Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Save Legal Aid – 2013

Sunday, July 30th, 2023

Save Legal Aid – 2013: On Tuesday 30th July 2013, ten years ago today, the Save Legal Aid Campaign held a rally outside the Old Bailey in protest against proposed cuts in legal aid which they say would severely damage the UK justice system, removing legal aid completely for many and providing a poor quality cut-price service for others.

Save Legal Aid - 2013
Labour shadow minister Sadiq Khan in fighting mood

The proposals would bring in compulsory tendering on price, with legal aid services being provided by the lowest bidder and remove any choice by defendants of who should represent them. They say this would replace all the current specialist solicitors by groups such as Tesco and Eddie Stobart employing less qualified and experienced people and providing an inferior service for those unable to pay – and so choose – their solicitors.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

The rally also celebrated the successes of the UK’s legal aid system, which speakers said had been the envy of the world since it was brought in on 30th July 1949, exactly 64 years earlier, an event celebrated with the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the cutting of a cake by MP Diane Abbott.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

For many of us those celebrations rang hollow. The legal aid system by 2013 was but a pale shadow of that brought in by the Legal Aid and Assistance Act on 30th July 1949. It was a skeleton that was being celebrated, although one that as several speakers who had benefited from it showed still had some effect. In the unlikely event we ever get a reforming Labour government it could perhaps still be revived, but more likely any future government will destroy it still more as New Labour did.

Legal cases in the UK are incredibly expensive in part because of the nature of our legal system which is an adversarial one, but also because of some traditional practices which render it less efficient and protect the interests of some of those who are a part of the system.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

Probably the only sound legal advice is to stay away from the law unless you are very rich. Although its often said that the same law governs both rich and poor, in practice that is not really the case, and in particular those in the middle of society get screwed.

Legal Aid was first introduced in the UK in 1949 when the welfare state was attempting to make justice fair for all. It could be claimed for almost all criminal or civil matters except libel and defamation and around 80% of the UK population were eligible for some support, with those more able to pay receiving support on a sliding scale depending on their income.

It wasn’t then a great cost to the economy as then only a small fraction of the population gad access the the legal advice that might have led them to take action in the courts. If you were poor you seldom came to court except when arrested – and most cases were dealt with by magistrates with legal aid seldom being involved.

In the 1970s Law Centres were set up in many of the poorer areas of the country, giving free advice and explaining and aiding their clients to take matters of social welfare, housing and criminality to the courts. And in 1973 a ‘Green Form Scheme’ was set up to allow those of low incomes to get legal advice from solicitors. Both led to increases in cases and a corresponding increase in the overall cost of legal aid.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, the The Immigration Act 1971 and the the British Nationality Act 1981 each led to a predictable and dramatic increase in the number of cases requiring legal aid to resolve disputes.

Various actions were taken to reduce the cost to the country of legal aid, with eligibility being drastically reduced both by income limits and by reducing the areas of work for which it was available.

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty

New Labour reformed the system when they came to power, but their reforms proved a disaster and they piled a second disaster on top by privatising the system. By the time the coalition government came to power there wasn’t really a great deal left, but their Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) saw off most of what remained.

Since then, to get legal aid you have to have a disposable income of less than £733 a month and less than £8000 of disposable capital. Those receiving universal credit and some other benefits also qualify. There are different income and asset qualification levels for criminal proceedings in Crown Court cases.

As well as these tests legal aid is only available if your case passes a “merits” test as defined by The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013. It has to be assessed by the Director as being in the public interest and having at least a 50% chance of success.

Speakers at the protest included Raphael Rowe, wrongly imprisoned as one of the M25 three, Anne Hall the mother of Daniel Roque Hall, a man suffering from a rare condition who would have died in prison without legal aid which got him released to receive care, and Sally, the mother of a rape victim who police failed, as well as Sadiq Khan MP Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Ian Lawrence of NAPO, activist, poet, co-founder and co-chair of BARAC Zita Holbourne, Shauneen Lambe of Just for Kids Law and criminal defence solicitor and Justice Alliance member Matt Foot, but the loudest applause was for a rousing speech by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty. You can see pictures of all of them and more about the protest on My London at Save Legal Aid.


Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus

Sunday, July 9th, 2023

Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus; Ten years ago today, on Tuesday 9th July 2013 I photographed a protest against the lack of humanity at the Home Office, another at New Scotland Yard against police use of undercover agents against legal protest groups and finally Cypriots still demanding to know the fate of their relatives who disappeared 39 years earlier during the Turkish invasion of their country.


