Some good news: Hamid is free!

Hamid Baygi has been released from detention and is now back in Sheffield thanks to a successful campaign. He should never have detained. Hamid has lived in the UK for 50 years and was threatened by the Home Office with deportation to Iran. Manuchehr from SYMAAG is interviewed by Sheffield Live about Hamid’s experience in detention and how the campaign secured his release

https://web.sheffieldlive.org/campaigners-welcome-release-of-hamid-baygi/

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SYMAAG Annual General Meeting Tuesday 25th June

Reflect on the past and plan for the future!
We are pleased to welcome our guest speaker Nita Sanghera. Nita is Vice President of the University and College Union (UCU). She will talk about racism, being a black woman trade unionist and the hostile environment against migrants.

We will also be reflecting on our last year’s work, planning for the future and electing a new Executive Committee and officers (Chair, Secretary, Treasurer etc) of SYMAAG. If you would like to stand, please let us know and we can discuss what the roles entail or talk to us at the meeting.

Everyone who supports our aims is welcome to attend, speak and vote at the meeting.
SYMAAG AGM Facebook event page
SYMAAG Annual General Meeting Tuesday 25th June 7-8.30pm (doors open from 6.30pm for refreshments)
Quaker Meeting House 10 St James Street Sheffield S10 2EW

Keep Hamid in Sheffield. Demonstrate Monday 3 June

Hamid Baygi has lived in the UK for 50 years. Now the Home Office want to deport him to Iran on Tuesday 4th June.
This is what the ‘hostile environment’ looks like
Hamid volunteers to support refugees in Sheffield, now he needs our support
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Sign the petition to stop Hamid’s deportation

Here’s how you can support Hamid
  • Demonstrate this Monday 3rd June 12 noon outside Vulcan House, Sheffield Home Office S3 8NU
  • Sign the petition to defend Hamid

No Deportations to Zimbabwe

A huge campaign in South Yorkshire earlier this year secured the release of our Zimbabwean friends Victor, Khuzani and Benji from Morton Hall detention centre. It also prevented their deportations to Zimbabwe where they would face violence, harassment or worse.
Now we need you support again.
Zimbabwean people in the UK who are in the process of seeking asylum remain under threat of deportation. Our friends who were released from Morton Hall detention centre were only given a temporary reprieve until May. Despite considerable pressure from refugee rights groups, MPs, journalists and widespread public support this government has refused to halt its deportation plans to Zimbabwe. Even though violence and persecution are commonplace for anyone thought to oppose the Zimbabwean ZANU(PF) military dictatorship. The replacement of Mugabe by Mnangagwa has, if anything, resulted in harsher repression.
But the British Government seems determined to fulfil its February 2018 deal with ZANU(PF) to deport 2500 Zimbabweans living in the UK. Was it coincidence that in September 2018 the British ambassador to Zimbabwe announced that the UK advocated a programme to help Zimbabwe pay off 1.8 billion (US dollars) of its foreign debt?
The result of this cooperation with the Zimbabwean military dictatorship is continuing uncertainty and fear for Zimbabwean people trying to escape persecution and make a life in the UK. Zimbabweans are still locked up in detention centres like Morton Hall. The Home Office has continued to invite an official from the Zimbabwean Embassy to interrogate Zimbabwean asylum seekers around the country. Though Sheffield Home Office have clearly got the message that we won’t accept this behaviour, dozens of people were questioned by the official and photographed in Southend in March. 13 people were questioned in Middlesbrough last month, with more “interviews” scheduled.
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Part of the 200-strong protest at Sheffield Home Office in February against deportations to Zimbabwe
What you can do
  • Sign this petition to stop all deportations to Zimbabwe. 77,000 people signed a petition to defend Victor Mujakachi but as Victor and others have said “This isn’t just about me”.
  • Email your MP asking them to oppose all deportations to Zimbabwe – it’s not safe – and to promote the petition. Contact them again, even if you did before to support Victor and others. You can find who your MP is and how to contact them here
  • Support forthcoming actions in South Yorkshire and beyond to oppose all deportations to Zimbabwe and for an end to the interrogation of Zimbabwean asylum seekers by Zimbabwean Embassy officials.

Sheffield Against Detention and Deportation: meeting 11th March

ASSIST, SYMAAG, and Right to Remain will host a public discussion in Sheffield on 11 March, on the case to end immigration detention, and stop deportations.

Join them to hear speakers with experience of the UK detention system and campaigning around it, from These Walls Must Fall North West, ASSIST, SYMAAG and Migrants Organise (TBC). We are pleased to announce that Victor Mujakachi will also be joining us. Victor was recently detained at Morton Hall detention centre, threatened with deportation to Zimbabwe. He was released after a successful campaign, including a petition which gathered 77,000 signatures

“This campaign isn’t just about me” Victor Mujakachi

After that, attendees will break into small groups to begin planning and organising local work to oppose and stop the cruel detention system – for good.

