This guest blog is by Kaya Purchase, a member of Liverpool Solidarity Knows No Borders.
The Government’s Hostile Environment has intentionally made the lives of migrant communities in Britain intolerable: a series of policies designed specifically to deny basic human rights – including housing and healthcare – for those deemed “without a right to live in the country”. The measures have also negatively affected those with the legal right to remain, and BME communities racialised as ‘migrants’ too.
It was Hostile Environment immigration policies that led to the Windrush scandal, responsible for the wrongful deportation of 63 individuals, and was a threat to the safety and mental well-being of many others. Such cruel measures have no regard for the dignity and respect that every person deserves. These policies are merely an extension of a historically rotten and toxic immigration system used to further division and racism in British society.
In 2012, Liverpool declared itself a City of Sanctuary, pledging to reduce the exclusion and isolation which those who come to Britain seeking safety overwhelmingly feel within British communities. This is absolutely right considering Liverpool’s geographical and historical significance as a port city. Colonialism and migration have shaped the city and it will only be through acknowledgement of Britain’s role in colonialism and the oppression of other nations that we will be able to achieve justice, dignity and welcome for all. Given Liverpool’s long history of Irish, African and Caribbean migrant communities, and its strong and long-established Chinese community, we have a duty to provide sanctuary to those who seek it. However, despite these pledges and the tireless work of many organisations and campaigners, Liverpool has not always lived up to this pledge.
It is imperative that we are able to live up to this pledge by taking action against the brutal Hostile Environment that continues to wreak havoc on migrants and refugees in Liverpool, especially as the current Government ramps up their scapegoating of migrants, and far-right rhetoric emboldens racist groups here locally. Now more than ever, there is a need for action.
In response to Migrants Organise’s call to action, many different organisations came together in Merseyside to demand justice and dignity for all migrants, people seeking asylum and refugees. The groups involved in Merseyside include Asylum Link, Refugee Women Connect, Merseyside Together, Docs Not Cops, These Walls Must Fall, Walton Constituency Labour Party, Liverpool Migrants Solidarity Network, Save Liverpool Womens Hospital, Keep Our NHS Public, and Liverpool Friends of Palestine. All share a determination to take action collectively to demand an end to the Hostile Environment, and have issued a statement saying:
“Britain’s racist immigration policies are costing lives and causing pain and extreme hardship to thousands. We want to raise our voices to say ‘not in our name!’
Each group has something unique to offer and there is much confidence that the combined forces of so many different areas of knowledge campaigning together will carry a powerful message. Extinction Rebellion Liverpool, for example, have stated that they are supporting this rally as they believe that a ‘transition to an ecologically sustainable future… includes solidarity with fighting racism and colonialism.’ They recognise that ‘the same people that rely on racism for their power are the people who are destroying the planet which causes many people to flee their homes.’
At 2pm on Saturday 10th October, ‘Solidarity Knows No Borders Merseyside,’ an umbrella group of many different organisations, are hosting an online event to fight back against racist border controls. Together we have created a brilliant programme of speakers, including a poetry reading from local Yemeni poet, Amina Atiq and music from local Katumba drumming band.
The action’s objective is to demand not just an end to the policies of the Hostile Environment in every aspect of its operation, including an end to immigration raids, detention and deportation, but also to demand inclusion for migrants based, as written in the FIRM charter, ‘on the principles of welcome, solidarity and anti-racism.’
As we look to the future we must also look to the past and this action will be a commemoration of all those who have died as a result of a violent immigration system and will ‘make visible the experiences of all those who face the callousness of this broken system every day.’