Zimbabwe is Not Safe, No Deportations, No Home Office/Embassy Intimidation

Protest Monday 10th Dec 11am outside Vulcan House Home Office 6 Millsands, Sheffield S3 8NU

At Vulcan House, Sheffield the Home Office invited representatives of the Zimbabwean government to ask questions of Zimbabwean refugees in the UK. This was naturally a very distressing experience for people here because they are escaping Zimbabwean government violence.

People who were at Vulcan House today said they wanted to demonstrate our opposition to these threats.

This has happened at other Home Office buildings in the UK and appears to be part of a “redocumentation” process to make deportation to Zimbabwe possible. The UK government has had an uncritical relationship with the new Zimbabwean government of Emmerson Mnangagwa and discussed the possible deportation of 2500 Zimbabwean refugees from the UK. The fact that a Zimbabwean Embassy official was invited – without a Home Office rep being present – to question Zimbabwean refugees suggests a close relationship between UK and Zimbabwean authorities. This relationship was described as “corrupt” by one Zimbabwean woman who was questioned by the Embassy official (who refused to give his name) today.

As one Zimbabwean refugee who was questioned today said “Why is the Home Office giving this person my file? How do I know my family is safe now in Zimbabwe?”

Join us on UN Human Rights Day to say

Zimbabwe is still not safe. No deportations to Zimbabwe. Stop Home Office and Zimbabwean Embassy intimidation of asylum seekers.

Protest Monday 10th Dec 11am outside Vulcan House Home Office 6 Millsands, Sheffield S3 8NU

Protest against Sheffield Council putting migrant children in Dangerous B&B

Despite assurances Sheffield City Council are still putting migrant children in the dangerous and unsuitable Earl Marshall Bed and Breakfast which John Grayson and Violet Dickenson reported on 6 months ago. This is not acceptable behaviour from any local authority. That Sheffield City Council, which prides itself on the being the first City Of Sanctuary, should behave like this is disgraceful. That’s why SYMAAG has called for a protest on Wednesday 5th December 1pm outside the Town Hall, before the full meeting of Sheffield City Council, where we will be asking questions.

Background to recent events: In April and again in September Sheffield councillors Jackie Drayton and Jim Steinke and Chief Council Officers said no more children would be put in the Earl Marshall B&B. SYMAAG has spoken to seven families since dumped in this dangerous and unsuitable accommodation. All are people of colour – new refugee families just after celebrating their leave to remain, sent to a “home” with no safeguarding protection for babies, toddlers and young children. Parents can share one room with four, even five children. In April there were two families who had been there for two years. This has to stop.

Join our protest on 5th December outside Sheffield Town Hall at 1pm and come to the full Council meeting, starting  at 1.45pm with us to ask why a City of Sanctuary is treating refugee families like this

“Welcome to Sheffield” book discussion November 26

SYMAAG founding member and local author David Price will talk about his latest book, “Welcome to Sheffield – A Migration History” November 26th 7-9pm at The Sanctuary 37-39 Chapel Walk Sheffield S1 2PD

Some of the refugees mentioned in the book will talk about their own experiences of welcome, and there’ll be an opportunity to discuss some of the issues raised.

The event is free but please reserve a place here

Copies of the book will be on sale at £12 at the meeting. Event organised by Sheffield City of Sanctuary

Discuss “The UK Border Regime: a critical guide” Sheffield November 6

A vital and comprehensive resource for anyone trying understand the border regime, and ask how we can fight it effectively has been produced by Corporate Watch. The book The UK Border Regime: a critical guide is now out.

Discuss The UK Border Regime: a critical guide with Corporate Watch on Tuesday 6th November 6.30-8.30 at The Sanctuary, 37-39 Chapel Walk Sheffield

This is how Corporate Watch describe their work:

This book brings together Corporate Watch’s recent research on the “hostile environment” against migrants in the UK, and the companies that profit from it. It also includes a lot of new research and analysis, and looks at the history of recent migration struggles in the UK, asking what has been effective.

You can download it for free here. And you can order paper copies here in our online shop. (It will be in bookshops soon too).