This is a public meeting, open to all interested in this subject, particularly those who want to find out how they can take action. The organisers particularly welcome those with first-hand experience of the UK immigration system to join the event, with their friends and allies.

Attendees are invited to bring food which will be shared during the break in the meeting.

What’s this all about?

People are being taken from our communities, locked up in prison-like detention centres without time limit, with no idea of when they might be released. Many are then deported to countries where they are at serious risk, and with their family and community in the UK. Most people who are detained are eventually released back to their lives in the UK. But only having suffered weeks, months, or even years of trauma. Detention destroys lives.

Why? They just don’t have the correct immigration papers. This has to stop.

What is immigration detention?

Almost 30,000 people are detained every year. Many thousands more are at risk of being detained at any time, without warning.

There is no time limit on detention. When someone is detained they do not know if it will be for weeks, months, or years. This can have a crushing impact on mental health. Britain is the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely like this.

People are locked up in prison-like conditions, behind bars and barbed wire, but their detention is not to do with any criminal offence. It’s for administration, bureaucracy. It’s a dark part of the immigration and asylum system.

An asylum claim refused. A visa expired. Losing a job. Working without permission. Becoming homeless. Filling in a form incorrectly. An error in a tax return. Leaving an abusive partner. Any difficulty with the complex immigration system can lead to detention.

What about deportations

The UK government regularly charters flights and uses major airlines to remove people from the country. Groups like End Deportations work on this issue specifically, and highlighted by the recent Stansted 15 court case. Recently, the deportation of Windrush citizens to Jamaica highlighted how these flights are used as an oppressive tool to destroy lives.

Event access information

The meeting is in the Upper Hall at Victoria Hall, this is accessible through the side entrance (glass door) on Chapel Walk. A volunteer or two will wait outside on Chapel Walk to guide people in until 6:45pm. The room has a lift with wheelchair access and an accessible toilet on the same floor as the meeting room.

The speakers at the meeting will speak in English, however the organisers welcome those who are happy to support understanding for others through interpreting support.

The second part of the meeting will be discussions in small groups, and some drawing and writing for those who choose to.

You are welcome to bring your children to the meeting, please bring toys for them, we will set up a corner of the room with cushions and blankets so the children can play there if they wish. Organisers of the event cannot take responsibility for childcare.

Facebook event page https://www.facebook.com/events/2045535612182542/permalink/2058033057599464/

Resistance to Zimbabwe deportation plan grows

Victor, Khuzani and Benji, Zimbabweans from South Yorkshire have been released from Morton Hall detention centre. Marian and the other people interviewed by the Zimbabwean Embassy official at Sheffield Home Office have not been detained since. Perhaps Sheffield Home Office got the message from the well-supported local campaign for their right to remain.

However, the Home Office continue with their plans. We know of other Zimbabweans still at Morton Hall and around the country the process of preparing people for detention/possible deportation continues. For example “dozens” of Zimbabweans (including well-known campaigners) were interviewed and photographed by a Zimbabwean Embassy official when they reported at Southend police station (being used by the Home Office) earlier this week. One of them, Felix Zinhu, describes the stress this caused him here

Victor Mujakachi outside Vulcan House “I want the focus of this campaign to be all Zimbabweans not just me”

There are reports of other Zimbabweans being either detained, or interrogated by Zimbabwean Embassy officials invited by the Home Office, around the country. The stress and anxiety caused by this needs to be appreciated. Perhaps for the UK government it’s an intended consequence of their desire to create a hostile environment for people like Marian and Victor. And why should people have to sacrifice their privacy and expose themselves to even more risk by speaking out against the Zimbabwean government on national media and online?

The Zimbabwean government is well aware of criticism from opposition activists forced to become refugees. Zimbabwean Information Minister Nick Mangwana responded to stated fears of persecution from Marian Machekanyanga and others by making the laughable claims that “there are no political persecutions in Zimbabwe” and “there is no single returnee that has been persecuted regardless of the circumstances of their departure”.

In February 2018 the UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing and Zimbabwean Deputy President Kembo Mohadi agreed to cooperate in the deportation of 2500 Zimbabweans living in the UK.

The Zim Vigil, a weekly protest outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London

There has been much speculation on the details of this deal between the UK government and the Zimbabwean military dictatorship. In return for accepting 2500 Zimbabwean refugees perhaps Zimbabwe would receive financial aid, favourable trade deals (important for the UK post-Brexit) or diplomatic support in rejoining the Commonwealth?

