Les Back and Shamser Sinha https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/13813/all cached version 14/08/2018 21:56:24 en Stealing a dream: young migrants living through anti-immigrant times https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/stealing-dream-young-migrants-living-through-anti-immigrant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the cacophony of opinion surrounding the ‘migrant crisis’ those least heard are young migrants themselves. Les Back and Shamser Sinha have spent ten years listening to those voices in London, which they’ve now collected into the book <em>Migrant City</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/12674767973_3275a59fcd_k.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;"> Lena Vasiljeva/Flickr. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/94150506@N08/12674767973/in/photolist-kj2uWi-qjWzRp-9RhMDx-Nv4wVJ-dgf9xL-arnpjF-nr8RuF-u3kzjJ-RnHA5y-39td2p-EA1j6u-5VbujW-e8aD78-99WK9X-ojQ9HZ-QGAvJS-ihjYnM-nSfiHq-nHmXXV-JjyfcG-fQkxPz-VYopA3-scsF8U-mMc9ai-S9opq9-QbCyki-EC5iV3-ibsbjy-8bNSbx-JhFyHD-24z5j6C-22K6Ccm-bT2Svr-bpGSh6-zhaxxH-xSzJU5-f8sCp4-amgr3P-o3yj6K-EZoGPu-vfFdSy-qR8e63-HiMLsH-e3fzmJ-27BQbNj-sXpLgT-HBKBxY-UDJ4Mw-jEmKUg-hLPhsZ">CC (by-nc)</a></p> <p>London is a city of migration and this is not only because the person you walk past in the street, or who is standing at the bus stop, has journeyed here from somewhere else. It is much more than both this and the superficial idea that the capital has breached a particular threshold, or measure, of cultural diversity. The language of ‘diversity’ – be it in academic circles or economic city branding or political slogans – renders the experiences we are concerned with in this book into a succession of surface clichés or flat travesties.&nbsp; Rather, we argue, migrant experiences – if you really listen to them – tell us something defining about the global co-ordinates and historical composition of the city itself. In the biographies of the lives described in this book the traces can be found of the relationship between London and the wider world, historically, economically and politically. We have not only tried to portray London through the eyes and ears of young migrants, we contend that their story – migrant’s stories – are themselves London’s story. </p> <p>Vlad, who came to Britain from Albania as a child refugee and crossed the channel smuggled underneath a lorry, watched the reporting of the ‘migration crisis’ during the summer of 2015 with dismay. Sitting in a pub in Barking he commented: “I am not very happy with the way the media treats refugees because I can promise you one thing, if all these refugees… if you sent all the foreigners ‘back home’ London would be a graveyard because there are so many refugees and foreigners which keep London moving forward. And when I hear it on the news say ‘oh refugees this and foreigners that’ I think ‘you bloody bastards’. I am sorry to say [it] but that’s how I feel because all these people here have struggled for many years.” </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">If you sent all the foreigners ‘back home’ London would be a graveyard.</p> <p>By contrast the terms of the public debate about immigration are shaped by the self-interested terms of the ‘host society’, where <em>national selfishness</em> shapes its parameters. Hard working ‘ordinary people’ are counter posed with migrants as though migrants are not hard working. This divides the ‘them’ and the ‘us’. The presumption being that our hard work means we are more deserving of for example welfare or NHS care. These notes of national selfishness can be equally true on the Left and Right of the political spectrum; it is particularly evident in the aftermath of the referendum result and the decision to leave the European Union. Across the political spectrum getting the ‘best deal for Britain,’ means limiting migrant privilege in favour of ours.</p> <p>We argue for a re-scaling of the migration debate, to show that the co-ordinates of the relationship between here and there have shifted. In many respects Vlad’s life shows us the importance of understanding how he moves all the time between different geographical scales, from Barking to Has in Albania and back again. It is also true that the map of London’s migrant city is infinitely connected on a global scale. </p> <p>So, whose crisis is being referred to in the headlines that Vlad mentions about the ‘migration crisis’? &nbsp;The circumstances where Syrian refugees are being forced out of their homes under conditions of civil war are only one dimension of this. &nbsp;We argue that to answer this question requires an understanding of the continued power of racism in the age of human mobility. Racism is a lens through which the world can be comprehended: it filters what is visible and amplifies what is heard. It is not a sober sense but an intoxicated one. The ‘migrant crisis’ provides a single cause for every political problem within the toxic culture of blame. &nbsp;Someone, it seemed, needed to be liable for all that is wrong and the migrant is so often a convenient container for all the blame, the bearers of all society’s bad news. There are not enough houses because there are too many of them, that why there are not enough jobs too. Too many migrants means there isn’t a bed for my relative in the hospital; because the nurses are not like us we don’t get the ‘right kind’ of care on the wards. Here the itinerant stranger absorbs all the blame for these real or exaggerated, yet intensely felt, woes. From this point of view the migrant is both a symptom of the crisis and the cause of all its multiple associated problems. