11 June 2019Blog entry

'Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action.' – Rebecca Solnit

In times of crisis, people often react by coming up with quick fixes, quick strategies and quick actions to address the challenges we face. Although quick responses are sometimes necessary, we need to be careful in how we articulate our demands and how we organise. Climate breakdown, white supremacy and so many other ‘crises’ in the news right now are not actually new. For many communities around…

1 April 2019Review

Wolf Press, 2018; 232pp; £9.99

Winter isn’t coming – it has arrived in this chilling post-Brexit fiction set in the moors and towns of Northern England. Britain has become a cold place for EU citizens like Mara, the book’s main character. Mara’s life story – from rebellious punk in 1980s East Germany via road protester in 1990s England to an academic career – is revealed in a series of flashbacks, intertwined with the love story between her and Beth whom she met on a road protest in the 1990s.

The comfortable…

1 April 2019News

Campaigners gatecrash airline industry dinner

Park Plaza Hotel, London, 30 January. Photo: Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants

On 30 January, 14 members of queer activist group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) handed out 200 sick bags to executives at an airline industry dinner in a central London hotel.

Four campaigners took to the stage, made a speech, and unfurled a banner saying: ‘BA: deportation contracts make us sick’ (see above). The Airlines UK 2019 gala dinner was attended by the head of…

1 April 2019News

High Court orders halt to 'no warning' deportations

On 14 March, charity Medical Justice persuaded the high court to order a halt to ‘no warning’ deportations.

The home office has a policy of giving targets just three days’ notice that they will be deported – and that the removal could happen at any time after that. This denies people the chance to prepare evidence or appeals.

The Medical Justice victory followed courtroom success for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) on 1 March.

The high…

1 April 2019News

Sentencing prompts counter-trial and direct action

On 6 February, the 15 anti-deportation activists known as the ‘Stansted 15’ were sentenced for nonviolently stopping a deportation flight carrying 60 people to West Africa in March 2017. They had already launched an appeal against their convictions on 7 January, but this has yet to be heard. Their sentencing sparked a counter-trial and direct action in London.

Melanie Strickland (35), Ali Tamlit (30) and Eddie Thacker (29) were given nine-month prison sentences, suspended for 18…

1 February 2019News

Anti-deportation campaigners face years in prison

Almost all of the Stansted 15 activists shortly before going into Chelmsford court on 1 October 2018. Photo: SAM WALTON

The Stansted 15, who nonviolently stopped a deportation flight from taking off in March 2017, were found guilty on 10 December of breaching an anti-terror law. After nine weeks of trial (see PN 2624–2625), the jury found all 15 defendants guilty of intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and…

1 February 2019Comment

'I was a stranger and you welcomed me'

Just before the prime minister’s plans for leaving, or not leaving, the European Union were voted on in the Westminster parliament, there was a very large gathering, rather noisy but not violent, in London’s Parliament Square. Union Jacks and European Star flags were there in about equal numbers.

Only a few hundred yards away, outside the home office, there was a very much smaller and quieter gathering – only 10 of us. A vigil rather than a demonstration. We were there to call for…

1 December 2018News

Trial of Stansted 15 anti-deportation activists goes on

As PN went to press, the trial was continuing at Chelmsford crown court of the Stansted 15, activists who face years in prison for using lock-ons to ground a charter flight for 10 hours. The 15 prevented the deportation of 60 undocumented immigrants to West Africa on 28 March 2017.

The defence argue that their action was to prevent the human rights abuses that deportation charter flights involve.

The first defendant to give evidence, Benjamin Smoke, described his…

1 December 2018Review

Myriad Editions, 2018; 80pp; £19.99

Why make reportage drawings? Graphic artist Olivier Kugler was commissioned by Médecins Sans Frontières (‘Doctors Without Borders’) to travel to Iraq, Kos and Calais to interview Syrian refugees. He took photographs and used translators to record stories. So why not stop at that?

On first viewing, I didn’t like the drawings in this book. I shrank back from lines that didn’t please me, from flat Photoshop washes. But I was curious because something interesting happens in these…

1 October 2018News

Campaigners demand free language lessons for migrants

Welsh language campaigners called for free Welsh language lessons for migrants during this year’s Eisteddfod. While English lessons are funded by the UK Government for refugees and asylum-seekers in Wales, there is no provision for Welsh lessons.

Swansea University’s Dr Gwennan Higham commented that the Welsh government and the Home Office both downplay the importance of any language other than ‘superior’ English to the lives of immigrants in Wales.

Toni Schiavone from…

1 August 2018Review

Zed Books, 2016; 208 pp; £14.99

For anyone who has visited refugee camps in Europe – or who has worked with those seeking asylum in this country – No Borders provides a perspective very different from the usual portrayal of migrants as victims of unjust, violent borders, victims whose rights are routinely ignored and who are denied access to basic amenities such as water, food and shelter.

Natasha King draws on social movement theory to picture many migrants as activists, refusing to be deterred by the…

1 April 2018News

Mid Wales Refugee Action takes action in support of Yarl's Wood detainees

With my husband and six members of Machynlleth’s Mid Wales Refugee Action, I was one of many who joined the 24-hour ‘Freedom fast’ on International Women’s Day called in support of women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. There, asylum-seeking women and children are locked up indefinitely until the home office decides to deport them. Some have been held for years with no idea what awaits them.

In 2010, the then children’s commissioner for England, Albert Aynsley-…

1 February 2018Feature

Quakers commit to welcoming migrants

Plaque in Linnet Lane, Liverpool Photo: Rodhullandemu via Wikimedia Commons

Over a series of meetings last year, Britain’s Quaker community discussed its experience of welcoming newcomers to these shores. Over 51 Quaker Meetings have pledged to become ‘Sanctuary Meetings’, based on a threefold commitment to build a culture of welcome, to challenge racism in all its forms and to change the law.

Quakers are taking action both locally and nationally. They are working in…

1 February 2018Review

PM Press, 2015; 448pp; £21.99

A story of poverty and desperation and of crashing through a society with few safety nets, Everyone has their reasons is an education in the struggles in Europe in the 1930s. But it is most frightening because its narratives about ethnicity, migration and belonging are still so much alive today, and people at this very moment are experiencing the terror caused by borders.

This harrowing book told me things that I needed to know about Europe – and that we all need to know…

1 December 2017News

From Swansea to Westminster

Sanctuary of Song at Westminster (with faces blurred). Photo: Sanctuary of Song

I sing with ‘Sanctuary of Song’ in Swansea, a singing group for women, forming bonds between local community and the marginalised ‘asylum-seeking’ and refugee community of Swansea.

Bright and early on 17 October we drove to London, en route practising the songs we’d sing in parliament that afternoon under the banner of Black History Month. A motorway services stop gave us a chance to practise ‘…