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe tellingly described the UK government’s “ill-advised cosying-up to the Zimbabwean leadership, which owed its position, power and loyalty to the military and political machine that manoeuvred to install it and not to the people of Zimbabwe through a free and fair electoral process. I will not go into more detail; the Minister knows what I am talking about”.  Brian Donnelly, ex-UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe was more explicit, describing a “disgraceful conspiracy by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office to return Zimbabweans against their will”.

So the campaign against detentions and threatened deportations to Zimbabwe – at it’s most dangerous for opposition supporters for years – continues. We’ve had widespread national and local media coverage, including this excellent Channel 4 report on the Sheffield February 19th protest in support of Marian. There has been parliamentary pressure, for example here from Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield. We’ve seen an impressive mobilisation of campaigners, refugee organisations, political parties and countless individuals illustrated by a petition for Victor Mujakachi which gained 75,000 signatures in a week.

Vulcan House, Sheffield Home Office

Inspired by the bravery of Zimbabwean asylum seekers and by what we’ve already achieved the campaign against deportations to Zimbabwe continues. While well-known and much-loved activists like Victor and Marian have received huge publicity and support we will campaign against all deportations to Zimbabwe. As Marian put it “this shouldn’t be happening to anyone, not just me”.

 

thanks to Manuchehr, Luis Arroyo for the photos, many more on our Facebook pages

 

 

We’re not frightened anymore – Sheffield says no to Zimbabwe Deportations

I have never been on a demonstration at 9am on a Tuesday morning before. Would everybody else be at work or in bed? Would more than 2 people and a dog turn up? But my worries were small compared to the anxiety that Marian was feeling today.

Marian Machekanyanga is a Zimbabwean asylum seeker living in Sheffield. Marian was called by the Home Office to report at Vulcan House (the local branch of the Home Office in Sheffield) at 9am. The last time she reported at Vulcan House she – and other people – were questioned by a Zimbabwean Embassy official, invited there by the Home Office. Two Zimbabweans were detained and sent to Morton Hall detention centre straight after, threatened with deportation to Zimbabwe where violence against political opponents is at its worst for many years.

Marian and others Zimbabwean asylum seekers asked for support. So South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) organised a demonstration outside Vulcan House, at the same time Marian was inside reporting to the Home Office, fearing that she might never come out of the front door. The response was big, even by Sheffield standards. 200 people chanted “Marian belongs in Sheffield” “No deportations to Zimbabwe” while security staff at the Home Office reporting centre looked out sheepishly. Marian was inside for just a few minutes and came out of the front door to cheers.

“I’m not frightened anymore” Marian told the crowd, going on to say that she was humbled by the support she’d had and telling us how she loved Sheffield. But Marian reminded us that other Zimbabwean asylum seekers – including Khuzani Ndlovu and Benji Gudza – were still detained at Morton Hall under threat of deportation.

Victor Mujakachi spoke next. Victor had also been detained and released after a campaign by his many friends and supporters – a petition for his release has gathered a remarkable 75,000 signatures in a week.

He stressed the need to support others detained at Morton Hall who were less well-known and connected than him.

Other speakers including Phillis Andrew from SYMAAG talked from personal experience about what detention centres are and how they are some of the most hostile places in the hostile environment for people seeking asylum. The apparent cosiness between the UK government and Zimbabwean dictatorship was a theme for other speakers.

So what did we achieve today? Marian is safe for now, she’s laughing with her friends and eating carrot cake downstairs at The Sanctuary asylum seeker drop in as I write this. But she’s due to report at Vulcan House within 2 weeks.

Victor was released. It took a campaign combining public protests, parliamentary questions, legal support, national media coverage including a very brave Channel 4 interview, a Guardian newspaper front page, a feature in the Independent, widespread local media and a social media campaign which reached new audiences. But there are still Zimbabwean people in detention. The Home Office has invited Zimbabwean Embassy officials to question Zimbabwean asylum seekers around the country. The UK government has still not – as it did between 2002 and 2010 – suspended deportations to Zimbabwe because of ‘political and humanitarian factors’ there.

I think the most important thing this week’s campaign has achieved is how we have surprised ourselves: 200 people did turn out to a morning demo in the winter, perhaps we underestimate support for refugees; Marian and others – for the first time in their lives – have told their story in national TV and newspaper interviews; the Home Office are clearly disturbed by the intensity and reach of our campaign. Victor was released from detention. Refugees in SYMAAG and other organisations have spoken out with a new confidence and authority.

The Home Office’s ongoing attempt to detain and deport high-profile, much-loved activists to Zimbabwe at a time when it is patently not safe felt like a challenge. I’m pleased we rose to that challenge this last week.

I hope that the energy and optimism generated is the basis for future campaigns against detention and deportation alongside people who are not as well known as Victor and Marian. This week we’ll be meeting to discuss what kind of alliances we need to make in Sheffield to maintain this momentum. But right now, I’m going downstairs for some carrot cake.