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the aftermath of Brexit a widely proliferating sense of uncertainty has taken hold. Brexit has made almost every mobile citizen – from university lecturers to workers in Costa coffee bars – think twice about their future in the UK and whether or not a life here is imaginable. Les met Charlynne in Westfield shopping centre to catch up and, whilst they avoided the topic initially, the conversation turned inevitably to the EU referendum. With her usual good-natured irreverence Charlynne commented: “I was wondering when you was going to mention Brexit?” &nbsp;Her personal life has seen many changes through the duration of the project. She travelled to London from Dominica to study but has made a home and life in London. What did she think the vote meant for her? “Well actually I am part of the EU… If you were part of the EU you weren’t eligible to vote, if you were part of the Commonwealth you could. Guess what – I don’t know where my Dominican passport is! So I couldn’t vote. I have a French passport through my Dad. It was a tough time and it is still an uncertain time for me because here I am in the UK!”</p> <p>In many respects Charlynne’s biography reveals the complex interconnection between European integration and London’s colonial past and current postcolonial reality. She continued: “I came here because it was part of the EU and it was a safe place for me to come to and obviously I wasn’t an asylum seeker because there was nothing happening at home, where I was being killed or any of those things. I don’t want it to seem graver than it was. But Britain was a safe haven for me because it was better than what I had left behind at the time, and a place where I could build and make something better for myself.” Charlynne did a degree, trained as a teacher and now she’s working as teacher educating the children of Plaistow. This contribution is not recognized in the way the debate unfolded about the EU referendum and the issue of immigration. </p> <p>For Charlynne this comes back to the legacy of empire. “I mean everything comes back down to the fact that Britain went out and colonized everybody and now they are trying to shut everybody out” she said. “You know it feels so unfair, that’s what it is and I have been thinking that for the last… how long and actually we didn’t asked to be colonized. We didn’t asked to be asked to come here but now that we are you are telling us that, even though you took over what was ours and you gave us something else that you wanted us to aspire to, now that we are aspiring you are saying: ‘well, no we can’t’? It’s like you are stealing a dream that you’ve tried to implant in us in the first place. I am sure lots of people might be feeling that way. It’s just really hard to voice it into words.” &nbsp;What Charlynne gives us is a deep insight into the paradox of what we call a world of divided connectedness in which divisions and hierarchies coexist with linkages across time and place. What she names so eloquently is the dream of modernity itself and its promise of economic, experiential and technological progress. While that dream is dangled in a variety of forms – be it educational opportunity or a possibility of lucrative work – the limits, borders and controls of an increasingly severe and exclusionary immigration system place it beyond reach. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Even though you took over what was ours and you gave us something else that you wanted us to aspire to, now that we are aspiring you are saying: ‘well, no we can’t’? It’s like you are stealing a dream that you’ve tried to implant in us in the first place.</p> <p>While the geopolitical hinterlands of London remain shaped by its history as an Imperial metropolis, other contemporary economic and political links extend beyond this. &nbsp;In this sense the late Ambalavaner Sivanandan’s postcolonial slogan “we are here because you were there” needs to be updated. It is perhaps better to say that migrants are here because Britain’s geopolitical and economic interests remain active in the world. Jessielyn from the Philippines told us how mining by the Australian-UK company Billiton had ruined the land where she was from as well as causing her father who was a miner to contract bronchial pneumonia. She said, “you can’t work on that land anymore, you don’t know, there’s a hole”. This pre-empted her being here. The great conceit of the contemporary migration debate is the predominant atmosphere of national selfishness, historical amnesia and disavowal of any responsibility for Britain’s external economic and political involvements.</p> <p><em>This piece is extracted from Les Back and Shamser Sinha’s new book</em> Migrant City, <em><a href="https://www.routledge.com/Migrant-City/Back-Sinha/p/book/9780415715416">available now</a> from Routledge.