My Indefinite Leave to Remain FINALLY came through from the Home Office yesterday.  So, I am now allowed to remain in the UK indefinitely, and I can access public funds, which is something of a relief in this economy.  I mean, I’d rather not lose my job, but 3 weeks ago the government would have happily watched me starve.

However, in this incredibly obnoxious article in The Guardian yesterday, Phil Woolas reminded me that the new Citizenship, Immigration & Borders bill is on its second reading through parliament.  This bill will make it harder to get citizenship, with longer waiting times and a stupid “probationary citizenship” stage.  Oh, and you’ll be expected to volunteer somewhere to show that you’re “worthy” of citizenship.   From September I’ll be working 4 days a week at a job that requires a lot of travel (I’m away from home at least once a month), and doing a PhD part-time. And continuing with No Borders and setting up a Feminist Fightback North branch.  But hey!  I’m sure I can fit some volunteering in somewhere.  Unfortunately, activism doesn’t  count.

According to the current regulations, because I actually entered the country in June 2006 on a Working Holiday Permit, I should be eligible for citizenship in about 4 weeks.  So my partner and I have decided it’s worth scraping together the ludicrous sum of money required to apply right away, so that I don’t have to jump through any of the hoops above, and because the fees are only going to keep going up.  Though apparently it’s taking up to 6 months to process applications, begging the question of What the hell the government are spending my money on.

I’ve worked out that, post-citizenship, I will have paid over £2000 in various visa fees.  Which is a lot of money, particularly when we first got married and my partner wasn’t working (we’re still paying off that credit card bill).  We are very fortunate that we are able to put aside money each month to cover these fees, but I honestly wonder what less fortunate people do.  These fees aren’t optional – if I hadn’t had the £800 for the Indefinite Leave to Remain application, then I would have had to leave the country.

So love becomes a privilege reserved for those who can pay for it –I’m sure that’s exactly what Keir Hardie had in mind.

There’s a really good article in current LRB by Gareth Peirce about the UK government’s possible (likely) complicity with torture in Guantanamo Bay and other overseas detention centres.

It’s interesting for several reasons, one of which is that it highlights something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:  middle-class political apathy.  Peirce argues that the government uses secrecy to maintain general apathy towards the possibility that the government is torturing people; people don’t know, so they can’t care.  For me, what is particularly frightening, is that I think a lot of people are happy not caring.

When activists talk about the democratic deficit – the fact that a million people can march against a war and it will happen anyway, the fact that no one thinks ID cards are a good idea, and yet we all know the government will push them through anyway – we are angry and frustrated.  We start trying to think of new strategies; if conventional activism isn’t working, what do we do now?

But when I talk to many non-activists about the democratic deficit, there is almost a sense of relief underpinning their words.  I can’t do anything about injustice/poverty/the war/racism/torture; so therefore, I don’t have to bother. 

European elections are coming up, and there’s been a lot of discussion about the BNP, and the inroads the BNP are making in traditional Labour-supporting white working-class communities.  I have a lot of issues with the way this discussion is framed, which I will be talking about more in the future.  But one factor in the rise of the BNP that is continually overlooked is middle-class apathy.

Part of this apathy is grounded in the fact that a lot of middle-class white people don’t actually disagree with BNP views on immigration even while condemning the BNP.  If they did, then the Labour & Conservative parties wouldn’t be trying to out-xenophobe each other every election.

But even the (middle-class) people in my office who agree with the Labour & Tory immigrant scapegoating (I don’t count as an immigrant for them, what with being white & Canadian) are pretty scathing about the BNP.  Yet, if I sent around an email encouraging people to vote in the European elections, or stuck a “hope not hate” postcard on my desk, I’d get in trouble.

The people in my office, by and large, are not going to vote.  They will condemn the BNP verbally, but they think I’m eccentric, at best, for actually going to protests and having political opinions.  They don’t understand why I actually care about stuff like this.

