A new booklet co-published by The Corner House, Ilisu Dam Campaign Refugee Project and Peace in Kurdistan explores how UK foreign investment creates refugees and asylum seekers.
This is one of the most exciting and challenging recent books on refugees. Exciting because for the first time groups of Tamil, Kurdish, Somali, Afghan and other refugees have come together to tell their stories. Challenging because it is the first coherent telling of ‘our’ role in refugee creation.
Thirty years ago, black activist, A. Sivanandan explained to a racist Britain the reason for immigration in the phrase, ‘We are here because you were there’. What this book shows is that the new communities of refugees are here because we are still there. It is just the ways in which we are there – via arms sales, mining, dams, ecological devastation – that have changed.
The book originated from a public seminar at a Kurdish community centre in 2002 on ‘How UK foreign investment creates asylum seekers’ organised by the Ilusu Dam Campaign and other refugee, human rights and environmental campaigners. Speeches delivered at that meeting have been gathered together with poetry, analytical overviews, campaign statements and resource lists to provide a riveting and eminently useful 132-page campaigning tool.
It is divided into four sections. First comes ‘Refugee Stories’, in which asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Bosnia, Colombia, Somalia, Burma, Nigeria and Palestine tell their tales in poetry and prose – of local wars caused by East/West rivalry, US support for tyrannical warlords, suppression of national identities, loss of livelihood caused by oil pipelines and political dictatorship. The second section concentrates on the ways in which the UK and international companies create refugees – through investment in ecologically destructive dams, the arms trade, discriminatory trade agreements, disruptive strip mining, the exhaustion of arable land, the degradation of water and the present war on terror.
Listen to the Refugee’s Story puts paid to the idea that one can distinguish between bona fide political refugees and bogus economic migrants, welcoming the one and discarding the other. Under globalisation refugees are fleeing all kinds of conflict and all kinds of social and economic oppression. And British companies, taxpayers and the government are directly and indirectly implicated in their creation.
A marvellous, simply-written teaching tool which contains a wealth of information and argument.