A 23-year-old Sudanese man was tragically killed during an immigration raid on Saturday, 30 June in Newport, Wales. Immigration officers arrived at his workplace causing the workers to flee, and the Sudanese man who has not been identified in the press ran onto a roof to escape, fell through and died.
Update 10th July 2018, when this article was written, the man had not been named, but we now understand his name was Mustafa. A vigil was held at the Home Office in London for Mustafa on 9th July 2018 organised by UK Black Lives Matter and Soas Detainee Support
The raid took place at a car wash in Newport, with around a dozen officers jumping out of two vans and chasing the workers who all scattered. The 23-year-old was on the roof of his workplace when he fell, and was transferred to hospital where he later died. His death has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IPOC). However, the IPOC and the British legal system are notoriously biased towards police and immigration officers, and despite over 300 deaths in custody or following police/immigration officer contact since 1990, every attempted prosecution of an officer involved has ended in acquittal. The car wash in Newport remains open, with a few changes to staffing, but the brother of the deceased man is still working.
The hostile environment
The aim to create a hostile environment for migrants in the UK has made life unbearable for many people. Britain has no legal time limit for how long people can be detained in immigration centres, and rates of self-harm and suicide are soaring: in 2015, 395 detainees attempted suicide, an average of one per day. Conditions in UK detention centres are extremely poor, and reports of abuse, assault and neglect are common.
While the brutalities of the American immigration system have dominated the media recently, the UK’s approach to immigration is similarly vicious. The recent outpouring of public support for the Windrush generation and their battle against deportation was inspiring and led to a victory, but our system of detention and deportation continues. The Windrush generation have won their fight, but mass deportations of other Caribbean migrants have been occurring without such widespread attention. The Windrush generation should of course be allowed to stay, but singling them out for support without also resisting other deportations encourages a divide between the “good, hard working, deserving” migrant, and the illegal, criminal, or “bogus” migrant which needs to be resisted.
No borders and the Labour left
Car washes in the UK are often associated with unregulated, low-wage work for migrants, and for some mainstream left commentators have come to symbolise flaws in an economy where migrants undercut British workers. There are many reports of car wash workers being trafficked into slavery, but immigration raids and deportations are far from a positive solution for those being exploited.
Instead of arguing for the rights of these workers, the mainstream left have argued for restrictions on freedom of movement, and salary-based restrictions for migrants entering the UK, which would leave those in low waged or precarious jobs open to further abuse and exploitation. Paul Mason has previously written about migrant workers at car washes, and has noted that frankly not enough migrants have been caught in immigration raids to put a stop to them undercutting wages. The harassment of these migrants and this tragic death illustrates the vulnerability of these workers, who need to be defended and supported as part of our class, not demonised and deported as threats to a capitalist economy.
Smash the borders
While the Labour left continue to push for anti-immigration policies, there are vibrant grassroots movements challenging the hostile environment and supporting migrants, be they refugees or not. Docs Not Cops are organising against mandatory passport checks in the NHS which have deterred migrants for seeking essential healthcare and maternity services. Schools ABC have successfully campaigned for the removal of the Department for Education’s school nationality census, which intended to collect data on children for immigration enforcement purposes. Glasgow’s Unity Centre continue to provide essential support for those detained at Dungavel IRC in Scotland, and have been supporting the Kamil family, who recently held a hunger strike after living in the UK for 18 years with no certainty from the Home Office about their right to remain. The Kamils have now finally been granted leave to remain. These are just a handful of current groups and campaigns. There are many ways to resist the hostile environment in our communities, and to support those caught up in the UK immigration system. This is not the first death at the hands of the hostile environment, but we can all fight to prevent more deaths, deportations, and family separations.