So the BNP might get an MEP seat, and everyone will tut-tut, feeling morally superior to the BNP while having done nothing to stop them.  The government wouldn’t listen anyway.  Which is just fine, because to quote Phil Ochs “demonstrations are a drag…”  And I hear Debenhams is having a really good sale this weekend.

I’m Alive!!!  But really, really busy with activism, and work, and PhD applications.  It’s quite possible no one is actually going to read this, due to my extended absence.  Also, I wish I could write something about the G20 protests, but I’m not there as I couldn’t get the time off work.

  • ************

Rahila Gupta has an mostly very good article in today’s Comment Is Free arguing in favour of the European Convention on Human Trafficking, which would allow women up to 90 days of accommodation in which to gather evidence that they have been trafficked and apply for asylum. 

Unfortunately, in the article, Gupta says that 80% of prostitutes in the UK are foreigners, and that most of them were trafficked, and condemns those who would rubbish those statistics.

Here’s the thing – it’s fully possible to “rubbish” that particular claim and still agree with every other word in Gupta’s article.

There were serious methodological issues with the survey that claimed to find that most foreign prostitutes were trafficked – among other things, the authors interpreted a willingness to have anal sex as proof that the woman in question was trafficked.  Good methodology is important – as sociologists, are we interested in the truth, or in what “proof” would best serve our particular view of the world?

That being said, of course women who are trafficked should be allowed to stay in the UK.  And of course, as Ms Gupta says, a lot of women in sex work are not there by a full and free choice but because the situations in which they find themselves provide them with no better option.  And of course we have to provide exit strategies for anyone who wants out of the sex industry. 

I feel, however, that the government approach to trafficking, which includes the acceptance of the statistics quoted above, actually makes migrant women, trafficked or not, more vulnerable to being exploited and forced into the sex industry.   The government defines trafficking very narrowly – and any organisation, like the Poppy Project that requires government funding must adopt this definition.  This definition would continue even if women are given 90 days to decide if they want to contact the police.   Women who knowingly came to the UK illegally and were coerced into sex work, or became prostitutes willingly but were deceived about the hours, or became sex workers later because no other jobs were forthcoming given their lack of papers – none of these women would necessarily qualify for government assistance.

Furthermore, the government uses the spectre of supposedly widespread trafficking to justify crackdown in immigration and more authoritarian border controls – the new concentration camp for migrants being built in Calais, for example, has been portrayed by the government as necessary to prevent human trafficking. 

Finally, let us not forget our sisters (and brothers) in other industries, where they are viciously exploited and subject to sexual violence.  While the government pretends to care about trafficked sex workers, Transport For London is having many of the tube cleaner union activists deported, in retaliation for their union activism.  Many of these women have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape on the job – but somehow, this sexual violence is of no concern to the government.

One of the many reasons I have undying respect for Rahila Gupta, even where I disagree with her, is that she knows this and incorporates it into her analysis of the situation of migrant sex workers.  In her book Enslaved, Ms Gupta profiles not only a sex worker, but also a domestic worker, a women in an arranged marriage, a (male) construction worker and an asylum-seeker.  She makes it clear that non-status women in any industry are very vulnerable to sexual violence.  She also argues that the only way to eradicate this exploitation and violence is by eliminating all immigration controls.

In the short-term, advocating for the Convention may be the best way forward, though it is crucial that feminists engage very warily with the government, and recognise the shortcomings of this law.

However, in the long-term, only the abolition of immigration controls, and the establishment of a society where no one is forced to become a sex worker / prostitute to fend off starvation, will end human trafficking. 

While I may disagree with Ms Gupta’s acceptance of the quoted statistic, I fully support  her goal of abolishing immigration controls.  And I think this is very important to emphasize – that a lot of people who “rubbish” those stats still agree with  most of what Ms Gupta says are still vehemently opposed to trafficking and to the exploitation and abuse of any migrant workers, regardless of whether they were trafficked or not, and believe strongly in providing all sex workers / prostitutes with exit strategies.   Hopefully, we can build a movement from these common goals and agree to disagree on peripheral issues.


