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…