7 thoughts on “When the oppressed are oppressive too

  1. C.J.Welsh

    “Labour…won’t pander to the anti-immigration rhetoric and racism of the right”.

    Except when they’re introducing horrifically racist legislation, of course.

    While in opposition pre-1997, the Labour party argued against the restrictive measures and the separation of asylum seekers from the main population.

    “We believe that once an asylum seeker is allowed to enter the country, he or she should be treated like any other resident- -no better, no worse. Housing authorities should treat every applicant according to need.” ~Hattersley (Hansard, 13 November 1991, Column 1104)

    As soon as they came to power, the scapegoating and racism began. These are some of the horrific attacks legislated against asylum seekers for having the temerity to attempt to flee persecution and the terrorism laws, in application, are equally as racist.

    1) Income reduced to 70% of income support (provided through vouchers redeemable only at certain shops), and an additional £10 cash allowance. Income support is calculated to ensure that people are not living below the poverty line 70% of this level is, by very definition, deliberate impoverishment

    2) Right to work for pay and also voluntarily, revoked.

    3) Introduction of Detained Fast Track (DFT) in which some asylum seekers are detained for the duration of their application and appeal.

    4) The Home Office begins detaining around 1,000 children seeking asylum with their families every year.

    5) Vouchers only for Asylum seekers on section 4 (destitution) support.

    6) Of the 9 immigration removal centres in Britain, 7 were opened by the last Labour government.

    7) Conditions in immigration removal and detention centres repeatedly condemned by inspectors. Detainees struggle to access medical care and often commit suicide. REMEMBER these people are *not* criminals, they have fled persecution. Many will be returned to imprisonment, torture, execution or murder.

    8) In 2006, asylum seekers in the UK without independent means of support are eligible for much less state support compared to in the early 1990s3.
    9) Local authorities prevented from providing support, including under the National Assistance Act and the Children’s Act, to a variety of groups including failed asylum seekers

    10) Section 55 denied access to NASS to applicants who did not apply “as soon as reasonably practical”, effectively denying support to in-country applicants. In practice it meant people who delayed applying for 24 hours or more after arriving in the country were left destitute, without permission to work or access to any state accommodation and support.

    11) Those who have failed in their cases but cannot be removed for reasons beyond their control have section 4 support withdrawn if certain conditions are not met, including a requirement to perform community activities. Bear in mind they have no NI numbers.

    12) Those granted refugee status lose their previously held entitlement to back payments of benefits they were entitled to whilst seeking asylum. They therefore have no means for a deposit for housing.

    13) Section 9: families who have reached the end of the asylum process and don’t take ‘reasonable independent steps’ to leave the country are liable to have their children taken into care since they are destitute.

    14) Countries which are fundamentally unsafe are declared safe and people are returned to them. Reliable figures are impossible to source, but someone I know was returned to Iraq and killed within a fortnight. He was in his late teens.

    15) Figures are notoriously difficult to source, but many asylum seekers commit suicide over fears of returns. I worked with asylum seekers during the last Labour term and lost people who came to be my friends this way. I’ll give one example: an entire family jump out of the window of a Glasgow tower-block over fear of deportation.

    Not racist, my arse.

    1. Mike Sivier

      This is a disturbing comment.
      I am not in a position to confirm or deny any of the claims you make here. It is sad that you have not provided links to relevant reference material, which would have strengthened what you are saying, but I’m not willing to write off your claims offhand, as I would with some of the other comments that are frequently made here.
      However, I am not convinced that any of the actions you mention are racist, as you assert. A racist is someone who believes a particular race is superior to another, and the actions you list don’t do that. The worst that can be said about them is that they are reckless as to what they mean for those they affect.
      I would be interested to hear what readers with more knowledge about this situation have to say on this subject.

      1. C.J.Welsh

        I agree, my comment is inherently disturbing: it is truly a disgrace that such atrocious circumstances have been allowed to arise in a supposedly democratic, wealthy and developed nation.

        When I use the term ‘racism’, I use it in its sociological context, that is as a systemic manifestation of oppression based on othering those of non-national (in this case non-British) identities which has the operations of state and law to authorise and enforce it. ‘Racial prejudice’ is usually an individualised response and is beyond the sociological definition of racism.

        Firstly, I was somewhat limited for time when I commented, with it being the weekend. I therefore used a list which had been prepared for an overview presentation about the systemic oppression faced by asylum seekers. I have provided below full references for all claims made, other than two anecdotal experiences. As an experienced asylum support worker, it would be gross misconduct for me to name the parties involved. However, a quick check on google with search terms along the lines of ‘failed asylum seekers returned to unsafe countries and killed’ and also ‘failed asylum seekers suicides’ will back my points up sufficiently for anybody to realise that they are not fallacious.

        Secondly, I assert that the asylum policies enacted under the last labour term contributed to scapegoating in the community:

        The results of this study were published in the Times Educational Supplement in 2011.

        “Researchers gathered evidence from 900 teachers during a training session and visits to 480 schools over 18 months. They also used information from 148 questionnaires completed by teachers and 10 interviews.
        A total of 83 per cent of teachers questioned by the charity said they had witnessed offensive behaviour among children, including name-calling, racist comments, jokes, stereotyping and *”a tendency to use asylum seekers as scapegoats for a wide range of problems in society” “*


        Here are, as requested, point by point references for the claims made in my previous comment. Incidentally, Will Somerville’s book ‘Immigration under New Labour’ is an excellent resource for way researcher wishing to study this issue further. It can be found here:


        Point one:

        “Welfare benefits were set at 70% of benefit levels and were initially introduced not in cash but in vouchers”
        From ‘ Immigration Under New Labour’, Will Somerville p67

        Online references:



        Point two:

        Source: Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002.