January 20, 2009

From Women Against Rape:

Rape survivor detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

and facing removal today Tuesday 20 January, at 7pm


Please phone or write to:

1.    Phil Woolas MP, Immigration Minister, Home Office Minister of State for borders and immigration,

2.    Jacqui Smith MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office Fax 020 8760 3132

3.    European Court of Human Rights,  Fax: +33 (0) 3 88 41 27 30,  Tel: +33 (0) 3 88 41 20 18

4.     Kenya Airways Flight KQ101  Telephone 01784 888 222

Ms Flavia Nambi has been in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre since Wednesday 14 January. She has been given Removal Directions for this evening.  She is at risk of taking her own life and is on suicide watch. 


Evidence of rape submitted to the Home Office.  A fresh claim lodged in December included compelling expert evidence from WAR and psychiatrists corroborating her account of brutal gang rape by Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers.  As a result, the Home Office have for the first time accepted Ms Nambi is a rape survivor but are still insisting she should be sent back. 


Ms Nambi could not survive if sent back. Ms Nambi lives in the UK with her Aunt who is her sole surviving relative from the terrible conflict in Uganda.  She has no-one to whom she could turn for help and expert testimony confirms that women in Ms Nambi’s vulnerable state could not survive if sent back. 

Other women returned face rape and other torture.  WAR has first hand accounts from women who have been returned to Uganda of the deprivation, rape and other torture that they suffer. The Home Office has refused to monitor or investigate what happens to women in these circumstances. 


This is the THIRD time Ms Nambi has been detained.  Last time she was so traumatised, she lost her memory, became profoundly depressed and was close to taking her own life.  After her release, despite her own ill health, Ms Nambi has been dedicated to helping other women in detention who share her experiences.


Refusal to acknowledge rape breaches international obligations.  The Home Office by refusing to reconsider it’s responsibilities to Ms Nambi, now it has accepted she is a rape survivor, is flouting its international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention of Human Rights.  What use are its own “gender guidelines”[1] if in reality officials decide that it makes no difference whether or not someone has suffered the devastating trauma of rape?   


The treatment of rape survivors.  Like many survivors, Ms Nambi could not give an account of the rape she suffered to Home Office officials when she was first interviewed about it.  Court precedents have long established that, considering the stigma and discrimination faced by rape survivors, delay in reporting rape shouldn’t be used to throw doubt on a woman’s credibility.[2] Immigration Judge D P Herbert, who presided over Ms Nambi’s case at appeal agreed: 


“I accept as wholly plausible the explanation given by the appellant that she was too embarrassed and humiliated to disclose this to the Immigration Officer upon arrival.”


He ruled that she should not be returned.


I find that given the fact that this is a young woman who has been raped and treated in the most appalling manner by the Lord’s Resistance Army simply to return her to the capital city Kampala where she has never lived and has no family connections or means of support would be unduly harsh.” 


The Home Office appealed this decision and at the hearing Judge Handley went beyond his remit and accepted the Home Office argument that delay in reporting cast doubt on Ms Nambi’s account of rape.  Further appeals failed because higher courts ruled that whether Ms Nambi had been raped was irrelevant as she could safely be returned to another part of Uganda.


Removal scheduled for today.  Today Ms Nambi’s lawyers will take her case to the Appeal Court to try to prevent her flight.  We are determined to do everything we can to prevent her suffering any further, and are asking for your help by writing or phoning the above. 


Please send copies of emails/faxes of any letters you write to:  Fax: 020 7209 4761


[1] See campaign Black Women’s Rape Action Group’s Asylum from Rape petition for the re-instatement of the Guidelines, for more information about this and how you can help by signing and circulating Black Women’s Rape Action Group’s Asylum from Rape petition.

