The 60 year old shame of Home Office treatment of sexually and physically abused child migrants

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The list of homes the Home Office is said to have known abused children; Photo credit: ABC News

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Next month the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will hold a hearing into how British children were shipped abroad to  Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe) where they were subject to appalling physical and sexual abuse.

One of the people who has submitted evidence to the British inquiry has already raised issues about his treatment at one of these homes, Fairbridge Farm School,New South Wales in Australia.

David Hill  was interviewed by  the Guardian last year in Australia and tells a horrific story of a place where people were poorly educated and fed,brutally treated and some sexually abused. He went out with his brother in 1959 from Eastbourne in Sussex.

He has been one of the people who eventually prospered becoming chairman and managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC carried a report on his decision to send evidence here.

But his most damaging evidence is that he might not have gone there if the Home Office had acted on information they  received three years earlier after a visit of UK MPs to Australia. In 1956 they came on a fact finding mission to find out about conditions in those schools.

The result, according to evidence submitted to the inquiry. is that the Home Office were given the names ( see above in a memo) of ten schools that should have been put on a blacklist and no British children should have been sent there.

But the Home Office appeared to  do nothing even though they decided that  the schools would need a ”  complete metamorphosis ” to be fit to accept children. So they appear to have ignored the findings so they could keep the migrant programme going – where British children from poor backgrounds were offered a new chance in life. Their decision was no better than when a whistleblower, Lucy Cole Hamilton, alerted the Home Office over a decade earlier about conditions at Fairbridge Farm and warned them not to send British children there. As a report by Sanchia Berg for the Today programme revealed in 2009 the decision was to “lay by ” and do nothing.

I am hoping that this callous attitude – which seems extended today by the Home Office and Theresa May’s view that we should all but ignore the plight of immigrant children seeking asylum in the UK – is thoroughly examined by the inquiry.

The inquiry’s own research report points out the whole area is remarkably under investigated.As it states no inquiry has ever undertaken a proper  and sustained  analysis of the failings of this huge programme and properly investigated whether some of the children were sexually abused by people in institutions before they were sent abroad.

Gordon Brown has apologised in 2009 about the way the children were treated. But it was enormous programme – some 150,000 children participated and it began in the early 17C when children were sent to Virginia – though some of the largest programmes were after the second world war. It did not stop until the 1970s.

A lot of questions need to be answered – not least from the one posed by David Hill about the role of the Home Office in the late 1950s.

 

 

Stop these nasty attacks on people living here now

Manchester tram attack

Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com

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During both the first and second world wars my family came under  suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or  Anglicising it  to something like Henkey.

The reason was that we were  at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently  anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.

Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen  for some time.

Frankly I blame  Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.

By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.

They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations  and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.

This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.

But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality  in a supermarket queue and telling  the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish  kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti  on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.

It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because  this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.

So what should  be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.

But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in  dynamic, prosperous, modern society  it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back  centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.

The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.

 

 

 

The woes of the first 48 hours of Brexit

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Parliament at sunset. Pic credit: LSE blog

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So Britain has had its ” independence  day ” as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would have it. And what have been the repercussions.

In 48 hours the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.

Stock markets across the world from London to Wall Street have all fallen.

The Prime Minister has announced his intention to resign before the party conference triggering a Brexit leadership contest.

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership  challenge from his own MPs reinforcing the split between the Parliamentary Party from huge swathes of the membership. The shadow cabinet is now splitting as well with eleven resignations so far tonight.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has said that it is ” highly likely” there will be a fresh referendum on independence from England after Scots voted in every constituency to stay.

Sinn Fein has called for a border poll as a move to a united  Ireland. Meanwhile it is pointed out that all Northern Ireland’s citizens are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport which guarantees them free movement and jobs in Europe.

Spain has made it clear that all citizens of Gibraltar – who voted heavily to remain – could have Spanish EU passports  if they took over joint sovereignty of the Rock. This means it could trigger a fresh crisis.

The promise of £350m a month for the NHS if the leave campaign one  has mysteriously disappeared.

Britain’s taxpayers have begun a new bail out for the banks with £250 billion of our money earmarked to defend the pound.

The result has been however been welcomed as an ” historic opportunity” in Iran. See this report in a  US pro  Jewish and Israeli website here. The Islamic state also thinks it is a good idea as they see great opportunities for dividing Europe.

