Migration policy, racism and inequality in Scotland

“It strikes me that too often we seek comfort in a Scottish consensus that we are all Jock Tamsons’s  bairns – citizens of a fair and equal nation. We like to think we are free of racism and other inequalities because we prefer that to the truth.  In order to live up to our own self image we have to make the sentiment of our songs real, and openly say ‘this Scotland is not good enough’ , and then work to make it better. Our welcome and behaviour towards newcomers is only the starting point.”

Morag Alexander, Scotland Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission

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Is it because I’m white? Or because I’m working class?

The white working class; Britain’s forgotten race victims?

The Runnymede Trust has published a new study on the white working class and ethnic diversity in Britain.

The report, Who Cares about the White Working Class?, disputes the claim that white working class communities have been directly losing out to migrants and minority ethnic groups, and concludes that the white working class are discriminated against on a range of different fronts, but they are not discriminated against because they are white.

It says that after a decade of politicians and commentators ignoring the issue of class, with Labour preferring to talk about “hard-working families” and “social exclusion”, class inequality is making an overdue comeback onto the political agenda. Continue reading

The picture is grim for Europe’s Roma

David Mark, co-ordinator of the European Roma Policy Coalition, writing in EUobserver

With global markets shattered and far-right groups gaining strength across the continent, anti-Gypsism has risen dramatically this past year. Living often on the fringes of society, Roma have been the target of racist violence across Europe, with attacks this autumn in Italy, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

read full article…

Sham Government ruled illegal on weddings

The Government has been found to be acting illegally again, as the House of Lords rules the marriage laws targeting couples where one or both is not British to be an arbritary and unjust breach of human rights.

Shortly before being forced to resign for obtaining a dodgy visa for his extra-marital lover’s nanny, twice-disgraced former Home Secretary David Blunkett introduced a rule to counter the threat to UK society of “sham marriages”.

A sham marriage was defined in law as “one entered into between a foreign (non EEA) national and another person (whether or not British or an EEA national); and entered into for the purpose of avoiding the effect of one or more provisions of United Kingdom immigration law or the immigration rules.”

The legislation had been introduced in the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, but Blunkett’s rules were to be much further reaching and from the start there were warnings that they would be in contravention of human rights legislation.

In 2004, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) warned that the provisions represented a fundamental change in rules with no consultation and very limited parliamentary scrutiny, and posed a very clear risk of breaching Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to marry and found a family):

“Although, the right of spouses to live together in the UK has historically been subject to immigration control, never has anyone’s right to actually get married been questioned in this manner, and certainly has never been subject to immigration legislation. JCWI fears that yet again, where immigration legislation is concerned, the government is seeking to avoid proper debate on laws that affect the basic civic rights of minority groups.

The latest raft of proposed measures simply represent a further attack on the rights of black and ethnic minority individuals to marry those of their own choosing. The civil union of a couple in matrimony is a cause for celebration amongst all communities, and the overarching threat to this celebration posed by the proposed new amendments is unacceptable.”

Legal challenges finally reached the highest court in the land on 30 July 2008, where the Law Lords agreed with previous rulings on the case and dismissed the Government’s appeal, saying the rules were an “arbitrary and unjust interference” with human rights.

Baroness Hale said:

“Denying those benefits to a couple whose relationship is genuine is neither a rational nor a proportionate response to the legitimate aims of a firm and fair immigration policy.”

She said the right to marry was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Even in these days, when many in British society believe that there is little social difference between marrying and living together, marriage still has deep significance for many people, quite apart from the legal recognition, status, rights and obligations which it brings.”

In a statement JCWI welcomed the “landmark ruling” that trashed the Government’s ‘section 19 scheme’ that obliged foreigners to pay for, and to obtain permission, to marry. Commenting, the chief executive of the migrants’ rights charity JCWI (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants), Habib Rahman says:

“It’s a great day for human rights, for justice and for migrant communities, who were clearly the target of this discriminatory scheme. “

State of the Nation – Race and Racism in Scotland 2008

Institutional racism continues to pervade most sectors of Scottish society, despite concerted efforts to eradicate it, according to a new publication.

With the lack of information on race and racism increasingly recognised, Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (GARA) has launched its State of the Nation – Race and Racism in Scotland 2008 report, a collation of statistics and data relating to Black/Minority Ethnic (BME) people in Scotland

According to the report, black and minority ethnic people living in Scotland are being discriminated against in almost every aspect of life.

From housing to health, the publication reveals that ethnic minorities are routinely placed at a disadvantage when accessing some of the most basic of services. But while there have been a number of high profile and well-resourced initiatives to address disadvantage among minority ethnic communities, many have failed to make any meaningful or lasting impact on the problem.

Among the statistics, it is revealed that more BME children are likely to be put into care and more likely to suffer ill health compared to white children. Educational attainment is also far less within ethnic minorities with qualifications below national averages.

In housing, it is revealed people from ethnic groups have to wait longer on housing lists and are more likely to be placed in sub-standard homes.

And in employment, coming from an ethnic background places an individual at a distinct disadvantage both gaining a job and seeking promotion. They are also less likely to receive the same salary as their white counterparts.

Gabriel Sanjay of the Central Scotland Racial Equality Forum welcomed the publication but said the statistics contained in it pointed to a lack of commitment from the government to tackle inherent disadvantage within black and ethnic communities in Scotland.

“These findings reveal how pockets of discrimination combine to present a far more alarming picture racism affecting people in Scotland.  In all areas of society, racism still persists, despite the best efforts of government and well-meaning organisations. It is important we lobby harder for more effective measures to counteract these prejudices and that the Scottish Government commits to eradicating these problems by whatever means.”