Divided Families Day – Home Office

Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus

In 2012 the UK brought in new family immigration rules to prevent British Citizens and refugees earning less than £18,6000 (more if they have children) from bringing non-EU spouses to live here.

Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus

A High Court judgement had concluded that these restriction were legal but that the earnings threshold and the other requirements were “so onerous in effect as to be an unjustified and disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship”. The judge suggested that the minimum income requirement should be reduced to around £13,000, around 2/3 of the current figure.

Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus

Home Secretary Theresa May responded to the court judgement by considering an appeal. The income threshold was not lowered and it remains at the same figure today. The rules still apply, but have been made more wide-ranging by Brexit.

Divided Families, Undercover Police & Cyprus

Low paid workers are as entitled to family life as billionaires, and any income threshold seems totally unfair and inhumane. It discriminates against women, many of whom are in part-time work due to child-care responsibilities and are generally on lower pay than men. In 2013 over 60% of British women in employment were earning less than the amount needed to bring a partner to the UK.

The rules were then thought to be preventing around 18,000 families a year from living together in the UK. The protest took place on the first anniversary of them coming into force.

As I commented, “It seems a clear case of a measure that has been introduced merely to make the current government look ‘tough’ on immigration, while making no real contribution to reducing the reliance of any migrants on support from the taxpayer.”

More on My London Diary at Divided Families Day


Against Undercover Police in Protest Movement – Scotland Yard

Police watch as Zita Holbourne speaks outside Scotland Yard

Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) was a legal and democratic protest movement which organised mass protests against the BNP in the 1990s, succeeding in getting their south London HQ closed down after four racist murders within two miles of it – including that of Stephen Lawrence.

Undercover police officer Peter Francis joined the movement and acted as an ‘agent provocateur’. This was one of a number of similar abuses of other legal protest organisations and political groups carried out by the police, some of which are only now being brought to light by the Undercover Policing Inquiry which recently published its first report.

Police investigation of the Stephen Lawrence case has long known to have been sadly lacking, with some officers acting to protect his killers. Other undercover police actions included attempts to discredit the main witness of that murder, Duwayne Brooks, and the secret recording of meetings between the police and Brooks and his lawyers.

Francis was a member of the covert Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), founded in 1968 to infiltrate mainly left-wing groups which the police defined as ‘extremist’.

Mostly the information the squad gained went no further than could have been found by reading the groups leaflets and attending meetings, but Francis tried to push members of the YRE into vigilante actions against individual BNP members. But his efforts were unsuccessful as it was an open and democratic movement dedicated to mass campaigns and other legal actions.

Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon claims he was not aware of the activities of the SDS, but Francis has claimed he gave him a bottle of whisky in appreciation of his work infiltrating the YRE.

Among the speakers at the event ,were several who had worked with Francis in the YRE and claim his information led to some of the illegal assaults made on members by police. You can read more about the protest and its demands on My London Diary.

Against Undercover Police in Protests


Cypriots Demand details of 1974 Killings – Houses of Parliament

After Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, bitter political differences between Greeks and Turks remained, with many Turks and Greeks being killed or missing. Events came to a head in 1974 when the Greek junta backed a Greek military coup in Cyprus and in response Turkey invaded Cyprus, taking over the north of the island.

A third of the Greek population were forced from their homes and fled to the south, with a slightly higher proportion of Turks moved to the north. The island remains divided, with the north of Cyprus under Turkish military occupation and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognised as a state by Turkey.

Many Cypriots from both populations went missing in 1974 and are presumed dead, but little is known about what happened to some 1,500 Greek and 500 Turkish Cypriots.

The protesters from the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK) held photographs of their missing relatives and urged the UK government to put pressure on Turkey to release information and allow investigation of their fate.

After the protest outside parliament they were going to attend a meeting organised by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK in the House of Commons on ‘Cyprus: prospects for a reunited island‘ with a number of MPs and Lord Harris of Harringey. There seems to be little or no possibility of this until there is a very different regime in power in Turkey.

Cypriots Demand details of 1974 Killings


Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Back on Saturday 22nd March 2008 I had a rather varied day in London, meeting protesters cycling to Aldermaston on my way to photograph a march for freedom in Tibet, then going to a protest against the deportation of a gay man to Iran and finally to a pillow fight.


Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on foot and had just come out of Oxford Circus station when I saw the CND Bikes Not Bombs group of cyclists who had begun their ride in Trafalgar Square earlier and were on their way to ride to Aldermaston. Though when I took a few photographs as you can see from the bus they were cycling in exactly the wrong direction, east towards Ilford. Of course they weren’t lost, just trying to attract some attention to the protest, riding with a sound system along London’s busiest shopping street.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I’d thought briefly about taking part myself in the event, as I’d used a bike to get around since I was six, having graduated then from a first a pedal car and then a tricycle. I did own a car briefly when I was around 21, but soon realised it was impractical in cities, expensive, polluting and environmentally unsound and never made the same mistake again.

But for the reasons I listed on My London Diary – sloth, other events, lousy weather and a dislike of early rising – I didn’t join this official ride, though I did cycle on my own from Reading to Aldermaston and back on the following Monday to join the protesters there.

Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston


Support Tibet March

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on my way to Park Crescent, a short walk north of the Chinese Embassy where Tibetans and supporters of freedom in Tibet were meeting to march through London on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Tibet came under effective control of the Chinese government in 1951, when an agreement had been come to the status of Tibet within the recently established People’s Republic of China. In 1949 Tibetan protesters feared the Chinese were about to arrest the 14th Dalai Lama. Protests were at first peaceful but were brutally repressed by the People’s Liberation Army and there was heavy fighting which also involved Tibetan separatists who had been carrying out guerrilla warfare against Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama fled the country and set up an independent Tibetan government in India, where he still lives – and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The Tibetan uprising had begun on 10th March 1959 and this day is celebrated each year as Tibetan Uprising Day and Women’s Uprising Day. Since 2009, following protests on 10th March 2008 in Lhasa, the Chinese-controlled authority in Tibet have celebrated the day they fully regained control, 28th March as the national anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day.

The Tibetan Independence Movement who organise annual protests calling for freedom for Tibet was originally funded and trained by the CIA, but this was withdrawn following Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. And the Dalai Lama who had originally backed it, and who appears as a large photograph carried reverently in the marches, also withdrew support for the independence movement in the 1970s.

It is clear from reports by Amnesty International and others is that there are considerable human rights abuses in Tibet. The 2021 US State Department report listing includes “unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom….”

Support Tibet March


Defend Mehdi Kazemi – Downing St

But of course human rights are not always respected in this country, and we currently have a government which is proposing to withdraw from some international human rights conventions and proposing racist anti-immigrant policies which are deliberately in breach of them.

Back in 2008, the Labour government was also riding roughshod over the human rights of some immigrants, setting up a system of large-scale detention of asylum seekers and treating individuals unfairly in a bid to outflank the Tories on cutting immigration through blatantly right-wing policies.

Mehdi Kazemi had come to the UK to study after having been involved in a consensual homosexual relationship in Iran. After his boyfriend was executed for this he became a wanted man in Iran and he went to the Netherlands to apply for political asylum.

This was refused as he had come from the UK and so was not allowed under the 2003 Dublin Agreement. The Uk had refused him permission to stay in Britain and were proposing to deport him to Iran where he would be tried and executed.

His case was just one of many where the Home Office were failing to recognise the need for refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation, and for failing to have accurate and up-to-date information on homophobic persecution in countries to which LGBT asylum seekers might be deported.

Support for Kazemi at this protest and by a number of MPs, MEPs and human rights activists did eventually result in the Home Office agreeing to review his case and he was given leave to remain here in May 2008.

Defend Mehdi Kazemi


Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight – Leicester Square

My day ended in very much lighter mood with a pillow fight in Leicester Square, one of many organised in capitals around the world due to kick off at 15.03PM.

I commented: “Of course its a trivial, silly event, but the idea and the kind of organisation involved I think represents something new and exciting, a kind of ‘Demo 2.0’ which we will surely see more of in the future.”

Perhaps this hasn’t had as much impact here in the UK as I had hoped, but I think may have been more important elsewhere in the world. To some extent it has been outgrown as Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps have become more important and even protests organised months and years in advance make use of them.

But it was interesting if rather tricky to photograph, and I got stuck in without a pillow and at some danger to my health, main not “from impact but suffocation when some pillows split open to fill the air with clouds of feathers and feather-dust. At times I wished I was wearing a mask to protect my lungs; keeping my mouth firmly closed and breathing though my nose only stopped the larger particles.