We will be glad to send copies for free to asylum seekers and other people without papers. For other people and groups fighting the border regime, we can send at cost price or whatever you can afford to donate. Email us on contact[AT]corporatewatch.org.

The UK Border Regime

Throughout history, human beings have migrated. To escape war, oppression and poverty, to make a better life, to follow their own dreams. But since the start of the 20th century, modern governments have found ever more vicious ways to stop people moving freely.

The UK border regime includes the razor wire fences at Calais, the limbo of the asylum system, and the open violence of raids and deportations. Alongside the Home Office, it includes the companies running databases and detention centres, the media pushing hate speech, and the politicians posturing to win votes. It keeps on escalating, through Tony Blair’s war on refugees to Theresa May’s “hostile environment”, spreading fear and division.

This book describes and analyses the UK’s system of immigration controls. It looks at how it has developed through recent history, the different actors involved, and how people resist. The aim is to help understand the border regime, and ask how we can fight it effectively.

You can read the introduction and summary of the book here.

And see the full table of contents below.

 

 

Table of Contents

Introduction, Acknowledgements, Summary

Part One: Background
1. A brief history of the UK border regime
2. The Home Office: an overview
3. Sorting people
4. What is the border regime?

Part Two: Control
5. In limbo: reporting, dispersal, destitution
6. Immigration raids
7. Detention
8. Deportation
9. Calais (the ultimate “hostile environment”)
10. The “hostile environment”: making a nation of border cops
11. Hostile data
12. The logic of hostility: how collaboration works
13. Does immigration control work? The deterrent dogma

Part Three: Consent
14. Public opinion: target publics
15. Media: communication power
16. Politicians
17. Corporate power
18. Agitators
19. Anxiety engine

Part Four: How can we fight it?
20. Fighting the border regime

Annexes

Annex 1. Border profiteers: list of major Home Office immigration contracts
Annex 2. Border profiteers: company mini-profiles (G4S, Serco, Mitie, GEO, Carlson Wagonlit, Titan Airways)
Further reading

Lift The Ban on Asylum Seekers Right to Work

Right now, right here in the UK, people seeking refugee status are banned from working whilst they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim.

Instead, they are left to live on just £5.39 per day, struggling to support themselves and their families, whilst the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people.

We think that’s wrong. We believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our communities. This means giving people seeking asylum the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity.

The Lift the Ban coalition is working to change this. Together, we believe we can #LiftTheBan and ensure that people seeking safety in the UK have the right to work.

It’s ironic that people detained in immigration removal centres can work for as little as £1 per day for the global corporations like G4S, Serco GEO and Mitie who run them but are banned from work when they are released.

SYMAAG is proud to be part of the Lift the Ban Coalition which is calling for the right to work for people seeking asylum, and their adult dependants, after six months of having lodged an asylum claim or further submission, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List.

The alternative is destitution for people seeking asylum or the dangers of working illegally – no rights or protection at work, unpaid wages and a weakening of all workers’ rights

What can you do to support our campaign? See the Lift the Ban Activism Pack for resources and ideas

Asylum Journey Sheffield

Asylum Journey Sheffield website has information about services and resources for asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield. Created by Sheffugees it is a comprehensive and easily searchable resource for people at each stage of the asylum process

It contains detailed information and signposting on the asylum process, legal support, accommodation, health, finance, education and much more.

The site needs constant updates to keep it useful. If you have any comments or feedback, or if you spot any gaps or errors, please contact admin@sheffield.cityofsanctuary.org.

Website https://asylumjourney.org.uk/

 

Zimbabwe still not safe – Sheffield Protest Against Deportations July 25

End Forced Deportations to Zimbabwe

Demonstrate outside Sheffield Town Hall

Wednesday 25th July 12noon to 1pm

Stop another Windrush Scandal

According to New Zimbabwe.com, British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, in February 2018 told Zimbabwean Deputy President Kembo Mohadi that her government intended to deport 2,500 “illegal Zimbabweans” in that country. The announcement came as Theresa May said that her government was “determined to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the country by thousands”. Very few people have been deported to Zimbabwe over the past ten years.