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/bridget-anderson/migrants-before-permanent-people-s-tribunal-in-barcelona">Migrants before the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Barcelona</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/martina-tazzioli/open-cities-open-harbours">Open the cities, open the harbours</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/ahmad-almouhmad/reflections-on-world-refugee-day">Reflections on World Refugee Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/ottavia-ampuero-villagran/nameless-and-un-mourned-identifying-migrant-bodies-in-medite">Nameless and un-mourned: identifying migrant bodies in the Mediterranean</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Can Europe make it? Les Back and Shamser Sinha Wed, 08 Aug 2018 07:55:59 +0000 Les Back and Shamser Sinha 119174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Go Home' vans defeated, but . . . https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-vans-defeated-but <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British government has abandoned plans to send vans around the country telling 'illegal immigrants' to Go Home. That doesn't mean the official policy of hostility towards migrants has softened.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/immigrationvan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/immigrationvan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: thedrum.com</span></span></span>On 31 October, immigration minister Mark Harper revealed to the House of Commons the results of 'Operation Vaken', known popularly as the ‘Go Home’ Van or the 'Racist Vans'. The Home Office had sent vans touring London boroughs, bearing the message: "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest."&nbsp;The minister claimed that, as of 22 October, there were 60 voluntary departures that can be directly attributed to this pilot. The total cost of the operation was £9,740. <br /> &nbsp;<br /> He went on proudly to point out that the average cost of a voluntary removal is £1,000, and the average cost of an ‘enforced removal’ — that is, the violent muscular tearing out of migrants from their life in Britain — is up to £15,000. Trying to save face Harper claimed the 60 ‘voluntary removals’ had more than justified the cost of the van campaign and had actually saved the British taxpayers money.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> The Home Office <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/operation-vaken-evaluation-report">evaluation</a>&nbsp;of&nbsp;Operation Vaken featured&nbsp;a series of individual profiles of ‘voluntary removal’, presenting the scheme as the 'humane face' of immigration policy, aiding trafficked sex workers or migrants with mental health problems to return home. It contains evidence that is less flattering. During the operation a total of 1,561 text messages were received and 1,034 of these were hoax messages. The Home Office claimed that on average, it took staff one minute to deal with each text resulting in 17 hours of wasted staff time. Of the ninety-two phone calls received thirteen were hoax calls.</p><p> &nbsp;What of the social cost to the fabric of our city? Border policing is moving into the heart of London life. Home Secretary Theresa May said on 22nd October the advertising vans were “too much of a blunt instrument” and will not be used again. Other blunt instruments remain, including monitoring Oyster Cards, text messages, fingerprinting students and the use of biometrics. From the lecture theatre to the workplace, the crèche and the rental landlord there is a proliferation of mechanisms for tracking and catching people. As society scrutinises the stranger it is also turning on itself. One thing the Minister cannot quantify is the harm such measures are doing to us all.<br /> <br /> Yesterday OurKingdom asked the Home Office to explain the name of the pilot: Vaken. Was it an acronym and what did it stand for? A spokesman said Home Office operations were named alphabetically. (<em>Like hurricanes? </em>said OurKingdom. <em>Exactly,</em> said the spokesman.) He said Vaken means <em>Awake</em> in Swedish, but that’s not why it was chosen.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey">Welcome to Britain. Go Home. And have a pleasant journey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">We all belong to Glasgow - Refugees Are Welcome Here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">Welcome to Britain: &#039;Go Home or Face Arrest&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/juan-camilo/experts-oppose-migrant-healthcare-proposals-will-government-listen">Experts oppose migrant healthcare proposals - will government listen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> uk uk Les Back and Shamser Sinha Wed, 06 Nov 2013 23:02:10 +0000 Les Back and Shamser Sinha 76605 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Go Home' texts expose anti-migrant British policy to the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last week two London academics exposed a racist government blunder, sparking international embarrassment and a statement from the Prime Minister. A small victory in the jaws of defeat, they say. Here is their report on one week in anti-immigrant times.