He continued: “Eradicating prejudice should be a priority for us all because until then we cannot say we are committed to full inclusion today.”

GARA Director Jatin Haria speaking on the launch of the publication, said:

“Strong statistical data is essential in Scotland if government and its agencies are to truly address the needs of black/minority ethnic (BME) communities. For example, a report recently published by the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities highlighted the lack of ethnicity data collection by NHS Scotland as a concern, making it more difficult to adequately meet the needs of BME people.”

“This report seeks to address such requirements and will hopefully become an invaluable reference tool for policy makers.”

Also commenting on the launch of the publication, former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality Dr Kay Hampton, said:“By collating all information available on race in Scotland into a single report they have provided a useful benchmark and potentially powerful new tool in addressing the needs of black and minority ethnic communities.

“I am confident that its publication will highlight any concerns that must be addressed and make a real difference to black people.”

Demonstration at High Court for Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008.
From 9.30am onwards at the High Court on the Strand, London

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector.

Many of you are already aware that SBS has been locked in struggle against Ealing Council with regard to its decision to withdraw funding for our domestic violence services for black and minority women. On 17th and 18th July 2008, the High Court will hear a challenge brought by our users against Ealing Council for its failure to have proper regard to existing equality legislation, especially the Race Relations Act, in reaching its decision on our funding. The Council will seek to justify its decision on the grounds that a generic domestic violence service will be better placed to meet requirements of the equality legislation and the so called ‘cohesion’ agenda.

Equality, Cohesion and the Right to Self Organisation

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector. In one of the first challenges of its kind, the Council will be required to account for the way in which the confused and contradictory ‘cohesion’ agenda is being cynically used to cut essential life saving services to black and minority women in particular.

Specialist services likes ours are needed, not only for reasons to do with language difficulties and culture pressures, but also because we have considerable experience in providing advice and advocacy in complex circumstances where legal aid is no longer easily available and where immigration and asylum difficulties make some women much more vulnerable than others. In addition, we will seek to challenge the Council for its failure to take account of how and why groups like SBS, were set up in the first place: to challenge racism and gender inequality as well as religious, caste and ethnic divisions within our communities.

The Council has made much of the need to reflect the racial diversity of Ealing (meaning the white majority population) in the interests of ‘cohesion’. In the process it seeks to argue that the very existence of specialist groups like SBS is unlawful under the Race Relations Act!

Ealing Council has also withdrawn funding for key refugee and race equality projects in Ealing. This approach is not unique to Ealing. Evidence from around the UK suggests that organisations in the firing line tend to be the more progressive black and minority and feminist projects. At the same time, reactionary, sometimes fundamentalist religious organisations are being given financial support to provide ‘welfare services’, even at the risk of undermining the human rights of the most vulnerable in our communities. The subcontracting of third sector services is also contributing to the decimation of groups like SBS. What this demonstrates is a political attack on the notion of positive action and on the right to self organisation underpinned by secular, anti-racist and progressive values.

Our Tradition: Struggle not Submission

These are immensely worrying developments for all those concerned about the threat to progressive notions of equality and justice. We therefore urge you to join our demonstration on the 17th and 18th July at the High Court on the Strand. Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle & Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District & Circle Line). Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

For further details contact SBS 0208 571 9595
Email: Southallblacksisters@btconnect.com

Latin American leaders condemn ‘racist’ EU law

reported on EUobserver.com

Latin American leaders have sharply criticised as “barbarous”, “xenophobic” and “racist” new European Union legislation on clandestine immigration that allows extended detention of undocumented workers.

“It hurts us deeply that there is no respect for the human rights of Latin American immigrants, who had to leave and seek elsewhere what they don’t have in their own lands – just like their grandparents did,” said Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, speaking at the 35th summit of the Mercosur trade bloc in Argentina.

The EU laws are “xenophobic and discriminatory,” he said.

The EU’s “return directive”, which was passed by the European Parliament in June, allows the detention of irregular immigrants up to 18 months, and bans re-entry for scofflaws for five years.

The law has received repeated strong criticism from South American leaders, who were intent on issuing a resolution condemning the policy during the Mercosur meeting.

Combined, the bloc is the fifth largest economy in the world, which together with the other South American trade zone, the Andean Community, aims to form a South American Union, Unasur, modelled on the EU.

‘Legalised barbarism’

The Mercosur “member states and associate states reject any attempt to criminalise the irregular migration and the adoption of restrictive immigration policies,” reads the resolution, which also noted how, conversely South America had welcomed with “generosity and solidarity millions of European migrants in previous centuries.”

The contrast in the two continents’ attitude towards immigration was a common theme amongst the leaders.

Europeans who landed in the Americas “took possession of thousands of hectares of land, mines, natural resources and exploited our people,” accused Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, while immigrants in Europe “are not exploiting anyone – they are not taking possession of thousands of hectares of land and mines; they are not destroying the natural resources.”

“We were very generous with the Europeans who arrived in our land in the last century, and the truth is that it is not fair for our people to get a denigrating treatment,” said Chile’s Michelle Bachelet.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, for his part, said that the Return Directive embodies racism and discrimination.

“We need a strong stance…in defense of the dignity of our people,” Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez told his fellow leaders, according to the Associated Press. “Civilized Europe – I say that ironically – has legalised barbarism.”

Mercosur brings together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, while Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have associate member status. Mexico is an observer.

previous report, 23 June 08: Global outcry against EU immigration directive

also see:

African rights groups slam EU migration control plans
New EU proposals drew criticism in Africa where the plans were attacked for criminalising immigrants and building a wall around Europe. African rights watchdog Raddho slammed “the EU policies of criminalisation and locking up of migrants and asylum seekers” and spoke of its “intense worry” at the new guidelines announced by France’s EU presidency.