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.”
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."
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?”
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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 >>>
RAPAR raises concerns about new Immigration and Voluntary Returns “surgeries in the community”
RAPAR is querying the Home Office's new policy of introducing immigration and voluntary returns surgeries into the community.
We are currently gathering questions about voluntary returns to send to the Home Office. Questions already put forward, most of them from refugees and people seeking asylum, cover a range of concerns about voluntary returns – including asking how the Government can be sure that people being encouraged to “go home” can be truly safe.
The Home Office claims there are now 30 voluntary returns surgeries in the community including one in Manchester which is running twice monthly sessions at the Transformation Community Resource Centre in Longsight.
One of the aims of this initiative is to persuade refugees to return to their home countries under a Government scheme which offers up to £2,000 for people to “voluntarily” return.
Julie Ward, North West MEP, has added her voice to questions being raised by RAPAR about the surgeries which are also operating in London, Birmingham and Slough.
“This new development is very worrying and comes hot on the heels of an insidious government policy that used homelessness charities as a means to identify and deport EU migrants before Christmas. The Home Office has a duty to uphold international norms regarding the treatment of vulnerable people such as refugees and asylum seekers. This should mean ensuring adequate and tailored support for a range of options. By locating voluntary returns surgeries in community spaces government policy may appear to be more benign than it is.
“I am very concerned that taxpayers' money is being used in a targeted and unbalanced way, with an emphasis on persuading vulnerable people to return to the very places that they were forced to flee for good reason. We need to question why this is happening in an increasingly hostile and xenophobic environment with a Conservative government that has failed in its basic duty regarding unaccompanied child refugees, let alone wider issues appertaining to the asylum process.”
People seeking asylum have pointed out to RAPAR that the Home Office's voluntary returns service is already easily accessible and, if people want to take advantage of it, they can. There is no need for “community surgeries”.
Sanctuary seekers in the UK have been forced to flee their home countries because their lives were at risk and they are among the most vulnerable, impoverished and traumatised groups in our society. They should not be pressured into returning to a situation where their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, said: “People seeking asylum - and those who have decided to stay in the UK undocumented after their cases have been failed by the Home Office - are here because they feel they are still in danger. Completing a 'voluntary' return form in a 'community' setting does not alter that danger.
“We have asked the Home Office to explain how they can ensure people's safety if they return. The Home Office knows it cannot do this. Community immigration surgeries are not offering people a real and free choice. There is nothing 'voluntary' about 'voluntary' returns.”
RAPAR also questions how impartial and non directive advice about voluntary returns can be given by Home Office staff in community surgeries when they are employed by a Government department which has been charged with driving down net migration.
On Wednesday 28th February 2018, at 1pm, we will be outside the Transformation Community Resource Centre, Richmond House, 11 Richmond Grove, Ardwick, Manchester, M13 0LN to communicate to people who may use the surgery why there is no such thing as a ‘Voluntary’ Return.