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="188" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>It all started with a simple request for permission to use a photograph. We had researched and written an article on way the Home Office uses mobile phones as a tool of immigration control. Our article, for the new on-line magazine <em><a href="http://www.discoversociety.org/">Discover Society</a>,&nbsp;</em>was based on a study of the lives of thirty young adult migrants in London. We needed an image to go with the piece. </p> <p>We had spotted a photograph on Twitter —&nbsp;a cell phone with a text message sent, apparently, from the Home Office to a UK citizen, challenging his right to remain in Britain. Lesley Lee, who had tweeted the picture (@lesliealee) kindly put us in touch with the recipient: Bobby Chan, an immigration advisor in London’s Chinatown. Bobby said that we were welcome to use the image. We settled down to the idea that our article was complete.</p><p>On 9 October we received an email from Suresh Grover. Suresh is a leading civil rights activist and founder of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tmg-uk.org/">Southall Monitoring Group</a>. He has led campaigns for justice for, among others, the family of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager killed by racist thugs.</p> <p>Suresh wrote to us: "I understand you are doing research on the text messages from the Home office. Is this true?” Back in August he had received a similar text to Bobby Chan’s. </p> <p>Born in East Africa, Suresh came to Britain in 1966; he holds a British Passport. At first he ignored the text, assumed it was a hoax, but it bothered him. On 12 September Suresh issued a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking them to explain why he’d received the text and what information they had on him. How many similar texts had been sent? How many people had complained?</p> <p>The FOI response (<a href="http://www.discoversociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FOI_PDF.pdf">PDF here</a>) revealed that the texts had been sent on the Home Office's behalf by Capita — the gigantic outsourcing company that won the tender to track down ‘overstayers’ and migrants without leave to remain. The Home Office said 39,100 such texts had been sent, and almost 200 complaints received by the Home Office and Capita combined, some of which might be duplicates.</p> <p>We redrafted our article to take in the new revelations. On Sunday 13<sup> </sup>October “YOU’VE GOT A TEXT FROM UKBA: TECHNOLOGIES OF CONTROL AND CONNECTION” was published on <a href="http://www.discoversociety.org/stop-press-youve-got-a-text-from-ukba-technologies-of-control-and-connection-2/">Discover Society</a>.</p> <p>The Guardian's Hugh Muir picked it up, interviewed Suresh, and covered the story in the Guardian Diary on <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/14/hugh-muir-diary-border-agency-may">Tuesday</a> 15 October, and on the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/15/hugh-muir-diary-get-the-hell-out-texts">Wednesday</a> <em>and</em> on the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/16/hugh-muir-diary-niall-dickson">Thursday</a>. Our fellow academic Simon Parker (@sparkerworld) tweeted our original piece to his friend @ClareSambrook who republished it <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey">here on OurKingdom</a>.</p> <p>On Thursday 17 October, The <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/antiracism-campaigner-and-immigration-caseworker-sent-go-home-text-messages-by-home-office-8886200.html">Independent</a> and The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/17/border-agency-deportation_n_4113770.html">Huffington Post</a> ran the story and <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/scrap-immigration-texts-say-men-targeted-in-error">Channel 4 News</a> broadcast an interview with Suresh. </p> <p>On Friday the story gathered even more momentum and further criticism of the Home Office.</p> <p>The right wing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10387658/Home-Office-go-home-texts-sent-to-people-with-right-to-remain.html">Daily Telegraph</a> and the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2465701/More-100-complaints-TEXTS-warning-suspected-illegal-im">Daily Mail</a> ran prominent news reports —&nbsp;as did The Guardian's&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/18/labour-answers-40000-go-home-texts-immigrants">Patrick Wintour</a> (claiming our disclosures as Guardian scoop). Our story made BBC Radio 4’s <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03ctth2">Today Programme</a> and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24579085">BBC News</a>, and <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-10-18/campaigner-horrified-to-receive-go-home-text/">ITV News online</a> ran seven updates.&nbsp;</p> <p>Then it got worse for the government.</p> <p>"Londres invite les immigrés clandestins à rentrer chez eux... par texto",&nbsp;proclaimed <a href="http://www.france24.com/fr/20131018-londres-demande-clandestins-rentrer-eux-texto-immigration-illegale-royaume-uni?ns_campaign=highlights&amp;ns_source=google_news&amp;ns_mchannel=autopromo&amp;ns_fee=0&amp;ns_linkname=20131018_londres_demande_clandestins_rentrer_eux_texto">France 24</a>, reporting that Suresh was "choqué" and "horrifié".