16th November: RAPAR members stand together in solidarity with GM Jewish community to stop Gaza genocide
In Thursday the 16th of November, RAPAR members joined members of our Jewish community in Greater Manchester to stand together in solidarity until we stop the genocide that is taking place in Gaza.
Our members addressed the 250 plus people who had gathered in St Peter’s Square and raised their voices to speak and sing, sharing strength and stamina going forward.
Our empathy is deep - we know what it is to have our people being slaughtered every day while international leaders fail to intervene.
We will come back to you soon with a follow up RAPAR statement that draws parallels with what is happening in other parts of the world.
Here is a video of RAPAR members from the evening (shared with permission from all visible in the videos).
And another here: youtube.com
On the 7th of October, Hamas committed war crimes against the people of Israel. Israel responded, in the same way they have for 75 years, with war crimes of their own. Since 1947, Israel has forced Palestinians from their land, regularly and systematically killed civilians, imposed racist apartheid systems, annexed Palestinian land, and denied Palestinians their human and civil rights. In 2007, the Israeli state placed a blockade upon the Gaza strip, and it has since become nothing short of an open-air prison, in which civilians face some of the worst living conditions in the world. They cannot leave, and are trapped by a land, sea and air blockade. Now, in an act of retaliation for the atrocities committed by Hamas, the state of Israel is punishing the people of Gaza. They are killing civilians indiscriminately in what is feared to be a second Nakba. This is a war crime.
As an anti-colonial, anti-racist human rights charity, RAPAR condemns the state of Israel for their continued human rights violations in Gaza and occupied Palestine. Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Heartland are denied the same human and civil rights as the Israeli citizens - not because of their religious beliefs, but because of their ethnicity. In Gaza, they have long since been denied the right to movement, safe drinking water and employment; now, they have been denied medical aid, electricity, and food too. As of the writing of this statement, over 8000 Palestinians have been killed by the indiscriminate bombing by the state of Israel so far - not only in the Gaza strip, but in the West Bank too, where Hamas is not present. These casualties include over 3300 children.
We also condemn the violence committed by Hamas against the people of Israel in the place where their forebearers sought refuge after the Nazi atrocities of WWII, and we call now for international intervention to address the corruptions and violences of the state of Israel, which have put the lives of its own citizens and all the people of Palestine in unthinkable peril. RAPAR demands that the UK government and the international community intervene and impose an immediate and absolute ceasefire; to allow for the entry of sufficient aid into Gaza, and lead to negotiations for a liberated and independent Palestine, and safety for Israeli civilians. We ask that in light of the US veto against the ceasefire put forward at the United Nations, the UK government step up. This is not a situation in which the UK may sit out a vote as they did. The UK government and international community have the power to pressure the state of Israel into a ceasefire, to protect civilians and to allow life-saving aid into Gaza. Their silence is complicity in a genocide started by British colonialism in 1947.
RAPAR also ask that the UK government demand that the state of Israel end their illegal occupation and annexation of Palestinian land, and dismantle the racist apartheid system that they have put in place. There are millions of displaced Palestinians around the world, who have been forced from Palestine since 1947 and are denied access to their homeland. RAPAR, as a charity for refugee, asylum seeking and displaced people, also call for the Right of Return for the displaced and stateless Palestinians.
June 23, 2023, will forever be remembered as a historic day for the members of Football Freedom. It was a day filled with unforgettable moments as participants from diverse backgrounds came together for a one-day event hosted by Bangor University and the North Wales Dragons. This extraordinary gathering not only introduced the participants to Welsh culture but also provided a much-needed escape through mindfulness and the joy of football.
The inception of the Football Freedom Project occurred during the challenging times of COVID-19 lockdowns, when mental health issues, financial hardships, isolation, depression, and overwhelming uncertainty were prevalent. In collaboration with refugees and people seeking asylum in RAPAR, the project was born out of the collective belief that football could effectively address the needs of their community. Thanks to funding from Sport England through Greater Sport and the Manchester FA, the project has continued to uplift the community through various activities up to the present day.
