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.
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?”
English language tests preventing medical professionals from practising in the UK as NHS struggles to survive
Launch of research at 12pm on Wednesday 16th May at Rusholme Health Centre, Walmer Street, Manchester, M14 5NP.
Hundreds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and laboratory technicians are being prevented from working in a struggling NHS because of the current English language tests set by the General Medical Council (GMC) and other professional bodies.
A campaign launched through RAPAR - Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration - is growing by the day with over 500 medical professionals already signed up to it. There is also increasing support from the wider general public and a 38 Degrees Petition has been put together.
One of the campaign founders, Dr Hiba Alzamzamy, spoke at a national demonstration in support of the NHS last month. Research about the English language tests put together by her campaign group will be launched at Rusholme Health Centre in Manchester on May 16th - the day before an NHS Skills, Retention and Recruitment conference in the city.
The campaign is backed by Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester's Medical School, who says:” At a time when the NHS is really desperate for extra staff it is strange that there is a failure to recognise the contribution that refugees and other medical professionals from outside the UK can make.
“”These are highly skilled professionals and we need to help them to start their lives again – this will in turn help the NHS at a time of great need.”
The campaign is calling on the GMC and other bodies to return to more realistic and appropriate English language tests. Doctors who passed the previous language test are currently working successfully in the NHS. But now highly qualified doctors – many of whom have been forced to flee their home countries for humanitarian reasons – are being stopped from using their skills and expertise.
Four years ago, the GMC raised its already high score for doctors in the International English Language Examination Testing System (IELTS) even further and they are now considering whether to raise it yet again.. The exam tests general knowledge of English language and includes topics such as archaeology, jam making and current affairs – much of it irrelevant to the kind of terminology used by medical professionals. In response to concerns, the GMC has now introduced an Occupational English Test (OET) in addition to the IELTS.
There is little information about the new OET which originates from Australia and is almost triple the cost of the IELTS. The new test is still in its early stages in the UK and it is not yet known if it will be fit for purpose. In addition, there is still the problem of the unrealistically high barrier of the IELTS.
Nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other medical professionals are having similar problems with the levels being set by their own professional councils for the English language tests.
Dr Alzamzamy explains: “Most of the professionals in our campaign have studied and gained their qualifications overseas on courses which have been delivered primarily in English. We are highly skilled people who want to help patients at a time when the NHS is in crisis. We acknowledge that communication is an essential element in securing patients' safety but the new test level is not a bar to ensure safety, it is a barrier preventing us from practising our profession.
“The English language test level now set by the GMC is unrealistic and very demoralising. Years of study and sheer hard work are going to waste.”
For more information please contact: Dr Hiba Alzamzamy at medicalprofessionalsuk(a)gmail.com