“… evicting people onto the street does nothing,
apart from create more illnesses, more miseries and more risks of death.
It has to stop.”
Shade Alonge, for DeButterfly CIC and Mama Health and Poverty Partnership,
On 19th November, two members of the human rights organisation RAPAR, both of whom live in the city of Manchester, both of whom fled from persecution in their home countries and both of whom have been awarded Refugee Status, received letters from SERCO telling them that they are to be evicted from their homes on 29th November and 17th December respectively.
The private company SERCO, whose Chief Executive Officer is Rupert Soames the brother of ex-MP for the Conservative Party, Sir Nicholas, is contracted by the Home Office to accommodate people seeking asylum in the North West. Under non-COVID conditions, there are two points in time at which SERCO are entitled, legally, to tell Refugee People that they intend to evict them from their homes:
On 27th October, Chris Philp MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Immigration Compliance and the Courts wrote to Charity Chief Executives about the: “necessary decision of 27 March to suspend cessations [that’s stop evicting people seeking asylum and refugees into destitution]… due to the impact of Covid, [has meant] there has been a lack of flow through the asylum support system; this has resulted in many individuals remaining in these facilities for longer periods. We have now resumed cessations where appropriate…”
Then, on 31st October, Prime Minister Johnson announced a second lockdown to begin on 5th November. The restrictions include the following “People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education.”
On 13th November, the International Observatory for Human Rights reported: “UK homeless charities are calling on the government to suspend evictions of asylum seekers, as more and more are being made destitute this winter. During the first lockdown, the government’s “everyone in” scheme provided temporary accommodation and testing for COVID-19, but this stopped in September. The Home Office then restarted evictions, leaving many in a vulnerable situation and heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.” 
Two days before receiving these eviction letters, secondary legislation was introduced banning evictions in England until January.
Commenting on this particular attempt by SERCO to evict Refugees during lockdown, Shade Alonge, Founder and Lead Counsellor for DeButterfly CIC, who recently joined the call for StatusNow4All, and who speaks here on behalf of Mama Health and Poverty Partnership of Greater Manchester also says:
" When COVID first began, the people who came forward to feed and shelter undocumented women and their children, now some of them are running out of food and money for themselves, as well as for the people who they are helping. It is becoming very desperate and evicting people onto the street does nothing, apart from create more illnesses, more miseries and more risks of death. It has to stop."
And a RAPAR spokesperson, analysing the timings relating to the 17th December notice observes: “The notice date is for 17th December. If lockdown is lifted countrywide for five days at Christmas SERCO, as a part of their contract with the Home Office, could start the eviction process then. A very cynical move.”
 Serco lands another £45m for ‘failing’ COVID Test and Trace scheme | openDemocracy
 Government bans evictions until January | News | Law Gazette
 Status Now 4 All - 'Leave To Remain' for people who are undocumented, destitute, and those in the legal process #HealthAndSafetyForAll
RAPAR members joined the 'Status Now 4 All' campaign in a national day of action in solidarity with Regularise on 19th September.
Standing against the reopening of reporting centres such as Dallas Court in Salford Quays, members held a demonstration outside the Manchester Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office.
The Meteor reported on the rally, saying; "Protesters in Manchester demanded an immediate reversal of the government’s decision to resume registration of undocumented migrants at the Immigration Registration Centres in England, which had been paused this year due to Covid-19. The event leaflet also called for the end of Britain First’s sustained harassment of refugees who have been placed in hotels during the pandemic.
"James, a social worker from Stockport working with RAPAR, described the decision to re-open Immigration Registration Centres as a “rushed” and “callous way to treat some of the most vulnerable people in society, and irresponsible in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Join RAPAR members and StatusNow4All signatories In a peaceful demonstration outside the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office in Manchester on Saturday, 19th September, between 1pm and 2.30pm.
This will be part of a national day of action in solidarity with 'Status Now' signatory Regularise which campaigns for the rights of undocumented migrants.
Regularise is holding a protest outside 10 Downing Street in London on the same day and at the same time as the Manchester demonstration.
