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Liverpool Diary: November 2012

Radio class with Fatoumata, and other incidents.

Image27 September

Liverpool Public Enquiry Office UK Border Agency

We are going to have dinner at Anne’s after Fatoumata’s interview at the Home Office. I am meeting Fatoumata, but get lost and can’t find the centre. I should have printed a map, then I see a flash of pink hair which I realise is Penny walking up the road with Fatoumata!

After I got my residency papers, Anne and I launched ‘Migrant Artists Mutual Aid’ to raise money for a specialist solicitor for Fatoumata and recruited Penny to help with the legal stuff. 

The interviewer will speak with the Gambian embassy so that the Home Office can prepare travel documents. Fear of detention looms large but I am not sure any more what are rational and irrational fears. 

They really shouldn’t detain Fatoumata because she has a three-year-old daughter and as somebody living with female genital mutilation she would be considered a torture survivor, but the uncertainty is something that is systematically created so that asylum seekers will just give up and submit to the voluntary return programme. 

The lived reality is a dance between panic, preparation and pretending that everything is going to be alright.

Anne is worried because generally Fatoumata doesn’t like her cooking. I have a couple of jars of curry in my bag because I thought I could cook at Anne’s after we finish. 

When we go in I realise that I have not travelled for over three years and am not prepared for the security guards and detectors at the entrance. Fatoumata has to take her belt off, I have to hand over the glass jars of curry. 

The last time I had to take my belt off was in a Post Office in Laredo,Texas, I almost lost my trousers and broke down in tears. 

3 October 

Toxteth Methodist Centre

Pa Madou asks us to say why we are in the radio class. I am trying to figure out a way to manage my time as efficiently as possible. Parenting is not efficient. Friendship is not efficient. Anarchism is not efficient. 

I reckoned that by attending Pa Modou’s radio course with Fatoumata on a Wednesday for three hours I could support two friends, parents, and migrant activists at the same time. We are an interesting group: Libya, Sudan, Congo, Poland, Gambia, Chicago. Four women. Eight men.

By three o’clock the group has managed to create six new radio show jingles and survived one horrible altercation between North and Central Africa during break time.

6 October 

Next to Nowhere

It is the launch of Invisible England. A friend’s partner has written a book exposing the use of ‘holding therapy’ on children in care in the UK. It is another solidarity engagement, it turns out to be brilliant. Some people in the room are shocked. The blog for Invisible England describes holding therapy this way:
'There are features such as the "strong encouragement" of eye contact and the potential need to "deliberately distress" the child before they eventually break down and capitulate that has echoes of the way high-demand groups (cults) operate.'

I am not shocked, but completely impressed by the author making clear connections to the systems in place that allow this to happen. Private companies making a profit by taking over the roles that have been managed by governments. 

What makes me ill as I write about it, is that it’s exactly what Naomi Klein writes about in The Shock Doctrine. She makes the connection between different forms of torture and shock/therapy used to break people down and use of the resulting disorientation to institute free market capitalism with populations who would be resistant to it, because it is not in their best interest. 

But it is being done to kids here in England and here is this incredibly brave person standing up in a basement social centre in the North.

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The Invisible England website is here.

Jennifer Verson is a multimedia live artist and cultural activist. She is a member of Rose Howey Housing Coop, which has been established to address poverty, housing, parenting and education needs.