Calendar of Racism and Resistance (17 – 31 December 2020)

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (17 – 31 December 2020)


Written by: IRR News Team

Headline image: The Ocean Viking rescue boat. Credit SOS MEDITERRANEE


A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.


Asylum and migrant rights

17 December: A High Court judge rules that Home Office policy permitting asylum seekers to work only after waiting a year and only in shortage occupations is unlawful as it discriminates against trafficking victims. (Independent, 17 December 2020)

17 December: The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) rules that Hungary broke the law in restricting access to asylum procedures and unlawfully detaining asylum seekers in ‘transit zones’. (Statewatch, 22 December 2020)

24 December: The Home Office refuses the pleas of desperate UK-based relatives of lone child refugees stuck in bureaucratic processes in Europe to extend the deadline for joining family members in the UK beyond 31 December, when their rights under the Dublin regulation end. (Guardian, 24 December 2020)

Borders and internal controls

17 December: Three police oversight bodies tell police not to share data about the immigration status of domestic violence victims with the Home Office, as fear of data sharing leaves many victims unwilling to report crimes. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

18 December: The Border Violence Monitoring Network’s Black Book of Pushbacks, a collection of 892 group testimonies, detailing 12,654 human rights violations along the Balkans migration route over the past four years, is presented as formal evidence to the EU Commissioner for Asylum. (Border Violence Monitoring Network, 18 December 2020)

21 December: Anti-migrant border vigilante groups are growing in Serbia, according to NGO The A11 Initiative, citing the activities of the far-right Leviathan which recently published a video of refugees they caught and escorted from Belgrade. (Euronews, 21 December 2020)

21 December: The search and rescue organisation SOS Méditerranée’s ship Ocean Viking is released from detention in Sicily after five months, and after meeting additional safety requirements is able to resume its operations. (SOS Méditerranée, 21 December 2020)

SOS Méditerranée’s search and rescue ship Ocean Viking on calm waters.
SOS Méditerranée’s search and rescue ship Ocean Viking. Credit: SOS MEDITERRANEE Source: Twitter.

22 December: In Italy, two young men, part of a group of 11, die after being hit by a train near the small station of Quiliano. Two others sustain minor injuries, while the remaining 9 are taken to the local police station for identification and detained. (La Repubblica, 22 December; Are You Syrious, 24 December 2020)

26 December: Two stowaways on board the tanker Nave Andromeda, which was raided by the Special Boat Service off the Isle of Wight in October following an alleged hijack attempt, appear in court charged with conduct endangering ships. (Guardian, 27 December 2020)

30 December: Spain’s director-general of police announces that facial recognition technology is to be introduced at the borders. (Europapress, 30 December 2020)

Reception and detention

14 December: Lengthy Home Office delays in providing suitable accommodation and support to destitute disabled asylum seekers leave them homeless, and constitute inhuman and degrading treatment, rules the High Court. (bailii, 14 December 2020)

16 December: An asylum seeker at Penally camp in Wales is hospitalised following a days-long hunger strike over conditions there, and several have fallen ill through inadequate nutrition and poor conditions, according to residents and local volunteers. (Independent, 29 December 2020)

17 December: New research by the International Research Centre based on data on 904 asylum seekers, one-fifth of whom have attempted suicide, pinpoints a growing mental health crisis in EU ‘hotspot’ camps on the Greek islands, with psychotic symptoms aggravated during the pandemic. (Al Jazeera, 17 December 2020)

19 December: The German development minister says that Doctors Without Borders, working at the Kara Tepe tent camp in Lesvos, Greece, has launched a vaccination campaign to treat babies with rat bites. (Deutsche Welle, 19 December 2020)

23 December: In western Bosnia, near the border with Croatia, on the day the IOM announces its closure, a huge fire breaks out at the Lipa temporary migrant camp, home during the pandemic to over 1,200 people. (Euronews, 23 December 2020)

30 December: Roughly a thousand displaced people are returned to the burned-out Lipa camp in Bosnia following a failed government attempt to move them to the former army barracks in Bradina. (Al Jazeera, 30 December 2020)

Criminalisation of solidarity 

18 December: The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency publishes an update which shows that since 2018, national authorities have initiated 50 criminal or administrative proceedings against search-and-rescue NGOs, their ships and crews (nine since June 2020), and that only 2 SAR ships are currently active. (Statewatch, 18 December 2020)


27 December: Campaign groups accuse the Home Office of lacking transparency over its repeated refusal to publish a breakdown of deportations by nationality, which it justifies by citing diplomatic relations and harm to immigration controls. (Guardian, 27 December 2020)