During the week in Wales. Rahwa, one of the leaders of the Football Freedom Project, expressed her gratitude, stating, "This trip has been a dream come true. When we started the Football Freedom Project two years ago, we never imagined that something like this could happen. This day was especially remarkable as we not only had the opportunity to travel and visit Wales but also to celebrate Refugee Week in grand style. For most of our members, this visit to Wales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am immensely pleased that we were able to make it happen. When we work together collaboratively, there is no limit to what we can achieve. A special thanks goes to Chris from the North Wales Dragons for his unwavering efforts in making this extraordinary day possible for us and to Chris Thomas from Football Humanity for his continuous support."
Shamim, another leader of the Football Freedom project, shared her experience of the day, saying, "It was a great day in Bangor. Football is a game loved and played by millions of people around the world. It can be called a universal game because every small and big nation plays it. Moreover, it's a great relaxer, stress reliever, teacher of discipline, and teamwork. For people seeking sanctuary and refugees, it's a great way to come out of isolation, make new friends, and engage in physical activity. When we received an invitation to visit Bangor University Community Group on July 5, 2023, everyone was thrilled. The list of nations represented was amazing, with people from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Iraq, Angola, Congo, the DRC, and Iran. The coach trip itself was excellent, with beautiful scenery outside and people singing and dancing inside. Some people were sharing snacks and enjoying themselves with their friends. For some, it was their first visit to Bangor, so it was a great opportunity for them. We were welcomed by the Chancellor of the University when we reached Bangor University, The hospitality we received was amazing. The Chancellor gave a speech, and his staff answered our questions in a very polite manner. The atmosphere there was wonderful. Then we went to the ground to play a friendly match. Even though it was raining, people were willing to play. Some people had photographs taken with the organisers, sang Gospel, and danced. As a leader of the football team, seeing people enjoy themselves and relax made me feel incredibly happy and relaxed. People were genuinely grateful and happy. I hope we can have more opportunities like this in the future."
The Football Freedom Project's visit to the breathtaking landscapes of North Wales was a long-cherished dream for the group. It all started when Chris Roberts, co-founder of the North Wales Dragons, visited Greater Manchester with his community football team and interacted with the Football Freedom team. Witnessing the power of football in fostering connections, creating opportunities, and promoting sportsmanship, friendship, and admiration among diverse nations and cultures, the group became determined to turn their dream into reality.
Below, testimony from those who went to Wales speaks volumes:
Huda and her family shared their heartfelt gratitude, stating, "Our family genuinely cherishes the comfort and happiness we experience when we engage in football. We are immensely grateful for your assistance. This beautiful and meaningful activity has had a positive impact on us. We love football. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Ibrahim and Rahwa; they are truly exceptional individuals who consistently support us. Thank you very much."
Mahin expressed her gratitude, saying, "The trip was incredibly interesting. Thank you so much. I hope we will have the opportunity to embark on such a journey again. Please consider it."
Jila's friend expressed their appreciation by saying, "A big thanks for organising this event and for the warm hospitality shown to us by the kind people of Bangor. We are grateful to the University of Bangor and the Football Freedom Project. Our enjoyment during this trip was unparalleled."
Jila, reflecting on her experience, said, "For me, I didn't go to Bangor, but the journey itself was amazing. On one side, there was the sea, and on the other, there were green farms with huge sheep and cows. The university, hospitality, and football grounds were truly memorable. I learned something about Bangor University, culture, language, and history in Wales. It was very informative. I think everything was okay; I really enjoyed it. It changed my mood, and I really needed a short trip. Playing football with my friends in the rain was very enjoyable. Thank you for giving us that opportunity."
Christine shared her thoughts, saying, "The trip was very nice, and I discovered a lot of things in Wales. Many thanks for that."
Philomene expressed her satisfaction, stating, "For me, we were well welcomed. After lunch, we spent almost 45 minutes learning about Prifysgol Bangor University and their activities in Wales. Despite the threat of rain, we went to visit the football ground at Prifysgol Bangor University. Some women and I played, and we took souvenir photos. In short, I was satisfied with our visit to Wales. Thank you for giving us the time to enjoy."
Rachel summarised her experience by saying, "It was my first time in Bangor, and I enjoyed the very beautiful views of the sea and hills, as well as playing a bit of football in the rain. I learned about the importance of community organisations, like how Bangor University played a pivotal role in supporting the neighbouring community during COVID-19 or how RAPAR supports a diverse group of people and serves as a unifying factor for those far away from home. Improvements in funding could be beneficial for members, such as buying kits and training or playing sports to reduce isolation and improve well-being."
