Westside Action

a motley crew of anarchists and activists from Bristol, Bath and South Wales

MIGRATION IS NOT A CRIME

Migration is not a crime. It is the conditions which produce forced migration that are criminal.

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Persecuting migrants is nothing new of course, but within the privileged economic zone of the global north, it seems especially in the EU and the US that both legislation and conversation has taken a nasty turn about immigrants of all kinds – whether labelled “economic” or “political”.

Economic crises have been in the past  an opportunity for the extreme right and the authoritarian elements within our supposedly democratic governments.

Restrictions on the type of economic migrant have already been introduced into the UK: with only those who have the “right skills”  granted entry. This in itself is unjust: basically, the native country of the lucky migrant has all its skilled workers taken away, while its least well off no longer have the opportunity of temporarily boosting their meagre incomes.

Of course, what this really means on the ground is that these unskilled workers will still make it to our shores, but once here they will be less likely to be in a position to get a fair deal on wages and other working conditions.

The well-known slogan “Workers of the world unite” means what it says. It does not mean “Only workers with the correct immigration status unite”

This would be obvious to any self-respecting trades unionist you would have thought, but it is only recently that British Trades Unions have started to address this issue, and consider whether immigration controls are just. Of course, that’s not to say that many within the Trade Union movement haven’t been fighting these battles for decades: they have. But the movement as a whole has had a somewhat narrow vision of what its role might be.

Dawn Raids

For example members of UK Trade Unions carry out jobs such as Prison and Immigration Officers, as well as civilian posts within the Police which are contrary to the interests of the working class. Specifically members of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS) carry out immigration raids on both refugee families and “illegal” migrants at the workplace. These people clearly should be excluded from the trade union movement.

In reaction to the news that there were protests (blockades) stopping immigration officers carrying out their brutal dawn raids in Scotland, Mark Sewrotka , General Secretary of the PCS had this to say:

“Members’ health and safety is our prime concern in this matter. PCS is committed to ensuring that its members in the Immigration Service, and elsewhere, have a right to a safe and secure working environment, and to be treated with dignity.”

As was commented at the time: “According to the logic of the PCS Executive, Serwotka and Godrich, the main issue in the deportation of Jews from say France during World War II would have been the health and safety of those carrying out the deportations.”

_42708591_protest203Fortunately, not everyone thinks along these lines and there has been resistance to the practice of dawn raids up and down the country. This seemed to have stopped them in Scotland, where the public and political reaction to the practice  was wide scale revulsion. Outrageously, they continue in towns across England, including your own . For reports on resistance see: http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/687906

Meanwhile, employers using the leverage granted to them by the tightening of harsher laws governing the UK migrant work force have sought to lower working conditions and wages at workplaces where migrant workers predominate.

Amey

One example of this is the case of the Amey Plc Cleaners employed at the National Physical Laboratory in London.   Amey, which is owned by Spanish multinational Ferrovia, took over the cleaning contract in May 2007 and found itself faced with a largely Latin American migrant workforce that had recently unionised and was taking steps to gain recognition – something afforded to all other NPL staff. The first came last year, when the company invited workers to a ‘training session’, only to bolt the doors behind them and leave them in the care of the Home Office, which promptly deported three of them, one to Colombia and two to Brazil, for not having official documents.

Since then the number of cleaners has been reduced from thirty-six to fifteen as Amey looks to cut costs as much as possible. The dismissal of the five was a direct result of the remaining workers’ attempts to protest against this trend after they wrote a leaflet to tell other staff at the NPL what was going on in the cleaning department. They were quickly sacked for bringing the company into disrepute.

Amey, which posted a net annual profit of a tidy £75 million, is well versed in these tactics. It is a majority shareholder in Tubelines, which cleans parts of the Underground. Tube cleaners who went on strike for a living wage this summer were faced with a corporate response consisting of paper checks, immigration raids and deportations to Sierra Leone and the Congo. Further background is available from the Campaign Against Immigration Control’s Website: http://caic.org.uk/ or Bristol  No Borders (link on front page).

There have been a number of public demonstrations around the Amey dispute, the most recent of which was when Mel Ewell, Chief Executive of Amey plc arrived at Kingston University on 2 December to be awarded a place on the University’ Wall of Fame’. A protest picket of 80 students and staff turned out in support of the cleaners. Days before, Kingston’s UCU lecturers branch wrote to Ewell urging him to reinstate the cleaners.

On the previous Friday more than twenty protestors entered the offices of Amey Plc in High Holborn on Friday in protest at the sacking of five Colombian cleaners and the rejection of their appeal. The protesters entered the office building to give a petition letter to an Amey representative but were blocked by security in the lobby and were told Amey did not want to see them. After the occupation Julio, one of the sacked cleaners, stayed behind to give the letter but Amey still refused to see him.

There have also been two pickets in Bristol, and a noise demo is happening this Monday (8th December) outside Oxford’s Amey HQ. There is transport from Bristol: e-mail bristolnoborders@riseup.net.

Nothing to do with me, guv ?

If you think its  “foreigners”  alone who will suffer travel restrictions under the general clampdown, try again.

There is legislation being discussed at EU level which will restrict freedom of movement of citizens who have been
convicted of serious crime or for “repeated offences” (which may be”low level”).

These say that: “Only those exercising their rights in the spirit of the Treaty should benefit from freedom of movement.” While
referring to third country nationals the proposals would apply to EU citizens as well and allow Member States to deny entry to those who: “break the law in a sufficiently serious manner by committing serious and repeated offences”

The scope of “repeated offences” is undefined and could apply, for example, to protestors who take part in cross-border demonstrations. Though beyond the specific interest of the political activist, given the increasing proportion of the population who are criminalised it is of unfortunate significance to many other people.

Who’s gonna be next?

For further info:  http://www.statewatch.org/news/2008/nov/eu-restrictions-free-movement-conclusions-nov-08.pdf

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