In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened.

In Berlin the six founding fathers of the EU  met and decided they would not wait for a leisurely departure from Britain but ask the country to prepare to go this week.

Jonathan Hill ( Lord Hill) the British commissioner responsible for capital  and financial markets announced his resignation from July 15. He was the lynch pin for the EU’s relationships with the City of London. See a report here. he is being replaced by a Latvian with strong support for the Euro.

A major rating agency Moody’s has changed Britain’s credit rating to negative while also ruling that the Euro’s credit rating is positive – widening the gap between the two currencies.

Some British people living in Brussels ” in the know”  started applying for Belgian EU passports to ensure they had freedom of movement to apply for jobs in Europe. I wonder why?

What seems certain is that in short term prices are likely to go up but that is no problem for those Brexit supporters. some of them were celebrating their new freedom to buy bendy cucumbers without interference from Brussels.

I wonder how they will feel when Independence Day comes around next year.

 

 

 

 

Why I am going for Remain on Thursday

referendum pic credit BBC

Thursday is referendum day. Pic Credit:BBC

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Tragic and horrible as the murder of Jo Cox  was I was relieved this weekend when there was a pause over campaigning for Thursday’s  EU referendum.

I have covered politics for many decades and actually voted in the last referendum to join the Common Market

Bur the standard of debate  on both sides of the argument this time  has been abysmal and exposed the poverty of argument. And it suggests the  calibre of politicians leading Britain has plummeted to a new low.

I don’t believe for one moment the claims from Cameron and Osborne that Britain is going to have huge tax hikes, even more austerity, plummeting house prices and a further squeeze on the NHS if we vote to leave the EU. It seems to be hyperbole gone mad.And anyway with the exception of house prices they have made a good job of doing this while we are a member of the EU.

But nor do I believe that the figures from Leave  that the NHS will gain  an extra £350m a week if we vote to go, that only immigrants rape people or that the whole of Europe is going to settle in the UK unless we take control of immigration.

Certainly if Farage is right it is going to be a funny old Europe, 364  million new immigrants in the UK and countries like Turkey, Roumania and Bulgaria with populations down to a couple of people who decided to stay. This is the politics of fear gone mad – one side of Europe being totally depopulated and the other side full to the brim. It will never happen.

The truth is neither side really knows what will happen. The pro Europe campaigners can’t be certain how a 28 country Europe will develop and those predicting a new Shangri-La if we leave haven’t a clue how Britain will develop outside a big trading bloc.

So it comes down to gut feeling and a basic set of beliefs.

For a start my ancestry is against Leave. I am British born but my ancestors are Dutch, German and Norwegian on my father’s side. I am Lithuanian, Polish, South African, and  Russian on my mother’s side. I am Protestant on my father’s side, Jewish on my mother’s side. Two of my grandchildren are Kurdish.

Frankly I am  rather proud to have such a diverse heritage and an even more diverse future  I have no time for little Englander  faux patriotism ( except probably at sporting events!)

But there is a wider issue about Europe. Yes some of the laws -particularly on employment, access for the disabled, and safe goods, clean beaches and climate change – are driven by the European Union.. And that is a good thing.

And one only has to go to Russia – as I have been recently – to see how countries outside the EU – are not disabled friendly.

I am also highly suspicious that the key pro leave campaigners – Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith – are te very people who have been driving  policies to deprive the disabled, cut benefits, put up the price of justice and destroy public services. Migrants make a great scapegoat for those dissatisfied with schools, housing and other public services.

And  I am little tired of the cliche Brussels bureaucrats. Why has nothing been said about the increasing role of the European Parliament in holding the European Commission in check or the idea that some of these top bureaucrats are going to face Europe wide elections for the first time.

Yes there is a lot wrong with Europe _ I am sceptical about whether the Eurozone can survive in its present form – and I certainly dislike plans for new international trade agreements which take away powers from elected governments  and use workers as commodities. But I am not convinced that the UK by itself can fight them any better by standing alone.

I also resent the idea that we have no control in Europe when as the fifth largest world economy we have a major say in all new EU initiatives outside the Eurozone.