The atmosphere of the day was elevated by the captivating performance of Rose, whose soul-stirring voice filled everyone with inspiration and united them in a celebration of lasting peace. Rose enthusiastically shared her sentiments, saying, "The trip was truly wonderful, and I enjoyed the experience of singing the gospel. Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour!"
In conclusion, Chris Roberts reflected on a well-coordinated and organised event, stating, "Friday's gathering was an incredible opportunity to foster cultural education, raise awareness, and create a space for discussing educational and employment prospects. It proved to be a healing experience for many, leading to new friendships and partnerships. I wholeheartedly believe that we have accomplished all of our objectives."
This day stands as a testament to what we can achieve when we all work together. It serves as a reminder that despite our diverse backgrounds, we can all agree on the beautiful game of football. The Football Freedom Project has not only brought joy and unity but has also given hope and a sense of belonging to those who need it most. As we continue on this journey, let us embrace the power of football to transcend boundaries, create positive change, and build a world where everyone has the freedom to play and thrive.
For the past two years, RAPAR has been an integral part of the GRIPP (Growing Rights Instead of Poverty Partnership) initiative. This partnership comprises four grassroots organizations: ATD, Intisaar, Thrive Teeside, and RAPAR. Supported by Amnesty, Essex, Just Fair, and other organizations, the project aims to conduct an evaluation of the UK government's response to the United Nations' state report.
Within the project, RAPAR's primary focus has been on examining the Right to Work as outlined in the nine different articles of the Human Rights Convention. Over a three-month period, we engaged with approximately 70 members to conduct research and gather perspectives on this specific article. Our members shared valuable insights on the right to work during this process. Here are a few notable quotes:
The findings from our research were combined with those of the other grassroots organizations, resulting in a comprehensive and unique report that was submitted to the UN in January 2023. On March 8th, two members of GRIPP had the privilege of delivering a powerful statement directly to the UN committee responsible for reviewing the UK government's response. This opportunity provided a platform for individuals with lived experiences to address the UN and ensure their voices were heard.
On March 17th, 2023, RAPAR members gathered for a celebratory meal, discussing the report's impact and implications. During this gathering, many members expressed curiosity about the next steps and hoped for a direct response from the UK government regarding the questions we raised in our report. They asked:
1. Why are people seeking asylum not allowed to work?
2. Why is the weekly support limited to £40, despite the increasing cost of living?
3. Why are displaced individuals not considered for additional government support?
Although we have conducted extensive research into many issues of poverty and injustice, and submitted the first GRIPP report, our fight is far from over. We remain committed to seeking satisfactory answers to these questions, particularly during this period of the escalating cost-of-living crises that affect everyone, but especially displaced individuals. We urge the UK government to genuinely listen to our voices and take appropriate action.
Finally, and notably, Amnesty International amplified GRIPP's work and voice in their Summer magazine.
This week, we are commemorating Refugee Week, focusing on the theme of compassion, which prompts me to pose a question to the UK government: What does compassion truly mean to them? Is it merely a superficial term we embrace for a week, only to overlook the harsh realities of the hostile environment?
At present, the UK government appears to be actively obstructing safe pathways for individuals who are fleeing their home countries in search of asylum. They are striving to implement an immigration policy that, in essence, disregards human rights. In light of this, I am compelled to ask once again, What does genuine compassion entail for the government?
It is easy for those in positions of power, who sleep comfortably in their warm beds and don't worry about their next meal, to casually celebrate the notion of compassion without taking tangible action. There is no evidence whatsoever that the people who make up the UK government are capable of compassion towards displaced people, and there will be no evidence of that unless they demonstrate compassion through practical measures. It is imperative to effect real change that enables people seeking asylum to work and affords individuals without legal status a life of dignity. I urge the government to engage in discussions regarding policies and bills with compassionate hearts, considering the profound impact their decisions have on people's lives.
Perhaps it is time for introspection, not just for the government but for all of us. We should strive to cultivate compassion not only towards refugees but also towards every individual facing adversity. It is essential that we extend empathy and support to all those who are struggling, regardless of their circumstances. By fostering a culture of compassion within ourselves and our society, we can collectively work towards creating a more inclusive and caring world where the dignity and well-being of every individual are valued and protected.
The Government’s intention to evict thousands of Afghan people – here seeking safety – from their current residence in hotels across the UK is the latest demonstration of its absolute inability to do anything other than spew out draconian ‘immigration policies’, all deliberately designed to degrade and terrorise displaced people from around the world.
