THE LABOUR CAMPAIGN FOR FREE MOVEMENT
This newspaper is proudly produced by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
The Labour Campaign for Free Movement is a network of Labour members and supporters, campaigning in Labour and the trade union movement to defend and extend free movement and migrants’ rights.
We believe that Labour should be a socialist, internationalist party standing for all workers, regardless of birthplace. Our party and our trade unions must counter the scapegoating lies that sow division by blaming migration for stagnant wages, insecurity, unemployment, crumbling services and the housing crisis.
Free movement is a workers’ right – the rich and powerful can always move where they like. Attacks on the rights and freedoms of migrants don’t protect British workers – they undermine all of us. They make migrant workers more precarious and so vulnerable to hyper-exploitation, driving down wages and conditions for everyone. They divide us with suspicion and hostility, making it harder to unionise and push back. There can be no non-racist or fair immigration controls – they are inherently racist.
To turn back the anti-migrant tide,
our movement has to confront it and win back hearts and minds, rather than retreating into appeasement and triangulation. We must tell the truth about who is responsible for the problems facing workers: exploitative employers and landlords, and the succession of governments that have protected their interests against ours.
And we must propose real solutions: redistribution of power and wealth; massive public funding to ensure good jobs, homes, services and social security for all; and scrapping all anti-union laws and replacing them with strong legal rights for workers and unions, including strong rights to strike and picket, so that, uniting across divisions, workers can push up wages and conditions. Migrant workers have always been central to trade union campaigns beating low pay and exploitation. To low pay and exploitation, to deprivation and dispossession, we say: build unions, not borders!
WHO ARE WE AND WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
LCFM was founded in 2017, and led the fight for Labour to adopt a progressive immigration policy during the Brexit process. In 2019, we were responsible for passing a motion which committed Labour to:
• Oppose the current Tory immigration
legislation and any curbing of rights.
• Campaign for free movement, equality and rights for migrants.
• Reject any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps/targets.
• Close all detention centres.
• Ensure unconditional right to family reunion.
• Maintain and extend free movement rights.
• End “no recourse to public funds” policies.
• Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.
• Actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives.
• Extend equal rights to vote to all UK residents
As well as work inside Labour and the wider labour movement, LCFM runs campaigns and solidarity efforts with migrants and refugees. Our members are active in campaigns to close down detention centres, stop deportations and anti-racist campaigns.
We are a grassroots campaign with no funding. We hold a democratic conference every year, where we elect our Steering Committee. So if you agree with us, this is your campaign too.
email@example.com @labfreemvmt labfreemvmt labourfreemovement
Join our mailing list! bit.ly/lcfm-signup
Solidarity or Barbarism
Nadia Whittome MP 4
The Nationality and Borders Act: What does it mean? Zoe Gardner 5
Free movement after Brexit Michael Chessum 6
Ending detention Emma Jones 8
NRPF injustice Ben Tausz 10
Lessons from the Free Osime Brown campaign LCFM 11
Migrant workers fighting & winning Abel Harvie-Clark 12
Fighting immigration raids on London Underground by an RMT member 13
Migrant nurses by a healthworker 14
Why feminists must support free movement Rayah Feldman 15
For migrants’ right to vote Alex Fernandes 16
India: class struggle and solidarity Lotika Singha & Praveen Kolluguri 17
Oursourcing Europe’s border and its crimes
Naomi Faisal 17
Global free movement would improve everyone’s lives
Nadia Whittome MP & Zoe Gardner 18
Workers and communities against raids Abel Harvie-Clark 20
This publication was produced by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement national committee.
Migrant solidarity: towards a humane, internationalist and socialist immigration policy
The government’s inhumane immigration policy is illustrated by its treatment of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, Windrush scandal victims, and everyone crossing the Channel; the Nationality and Borders Act’s assault on the right to asylum; and the brutal Rwandan deportation scheme.
Attacks on migrants are attacks on the labour movement. Making migrant workers precarious diminishes our power to resist.
Conference applauds PCS trade unionists considering striking against dangerous maritime “pushback” plans.
Labour must build solidarity and campaign for migrants’ rights and an antiracist, internationalist alternative.
Labour will work in power, and campaign in opposition and at the grassroots, to:
• repeal the Nationality and Borders Act and all anti-migrant legislation;
• reject immigration systems based on numerical caps, minimum income/ wealth requirements, or utility to employers;
• guarantee safe, legal routes for asylum seekers, day-one rights to work, education and social security, and expand family reunion rights;
• abolish “no recourse to public funds”, NHS access restrictions and all Hostile Environment policies;
• replace Settled Status with an automatic Right to Stay;
• introduce a simple process for all UK residents to gain permanent residency;
• grant all UK residents equal voting rights;
• close all detention centres; end all immigration raids, detention, and deportations, including racist “double sentencing”;
• support workers refusing to implement deportations, Hostile Environment measures and pushbacks;
• level up domestic workers’ rights to equal other workers;
• reenter Europe’s free movement area, and pursue free movement agreements with other countries, including in all future trade deals, with the goal of equal free movement for all.
FOR OUR MOTION TO PASS we will need three things to happen: Immigration and Asylum must be prioritised for debate; our motion must survive the compositing process; and we then have to win the vote on conference floor.
IF YOU ARE A CONFERENCE DELEGATE
1. Make sure your CLP votes to prioritise Immigration and Asylum
2. Support our motion when it comes to the vote
3. Get involved in organising: text 07964791663
IF YOU ARE AT CONFERENCE AS A NONDELEGATE
There’s still lots you can do. We need people to help us leaflet, talk to delegates and campaign. Come to our events, and text 07964791663 to get involved
COME TO OUR EVENTS AT CONFERENCE
• At The World Transformed -
Beyond Borders: is it Possible and How Do We Get There?: 11:15 to 12:45 on Saturday - at the School Cinema
• Our first caucus at conference: 12:45 to 14:00 on Sunday - at Bar Revolución de Cuba, Albert Docks.
• To hear about more caucuses and events, text 07964791663
SUPPORT OUR MOTION AT Labour Conference
LABOUR’S POLICY: WHAT IS IT ANYWAY?
The Labour Party has always proclaimed itself as the party of progress. It also has a long and proud tradition of throwing migrants under the bus in the name of electoral expedience. New Labour consciously collaborated with tabloid anti-migrant rhetoric, and helped to build the Kafkaesque refugee and asylum system we enjoy today. Ed Miliband was so supportive of “tough controls on immigration” that he put it on a mug. Jeremy Corbyn was a life-long advocate of migrants’ rights, and often made the right noises, but in 2017 ended up running on a manifesto that supported the end of free movement with Europe and promised a slightly expanded use of No Recourse to Public Funds.
On paper, there was reason for optimism when Starmer became leader. Following a vote at party conference in 2019 (where LCFM’s motion passed) Labour was committed to a progressive immigration policy. Starmer had directly promised to defend free movement in the leadership campaign of 2020. Despite this, things have got worse on every front. In a set-piece speech this summer, Starmer ruled out ever bringing back free movement. In an effort to appease a monolithic caricature of ‘Red Wall’ voters, the leadership has slammed the government for allowing too many migrants to get across the Channel.
We have a right wing nationalist government which is characterised by its confidence in pursuing ever-more barbaric border policies. It leverages racism as part of a wider culture war, with the aim of popularising a narrative about migrants being to blame for falling wages and living standards. Labour’s opposition to this agenda is characterised by its timidity. It usually votes against the government’s agenda on immigration. But rather than trying to create a narrative of its own around the subject, Labour argues largely on the basis of efficiency and value for money, and often echoes government rhetoric. What does the Labour front bench believe in? Are we going to right the wrongs of recent years? Will we even repeal the Nationality and Borders Act? Who knows.
Unless they have undergone personality transplants in the past three years, the overwhelming majority of Labour members want to see the party adopt a progressive policy on immigration - and to take on the new far right’s narratives about migrants. Conference is our one opportunity to make that opinion known. In the past, Labour leaders have ignored conference motions - but they can’t always do so, and passing something here will enable us to take the campaign to the next level. If we’re going to shift Labour on immigration, this is where we have to start.
SOLIDARITY OR BARBARISMNadia whittome MP for nottingham East
It’s a strange state of affairs when Boris Johnson’s departure as Prime Minister is greeted with anything other than relief. But here we are, yet again facing what’s shaping up to be the most ruthless, hardline government in decades - for some of us, in our lifetimes.
And it’s not just UK nationals who have reasons to fear the coming months and years. Up and down the country, refugees and migrants are bracing themselves for a fresh round of attacks, as if they haven’t suffered enough already.
Priti Patel’s tenure as Home Secretary will long be remembered for its cruelty, remarkable even by the standards of Tory immigration policy. First we saw the triumphantly announced end of free movement with Europe - the biggest expansion of borders in recent history. Then came the Nationality and Borders Act, which created a two-tier asylum system, taking rights away from the majority of asylum seekers. Finally, the barbaric plan to exile refugees to Rwanda raised eyebrows even among those who, like Theresa May, are normally cheerleaders for anti-migrant policies.
When Patel announced her stepping down, it was difficult not to celebrate. Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived. Suella Braverman was soon confirmed as
her successor: a seasoned culture warrior, famous for decrying “woke rubbish” and a “rights culture”, and for spreading the far-right antisemitic consipracy theory about “cultural Marxism”. An enthusiastic advocate for leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, she would rather undermine everyone’s basic rights than treat refugees with minimal dignity.
In these terrifying times, it’s more important than ever for Labour to be a strong voice in defence of immigration. If we let the right convince people that migrants are to blame for their problemsrather than the super-rich and governments that serve them - we will keep losing.
Liz Truss unwittingly revealed what the Tory anti-migrant agenda is about in a recently leaked recording. “We say it’s all Europe that’s causing these huge problems, it’s all these migrants causing these problems,” she remarked as Treasury Minister. “But actually what needs to happen is more graft.” Here’s the plain truth, in the words of our new Prime Minister. The Tories want working class people to blame foreigners, while the government and business find ways to exploit them even more. It’s both our moral duty, and in our political interest, to expose these lies and scapegoating for what they are.
But making that case will require courage, and pressure from our movement’s grassroots. While Keir Starmer stood for leader promising to defend migrants’ rights and freedom of movement, at least the second part of that pledge has been decisively abandoned. Labour’s arguments against Priti Patel’s policies have often focused on cost and feasibility rather than humanity and solidarity.
