21 December 2020
When we met to discuss how XR Newham might contribute effectively to other anti-racist campaigns, the facilitator of our discussion shared insights gained from conversations she had with local Black and other minority ethnic leaders locally. She spoke of high levels of distress and food insecurity as the result of the hostile environment and she identified support by some groups for reparations for environmental damage related to colonialism. The discussion that followed was valuable and we began to explore ways to act as allies. Participation in other campaigns took place throughout the summer without XR badging. The discussion concluded that dialogue was key, so would it be a good time to gather further insights based on dialogue and experiences over the summer?
An important campaign locally concerns the Warehouse K action, initiated and led by the broad alliance Stand Up to Racism (SUTR). Planning permission was granted to the Home Office to use Warehouse K as office space but their intention to use the site for the processing and ‘holding’ of asylum seekers has only more recently been revealed. Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has expressed council opposition, and as a council member pointed out in a rally speech, the historical background of Warehouse K’s association with tobacco plantations and the slave trade which adds further poignancy and insult to the new plans.
Do we have anything further to add to the hugely important issues highlighted already by SUTR who have exposed and agitate against the injustices of the ‘hostile environment’ in broad terms? At ‘home’: (Grenfell, Windrush, Serco-run detention cells), the street (Stop and Search abuses), the protective services of the state (deaths in custody), Covid-exposed health workers, Priti Patel’s demonisation of those who defend migrants. In the core home of personhood itself (the erasure of the humanity and criminalisation of asylum seekers.)
I think we do have something to add when we emphasise the disproportionate effects of poor environment on poor people nationally and globally. Another point is that the dominant view in international refugee law is that the Refugee Convention rarely applies in the context of ‘natural disasters’ and climate change*. The deeply social and political processes connected to the hostile environment at home, also force huge numbers of people to cross borders in the context of environmental degradation and climate emergency.
* Scott, M. (2020). Climate Change, Disasters, and the Refugee Convention. In Climate Change, Disasters, and the Refugee Convention (Cambridge Asylum and Migration Studies, p. I). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
This is a discussion paper from an XR Newham Rebel