Further, the powers that be bank on us losing our memories and our continuities with our his- her- and their- stories: we haven’t and we won’t.
This latest use of eviction to threaten displaced people is far from new. A few months before 9/11 RAPAR formed through human connection between young Afghan men who began to be dumped in Salford Tower Blocks, local Salford practitioners in housing, health, education and personal safety, and academics from the Universities of Manchester and Salford. You can read about our history here. Before very long, those Afghan people in the tower blocks began to be joined by Iraqis.
Then, in October 2002, people who were being failed by the asylum system, including Afghan and Iraqi people, began receiving eviction notices from their local authorities – pre-privatisation local councils had responsibility for housing people seeking asylum. The eviction notices told the refugees that they must leave their accommodation and arrange to return to their homelands.
These letters were sent out just months before Blair’s Government joined the USA’s ‘shock and awe’ attack on Baghdad that marked the beginning of that illegal war. In March 2003, as the bombing began, the glossy Guardian Saturday supplement reported on RAPAR’s exposure of the then Labour Government directive to evict Iraqi people and return them to what they knew would become a carpet-bomb site.
It did not stop the evictions of course. Media alone stops nothing. Only organised and collective direct action with unambiguous purpose can stop such abuses and make change.
Alongside their ancestors, the overwhelming number of refugee people living in UK hotels today, whether from Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else, have been on the receiving end of what amounts to obscene and racist British foreign policy for centuries, never mind decades. The way forward must be to join forces, unequivocally, with the people in the UK who have status (unrestricted leave to remain) and who are organising resistance to what is an increasingly totalitarian and protofascist rule of law on this degenerating island.
Only today (2nd of June), there are reports of the very aggressive use of bailiffs towards residents in council tax arrears, precipitating the halting of Manchester City Council’s Executive meeting four times yesterday, by protestors from Acorn Union. They are our people, alongside every climate justice protestor, feminist activist, and striking worker who has stood up and stood out in defence of their rights and those of the wider public.
It’s time to join the dots…
A new blog post by Dr Rebecca Yeo on Migration Mobilities Bristol features RAPAR's former Chair, Manjeet Kaur.
Dr Yeo's blog - Disablement and resistance in the British immigration system - explores the intersections between migration policy and disability, argues that '[r]estricted access to services and support is a central tool of immigration policy' and asserts a need for a social model of immigration.
The blog begins:
The distinction between deserving and undeserving individuals has always been core to immigration policy in the UK. However, the hostility and restrictions directed at those framed as ‘undeserving’ has steadily increased. The recently introduced Illegal Migration Bill takes these restrictions to a new level to include detaining and preventing new arrivals from even claiming asylum. The need to build effective opposition has never been more urgent. With this goal, it is important to consider the inequities of the current system, possible alternative approaches to resistance and the barriers that must be addressed.
Manjeet is quoted in the piece:
The social model of disability was developed by Disabled people rather than charitable organisations. However, when people are struggling for immediate survival, there is little capacity to lead resistance. As activist Manjeet Kaur explained to me just months before she died, in the face of immediate struggles as a Disabled asylum seeker, ‘I don’t have the energy… I myself am in a floating boat, I can anytime fall down.’ The capacity for solidarity from the wider Disabled people’s movement is reduced by lack of information and individual struggles in the context of an ever more punitive welfare state. The mantra of the Disabled people’s movement ‘nothing about us, without us’ is as valid as ever, however, the solidarity of allies has never been so important.
Read the full blog here.
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR Founder and member, and Dr Grainne McMahon, Research Lead and member, have recently published an article in Bristol University Press's Policy Press Journal of Poverty and Social Justice setting out key learning from RAPAR and the Babagar family's months-long campaign to expose inhuman conditions in global corporation Serco-run 'contingency hotels' utilised by the UK's Home Office to house people seeking asylum in the UK, and the State's egregious dereliction of statutory duty towards people seeking asylum.