[2] In 1998 WAR helped establish the High Court precedent that women may be unable, not unwilling, to report rape and therefore are entitled to further consideration of this “fresh evidence”. RvSSHD ex parte Ejon,(QBD) [1998] INLR 195


Make a date with Feminists!!


Sat 14th Feb, 10.30am -6.30 pm, Tindle Manor, 52-4 Featherstone St EC1 (nearest tube Old St.) Fully accessible venue. This event is free!


for more info see

to register email

Discussing and organising our fight for women’s liberation – open to all those who want to learn, think and plan for grassroots feminist activism… Join us for workshops which identify the interconnections between oppressions and our struggles against them. Work together with other feminists to find ways to actually change the material conditions of women’s lives.

Workshops include: learning from feminist history/ sex workers’ rights/ challenging domestic violence/ international solidarity/ a woman’s place is in her union?/ reproductive freedoms/ rape and asylum/ community organising/ queer and trans politics/ prison abolition/ self-defence workshop/ feminists and the capitalist crisis/ films, stalls and campaign planning

Free creche – please register by email by Friday 6th February

Stalls available – email to book

Organised by a coalition of groups and individuals. Groups involved so far include: Anarcha-Fem Kollective, All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, English Collective of Prostitutes, Education Not for Sale Women, Feminist Activist Forum, Feminist Fightback, Left Women’s Network, London Coalition Against Poverty, Permanent Revolution, RMT Women’s Committee, Women Asylum Seekers Together, Women Against Rape, Workers’ Liberty.


Draft Letter to Jacqui Smith

December 10, 2008

For those of you who are busy, please find below a draft letter to Jacqui Smith regarding deportations to the DRC.  Please feel free to cut & paste & modify it however you like.


Dear Jacqui Smith

I am writing to you to express my concern at the plight of Congolese asylum-seekers in the UK.

The High Court has recently ruled that “failed” Congolese asylum-seekers can now be deported at any time, a ruling which is likely to impact over 5 000 people.

As you are certainly aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently in a state of civil war.  Violence is endemic, and women are at particular danger as the use of rape as a weapon of war is very widespread.   The Amnesty International 2008 Report states:

 “Political and military tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) resulted in major outbreaks of violence in the capital, Kinshasa, and Bas-Congo province.  Unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the security forces and by armed groups were common across the country, in many cases directed at perceived political opponents.  Rape by security force members and armed group fighters continued at high levels.”

At this very moment, the Amnesty International website states “The situation in the DRC remains on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.” 

Under the circumstances, deporting anyone to the DRC is akin to sentencing them to death.   Furthermore, as a feminist, you cannot possibly be sanguine about the appalling sexual violence awaiting any women that are sent to the DRC – in fact, it is almost certain that all of the women who are facing deportation have already suffered rape and other sexual violence.

Consequently, as a feminist myself,  I urge you to immediately declare a moratorium on all deportations to the DRC. 

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply, as I am very interested in your thoughts on this issue.

Yours sincerely

According to The Independent, High Court Judges have ruled that asylum-seekers from the DRC whose claim has failed should be deported.  This means that approximately 5 000 people face imminent deportation.

The DRC is currently in a state of civil war, with an estimated 5 million people having been killed since 2002.  Women are at particular risk, as there as been a lot of documentation of the way in which rape has been used systematically as a weapon of war. The Amnesty International 2008 report states:

“Political and military tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) resulted in major outbreaks of violence in the capital, Kinshasa, and Bas-Congo province.  Unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the security forces and by armed groups were common across the country, in many cases directed at perceived political opponents.  Rape by security force members and armed group fighters continued at high levels.”

I’m appalled that the UK government is deporting anyone to the DRC right now – this amounts to a sentence of death.  I suggest writing to Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, and asking for an immediate moratorium on deportations to the DRC.  I’m not sure how effective this will be – she’s never appeared particularly concerned about the plight of asylum seekers in the past.  I will do research into other ways of resisting this appalling decision and post when I have more information.

