State violence in a no-access border zone

State violence in a no-access border zone

Fortnightly Bulletin

Written by: IRR News Team

Exactly a year ago, a dinghy with 34 people on board sank in the English Channel. There were two survivors. In the three hours it took for the boat to sink, as distress messages flooded in from those on board, French and British coastguards debated whose responsibility it was to rescue them. No help came, as one by one the passengers died of cold or drowned. As this week’s Calendar of Racism and Resistance shows, the body investigating the deaths – the worst loss of life in the Channel in over 30 years – the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), will not present its findings until at least early summer next year, and has not yet been in touch with most of the families of those who died, despite being sent their contact details. The families have also been denied access to recordings of their loved ones’ final calls for help. The unmistakable message conveyed by such responses is that these deaths don’t matter and that the families of the deceased are unworthy of respect.

Twelve months on, another death, this time in Manston, a former RAF base which in its short time as a holding centre for asylum seekers has become, like Napier barracks, a byword for inhumanity. Manston has now been emptied, but as Joseph Maggs, in his critical analysis of the state violence that occurs behind the closed doors of a ‘no-access border zone’, shows, the closing of Manston will not put an end to the politically manufactured humanitarian crisis facing newly arrived asylum seekers. This can only end with a wholesale rejection of current policies of criminalisation and deterrence. But a change in policy, Maggs concludes, will not come from the top-down parliamentary process, with Labour leaders seemingly determined to match the Tories on toughness towards migrants. It will come through grass-roots resistance to state violence and demonisation, exemplified by the determined and dogged commitment of groups like SOAS Detainee Support, Action Against Detention and Deportations, as well as people from the Thanet area, at Manston.

Another avoidable tragedy is marked this week, with the end of the inquiry into the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire which cost 72 lives. After 400 days of evidence revealing, as counsel to the inquiry described it, a ‘web of blame’ spun by the companies and organisations involved in the refurbishment to cover their shocking malpractice. The same callous indifference is revealed, too, in the death of a two-year-old child from the mould in his Rochdale home, untreated despite the pleas of his parents. This week’s Calendar also features the increasingly open racism and far-right attitudes among state officials, from Italian prison staff to English, Welsh, Polish and Spanish police and the British military.

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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