So I will vote for Remain to continue sharing the government of Europe – home to my ancestors- and reject the  Boris Johnson ego trip of a faux Independence Day on Thursday.

 

 

Why all the UK should see this brilliant exhibition on the Calais Jungle

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Until June 22 there is an extraordinary exhibition of art, sculpture,photographs, documents, multi media  and sound on the Calais jungle migrant camp.. It is at the London Newcastle Arts Project Space in Shoreditch,London.

Wanderers 1

An amazing sculpture at the entrance to the exhibition. It looks like a mass of people but each of them is an individual. A fitting symbol for the exhibition.

© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen

The exhibition tells the story of the huge migration from the Middle East, Afghanistan, and North Africa to Calais and the people involved.It is probably the biggest issue in the whole of Europe today.

It is both a harrowing and uplifting showing the strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity. There are evil people, neo Fascists,nasty people smugglers, and thugs who exploit and deride them  but there are also many ,many caring human beings who are prepared to help them on their way to a better, safer life.

What is extraordinary about this exhibition is that much of the art comes from the very people themselves as a way of expressing their own plight. And the squalid Jungle is  a place where people play music, dance, paint,cook,and create as well try to survive.

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These are the tents they livedin. Picture

© brandingbygarden.

 

Everyone who has any humanity should see this exhibition – especially the people who denigrate them as hordes or swarms of people. They are people like them. It is antidote to the crass debate on Brexit.

And denying them a safe haven is also denying our country the benefit of their enormous talents – many are highly educated and many have discovered new talents on the way. Worse the plight of unaccompanied children aged from 8 to 14 or 15 is something this country cannot ignore – and thanks to the efforts of Alf Dubs ( Lord Dubs) who pushed Theresa May, the home secretary, to allow them to come in – there is some hope  for a few now. But there needs to be more.

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These lifejackets were taken from the beach in Greece. Believe it or not the smugglers gave them fake lifejackets, they don’t float.

© brandingbygarden.

 

At a very moving reception where the organisers- through the Migration Museum Project – was attended by asylum seekers – and some who had managed to be smuggled into Britain. They mingled with students, artists and campaigners looking at the exhibits.

Museums and art centres in Britain you should thinking of staging this exhibition so the people  across the United Kingdom can see the whole story. How about some of you rising to the challenge.

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The sculpture as you enter the exhibition. © brandingbygarden.

Theresa May’s new immigration official: the private landlord

Home Office 2005

Home Office HQ: running ” an ineffective and possibly racist ” scheme

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On Monday Britain’s immigration officials are to be swelled by millions of new recruits – an army of private landlords.

February 1 marks the day landlords  and any private home owner  who takes in lodgers will be expected to act as immigration officers and check the immigration status of anybody renting a room. British, Swiss and EU citizens are exempt. But anyone with a foreign sounding name, black face or Aussie or American accent will immediately  be under suspicion.

Failure to do so will mean that private landlords  face a fine of  up to £3000 (less for a first offence) and even once they are registered the landlord faces another fine if he or she fails to tell the Home Office when the lodgers’ visa runs out.

According to James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, it is all very easy and should prove no burden to millions of British citizens who let out rooms or have buy to lets.

As he says “Ahead of the scheme’s roll out, we have been working very closely with an expert panel to make sure their feedback is taken on board and to design a scheme that is as simple and light touch as possible. Many responsible landlords have already been undertaking similar checks – these are straightforward and do not require any specialist knowledge.”

Apart from his insult to thousands of professionally trained immigration staff, James Brokenshire’s comment is wide of the mark. As I wrote in Tribune magazine last week the scheme is so simple that the Home Office’s  so called new ” simple guide” for landlords issued on January 8 was suddenly withdrawn and archived seven days later.

The reason became very clear. it was pretty complicated and required landlords to be able to distinguish between fake immigration papers and real ones.

The government’s brilliant test run has proved not to be so. Trialled in the West Midlands in places like Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Sandwell, it turned out that half the landlords never registered and it was difficult to find out who was taking lodgers. Some people relying on agents decided the best thing was not to take any foreign people at all, and the dangers of racism was obvious.

This suggests it could be difficult to enforce, particularly over lodgers. Nobody need be registered if they are staying less than three months. The rules say tenants leaving most of their belongings in a property for more than three months or are registered to vote or with a local doctor would have to be checked. And will  cash strapped local councils have time or inclination to check.

