There is an excellent article in todays Guardian wherein Martin Forde QC states #Windrush victims “should be compensated for the devastating psychological impact of missing funerals and relationships collapsing…who lost their jobs or homes, or were detained or deported “; further he says he needs to determine “what the impact has been – psychological and financial.”
I totally agree with this and I believe this thinking needs to be expanded to all victims of the ‘Hostile Environment’ created by Tory ideology, and for me this has to include Disabled people. I’m not going to try and compile a list of the multitude ways we have been subjected to attitudes and policies, which have impacted upon us both psychologically and financially. We all have stories of the torment we personally have experienced and we all have felt the sorrow when so many disabled people paid the ultimate price, with their lives.
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Zinedine Zidane has resigned as Real Madrid’s chief coach (see link below). We should wish him well. Mention of his name reminded me of arguments that began two decades ago. Zinedine was once an icon to French beurs (second-generation Arab citizens of France). For a while, after the 1998 World Cup when France beat Brazil, he was said to be a symbol of a new “multiracial”, “diverse” France, in which racism and discrimination would hopefully come to an end. I don’t think anybody quite said “multicultural”, because that was used disparagingly for the despised “Anglo-Saxon model” of dealing with ethnic diversity. But, in 1998, many people hoped against hope that football could change politics, even set history on a new course. Even the politicians were forced to praise him. But then they got back to their normal business of ensuring that nothing changed. Here’s what I wrote in 2009 about that episode.
In the summer of 1998 there were claims that France had entered a new phase in its history, when it would be able to see itself as a diverse society, “a France”, in the words of Harlem Désir, “rich in all its children whatever their origin”. France’s multi-ethnic football team had won the World Cup and it seemed that the country had experienced a catharsis. President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin watched the match in the stadium and, on Bastille Day two days later, Chirac “hailed his country’s victorious team … as a beautiful image of France and of the strength of its multiracial society” (BBC News 1998). Discrimination, division and racism belonged to the past: philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, until then a strong supporter of assimilation, declared that “from now on métissage [mixed race] is the message. France has nothing other to offer as a project than the vision of her own composition: the formula ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ replaces the old integration model, and diversity replaces culture”.
However, the catharsis turned out to be little more than an emotional spasm and France‘s social harmony has proved very fragile indeed. Le Pen came second in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections and in 2005 rioting broke out in the banlieues of France. The riots began in Clichy-sous-Bois when two boys, aged 15 and 17, died climbing an electrified fence while fleeing the police. They spread throughout France, with petrol bombs being thrown and cars set on fire. Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy called the protesters “scum” (la rocaille), but it became clear that Clichy was a catalyst for protesters with a range of grievances about discrimination, marginalisation, racism and inequality. “It‘s unfortunate”, Nadir, from Aubervilliers, told the newspaper Le Monde, “but we have no choice.” According to sociologist Eric Macé, among the causes of the riots were “the highest unemployment rates in Europe, racist discrimination and growing urban marginalisation and, since the beginning of the 1990s, a stigmatisation of the youth of the working-class suburbs which makes them appear foreign to French society and constructs them as a menace …”
The fleeting hopes of 1998 seem foolish in this light. Zinedine Zidane, the football hero who scored two out of the three goals against Brazil, is no longer an icon to beurs. He came from the Marseilles bidonville [shanty town] of La Castellane but today “[h]is image is too pure”, one of the fans of the Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) football team told Le Monde in 2006:
He is afraid to say what he is, that he is a beur … like the rest of us. And to say the truth about what it is like to be an Arab in this society.
The stands at PSG‘s ground are the scenes of what Hussey calls a civil war between two sets of supporters. These are “the predominantly white ‘Boulogne Boys’ of the Boulogne Stand (who are alleged to have far-right links) and the mixed-race and Arab fans … who gather on the Auteuil terraces.”
Football was not enough to heal the social divisions of France.
The people of France, including the beurs, will have to keep trying.
Let me just say: this wedding of a royal personage to a “woman of colour” has taken place against the background of Theresa May’s continuing “hostile environment” for the Caribbean Windrush generation as well as for recent migrants. However much Theresa May pretends to be sorry, she hasn’t ended the hostile environment. Another man was jailed this week after responding to a government invitation, to people whose status has been questioned, to contact the authorities with a promise that they would be safe. He turned up at his MP’s surgery last week for advice, was given an appointment at the Home Office, and when he got there the police were there to arrest him, charge him with an offence of “handling stolen goods” allegedly committed (he says not) 20 years ago, and throw him into Pentonville prison before he’s even been tried. That’s the British state for you, the state whose head is Her Majesty the Queen, whose grandson today got married to a “woman of colour”, an occasion described by the press as marking a sea change in British society.