This triangulation is nothing new. The truth is, our party’s record on immigration hasn’t always been a proud one. It was New Labour that first coined the phrase “hostile environment” to describe its approach to immigration enforcement. The demonisation of asylum seekers under Blair enabled the inhumanity we’ve seen ever since. More recently, we all remember the now-infamous mugs, and the pledge to control immigration written in stone. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
In 2019, when I was a regular local party activist, I was proud to campaign with the Labour Campaign for Free Movement for our conference motion, which passed near-unanimously to loud cheers. Then, I stood for my first election as an MP with the most progressive manifesto on immigration that Labour has ever had. We pledged to scrap the hostile environment, end the forced separation of families, establish safe routes for refugees, automatically guarantee the rights of EU nationals and give all migrants the right to vote. It’s easy to forget that these policies didn’t just come from the top: it was Labour members who fought for them.
When I’m knocking on doors during the next election, I want to be able to tell people that Labour will transform the way Britain treats migrants. That their families won’t be torn apart by deportations, that those without the right passport will no longer be denied a safety net, that people fleeing violence will be treated with humanity and compassion.
That’s why this conference, again, I am urging delegates to take a stand and support LCFM’s motion on immigration. Passing a policy is only one step towards ensuring that it makes it to the next manifesto, let alone gets implemented in government - but it’s an important one. Party members and trade unionists make up our movement and should be the ones setting its direction, too.
We desperately need a Labour government, and we need it to be one that stands up for ordinary people, regardless of where they were born. I don’t accept the idea that the interests of migrants are in any way in contradiction to the interests of the working class. Migrants are part of the working class - and everyone who has stood on picket lines with South American cleaners, Jamaican railway workers or Polish delivery drivers should recognise this.
So instead of letting the Tories divide us while the super-rich profit, let’s build solidarity.
The NATIONALITY & BORDERS BILL WHAT DOES IT MEAN &ZOE GARDNER
In the wake of the passing of the Nationality and Borders Act (NABA), activists need to understand the backbone of hostility that runs through the government’s migration agenda and maintain our focus on positive alternatives in the face of a scatter-gun assault on the rights of foreigners. Labour must repeal the Act in full, along with the framework of secondary legislation and international agreements it is built on, and instead pursue a credible and humane asylum and migration policy.
Most provisions of the NABA officially came into force in June, but many of its most pernicious elements have already been in operation through secondary legislation for many months. Immediately after passing the Act, the government has continued to announce further policies ostensibly aimed at tackling irregular arrivals of refugees on our shores, as though their arsenal for this purpose has still not been sufficiently stocked even now.
This drip-feed of vitriol where new, ever more dastardly and far-fetched policies are released monthly is a deliberate ploy to demoralise and disorient us. It limits our ability to be coherent, focused and effective, leaving us constantly reeling, outraged and at a loss to explain clearly the many policies we oppose. They are, we argue, both dangerous and unworkable,
both cruel and simply risible – and they manage to be all of this because they are the outcome of a constant exercise of throwing spite at the wall to see what might stick.
With a new Home Secretary, there is little hope that the barrage of unfounded, misleading, and often illegal announcements will stop. In the face of this, these are three of the key areas where we need to maintain our focus and keep pushing humane alternatives:
1. RWANDA AND IRREGULAR SMALL BOAT CROSSINGS
Since January, the asylum claim of anyone who can be shown to have transited a country deemed ‘safe’ before entering the UK can be deemed ‘inadmissible’. This means that, instead of assessing the claim, the government can instead deport them. Meanwhile, the applicant languishes in limbo as the Home Office fails to establish return of more than a handful of them (21 out of 17,222 in the first six months of the year). This is where the Rwanda plan stems from – a country that can more easily be bribed and bullied into receiving a number of our unwanted refugees than any of the supposedly safe ones through which they have actually transited to get here.
The policy is based on the flawed logic
that being located slightly to the West of France absolves the UK from responsibility for refugees entirely. By denying that anyone – even someone from a former British colony, someone who speaks English, or who has family and kin settled in the UK – has the right to reach us if they have set foot in another potential country of asylum, we force people to rely instead on smugglers.
We must insist on opening more safe routes to travel for people who wish to seek asylum in this country and throw out all the cruel and useless punishments aimed at those who are forced to take irregular means to cross the world’s closed borders instead.
2. ACCOMMODATION AND WAITING TIMES
The number of people waiting for an initial decision on their claim has doubled since 2019 in what can only be read as a deliberate decision to deprioritise fast and fair decision-making in favour of pursuing failed punitive measures. Meanwhile, under the NABA, new asylum reception centres – large-scale, isolated institutional living quarters – have been introduced for most asylum seekers.
The standard of accommodation provided to asylum seekers has been scandalously poor for decades, but this move towards
institutional accommodation marks a dangerous departure. The examples of Covid-riddled dorm-style accommodation in disused army barracks at Napier and Penally are a chilling template.
Labour should instead champion an overhaul of asylum housing provision, so that refugees are able to live within our communities, in decent conditions, and begin to rebuild their lives among us as soon as possible. The speeding up of quality asylum decision making must also be an absolute priority.
Under the NABA, merely entering the UK without permission or - even more worryingly - overstaying a visa, has been made a criminal offence punishable by up to four years in prison. Not only does this essentially criminalise all refugees entering the UK through smuggling routes because of a lack of safe alternatives, it also ramps up the dangers of the system for all migrants.
Under the current system, most migrants are considered ‘temporary’ residents for extremely long periods – for those entering to join family, the period is ten years, while for some entering on visas tied to lower-paid work, there is no pathway to permanent settlement at all. During the time that migrants are considered ‘temporary’ residents, they are not entitled to claim benefits, and must renew their visa permission every 2.5 years. The cost of renewing a visa application runs to thousands of pounds per person. The additional cost of legal support can mean that people find themselves unable to afford to renew their visa. Anybody in this situation under the new regime is considered to have committed a criminal offence worthy of up to 4 years’ imprisonment and deportation.
Labour must roll back the criminalisation of migrants. The approach has been an abject failure in terms of reducing the undocumented population, but has created an exploitable class of migrants who cannot rely on the support of the state for fear of criminalisation if they encounter workplace exploitation, domestic violence, or other harms.
Overall the NABA must be viewed as a continuation of the foul logic of Theresa May’s Hostile Environment, and Labour must commit to repealing both the Act in full, but also the harmful scaffolding it has been grafted onto.
WHY FREE MOVEMENT IS STILL THe RIGHT DEMAND
The end of free movement represents the biggest erection of borders in our recent history. Until 2021, all European citizens had the right to live and work in the UK, and British nationals could do the same across the EU. The realities of hard Brexit leave us with strategic questions to answer: what are we for, and is ‘free movement’ still the right framing for our demands?
The Labour Campaign for Free Movement began life as a campaign in the context of Brexit. We wanted to prevent the erection of borders in the Brexit era (a task in which we failed) and to both deepen free movement rights and expand them beyond the frontiers of Europe: to “defend and extend” free movement.
By and large, LCFM is a campaign run by socialists on the left of the party, and the years following the EU referendum were an awkward time for many of us. However much we talked about radical immigration policies and condemned Fortress Europe, the basic dynamic of that era was that we found ourselves campinging to defend the status quo against an insurgent right wing nationalist project. On the other side of the debate, many socialists - with whom we might otherwise have something in common - found themselves lining up with Aaron Banks, and performing intellectual acrobatics to justify Labour’s often reactionary immigration policies.
Centrist Remainers and anti-free movement Lexiteers suffer from the same thing when it comes to immigration policy: a lack of imagination. Liberal anti-Brexit politicians were perfectly happy to back retaining European free movement, but baulked at the idea of free movement for everyone. Meanwhile, our detractors on the left often argued European free movement was racist unless we were willing to argue for open borders with the whole world, an idea they also regarded as too radical.
LCFM is the campaign that argues unapologetically for global free movement. The fact that this seems such a radical demand is a failure of collective memory as much as anything else. Until just over a century ago, Britain had no immigration controls. It was only with the Aliens Act in 1905 - off the back of an anti-semitic campaign about Jewish immigration to the East End, shamefully endorsed by the TUC - that they were first introduced. Until 1962, Britain had open borders with the whole of the Commonwealth, and until 2021 with the whole of Europe.
The historically contingent and everchanging nature of Britain’s external borders tells you two things. Firstly, our immigration policy has essentially always been about domestic racism and scapegoating: against Jews (in 1905), black and asian migrants (1962) and eastern Europeans (2021). This should notCHESSUM TOOTING CLP
surprise us: borders are in essence racist, an attempt to discriminate on the basis of arbitrary lines on a map.
Secondly, immigration controls are not fundamentally about controlling the number of migrants entering the country. In 1905, immigration was very low and remained low for some years. In the years after the Commonwealth Immigrants Act in 1962, net migration remained at around the same (negative) level. In the immediate period after Britain’s exit from the EU, immigration actually increased.
Immigration controls aren’t whether people come here - they’re about people’s rights when they get here. The rich will always have free movement, but working class immigrants find themselves subject to harsh restrictions. People who are “illegal’’ find it much harder to stand up for themselves or to be present politically. Workers who are reliant on visas and government permissions are much less likely to organise at work. From the perspective of bosses and right wing politicians, immigration controls are the perfect double-oppression: you get a scapegoat, and you get to suck militancy out of workers.
A CONTESTED TERM
We need to be clear that not everyone means the same thing by free movement. The European Union runs a barbaric border regime which is responsible for tens of
thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and untold misery for millions of people, many of whom are fleeing wars, environmental deterioration and poverty caused by European colonialism and carbon consumption.
The existence of this border regime is not an accident. It is the conscious creation of European politicians, both in Brussels and in European capitals. In April 2019, the European Parliament passed legislation to create a standing army of EU border guards. Guy Verhofstadt, then the President of the centrist ALDE group in the EU parliament, celebrated the news. “For four years we fought to get a European Border & Coast Guard”, he tweeted. “EU countries were blocking, but we managed to get it done: 10,000 extra border officers. We should not wait for 2027, but do it now! We need to better protect our external borders to keep our internal EU borders open.”
We live in a capitalist society in which all kinds of barbarity seem mundane and normal. Our entire system of exploitation and impoverishment is underwritten by violence. Borders are even more extreme. When we talk about a “hard external border” for Europe, we are talking about turning the Mediterranean Sea into a graveyard. Borders are barbarity at a distance. In the EU’s case, the border can be at a great distance, and this for many liberals makes it more palatable.