There are now reports of Zimbabwe Embassy staff going to detention centres to interview any Zimbabwe nationals there to give them travel documents so that they can be forcibly deported. Some people have already been deported to a Zimbabwe where the same regime is in power even though Mugabe has gone. Their lives are in danger.

As Marian Machekanyanga, an exiled trade unionist from Zimbabwe and SYMAAG Executive Committee member, explained to us  “nothing has changed for Zimbabwean people here or at home. Mnangagwa is still ZANU-PF…there are no changes and no democracy”.

Zimbabwe refugees here for years are facing deportation rather than extension to their right to safety here in the UK

Tell Sajid Javid the Home Secretary to stop deporting Zimbabwe refugees. This is Theresa May’s Hostile Environment yet again bringing misery and danger to families seeking protection from persecution and torture in the UK

Tell Sheffield Council: Treat Homeless Asylum Children with Respect! Wed 4 July

A recent investigation by John Grayson and Violet Dickenson of SYMAAG revealed that Sheffield City Council are treating homeless asylum seeking children unlawfully and disrespectfully. These children and families have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and are being placed by the Council for long periods in unsuitable and potentially dangerous Bed and Breakfast accommodation.

Carol from the Earl Marshall hostel explained to us how waiting for toilets and showers were the worst times for the families. She said some of the men “asked us for money and called us racist names. Every time we had to wait, then we had to clean the toilet, so we could use it.”

For 2 years we have tried to get Sheffield City Council – which declared Sheffield the first City of Sanctuary – to stop this practice of housing women and young children routinely and for long periods in shared hostels with vulnerable homeless men

On 7 February 2018, SYMAAG members went along to a Sheffield City Council meeting. We presented a petition, asked questions and stated our demands

1)  To immediately stop placing homeless families in B&B’s

2) To immediately stop placing homeless lone mothers and children (in particular survivors of trafficking and/or domestic violence) in potentially unsafe temporary emergency accommodation with single men.

3)To immediately institute a programme to renovate or replace the council’s existing temporary accommodation for homeless people which council reports have declared ‘not fit for purpose’

Councillor Drayton in the Council meeting and afterwards did not give any undertakings on any of these points and talked of ‘monitoring’ and refused to stop using the Earl Marshall for families.

Now Sheffield City Council has finished the long break for elections, SYMAAG will be back at the Council meeting at Sheffield Town Hall  Wednesday 4 July at 2pm to ask further questions to force the Council to treat homeless asylum children with NRPF just like any other homeless children in Sheffield.

We invite you to come with us. Ask the Council a question from the public gallery and lobby your councillor. We’ll be meeting at The Sanctuary, Chapel Walk at 1pm beforehand.

 

 

Rodents, bedbugs, mould: UK asylum housing is a Hostile Environment

A Manchester asylum hostel run by Britain’s biggest outsourcer Serco is riddled with cockroaches, rodents and bedbugs.

by John Grayson

Mothers with babies in a Manchester hostel run by Serco have shown us their dirty and dangerous living conditions.

Shadow immigration minister and local MP Afzal Khan has told us: “Nobody, let alone families with children, should be forced to live with cockroaches, bed bugs, damp, leaks and mice. Unfortunately we know that this is not an isolated case. Our asylum accommodation system is not fit for purpose.”

Last week I visited the ground floor and basement of the hostel that is home to three mothers and three children. One mother, Carole, showed me the damp basement where she lived with Nathan, her 11 month old son. She showed me water gathered by the dehumidifier that she had bought.

She said Nathan is asthmatic, and showed me bedbug bites on his arms.

“I have them too, Serco said they could not find them, but they did not change the mattress — just put plastic on it.” That looked to me unsafe, and a suffocation risk.

Bed bug infested mattress wrapped in polythene (John Grayson)

Carole showed me a video on her phone of two mice running around her bed in the middle of the night. I could hear her frustrated voice: “I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep.”

An asylum-seeker from West Africa, Carole told me: “I am on medication all the time, but it is the damp and Nathan and his breathing I am really worried about.”