The protest in Manchester will focus on the re-opening of Immigration Reporting Centres in the UK and Britain First's harassment of refugees who have been placed in hotels. It will be held at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Office on Saturday 19th September, 1pm-2.30pm, Piccadilly Exchange, 2 Piccadilly Plaza, Mosley Street, Manchester M1 4AH.
For any Government to call itself Democratic it must be prepared to
Furthermore, however much time is available, fear inhibits learning (see esp. page 16) and so, at this juncture, let’s remember and reflect on Marie Curie’s words:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Maybe Marie can help us to work out how we can minimise fear and maximise #healthandsafetyforall.
The ‘hostile environment’* was up and running long before ‘COVID19’ developed. And the Institutionalised Racism upon which the Hostile Environment rests was identified half a century ago.
Yesterday, the New York Times carried a quote about this very issue from Professor Aneez Esmail. He is the leader of our campaign for the Registration of Medical Professionals in the UK and you can read Professor Esmail’s comment, following the publication of that NY Times article, here.
Hostility breeds fear: that’s exactly what it is intended to do. How much fear is out there? And how quickly can the people and organisations who reject both institutionalised racism and the hostile environment learn?
People who are Destitute + Documented + in the UK = DDUK = People…
who are denied the right to work legally and who the Government knows are in the UK, somewhere. The Government knows they are in the UK somewhere because they are either:
Are you Destitute and Undocumented in the UK (DUUK)?
People who are Destitute + Undocumented + in UK = DUUK = British People and Anyone Else…
who has no address, which means that the Government does not know exactly where they are right now, there is no lawyer currently on their case, and/or they don't have paper 'proofs' about who they are, like birth certificates or household bills. If they are not British they have also been denied the right to work legally. All of them have fallen through the cracks of either:
“With Covid19 our situation has worsened. Some cases have been suspended altogether, and people cannot meet their lawyers to discuss issues relating to their cases. They are hoping for their cases to be treated and to be given the freedom they deserve but they are not getting this. They live with friends who are sharing their shelter with them or through charitable hosts set up to help destitute people. Essentially, they are living with people who were strangers to them before they became destitute and who have offered them places to stay.
Very few people seeking asylum have phones and the few who do are unable to top up their phones so it is even more difficult for them to connect with their support networks. Some have laptops but cannot gain access to wifi. This has greatly slowed down the support and advocacy activities the people had developed within our communities. It is a trying moment for most of us because we have no way of getting any money to buy top ups or wifi connection. Practically all the organisations that used to support us with bus fees to travel to get their food, or join in on their events, have now been closed down and, in fact, accessing food has become a very big problem.
Many of the charitable organisations that people knew, that used to provide food or help us with food banks weekly, they are closed. Worst of all is the fact that some people are on the verge of being thrown out of their homes and it will be even more difficult for them to survive on the street.”
On Easter Sunday, RAPAR member Mary, Destitute and Undocumented in the UK, DUUK, sent this photo and writing:
“RAPAR gave me good encouragement the other day, by saying to stay strong because the next day one of the lady that I work with she text me to come as she was missing seeing somebody. Then I call her she was crying as she was having some problem and I remember RAPAR said to be strong. So I had to be strong for other people and she was happy when she saw me she gave me food and some money. I keep remembering what you said. We have to be strong for each other. Some days I feel a bit low but I keep remembering what you said to me. Before this, I worked in a shop in xxx. Then I did caring and now I am working in family homes. I wasn't interested in working in people's home but out of it good came. I met good people who understand my situation and are helping me.”
For almost 20 years, since it first began to systematically evict people failed by the migration system into destitution the British State has stoked a fire. But, thankfully, no human being is an island, including the human beings who live in countries that also happen to be islands. A ‘fog of war’*** surrounds us ALL. With each other’s help, can we clear our vision sufficiently to enable ourselves and each other to think out loud, reach rational decisions together and act accordingly?
At this juncture, the only actions that are any use are those based in truthful information: concrete and real, coming from comprehensive, accurate, valid and reliable information sources that are as near to ‘objective’ reality as possible i.e. not intrinsically biased because of the way in which their ‘facts’ have been created.