 

This article by Stuart Crosthwaite was originally published on Right to Remain’s blog https://righttoremain.org.uk/were-not-frightened-anymore-sheffield-says-no-to-zimbabwe-deportations/19 Feb

No Deportations to Zimbabwe – protest Tues 19th Feb 9am Vulcan House

So far two asylum seekers from Sheffield/Zimbabwe have been detained and are threatened with deportation to Zimbabwe. They were detained when they went to Vulcan House, the Home Office building in Sheffield for an ‘interview’ on Monday 11th February. An article in Independent “He’ll be killed” 12th Feb gives more information

This latest move follows asylum seekers being questioned by a Zimbabwean Embassy official invited by the Home Office to interrogate them in December. A number of other Zimbabwean asylum seekers are being asked to attend Vulcan House over the next week and we are concerned that they maybe detained. Naturally, they are afraid that this could result in deportation to Zimbabwe, the country they were forced to leave because of persecution.

That’s why Zimbabwean asylum seekers have called for a protest to support them when they go to Vulcan House. The Home Office and government seem ready to deport political opponents of the Zimbabwean government at the height of violence against those who criticise ZANU (PF). SYMAAG member Marian Machekanyanga described the Zimbabwean army going house to house to identify, beat, detain, sometimes kill opposition activists and others critical of the government, of children shot in the street, internet access shut down and phone calls monitored. The new Zimbabwean government of Emerson Mnangagwa seems every bit as repressive as Robert Mugabe’s.

Sign the petition to release Victor Mujakachi from detention https://www.change.org/p/home-office-free-victor-mujakachi

Some of the Zimbabwean people in Sheffield threatened with deportation are well-known and well-liked community activists like Victor Mujakachi and Marian Machekanyanga. 5000 people signed a petition to release him from Morton Hall immigration detention centre in 24 hours. Other people are not so well-connected but all need our support. There should be no deportations to Zimbabwe. Our asylum system should give protection to those who need it, not hand them over to their tormentors.

 

No Deportations to Zimbabwe. Release our friends from detention. Zimbabwe is Not Safe

Demonstrate! Tuesday 19th February 9am Vulcan House, Sheffield Home Office S3 8NU

“G4S tenants will be dancing in the streets”

After a six year campaign by asylum tenants G4S have lost their contracts to run asylum housing. From September 2019 tenants will not have “a prison guard as a landlord”

The new 10 year £4 billion Asylum Accommodation and Support Contract has been given to Serco, Clearsprings and the Mears Group. We will be working alongside asylum tenants to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect and provided with decent housing.

We will publish a detailed response to the announcement of the new contract soon.

In the meantime listen to John Grayson from SYMAAG interviewed on Sheffield Live on G4S getting dumped from asylum housing contract and our small part in that success here

Sheffield Stands with the Stansted 15

December 18th, International Migrants Day, was a day of action in support of the Stansted 15 who were convicted of terror-related offences for stopping a deportation charter flight taking off. In doing so they saved lives. We believe the government and Home Office are trying to terrorise those showing solidarity with people seeking asylum.

So SYMAAG and many others protested outside Vulcan House Home Office in Sheffield, as part of a day of action in support of the Stansted 15 involving 20 towns and cities in the UK.

 

Statement from Right to Remain on the Stansted 15

The Stansted 15 have been convicted for preventing a charter deportation flight through peaceful direct action.

Today’s ruling is a bitter blow for the defendants, their friends and families. It is also a blow against all those who seek to stand for justice. We wish to first and foremost express our solidarity with them as they deal with this news today.

We know that the steps they took – which caused neither injury or ill-will to anyone – was done only in order prevent a great crime. That crime was one that would have serious impact on the 60 people bound for deportation on a ‘charter flight’.

Charter flight removals and deportations are one of the most worrying aspects of the UK’s asylum and immigration process. Shielded from public oversight and information protected from freedom of information requests, these ‘ghost flights’ forcibly remove people en masse from the UK. As is common with charter flights, many who were on the grounded flight were still fighting their cases. Everybody seeking the right to remain in the UK faces significant obstacles to establishing their legal rights. Those subject to charter flight removal and deportation have even less access to justice.

The Stansted 15’s actions meant that people were able to continue to fight to remain in the UK with their families, communities, in the places they have made their lives. Not only that, it shone a bright light on charter flights and the wider deportation regime.

To Helen, Lyndsay, Nathan, Laura, Melanie E, Joseph, Benjamin, Jyotsna, Nicholas, Melanie S, Alistair, Edward, Emma, May, and Ruth, we say: stay strong, we are with you.

The Stansted 15 will be appealing the verdict. Please donate today to help them with trial related costs. Donate here.