Dear IRR News subscriber,
Our prime minister today seeks to renew ‘a special relationship’ with a country whose new president seems hell-bent on alienating ethnic minorities: the wall with Mexico is to be built; detention centres and quick deportations for undocumented Mexicans; an oil pipeline through Native American territories in Dakota; the threat of ‘the Feds’ to clean up Chicago’s ‘carnage’; special visa requirements for refugees from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. And an impending review which could see the reopening of CIA ‘black site’ secret prisons and the reinstatement of torture techniques.
If this is Atlanticism, on our other side, in Europe, we see the rise of extreme-right populism, with its emphasis on exclusive national values and appeasing Islamophobia.
These developments make it even more crucial to prioritise minority rights and human rights. And the human rights of people who are locked up and so invisible – prisoners and immigration detainees – must be protected with particular vigilance, precisely because these groups are seen by governments as the least deserving of protection. Such an attitude is revealed in the publication today of figures showing that a record number of people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales in 2016. Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss acknowledges that ‘violence, self-harm and deaths in our prisons are too high’. But her response, to ’take immediate action … to tackl[e] the drugs, drones and phones that undermine security’, points to little by way of care.
Immigration detainees are even more vulnerable, with no release date, just the ever-present threat of deportation. Three people died in immigration removal centres last year, and just weeks ago a Polish man was found dead in Morton Hall, reportedly taking his own life on the day he became a father. The number of EU nationals being detained in removal centres has increased fivefold since the Tories came to power. Since 1989, 29 people have died in immigration detention, and in December 2016, two deaths occurred within days of each other. Brexit must not mean more immigration detention and more deaths.
Finally, our regular calendar of racism and resistance, a fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, is available here and you can also download our Annual Report for last year here (pdf file, 3.5mb).
IRR News team