In the 1990’s, Patricia Hill Collins explained to us : 'For any body of knowledge, new knowledge claims must be consistent with an existing body of knowledge that the group controlling the interpretive context accepts as true.’ She went on to say, ‘The methods used to validate knowledge claims must be acceptable to the group controlling the knowledge validation process.' Her truth invites us to walk in the footsteps of the sociolinquistic theorist Volosinov, who developed a theory of 'language creation from below'. We’ll come back, another day, to retrace those footsteps but, in the meantime, here’s a pdf of his book .
On Easter Sunday, one mainstream press article advised us, statistics wise, about what can we trust and what should we ignore. It began with the assertion that statistics about ‘the number of people who have actually become infected… depend[s] crucially on the testing regime.’
Of course, it’s a massive challenge to decide what to publish on the internet but, if it’s going to be of real use for the overwhelming majority of people, then whatever is published must be precise.
In a Journal of Advanced Nursing website blog about problems with the government lockdown, its first point ‘There might be a real increase in cases but there is a form of categorization occurring in the NHS where deaths with the non-specific symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 (the presumed viral agent)(Covid19 is the disease) are being attributed to SARS-CoV-2 without serological or laboratory (tissue culture) confirmation.’ prompts many questions. As does its third point: The tests for Covid19 are not yet calibrated to different populations like those without symptoms. ‘Died after testing positive for Covid19’ (what we hear daily in the media) is not the same as ‘died due to Covid19’ which is an evidence-based statement of disease causation. This Easter Rising blog began with a Clinical Governance-based reference to how organisations learn. Just in is this early release (due out May 2020) paper from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention about Emerging Infectious Diseases. Public Health England, the UK Department of Health and the medical Royal Colleges must take the time to respond to all the points being raised through these scientific critiques from JAN and CDC.
And while we’re on the subject of timely responses…
As yet, the Office of the UK Prime Minister has neither acknowledged, nor responded to our Open Letter sent to Downing Street on 27th March and now platformed as a petition for anyone to sign. The Office of the Irish Taoiseach has advised us that he referred our letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality , but that Minister received his own copy of our Open letter at the same time as the Taoiseach and, like Number 10, his Office hasn’t responded, as yet.
It isn’t the first time: See Channel 4 in the spring of 2016 in News from Calais.
While we wait, and rest assured we’re not holding our breath, our Filipino Sisters and Brothers are preparing shrines to honour their dead, and our Congolese Sisters and Brothers who continue to mourn their deaths, are also asserting are lives.
For any Government to call itself Democratic it must be prepared to subject itself to scrutiny, hold itself to account and engage with its population, whether they are ‘Citizens’ or not.
For those of you who’ve arrived here… we hope you enjoy this.
*Moran RA, (2003). Clinical Governance: An International Journal. Volume 8 Number 1 pp. 46-56
**Also see Forthcoming, McMahon G. and Moran R.A. (2020) Young people seeking asylum: voice and activism in a ‘hostile environment’. In Young people’s participation, Revisiting youth and inequalities, editors, Maria Bruselius-Jensen, Ilaria Pitti and Kay Tisda. Bristol, Policy Press
***According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the exact phrase "fog of war" in text only dates to 1896, described as "the state of ignorance in which commanders frequently find themselves as regards the real strength and position, not only of their foes, but also of their friends." “The fog of war” by Col. Lonsdale Hale, Royal Engineers (retired), Aldershot Military Academy, March 24, 1896.
Homelessness, HS2 and Here to sign the petition #healthandsafetyforall
See ATD Fourth World's new platform for the Open Letter here.
Meanwhile, the UK Government’s Home Office:
1. …Now has the power to enter your home without a warrant and remove any person living there if they think, with reasonable cause, that they are infected with Covid-19 – see police powers here. We are told by a Police Commissioner that "It's a collective endeavour. This is ultimately about saving lives and not putting a strain on the NHS and our other emergency services." Health Secretary Matt Hancock warns us "we cannot relax our discipline now"….
