On Hannah's Deportation, The Strangers into Citizens Rally and finding patriotism in some very unexpected places
Bad news to start with, I'm afraid. Fiorella who blogs at The first blast of the Trumpet, as I call it has been battling away to save a woman called Hannah who'd been incarcerated in horrible Yarl's Wood from deportation. Sadly, Hannah was deported on Thursday. Fiorella writes:
"Hannah was deported this evening at 9:30 pm. We were able to contact a Christian family in Mumbai via a friend who offered to meet her at the airport and give her a temporary place to stay, and the parish got in touch with a convent in another region of India that has offered to take her in if she needs a safe place to stay whilst she considers her future. As you can imagine, the events of the last twelve hours have been absolutely devastating and we are struggling to come to terms with losing Hannah, when we had hoped that the deportation order would be cancelled and that she would be able to return to us. I am going to be out of circulation for the next week or so. I will be checking email every so often but blogging may be a little sporadic for the next few days. I can only hope that Hannah will eventually find refuge in a country more welcoming to strangers than Britain."
Fiorella's a good sort and the whole affair has clearly been very upsetting for her. Do post a comment on her blog expressing your sympathy and solidarity with her and Hannah against our cruel and inhumane asylum and immigration laws.
Right, time for a quick and very belated round up of comment and analysis of last Monday's Strangers into Citizens rally.
Respect partisan, Liam Maccuaid seems to have had a jolly good time, writing breathlessly:
"For my money this demo is the highlight of the political calendar. Once a year the voiceless and invisible hyper-exploited workers of London take to the streets and make themselves heard. They are a multitude drawn from every corner of the planet and maybe, just maybe, they are starting to get a sense of their power and numbers."
Green leftie Jim Jay also enjoyed himself, saying, "I thought it was a fantastic event and one of the few demonstrations I actually enjoy going on."
Over at Shiraz Socialist Voltaire's Priest was less impressed, arguing that while the campaign's arguments for a one-off amnesty seemed reasonable enough, there was a sting in the tail:
What happens after this amnesty? As it stands, the proposal would cover people who have been in the UK for more than 4 years. So, if someone has fled here from Afghanistan and is currently working in (say) a restaurant in Birmingham, and has been here for 2 1/2 years, then they are not covered. What happens to them, once either the current government (you know, the one that spent last week trying to stop a Commons amendment to allow retired Gurkha soldiers to settle in the UK) gets another term or (as seems likely) a Tory government is elected? Neither party has any cynical political gain to make from making immigration laws more liberal, and nobody that I am aware of is predicting that either party would break with public expectations if elected. And of course, if you’re anti-immigration then an amnesty gives you the perfect opportunity to shout “clean slate” and place walls of steel around the UK. I don’t believe that this is the intention of most supporters of Strangers Into Citizens. But neither is it antithetical to the campaign’s main aim, especially given the somewhat Uriah Heep-esque manner in which its arguments are posed, presumably to mollify perceived xenophobic sentiment. An one-off amnesty now leaves the door open for a clampdown at a later stage."
But on the Shiraz comments box, Bob from Brockley vigorously disagreed, declaring "I see SiC as the ONLY campaign in my memory that has really made any difference in shifting the debate away from the right-wing hegemony. The no borders/no one was illegal message was inserted into the demo quite successfully and got more of a public hearing than it has on any other occassion. And the concept of “strangers into citizens” is in itself a positive one, even if a one-off amnesty is a limited goal."
At The Commune, David Broder critiqued the campaign organisers as having "an extremely conservative stance" adding:
The ‘official’ message of the demo was furthermore encapsulated in the slogan “we want to be British” and, worst of all, the singing of ‘God Save the Queen‘, with migrant workers expected to demonstrate their loyalty to the state, “useful”, “industrious” subjects for Her Majesty’s Government. "
Broder's report was the subject of some mirth at the Strangers into Citizens after party as the indomitable Jacob Bard Rosenberg disapprovingly noted over on The Third Estate:
“He thinks we’re all bloody bourgeois” scoffed Austen Ivereigh, as he puffed on his Montecristo in a trendy bar in King’s Cross, whilst reading aloud David Broder’s response to yesterday's Strangers into Citizen's demonstration."
The politics of the organisers were flimsy Bard Rosenberg felt but he conceded that church-based groups work more effectively in communities than the left and that the left had "much to learn but also much to add to this movement."
Meanwhile over at the Strangers into Citizens blog, there's undiluted pleasure at the rally having made three front pages: The Express, Morning Star and now The Universe too. It notes that the other Catholic weeklies, including longstanding supporter The Tablet also gave it good coverage and so, would you Adam and Eve it, did the Catholic Herald:
"The Conservative Catholic Herald -- which first tried to ignore SiC, and last year spluttered its disapproval -- has an excellent piece on p. 2 by Mark Greaves using the Press Association angle: 'Avoid scapegoating migrants in the recession, urges bishop' is the headline. The piece, and an accompanying pic (seen here) of exuberant nuns leaving the Mass for Migrants, can be read here. According to the newspaper, Bishop Lynch 'strongly defended the idea of a one-off amnesty for illegal immigration' and 'said at the Mass on Monday that the human dignity of migrants was separate from their legal status and whether they had the right papers'."
There's also a post about Austen Ivereigh being interviewed by SunTalk radio shock-jock Jon Gaunt. Listen to all the fun here (select listen again, then Wednesday 6 May).
Still hungry for more? There's a rather diverting thread over at Socialist Unity, where the well-intentioned but ever so slightly priggish Andy Newman uses a book review as a springboard for launching into a prolonged bout of patriotic mysticism, apparently prompted by a walk in the countryside.
"Last weekend I took my four year old son for a walk on one of the iron-age hill-forts that surround Swindon, and as we stood at the top of those huge mud ramparts, buffeted by the wind, looking out over the green pastures of the Marlborough Downs, it was impossible not to feel moved by a sense of shared history with those others who have stood on that same spot over three thousand years. This is where we are from. This is, in a fleeting sense, who we are."
In the comments box, childrens' novelist and poet, Michael Rosen makes very thorough and funny mincemeat of it all. Worth a gander, so to speak.