There’s something else. Before the wedding took place, the streets of Windsor were cleared of homeless people. They sleep on the streets of Windsor, the town where the big castle is, because they have nowhere else to go. They were pushed off the streets by the police. That was an act of the British state too, whose head is, etc., etc.
Why do I emphasise that it was the British state doing all this stuff? Because the “hostile environment” has existed no matter what government has been in power. In the 2000s, when the Labour government was in power, it operated an “agenda of disbelief” and set targets for the deportation of refugees, who were assumed to be guilty of lying unless they could prove they were innocent. Where possible, the state made sure that they were deported before they got the chance to prove their innocence. It’s now happening today under the Conservatives.
My point is this: a couple of weeks ago Theresa May apologised on behalf of the state for being party to the “rendition” and torture of two British citizens, dissidents from Libya, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar. They were handed over to Gaddafi in 2004 as a reward for the Libyan state’s cooperation with the British state on a number of issues. May wasn’t apologising for the Conservatives, because these events took place during Tony Blair’s Labour government, when Jack Straw was Foreign Secretary. She was apologising for the state. If Jeremy becomes prime minister, he and his government will be put under the same pressure to do the bidding of the state, especially the security services (MI5, MI6), and powerful civil service bureaucrats, in all sorts of different areas of policymaking. It’s unlikely, to say the least, that Blair and Straw put up any resistance at all to the Belhaj “rendition”. Labour Home Secretaries like David Blunkett didn’t resist when it came to the agenda of disbelief. Jack Straw, when he was Home Secretary in 1998, seemed keen for a while to have former Chilean dictator Pinochet extradited to Spain to be tried for crimes against humanity. But his resolve failed after 16 months of argument (while Pinochet was held under luxurious house arrest in a large country mansion). A secret medical report was produced, allegedly stating that the General’s deteriorating health made him unfit to stand trial. He was allowed to go home to Chile. Duncan Campbell later wrote:
When Pinochet arrived in Chile, he magically abandoned his wheel-chair in a gesture that was widely seen as an indication that he had fooled the English doctors who had examined him and proclaimed him unfit.
Jeremy will resist. Successfully? Who can tell? But he could put down a marker now, so that they know. During the Belhaj apology, he and his front bench sat there looking grim and embarrassed and then thanked the government for the apology! But he could do more. Soon after he became Labour leader, he apologised on behalf of the Labour Party for the Iraq war. He had never supported it. He was at the head of the anti-war movement. But he apologised for the war because it happened under a Labour government. Perhaps he should apologise now, on behalf of the Labour Party, for the treatment of Mr Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar. And perhaps that will make it easier when he comes to resist future demands from his officials to commit high crimes and misdemeanours.
 His MP, David Lammy, tweeted to Home Secretary Sajid Javid: “Your officials asked to come to my constituency surgery. Your officials asked for my advice on an outreach strategy because people are too scared to come forward. My constituent followed your advice and went to his interview. The police were waiting with handcuffs to arrest him.” https://twitter.com/DavidLammy/status/997576317913780226
 The Guardian, 11 December 2006: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/dec/11/post783
I’ve Just received this email from Virgin Trains after they lost the franchise due to being a crap provider of train services:
It has been announced today that on the 24th June 2018 the East Coast Main Line will transition to be operated by LNER – London North Eastern Railway.
The service will continue to run as normal. Your travel plans won’t be affected and all train times and customer experience will remain the same.
Any tickets you have already purchased for Virgin Trains East Coast will be valid with LNER and you can continue to purchase tickets as normal.
We’ve loved serving you for the last three years and know the business is in a really good position thanks to the positive transformation we’ve started.
The Virgin Trains East Coast team
I just love love the last paragraph!
No sympathy should be wasted on Amber Rudd. Her role in the Windrush scandal can be dealt with swiftly. According to the Home Office memo sent to Rudd and other ministers:
- The Home Office set a “target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18 … we have extended our target of assisted returns
- This target set the government on a “path towards a 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the Home Secretary earlier this year.”
- Rudd set the target “personally”.
So her responsibility for what happened is established and her claim to know nothing about targets is rubbish.