For Verhofstadt and many other “progressive” European politicians, free movement is contingent on a regime of violence and coercion against poor and desperate people from the Global South. This attitude mirrors a classical liberal narrative about European identity. It is certainly true that economic integration and mass migration have created a great deal of progress in Europe since the Second World War, but without a more radical anti-border politics, the liberal vision becomes a nightmare: we simply replace a Europe of small, violent and racially exclusive nations by creating a large, violent and racially exclusive nation. While waving an EU flag might be a sign of anti-nationalism in the context of Brexit, it functions for some as a kind of supranationalism.
The European ruling class may have opened up their borders internally for their own reasons, but the reality of free movement was always going to create a space for a different kind of logic to emerge - a logic of human liberation, rather than supra-nationalism and profit-making.
Bringing down borders within the EU challenged national identities and cultural conservatism across the continent. Giving migrants rights created the conditions for generations of workers to engage in industrial and social struggles without fear
- or with much less fear - of deportation. The beneficiaries of free movement in the UK were overwhelmingly working class eastern and southern Europeans.
The “left” case against free movement very often falls into the trap of repeating a key trope of the far right: that European citizens are “all white”, and that therefore European free movement is in itself discriminatory. This is obviously untrue. There are large ethnic minorities within European states, who have benefited enormously from free movement. There are also a large number of African and Latin American migrants, many of whom have been active in industrial struggles, who hold French, Spanish or Portuguese passports.
In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, many on the Labour left sought to justify Labour’s opposition to free movement. For as long as we lived in a neo-liberal economy, they argued, free movement was just a means to exploit migrants. This argument - that we can bring down borders but only after we’ve abolished economic exploitation - is an insidious one and pops up in various guises among progressives performing intellectual acrobatics. At its heart is the same logic that tells LGBT people and women that they must wait until after the revolution for their rights. What it ignores is that borders are a moral stain and a humanitarian emergency. They are also a fundamental barrier to the effectiveness of working class movements.
OWNING THE LIBS?
Underneath the debates between the pro- and anti-free movement left is a philosophical difference about how we
should interact with liberalism. Liberal rights - the right to move, the right to vote, the right to free speech - are limited on their own. But they point to something more radical and are a cornerstone of the working class’s freedom to organise. The question we face today, with the far right on the rise and those rights in retreat, is: do we try to take up the mantle of fighting for human freedom, or, alternatively, do we ally with a policy of border-building to ‘own the libs’?
LCFM is the campaign that does the former, and our perspective ought not be controversial on the left. It is widely accepted capitalist development has brought a great deal of objective historical progress to the world, breaking down barriers, revolutionising production and changing politics. It also invented new forms of exploitation and oppression. We may fight for an alternative to capitalist exploitation, but it does not follow that we do so by turning back the clock to feudalism. It does not follow from a critique of European integration and the limitations of its free movement area that we should go back to a Europe of warring nation states and hard borders.
In the public debate - and in the debate within the left - free movement has become bound up with the legacy of neoliberalism. Open borders with eastern Europe coincided with the aftermath of Thatcherism and the devastation of working class communities in the north and midlands. The basic claim of the Brexit project was to blame migrants for falling wages and declining living standards. Some on the left see this picture and conclude that free movement simply is neoliberal; even Bernie Sanders
once famously condemned open borders as a “Koch Brothers project”. Ironically, this is a conclusion entirely acceptable to orthodox neoliberals: that borders can only be open to people by being open to unregulated capital.
In both global and European terms, the connection between open borders and neoliberalism is phoney. Neoliberalism wants free flows of capital, but the political and social system it produces is anything but “free”. Pursuing deregulation has resulted in the emergence of authoritarian regimes. To a greater or lesser extent, the poor (including migrants) are externalised, and the police militarised. In the Western world, the militarisation of borders has got a lot more intense in the past forty years, as have immigration raids and enforcement. The US border wall is one example of this. So is the massive border industry on Europe’s external borders, much of which is privatised and outsourced to neighbouring countries.
STILL THE RIGHT DEMAND
There is a temptation, from a left wing perspective, to look at the mess of European migration policy, ditch the free movement framework, and simply raise the slogan “no borders”. LCFM does agree with this slogan, but there is a version of utopianism which goes hand in hand with doing nothing. Even more tiresome is the idea that we need to “move on” from the debate around free movement because Brexit has happened: we can no more “move on” from the question of European free movement than we can change Britain’s physical location on the globe. Without a strategy for bringing borders down in a practical way, we will spend our lives triangulating around rising borders, or
fighting noble but doomed battles.
The question for us, then, is how we might actually start winning. The answer is not going to be clean. It will almost certainly mean riding on the coat-tails of trade agreements: insisting that people should never have fewer rights to cross international frontiers than goods and services. In other words, it is going to involve free movement agreements very much like EU free movement. Across Europe, and in areas like Mercosur and the Andean Community, these arrangements are already in place and guarantee the rights of tens of millions of migrants.
Short of a global revolution, or general societal breakdown, borders will have to be ameliorated or reformed. The best hope for global open borders is always going to be the expansion and integration of free movement zones over an ever-greater part of the planet, and it is the job of the left to fight for this to happen. All free movement is good - regardless of the geographybut it is overwhelmingly likely that free movement areas will build up and expand on a regional basis.
That’s why - alongside supporting migrant struggles, fighting the Hostile Environment and calling for the end of immigration detention - the cornerstone of our campaign remains fighting for free movement. This has two practical aspects: fighting for free movement to be written into all future trade deals, and fighting to re-enter Europe’s free movement area. Achieving this demand would benefit millions of workers, and form the basis for a campaign for global open borders.
ENDING DETENTION: A MORAL IMPERATIVE
I won’t forget my first sight of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre. I was there in the privileged position of observer, rather than detainee, but it was still a shock, particularly the height of the fences (20ft tall and topped with razor wire). More shocking to me was what the place represented. I was a student then, left-wing and sceptical of national pieties - but on seeing Campsfield I realised the extent of my naivety.
At some emotional level, I had regarded Britain as a place where certain things could not happen – indefinite detention without due process being one of them (Habeas Corpus and all that.) The reality is horribly different: the UK is the only country in Europe that does not have a time limit on immigration detention and the net is cast wide.
As someone whose right to exist in this country has never been challenged, it was my privilege to be unaware of Campsfield’s existence until I became involved, in the early 2000s, in the fight to prevent the deportation of a fellow student to Afghanistan. If he had been detained, he would have found himself behind the wire and visiting him would have meant being searched before passing through five separate remote-controlled doors.
My friend was a former child refugee, whose extraordinary achievements might in other circumstances have been celebrated – as we do erratically decide to celebrate some refugees, and our own
benevolence in welcoming them. Instead he was in mortal danger. The British state seemed hellbent on returning him to a war zone.
It was a situation so obviously and absurdly wrong as to be almost incomprehensible; another shock to realise that his case was in fact pretty routine. Bear in mind too that this was happening under a Labour government. (Des Browne was the immigration minister at the time; our petitions were addressed to him). In the end, my friend escaped detention and deportation but it was owing to a legal loophole and some wise advice – no thanks at all to New Labour.
Ahead of the 25th anniversary of Campsfield in 2018, Professor Danny Dorling wrote of “a legacy of shame. … Just as we remember workhouses, bedlams, and the most brutal of prisons from the past and wonder why they were introduced and why it took so long to dismantle them, so too will Campsfield House be remembered in future.” The closure of Campsfield was announced shortly afterwards but in June this year the Home Office announced plans for a new detention centre on the site.
THE ABUSE THAT ENABLES ALL OTHER ABUSES
It is worth considering the history of immigration detention and detention centres if only to understand how powers once regarded as severe and exceptional and reserved for emergencies became
widespread and accepted. Plenty of politicians would like us to believe that the current system is set in stone and that alternatives are unthinkable. In fact, the current system dates from the 1990s so those unable to imagine the alternative must be very young or have short memories.
Campsfield House opened in November 1993 and was greeted with protests. It is salutary to realise that ‘Britain jails refugees’ is too obvious for a protest sign today. It’s a fact of life. ‘Stop Rwanda flights’, say our placards, but the Rwanda Plan (denounced as “immoral” by the Archbishop of Canterbury) will alsoEMMA JONES OXFORD WEST & ABINGDON CLP
become normal if the next Conservative Prime Minister gets their way. Normalcy is a dangerous drug; it kills the moral sense. Unless our protest succeeds, what now appears an Obvious Evil will become an Established Fact tacitly accepted by all future governments.
The detention estate is integral to the Hostile Environment in its current form. Or to put it another way, detention is the abuse that enables all the other abuses: from the Windrush Scandal to the Rwanda Plan. There are currently seven so-called “immigration removal centres” (IRCs) operational in the UK, along with several “residential short-term holding facilities”
Border controls fundamentally restrict workers’ ability to organise with each other across national boundaries, and place restrictions on anyone moving across them based on the arbitrariness of their immigration status or where they happened to be born. Since these controls are necessarily embedded within a legal framework, the machinery used to enforce them requires policing and punishment. Reforms falling short of the full removal of migration controls can reduce oppression faced by migrants. But it is simply not possible to effectively enforce any restriction
on immigration without violence. It is a fantasy to think that, in the modern world, borders can be successfully controlled with nothing more than an official at an airport or road checkpoint.
We support all steps to dismantle violent state apparatus with which immigration systems are enforced - but we believe there is only one migration system that can be run without a punitive and racist framework of border controls - free movement - and this should be extended as far as possible.
CAN’T WE JUST HAVE A HUMANELY RUN SYSTEM OF BORDER CONTROLS?
and a “pre-departure accommodation”
unit at Tinsley House where families with children are detained pending deportation. Other people are held under immigration powers in mainstream prisons. Recent years have also seen an expansion of quasi-detention, including the use of exarmy barracks and squalid hotels to hold asylum seekers for long periods in prisonlike conditions.
Anyone deemed “subject to immigration control” is at risk of detention, from the newest arrivals to people who have lived in the UK for many years. Detention happens without warning and requires only the discretion of an immigration official, not a court or a judge. Despite Home Office claims to the contrary, survivors of torture, trafficking, rape and gender-based violence are routinely detained. Indeed, a recent report by Medical Justice, the charity that sends independent clinicians to all UK IRCs, concluded that Home Office safeguarding processes are “so ineffective they are basically fictional”.
WHY DO WE LET THIS HAPPEN?
Public consent for these myriad cruelties is obtained through a curious psychological trick: once people are imprisoned it becomes easier to think of them as dangerous or undeserving (or not to think of them at all). A government website calmly relates that 24,004 people entered immigration detention in the year ending June 2022. This is human rights abuse on a large scale. Behind the statistic are so many shattered lives, separated families, absent parents and traumatised children.
