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Labour's new attacks on asylum seekers!

Not content with following in the previous government's footsteps, 'New Labour' has introduced new measures making it more difficult for anyone to seek asylum in Britain.

On Monday 27 October, 1997, the government announced it was 'tightening up' asylum procedures to increase the dictatorial power of immigration officers at sea and airports. In an answer to a 'planted' question from a Labour MP, Home Secretary Jack Straw said he would "... speed up the decision-making processes in abusive asylum cases.... the time allowed for people with abusive claims to make further representations after interview will be cut from the existing 28 days to five working days. The new procedure will have national application at all ports with immediate effect."

Who decides what is an 'abusive' claim? The immigration service of course! Asylum seekers, without friends, contacts or lawyers, will face intimidating 'trial' by immigration officers who have the arbitrary power to decide that they are 'abusive'. Cutting the time for 'further representations' to 5 working days will make it almost impossible to make contacts and put together a case. Immigration officers to decide that more applications are 'abusive' because there will be less chance of their decisions being overturned. Asylum seekers are to be denied the basic right to put their case forward.

Straw used the racist witch-hunt against the Czech and Slovak gypsies to justify this change and show himself tougher than the Tories. The questioner, Dr. Ladyman MP, one of those especially revolting Labour members who will do any dirty work to get into the government's good books, asked Straw if he would "... confirm that the problems in east Kent are almost entirely a consequence of the previous administration's failure to put in place fair (!) and effective asylum controls and immigration controls? I thank him for the efforts he has already made to reduce significantly the number of unfounded asylum seekers." Straw started his answer by talking about the "Flow of unfounded asylum seekers at Dover".

The gypsies, of course have been denied the chance to demonstrate the foundation of their claims, and Straw, of course, forgets to mention the 18 gypsies who have died in racist attacks in Slovakia and the Czech republic in the last two years! Under Straw asylum seekers are 'bogus' almost by definition.

Labour's immigration minister, Mike O'Brien said the government was going to take a tough stand on 'economic refugees' and 'bogus asylum seekers'. We must launch a militant campaign of action against this government's racist immigration and asylum policies.


At the same time that they are denying asylum rights, the government is taking draconian measures against 13 asylum seekers involved in the protests at Campsfield in August. The Campsfield protest came after a series of protests and hunger strikes at different detention centres and prisons. The authorities response had been to transfer those involved to other prisons with harsher conditions. This sparked the Campsfield protest.

Immigration minister O'Brien (who is the new Ann Widdicombe, just as Jack Straw is the new Michael Howard) threatened that they would be prosecuted. The government is trying to terrorise asylum seekers who are fighting back against the brutal, racist treatment they receive at the hands of the authorities in this country. 13 of the Campsfield protesters have been committed for trial on charges of violent assembly, which will almost certainly lead to their deportation if convicted.

It is essential that every anti-racist and every activist in the labour movement comes to their defence and demands that the charges against them are dropped immediately and that they are freed from detention.

Updated (4/2/1998) from the November 1997 Movement for Justie magazine

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