The Sukula family
On Saturday 17 June a rally was held in Bolton to protest againt the threatened deportation of the Sukula family. The three sisters, two brothers and mother fled Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2001. The family were involved in an opposition group.
They have been denied asylum in this country and are now threatened with “Section 9”, that is the removal of benefits because they have not taken “reasonable” steps to allow themselves to be “voluntarily” deported. That could mean the children will be taken into care.
Is the DRC a safe place to go back to? Not according to Amnesty International. Last year tens of thousands of people died from the continuing civil war and because of conditions created by that war. The government carries out extrajudicial excutions, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, acts of torture — right across the country.
In some parts of the country armed factions and foreign armed groups roam around. They are responsible for killings, rapes and torture.
Kinshasa is home to one of the biggest slums in the world full of different kinds of dangers.
Moreover many returned asylum seekers are automatically locked up.
To support the campaign go to www.sukula.org.
In the last issue of Solidarity we reported on Elizabeth, a Ugandan lesbian, who had been refused asylum in the UK, despite suffering rape and torture at the hands of the Ugandan government. Unfortunately, despite a valiant campaign for her to stay, Elizabeth was deported to Entebe on Sunday 11 June.
On Saturday 24 June campaigners will demonstrate outside Tinsley House at Gatwick Airport. This centre holds 135 people at any one time. 11,000 detainees currently go through the centre each year. In 2001, it became the first centre to hold families. Tinsley House is run by private company Global Solutions Limited (GSL) with little external monitoring of the conditions. In Britain GSL operates Yarls Wood, Oakington and Campsfield, where currently there are 120 detainees on hunger strike. Many incidents of violence and abuse by GSL employers against detainees are documented.
There are plans to open a bigger detention centre near Gatwick, to replace the one in Oakington that is due to close. Then there will be four detention centres in the London area: Harmondsworth and Colnbrook near Heathrow, Tinsley House and the new detention near Gatwick, thus turning the place into a gulag of concentration camps.
Home Office figures reveal that there are 2,250 people in detention. 25,000 in total were detained last year, around 15,000 were deported. More people were deported in the first quarter of 2006 than ever before, despite the fact that asylum application are altogether decreasing. In the ten months between April 2005 and 31 January 2006, 12 immigration detainees have taken their own lives. 185 people attempted self-harm and 1,467 people were considered to be a danger to themselves and put on self-harm watch. These are Home Office numbers, but the real total may be higher.
This month Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that his officials were preparing a report on all aspects of those already in the UK without permission. Asked if there would be an amnesty, he replied: “It is too early too tell”.
Many in the anti-deportation movement are already calling for “regularisation”. What does that mean and what would a government amnesty mean? Campaigners want all those who are in the UK without a visa or papers should be given leave to remain. That means they will have the right to work and the right to benefits etc.
The view is backed up by the normally not-so-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research’ (IPPR), who points out the economic usefulness of many “illegal migrants”. Perhaps this is a bandwagon Gordon Brown can jump on — allowing “economically useful” migrants to stay.