In the meantime, Anxious Black Woman has written a lot about this, so head over to her blog.

An Open Invitation

December 4, 2008

Since this year’s RTN, there’s been a lot of discussion on all sides about the protest and counter-protest outside Spearmint Rhino, and Feminist Fightback has been criticised quite a bit for it’s role in the counter-protest.

My personal view is that some of these criticisms are valid, and worth exploring, while some are just scurrilous and slanderous.  For the record, Feminist Fightback does believe that trafficking for sexual slavery happens, and also opposes pimps, along with anyone else seeking to benefit from the exploitation of women.

I would urge everyone to come to a Feminist Fightback meeting and find out what we think for yourselves.   I don’t even agree with other members of Feminist Fightback on all issues, so I’m not issuing this invitation on the assumption that we’ll suddenly all agree with each other.  Sex-work/prostitution is a complicated issue and I’m sure feminists of all stripes will continue to disagree with each other.

However, you may find that we have more common ground than previously thought.  Or at the very least, that it’s possible for all of us to be in the same room without a fistfight breaking out.  And, you may find that it’s possible for you and your group to work with Feminist Fightback on other campaigns.  At the moment, we are active on 2 main issues:

1) Reproductive Freedoms, which for us means ensuring that a woman is free to choose to have or not to have a child, as she sees fit.  This involves campaigning for free abortion on demand, free birth control of a woman’s choice, decent healthcare for all on the NHS, a welfare state that ensures that no one chooses to end a pregnancy because she can’t “afford” a child, and an end to the demonisation of single mothers and migrant mothers in the popular press and government policy.

2) Migrants Rights, which for us means working in solidarity with the campaigns of migrant workers, opposing the detention of asylum seekers, opposing all forms of immigration control, and doing what we can to offer solidarity and support to migrant women’s groups and their campaigns (eg. we do what we can to support the No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign, and we work closely with the Black Women’s Rape Action Project and the All African Women’s Group).

For those of you in London and the South, our next meeting is:

Saturday 13 December from 3- 5.30 pm, Arbour Community Centre, 100 Shandy Lane, Stepney Green, E1 4ST

Feminist Fightback London meets the 2nd Saturday of the month at that location.

For those of you north of the Watford Gap, Feminist Fightback is co-sponsoring “Feminism and the Student Movement”, also 13 December, 11 – 5pm at the University of Manchester Student Union. 

The next Feminist Fightback North meeting has not been scheduled yet – but I’ll let everyone know when it is.

With other anti-capitalist feminist groups, we are also involved in organising “Gender, Race & Class: An Anti-Capitalist Feminist Event” which will take place in London on 14 February and in my opinion will be the most awesome feminist conference of all time.  More info to follow.

I think it’s important to remember, that basically, we’re all on the same side.  People of good will can disagree with each other; it doesn’t mean that anyone is “evil.”  It’s possible to build a feminist movement where disagreements are aired openly in a civil and respectful manner, and dissent is valued, and where we still work together on issues where there is agreement.

Dear Guardian

November 26, 2008

Feminism is about more than just Lad Mags.

I will admit to a feeling slightly piqued generally that Feminist Fightback could probably single-handedly engineer total gender equality in the UK and we still wouldn’t get a mention in The Guardian.  However, it my more sober (and less attention-seeking) moments, I recognise that this is probably a good thing.  On the one hand, some of the campaigns we’ve been running would really benefit from media attention, particularly the Tube Cleaners Solidarity campaign, in order to shame Transport for London into paying them a living wage, and also, frankly, in order to shame coerce convince other feminist groups into participating in the actions.  On the other hand, if we ever did get into The Guardian, the article would probably ignore all members over the age of 30, and focus on our snazzy dress sense rather than our actual politics (though we are pretty snazzy dressers).