However, this isn’t just about the Windrush generation or even their descendants. The injustice done to them is manifest and for many of them a tragedy. But this story of targets goes wider than this particular scandal. It is about a very real and ongoing hostility at the Home Office towards migrants in general and asylum seekers in particular.
The memo cited above speaks of “assisted returns”, a category which certainly does include asylum seekers. “Typically”, says the memo, “these will be our most vulnerable returnees.” The use of the word “vulnerable” does not indicate sympathy any more than talk of “assisted returns” indicates a helpful approach. When Home Office officials use the word “assisted” it means the same as when they use the word “enforced”. It means you’ve got to go, we don’t believe you, we don’t want you, didn’t you understand the message on Theresa’s big van? – GO HOME.
I described what happens when you are in the hands of the Home Office in earlier blogs. As I said in these blogs, during my research as long ago as 2007 I found that what was called an “agenda of disbelief” had permeated the asylum process. This was encouraged by section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004, which obliged “a deciding authority” to “take account, as damaging the claimant’s credibility, of any behaviour” specified as such. I gave several examples of how, in the frantic rush to find “credibility issues”, Home Office officials forgot the UN Guidelines urging them to give, wherever possible, “the benefit of the doubt” to asylum seekers’ accounts of persecution or torture and instead set up what asylum support and human rights groups called an “agenda of disbelief” which enabled them to cast doubt on the stories told by large numbers of applicants who had indeed been persecuted or tortured.
The focus today is not on section 8 of that Act but on paragraph 322(5) of the Immigration Rules. Caseworkers are using this paragraph to justify refusing indefinite leave to remain (ILR) to 1,000 highly skilled migrants by claiming they are guilty of lying in their applications, typically about their incomes or their tax records. Growing numbers are taking their cases to court – and winning. According to The Guardian, among the cases waiting to be resolved are
a former Ministry of Defence mechanical engineer who is now destitute, a former NHS manager currently £30,000 in debt, thanks to Home Office costs and legal fees, who spends her nights fully dressed, sitting in her front room with a suitcase in case enforcement teams arrive to deport her, and a scientist working on the development of anti-cancer drugs who is now unable to work, rent or access the NHS.
Saleem Dadabhoy is unlikely to become destitute or fall into debt, since he is
a scion of one of the wealthiest families in Pakistan, [facing] deportation under [para.] 322(5) despite three different appeal courts having scrutinised his accounts and finding no evidence of any irregularities, and a court of appeal judge having ruled that he is trustworthy and credible.
Others connected to him, however, might well face debt or destitution: if he were to be deported, 20 people employed by him would lose their jobs and the company (worth £1.5m) would close.
It has become clear that all this is the result not just of Amber Rudd’s time at the Home Office but of Theresa May’s creation of a “hostile environment” when she was in the same job. However, it goes back further than that. The examples I have given of the “agenda of disbelief” relate to Labour’s time in office. The hostile environment, in fact, goes back to Tony Blair, who set targets for asylum seeker deportations, and to Home Secretary David Blunkett, who had kids separated from their parents and put into local authority care in order to persuade their parents to go home when they were afraid to do so. Rod McLean, Head of Asylum Policy at the Home Office in 2006, told me this was because Blunkett was making policy “with an eye to the media”, who wanted tougher measures on removals. He then told me the policy would be abandoned “because it hasn’t worked”. I asked him, “When you say it hasn’t worked do you mean that, instead of waiting for you to take their children away, they just disappear?” “Yes,” he said. Unfortunately the policy wasn’t abandoned – it remained on the statute book.
I believe that Labour not only has to blame the Tories for the “hostile environment” but own up to its own past, when it presided over an “agenda of disbelief”, in which asylum seekers were considered guilty until proved innocent. Because if Labour doesn’t recognise its past it will be in danger of repeating it. This is not to cast doubt on Corbyn’s best intentions – but the tabloids are still there, and so are the successors of Rod McLean.
Immigration Rules, para. 322: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-part-9-grounds-for-refusal
 “Amber Rudd was sent targets for migrant removal, leak reveals”, The Guardian¸ 28 April 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/27/amber-rudd-was-told-about-migrant-removal-targets-leak-reveals
 Ibid., see the “Q & A” box, “What are enforced departures?”
 See Dealt with on their Merits, pp.151-162: https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/assets/hull:2678a/content
 “At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants wrongly face deportation, experts reveal”, The Observer, 6 May 2018:
 See Dealt with on their Merits, pp.220-221: https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/assets/hull:2678a/content
Howard Zinn wrote, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders… and millions have been killed because of this obedience… Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”