Media Diversified founder Samantha Asumadu reflects on today’s news of the deportation of Black British people to Jamaica, the Stansted 15 case and after last year’s Windrush scandal, what seems like an escalating war on Black British people that the media must do more to challenge
Last year Media Diversified published a series on the Windrush generation’s legacy curated by Kiri Kankhwende. At the same time Amelia Gentleman, was winning awards for her expose of the Windrush scandal and Gary Younge was writing righteous unmissable polemics in the Guardian.
But I wonder today as news comes in from activists on the ground about the deportation of Black Britons: What was the point of all those words? What was the point of the Windrush mea culpas from the government if fifty people can still be arbitrarily deported months later? How come there’s been barely a ripple in the news agenda? We knew it was coming. Movement for Justice by any Means told us quite plainly six days ago when they tweeted information about who had been detained ahead of today’s deportation.
Today was also the day that the people popularly known as the Stansted 15 were sentenced. Weeks of activism on their part and others plus stellar support by their legal teams resulted in none of them going to jail. They did a great thing. And the people they saved from deportation no doubt are eternally grateful. I don’t begrudge that they are going home today. However they were very able to defend themselves, complete with photoshoots for the Guardian. Many know their names and even their faces.
We know far less about the fifty or so black people of Jamaican descent who were deported today. We don’t know their faces and we didn’t hear from them in their own words. In fact when would they have had time to write for the Guardian? They were arrested at their homes with no warning, detained and shipped off to immigration detention centres, the horrors of which have been detailed in numerous articles including on this site.
“Detailed statistics of the people who were to board the flight… included the fact that ten people had never been to Jamaica before and thirty six British children were about to have their fathers ripped away from them.”
In the last few days thanks to the editors at The London Economic we did learn about one story. Alongside a petition started by friends of Owen Haisley they gave us a human face and a striking quote from Owen himself:
“I went to school, was granted a driving license, a National Insurance number and got on with my life never thinking it would make a difference. I am not here illegally,”
“If I get deported to Jamaica it’s a ten-year-ban before I can come and see my children again,” he said. “They will be in their late teens.”
“The home office said to me you can bring your children up by Skype. That’s totally outrageous.
He added: “if people knew what was going on, there would be outrage.
“Many of us due to be deported have relatives who came here in the Windrush generation, served in the forces, were nurses and factory workers.”
“I committed a crime and was punished. Why am I being punished again now?” said Owen. “If I was born here or had got my British passport I would be allowed to be rehabilitated and get on with my life. My children, my whole life is here.”
Owen Haisley has had his deportation temporarily halted. We await more news on him and others whose injunctions held. However there are many more in limbo, including an ex soldier with PTSD, a man who has been here since he was fourteen – his crime, a driving offence.
Earlier this year journalist Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi reported that six people died in or shortly after transfer from immigration detention. One of them was Carlington Spencer who was held at Morton Hall. He died aged 38. Two of the people due to be deported today witnessed his last moments.
Last night BARAC UK and Movement for Justice live tweeted reports from the deportees. They reported that one man tried to end his own life. Just before they lost contact with the fifty deportees they tweeted that ten of them had never even been to Jamaica before and that thirty six British children were about to lose their fathers. One was born in Britain and holds a British passport.
At the same time we have to address Birthright citizenship. The Independent’s May Bulman has been one of the few UK journalists who has dug in to the stories of the people who are being targeted by the Home Office, beyond descendants of the Windrush generation. One case amongst many she has investigated has stayed with me, that of Dean Ablakwa, a former NHS nurse of Ghanaian descent like me, born in the UK, like me. His parents died in a car crash when he was five, he has no criminal record, was in a secure job, paid taxes and yet was caught in the dragnet of Home Office bureaucracy that allows for little to no clemency if you don’t have the right documentation. To this day he remains stateless, staying on a friend of a friends sofa, with no bank account or job in Accra. He is not a Ghanaian citizen and the Home Office is denying he is British.
While Trump mulls over an end to Birthright citizenship in the USA, this has been a fact of life in the UK since the Thatcher government ended it for those born after 1st January 1983. People born after that date are only automatically British citizens if at least one of their parents lived permanently in the UK when they were born and was a British citizen or ‘settled’ in the UK when they were born (settled includes “indefinite leave to remain” or “permanent residence status”.
“Because let me be clear there is a war against Black people on the UK. It burned slowly for decades but now it is at fever pitch. And by now if you are complacent about it you are complicit”
Thirteen years of a Labour government did nothing to amend these rules, and many British born people have unwittingly found themselves on the wrong side of them. This includes Irene Kaali, 24, who was born in Bradford and has lived in the UK all her life but has had her application for British citizenship “failed” because her parents did not have indefinite leave to remain at the time of her birth. While the media reported extensively on the £65 charge for EU migrants to achieve settled status post Brexit which was later scrapped, there’s precious little coverage or outrage over the many thousands of pounds it takes UK born people such as Irene to achieve the same status.
There are more stories like this. But a million words would not be enough to stop this happening again if there is no political will to do so. I have little faith in politicians doing the right thing for the sake of it. Decades of politicking have made them self serving at best and needlessly cruel when pandering to the racists in this country at worst. However I do feel politicians can be made to act in others interests if they somehow chime with their own.
What that looks like in practice is media pressure. No government minister wants days and weeks of critical reporting on their actions, living in fear that what remains private for now may become public very soon. They don’t want the paper of record to scream RESIGN! on their front page with a sullen looking photo of them looking shifty below.
So whilst the activists are on the ground doing the life saving essential work, the media have to hold our politicians to account.
Because let me be clear there is a war against Black people in the UK. It burned slowly for decades but now it is at fever pitch. So if you are complacent about it, you are complicit. Googling ‘Jamaican deportations’ may bring up a few articles, but it hasn’t dominated the media agenda and caused urgent questions to be asked of ministers.
In the last two days the flagship BBC Politics Live show and Newsnight reported on:
- Journalist and influencer Katherine Ormerod on the “pressures to curate the perfect social media feed
- Facebook at 15
- Trump losing supported of Republicans because of the shut down
- Theresa May and the Northern Ireland backstop
- Paddy McAloon on the distinct lyrics of Prefab Sprout’s hit The King of Rock ’N’ Roll ( yes you read that correctly)
- The crisis in Venezuela is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault
- Free movement of workers from the EU
- And gave airtime to a newly formed right-wing group of hormonal and misguided teenagers funded by a millionaire and supported by Priti Patel and Jacob Rees Mogg
Maybe I’ve missed something out but where was Antonia from Movement for Justice? Where was Zita Holbourne from BARAC UK? Why were they not allowed to speak to the nation about the deportations, inform us of what’s happening in our name? Where were the deportees lawyers? It’s simply not good enough that the BBC has given no space to it. No surprise that the most read stories on the BBC news site look like this as of publication time:
Sajid Javid like Amber Rudd and Theresa May before him must be made to answer for the ongoing deportations. Not after the fact, but BEFORE people are deported. And the only reason the press won’t do this is if they think black lives matter less than white.
So I guess yes, contrary to what I said at the start of this article, words do matter. It’s how I found out about the unjust treatment and targeting of Dean Ablakwa by the Home Office after all. However, actions matter even more.
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