We need to talk about state racism IRR News November 2020

5 November 2020 — Institute of Race Relations

In the current mainstream discussion about racism in political parties, the history of state racism – through the passing of implicitly racist immigration controls – doesn’t even merit a mention. It is as though politicians and media pundits have no memory, beyond the immediate moment, let alone a conception that the British state, like any other state in the world, can embed racism in its laws and policies. Racism in immigration controls started with the Conservatives’ passing of the 1905 Aliens Act to control Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. And, if we want to talk about more recent shame, one of the most shameful acts of any post-war Labour government came in 1968 when it enacted the Commonwealth Immigrants Act – specifically designed to decitizenise and deny entry to East African Asians who were British citizens, having been taken by the coloniser, Britain, to Africa.

The continuation of these racist immigration controls can be seen today in the creation of the hostile environment (now compliant environment, as though changing the name changes the reality). It was the Labour government (1997-2010) which laid the framework for Theresa May’s hostile environment through excluding migrants from welfare benefits and social housing, and pouring resources into the enforcement network of biometric controls and data sharing. It is high time, argues Liz Fekete this week on IRR News, for all those who identify as anti-racist to unite against the inhumane, soul destroying and deadly impact of the hostile environment. Responding to Sir Keir Starmer’s recent characterisation of the BLM UK abolitionist demand to defund/divest in policing as a ‘nonsense’, she suggests that abolitionism has always been central to refugee and migrant struggles (including those of the original Windrush generation), and that hostile environment polices must be abolished, not reformed.

In our calendar of racism and resistance, we cover the fall-out in the UK following the release of the EHRC report that found the Labour Party broke equalities law in its handling of antisemitism complaints. The heinous terrorist crimes in France that have left at least four people, including the teacher Samuel Paty, dead, are also covered, as is the state response, which includes a new secularism law and a proposal to dissolve the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, amongst others.

Next week, we will be publishing an important co-authored report, Deadly Crossings and the Militarisation of Britain’s Borderswhich details the cases of 296 people who have died trying to cross the channel to the UK in the past 20 years – including an Iranian Kurdish couple and their three children who died last week. The report hopes to give each person who has died an identity and a history. Read more about the research here.

And finally, as the presidential election turns ugly, our thoughts are with our colleagues and friends in the US.

IRR News team 

The principle upon which we could build our abolitionist demands is very simple: ‘abolish wrongs, and establish rights’ – Liz Fekete Divesting from Immigration Policing: The Abolitionist Challenge

In a new piece for IRR News, IRR Director Liz Fekete argues that its time to kick-start a debate on abolitionism and immigration enforcement, seeking a rights-based approach to immigration policy.

Read now

The IRR’s latest report, published in collaboration with the Permanent People’s Tribunal London steering group and French group Gisti, details the 296 people who have died trying to cross the channel since 1999. The report will re-humanise the people behind the statistics and show that these deaths are not ‘natural’ or ‘tragic accidents’ but man-made, created by policies which do not merely close borders but also erect ever more obstacles to safe travel for the most vulnerable.

Read more

23 October – 2 November 2020) Calendar of Racism and Resistance 

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe. This week’s calendar documents the ways many EU countries are failing displaced people, including court cases like the UK High Court ruling that unaccompanied child migrants cannot be placed in adult hotel accommodation.

Read now

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