</p> <p>Suresh was speaking German, Polish, Danish and Dutch on Friday alone&nbsp;as <a href="http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/grossbritannien-innenministerium-droht-illegalen-einwanderern-per-sms-1.1798078">Süddeutsche</a>, <a href="http://www.mojawyspa.co.uk/artykuly/30672/Home-Office-zaliczylo-wpadke-z-imigrantami">MojoWyspa</a>, <a href="http://www.jv.dk/artikel/1628518:Udland--Storbritannien-advarer-illegale-indvandrere-i-SMS">Jydske Vestkysten</a> and <a href="http://www.leidschdagblad.nl/extra/ja_hoor_/article25190963.ece/Klachten-na-Britse-vertrek-sms-aan-migranten?lref=sp3">Leidsch Dagblad</a> took up the story. His words reached the people of <a href="http://www.latercera.com/noticia/mundo/2013/10/678-547611-9-reino-unido-envia-mensaje-de-texto-a-inmigrantes-para-instarlos-a-dejar-el-pais.shtml">Chile</a>&nbsp;and <a href="http://news.cntv.cn/2013/10/19/VIDE1382168161492855.shtml">China</a>.</p> <p>Under pressure, the <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/story/2013-10-18/complaints-to-home-office-over-go-home-texts/#home-office-denies-go-home-texts-often-sent-incorrectly_274836">Home Office owned up</a> that 58,800 people, (not the 39,100 they had admitted to Suresh) had received the texts. Only a few people had been wrongly targeted, claimed a spokesman, plucking the number 14 from thin air.</p> <p>Late morning on Friday, the Prime Minister's official spokesman made this statement:</p><blockquote><p>"The point of the texting, which the Prime Minister does agree with, is to get in touch with people who may be here illegally and to say to them ... that they need to be considering going home voluntarily or being removed. The principle of the text message is correct. This is one of various means the Home Office uses to get in touch with people who are here illegally to bring about their removal from the UK. It's a tiny proportion of texts that may have gone to erroneous people and the wording of the text just says 'you may be here illegally'."</p></blockquote> <p>That garbled defense of government policy added to the sense that the political consensus around being ‘tough on immigration’ had been momentarily upset.</p> <p>In the space of just a few days the story had embarrassed the government, forced a statement from the Prime Minister and prompted a call for an investigation into the events from Labour.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>A change of heart?</em></strong></p> <p>On Thursday 17 October, just ahead of the Home Office's bad Friday, the immigration minister Mark Harper, appearing on <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03dy8wl">BBC Question Time</a>, had heartily defended the government's deployment of moving billboards bearing the message 'Go Home'. The vans, which displayed a picture of handcuffs with the message “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest", had patrolled the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow throughout the summer of 2013.</p> <p>"I don't have any problem with saying to people who are here illegally that they shouldn't be here anymore," <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/governments-go-home-vans-backed-by-immigration-minister-m">Harper said</a>. "It's a pilot. We are assessing the results at the moment. If it's successful, we'll look at rolling it out. If it's not successful we won't."</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="193" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Home Secretary Theresa May <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131022/debtext/131022-0001.htm">announced that she was scrapping it</a> in Parliament on Tuesday 22 October. "I have looked at the interim evaluation of the vans," she said. </p><blockquote><p>"Some returns were achieved, but politicians should be willing to step up to the plate and say when they think that something has not been such a good idea, and I think that they were too blunt an instrument." </p></blockquote> <p>She was speaking during a debate on the government's hateful Immigration Bill — full of blunt and dangerous instruments. Amongst other things the Bill will give further powers to immigration and police officers to search individuals and premises, it will enlarge the state’s powers to record, use and retain biometrics, and it will do away with the right of appeal against deportation decisions in many circumstances. </p> <p>That same day businesses and restaurants in London’s Chinatown shut down for two hours in protest against the recent rash of ‘fishing raids’ by the immigration police.&nbsp; In the preceding weeks 13 businesses had reported heavy-handed raids on their premises.&nbsp; The demonstration, led by the London Chinatown Chinese Association and Min Quan, with support from Bobby Chan and Suresh Grover, was a historic moment. London's Chinese community - not known for being outspoken politically - had been pushed to its limit. People were angry and had come together to protest.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/7photo.