From the bin Carole produced a glue trap with a dead mouse and cockroaches.

She said she feared fire breaking out in the kitchen above her basement room. “If there was a fire in the kitchen I could not get up these stairs with Nathan past the kitchen. I would have to climb up through the window which is below ground and all bars.”

The kitchen ceiling showed evidence of water leakage from the flats above — presenting risks of electrocution and fire. Carole said: “The ceiling leaks when upstairs use the baths and showers. We need buckets.”

Rooms provided to mothers with toddlers had no space for play. Carole poked behind a kitchen unit and showed me a poison box for mice. “Nathan can pick the boxes up and put them in his mouth. He was playing in here, the only place where he can, and hit his head on a door handle.”

Nathan’s bedbug bites (John Grayson)

Carole showed me letters from her doctor, her health visitor, her play scheme organiser, all asking Serco to move her and Nathan. “The man from Serco comes, once or twice a week. He says he reports everything but people above him do nothing.”

Upstairs Pamela, from south Asia, grimly joked about the cockroaches, “I have the really big ones up here,” she says, and it’s true.

“I came here nearly two years ago. Paul my son is nearly two and he was a few months old then. Carole’s baby has spent his whole life down there. I think it is worse for them.”

A squalid rear yard, strewn with refuse is no place to play.

Above the women’s quarters live male asylum seekers. I hadn’t seen a mixed hostel in my six years of working alongside asylum tenants. Pamela said: “The men upstairs were really bad, noisy but there are new ones now.”

Last week I sent a detailed report and photographs to Serco company spokesman Marcus De Ville. He replied: “We are confident that in the vast majority of cases we are providing appropriate housing for asylum seekers but we are not complacent and we always want to look into any issues or concerns that are raised. We are now doing this with this property and I will get back to you in the near future.”

Dead mouse with child’s toy (John Grayson)

I sent the same evidence to local MP and shadow immigration minister Afzal Khan. He replied: “The description of conditions in this house is shocking. Nobody, let alone families with children, should be forced to live with cockroaches, bed bugs, damp, leaks and mice. Unfortunately we know that this is not an isolated case. Our asylum accommodation system is not fit for purpose. It is unacceptable that in 21st century Britain, people fleeing war and persecution are routinely housed in appalling and at times unsafe conditions.”

Serco accommodates nearly 15,000 asylum seekers in more than 5,000 properties across the North West of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. According to the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into asylum housing Serco housed 8,342 asylum seekers in the North West of England in September 2016, including 994 in Manchester. This suggests that they manage between 200 and 300 asylum properties in the city. In evidence to the same inquiry Serco revealed its average income per service user in February 2016 was around £300 a month. So, for the three rooms in the Manchester hostel with a mother and child in each Serco received £1800 every month of taxpayers money, £21,600 over twelve months.

Security company G4S and Clearsprings also provide accommodation under the contracts known as COMPASS (Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support).

I’m a housing academic and volunteer working alongside asylum seekers. Over years we have exposed the landlords’ failures and mismanagement. Reporting here on Shine A Light, we’ve exposed health hazardsintimidation, and fire risk.

This work has helped to provoke and inform a National Audit Office Inquiry and Parliamentary scrutiny.

Stairs down to Carole and Nathan’s room (John Grayson)

The National Audit Office in 2014 found that G4S and Serco, were “still failing to meet some of their key performance targets, notably relating to the standards of property and the time taken to acquire properties for asylum seekers.”

Three years later, in January 2017, MPs reported that the contractors were still failing. “Some of the premises used by Providers as temporary accommodation are substandard and unfit to house anyone, let alone people who are vulnerable,” MPs said.

The Home Affairs Committee urged that inspections should be passed to local authorities and should include: “whether an individual’s health or special needs are being met; the quality and quantity of food available; the fabric of the building itself.” And whether are facilities are appropriate for “vulnerable people, including mothers and children and victims of torture and trafficking.”

They warned that people were being moved around the asylum system without their consent, which can “disrupt vital support networks” and “cause emotional distress”. And they said the complaints system wasn’t working — asylum seekers feared complaints would prompt reprisals.

