The Refugee Rights campaign and Tamil Solidarity organised an open discussion, ‘Defending Refugees, Fighting Deportation’, on Saturday 12 November at the Institute of Education in central London. It was part of ‘Socialism 2016’, a weekend of discussion and debate hosted by the Socialist Party.
The discussion centred on the oppressive conditions faced by refugees and the need to organise a fightback, brought together huge layer of young refugees and activists to the extent that extra chairs had to be put out in the already crowded room. Nandan Balenthran from Tamil Solidarity and a Refugee right activist, who had been detained recently, chaired the lively and enthusiastic discussion.
Bharathi Subramanium, Tamil Solidarity National Coordinating Committee introduced the discussion as the first speaker. She highlighted the huge humanitarian and refugees crisis that exists across the globe.
65.3 million People were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015 according to the UNHCR Global trends report – when you compare this to the world population this accounts to one in every 113.
Being a refugee is not a choice an individual makes but one that they are forced to accept to be able to have a life. War, repressive regimes and poverty are amongst some of the main reason why there have been a record high number of migrations in living memory. For many of them, their journey to have better and safer lives came to an end in the dangerous route they are forced to make.
For those that have survived and made it alive to the ‘Fortress Europe’, are then faced with the new harsh reality. Huge austerity across Europe in terms of cuts to public serves, education, housing, etc means that they are struggling to get decent lives. On top of that, as refugees they are then treated as criminals and denied basic human rights.
Mathan Nathan, Committee member of Refugees right campaign explained first-hand the experience of being a refugee and about the campaigns demand.
Refugees right campaign was initiated by refugees coming together and discussing the conditions they face and the absolute need for them to organise together to fight for our rights.
In the UK, there has been an increase in the number of refugees detained and put in detention centres. Detention Centres might be the name given to them but as everyone who has been detained says “they feel like a prison”. While outside these detention centres they are refuged to work, inside they are encouraged to work at £1 p/h. When even the national minimum wage of £7.20 is not the living wage, to be able to have make needs end, the £1 p/h is a shameful slavery wage.
The campaign have organised and taken part in several protests and demos and raised the demands of ‘allow the right to work’ and ‘close down detentions centres’. Mathan has appealed to anyone who would like to get involve with the campaign to contact him.
The final speaker was from Day –Mer Kurdish and Turkish organisation Oktay Cinpolat. Oktay outlined the brutal situation faced by the people in Turkey after the failed coup. He mentioned the recent EU dangerous deal with the Turkey government where any refugees are being deported back to Turkey to the hands of the brutal repressive regime.
An interactive and energetic discussion followed the speakers in which many asked questions about the Refugee Rights campaign and how they could be more involved. Amongst them there was also a contribution from TGTE, Manivanthan who extended the support to the campaign and re-emphasise the demand of right to work as an important demand to improve the lives of the refugees in Britian and to stop them being exploited by employers as a form of cheap labour. Several contributions were also made in Tamil.
The discussion was brought to an end by TU Senan from Tamil Solidarity who summed up the discussion. He highlighted that the conditions faced by the refugees are not individual issues but they are connected to the economic policies of cut back in services such as education, healthcare and housing. That is why the fight for refugees’ right need to be closely connected to the fight for jobs, homes and services for all.