadic touch with her when she returned to Africa and she always enquired after my grandchildren. When my second grandson was born she knitted him a blanket for his cot. I am very saddened to hear of her passing.” (Bob Pounder, Minister at the Unitarian Chapel, Oldham)
“I am deeply saddened by the news of her death. She was a kind, caring, person who always seemed to make time for others regardless of her own personal circumstances. She had first-hand experience of the cruelty of the UK’s asylum process but her resistance for herself and for others was formidable. She was intelligent, engaging and strong willed - an asset for humanity. My memory of her, as I am sure with many others, will live on. (Ameen Hadi, Treasurer, Salford City UNISON)
“This is very sad news. Anna Maria made a real impression on me when I first became involved with RAPAR. She was also a lovely, gracious client, despite the difficulties she had to face from the Home Office.” (Gary McIndoe, RAPAR Patron and Director of Latitude Law)
“I was proud to know and call Miwanda my friend. Her smile, her ability to laugh at the absurd, her genuine solidarity with all for social justice, and her fierce articulation when speaking truth to power: losing her is a huge loss but she helped, influenced and strengthened so many people to live on.
Sadly, Miwanda’s leaving of the UK more than a decade ago was grim, and an example that a ‘Hostile Environment’ has existed in the UK long before this current Government. That she left on her own terms, and to support her family and others, reminded all around her about what, ultimately, is important. I am glad we stayed in touch over the years. When my Mom died she was among the first to call. She shared this Mandela quote with me some years ago. ‘As the years progress one increasingly realises the importance of friendship and human solidarity. And if a 90-year-old may offer some unsolicited advice on this occasion, it would be that you, irrespective of your age, should place human solidarity, the concern for the other, at the centre of the values by which you live.’ She always encouraged, supported and loved as a Mama, Sister and Friend.” (Jason Bergen)
“We were all shocked and saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. Our thoughts are with you. It is not easy to express how we shall miss her. Your mother was a fighter for justice and equality and that is something that cannot be forgotten easily. I know how wonderful and supportive she was to you all, and I can imagine the emptiness that you are all feeling without her, but I hope you can find solace in the memory of who your mother was. May her soul rest in peace.” (Zeinab Mohammed, RAPAR Matron)
Some words now from Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda’s Children, Nantalaga, Juliet Ssanyu and James:
“We thank the almighty God for the gift of our mother, for the time we spent with her. We called her Lixa. She was a loving mother who taught us to be independent early on in life. From her we learned to treasure friends and to love God. We are proud of all she achieved and, even when the storms came, she always remained true to herself. She made friends faster than anyone we know. We are grateful for the time we spent with her; in her moments of illness, we are glad we were there. She remained herself even when we suspected what was coming. We thank God that he chose to cut short her pain. Lixa, May the Good Lord give you peace in His Kingdom. When God took you back He said, ‘'Hallelujah, you're home’ (Ed Sheehan).”
Miwanda’s last communication as Matron of RAPAR was in February of this year. In it she discussed the ‘Voluntary’ Returns in The Community that the Home Office is currently trying to roll out across the UK:
“I am glad that something is still going on raising such major issues in the lives of the affected people. ‘Voluntary’ can mean different things, the way I see it, but to return to a country where one escaped death, imprisonment etc. in the first place!!!!! Well, we know what I know, what I have gone through in order to remain alive. I also know what the word ‘Voluntary’ means, in the case of people seeking asylum. It is mockery of justice to force them to accept to return voluntarily to their home countries or even the third country. Love to you all, Friends, and thanks for ringing the bell.”
In Lusaana, in the District of Kalungu, sixty kilometres from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Anna Maria’s Children buried their Mother in the ground of her Father’s ancestral home.
Her smile, her drive, her fearlessness and her generosity of spirit live on.
Dr Rhetta Moran, for RAPAR, 13th June 2018.