Refugee Week: celebration and resistance

Refugee Week: celebration and resistance

Fortnightly Bulletin

Written by: IRR News Team

IRR News 6 – 21 June 2023

As we mark Refugee Week, we applaud all those who have taken to the streets to ensure that criticisms of the EU and Greece for creating the conditions for the worst shipwreck in recent Mediterranean history are not staved off by authorities in Greece who have announced three days of national mourning and sought to pin the blame on traffickers, making several arrests amongst the survivors. At least 78 people drowned after an overcrowded trawler capsized off the southern Peloponnese, with the death toll likely to be far higher – 500 people are believed still missing, and so far there have been no women and children, who were all held in the hold, the most dangerous part of the vessel, amongst the survivors. We should particularly salute the investigations team at We Are Solomon and volunteers from Alarm Phone who have worked day and night to create a timeline of events which points to a failure of the authorities to render assistance after multiple distress calls, as well as concerns about the treatment of survivors.

Deaths at the border are the inevitable result of policies that punish, instead of supporting people on the move. As mentioned in this week’s Calendar of Racism and Resistance, United for Intercultural Action have this week updated their list of a staggering 52,760 documented deaths of refugees and migrants from 1993 to 2023 due to the restrictive policies of ‘Fortress Europe’.

We must acknowledge that Refugee Week is a beautiful celebration of welcome and dignity for those seeking sanctuary. But it is also held in resistance against an increasingly hostile environment for refugees and asylum seekers. This week, we publish a thread of resources that highlight the harms of that environment, to arm those fighting against it whilst exposing the inhumane policy direction that states are pursuing.

We also note this week with great sadness the passing of the pioneering anti-discrimination lawyer Barbara Cohen who died suddenly on 8 June. A long-time supporter of IRR, Barbara had worked with and alongside us since the 1970s, helping to exhaust the limits of the possible first at the CRE and then with the Discrimination Law Association. We remember her as a fount of knowledge about the ins and outs of anti-discrimination laws and institutions, their uses and abuses and the politics behind them. She worked with us on issues including the Prevent policy, the EHRC investigation into Labour party antisemitism, and the periodic review of the UK by the UN Committee on all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Always generous in sharing her knowledge and expertise, as modest as she was politically astute, she was a tremendous friend of the IRR and we will sorely miss her.

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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