The issue with The Guardian’s coverage of feminism (other than, as already discussed a lot by Zenobia, their tendency to lump “feminism” with “lifestyle issues”) is that they basically define it as activism of mainly young white women against “male violence against women” where the latter is conceived as something that happens solely between individual men and individual women.  Which means that a lot of what Feminist Fightback (and Feminist Activist Forum, and The Crossroad’s Women’s Centre, and Southall Black Sisters, etc.) do is not even conceived as feminism. 

Take the Tube Cleaners Strike.  Some women Tube Cleaners have been sexually harassed and assaulted at work; but even here, the issue is not just about individual male responsibility for commiting these actions (though the  men involved should be held responsible), but also about the women’s inability to complain because of their working conditions.  The men are their superiors, and if they complain, they will be fired.  The other issues around which the Tube Cleaners are striking are gendered, racialised, class issues – the disproportionate representation of women of colour in “heavy care” jobs; the racialised and gendered stereotypes that make this seem normal and justify underpaying them; the way in which the uncertain immigration status of the workers is being used to blackmail them into compliance; and the whole issue of how no one is responsible because of the way TfL has outsourced cleaning to a company, which has itself further outsourced the cleaning.  So when we wrote to TfL, the letter we got back essentially said “hey, we don’t pay them directly, so it’s not our problem.”

These are systemic issues – while these women are experiencing violence (especially if, like me, you very much believe in the Jesuit idea that purposefully keeping people poor is a form of violence), their experience can’t just be reduced to the actions of an individual man against an individual woman.  Plus, there are women on the TfL board, and I bet there are women in the upper echelons of the various outsourcing companies.  And of course, women take the Tube everyday, and benefit from it being clean.  So more privileged women are participating and benefiting from the oppression of the Tube Cleaners.

All of which is to say, I guess, that Zenobia, if you are planning a socialist feminist magasine of some kind?  Sign me up.

Multiple Fronts

November 21, 2008

Zenobia has the fantastic post up, asking who is feminism reaching, and pointing out that the way a lot of contemporary feminism works (ie meeting weeknights in city centre bars) means that a lot of women are inadvertently excluded because they can’t come to meetings and the issues discussed don’t seem immediately relevant to their lives.  Zenobia recommends that feminists get involved in more community-based groups instead, and I couldn’t possibly agree more.  First of all, you’ll probably have a much more positive impact on people’s lives in the short-term, especially with the current severe democratic deficit.  Building a community garden, for example, might improve people’s lives directly and immediately in a way that marching at this year’s RTN may not (especially as I’m not convinced RTN accomplishes what it sets out to do, but that’s a whole other issue). 

Furthermore, the revolution is not going to be engineered by a small group of elite activists while everyone else just goes along with it.  It’s going to come about when some sort of critical mass of people who refuse to do what authority tells them to is reached.  Or basically – what if the soldiers sent to Iraq refused to fight?  The army couldn’t court martial ALL of them, so they’d have to give up on the war.  Similarly, wouldn’t it be better if men were educated to believe that they were not entitled to women’s bodies, and so no rapes occurred, rather than locking up rapists after the fact (and let’s not even start on the oppressive nature of the prison system).   Additionally, community-based work will hopefully expose privileged activists to less privileged people (thereby, for example, convincing middle-class white women that racism is a feminist issue!) and recruit a wider variety of people to activism.  On the latter point, I remember an interview an American anarchist was giving about building the anarchist movement.  And he said that all anarchists should get involved in a community project – and don’t mention anarchism once.  Work really hard, and develop a reputation as a really dedicated activist who really knows his/her stuff – and don’t mention anarchism.  And finally, if someone asks you about your politics, then talk about anarchism a bit.  If they’re still interested, invite them to a meeting, but don’t push it.  Basically, if people respect you, and you’re an anarchist, they’ll be interested in anarchism; but if you’re a jackass, they’ll just write you and anarchism off. 