The vulnerability of detainees, the lack of access to justice (only around 50% of people in detention have legal representation), and the fact that so many of these places are run for profit by private security companies on the favoured national ethic of the race to bottom, means it is little wonder that the names of individual detention centres are synonymous with scandal and mistreatment, over and above the degrading fact of detention itself. The various reports and reviews make dismal reading (especially since they seem to make so little difference to policy makers) but they do at least prove that the British state knows exactly what it is doing.
Experts will tell you that the system is broken in about every conceivable respect – just ask Sir Stephen Shaw whose first review in 2016 determined that “detention in and of itself undermines welfare and contributes to vulnerability.” Is this really a revelation to anyone? Hunger strikes and incidents of self-harm occur every day in UK detention centres. The majority of immigration detainees are eventually released and unlawful detention pay-outs are at record levels – in the last year alone, the Home Office paid £12.7m to 572 people who had been unlawfully detained.
The harm caused is incalculable.
In the current climate, even the most dystopian imaginings are soon overtaken by reality. Russell T. Davies‘s eerily prophetic drama Years and Years (2019) showed disease running riot in filthy government-mandated detention facilities; by 2021, there was a mass Covid outbreak at the real-life Napier Barracks where “unlawfully housed” asylum seekers were lying “terrified in their beds”. (Napier Barracks is set to remain open until 2026.)
If nothing else, the last few years have shown the utter futility of attempting to outbid the Tories in performative cruelty. After threatened pushbacks and mass expulsions, what’s next? ‘Suicidal Afghan was ‘fine’ about being sent to Rwanda, Home Office officials claimed’, is only the latest in a series of headlines that should be impossible to forget, but will likely be displaced by the next horror.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
So what can be done? Political leadership is badly needed. In 2019, Labour Party Conference voted almost unanimously to close all detention centres as part of a wide-ranging motion to defend migrants’ rights. The 2019 manifesto fell short of members’ demands, though it did at least pledge to “end indefinite detention, review the alternatives to the inhumane conditions of detention centres, and close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House”, two particularly notorious facilities (both of which opened under New Labour).
We can and must go much further. The battle to end detention is being waged wherever detention centres exist and cries out for the active engagement of every single one of us. (Where is your nearest IRC? Look it up!) Groups like SOAS Detainee Support provide solidarity where it is most needed. Organising against the immigration raids that feed the machine
is also vitally important, and can be hearteningly successful as a series of recent examples have shown.
Initiatives like These Walls Must Fall, the Solidarity Knows No Borders Network (organisers of the impressive Fair Immigration Movement (FIRM) Charter) and the new Action Against Detention & Deportations coalition, are the harbingers of change to come.
Above all, our migrant comrades at risk of detention and deportation must be defended with the full strength of our movement. Our eyes are open and we cannot look away.
NO RECOURSE: how more than a
million are denied access to social security and basic servicesBEN TAUSZ CAMDEN UNISON
As inflation bites, our battles to raise wages, benefits and emergency support become even more acute questions of dignity, basic wellbeing, and survival. Yet for the 1.4 million people affected by “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF), equal access to social security remains out of reach.
The NRPF condition, applied to people with various immigration statuses and the undocumented, denies those migrants and their families the rights to social housing and a range of essential benefits including Universal Credit. Shamefully, the rule originates from the Labour government’s Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Even before the most recent jumps in living costs, in 2021 Citizens Advice found that 81% of people with NRPF were behind on at least one essential bill – four times the rate of the general population. Almost a quarter already could not afford to heat their homes, and a fifth had experienced homelessness or housing insecurity.
Thanks to campaigning pressure, those with NRPF were included in April’s £150 cost of living Council Tax rebate and this autumn’s Energy Bill Support Scheme. But as well as being locked out of basic benefits, they will not be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment, the Cold Weather Payment, or the cost-of-living payments targeted to pensioners, disabled people and the worst-off; and it is left to energy companies’ discretion whether to grant them the Warm Home Discount. As we approach a brutal winter, this could be a matter of life and death.
EXPLOITERS AND ABUSERS
We often discuss this as a cruel humanitarian crisis – which it is. The
labour movement must also understand NRPF as an attack on workers’ collective strength.
A strong and universal social security system doesn’t just support those in need – it empowers all of us at work. The threat of destitution is a whip for employers to keep us in line. When any group of workers knows that no safety net will catch them and their families if they lose their jobs, there is more pressure on them to keep their heads down and continue in hyperexploitative or outright abusive conditions.
Even the Local Government Association – not exactly a bastion of workers’ radicalism or socialist internationalism –acknowledged that NRPF leaves migrants repeatedly vulnerable to modern slavery.
This is one of the many ways in which bosses keep down pay and conditions. So it can affect the going rates for all workers.
NRPF, and immigration enforcement more broadly, also empower exploiters and abusers at home. Survivors subject to NRPF often face homelessness and destitution if they flee their abusers. And police have been known to take victims to the immigration authorities when they come forward to seek help.
When our government ratified the Istanbul Convention on Preventing & Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence this year, it even exempted itself from the clause requiring states to protect migrant women with residency dependent on their partner.
STEPS FORWARDS AND STEPS BACK
At 2019’s party conference, Labour members, trade unions and affiliates
Many people migrate because they are forced to do so. As socialists and internationalists, we have a duty of solidarity to fight with people around the world for wealth redistribution and economic justice, and against war, imperialism, oppression and climate change.
But conflict, oppression and inequality have deep roots. Climate change is already happening and a certain amount of environmental damage is locked in by the CO2 we have already put in the atmosphere. Our efforts to right these wrongs will not be completed overnight. It would be a criminal abdication of solidarity to turn away people seeking safety and
voted near-unanimously for our motion demanding an end to NRPF. Though this was ignored in the drafting of the subsequent manifesto, there have since been some hard-won victories beyond the intra-party debate.
It was the pandemic that really thrust the issue into the spotlight. In March 2020, as the Westminster and devolved governments announced ‘Everyone In’ policies to give shelter to rough sleepers, they waived immigration status restrictions – for once, public health was prioritised above racist posturing.
Of course, the Tories soon rowed back, advising local councils in May to resume excluding people with NRPF. But research by Shelter found that about half of England’s councils ignored this and continued to shelter them. (Shamefully though, Labour-run councils were not consistent. One migrant woman had to sue Lambeth Council to avoid being left on the street in 2021.)
Also in May 2020, Labour MP Stephen Timms grilled Boris Johnson about a constituent with NRPF, left without help during lockdown after losing their job. (That constituent would become one of many. Despite ‘Everyone In’, rough sleeping in London actually increased in 2020, swelled partly by people who lost their jobs without a social safety net.) Timms bounced Johnson into admitting he did not know what NRPF was, causing a stir that further boosted the profile of the issue. That boost surely aided the campaign that forced the government to make permanent another temporary pandemic measure – the extension of free school meals to children of parents with NRPF. That was a significant victory for a struggle that campaigners such as North-East London
a better life in the here and now, and tell them that they must wait years, decades or even lifetimes for those problems to be fixed.
Moreover, whether or not people have the right to flee, they do so anyway. Right now in the Mediterranean, despite military blockades, trafficking gangs, state-sponsored crackdowns, and no guarantee of asylum on arrival, people continue to attempt the crossing in rafts and boats. Tens of thousands have died. There is only one practical demand that socialists should make confronted with this: unconditional solidarity. Open the borders and let them in.
Migrant Action had been leading since before Covid, also supported by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement. This provision does remain means-tested, so our call for universal free school meals remains to be won, but this was a major advance against a particularly egregious example of racist state cruelty.
Most recently, last month after a consultation, the Department for Education said it would extend means-tested childcare for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds to families regardless of immigration status, “as soon as is practicable” (so let’s keep up the pressure to follow through – and to make free childcare universal).
BATTLES TO COME
The Tories will continue to divide-and-rule, telling us we can’t afford to support both migrants and non-migrants. But the labour movement can’t afford not to fight for a strong and completely universal social security system, both as a matter of basic humanity and as a backstop that can help shift power in the workplace in our favour. And we know that there is plenty of wealth to go around – we just have to take it back from the rich and big business.
Labour’s frontbench currently appears too timid to seriously challenge the racist right’s narratives. It falls to the grassroots of the party and the unions to turn up the pressure. The labour movement must commit itself wholeheartedly to the migrants’ rights movement, fighting to finally end NRPF and win decent social security for everyone.
PEOPLE FLEEING POVERTY, WAR AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION DON’T NEED THE RIGHT TO MOVE, THEY NEED AN END TO THE PROBLEMS FORCING THEM TO LEAVE
Free osime Brown! Lessons from the campaign
In June 2021, it was announced that Osime Brown would not be deported following a long campaign led by his family. Here, we reflect on that success.
The first thing to say about the campaign to save Osime Brown from deportation is that it should never have been necessary. No amount of joy and relief that a particular deportation order was withdrawn can absolve the authorities who issued it – or cancel the trauma caused by the threat of deportation. Osime and his family were terrorised by the state for years. Their suffering should never be obscured even as we celebrate the positive outcome of a struggle in which the Labour Campaign for Free Movement is proud to have played a part.
What then are the lessons of a successful anti-deportation campaign? One is undoubtedly the power of advocacy to challenge official narratives. Another is about the importance of building alliances as Osime’s brilliant mother, Joan Martin, did so well (enlisting the support of the autism and disabled communities as well as black lives matter and migrants rights’ activists). And another concerns the vital importance of solidarity in the moment: of standing up and speaking out when it counts.
Many people, including MPs, spoke out for Osime, and they made a difference. But many others remained silent. It was depressing – at a critical point in the campaign – to receive generic responses from a number of Labour MPs who confined themselves to “monitoring developments” in the erroneous belief that MPs “cannot comment on ongoing legal matters”. These emails invariably ended with the message, “I would like to see a fair and humane immigration system, built on human rights.” So would we all. The question is what we are prepared to do to get there.
The day that the Home Office finally abandoned its persecution of Osime, its spokesperson issued the following statement: “In order to protect the public it is right that foreign nationals, convicted of crimes with prison sentences of 12 months or more, are automatically considered for deportation under the 2007 Borders Act. The Home Office reviews all cases when new information is provided and all decisions are made in accordance with the law.”
This was the only official public comment on the case, and it should not be forgotten.
For the alleged crime of stealing a friend’s mobile phone, the British state had been prepared to exile a young autistic and intellectually disabled man, who had lived in the UK since early childhood, to Jamaica, a country where he knew no one.
