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.

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED

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, UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk

2.    Jacqui Smith MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office Fax 020 8760 3132 Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

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: war@womenagainstrape.net  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



 

I Want My £1500 Back!!!

December 9, 2008

The Queen’s Speech last week contained the government’s proposals regarding yet another new immigration bill.  Apparently, immigrants must now “earn” citizenship, and if we volunteer and don’t have a criminal record, we can get citizenship in as little as 6 years.  If you don’t volunteer, it may take as long as 10 years.  At the moment, people on work permits have to be here for 5 years to qualify for citizenship.  People on spousal visas have to be here for two years to qualify for unlimited leave to remain and after an additional three years can apply for citizenship.
And after you are a citizen, you STILL can’t access benefits for another 1 – 5 years.

Also, there was a suggestion that people who are here on family visas, whose relationships have broken down will be asked to leave.  Right now, if your marriage breaks up during the two-year limited leave period, you have to leave, but not if it breaks up after you have unlimited leave (hence the use of the term “unlimited”).  I wonder if this means that you  now will be deported if you divorce during this period.  This would mean that you would have to be married for up to 10 years before you’re “safe”.  Now, I intend to be married forever (touch wood) but a lot of marriages break up within 10 years, and often these marriages have produced children.   How is that custody arrangement going to work, if Mom lives in the UK and Dad lives in Australia?   What happened to the “family-friendly” Labour government? 

Plus, how is this going to impact the No Recourse campaign – it sounds like there might now be No Recourse for up to a decade!! (But Jacqui Smith is a feminist!!  Really she is!)

Interestingly, this is NOT what last year’s green paper said.  The idea of “earning” citizenship was in there, but the government was actually going to force people to apply for citizenship after three years.  Obviously there were serious issues with this plan as well – what would people from countries that forbid dual nationality do?  Plus, it was pretty obvious from the paper that the government was hoping that holding citizenship would make people feel “British” (whatever that means) rather than having to make an actual effort to improve social cohesion, say by not appointing an immigration minister who manages to say something racist every time he opens his mouth.  I can only imagine the recession meant that scapegoats were needed, fast, and the spectre of immigrants stealing “our benefits” was impossible to resist.

Finally, the government is going to raise a “levy” on migrants to pay for our impact on local services.

  • It cost me £135 to apply for permission to get married – yes, you need government permission to marry a non-national in the UK.
  • It cost me £500 to apply for limited leave to remain at the Liverpool office.  I could have applied via post for the “low” price of £350, but that takes 4 – 14 weeks, and the government holds your passport during that time, and if they lose your application it’s your fault.
  • It will cost me between £500 – £750 pounds to apply for unlimited leave to remain when I am eligible in 2009.
  • Additionally, if there is a charge for the “life in Britain” test, I will have to pay that.
  • I will have to pay the cost of a “national identity” card.
  • When I apply for citizenship, I will have to pay the fee for that, which is currently £750, and will undoubtedly be more by the time I can actually apply.
  • In addition to all this, I pay taxes on my income, and I pay council tax. 
  • I am not eligible for benefits, so while everyone is worried about the credit crunch, I do wake up nights terrified of losing my job.  We can’t live on my partner’s income alone, and the government is quite literally happy to see me starve.

There is no way that the hour I spent in the Liverpool office cost the government £500.  So, I have to ask:

WHAT THE HELL DID THEY DO WITH MY MONEY?!??!?

Even if I never apply for citizenship, it will have cost me upwards of £1500 to marry my partner and for us to live in the same country.  And the government is already getting all of my tax money as well.  Study after study has shown that the average immigrant actually contributes more money to the government than the government spends on her.  So the government is already profiting from immigration.

I want my money back!

 

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.

From today’s Guardian:  Police should be harassing badly behaved youths by openly filming them and hounding them at home to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible, the home secretary will say today.

Smith will apparently say:  ” I want police and local agencies to focus on them by giving them a taste of their own medicine.”

Now, on one level, this solution is certainly satisfying.  A friend of mine is currently dealing with a gang of local teenagers shouting homophobic epithets at him and throwing things at his dogs – all of whom were rescued from abusive homes and are easily upset by such behaviour as a result.

But, then after about 5 seconds, I do what any sensible adult does:  realise that two wrongs do not make a right.  And that emotionally disturbed teenagers should not be the role model for people running the country.

All this approach proves is that bullying is a good idea – providing you are the biggest kid (or government minister) on the block.  While teenagers may be temporarily bullied into better behaviour, will they really decide to turn their lives around and become well-adjusted, friendly, adults?  Or will they just wait until they are a bit older, and then take out their emotional issues on people who can’t fight back.

There’s also some very unpleasant class and race implications to all this.  Do you think rich young men trashing hotel rooms out of boredom are going to be affected by this?  Me neither.  I bet all of the “thugs” the police decide to “harass” are on council estates.

In addition, the decision to allow cops to harass thugs comes at a time when there’s been a marked upswing in policing of Muslim communities – Gareth Peirce in the London Review of Books discusses the civil liberty violations one can now be subject to for being Muslim. Plus, lawmakers are now discussing the need to resume intense policing of Black communities – for their own good, of course.    Smith relaxed the laws on stop and search this year, and David Cameron has promised “to increase police powers by empowering sergeants to authorise stop and search of any pedestrian and vehicle in a specified area for up to six hours, if they reasonably believe a serious crime has occurred or is about to occur.”

There’s a serious problem with some – some – young people in the UK today.  When teenagers are getting drunk every day and beating people to death – to me, that suggests despair and nihilism.  No one is born bad, and if drugs and violence become a way of life for people as young as 13, I think it’s fair to say there are underlying psychological, emotional and social issues.

Rather than having police harassing thugs – and thereby proving that bullying is a completely valid tactic for dealing with something unpleasant – maybe we should be offering these kids an intensive course of therapy.  It will be a lot more successful and less expensive in the long run.