However, a lot of the “activism” done by “activist groups”, ie protesting, circulating petitions, etc.  is also really necessary.  Everyone is going to be negatively affected, for example, if rape crisis centres lose their funding; but the free time and money necessary to pitch up in front of parliament protesting once a week is not a universal attribute.   Some kinds of activism, particularly the time-consuming kinds and the kind that risks arrest, often require the people who do them to have a certain amount of privilege (this is not always true, and people braver than I often risk arrest despite being far less privileged).  White people with British citizenship are risking less by getting arrested then migrants, or British people of colour.  Yet, as Zenobia discusses, these campaigns are significantly weakened by their membership consisting mainly of privileged people.  Plus, the important community-based work, discussed above, is not getting done.

The solution, I think, is to conceptualise progressive/radical movements as having multiple fronts, with need for excellent communication and collaboration between fronts.  For example, No Borders is an anti-capitalist activist group the members of which are mainly middle class and mainly white (there are both people of colour and working-class people in No Border, but they’re in the minority).  A lot of this comes from how people get involved with No Borders (often through university) and the fact that No Borders is a direct action group, which means being willing, in theory at least, to risk arrest.  No Borders is very clear that they don’t think less of people who can’t take this risk, and I’ve never felt looked down upon because I can’t be arrested (whereas I’ve totally felt that in a feminist space before).  Similarly, the preponderance of students means a lot of protests are held during office hours; this is good insofar as it means you can protest in front of government buildings while employees are actually there, but it also means that a lot of people (myself included) can’t go to the protests.   There are serious problems with such a homogenous membership; on the other hand, it’s important to have people that can protest during office hours and can risk arrest.

Activists in individual anti-deportation campaigns are often working-class and much more likely to be people of colour.  That’s because an individual anti-deportation campaign involves a person’s friends and neighbours rallying around him/her, and asylum-seekers are usually placed in council estates.  Some inspiring stories of solidarity have come out of anti-deportation campaigns.  The government, for example, won’t send asylum-seekers to certain areas of Glasgow anymore because whenever they tried to deport someone, their neighbours would run and stand in front of the person’s door, so immigration officials couldn’t get through.  And these were always really grim, impoverished areas, where the government has blamed asylum-seekers for their own failure to do anything to alleviate that poverty.  Yet, the residents were able to see through this propaganda, and came to the defence of their neighbours.

Individual anti-deportation campaigns are crucially important – they save people’s lives.  They also expose British citizens to the racism and injustice of the asylum system, and cause people to question the basic justice of borders.  But they won’t necessarily lead to an open borders policy, nor do they help people who aren’t asylum-seekers (migrant workers, for example), nor anyone who cannot rally community support. 

Both types of activism, clearly, are important and necessary.   Ideally, there should be close communication and collaboration between No Borders and the National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns (and there often is).  Those of us who have the time should get involved in both and act as a personal link between groups. 

Multiple fronts are also necessary because of the inadvertent negative impact that activism can have, particularly on less privileged people.  If detention centres are shut down, their staff will all be thrown out of work.  Not only are working-class people more likely to find themselves in situations where they are hurt most by otherwise positive changes caused by activism (if an airline stops deporting people, they will lose money and may have to lay off staff), but they are less likely to have the resources required to recover quickly from this impact.  If detention centres are shut down, the governor of the detention centre will also lose his/her job, but he’ll probably find another one pretty quickly and/or has savings and bonds and whatnot that s/he can live off of until then.

Consequently, it’s important that activists campaigning for the close of detention centres are ALSO supportive of retraining schemes and job creation programs, etc.  I think this will also make us better activists, because when you scratch the surface a bit, you often see that apparently unrelated issues are in fact linked.  The government’s failure to act on poverty issues, and it’s subsequent scape-goating of migrants, contributes a lot to the xenophobic atmosphere that No Borders is trying to combat.

The first step in building a movement that functions on multiple fronts is to follow Zenobia’s advice and join a local community centre.  You’ll probably learn a lot more from the people there than they will learn from you.  And remember:  don’t mention anarchism (or feminism) until someone specifically asks.