New Internationalist

Act & Resist

Issue 350

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Refugees / ACTION

ACT & RESIST

1 - Stop deportations

‘It only takes one passenger to refuse to be seated to stop a deportation happening. Stand up against deportations.’ Campaigns like this are taking place in Australia, Britain and other European countries. Protesters in the Netherlands favour more extreme methods – such as sitting on top of the plane to stop it taking off (see picture). Generally, passengers are urged to inquire about deportation policy when booking tickets and to boycott lines that help deport. Some lines, such as Virgin, have an anti-deportation policy. Lobbying of airline personnel – from baggage handlers to pilots – can also work. Deportees have even foiled deporting authorities – and caused no small degree of embarrassment – by stripping naked as a desperate last measure. A combination of direct action, local campaigns for specific individuals or families and more conventional legal appeal processes mean that thousands of deportations are prevented each year.

Links and contacts:

General: www.deportation-alliance.com

Australia: xborder on www.antimedianet/xborder/ ;

Refugee Action Collective:
Tel:(0)3 9659 3505
Web: www.rac-vic.org

Britain: National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. Tel: (0161) 740 5197.
Web: www.ncadc.org.uk

Canada: Le Comité d'action des sans-statut. Tel: (514) 996-2597
E-mail: cassdz@hotmail.com

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Boy rehydrates on the Mexican / US border.
Photo: Clive Shirley / Panos Pictures

3 - Sanctuary and defence

Escaping persecution or poverty is itself a dangerous business for refugees. They may encounter considerable risks - from the elements, from violence at the hands of border patrols or anti-immigration vigilantes or abandonment by people smugglers. Thousands die each year. On the Mexican-US border alone, about 2,000 undocumented immigrants have died from drowning, dehydration, accidents or attacks since 1995 - and the number of fatalities is increasing every year. In a bid to save lives, water tanks have been erected by the Sanctuary Movement in Arizona, on both sides of the border with Sonora, Mexico. The tanks are placed near the desert tracks where, in summer, temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees Farenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Local churches have played a prominent role in the Sanctuary Movement for many years; the Catholic diocese spans the border.

Links and contacts:

Aotearoa/NZ: Refugees as Survivors (RAS) Centres Auckland.
Tel: (09) 270 0870,
Fax: (09) 270 056.
Email: auckrascentre@xtra.co.nz

Australia: The Professional Alliance for the Health of Asylum Seekers and their Children; www.racp.edu.au/hpu/policy/
asylumseekers/alliance.htm
Tel: (02) 9256 9600.

Britain: Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers. Tel: 07941 566183.
Email info@defend-asylum.org
Web: www.defend-asylum.org

Canada: Canadian Friends Service Committee. Tel: (416) 920-5213
Email: cfsc-office@quaker.ca

US: Sanctuary Movement
Web: www.humaneborders.org

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[image, unknown]
Artwork: Deborah Kelly

5 - Tactical art & media tools

Using art and media, refugees and activists are challenging hostile and inaccurate portrayals of refugees with eye-opening events and representations. Australian tactical media activists, in an unauthorized public artwork, projected a 15 meter eighteenth century galleon with the words BOAT PEOPLE on to the Sydney Opera House to underline the message that (bar Aboriginal people) 'We are all boat people'. In Europe, movements like the francophone Sans Papiers or The Voice in Germany are refugee-run and control expression of their own issues. In Britain PhotoVoice gives refugee groups training in journalism and documentary photography. Their work includes working with Bhutanese youngsters living in refugee camps in the Eastern lowlands of Nepal as well as unaccompanied teenage refugees in East London. The aim is to shift the media bias, train potential refugee journalists and to syndicate their work. Some journalists are also working within the mainstream media to raise awareness and combat scapegoating. PressWise is a media ethics charity which has posted a worldwide, country by country, code of journalistic ethics. Meanwhile refugees from Exiled Writers Ink are using the Internet to disseminate their work.

Links and contacts:

BORDERPANIC
Web: www.borderpanic.org

Tactical Media Artists
Web: www.boat-people.org

Exiled Writers Ink at www.exiledwriters.co.uk

PressWise: Refugees, asylum seekers and the Mass Media Project at  www.ramproject.org.uk

PhotoVoice www.photovoice.org

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7 - Organizations for refugees

There are hundreds. Good starting points are:

Aotearoa: Refugee Council of New Zealand,
147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland New Zealand.
Tel: (09) 376 9680
Web: www.refugee.nz

Human Rights Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand,
PO Box 106343, Downtown Auckland
Email: humanrightsfoundation@xtra.co.nz
Website: www.humanrights.co.nz

Australia: Refugee Council of Australia,
PO Box 946, Glebe, 2037, NSW.
e-mail rcoa@cia.com.au
Web: www.refugeecouncil.org.au

