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Fighting for everyone threatened with deportation

John Nicholson

 

The demonstration against deportations/rally against racism in Manchester went very well on Saturday April 2nd. Three feeder marches (north, south and central) contributed 1000 people to the rally in Albert Square. This was added to by anything up to another 500 during the course of the afternoon, who joined in to hear the speeches and the music, as the whole of the square was taken over by the "no one is illegal" slogans and the chants of "Aqila and Mansoor must stay, deportations no way."

Several campaigns spoke - including Farhat Khan (who was recently invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, to acknowledge her community work - while at the same time receiving notification from the home office that her asylum claim was being rejected), and Mansoor and Aqila's 11 year old son, who spoke with a combination of personal and political passion, finally calling on Blair to account for his actions. They were backed up by Viraj Mendis, famously deported from sanctuary in Manchester in 1989, now able to return to this country on a visitor's visa, who himself organised the last national demonstration against deportations in Manchester exactly 20 years ago this weekend - emphasising how poverty in one part of the world will always lead to migration to another part and how refugees are the bridge between these worlds, and encouraging everyone to keep up the fight.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, which is supporting Mansoor (himself an investigative journalist, who fled Pakistan because of his reports of "honour killing" and corruption in high places) expressed total solidarity but asked where the rest of the trade union movement was. Interspersed with the speeches were various bands and musicians, a detention centre with masked "deportees" handcuffed to it, "brides without borders" (explaining how refugees can no longer marry without permission of the British Home Secretary and how new laws are being piloted in Manchester that will take away benefits from families), the "no borders" group (who have highlighted the YMCA's shameful adoption of government "slave labour" for people seeking asylum) and the "no one is illegal" newspaper and badge distribution throughout the marches and rally.

It was also noticeable how the refugee communities themselves had mobilised for the day. Responding positively to Viraj's contribution, the Congolese refugees were clear about the role of imperialism and mobile phone technology, involving raw materials from the Congo. African, Indian sub continent, Middle East merged together with local campaigners who have been fighting against deportations continuously for (more than) the last 20 years in Manchester. And a new generation of young activists are now taking up these struggles, in a variety of different campaigning ways - including highlighting the homophobia which forces some refugees to flee to this country, and the clear links between HIV and migration.

A number of activists from Liverpool, Stoke, Sheffield and Leeds joined in the marches and rally and took more of the papers back to their own areas - and perhaps more important, several said they would take back the idea of working in this way, to bring campaigns together and to organise general actions against the racism and inhumanity of New Labour's asylum and immigration laws. As Mansoor said, to the feeder march from the south, it is not just for him, not just for his family, but for every person threatened with deportation.

 

April 2005

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