(this image was taken at a detention camp in lesbos, greece).
the news media have recently jumped back on the bnp/daily mail/daily express bandwagon discourse : IMMIGRATION. and now it has infiltrated the likes of question time.
granted, this is an important topic for many people in britain, and it would be wrong to suggest that this was not a well founded fear . well… if we were to believe everything were told by the right wing media.
immigration is one of those issues that gets under my skin. the lack of truth or fact in the media surrounding this phenomenon really is shameful. i see it as creating more problems than asylum seekers are portrayed to be causing.
the word “immigrant” has become an encompassing, catch-all phrase, crucially including; refugees, asylum seekers, and economic migrants. the way in which the mainstream media use this word is wrong. generally, it should be used to describe economic migrants.
the phrase “illegal immigrant” is used to describe irregular migrants:- failed asylum seekers or economic migrants (e.g. those whose visas have expired) who are not legally in a country. it is a very arbitrary and negative phrase, with connotations of people trying to *bombard britain and steal taxpayers money*.
in reality, some of these people, whether legal or not legal, are fleeing persecution. thousands of afghanistani and iraqi citizens fled their country through fear of death from the recent wars – for which britain and europe played a large part. some citizens tried to gain entry into europe. many of them found themselves in detention centres (as in the image at the top). there are no statistics about the numbers of the amount of people who drown in transit across the mediterranean and aegean seas.
it is solely unfair for the media, and some irresponsible politicians, to group people asylum seekers and refugees, who are fearful of death or persecution, with economic migrants – who enter developed countries to work and make money.
below is a video from UNHCR, somewhere closer to home. france had the second largest number of asylum claims (26,270) in 2006 (eurostat). the video shows men in calais, who had their shelter closed down – meaning they have to sleep on the streets or in make shift camps. they had their tents taken away by police. a church donated them two shower blocks, which were vandalised and broken. the men were not told about the UNHCR or the asylum process. this video was uploaded about two weeks ago.
every country signed up to the 1951 geneva convention on refugees owes a duty of care to potential asylum seekers and refugees. both france and greece are signed to the convention, and the 1967 convention. it is not just france and greece that violate the basic rights of asylum seekers.
through recent european legislation in regard to potential asylum seekers, such as the border control police, FRONTEX, and finger printing/biometrics, the eu has managed to create “fortress europe” – making it more difficult for people to enter the european countries, and harder to claim asylum once they are in.
in the uk, men, women and children are contained in detention centres across europe. according to the socialist worker, women in yarl’s wood detention centre are on hunger strike. in 2006, harmondsworth detention centre near heathrow went up in flames, with detainees kept locked in cells for up to 13 hours.
according to a report by liberty (pdf):
Richard* was locked into a cell with eight other detainees for 9 hours:
“There were electrical wires hanging down from the ceiling to about chest level. This was terrifying because we did not know which ones were live with electricity and which ones were not…We were screaming and shouting to get out.
We needed to use the toilet but could not leave the cell. There were officers drinking coffee downstairs but we could not get their attention. They treated us like animals and did not care about us. We were forced to urinate in the corner of the room onto the floor and to defecate inside the closet.”
with the news media and parliaments across europe looking to blame social and economics woes on vulnerable and abused people, we must step back and take a look at the outlook of this. the british national party won two parliamentary seats in the european parliament in 2009. their scaremongering, along with the help of namely the daily mail and daily express is turning britain into an intolerant and scared nation state. new labour are calling for reforms of asylum and immigration law. the conservatives, bnp and ukip are calling new labours immigration and asylum laws “failures”. we have not failed. migration is at its lowest in 15 years according to UNHCR. what we need is a new vision of border control and accepting and helping vulnerable people.
locking human beings in unsanitary, cramped prisons is not solving problems. britain used to be known for its charity and good will. holding migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to account for economic and social problems is making some people intolerant and borderline racist.