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What it means to be a Refugee or Asylum-seeker in Britain today

by Toure Moussa Zeguen

Across the length and breadth of our planet, people become refugees because of fear: fear of violence, fear of torture, fear of persecution. Violence, torture and persecution created or implemented upon them by their own governments, by wars and international exploiting class that have always denied ordinary peoples rights for decent living and working conditions.

About fifteen million refugees have crossed international borders to escape the atrocities of the people and governments driven by self-interest and expediency. 20 millions others have fled their homes and sought safety and peace elsewhere in their own country only to avoid intimidation, execution, rape, imprisonment, violence and any other forms of degrading treatments they constantly face in their mother lands., countries and continents.

According to the UNHCR sources 1 person in 115 in the world has had to flee their home as a refugee. This is how people are obliged to come and leave in Britain as refugee. Among us, there are women, children, elderly people, disabled people who just need protection and respect. Not only because of what they have been victims of, but also really because they are human, workers, students unemployed people who should have the right to seek refuge anywhere in the world where they think and hope to be treated as human and their rights be respected.

For the short time I have lived in this country from 1994, I have noticed the daily negative campaign going on by the officials of this country against asylum-seekers and immigrants. We have been labelled 'cheats' who are trying to avoid immigration controls. The Tory government started by explaining to the ordinary British people that we are the main cause of the high unemployment rate and rising poverty in Britain. These campaigns and officials attacks against asylum-seekers( particularly from African origin) were translated into a legislation in 1996. After imposing visa restrictions to stop people from coming to Britain, the Tory government continued to detain more and more applicants at the ports of entry on arrival. Many others are classified as 'illegal entrants' only because in fact they have no passport in their own identity. What in fact is fallacious argument when we look at the conditions from which refugees are fleeing. All these treatments are imposed on to us by officials claiming to protect tax payers money or genuine asylum seekers. The allegations of the racist Tory government were put in Michael Howard Immigration act 1996. Since then, asylum seekers who are applying for asylum after entry and those whose application are refused by the home secretary are denied the right to state benefit( income support, housing, child benefit and others). The consequences of this legislation are homelessness, sickness, unjustified refusal of asylum, high rate of detention and deportation. Despite all this, refugees and their community organisation along with human rights and anti-racist groups have hoped that the general election of May 97 would have led to significant changes in the conditions of the most vulnerable section of British society like us. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Far from repealing this legislation is the arm of Mike O'Brien and Jack Straw to demonstrate the racist nature of the officials in government in Britain today. Since may 1997, the number of hunger strike in the prisons and detention centres are rising. Mike O'Brien found no reason to put an end to those degrading conditions. The government is even more determined to deport refugees to countries where dictatorship are continuing their repression, such as Nigeria, Ivory-coast, Turkey, Algeria and so on. The different campaigns taking place at this time in Britain against Michael Howard Immigration act 1996 means nothing to this labour government. We asylum seekers and refugees in Britain strongly believe that this situation can no longer continue and should take more actions in order to make our voice heard by the British opinion( ordinary people, press, human right organisation). We should make a realistic approach to this problem and take more courageous steps in our struggle for justice and respect. We must stand up to demonstrate our determination to fight back any government that refuse to respect our basic human right and convince the ordinary people in Britain that we are part of the same struggle. The struggle against exploitation, poverty, the bourgeoisie and imperialism. We must mobilise immigrants, refugees, British workers and students towards a joint struggle that will show the link between enslavement here and the dictatorship in Africa, Latin America , in Asia and all over the world. We are to destroy the charity consciousness in our community in order to challenge those who take advantage of the mass devastation of our countries and are determine to alienate us by lying to British tax payers. We must organise our communities independently and make sure that the workers and ordinary people in Britain share our common view and interest in order to build here internationalism on the ground.

Refugees should not be seen as 'cheats' or 'beggars' WE are an integrated part of the society, victims of an international system called Imperialism. Therefore we are calling upon all workers and human rights activist in Britain to support our struggle not because of pity or sympathy but truly because we are all ordinary exploited people across the planet fighting for the recognition of our rights. We, refugees are here to live and contribute the change of human society of wars, exploitation, discrimination and individualism. We have the responsibility to bring with us our expertise, experiences and history into British society and make sure that others take much more advantage of what we are capable of in the construction of universal civilisation and international peace for a better future for this world.

We are here to live not leave, we are here to fight and go back at our own convenient time to our motherlands where our people are expecting freedom, democracy and justice. WE are citizens of the world and we are fearing nothing and nobody. We are just starting the fight back.


Toure Moussa Zeguen

Chairman of Ivorian

Relief Action Group

Press officer for the PAFFAC


365 Brixton Road

London SW9 7DB

Email Cahrvic@aol.com.uk

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