The piece, published in May 2023 is entitled: Where does the buck stop? UK Home Office and other statutory body responses to allegations of human rights violations in two Serco-run hotels housing people seeking asylum (link to online version) and begins with the abstract:
RAPAR applies our participatory action research methods to amplify the living experience of families seeking asylum in the UK who are in ‘contingency accommodation’, aka ‘hotels’, and claiming human rights abuses on these sites. From all over the world, these people are without status in the UK and are therefore without recourse to the public funds that are, theoretically, available to everyone living in the UK with status. Their complete legal dependence on the Home Office and its subcontractors to ‘look after’ them and deal with any complaints leads to the question: why would anyone choose to challenge any organisation about human rights violations when that same organisation exercises such profound control over their day to day living reality? The data comprises contemporaneously collected evidence from individual correspondence, questionnaires, semi-structured conversations and case studies with hotel residents. Our preliminary analysis demonstrates considerable failures of statutory bodies in implementing their statutory duties. No evidence of meaningful investigation by any implicated statutory authority, or their privatised sub-contractors, into the human rights violation allegations asserted by hotel residents has been produced. The Local Authorities and the NHS insist that the Home Office is responsible for hotel residents within their boundaries. In turn, the Home Office, including Greater Manchester Police and sub-contractors Serco and Migrant Help, have failed to address the allegations in any transparent way.
We call for immediate action that enables hotel residents to safely protect themselves and stimulates inclusive solution-making, with them, to end these human rights violations. (Article here.)
After publication of the article, Policy Press invited the authors to contribute a blog to the international online publication Transforming Society. The blog post entitled 'It’s called scapegoating and it’s as old as divide and rule' sets out further understanding of how the UK's hostile environment's relentless spewing out of intrinsically racist policies allows for its longstanding scapegoating of people seeking refuge to continue and to thrive.
The blog begins: The UK government is actively compounding the human suffering that intrinsically racist immigration laws inflict on people seeking asylum.
In fact, our participatory action research over the last 15 months about what is happening to the displaced people who have been placed in ‘contingency hotels’ simply reinforces our certainty that, from the government’s perspective, the more demonising and suffering inflicted on people seeking refuge here, the more the public hears about that suffering, and the more that government’s contractual cronies, such as Migrant Help, get away with not only doing nothing to stop it but actually heaping injury on top, the better.
It is essential, in fact, that the demonising – and coverage of it – continues. (Blog here.)
See more about the campaign here.
See below for the beginning of the latest Manchester Evening News (MEN) report about the Babagar's family’s hotel conditions and their forthcoming criminal defence case. Just this week (w/c 15th of May), the family have been informed by Serco that on next Monday, the 22nd of May, they will be moved out of the Rochdale Hotel that features in the MEN story and into dispersed accommodation. This new accommodation needs to be within striking distance of their child’s school. Since last September, this school has been the one constant security in this young person’s life. At this point, the continuity of the child's education is extremely important for their mental health and for the wellbeing of the family as a whole.
Homeless family who moved hotels after alleged assault say new accommodation has 'unbearable smell' as insects filmed crawling around beds (Manchester Evening News) (published on 16th of May):
An asylum seeker who went on hunger strike after allegations that he was assaulted at a Stockport hotel where his family was housed has been moved. However, arriving at the new accommodation in Rochdale on Friday (May 5), Shay Babagar, his wife and daughter claimed to have found insects crawling around their bed. They are allegations which are denied by Serco, who managed the hotel.
Video footage taken by the family appears to show two bugs on the bed while Shay's wife - who wishes not to be named - speaks of seeing mosquitoes. Serco, which runs both hotels, claims that the family has not reported finding insects on the bed to staff on site or through independent complaints routes.
The company, which runs asylum accommodation across the North West, denied the allegation claiming staff checked the room when it was approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. The team said no evidence of insects was identified.
Read the rest of the MEN piece here, and see RAPAR's press release about latest developments here.
“The deepening conditions of poverty in the UK are a human rights violation.” - Amnesty UK champions GRIPP’s message in their summer members magazine.
GRIPP takes the cover story of the Amnesty UK members magazine, to share our work and experiences as activists from across the UK demanding change.
Through interviews with Rahwa (from RAPAR), Patricia and Tracey, the article focuses on our work of researching, writing and presenting evidence to the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in March 2023.
GRIPP’s report revealed “how the UK government has created a system that keeps communities poor, ill, divided and isolated – and then blames them for the conditions they are living in.”
As one of the partners of GRIPP, Amnesty UK wanted to champion our work to its audience – challenging members to consider Human Rights violations at home and how Povertyism is systemic issue within the UK.
You can read the PDF of the full article from the Amnesty Magazine here.