Source: Sul Nowroz

Ruptures and Splinters

On Monday April 29th a new fracture line appeared across parts of the UK. A country already divided was about to splinter again. On one side – the Home Office, the Bibby Stockholm and the Safety of Rwanda Act 2024. On the other, a loose coalition including volunteers from Anti Raids Network, Black Lives Matter UK, Right to Remain, Solidarity Knows No Borders, SOAS Detainee Support and These Walls Must Fall. While the former represents the top-down authoritarian and violent reach of the current British government, the latter is a grassroots movement of defiance and solidarity.

The Act

The infamous Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 received Royal Assent and became law on Friday April 26th. The Act has been widely criticised for undermining human rights, and is nonsensical and hugely costly. 

Under the Act the UK Home Office pays into a fund misleadingly named the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund (ETIF). The fund is a smokescreen, an attempt to legitimise payments to the Rwandan government to traffic asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda. The Home Office has paid some £200 million into ETIF since 2022, and further instalments of £50 million will be made each year for the next three years. Using the Home Office’s ‘five-year processing and integration package’ assumptions, it will cost the UK £150,874 for each person forcibly relocated to Rwanda.  

The twisted nature of the Bill isn’t limited to its economics. More disturbingly, it casts asylum seekers as tradable chattel, cargo that can be shipped over the horizon without care or concern about what happens to them next. The commodification of this population is particularly distressing as they come from high-risk environments, often displaced by war and brutal conflicts, forcibly separated from friends and family. It is traumatic to leave your home unplanned and motivated only by fear, taking with you only what you can carry


Source: Yvonne Deeney/BristolLive

There is a peculiar perversion to it all. A white nation state (ranked the sixth largest economy in the world), whose government and parts of its population fetishize on othering, commandeers a black nation state (ranked the 140th largest economy in the world) and unashamedly uses it as a type of purification filter; a place where the unwanted are discharged.

Rwanda has been violated. The territory has been raped and ruled, first by Germany, then by Belgium. It has been plagued with mass killing sprees, even genocide. Abusive colonial rule has left the country in a semi psychotic state, unstable and prone to violence. It is a country conditioned to normalise abuse, and preferences self-preservation over collective humanity. So, when the colonial carriages rode into town, with bags of silver and crooked smiles, a broken country responded in the only way it knew how: servitude. 

A Landless Nation

Refugee Nation Flag: Yara Said

There are around 110 million forcibly displaced people world-wide, of which sixty million are internally displaced, thirty-five million have refugee status, and about six million are asylum seekers, or in the process of becoming refugees. Approximately forty million are below the age of eighteen. It’s enough to populate a nation.

The 2016 Olympics were memorable. Held in the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, several records were broken including the men’s 400 metres, the women’s 5,000 metres, the women’s hammer throw, and the men’s pole vault. It was also the first-year refugees were allowed to participate. A squad of ten athletes competed under the officially recognised black and orange flag of the Refugee Nation.

Syrian Yara Said later shared that she designed the flag using inspiration from the life vests worn by many “brothers and sisters who were searching for a safer land to live on.” The expanse of orange represents the vast horizons that so often surrounded them as they moved across land and water.

Said continued: “The design is meant to evoke a sense of hope and solidarity, and to show that refugees are not just victims but also survivors and fighters.”  With the introduction of the flag, Said was reclaiming the status of displaced people, who for too long have been marginalised and denied the most basic rights. On Monday, several hundred campaigners assembled at immigration centres across the UK to act in solidarity with asylum seekers, whose rights are once again under threat.

Small Boats

It is a singularly English phenomenon: Small Boats. Large parts of the English psyche are obsessed with separation. Integration is a nauseating word, a concept that repels and repulses in equal measure. The channel, a god-given gift, is designed solely to keep ‘them’ over ‘there.’ Why have equality when you can have exceptionalism?  

The government feed the media – unchecked – who embellish and entertain the public, who get frenzied and kick the government, who obsess and blame the foreigner, and the easiest foreigner to blame is the one with the fewest rights. It’s a loop: small boats, dark faces, tricksters, undeserving, stigmatized. Sadly, the lie goes largely unchallenged, and soon it becomes the truth.

Monday Morning Raids

Source – Sul Nowroz

On Monday the Home Office swung into action emboldened by the depraved Rwanda act. Raids followed, some were filmed and pushed through government channels: The Sun and The Daily Mail. By Thursday, immigration offices, where asylum seekers are asked to periodically sign-in, were being targeted. Instead of their regular check-in meetings, asylum seekers were being challenged to see if they met the Rwandan criteria: an asylum claim on or after 1st January 2022, a journey to the UK that could be described as having been dangerous (the small boat clause), and no family members under the age of 18. If the criteria were met individuals were escorted onto vans and coaches to be transported to a holding pen, the controversial Bibby Stockholm. Asylum seekers were not allowed to collect their personal belongings or say goodbye to friends and neighbours. The process was callous, mentally and emotionally harmful and designed to humiliate and degrade. It was painful to watch.   

But by the time the first vans were ready to depart there was a problem. Anti-raid campaigners blocked immigration vehicles, immobilising them through sheer strength of numbers. The Rwanda roundup, much touted by Home Office Minister James Cleverly, came to a standstill as acts of solidarity and resistance blocked roads in Croydon and Peckham and Hounslow and Loughborough and Solihull and Birmingham and Perth and Glasgow. Police were called, force was used, and vehicles were freed. State thuggery can be effective.

More immigration swoops followed on Friday; most were met with resistance. A coach hired by immigration services in Peckham was rendered useless after Lime bikes were wedged underneath it. Others resisted by staffing pop-up information centres advising asylum seekers of their rights.

By Friday evening some forty-five campaigners had been arrested. The Home Office didn’t disclose how many asylum seekers had been detained but did confirm that the initial list for relocation to Rwanda consisted of some 5,700 individuals.  

Solidarity is Resistance

When the powerful deliberately attempt to purge humanity, solidarity becomes a daring act, a subversive act that will get you arrested. Over the last few days, we witnessed a natural coming together, a self-forming, self-governing community that rose to challenge a law that is morally wrong, and a government that is ethically bankrupt. The campaigners applied nothing more than their bodies against a menacing state apparatus that traffics people who have been forcibly displaced and still carry the scars of war and conflict.

While watching last week’s acts of solidarity, of citizen-against-state, I am reminded of a quote: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.

©2024 Sul Nowroz – Real Media staff writer