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/7photo.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chinatown, London 22 October 2013 LES BACK</span></span></span></p> <p>Protesters assembled at the Two Lions Statue, Gerrard Street in Soho London. The countdown started at 3.00pm – simultaneously in English and Chinese. There was something eerie and significant as commerce in Chinatown ground to a halt.&nbsp; One by one all the shops closed their door and turned off the lights. Workers and the business owners came into the street together to protest. The speakers struggled to be heard against the shrill chorus of whistles being blown by a crowd of more than a thousand people.&nbsp; A friend who was drawn to the noise said the whistles could be heard half a mile away on the Charing Cross Road.</p> <p>In Chinatown news spread about developments in Westminster. It quickly became clear that the Labour Party were not going to oppose the Immigration Bill. </p> <p>Later that night the bill passed to its second reading by an overwhelming majority of 303 votes to 18. </p> <p>In the end, what does all this mean? </p><p>Suresh has yet to receive an adequate explanation from Capita concerning how they got his mobile number or the extent of the information they hold about him. </p> <p>Our story shows that it is possible to expose injustices and embarrass the government and momentarily shift the terms of the debate. Information travels faster and circulates differently in the whorl of email, Freedom of Information requests, Twitter and on-line publishing. Such victories are occurring though in the midst of threat posed by the politics of anti-immigrant times.&nbsp; </p> <p>The piercing pitch of the demonstrators' whistles on Gerrard Street, serve as a reminder that aggressive border regulation and immigration policing will not go unopposed.&nbsp;</p> <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/117429546&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false"></iframe><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey">Welcome to Britain. Go Home. 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Go Home. And have a pleasant journey https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Home Office gave Capita the mobile phone number of a leading civil rights activist. They texted him and told him to Go Home.&nbsp;Landlords, doctors, health visitors, teachers are being enlisted as agents of border control. What's happening to the character of Britain?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="188" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Christian’s mobile phone vibrated as he settled into his seat for the flight to Croatia. Two weeks ago the UK Border Agency (UKBA) informed him that he no longer had leave to remain in Britain and asked him to provide flight details of when he planned to leave the country. On Facebook, he informed his friends in Croatia that he was coming home.&nbsp; Before turning his phone off for the flight, Christian looked down and checked a new text message. To his surprise it was from UKBA. It read: “have a pleasant journey.”&nbsp; The politeness of the British Immigration Officials that had questioned and scrutinized him was somehow the hardest thing to take.</p><p>Christian’s story is emblematic of the new realities of border control. Their technologies are as mobile as the migrants. In a hyper-connected world, the regulation of movement is more complex and technologically sophisticated.&nbsp; It is not just that migrants face institutionalised forms of marginalisation – without leave to remain they cannot work or have recourse to public funds – they also have to live with a sense of insecurity enhanced by the mobile phone in the palm of their hands.</p><p>In 2010, it was estimated that there were&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unfpa.org/pds/migration.html">214 million international migrants in the world</a>, &nbsp;representing an increase of almost 40 million in the first decade of the 21st century. One in three of these migrants is a young adult.&nbsp; The regulation of youth migration is producing new hierarchies of exclusion and belonging that order and rank the life chances of this globally mobile generation.</p><p>It is not only that young people are moving but that the border is also moving and being multiplied. While it continues to exist at the edges of the EU and UK, internal immigration controls now proliferate everywhere – from the lecture theatre to the workplace, the crèche and the rental landlord – filtering by immigration status who can move through what spaces. The practices required to police differential inclusion move into communities and neighbourhoods.</p><p>It is a common observation that the relationship between time and space is radically transformed through technologies like jet planes, smart phones and the Internet. The connected nature of our world goes hand in hand with the proliferation of bordering practices. These no longer only happen at Heathrow or Calais when we fumble for the passport in our bags. Rather, border control is being ‘in-sourced’. Landlords, doctors, health visitors, teachers, University lecturers are all being asked to pass on information, through monitoring student attendance or documenting home visits. Willingly or not, they are enlisted as affiliates of immigration control.