Anyone watching the news over the last few months will have heard about the ‘migrant crisis’ that’s apparently plaguing Europe. It’s spoken about in much the same terms as swine flu was a few years ago. Right wing and fascist responses are predictable: but these groups’ responses are murderous, dangerous, and unfortunately often held by those in power. The critical danger of this right wing, racist response should not be underestimated.
But it’s important not to ignore the issues with the left-wing, liberal response. The ‘migrant crisis’ is a crisis of people that need our help, they cry. We need to help people in this ‘migrant crisis’ out of our own kindness and generosity with what is ours, by providing charitable support to the areas most affected by the ‘migrant crisis’.
It can seem strange to have a problem with this- charity and kindness sound good, and this might be a useful response to the migrant crisis.
Except, of course, that there is no migrant crisis.
Capitalism is the crisis. Capitalism is either having a crisis, or is in fact constructed on a series of crises that just lumber from economic sector to economic sector, destroying those unlucky enough to get in the way, and totally inevitable in order to maintain the system. Either way, people displaced by this crisis are not the problem.
And whilst the solution isn’t segregation, death and bigger walls, it isn’t charity either. All the tents and blankets in the world won’t change the situation, and it’s important to remember the wealth of richer countries is not there by rights, but by theft and oppression. You can’t charitable give what you stole in the first place. Where people are driven to desperate living conditions, its invaluable to make things bearable and it can save lives. No one is suggesting we leave people to suffer. But no one would be in that situation if we all had the same freedom of movement- people need papers and the right to live and work.
We – The Unity Centre – are a No Borders and non-hierarchical collective run completely by unpaid volunteers in Glasgow. The collective is a mix of people with papers and people struggling for their own. Unity began 9 years ago, born out of the community resistance to dawn raids that were taking place. We organise out of a small office round the corner from the local Home Office, 5 days a week, with a 24hr phone-line, and little resources or money. We work to provide unconditional practical and emotional support to people seeking asylum, refugees, and all migrants affected by the racist and brutally oppressive border and immigration controls that operate in the UK and across the world. We believe in and try to enact solidarity, not charity. This is not necessarily easy or simple, but we believe we should be fighting to change fundamental injustice, not just bandage wounds. We aim to enable people to navigate the system how they want, and to be empowered to make their own choices.
We support people inside and outside of detention. Recently the continual privatisation and funding cuts of 3rd sector charities working in asylum and migration mean that we are increasingly supporting people with housing and destitution issues, unable to give the most time and energy to supporting people in detention centres who are due to be removed from the UK.
There are also a few campaigns we’re working on at the moment: challenging the legitimacy of charter flights which forcibly remove high numbers of rejected refugees and migrants to specific countries en masse. We’re campaigning to bring attention to criminal deportations: the racist double punishment which targets certain groups with deportation, regardless of the number of years they’ve lived in the UK and the life they’ve built up. A “foreign criminal” first serves their full prison sentence, and is then – unlike British nationals – detained in immigration detention and subsequently deported to their “country of origin”. We’re also looking to challenge the ‘deport now, appeal later’ policy of the Home Office, which dictates that those seeking to appeal a decision made by the Home Office must make the appeal from the country they are first deported to. Currently this is only applicable to criminal deportations, but the Tories have pledged to subject all immigration appeals to this unjust logic.
Unity also runs peer support groups for asylum seekers and refugees: one for women, and the other for LGBTQ folk, to empower and support each other through the process. We have links with lots of other organisations in Glasgow (including several charities who are actually very nice people!), and are sistered with the Govan Community Bike Workshop that provides free or cheap work on bikes for the local community.
If you or anyone you know would be interested in getting involved, get in touch. Find us on facebook or unitycentreglasgow.org. If you can support us financially- thank you! We run on shoestrings, luck, and donations. We need all the help we can get.