27 December: Home Office figures reveal that it spent £10,000 per person to remove 225 asylum seekers to other European countries in the three months to September, with some deportation charter flights removing only one person. (Independent, 27 December 2020)


23 December: The French government announces that its citizenship scheme for frontline workers during the pandemic, including childcare workers, garbage collectors and housekeepers, will involve shortening the residency period to two years and a fast-track naturalisation process which normally takes years to complete. (Deutsche Welle, 23 December 2020)

29 December: In the first ever decision on the right of children to acquire nationality, the UN Human Rights Committee rules that the Netherlands violated the rights of a child born in Utrecht to a Chinese trafficking victim, by failing to acknowledge that he was stateless and eligible for international protection. (Guardian, 29 December 2020)


For more information on policing and civil liberties issues follow @NETPOL @BigBrotherWatch @COVIDStateWatch and @libertyhq.  

16 December: Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and HM Inspectorate of Prisons issue an ‘urgent notification’ to justice secretary Robert Buckland, obliging him to report within 28 days on proposals to ‘stop the unacceptable treatment of vulnerable children’ at Rainsbrook secure training centre, run by MTC. (HMIP, 18 December 2020)

16 December: A summary judgment released by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal reveals that MI6 and GCHQ might have broken the law by allowing informants to commit crimes within the UK. (Guardian, 16 December 2020)

17 December: Official figures show that black people are five times more likely to have force used against them by police compared to white people in England and Wales. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

17 December: In Paris, France, fourteen people (three tried in their absence) are convicted of terrorist and other offences in relation to the January 2015 attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. Seven other people are convicted of ‘associating with criminals’. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

21 December: Police warn that the number of under-18s reported during the pandemic to the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has increased by 7 percent, with a more marked increase of 43 percent for viewing right-wing content, from 134 in 2019 to 192 for the first eleven months of 2020. (Guardian, 21 December 2020)

21 December: Statistics obtained via freedom of information requests by Transform Justice and the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal that 61 percent of children on remand in London between July and September were black, while 87 percent were from a BME background. (Guardian, 21 December 2020)

21 December: An Asian police officer sues the Metropolitan Police for race discrimination and sexual harassment after receiving ‘hundreds’ of racist and sexist messages from a senior colleague. (BBC News, 21 December 2020)

22 December: Northern Ireland’s most senior police officer apologises for the handling of Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Derry during the summer of 2020. (Guardian, 22 December 2020)

27 December: In Germany, footage appears on social media of a police officer in Wuppertal pushing a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman to the ground and handcuffing her in front of her toddler for not wearing a mask. (Australian News Review, 27 December 2020)

30 December: An investigation is launched into three police officers in the Netherlands, after CCTV contradicts their claims that a mixed-race family used ‘extreme violence’ against police during an arrest in Dordrecht. The footage shows police kneeling on a man’s neck, punching him repeatedly and using pepper spray at close range, while uttering racial slurs. Dutch News, 30 December 2020)

27 December: George Nkencho, a 27-year-old Black man with mental health issues, is fatally shot by a police armed response unit in the garden of his home in West Dublin, Ireland. Following his death, protests take place outside Blanchardstown Garda station. (The Irish Times, 31 December 2020; Irish Examiner, 4 January 2021)

A Justice for George Nkencho campaign image.
Justice for George Nkencho. Credit: @merj_island. Source: Twitter.


17 December: After the Hungarian government-appointed head of Budapest’s Petofi Museum of Literatur compares George Soros to Hitler making Europe ‘his gas chamber’, the Hungarian Jewish community warns of growing government tolerance of antisemitism. (Deutsche Welle, 17 December 2020)

17 December: Conservative minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, believed to have assets worth £100 million, is condemned after he accuses Unicef of ‘a political stunt’ over its scheme to help feed deprived children in the UK. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

17 December: The Labour Party’s ‘action plan for driving out antisemitism’ is approved by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

18 December: In a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies, ‘The New Fight for Fairness’, equalities minister Liz Truss attacks anti-racism in education and local authority diversity policies and promises an approach that moves away from a ‘narrow’ focus on protected characteristics and ‘fashionable’ issues of race and gender. (Politics Home, 18 December 2020)

19 December: As 12 Jewish Socialists accuse the Labour leader of making a ‘mockery’ of his pledge to create a safe space for Jews, it emerges that the party has investigated at least 35 Jewish members of the party for antisemitism, and suspended or expelled 11 of them. (Morning Star, 19 December 2020)

