The spectacle of Home Secretary Suella Braverman stepping off a military helicopter at Manston Immigration Centre last week added further tension to an already fraught situation in parts of Kent. Earlier in the week the Border Force Centre in Dover had been firebombed by far-right supporter Andrew Leak in what is now recognised by police as a ‘terrorist act’. Leak caused injury to two people before taking his own life on a petrol forecourt.
This is in the context of the establishment’s attempt to whip up anti-migrant hysteria, with sensationalist media coverage about both the number and character of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, exacerbated by Braverman’s description of those arriving as ‘invaders’.
Inspectors report conditions at Manston as ‘wretched’. The facility is designed to accommodate up to 1600 migrants for up to 24 hours while temporary accommodation is sought and applications for asylum are processed, but in recent weeks it has held around 4000 for up to 32 days. This has resulted in squalid conditions of appalling sanitation, hunger, cold and incidents of violence and sexual assault. An Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport has also been shut down following violence that erupted after a power cut that had confined detainees to ‘cells’ for two days.
The PCS union, representing many Border Force and Immigration workers, is mounting a legal challenge to the use of Manston alongside the human rights organisation Detention Action. They are demanding that no-one is detained for more than 24 hours to prevent their members acting unlawfully.
While this is welcome, Socialist Alternative says that all trade unions and campaign groups must demand the end of detention for anyone making the hazardous crossing. It is not illegal to cross the channel on a small boat but this Government’s racist immigration policies force many to take the risk as, unless you are an already sponsored refugee, it is practically impossible to apply for asylum before arrival in the UK.
Large protests continue to take place outside Manston while Braverman and Sunak attempt to reduce the numbers being held. At the same time, it is reported that forced removals to Paraguay and other countries are actively being considered followed the stalled Rwanda scheme.
Socialist Alternative calls for the closure of Manston, Harmondsworth and all Immigration Detention Centres. Migrants are not criminals. Workers of all nations should have the right to travel, live, work and join a union to improve their conditions. As RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said at Saturday’s People’s Assembly protest: “workers across the world have the same common interests. No-one is illegal and everyone should be able to enter the workforce”.
We fully support the actions of PCS on behalf of their members, not only in regard to their conditions of work, but in their campaign for decent pay alongside the tens of thousands of workers across other public services and beyond. By coordinating these disputes and building towards a general strike, the workers’ movement has the potential to drive the Tories and their divisive, racist agenda out of office.
But also a united working-class movement, fighting attacks on our living standards, alongside championing the demand for full rights to remain could bring an end to division. The fight for genuine freedom and justice for migrants means fighting for a socialist world.
- No to the Tories’ racist and divide and rule game. The bosses want to set workers and the poor against one another in order to exploit us all. Full rights to settle for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. For the right to settle, work and unionise without discrimination in pay and conditions. Close down all detention centres and stop all racist deportations. For the trade unions to launch campaigns for mass recruitment of migrant workers to fight for decent living standards and services for all.
- End migrant charges in the NHS! The health service should be free at the point of use for all. Link up with the health workers movement to demand an end and reversal of all cuts, closures and privatisation in the NHS
- Black Lives Matter! For a movement of the multiracial working class to fight racism. End the racist ‘stop and search’ policy which disproportionately targets black and brown youth
- For united struggle of all those who face oppression under capitalism – a system which thrives on division and which generates and perpetuates multiple special forms of oppression. For a socialist world free of exploitation, oppression and war