The young man’s mother had been forced to plead publicly for her son’s life, arguing that the deportation order amounted to a death sentence since her vulnerable son would be unable to survive on his own. To all of this, the state offered no reply beyond the usual bland refusal to comment on individual cases.
Now the deportation was being cancelled, following a prolonged public outcry. The final word from the Home Office contained no explanation, let alone an apology. There was to be no expression of remorse, no pretence at accountability or “lessons learned”.
The message is clear. The lethal machinery of the Hostile Environment is still in operation, even if, in this case, the mechanism was halted. Politicians will continue to oil the machinery with the rhetoric of public protection. The conveyor belt of terrified lives will roll on; it is, we are told, automatic. There have been many Osime Browns whose names and faces never came to public attention. There will be more.
The public is asked to imagine a dangerous criminal with minimal connection to this country. But the barest retelling of Osime’s story confounds the narrative. For one thing, a boy who has lived in the UK since the age of four is not a ‘foreigner’; he grew up here, was failed by our institutions and remains our responsibility. Others may be born in Britain yet remain legally ‘foreign’. As Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said, “It is a grotesque injustice that children who grow up in this country continue to be excluded from their citizenship rights then threatened with banishment by the Home Office.”
The open letter against Osime’s deportation asked whether “the life of a young black disabled person should weigh less than a stolen phone.” One reason that the case caused outrage is that Osime (who was convicted under controversial joint enterprise laws and has always protested his innocence) does not fit most people’s idea of a “serious” criminal. Nor in fact do many of those deported on the mass charter flights of which the Home Office is so proud.
Behind the mask of the “dangerous foreign criminal” lies the backdoor reintroduction of penal transportation for relatively minor offences. Evidence of rehabilitation, of lives rebuilt, is ignored to deport people who served their sentences years earlier. Their British counterparts (convicted of the same offences) are free to re-join their families (Britain stopped deporting British criminals to Australia in 1868).
This is a form of “double punishment” that disproportionately affects black and brown people and violates the idea of natural justice.
VICTORY AND HOPE
In the case of Osime, enough people saw his face that nearly half a million of us signed a petition. Regular demonstrations, an Early Day Motion in Parliament, and the intervention of 100+ prominent public figures (co-ordinated by LCFM) all kept Osime’s face in the public mind. The deportation order was rescinded.
Hope comes from the same place it always came from: the knowledge that people can be better than their governments. Ignorance and apathy do not have to prevail, and we can do more than wring our hands and wait for better times. If enough of us refuse our consent, the Hostile Environment will be impossible to maintain. Osime’s case is a beacon of resistance. “Because of you, Osime will remain in his home,” Joan Martin told campaigners last year. “I have a restored trust in humanity. You have demonstrated what love looks like.”
“ALL DECISIONS ARE MADE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW”
MIGRANT WORKERS: FIGHTING & WINNING!ABEL HARVIE-CLARK UNITE & UVW MEMBER
Any history of the labour movement in Britain over the last 60 years would be lost without the contribution of migrant workers’ struggles; the same is true, likely more so, of the labour movement in this country today. In the 1960s, Caribbean bus drivers organised to abolish the colour bar from Bristol buses. In the 1970s, South Asian women fought back against racism and hyper-exploitation at Grunwick print factory, setting the tone for the militant workers’ fights of that decade while exposing the ongoing bigotry and conservatism in the labour movement bureaucracy. Fast-forward to 2022, and migrant workers were behind the longest strike ever in the gig-economy, the notoriously precarious terrain on which the workers’ movement is now forced to fight.
Borders and race have long been tools of the ruling class to divide working class people and create a section of hyper-exploitable workers. The official institutions of the labour movement have often pandered to this agenda, drawing lines between “ethnic minorities” and the “working class”.
It is no surprise that hyper-exploitation, community solidarity and transnational perspectives create fertile conditions for organising. SOAS Unison represents predominantly Latin American cleaners. In 2009, it fought back against the deportation of nine workers, as management tried to use border enforcement to attack the union’s living wage campaign. It remains a solid, militant and multilingual union branch, defending members and winning disputes - including the landmark victory for in-housing, finally won in 2018.
Neo-liberal economics reproduces racist injustice. Many companies now have a two-tier workforce, with migrant workers employed on worse contracts through an outsourcing company. Cleaners at Great Ormond Street Hospital rejected this,
organised with United Voices of the World (UVW) and won parity with NHS staff, achieving unsociable hours bonus, sick pay, and other NHS benefits. Workers in UVW have also won significant victories in care homes, highlighting the appalling treatment and under-payment of workers expected to do such essential work. Despite this, migrants are consistently behind some of the most important struggles - industrial action on the railways was kickstarted back in March when outsourced cleaners, many of them migrants, took action to demand £15 per hour and proper sick pay.
Leading the charge with exploitative employment models are Deliveroo, Stuart and others offering “self-employed” courier jobs. On top of low and unreliable pay, Deliveroo allows accounts to be loaned out, normally to migrants without the legal right to work, who have to pay a substantial amount just to be able log into the system. Couriers have organised with the IWGB, building union structures and taking direct action where the employer has tried their best to atomise workers. Couriers have won improvements on paid waiting times and on safer waiting areas, and the struggle is ongoing.
The British economy runs on migrant labour - from food delivery and the NHS, to social care, haulage and public transport. There can be no genuine attempt to increase wages or salvage public services without championing the organising of the migrant workers who are integral to these sectors. The common lie about migrants driving down wages serves only exploitative bosses who feed off the Hostile Environment to divide workers and drive down wages. Migrant workers have always faced these battles, whether they like it or not. It is time the rest of the labour movement to take notice, take notes, and fight together
IMMIGRATION RAIDS IN THE WORKPLACE
RMT MEMBERS FIGHT BACKLondon UNDERGROUND WORKER & RMT ACTIVIST
In October 2021, border cops carried out an immigration raid inside Walthamstow Central London Underground station. Some of those detained included London Underground workers, who were seemingly racially profiled. RMT’s Piccadilly and District West branch subsequently passed a resolution committing to seek links with the anti-raids movement to campaign against immigration raids in the workplace. One of the activists who proposed the motion shares their reasons for doing so below. The text of the motion follows.
I had a conversation in the mess room the other day with a colleague who was raving about Channel boat crossings. The colleague was adamant that Labour will never be elected unless they come up with a worse, harsher policy on boat crossings than the Tories currently have.
The anger, exasperation and general heightened emotional state they were in while talking about this was pretty evident. I tried to challenge the position, with some basic rational pro-immigration arguments and some myth-busting - telling them that the UK has the most hostile immigration system in all of Europe, that there are now no legal routes to claim asylum, that those asylum seekers that do make it here end up stuck in a Kafkaesque nightmare of continuous bureaucratic interviews and surveillance for years, even decades…
But I realised as I was talking that they weren’t really listening. I could list as many sound arguments as I wanted, they didn’t care. This is because their position wasn’t based on any list of rational antiimmigration arguments, it was based on
a visceral emotional reaction to watching news footage of the boat crossings. They watched these videos on the TV or social media and felt fear rising up, which then translated into anger and hatred, to the point where they literally can’t talk about boat crossings without shaking with anger.
I haven’t given up on this colleague though, because this is a worker that understands solidarity, that stands on picket lines with me. This is why I was keen to pass this resolution through my branch, to start to try and build links between the anti-raids movement and the more traditional workers’ movement. Because these anti-immigrant feelings are deeply rooted emotional responses to fear, they sometimes need stronger emotional reactions to shake them off - the stronger emotional response that comes from love and solidarity, from taking action together, such as communities standing up to immigration raids.
The images that we’ve seen on social media recently from Glasgow and Dalston, have been truly inspirational, showing that when working-class communities unite, the carceral arm of the state has no option but to turn and run away. We’ve all seen the movie Pride, about how a group of LGBT activists are able to smash
through the latent homophobia of some in a Welsh mining community, with a spectacular display of solidarity. This is exactly the kind of solidarity needed now, to smash through these artificially created divisions between asylum seekers and workers. Because I know my that, if my colleague fought side by side with migrant workers on one of our RMT picket lines, or in defending a community from an immigration raid, side by side with asylum seekers, they would no longer be able to maintain the same anger and hatred.
This branch notes that an immigration raid took place inside Walthamstow tube station on 13 October 2021. The raid took place within the ticket barriers, underground.
London Underground workers were detained during the raid, apparently due to their accent. Witnesses reported that the raid racially profiled passengers, targeting Eastern European tradespeople and ignoring the smartly dressed. Those snatched in raids are often sent to immigration detention centers and have limited access to lawyers.
Transport for London promised there would be no more immigration raids in
The branch believes that London’s transport networks should be a welcoming and safe space, regardless of immigration status. Immigration raids should not take place on any of London’s transport networks. They put RMT members and passengers at risk, and divide our community.
This branch believes that Transport for London should inform the Home Office that immigration raids will not be permitted on Transport for London property, unless there is a legal warrant issued.
This branch resolves to call on our General Secretary to write to Transport for London to oppose any future collaboration by TfL with immigration raids.
This branch resolves to invite a speaker from the Anti Raids Network to a branch meeting, to share information on how RMT members can protect themselves, passengers and their community.
IMMIGRATION DRIVES DOWN WAGES
Over 150 years ago Marx wrote: “The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. [...] This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class. [...] It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power.”
One of the deepest rooted myths about immigration is the idea that a larger “supply” of workers reduces wages, and that migrants undercut UK-born workers by accepting lower wages. Whilst it is true that bosses will do nearly everything to cut costs and maximise profits - that is the logic of capitalism - it simply isn’t the case that migrants drive down wages as described.
On an economic level, this argument ignores the additional job creation and money circulated by migrants within a society: more workers (migrants or not) means more services used and goods bought. If the myth that immigration depresses wages held on these grounds, then any rise in population levels would result in lower wages. But this hasn’t happened - indeed, the UK’s fastest-growing towns and cities have suffered less in terms of wages in recent years.
More importantly, this myth ignores the struggles forged and led by migrant workers who have either won or fought for pay increases and workplace improvements, not just for themselves, but all their colleagues too. Examples
range from couriers across the UK, to cleaners on the London Underground, from campus porters and support staff, to health workers in the NHS. When migrant workers fight and win, all workers win.
Even if wage levels were affected by migration, raising borders does far more damage. Border controls make a section of the working class more precarious (undermining wages across the board). The politics of blaming immigration breeds resentment and suspicion and makes effective solidarity and unionisation much harder.