Basement window: Carole and Nathan’s escape route? (John Grayson)

The contractors carried on failing. In November 2017, the Guardian reported charities’ claims that in Greater Manchester, asylum seekers wereforced to live in “squalid, unsafe, slum housing conditions” and the public was largely unaware of the conditions into which “traumatised people are routinely dumped”.

Serco’s origins are in defence and military procurement. Its joint venture with Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering holds the government contract to design, manufacture and maintain the nuclear warheads for Britain’s Trident missiles.

For more than 10 years, Serco has managed Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where guards have sexually assaulted women detainees, guards have stood by as expectant mothers undergo obstetric examinations, and where a case of child sexual abuse went uninvestigated.

Four years ago, an undercover reporter at Channel 4 recorded Serco guards at Yarl’s Wood calling women detainees “animals”, “beasties” and “bitches”. “Headbutt the bitch,” one guard says. “I’d beat her up.”

Serco is tendering for the new asylum housing contracts from 2019 worth a potential £4 billion of taxpayers’ money over seven regional contracts over ten years.

Serco CEO is establishment figure Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill. In his written evidence to the Home Affairs parliamentary select committee Inquiry into asylum housing in 2016 Soames said: “Our determination to provide a decent and caring level of provision and fulfill our contractual obligations despite massive losses deserves some recognition.”

I am not sure Carole and Pamela would agree.

 


 

 

  • Edited by Clare Sambrook for Shine A Light at openDemocracy. Names have been changed. First published at Open Democracy on 29 May 2018 here

Zimbabwe: “no changes and no democracy”

Why Zimbabwe is still not safe for refugees like Marian Machekanyanga

Marian was forced to leave Zimbabwe in November 2002 as
a result of victimisation and mistreatment. As a member of a workers
committee in a government department in Harare,she led a protest to
the Zimbabwean Parliament against the misdirection of the Government
funds to ZANU-PF. She has spent 16 years trying to secure her safety
by fighting for the right to remain in the UK.

During those 16 years Marian has also continued her fight for the
human rights of others. She is an Executive Committee member of the
South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group and active in
Zimbabwean opposition organisations in the UK, protesting against
ZANU-PF and for the rights of all asylum seekers in the UK, including
Zimbabweans.

Marian on “Don’t Let Them Drown” protest at the Home Office in Sheffield

Like many Zimbabwean political exiles in the UK she was relieved when
Robert Mugabe was forced to resign in November 2017, but wasn’t
positive about his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa. When I asked Marian
she explained “nothing has changed for Zimbabwean people here or at
home. Mnangagwa is still ZANU-PF”. Separated from her family in
Zimbabwe for an unimaginable 16 years, Marian would dearly like to
return to Zimbabwe but the party that victimised her before she came
to the UK are still in power. “The treatment of Joice Mujuru is a
sign there are no changes and no democracy” Marian said. Joice Mujuru
was Vice President of Zimbabwe who left ZANU-PF in 2015 to become an
opposition politician and has faced harassment since.

With elections due later this year there are reports that 5000 troops
have been deployed in rural Zimbabwe and voters threatened with
compulsory use of new biometric voting cards which will identify who
they cast their vote for. Despite these and other repressive measures
directed at the opposition in Zimbabwe the UK government seems
determined to continue the deportation of people seeking asylum to
Zimbabwe. The UK ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Lang, recently told
Zimbabwean Deputy President Kembo Mohad  that the UK wanted to deport
2500 Zimbabweans who were “living illegally in the UK”.

Marian discussing her asylum case with Paul Blomfield MP for Sheffield Central

The Home Office regard Marian as “living illegally”. Despite clear
evidence of the danger to Marian if she returns to any part of
Zimbabwe and the severe risk to her health if she could not get vital
medication there for her diabetic condition, the Home Office rejected
her asylum claim and initial appeal.

Marian clearly feels it is still unsafe for her to return to Zimbabwe
and continues her long battle to be recognised as a refugee and given
leave to remain in the UK. Lots of South Yorkshire people agree with
her too – over 1000 of us have already signed a petition in her
support.