</p><p>Border policing is also being contracted out and privatised. In September 2012, the services company Capita won a contract from the British government to find and remove the estimated 174,000 migrants who have overstayed their visas.&nbsp; So it is not quite accurate to say that Christian’s text came from UKBA; the texts are sent from a private company on its behalf.</p><p>This year the Home Office '<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/08/go-home-climate-of-fear-rights-groups">Go Home or Face Arrest</a>'&nbsp;van campaign invited overstayers to text ‘Home on 7870' and the Home Office used Twitter to offer a running commentary. Anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia is given official public license in both off line and on-line worlds.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="193" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Theresa May, champion of the new Immigration Bill, says the government is set on “<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24469584">making it harder for people who are here illegally to stay here</a>”.&nbsp; But these crackdowns are targeting people who have done nothing wrong. Capita’s text message campaign is resulting in people being wrongly told to leave the country.</p><p>In September 2013 Suresh Grover received a text that read “Message from the Home Office. Our records show that you may not have leave to remain in the UK. Please contact us to discuss your case.” Suresh is a leading civil rights activist and founder of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tmg-uk.org/">Southall Monitoring Group</a>, which was involved in campaigns for justice for the families of Stephen Lawrence, Zahid Mubarek and Victoria Climbie.</p><p>On the 12<span><span>&nbsp;</span></span>September, Suresh Grover submitted a request to UKBA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2000 for an explanation as to why he had received the text.&nbsp; The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.discoversociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FOI_PDF.pdf">response from UKBA&nbsp;</a>is revealing. It said Capita is provided with a “regular data drop” containing information on people including mobile phone numbers who have a “negative outcome” on the Home Office immigration database”. It claimed that Capita had contacted&nbsp;<em>39,100 individuals by text</em>, while acknowledging that this figure is “provisional and subject to change”.&nbsp; The numbers are almost certainly much higher.</p><p>The response said nothing about how they had obtained Suresh Grover’s mobile number. Rather it just stated that when an error is identified records are “immediately updated and contact is ceased". &nbsp;It also claimed that in a “very small number of instances” where their records relate to a “different person and this has only transpired during the contact process e.g. where a mobile phone number has changed hands". Suresh is not alone. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20891597">Other UK passport holders</a>,&nbsp;including an immigration adviser, have received similar texts.</p><p>The FOI response from UKBA contained no explanation of how the mobile phone number of one of Britain’s leading civil rights activists found its way into the ‘data drop’ provided to Capita by the Home Office. No apologies are being made – either from Government or UKBA – for the potential damage that results from invasive e-border control of this kind.</p><p>Britain’s immigration system has often been referred to as Orwellian. These cases reinforce the idea that through our mobile phones “Big Brother” is watching. Although, Orwell’s state-controlled dystopia is not quite what is emerging.&nbsp; Ours is an out-sourced and privatised neo-liberal dystopia. We should have deep reservations about the social costs of entrusting an important issue like the implementation of migration policy to a private company that is making damaging mistakes.</p><p>Aggressive anti-migrant campaigns do little to face the issues raised by the fact that the human family is now more mobile than at any other point in history.&nbsp; The politics of scapegoating and blame targets whole communities and not just the ‘bad individual’ who are here illegally as is disingenuously claimed.&nbsp; The history of racism teaches us this lesson.</p><p>The mobile phone is now an instrument of border control, but it is also a connecting device. Salle, as a child in in Tirana, Albania, was obsessed with telephones. He pulled old telephones out of the rubbish bins and took them to pieces only to re-assemble them again like little telecommunication Frankensteins.&nbsp; His obsession with phones was in part due to the fact that the telephone was his link to his older brother who would call home every month or so with news of his life in London. Today he is still obsessed with phones but now it is with mobile ones.</p><p>In 1999 as a result of the Serbian persecutions 7,500 Kosovans fled into Albania and guns were circulating in Tirana.