Whilst there have been very deep, longterm wage stagnation and cuts that right-wing opportunists have jumped on, this is not rooted in immigration. The London School of Economics published a report in 2016, concluding that the areas of Britain that saw the largest number of European migrants saw no difference in the changes of pay and job numbers versus parts of the country with lower levels of migration. These arguments hold irrespective of where migrants arrive from. In reality, people are poorer because of the weakened state of the trade union movement and the general decline of working class self-organisation.
We must instead focus fire on those who control our wages, and those who make Britain a harder place for migrant and non-migrant workers to organise and fight back. We need to arm ourselves and our movement with this argument: immigration doesn’t drive down wages, capitalism does.
MIGRANT NURSES: Exploited & ABUSEDBY A HEALTHWORKER
Foreign nurses are being exploited by the NHS and private health care organisations. They also face severe financial difficulties, are exposed to unregulated landlords, and are left vulnerable to bullying due to the restrictive conditions of their contracts.
Thanks to the Hostile Environment, Brexit, and the cancellation of bursaries, we have a record number of nurse shortages in the NHS. This has led NHS Trusts and private companies to recruit nurses from the Global South to meet this increasing demand. These nurses are often lured in with fancy recruitment ads promising them great working conditions and benefits, as well as a better quality of life for them and their families. However, the reality is quite different. Their contracts have terms which these Trusts say are for recouping the costs of sponsorship of their visa and recruitment, which prevent them from leaving their job in the first three years unless they are willing to pay hefty fines. Most of these nurses are barely paid minimum wage while they wait for their qualifications to be recognized and to pass additional exams. This forces them to stay in their roles against their will. In some cases, this leads to nurses being exploited and bullied by staff and the Trust as they know they cannot leave even if they’re mistreated.
They’re also facing other challenges when they arrive that leave them in a precarious position with respect to pay and accommodation. All foreign nurses who are from outside the UK and EEA (European Economic Area), no matter how many years of experience they have, need to pass a competency exam called Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) to work as nurses in the UK. This exam should be arranged by their prospective employers as soon as they reach the UK, ideally within 6 weeks, but due to the shortage of space at test centres, it is now taking up to 6 months in some instances. While they wait to take this test, nurses still do everything they would as a nurse but on paper, they work as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) getting paid minimum wage until they clear the exam. This is not made clear to these nurses before they arrive, many of whom have commitments to support their families, sending money back home for income support.
Most of these nurses have to find accommodation after the first few weeks of arrival. For this, they have to show proof of earnings and their wages are not enough to sustain them paying the rent. Most employers refuse to act as a guarantor (which is usually needed when renting privately) because of the responsibility involved. With most of the nurses leaving all their family and friends behind and entering the country totally isolated, there is little other option but for them to go to unregulated private landlords with no proper contracts, leaving them further vulnerable to exploitation. This is how we are rewarding staff who are travelling across the world and giving up their lives to support our NHS.
WHY FEMINISTS MUST SUPPORT FREE MOVEMENTRAYAH FELDMAN FEMINIST FIGHTBACK
Immigration control has always affected men and women differently. The whole notion of immigration controls has long been predicated on the idea of marriage and a family with a male breadwinner and dependent wife. As long ago as 1905 when the first explicitly anti-immigrant legislation was introduced in Britain to keep out poor Jews fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe, the “immigrant” was constructed as male and was “undesirable” unless he could support not only himself but his dependants. These ideas have helped to keep women in enforced dependency in families, while explicit hostile environment policies have brought immigration control into almost every aspect of migrants’ lives.
But in spite of the prescriptive notion of the heteronormative nuclear family supporting wife and children, in practice the state seeks to restrict family formation among migrant or mixed families. Indeed the barriers to family formation by foreigners are legion. Restrictions on marriage such as virginity tests on Asian women in the 1970s, NHS charges for maternity care and financial obstacles to family unification.
For example, since 2012 there has been a minimum income threshold of £18,600 for British citizens or people settled in the UK to bring a partner to join them. The threshold rises with each child and is clearly discriminatory against women because women’s average earnings are lower than men’s. It was estimated that 55% of women working in the UK would fail to meet the threshold to bring a non-British partner and 69% would not be able to afford to bring a partner and two children.
Similarly, the family is forgotten when it comes to maternity care. Undocumented women and those on visitor or fiancé visas, are not entitled to free NHS care and face staggeringly high charges, from £7000, for routine maternity care. Yet only the woman who receives the care is responsible for payment, and she can face sanctions on future visa applications if she incurs a debt over £500. A dependent woman within a relationship is rendered vulnerable to abuse and greater control if she alone is deemed responsible for a debt of thousands of pounds. No sanction is brought against the father.
Queer and trans migrants, especially refugees, face additional problems in getting recognition of their relationships and “chosen family” support. They also have to deal with dangers and abuse in countries through which they are travelling or in which they have taken refuge. While British immigration law recognises gay marriage and civil partnerships, people in same sex relationships often come from countries where no legal proof of relationship exists. They are routinely asked to “prove” their sexuality in intrusive and humiliating ways. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are now among those at risk of being deported to Rwanda, ostensibly to claim asylum, in a country known to stigmatise and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
For women, dependence is built into the fundamental assumptions of immigration controls and is reinforced by them. With the growth of the hostile environment, this dependence has increased. For example, from 2012 dependent spouses must remain five years in a marriage before they can obtain indefinite leave to remain – increased from two years. This
can force women in abusive relationships to stay rather than risk destitution if they leave. Often, refusal to arrange extension of a visa is part of the abuse. Unless such woman meet strict eligibility conditions, they are likely to face irregular immigration status and destitution if they leave their partner.
No Recourse to Public Funds policies have a serious impact on family life, and prevent people accessing mainstream benefits. It disproportionately affects single parents, of whom the overwhelming majority are women who cannot work because of their childcare responsibilities.
The UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Committee has recognised “women migrants and women sex workers as groups of women who are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, discrimination, and marginalisation.” It has also called on states to repeal visa schemes that discriminate against women and ensure occupations dominated by migrant women workers are granted labour protections. This includes especially domestic work and sex work.
Gender discrimination is palpable in the immigration restrictions on migrant domestic workers, mainly women, who accompany families they have worked for abroad. Visas for these workers last only 6 months and are non-renewable. There are myriad reports of abuse and exploitation among such workers, as their visas push them to remain with abusive employers rather than lose their livelihood, accommodation, and permission to stay in the UK.
Immigration controls are about excluding
The policing of prostitution in the UK uses immigration law to particularly target migrant sex workers. For example, in 2017 police raided a flat in Swindon where three Romanian women were working. The police arrested the women, took their money, and deported them. They framed this as for the women’s safety, telling the local paper: “the women are now safe and away from their clients and are no longer vulnerable to the risks of off-street sex work”. A few months later, police in Smethwick raided a flat where three Romanian women were working, and had the women evicted and then deported. In Leeds in 2013, the police prosecuted three Polish women who had escaped an exploitative manager and were working in what the judge acknowledged was an ‘informal co-operative’. They were convicted. In 2018, hundreds of police officers raided London’s Chinatown parlours in what was portrayed in the press as an anti-trafficking operation. As a result of the raid, multiple women were charged with immigration offences, and many were taken to Yarl’s Wood and then deported. The police also stole £37,000 out of individual women’s lockers
Full article: bit.ly/molly-smith www.swarmcollective.org
certain categories of people, not because of what they’ve done but because of who they are. Immigration controls act to increase divisions and suspicions between people and to exacerbate the subordination, marginalisation, and discrimination of particular groups. That’s why the abolition of immigration controls and free movement are fundamental to an inclusive and intersectional feminist politics. No-one should be excluded – noone is illegal.
Feminist Fightback is an anticapitalist feminist collective. www.feministfightback.org.uk
LET US VOTE
In 2019, through considerable effort from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, one of the most radical and progressive motions on immigration was debated and passed (nearly unanimously) on Labour conference floor. It was a turning point - a demonstration that the party’s membership was strongly committed to free movement and migrants’ rights, and that the unions, if not necessarily fully on board with the policy behind closed doors, could not be seen to openly oppose it.
The motion’s passing was met with denunciations from the usual reactionary corners of the press, as well as lukewarm dismissals from the front bench, and what made it into the manifesto was ultimately a watering down of the policy. But to many activists’ surprise, one key demand was kept, unaltered and boldly declared in the For The Many booklet: the expansion of the voting franchise to all UK residents, regardless of nationality. In the middle of a fraught campaign, with accusations flying of Corbyn wanting to nationalise sausages and turn Shropshire into Caracas, it was a policy that flew largely under the radar, but it was and is one of the most progressive and potentially transformative proposals to make its way onto a political manifesto in recent years.
Ours is a globalised society, one in which the violent friction of borders becomes ever more apparent as the pressures of war, climate change and global capitalism spur people to migrate and adapt. The UK’s status as increasingly multicultural and multiethnic makes it the ideal place to ask an important question about the nature of democracy: who is it for, and who should participate in it?
The UK is infamous for its democratic structures, or lack thereof. The head of state is a hereditary monarch with vetting power over legislation, and it has an unelected second chamber much of which is occupied by the clergy of the
state religion. Elections to the Commons are done through First Past The Post, a system so clearly flawed it’s only kept around because it heavily benefits the Conservatives, and whenever Labour succeed with it they delude themselves into thinking it isn’t that bad. This is not even to mention the behind-thescenes gerrymandering of constituency boundaries, designed to entrench a permanent Tory majority.
However, the UK does have one surprisingly progressive aspect to its democracy: its franchise casts a wider net than usual. Most other nations restrict their franchise, in parliamentary and presidential elections, explicitly to citizens, often citizens who reside or have recently resided within the national boundary of the state. The UK’s vast imperial reach meant that when the empire disintegrated, it maintained voting rights for Commonwealth citizens as well, a policy that remained even as those citizens’ rights to arrive and live in the UK became more difficult. It’s this strange quirk that meant that citizens of Malta or Cyprus residing in the UK were allowed to vote in the 2016 EU referendum, while a member of the Scottish parliament with a French passport was not.
We tend to see the extension of the franchise to women and the working class as the final step in its so-called universalisation. But migrants, such as myself, who have made a home for ourselves on these shores, are disenfranchised from the political decisions that will affect our lives the most. The citizen voter model of the franchise is built on a foundation of exclusionary nationalism, as well as an antiquated notion of immigration: one in which the immigrant ultimately yearns to return to their “homeland” and is thus seen as a foreign agent more invested in their own nation’s future. It’s a framing of democracy that restricts it to the people
that are “from” or “of” a place, rather than those who are active participants in it. Yet just like citizens, migrants experience the consequences of political decisionswe work here, have families here, our children are born in hospitals that our taxes help fund, we attend schools and frequent libraries and take public transport whose quality is determined by political decisions. Austerity and the cost of living crisis hit everyone regardless of the colour of their passport. We are politically active where we can be, we organise in our communities, in trade unions and in our workplaces, fighting to better the pay and working conditions for everyone. And despite this, we remain at the mercy of a political class that is not accountable to us. We are a silent monolith, one that can be ignored at the best of times and scapegoated, consequence-free, at the worst. It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be.
