Covid-19, it turns out, is not the great equaliser. The pandemic and lockdown, together, have exposed the different social realities experienced by those on either side of the race and class divide.
One differential is that between citizens and those who crossed borders.
For those of us who survived wars, exile and other catastrophes; for those of us separated from our families; exploited by unscrupulous employers; with no home to isolate in; with no internet or computers for our children to attend school; and living in a hostile environment, Covid-19 has made things worse. Much worse.
Within weeks of the pandemic BAME essential workers started dying in disproportionately higher numbers than white counterparts. The government dragged its feet in acknowledging the problem, and commissioning a review, then refused to publish its findings about structural inequalities that contributed to these deaths.
The Windrush Scandal, the Grenfell Tower fire, the murder of Jimmy Mubenga by G4S immigration enforcers a decade ago, the murder of Joy Gardner a decade before that and the death in May of a man known only as Elvis – an undocumented migrant worker – who did not dare seek care for Covid 19 out of fear of immigration enforcement in the NHS, are all manifestations of the same structural violence.
Like many others, Migrants Organise spent the lockdown working with our members, whose lives have become a real nightmare. Many described their fear of seeking help, how NHS hospitals are no longer safe places of care and confidentiality, but instead, somewhere that life and death decisions are made on the basis of inhumane hostile environment policies.
But in addition to exposing the systemic, intentional and deadly character of the Hostile Environment policy, the Covid-19 pandemic has also opened up a space for solidarity.
We joined in, signed and supported many initiatives that plead for basic human rights and immediate intervention to help vulnerable people, but to no avail. Appealing to civility and humanity no longer works.
Like so many people around the world, we took our protest to the street. We joined Black Lives Matter to challenge racism and colonialism across the world and took part in the action of remembrance of lives lost in decades of racism and hostile environment in policing, immigration enforcement and now in all public services.
The Black Lives Matter movement inspired us to imagine a better, just and dignified future.
The Fair Immigration Reform – Join the Movement
After two years of listening and organising, on July 14 we launched the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) Charter – a collective, unapologetically ambitious call for systemic change that is long overdue.
The mission of the FIRM Charter is to unite efforts addressing aspects of the hostile environment into a common struggle, reaching out to communities, organisers and supporters in a shared demand for:
1. Dignity 2. Legal, historical and international justice 3. Welcome for all people in our society 4. Principled collective action
There is a lot of work to undo the centuries of injustice and oppression built into our laws, institutions and culture. A serious change is needed in how we organise to end injustice, racism and hostile environment and repair the extensive damage inflicted on millions of individuals, our communities and institutions.
The FIRM Charter constitutes the collective wisdom of many of our members, and many organisations and groups we have worked with over the years. It is also the start of a conversation as to how we can create a migrant-led movement with the power to win this fight.
We invite you to add your voice by
1. signing the FIRM Charter,
2. getting your organisation to endorse,
3. sharing it on your social media, and
4. joining us for:
- a social media launch on August 5th starting by
- Following @FIRMCharter on Twitter
- download images and posters from the FIRM webpage here for your Facebook and Instagram posts.
- Use #SolidarityKnowsNoBorders!
5. joining us for a day of action in October – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We are building towards a national day of action in October 2020 to show unity, strength and power of our movement.