The persecution of migrants and the criminalisation of protest

The persecution of migrants and the criminalisation of protest

Fortnightly Bulletin

Written by: IRR News Team

6 – 20 February 2024

We share the outrage of migrant and refugee advocacy groups such as JCWI, SOAS Detainee Support, Care for Calais and Captain Support UK, at the cruel prosecution of Ibrahima Bah, from Senegal, that has led to his unjust conviction for facilitating illegal immigration and manslaughter. Bah, as we document in our regular calendar of racism and resistance, was a teenager in December 2022 when he was forced by people smugglers to pilot a dinghy across the Channel. The boat broke up and at least four people died. Why, migrant support groups ask, was a vulnerable young man on trial, and not the British and French states which make it impossible for people to come to this country safely? The Captain Support network, which connects those accused of driving boats to Europe with local support networks and lawyers, and was present at Canterbury Crown Court during the three-week hearing, has gone further. It draws attention to the use of racist tropes and racial profiling during a trial that took place in front of an all-white jury, also raising questions about the role the CPS played in the racialised demonisation of Ibrahima Bah.  

Captain Support UK is right to warn that the prosecution and conviction of Ibrahima Bah represents a  ‘violent escalation in the persecution of migrants to “Stop the Boats”’. Neglect and inhumanity, particularly towards unaccompanied children, are also part of strategies of persecution and criminalisation. In Northern Ireland, in another case documented in our calendar, Phoenix Law has instigated an important challenge to the Illegal Migration Act, on behalf of a 16 year old Iranian boy, currently living in a children’s home, who has been deprived of the right to claim asylum because he arrived by small boat. 

Much of this week’s calendar is taken up with charting the authoritarian proposals – not least through amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill – being proposed by the government  and counter-extremism tsars, to crack down on demonstrations in support of Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza. A piece on IRR News this week by IRR director Liz Fekete gives chapter and verse on the ‘legacy media’s role in this worrying and escalating attack on freedom of expression and the right to protest’. Liz will be speaking further about this in a session on ‘the media’s war on Gaza’ chaired by the British Palestinian Committee at the Media Reform Coalition’s annual Media Democracy Festival in Sheffield on 16 March. 

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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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