There are already constituencies that have taken the leap. New Zealand, a long time pioneer of franchise expansion, has allowed voting to all permanent residents regardless of nationality since 1975. Similar laws apply in Uruguay and Malawi. In the UK, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are elected by the residents of those respective nations.
The progressive demand is inevitably the demand for increased democracy, as it has been historically from the Paris Commune to the Suffragettes. Bridging the franchise gap in the rest of the UK, taking a major step towards a truly representative democracy, is merely a matter of political will, one that we should keep pushing for. Any expansion of the franchise to residents should be seen as a good thing, including the defence of rights lost due to Brexit. But we must be steadfast in pushing for the ultimate aim: full voting rights for all residents.
FOR A TRUE UNIVERSAL FRANCHISE MYTH#4ALEX FERNANDES TOOTING CLP
FREE MOVEMENT IS A MIDDLE CLASS ISSUE
We often hear it said that free movement is a middle-class right, only benefiting richer British citizens. Undoubtedly, some of the 1.3 million UK-born residents living outside of the UK are rich, but the charge that it is a right exclusively enjoyed by the rich is a fallacy.
With 1 in 7 of the NHS’s nursing staff and just over a quarter of all construction workers being migrants, we see that vast numbers of the UK’s working-class were born outside the UK. The British working class undoubtedly benefits from healthcare, food and housing; it therefore necessarily benefits from the migrant workers who labour to provide these. Free movement lessens the restrictions these workers face to organise and fight back against exploitation.
Free movement has, however, always been available to the rich - no-one has ever stopped the likes of Richard Branson buying houses and living where he pleases. Losing free movement with Europe was a huge blow to the rights of working class people. We argue for the fullest extension of rights to work and live where we choose.
INDIA: CLASS STRUGGLE & SOLIDARITYLOTIKA SINGHA & PRAVEEN KOLLUGURI
In India, a struggle is raging between working people’s organisations and Indian capitalism’s economic and political elites. The 2020-21 farmers’ battle against the Modi government’s pro-corporate agricultural reforms was one of the largest recent battles. In 2020, India’s parliament passed sweeping new “labour codes” attacking workers’ rights even in the “formal” 20% of the economy where certain basic rights exist. This year’s Interational Trade Union Confederation Global Rights Index notes that working people protesting in India are regularly arrested, detained, tortured and murdered.
Modi’s far-right government enjoys the support of the British Tories. Its authoritarian and pro-capitalist politics are reinforced by right-wing Hindu nationalism. As the Tories pursue a vision of ‘Global Britain’, they will pursue closer links with the Indian ruling class - and it is important that socialists understand this and build solidarity with Indian workers.
The Tories’ push to expand trade deals comes in the context of their indifference to attacks on human rights in India –workers’ rights, the rights of oppressed
castes and minorities, and basic civil liberties. While the UK Foreign Office praises India for its supposed commitment to the environment, the London Science Museum is being funded by the Indian government-backed Adani coal mining group. In addition to the contribution of hyper-exploited labour in India to the UK economy, British firms working and trading in India are likely to learn from their Indian counterparts and lobby to further undermine workers’ rights here.
A new group, India Labour Solidarity (ILS), has formed to promote solidarity with India’s workers’, working people’s and social justice movements in the UK Labour and trade union movements. You can invite India Labour Solidarity to speak and circulate information about working people’s struggles in India, and how they connect to workers’ struggles and interests here. The ILS has also established a Solidarity Fund to support precarious workers’ organisations In India, which is accepting donations.
For more information write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
OUTSOURCING EUROPE’S BORDERS & ITS CRIMES
Murder, rape, enslavement, torture, abductions and imprisonment by terrorist militia: this is the violence used against refugees and migrants at the European borders since 2015. The UK has played an important role in shaping the relationship between the EU and other actors in states such as Libya, Niger and Sudan. These groups are funded by the EU to terrorise refugees and migrants fleeing prosecution, war, famines, poverty and European generated climate change and climate disasters.
Canadian author Harash Walia (2021) describes this strategy as “governance through exclusion, to solidify a racialised nationalist identity, and criminalise migrants and refugees as “undesirable” and “trespassers”, which leads to people becoming illegalised because of state restrictions”. The strategy is in stark contrast with the liberal and humanitarian self-image of European governments.
On 7 September 2022, a video emerged showing a 15-year-old boy being terrorized and tortured by gunmen demanding ransom money. A video by Associated Press shows 15-year-old Mazen Adam, a refugee in Libya from war-torn Sudan, cowering in a bare corner, begging for mercy and holding up his arms to fend off the rifle pointed at his face, while his tormentor demands money.
AP journalist Samy Magdy (2022) states: “The video has underscored how abuses, torture, sexual violence and killing of migrants are rampant in Libya, where the European Union is using fragments of the broken down-state as an out-sourced-police to block migrants from reaching its shores, trapping them there.”
The UK is a donor to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which delivers support to the Libyan police and Coastguards.
On 24 June 2022, 23 African men died when more than 2000 people tried to enter Spain by climbing the high chain-link razer wired fences surrounding Melilla, one of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa.
Videos and photographs show bodies strewn on the ground in pools of blood, Moroccan security forces kicking and beating people and Spanish Guardia Civil launching teargas at men clinging to fences.
These enclaves are funded by the EU and Spain, who have paid Morocco €18 million to bolster the fences around both enclaves. Much greater sums are being spent on EUMoroccan cooperation. Since 2014, Morocco has received some €343 million from the bloc.
Since the early 1990, around 50,000 people have died while travelling to Europe according to Dutch NGO United for Intercultural Action United. The report titled “Death by Policy: Time for Change!” reminds us that deaths do not just occur at sea, but in detention. 400 people have taken their own lives in detention centres and more than 600 people have died violently at the hands of others.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 610,000 migrants and refugees are in Libya, 700 are languishing in squalid Libyan detention centres, where abuse is rife and food and water is in short supply, and they face torture and extortion.
GLOBAL FREE MOVEMENT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYONE’S LIVESNADIA WHITTOME MP & ZOE GARDNER
Free movement is seen as an unworkable position – but it is our current immigration system, both in the UK and globally, that is unworkable. It is barbaric, it produces exploitation and, with the rising threat of the climate crisis, it is unsustainable. While there is no doubt that border enforcement policies are deadly, their effectiveness is questionable. Yet they cost us a fortune – from complex technologies to back-room deals signed with regimes in different countries to contain their populations. Then there is the incalculable loss incurred by systems preventing people from reaching opportunity and from being entitled to work, change employer or unionise. And this is before we even discuss their cost in human lives. The overwhelming economic case for free movement has been made repeatedly, but the argument from a human and workers’ rights perspective – for migrants and nonmigrants alike – rarely gains a mainstream hearing.
Migrants’, workers’ and human rights activists have been forced onto the back foot, able only to resist the increasing brutality of our border regimes rather than arguing for an entirely new migration system. But we must not lose sight of the complete overhaul that is needed, and challenge the false logic that underpins the status quo.
Many things that we today consider to be basic rights were once viewed as unrealistic and too radical, such as universal suffrage. Attitudes and policies
have been changed beforel and it can happen again to make what was once unthinkable possible, and then obvious. As climate change devastates communities around the world, many more will be forced from their homes. Will those in the West, the states that have contributed the greatest emissions, abandon those least responsible but most affected? Or will we attempt to work out a global system that supports migration of this scale in the most humane way possible? The crises we face require bold solutions that go beyond existing limited programmes to assist small numbers of people.
All but a tiny minority of the world’s richest people are excluded from the opportunity to obtain a visa and travel to escape persecution or to seek a better life for their families. People are dying attempting to cross the Channel and other Western borders, and those who survive their journeys face increasingly restricted rights in the countries in which they settle. Often they are denied benefits, housing assistance, the right to change employer or reunite with family members. In some cases they are banned from working at all, leaving them at risk of destitution or becoming victims of exploitative rogue employers.
Free movement is also a workers’ right and there are real benefits to be derived for everyone, including those who choose not to exercise their right to move. While some fear migration would depress wages and cause unemployment, even
in the current climate of weakened trade unions, stagnant wages, underfunding and a hostile environment, the government’s own research shows that immigration has little-to-no impact on employment and a small short-term negative effect on lowpaid workers. The truth is that exploitative bosses and the system enabling them are to blame for low wages, and the answer is stronger workers’ rights for all and a unionised workforce. Miigrants whose right to live in a country depends on employers’ sponsorship are less likely to challenge exploitative employers for fear of deportation.
Free movement is fundamentally about reducing suffering, tackling inequality and ensuring everyone’s rights – issues that many care deeply about. But people are presented with a false dichotomy with migration: cruelty or chaos. With such a strong humanitarian case for free movement, it is an idea on which people can be won over if concerns about its practicality are addressed. There is a body of evidence that suggests many of the fears about free movement are unfounded.
There is a theory that free movement and an inclusive welfare state are mutually exclusive. However, the research does not appear to support this. The development of free movement rights must include access to the state safety net that we rely on in times of difficulty, but under such a system, ‘benefits tourism’ has been shown to be largely a myth.
Where people are able to move freely
within a region, they tend to go to where they can find good jobs, and leave when the jobs go. Where regional free-movement areas are developed, mutual access to welfare states needs to be negotiated, but evidence suggests that this is not an insurmountable challenge to generous policies – as in the Scandinavian countries under EU freedom of movement, for example.
The use of public services is not a zerosum game: migrants pay taxes and staff as well as using public services. They also create jobs. The Turkish city of Gaziantep grew its population by 30% in ten years by taking in half a million Syrian refugees. Instead of separating the migrants from the previous residents, authorities invested in improving infrastructure to benefit everyone.
It is through the gradual growth of regional free-movement areas – such as the EU, South American trade bloc MERCOSUR, and Australia and New Zealand’s TransTasman agreement, among many others – that we can advance towards a world where crossing a border does not mean losing one’s rights and, eventually, one where mobility is free and everyone’s rights are strengthened.
Moving step-by-step to promote greater transnational rights for all can mitigate and manage the challenges brought by freer migration. By far the most common type of migration is the kind we largely ignore, which takes place within countries. Most forcibly displaced people worldwide never cross an international border.
