May Day Rally

Member of the Campaign, Liz Peretz, spoke at the May Day Rally in Oxford on 2 May.  In case you missed it, here is what she had to say:

As we celebrate international worker’s day, and think of trades unions and collective action we must also remember the 17306 men women and children who have died in their attempt to reach Europe whose names were laid out on a sheet 100 metres long in the entrance hall to the European parliament last week . We must confront the brutal immigration machine – state racism in action – which all european governments run in our name.

Just 5 miles away, in Kidlington, over 200 men are locked up – in what is called an ‘immigration removal centre’ but is actually built and run as a high security prison. Over the last 21 years, 30,000 people have been locked up there.   During that time the numbers of centres – prison camps – like Campsfield have grown five fold; most are now run by private companies, for profit; and the immigration laws in this country, as in other ‘rich’ countries have become year on year more brutal

One of the worst brutalities of this system brilliantly portrayed in a film out today which everyone can watch on line is that migrants in detention centres are given ‘opportunities’ to work – for £1 an hour – for the centre’s management. In Campsfield that means that cleaning and kitchen work are done by migrants; The private company that runs the centre makes £6 an hour per worker clear profit, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, while the detainee, not allowed legally to work outside detention, is offered this ‘slave’ amount inside the lock up. The campaign I am part of has seemed like a tiny voice against the flood tide of increasing misery over the last 20 years. Some trades unions have taken up parts of the fight – Unite, Unison, have supported members caught up in the stranglehold of our inhumane system. But there has been no systematic, sustained, successful action to turn the brutality back. But there are signs that this brutality, this state racism, has reached such a pitch that the tide could turn – if we all, at work, in our campaign groups, and our private lives demand change.

Last month an all party parliamentary group published a report on immigration detention – calling for a time limit, a root and branch reform, full judicial oversight, and community alternatives. At the same time, Channel 4 ran some ‘inside’ secretly filmed programmes exposing the appalling conditions in Yarlswood and Harmondsworth, which were followed by a wave of protest by detainees in all the centres. Since then, all the main parties have said they are willing in the next parliament to move to a time limit. We need to keep them to this, and sit over them while the practicalities are worked out, to ensure things can never be this bad again. We also need to use the power of the collective trades union voice to stamp out the practice of ‘slave labour’. I’m proud that it was Oxford Trades Union Council that started the first disquiet on this subject, in 2006 – but it now needs to spread further.

And we need to use our collective voice to end the shame of the Mediterranean deaths, and the deaths and subhuman conditions endured in Calais. These are all things done in our name. It is in our hands to stop them.

What can you do? Come to events in Refugee week which will include a walk from Oxford to Campsfield. Get your Union involved. Go to our website at ‘closecampsfield’, follow us on twitter – and watch the film – made by standoff films and Corporate Watch.


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