&nbsp; Salle’s parents were relatively well-off by Albanian standards – his mother was a nurse and his father worked as a Forest Ranger.&nbsp; A kidnap economy developed where relatively well off children were held to ransom. Salle was afraid and his brother paid £4,000 to a pair of smugglers – a man and couple posing as a family – to secure Salle’s passage to London.&nbsp; His route through Europe is a remarkable story and he eventually got himself into the back of a truck full of beer and was picked up by the Kent police. He was twelve years old.</p><p>He lived with his brother in Barking and ended up in a school in Dagenham in Greater London. Salle only found a footing when he met Harbhajan, a builder and a non-religious Sikh with left-wing leanings: "All the people in the building trade hate the Eastern Europeans but I love ‘em." &nbsp;His building firm is made up of Rastafarian painters and decorators, Polish labourers and Albanian plumbers. Salle’s fortunes changed when he connected with Harbhajan’s business which itself was built on a kind of multicultural labour market in a sector of the economy that is fraught with racism and resentment.</p><p>Salle’s immigration status is now stable and, unlike many, he can move freely around the world and return to London without fear of being held or deported.&nbsp; He works mainly repairing and restoring the properties of London’s super rich and middle class. His mobile phone is his way to stay connected to his family in Tirana, his multi-ethnic networks in London, and the young Albanians who arrange to meet via text message every Friday night at a pub in east London.</p><p>Successive British governments have claimed that the UK ‘points-based immigration’ system arbitrates on the basis of what young people&nbsp;<em>can do</em>&nbsp;rather than who are they are.&nbsp; This is little more than an ideological gloss concealing the thick lines being drawn within a generation of globally mobile young people. Here the terms of inclusion are set by where you are from, how much money is in your bank account, and whether or not you will be granted leave to remain as a result. The border itself moves, nets, captures and expels unwanted or unneeded people.&nbsp; This becomes visible chillingly when Christian receives a text message from UKBA: ‘have a pleasant journey’.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.gold.ac.uk/sociology/staff/back/">Les Back</a>&nbsp;is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ucs.ac.uk/About/Structure/UCSStaffProfiles/SchoolofAppliedSocialSciences/Shamser-Sinha.aspx">Shamser Sinha</a>&nbsp;is&nbsp;Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Youth Studies in the School of Applied Social Sciences, University Campus Suffolk. They are writing a book based on their joint research project, Migrant City, to be published by Routledge in 2015. This article is republished with thanks from <a href="http://www.discoversociety.org/stop-press-youve-got-a-text-from-ukba-technologies-of-control-and-connection-2/">Discover Society</a></em><em>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-vans-defeated-but">&#039;Go Home&#039; vans defeated, but . . . </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">Welcome to Britain: &#039;Go Home or Face Arrest&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">We all belong to Glasgow - Refugees Are Welcome Here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/juan-camilo/experts-oppose-migrant-healthcare-proposals-will-government-listen">Experts oppose migrant healthcare proposals - will government listen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself">Deportation: an increasingly &#039;foreign&#039; Britain at war with itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/simon-parker/press-hysteria-and-uk-government-migration-research-contagious-syndrome">Press hysteria and UK government migration research: a contagious syndrome</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Les Back and Shamser Sinha Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:58:11 +0000 Les Back and Shamser Sinha 76057 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Les Back and Shamser Sinha https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/les-back-and-shamser-sinha <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Les Back and Shamser Sinha </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Back </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.gold.ac.uk/sociology/staff/back/">Les Back</a>&nbsp;is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ucs.ac.uk/About/Structure/UCSStaffProfiles/SchoolofAppliedSocialSciences/Shamser-Sinha.aspx">Shamser Sinha</a>&nbsp;is&nbsp;Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Youth Studies in the School of Applied Social Sciences, University Campus Suffolk. They are writing a book based on their joint research project, Migrant City, to be published by Routledge in 2015.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Les Back is Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths University of London. Shamser Sinha is Senior Lecturer in Sociology &amp; Youth Studies, University Campus Suffolk. </div> </div> </div> Les Back and Shamser Sinha Tue, 15 Oct 2013 09:38:29 +0000 Les Back and Shamser Sinha 76059 at https://www.opendemocracy.net