The evidence shows that, given freedom, people tend to move within their region or choose not to move, and adopt circular migration patterns, bringing knowledge, skills and money gained elsewhere back into their communities of origin and back out again and so on.
Permanent migration from the Global South to the Global North is more unusual. The path reflects the immense global inequality that the Global North has created through hoarding wealth often extracted from migrants’ countries of origin, and the lack of flexibility in our systems for managing human mobility. People are forced to abandon their homes and travel large distances, risking everything, just for the chance at a better life.
But our rich societies equally would not function without immigration, so we must not see migration purely as something that ‘happens to us’, but as a complex and natural process in which we are a disproportionately powerful player and have the levers to manage it in a way that benefits us all.
We are currently a long way from global free movement and such a system could not be achieved by the UK alone. But in
the immediate term, there are policies the UK could introduce that would increase mobility rights, lessen the brutality of our immigration system and create a more just world.
We need to prevent further moves towards an immigration system based on wealth, minimum income and employer sponsorship; lift hostile environment policies that restrict access to public funds and the NHS; guarantee safe routes and rights for asylum seekers; shut down detention centres; restore free movement with Europe and gradually agree to freemovement rights with more countries. We must also redouble our efforts on international development and climate justice for the Global South.
The UK is in a position to stop doing so much harm towards migrants. Even as we struggle to protect existing rights, we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal –an equal world where we all have strong rights and opportunity is shared – and fight to take steps towards it.
This article appeared on Open Democracy earlier this year. It is republished here in an abridged form under a Creative Commons license.
WHAT ABOUT THE POSTED WORKERS DIRECTIVE?
The EU’s Posted Workers Directive (PWD) allows any employer who sends an employee temporarily to another EU country to continue applying the labour laws and pay rates of the originating country during posting. In some instances it has been used to give foreign workers worse terms than would be required when employing directly in the host country.
But it’s a red herring in debating whether we should rejoin Europe’s free movement area - because it isn’t part of the free movement of people. It exists within the “free movement of services” rules. It also happened on a tiny scale and had very little impact: Posted Workers accounted for less than 0.2% of the UK workforce, with the largest “sender” countries being Germany and France, hardly low-wage economies compared to the UK. Moreover, recently-passed EU reforms (opposed, of course, by the UK Tory government when we were in the EU) will limit PWD and strengthen the right to equal pay for equal work.
Whatever happens at Labour conference 2022, the struggle goes on. Here is our broad strategy, adopted at the Labour Campaign for Free Movement’s conference this summer.
WHAT WE’RE FIGHTING FOR
The end of free movement with Europe was an immense roll-back of rights for millions of workers: both EU citizens who have come here or may want to in future, and UK citizens who lost the right to move, live and work freely in those countries.
Labour and our trade unions must fight to restore free movement with Europe. But we cannot stop there.
We reject policies that determine migrants’ freedoms to move, live and work here based on number caps and targets, on incomes, or on how useful they may be to employers. We oppose the expansion of temporary labour migration programmes, especially those where workers are “tied” to an employer.
We oppose the brutal policies imposed by the UK government on migrants, including:
• ensuring the unconditional right to family reunion;
• closing all detention centres and ending raids, detention and deportations;
• stopping the offshoring of migrants and refugees to Rwanda or any other country;
• securing for asylum seekers: safe, legal routes; sanctuary and equality regardless of arrival route; and day-one equal rights to work, social security, housing and education;
• extending equal voting rights in all elections and referendums to everyone resident in the UK;
• ending “no recourse to public funds” policies;
• scrapping all Hostile Environment measures, including the use of landlords, employers and public service providers
So, WHAT’s OUR StRATEGY?
as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access;
• securing an amnesty for all undocumented migrants in the UK.
And we oppose the lethal Fortress Europe policies imposed at and beyond Europe’s borders, standing instead for welcoming refugees and extending free movement beyond Britain and the rest of Europe, with the ultimate goal of equal rights to free movement worldwide.
Since our foundation in 2017, we have argued for these principles and demands within Labour and the trade unions, to secure their adoption as policy, and to make sure that our movement consistently enacts them both in government at all levels, and from opposition.
We combine parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action. While we campaign to change laws and policies, we also embrace direct action and civil disobedience. These are neither contradictory nor separate: direct action halts injustices in the here and now and also helps to build pressure for reform. In particular, we know that it is workers who make the world move, and organised workers who can bring it to a standstill. So as a labour movement campaign, we work to foster, support and promote workers’ refusal to cooperate with anti-migrant policies.
We recognise the huge range of other campaigns and organisations for migrants’ rights and we want to work with them, especially self-organisation by migrants and refugees: our roles are to help them win over the rest of our movement, and to encourage Labour and union members, individually and collectively, to get directly involved in taking action.
Given this government’s constant barrage of assaults on migrants’ rights and the changing situation, our work has to be responsive and flexible to a degree.
Nevertheless, we agree some broad outlines for our activity coming out of this conference:
• Protecting and building on our policy victories in Labour and holding our representatives accountable to these policies;
• Where Labour is in power at local, metropolitan and devolved levels, pressing it to defend migrants’ rights. This includes, for instance, demanding that Labour-run authorities and services end voluntary cooperation with immigration enforcement;
• Promoting our policies and principles across the grassroots of the labour movement, by putting forward our arguments and motions in local Labour parties and trade union branches;
• Encouraging Labour and trade union bodies and members, from the base up, to get involved with protest and direct action against the government’s anti-migrant regime and in direct solidarity with those targeted;
• Exploring all avenues to encourage and support protest and non-cooperation by workers who are expected to implement the Hostile Environment, deportations and other anti-migrant measures. Campaign for trades unions to encourage refusal to carry out immigration controls and to defend members to take that stand. Defiance not compliance!
If you agree with us, this is your campaign too. Sign up at: bit.ly/lcfm-signup
RISING UP AGAINST RAIDS
Workers & COmmunities HaVE THE POWERABEL HARVIE-CLARK UNITE & UVW MEMBER
Border enforcement has been evaded, subverted, and resisted for as long as it has existed. Evading detention and deportation has been a necessary act for many migrant communities looking to live a dignified life in the UK, and has been made more urgent by the ramping up of hostile environment policies since 2011.
One way that communities have cared for each other and fought back is through the establishment of anti-raids groups. The groups both reflect, and help to build, strong communities of solidarity. They hold in-person meetings, doorknocking sessions and stalls to distribute information (translated into relevant languages) about people’s rights and ways to avoid, prevent or intervene in raids. Recently, social media has been utilised to quickly spread the word and bring crowds to blockade immigration removal vans.
Workers’ organisations also have a history of supporting anti-border struggles. The Latin American Workers’ Association was involved in the establishment of the Anti Raids Network in 2012, three years after SOAS university used an immigration raid against migrant workers organising for a living wage. In 2022, couriers organised in the IWGB helped to march police out of Dalston after they tried to enforce immigration law against riders simply doing their job.
Events in Glasgow on 12th May 2021 set a new standard for community protests in rolling back the hostile environment, and were underpinned by strong activist networks in the city. When an urgent call went out on Facebook reporting an immigration enforcement van on Kenmure Street, activists placed themselves under the police van to stop its departure. Hundreds turned up, with food and water
for each other, to protest and block any chance of the van leaving. A local human rights lawyer eventually negotiated the detainees’ release and safe passage to a nearby place of worship. Since then, the model of mass action has successfully prevented immigration removals again in Dalston, Peckham and Leeds, while alerts of immigration vans are gathering greater traction on social media. The blocking of vehicles carrying detainees was also essential to preventing the deportations to Rwanda in June. Direct action certainly brings results, and is spurring more organisation, as more anti-raids groups are forming in cities across the UK.
Justifiable optimism for these actions must be measured against the severity of the situation with which we are faced. Despite forced migration of people continuing to increase worldwide, the Conservatives remain committed to the explicit intention to increase deportations, as the Nationality and Borders Bill intends, while Labour’s leadership offers little opposition. Undoubtedly, we need more anti-raids groups, more widespread awareness and readiness to resist raids, and more direct actions to block deportations. Crucial as these actions are, we also need to think about what happens after raids are resisted. Will people go back to suffering with no recourse to public funds, hyper-exploited, with no legal right to work, without access to healthcare, worrying about the next raid? Effective as raid resistance is, these groups must aim to build a world in which raids do not exist at all.
The raid resistance in Dalston showed the power of the workers’ movement to resist the enforcement of the border. While trade unions have a history of supporting members against deportation back in the
‘80s and ‘90s, the major unions today have failed to recognise borders as a workers’ issue. Migrants’ rights and the right to free movement need to be recognised as the basis of recruiting and organising workers in unions, as IWGB and UVW successfully have done. Not only can workplace organisation protect us against immigration raids, it can also be a tool to withdraw our labour from sustaining border regimes. When I was at school, teachers and parents protested and prevented immigration status monitoring taking place in the classroom. Campaigns are ongoing against immigration reporting by university workers, with local union branches best placed to coordinate the withdrawal of consent for the Home Office’s sprawling presence in education.
As the border permeates more aspects of our lives, so too do we gain agency to stop its enforcement. At the sharpest end of the hostile environment, PCS, the civil servants’ union, has passed policy to support its members in refusing to carry out deportations. We need to agitate to strengthen and popularise this policy: aviation workers, for example, have a great deal of agency to prevent deportations. Such action might seem far off right now, but so did the anti-raids actions 18 months ago. Joining your local anti-raids group is a great way to keep building this movement. Think about who or which local areas are at most risk of immigration raids. Where there are unorganised precarious and migrant workers, the example of IWGB and UVW can be a great inspiration to show what can be done. And if your work involves enforcing hostile environment policies, think about drawing the links with your workmates between the mass street actions and workers’ actions that can work together to win free movement for all.
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IF YOU ARE A CONFERENCE DELEGATE
1. Make sure your CLP votes to prioritise Immigration and Asylum
2. Support our motion when it comes to the vote
3. Get involved in organising: text 07964791663
IF YOU ARE AT CONFERENCE AS A NON-DELEGATE
There’s still lots you can do. We need people to help us leaflet, talk to delegates and campaign. Come to our events, and text 07964791663 to get involved
COME TO OUR EVENTS AT CONFERENCE
• At The World TransformedBeyond Borders: is it Possible and How Do We Get There?: 11:15 to 12:45 on Saturday - at the School Cinema
• Our first caucus at conference: 12:45 to 14:00 on Sunday - at Bar Revolución de Cuba, Albert Docks.
• To hear about more caucuses and events, text 07964791663