They also want landlords to certify the documents are genuine, the picture is of the immigrant and to be wary of damaged documents.

In my view this another example of the government dumping its responsibility to check immigrants coming into Britain on to the general public rather than having an effective and well staffed Borders Agency in the first place.

But it will also be ineffective. My  knowledge is limited  and is mainly through connections to the Kurdish community after my daughter married a Kurdish asylum seeker – who now has a UK passport.

But it seems clear to me that each community sticks to its own – and is a mixture of people who have British passports, are awaiting asylum applications, and are illegal. The  accommodation arrangements  for the latter  are informal and wouldn’t be covered by the new Immigration Act as no contracts would be signed. So unless Mr Brokenshire is going to ask the police to raid the house of every former immigrant in England he will never  discover what is really happening.

Instead he has dumped a bureaucratic system  on millions of law abiding citizens as a ” window dressing ” operation to cover up his government’s failure to police the immigration system itself.

 

 

 

Cameron: Bash the Russians, send in the troops but keep out the Ukrainians

Ukraine in crisis Pic credit: http://media.worldbulletin.net/

Ukraine in crisis
Pic credit: http://media.worldbulletin.net/

As the crisis in Ukraine deepens David Cameron is taking an increasingly belligerent line against the Russians. He is now sending a token number of troops and promising  greater European Union  economic sanctions unless Vladimir Putin backs down.

This policy may well be right and is likely to be  popular, though people might be wary of armed involvement. As he is reported in the Daily Mail on Friday telling Govan shipyard workers :”In terms of what Britain has done, we were the first country to say that Russia should be thrown out of the G8, and Russia was thrown out of the G8. We have been the strongest adherent that we need strong sanctions in Europe and we’ve pushed for those, achieved those and held on to those at every single occasion.” Now we are the first to send some troops.

Not so well reported has been Britain’s views on the  £2.2 billion support  package agreed by the EU including the UK to help Ukraine. As well as agreeing this large sum of money to help the Ukraine the package included measures to cover one of the most controversial areas of EU policy – the relaxation of immigration controls.

As I report in Tribune this week Britain actually signed up to deal which allowed the abolition of visa requirements for Ukrainians across 26 countries in Europe..

Among the measures the EU agreed is to abolish all visa requirements for Ukrainians seeking to come to the EU for any 90 day period in the Schengen zone. This covers 22 countries in the Eu and four others, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein ,Only the UK and Ireland have a permanent opt out.

The agreement said: “Mobility is an important area where the Commission believes meaningful, visible, short-term steps should be taken.

“While a number of them depend on the political decisions of the Member States, the Commission is willing and ready to pro-actively facilitate swift and efficient coordination in this area.

It added : ” The Commission fully recognises the importance of mobility and people-to-people contacts for Ukrainian citizens and will support Ukrainian efforts to move forward the visa liberalisation process as quickly as possible in line with the agreed conditions of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.”

For other countries the EU agreement says: A “ Visa Facilitation Agreement is in operation between the EU and Ukraine and the Commission encourages Member States to fully exploit its potential. It gives Member States the possibility of choosing from a series of measures, including waiving visa fees for certain categories of citizens. In addition, the Visa Code gives the Member States additional options to waive the visa fees for further categories, such as, for example, children.”

When questioned the Home Office was adamant that it need not follow any of these guidelines. A spokeswoman said the agreement was equivalent to “a memorandum of understanding” between the EU and other member states outside the Schengen area and the UK need not implement anything.

At present the Home Office charges 129 US dollars (nearly £84) for a basic visa for Ukrainians to enter the UK for up to six months including children. Students are charged 234 dollars (nearly £152) and anybody seeking 10 year visa are charged 1150 dollars (nearly £747 ).

What is interesting about this is how David Cameron and Theresa May in the pre-election frenzy  have already  implemented a very tough policy on immigration to rival UKIP.

Such a move might well be popular – and there are real concerns – not least by unions like Unite – that fruit farmers were very keen on having Ukrainians over here as a source of cheap labour.

However I think we should know that Cameron’s warm words to help the desperate plight of the Ukrainians do not apply to having a single poor Ukrainian in Britain. The clampdown has begun and the troops, a token 75, are going in.