24 December: Prominent European figures sign an open letter in support of Dutch Green Left MP Kauthar Bouchallikht, accusing politicians and the mainstream media of uncritically repeating racist claims made on far-right platforms. (Al Jazeera, 24 December 2020)

29 December: The French president is accused of courting extreme-right voters as it is revealed that one of Macron’s closest advisers, Bruno Roger-Petit, lunched with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s grand-daughter Marion Maréchal. (Guardian, 29 December 2020)


18 December: The European Court of Justice upholds a Belgian ban on kosher and halal slaughter on the ground that it is incompatible with animal welfare. (Deutsche Welle, 18 December 2020)

23 December: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders says the Cypriot authorities must reverse the decision to remove the anti-racist and migrants’ rights charity KISA from the Register of Associations and Foundations in a move described as the culmination of a long series of attacks and harassment of the organisation. (KISA, 17 December, OMCT press release, 23 December 2020)


16 December: In France, the Grenoble appeal court overturns the convictions of two far-right Generation Identitaire activists for impersonating public officials in a high-profile anti-migrant stunt in 2018 involving fake border checkpoints in the Alps. They had been sentenced to 6 months, and the organisation fined €75,000. (Web 24, 17 December 2020)

30 December: In Spain, two Germans and a British national are arrested after police discover a large arsenal of weapons and a ‘museum’ of Nazi objects during a search of arms dealers’ homes on the Costa del Sol. (Brussels Times, 30 December 2020)

23 December: Newcastle neo-nazi Luke Hunter is jailed for over four years for terrorist offences including posting extremist material on online platforms associated with the now-banned Feuerkrieg Division, calling for the ‘eradication’ of Jewish people as a ‘moral and racial duty’. (BBC News, 23 December 2020)


15 December: The Institute of Health Equity releases a report by Sir Michael Marmot, Build Back Fairer, which shows that families suffering before the pandemic, including ethnic minorities in low-paid occupations, are worst hit and have a higher risk of death. (Guardian, 15 December 2020)

16 December: According to polling for the Royal Society for Public Health, only 57 percent of people from ethnic minority backgrounds will have a Covid vaccine if advised by their GP or other health professional, compared to 76 percent of the general adult population. (Guardian, 16 December 2020)

21 December: Open Democracy reveals that on 11 December, with no public tender, the health secretary signed a two-year, £23-million NHS data deal with Palantir, the notorious AI firm founded by Trump backer Peter Thiel whose data collection and analytics is central to US immigration enforcement. (Open Democracy, 21 December 2020)

23 December: A wealth gap between ethnic minority groups has had a ‘serious impact’ during the pandemic according to the Resolution Foundation, with at least half of black African, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean households having less than £1,000 in family savings. (Sky News, 23 December 2020)


16 December: Following the landmark coroner’s ruling that illegal levels of air pollution caused the 2013 death from severe asthma of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived within 25 metres of London’s South Circular Road, her mother calls for a new Clean Air Act. (Guardian, 17 December 2020)

18 December: Grenfell Tower survivors have been rehoused in a block bought by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 2019 which has similar fire risks, it is revealed. (Guardian, 18 December 2020)

19 December: A county court awards damages and condemns London and Quadrant Housing Association for failing to support a young black woman who was homeless for five years following a racist campaign by neighbours. The neighbours were found guilty of racially aggravated harassment, but L&Q neither evicted them nor rehoused the victim. (Observer, 19 December 2020)

26 December: An open letter to the National Housing Federation signed by high-profile housing chiefs demands an urgent review of racial harassment policies in social housing. (Observer, 26 December 2020)

27 December: Research by the Health Foundation finds that overcrowded housing helps to spread Covid-19, making self-isolation more difficult, and ethnic minority households are five times more likely to be overcrowded than white households. (Guardian, 27 December 2020)


15 December: An employment tribunal rules that exemption from minimum wage legislation for some domestic workers constitutes sex discrimination, in a claim by a migrant domestic worker, in a ruling with potentially far-reaching implications. (Cloisters, 23 December 2020)

22 December: As the government announces an expansion of the Seasonal Workers Pilot to 30,000 places for 2021, labour organisations warn of the high incidence of exploitative practises in this route, which leaves workers wholly dependent on employers for visas and accommodation. (, 22 December; Focus on Labour Exploitation (tweet), 22 December 2020)

22 December: The fast fashion brand Boohoo, criticised for conditions and sub-minimum-wage pay in supply chain factories in Leicester, also sells clothes made by factory workers in Pakistan who earn 29p per hour for long hours in dangerous conditions, according to a Guardian investigation. (Guardian, 22 December 2020)

