Campaign forces reprieve for Zimbabwean asylum seekers
By Gerry Bates
After a big military victory the ancient Romans would allow the victorious general to have a triumphant parade through the streets of the great city. Defeated generals and grandees would march in chains behind the Roman general and his soldiers, to the greater glory of the victor and of Rome.
Even the defeated had a part to play in the joyous celebration.
And afterwards? After the parade, the captive leaders were taken down to the dark prison cellars, and quietly strangled. The Romans took their maxim, “Woe to the defeated”, very seriously.
In Edinburgh on 2 July, as in cities across the world, there were exuberant, joyous celebrations in anticipation of a great future victory — the victory over poverty and the senseless death of millions of children and young people from malnutrition and lack of medicine.
The victory that will “Make Poverty History”.
The festivities were at one and the same time political demonstrations to demand of world leaders that they go and win the victory over poverty and disease, and an expression of the precocious triumphalism which the mere size of the gathering induced.
The demonstration-festivities had the support of Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor Brown. And of the British press. Even the vicious immigrant-hating Mail and Express.
Meanwhile, in detention centres all over the UK, around a hundred of the people on whose behalf the battle against poverty, disease, underdevelopment, and the repressive regimes that usually go with underdevelopment is being waged — a hundred Zimbabweans — were in their second week of a hunger strike against being deported back to Zimbabwe and the tender care of Robert Mugabe’s police.
What ancient Rome and today have in common is that behind the glittering celebrations there are stark, hidden horrors in dark prisons, where a brutal, relentless system grinds people down. Vast numbers have been deported from Britain and other European countries only to face hunger, jail, torture or death “at home”.
No, not the same as being strangled in a Roman cellar, but horrifying nonetheless. As we go to press that hunger strike is beginning to have an effect. Patricia Makandra, one of 30 women on hunger strike, has been saved from deportation by a last minute High Court injunction. Crispin Kulinji, a well-known opponent of Robert Mugabe, has also been granted a temporary reprieve. The government has yet to stop the deportations. The Zimbabweans are still in detention centres. They are still on hunger strike.
Though the British government denounces the Zimbabwean regime, it can’t, it says, let these Zimbabweans stay. Why not? Because then people from other parts of Africa would pretend to be Zimbabwean refugees. Things would get out of control. More Africans would settle in Britain.
Better let desperate people starve themselves to death — that is, better for the British state to hold them in its iron grip so that they have no other recourse than hunger strike with which to appeal to the moral sensibilities of the British state.
And Britain is now joining in a European consortium to organise airborne deportations of unwanted immigrants from all over Europe.
There is one thing Blair and Brown can do immediately for the people of Third World countries — drop the savage treatment of would-be immigrants like those who are now on hunger strike. Open the doors of Britain! Stop hounding, persecuting, and deporting immigrants. Abolish the brutal system that has driven 100 human beings to such a desperate and terrible weapon of last resort a prisoner of the state has, hunger strike.
Let the hunger strikers stay in Britain! Open the doors, Mr Blair!