        “In July 2002, asylum seekers’ right to work was revoked, Labour has also introduced policy measures that have excluded asylum seekers from public services, namely social housing (housing is organised through NASS) and non-emergency healthcare. For example, the unheralded changes to the Overseas Visitors Regulations, introduced in 2004, excluded failed asylum seekers from accessing secondary healthcare”

        (Somerville, ibid, p67-68)

        Online references:



        Point 3:

        DFT introduced in 2003.

        Online references:




        Point 4:



        Point 5:




        “Since 2003 there has been a 15-fold increase in the number of failed asylum seekers in receipt of so-called section 4 support, on the basis that they are temporarily unable to leave the UK for reasons beyond their control. The Home Office’s National Asylum Support Service (NASS) failed to respond adequately to this increase and, during 2005, delay and error in the processing of applications and the delivery of support became commonplace. This resulted in numerous cases of avoidable and shaming destitution.”


        Point 6:

        You will need to click on the individual centres and verify their dates of opening. The figures I have given are correct.


        Point 7:

        “In 2006 chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said inefficient and inhumane centres treated immigrants like “parcels”. Her comments did not improve a year later, noting concerns about access to key services remained. She said immigrants were spending “unacceptably long periods” locked in single rooms at Colnbrook centre near Heathrow airport.”


        “Campsfield House is a privately run Immigration detention Centre near Oxford, England. It has been the site of a number of protests from human rights campaigners and has seen a number of hunger strikes and one suicide. The former Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons condemned conditions at Campsfield House in a 2004 report.[1]”






        Point 8:

        https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=mwp49.pdf&site=252 (page 9)

        Point 9:

        Source: Section 54 of Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002.

        “Section 54 prevented local authorities from providing support, including under the National Assistance Act and the Children’s Act, to a variety of groups including failed asylum seekers who refused to co-operate with removal directions. People refused asylum were therefore not entitled to any support, in order to encourage them to leave voluntarily.”
        https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=mwp49.pdf&site=252 (p 32)



        Point 10:

        Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002.

        Somerville, ibid, p96

        Point 11:

        Source: section 10 Asylum and Immigration act 2004.

        “Under Section 10, asylum seekers at the end of the asylum process will only have access to support under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (‘hard case’ support), if they carry out ‘community activities’. ”
        http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0001/5662/ai_act_update_05 (p 6)

        Point 12:

        Source: section 12 Asylum and Immigration act, 2004.

        “Section 12: removes any entitlement to back payments of benefits to those granted refugee status. Previously refugees could claim the difference between full income support and the lower level of benefits they had received as an asylum seeker. ”

        https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=mwp49.pdf&site=252 (p 13)

        Point 13:

        Source: Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration act, 2004

        “Section 9: enabling the withdrawal of support from families whose claim for asylum has been rejected where the family has failed to take reasonable steps to leave the UK voluntarily. One potential outcome is that children are taken into care if their family does not leave the country because their parents do not have any means to support them”

        https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=mwp49.pdf&site=252 (p 13)

        Points 14 and 15 are based on my 5 years experience as an asylum support worker. Any mention of specific names would therefore be a breach of my professional obligations. As I mentioned, figures are almost impossible to source and inherently unreliable. However, I have no reason to lie. Please do not mistake my intentions, I loathe the Tories and as such have always voted Labour: any criticism I have of Labour comes firmly from the left. However, claiming that the Labour Party have not contributed to racism (both in terms of scapegoating and also by introducing legislation which is oppressive, discriminatory and othering on the basis of people having non-national identities) is unacceptable.

  2. C.J.Welsh

    Of course I have and continue to do so, it would be a huge personal failing and an abnegation of my responsibilities as a human rights activist if I did not.

    The solution begins with, I feel, recognising en masse that we have *failed* an enormous amount of already incredibly vulnerable and persecuted people and collectively continued in that persecution. Hopefully this will result in continued and sustained pressure for a humane approach to asylum: treating asylum seekers in the way we do is utterly inhumane. Asylum is a human right, not a privilege.

    I make no claims that this issue can be resolved as quickly as it ought to be. The fundamental problem is that it was ever allowed in the first place. Only public pressure and public action has any hope of beginning to rectify it and this absolutely relies on a Frank examination of the issues and how they have arisen.

    The greatest mistake that activists can make is to ignore these things and to assume that they will be rectified through the ballot box alone: they won’t. If we are to achieve social justice then we must not simply pretend that a Labour government will rectify this situation as a matter of moral purpose. They won’t, they were instrumental in creating it in the first place.

    It would be nice to believe that all the injustice in society will be resolved by the Labour party. It would also be utterly naive. It must be confronted with an honest appraisal of the Labour legacy, because simply ignoring the racism they contributed to will only allow it to perpetuate. We won’t win moral points by simply pretending that the LP are above racism, if we want to actually *tackle* racism, we need to be realistic about it’s causes. If we don’t critique Labour, we mandate them to continue without being held to account for their failures.

    Pointing out failures is certainly not an abnegation of successes. It is democratic process.

  3. C.J.Welsh

    (I continue to advocate, petition and lobby *all* the parties and organise on a grass roots level, that is.)

    There are many asylum outreach centres that desperately need volunteers. Asylum support work is harrowing and stressful and it is impossible to not invest personally. However, support work is not the only valuable contribution: there are niches where most skills are valuable and volunteering just an hour a week, whether it involves direct contact with individuals in the asylum process or telephoning/emailing the home office about specific cases, has the potential to actually *save lives*.

    I would urge anybody who feels strongly about this human rights issue to get involved. Google will turn up asylum advocacy/support networks in many major UK cities and towns, and emails can be sent from anywhere.

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