Tag Archives: UK treatment of immigrants

What Solidarity Looks Like: Justice for Cleaners at SOAS (London)

Justice for SOAS Cleaners — Stop Deportations! 

This is the blog of the student occupation/solidarity campaign at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. Go there for complete information about the UK Border Agency raid on the college’s immigrant cleaning staff, the student occupation, videos and photographs of the protests, press reports, letters of support, and updates on the situation.

Scenes from an Occupation

Lenin’s Tomb

This is one struggle among many, but for me it also resonates far beyond its own example. In what way? I think this instance makes a strong case that ‘Fortress Europe’ and the immigration controls associated with it in fact constitute a form of class war. As in the US, while employers are all to happy to exploit immigrant labour, they also rely on the state to discipline and attack that labour when it becomes too assertive and organised. I think it also makes the case that any political slogan that divides the working class, such as ‘British Jobs for British Workers’, is a valuable tool of employers for defeating it. Finally, I think it is resonant in another sense. Neal Ascherson once suggested that if you want to see how the government would like to treat us, look at how it deals with immigrants. In this case, the almost Gestapo-like tactics deployed by immigration police (which is absolutely routine) provide the model for crackdowns on all kinds of labour organisation.

Alberto Toscano

Needless to say, universities are not special places, reservations for freedoms absent from the ‘real world’ beyond. But they are institutions whose critical vocation and cosmopolitanism should hold them to certain standards. The students at SOAS have clearly been more faithful to this calling than those who facilitated these arrests or turned the other way. They have demanded of their institution a minimal coherence with its reputation for research on human rights and migration. They have rejected the pervasive cynicism that allows us to be critical in theory but indifferent to, or complicit with, practical abuses of power. They have testified to the idea of universities as places where the questioning of how we’re governed, how we work and how we live together is not a purely speculative pursuit.

If tolerated or ignored, current moves to integrate education, business and the state will effectively make a mockery of any vision of the university as an institution that seeks to foster independent thought and broaden our solidarities. This is true both of the often invisible and precarious labour that makes university life possible and of academic life in general. If the government has its way, universities will become extensions of the border, with lecturers and administrators effectively required by law to monitor their students on behalf of the Home Office. This is not a question of some unique moral mission bestowed on academia. What Friday’s arrests and deportations bring home is that universities are workplaces much like any others, microcosms where all the stresses and contradictions of our society – inequality, the exploitation of migrant labour, the expansion of state power – are manifest. But they are also places where we supposedly foster critical thinking – an activity that is irreconcilable with the callous and hypocritical treatment of the SOAS cleaners.

 

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Filed under activism, film and video, immigration, international affairs, student movements

Babi Badalov: Artist on the Run

The St. Petersburg Times
December 5, 2008
Artist on the run
By Sergey Chernov

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Artist and poet Babi Badalov feels that his life is threatened both in his home country Azerbaijan and in Russia because of his politically conscious art and because he is openly gay. Growing nationalism and increasing attacks on people from the former Soviet republics also means that Russia is not entirely safe for someone from Azerbaijan. Badalov thought he had found a new home in Cardiff, Wales, where he had been based since December 2006, but earlier this year the U.K.’s Home Office denied his application for political asylum.


“[In Britain] I mixed with many people who applied for asylum—Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, people from all over the world. We went to the Refugee Council together, lived at the hotel together. There is such a word used there—‘chance,’” Badalov said during a recent phone interview from Helsinki, Finland.

“You never know what will happen, everybody says it’s all up to ‘chance,’ that it’s a ‘lottery.’ You can have a solid case and still be denied asylum. Some other person can come [to the U.K.] just for the hell of it and receive [asylum].”

Badalov, who was one of the best-known artists in the St. Petersburg independent art scene centered at the Pushkinskaya 10 art squat in the 1990s, recently spent several weeks in the city, en route to Western Europe from Baku, Azerbaijan. While in town, he opened an exhibition of his work called “The Persian Ambassador,” which runs through December 28. Continue reading

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, feminism, gay rights, immigration, interviews

Free Babi Badalov!

Babi Badalov is an old friend of many of Chto Delat platform’s Petersburg members. From the late eighties until the late nineties, Babi was one of the brightest figures on the Petersburg independent art scene, especially that part of it that centered on the artists squat at Pushkinskaya 10. When the squat was closed, in the late nineties (to be replaced by an “official” alternative arts center with much less room for artist studios and independent creativity), Babi fell on hard times, eventually returning to his home country of Azerbaijan. He continued to pursue his art there, although under quite different circumstances. Not only is Babi a radical artist in the personal sense of the word, he is also openly gay. Faced with a society that was growing both less tolerant of political dissent and becoming more socially conservative, Babi found a new home in Cardiff, Wales. There he has become fully integrated into the local arts community. He has also become the focus of a spirited campaign, led by No Borders South Wales, to support his asylum application and, in the last few months, after his application was rejected, to resist his repatriation to Azerbaijan.

On September 16, Babi was detained during his weekly sign-in at the UK Border Agency and taken to the Rumney Police Station. On Thursday morning, Babi was transferred to the Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre. It has now been learned that British authorities are planning to deport him to Azerbaijan on Saturday, on an Azerbaijan Airlines flight from London to Baku. Continue reading

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