And yet the Home Office…
2. …Did not intervene when Bailiffs and HS2 security failed to maintain social distancing (see film here) during their attempt – under the cover of darkness on Monday night - to dislodge the young British people trying to stop more trees being cut down. Someone involved in Reclaim the Power one of the signatories to the Open Letter Petition initiated by RAPAR says:
‘This pandemic has shown us that business as usual has to change, but the state is pushing ahead with this expensive destruction of ancient woodlands instead of putting all available resources into healthcare and support for those affected. Tree and land occupations already take a stand for human health; as protecting natural spaces gives us cleaner air, and less extreme weather like floods. Evicting environmental protestors at a time of coronavirus and climate crisis means impacts on human health now and in the near future. To protect all of our health - evictions must stop!'
Just this morning, RAPAR was sent this update where activists claim police are citing "the need for social distancing" to justify blocking news outlets filming the HS2 site.
And, if that wasn't enough...
3.… Homeless people are still on the streets despite government calls to house all during pandemic. Debbie from Youth House, based in Greater Manchester Law Centre, has spoken with RAPAR (See previous work with our UK Citizen Homeless People here) about a collective of three non-commissioned agencies who feed the street homeless on Manchester City Centre’s streets.
Debbie says this week they have been telling her of incidents when Manchester City Council Officers threatened the people trying to feed the street homeless with Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO’s). On Thursday, Manchester City Council confirmed that there are in excess of 100 people still street homeless on the city centre streets. See recent Local TV coverage about our Public Health campaign to minimise viral transmission risk here.
And finally last, but most definitely not least, the Home Office is...
4. … Using UK tax payer’s money to pay the private companies that house refugees.
Correspondence sent on Wednesday from UNHCR to the British Red Cross and shared with RAPAR, sets out UNHCR's awareness of a lack of provision of cleaning products… they say that “many are experiencing anxiety over not being able to disinfect communal and personal, particularly given the difficulties in social distancing in shared accommodations and HMOs” and others “report that they are either unable to afford the level of cleaning products and hand soap needed to regularly disinfect the communal areas and to wash their hands…”. UNHCR also observes that information is not in the public domain about the sub-contracted companies who manage the day to day running of the accommodation for people-seeking asylum. Contractual obligations are outlined here.
A recent individual signatory to the open petition wrote to RAPAR saying “I support this petition...it's the truth". Another new signatory, Baobab Women's Project in Birmingham told us they signed because "Human rights should apply equally to all, and this is especially important in times of crisis. We all should have equal access to resources in order to stay healthy. It is the same blood in our veins, we are human not numbers."
Following the publication of our first response, which specifies how we are beginning to offer support, RAPAR is now calling upon the State to suspend all detention and deportation activities, including legal processes. We also call upon the State to extend an invitation to all undocumented, displaced and destitute people, i.e. those most acutely vulnerable to COVID-19, to come forward for safe housing , without fear of being snatched or locked up, and so that they may contribute, openly, to making the population as safe as possible.
Obviously, no one will be able to act in their own - and everyone else’s - best interests if their basic needs are unmet. RAPAR Chair of Trustees, Dr Rhetta Moran says:
“We are acutely aware of the risk COVID-19 poses both to our Members and to the wider population. This is why we are reaching out in this way, right now. Our 2010 position that questioned that Government’s ‘Big Society’ a decade ago is being borne out. There is, hopefully, still time to act with compassion and wisdom.
At last night’s televised press conference, the Government insisted that social contact be minimised immediately and, at the same time, insisted that our schools remain open. This is not rational. It is physical contact that needs to be minimised, not social, educational, legal or political communication. It is within our capacities to offer these resources to one another while minimising physical contact - let’s do the possible.”
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 >>>
Guardian journalist John Harris has written a hard hitting article about the appalling housing conditions in which many people who are seeking asylum are forced to live. His piece helps to demonstrate why companies such as G4S and Serco, which also run detention centres, should not be given contracts for asylum housing in the UK.
John also visited the RAPAR office and spoke to some of our members who have been forced into destitution by the asylum system.
Read his article here - the interviews at RAPAR are covered in the final part of the article.