30 December: Ethnic minority communities, who are overrepresented in hospitality, will face an increased risk of losing their jobs if the furlough scheme ends in March, according to a report published by the Resolution Foundation. (Independent, 30 December 2020)

31 December: A hotel group controlled by tax exile Sir James Ratcliffe, who has an estimated £12 billion fortune, is fined £6,000 for paying staff less than the minimum wage, one of 139 ‘rogue employers’ along with Tesco and Pizza Hut. (Guardian, 31 December 2020)


29 December: SOAS University of London refunds the fees of Canadian Jewish student Noah Lewis, after a claim supported by UK Lawyers for Israel that he was forced to abandon his studies due to the abuse he received for his pro-Israel views and the ‘toxic antisemitic environment’. (Guardian, 29 December 2020)


15 December: Former Yorkshire county cricketer Azeem Rafiq takes legal action against the club for race discrimination and victimisation, alleging ‘expressly racist dressing-room banter’ and attempts to force a drinking culture on non-white and Asian-heritage players. (Sky Sports, 15 December 2020) 

18 December: The Football Association says it will take no action against Millwall or Colchester over fans who booed players taking the knee, but says it will do so in future as there is ‘no doubt’ that the gesture is an anti-racist act, to ‘highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the black community’. (Sky News, 18 December 2020)

21 December: A new Migrant Voice report on media coverage of migration issues during the lockdown finds widespread use of stereotypes and infrequent use of migrants’ own voices, but increased awareness of problems such as ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’. (Migrant Voice, 22 December 2020)

24 December: Black theatre company Talawa cancels its forthcoming season at the Birmingham rep after the venue announced it will hire its space to the Ministry of Justice as a Nightingale court. (Guardian, 24 December 2020)

30 December: The well-known Black British former cricket test umpire John Holder launches a racial discrimination case against England and Wales Cricket Board. (Guardian, 30 December 2020)


14 December: A 37-year-old woman is arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public offence for making threats to members of the public in Bridgwater, Somerset, on 8 December. (Somerset Live, 14 December 2020)

17 December: The owner of a fast-food takeaway in Armagh, Northern Ireland, suffers racial abuse over the phone by an anonymous caller, shortly before his shop windows are smashed. On the same night, an Indian takeaway is targeted in a similar way and its windows are shot at, possibly with a pellet gun. (Belfast Telegraph, 21 December 2020) 

21 December: A 34-year-old woman is charged over the alleged racist abuse of a shopkeeper at a takeaway in Elderslie, Scotland. (The Gazette, 21 December 2020)

21 December: In Germany, Stephan Balliet is sentenced to life imprisonment for the attack on the Halle synagogue which killed two people in October 2019, which the prosecutor described as ‘one off the most repulsive antisemitic acts since world war II’. (Guardian, 21 December 2020)

21 December: A family centre used by the Muslim community in Haverhill, Suffolk, is damaged in an incident believed to be racially aggravated. The building was previously targeted in a racially motivated incident in 2019 when the centre was broken into and a small fire was started. (East Anglian Daily Times, 4 January 2021)

22 December: A 44-year-old man is charged with offences including causing racially aggravated fear of violence after an incident in Dursley on 6 December. (Gazette series, 22 December 2020)

22 December: A 37-year-old woman is racially abused and attacked by a group of men outside a grocery shop in Kilburn, London, leaving her needing hospital treatment for a head injury. (Kilburn Times, 24 December 2020)

23 December: A Muslim woman in her late 20s describes being racially abused while shopping with her younger sister in a Northwich supermarket on 6 December, by a group who called her ‘a walking bomb’. (Cheshire Live, 23 December 2020)

26, 27 December: Four children are hospitalised after a racist gang armed with sticks, knives and iron bars attack a centre hosting unaccompanied children in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki, northern Greece. A 38-year-old man and his 14-year-old son are arrested following a complaint from a 15-year-old Syrian resident, who is himself arrested on the man’s complaint. (Keep Talking Greece, 27 December; Ekathimerini, 28 December 2020)

29 December: Police Scotland investigate DNA swabs from a racist letter sent to Kilmarnock football club manager Alex Dyer. (Sky Sports, 29 December 2020) 

31 December: Rugby player Ashton Hewitt is sent a racially abusive post, part of a ‘constant battle’ for Hewitt who has faced racist abuse via social media several times before. (BBC News, 2 January 2021)  

 The calendar was compiled with the help of Tania Bedi, Graeme Atkinson, Kaiisha Kukendra, Neal Tank and Joseph Maggs.

Headline image: The Ocean Viking rescue boat. Credit SOS MEDITERRANEE

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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