Aslyum Seeker Resource Centre,
207 & 211 Nicholson Street Footscray,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3011.
Tel: (03) 9689 5075.
Email: asrc_footscray@yahoo.com
Web: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~asrc

Britain: The Refugee Council,
3 Bondway, London SW8 1SJ.
Tel: (020) 7820 3000
Fax: (020) 7582 9929.
Web: www.refugeecouncil.org.uk

Asylum Support.
Web: www.asylumsupport.info

Canada:Canadian Council for Refugees,
6839 Drolet 302, Montréal, Québec, H2S 2T1
Tel: (514) 277-7223
Fax: (514) 277-1447.
Email: ccr@web.net
Web: www.web.net/~ccr

Ireland: Irish Refugee Council,
40 Lower Dominick St, Dublin 1.
Tel: (353) 1 8730042
Fax: (353) 1 8730088
Email: refugee@iol.ie
Web: www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie

US: National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights,
310-8th Street, Ste. 303 Oakland, CA 94607
Tel: (510) 465 1984
Fax: (510) 465 1885
Email: nnirr@nnirr.org
Web: www.nnirr.org

International: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
CP 2500, CH-1211, Geneva 2.
Tel: +41 (22) 739 7367
Web: www.unhcr.ch

US Committee for Refugeees,
11717 Massachusetts Avenue,
NW Suite 200, Washington DC 20036-2003.
Tel: +1 (800) 307 4712.
Web: www.refugees.org

Amnesty International,
1 Easton Street, London WC1X ODWl.
Tel: +44 (020) 7814 6200
Web: www.amnesty.org

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Barbed Wire Britain
Photo: Howard Davies / Exile Images

Some of the most daring actions against the detention of refugees - often imprisoned for years - have taken place at Woomera, Australia. Protesters cut through the fences and razor wire in a dramatic break-out of detainees in March 2002. Detainees have held powerful protests - even sewing up their lips to express their despair at being detained indefinitely. Repeated actions have resulted in the escape of asylum seekers. In Britain a nine-year campaign to close Campsfield detention centre bore fruit this year with the announcement that the centre would close in 2003. But other larger detention centres are to be opened. In the US too there are official plans to build a series of privately run prisons for 'undocumented aliens' in Arizona.

Links and contacts:

Aotearoa/NZ: Human Rights Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand.
Email: humanrightsfoundation@xtra.co.nz
Web: www.humanrights.co.nz

Australia: No-One is Illegal.
Email: nooneisillegal@netscape.net.au
Tel: (0)418 140 387; www.antimedia.net/nooneisillegal

Britain: Barbed Wire Britain at
www.barbedwirebritain.org.uk

Canada: Inter-Church Committee for Refugees. Tel: (416) 921-9967
Email: iccr@web.net

US: Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants. Tel: (212) 254-2591.
Email: chri@itapnet.org
Web: www.itapnet.org/chri

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[image, unknown]
Photo: Vanessa Baird

4 - No border!

From Mexico to Poland to Australia, the No Border Movement in growing worldwide. The actions usually take place on international frontiers or at detention centres and involve setting up camps of hundreds or thousands of activists. This year there have been camps in Strasbourg in France, Jena in Germany, Wizajny in Poland, Imatra in Finland, and Woomera in Australia. Demonstrations against tightening border controls took place in Montreal - where 1,000 Algerians were threatened with deportation due to new rules - London and many other major cities. The main demand of the No Border movement is recognition of the human right to freedom of movement. 

Links and contacts:

General: No Border Network.
Web: www.noborder.org

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[image, unknown]
Photo: Vanessa Baird

6 - Workers unite

Increasingly support for asylum seekers and economic migrants is coming from trade unions - some of which in the past would have been primarily concerned that migrants might take jobs away from their members. In the US the American Federation of Labour and Congress of International Organizations (AFL-CIO) campaigns for legalization and rights of undocumented immigrant workers as does the Service Employees International Union and United Farm Workers. Elsewhere teaching and public sector unions, along with aid agencies, charities and student groups, have been prominent in challenging the scapegoating of refugees and their children. Journalist unions have worked hard to tackle racism and anti-immigrant prejudice in the media. Links have been made with refugee trade unionists - who can raise awareness in the unions of their host countries.

Links and contacts:

Australia: Trade Unionists for Refugee Rights (TUR).
Web: www.vthc.org.au/campaigns/

Britain: Unison. Tel: (0202) 7388 2366.
Web: www.unison.org.uk

Student Action for Refugees (STAR)
Web: www.star-network.org.uk

Canada:Canadian Labour Congress Anti-Racism and Human Rights Department,
2841 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 8X7
Email: anti-racism@clc-ctc.ca

US: AFL-CIO,
815 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20006.
Tel: (202) 637-5000.
Web: www.aflcio.org/immigrantworkers


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