And I also found the the autofocus on my DSLR was too efficient at focusing on feathers in the air, and until I turned it off and went manual many of my pictures failed to be sharp for the people and pillows behind the screen of feathers.

Later as the pixel count on DSLRs increased and full-frame cameras appeared I found it very useful to work in many situations using just the central ‘DX’ half-frame area of the viewfinder – which would have been very useful to let me see the people and pillows coming for me, but on this occasion I found “chaos really rules taking pictures becomes a press and hope situation. I think some of them do give an idea of what it was like to be there.

Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight


Immigration, Lions, Low Pay & Child Prisoners

Monday, March 13th, 2023

Immigration, Lions, Low Pay & Child Prisoners. I started my day on Friday 13th March 2015 in Feltham in outer London, outside an Immigration Tribunal before going in to cover three further protests in central London.


Let Ife Stay in the UK! York House Immigration Tribunal, Feltham

Immigration, Lions, Low Pay & Child Prisoners

Immigration has been very much in the news lately, with the UK government introducing new legislation to attempt to evade its responsibilities under international obligations over the treatment of refugees, demonising those who have genuine asylum claims as “illegal” and refusing them the opportunity to make claims.

For years both our major political parties have vied with each other to produce more and more draconian measures to cut the number of migrants coming to the UK. A part of this has been the setting up of more and more Byzantine and understaffed systems to slow down the processing of claims by the Home Office. More and more people are kept in limbo for years before eventually being granted leave to stay in this country.

It’s our system that has led to the huge growth of people smugglers, at first using lorries and more recently concentrating on channel crossings in unsafe and expendable small boats.

Immigration, Lions, Low Pay & Child Prisoners
Some of the petition to keep Ife and her family in the UK

The real basis for this trade is that there are no safe routes that most genuine asylum seekers can take to enter this country. Even the few country-specific schemes we have are not working properly. Were we to set up a system that worked fairly and efficiently it would largely put the people smugglers out of business, perhaps cutting the demand for their services by around three-quarters.

Setting up a system that rapidly – perhaps within 28 days – sorted out those with a probable case for asylum from those who were clearly economic migrants would not be difficult, and we could admit those who are likely in the end to be given asylum on a provisional basis, allowing them to work and contribute to our society while their cases were under more detailed scrutiny.

Lineker’s tweet “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s” was simply stating facts. It certainly is immeasurably cruel, and listening to speeches by Tory MPs and ministers both in Parliament and in media interviews we largely hear a complete lack of compassion from people claiming to be “compassionate“.

Immigration, Lions, Low Pay & Child Prisoners

Perhaps it might have been politically more acceptable to call it something like Orwellian double-think but government policy often seems to be very accurately following the well-known quote “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.” And I probably don’t need to tell you who said that.

Obviously we should not refer to “invasions” or define people’s actions as illegal when their activities are legal under international law, and certainly even people breaking laws are not themselves illegal.

I didn’t know there was an Immigration Tribunal in Feltham before the protest here, rather hidden away on a small industrial estate a mile or two south of Heathrow. And clearly the staff working there didn’t want people to know, and attempted to get police to stop the protest – but were told by police it was legal. It wasn’t a big protest, calling for a 2 year old Ife and her mother and brotheer to be allowed to stay in Peckham where the Ife and continue the medical treatment she needs rather than be deported to Nigeria. You can read more about the protest at Let Ife Stay in the UK!


Save Our Lions – ban Canned Hunting – Trafalgar Square

It took me a little over an hour to travel by bus, train and tube to Trafalgar Square where I joined (a little late) several hundred people who were there to protest against ‘canned hunting’, where lions are bred and raised tame on farms in South Africa for rich visitors to pet, to ‘walk with lions’ and to shoot as trophy heads.

It’s a sordid business, degrading noble animals and threatening wild lions which are captured for farm breeding to improve the quality of the stock. Young females are often killed as soon as they have got too large for the petting zoos, as females are in little demand as hunting trophies.

After some speeches on the North Terrace I was invited to go across with a couple of protesters to South Africa House, where I took a few pictures as they posed in the entrance before security told us to leave.

Save Our Lions – ban Canned Hunting


Poverty pay at the Royal College of Art – RCA, Kensington Gore

IWGB members, supported by students, protested noisily at the Royal College of Art against low pay of outsourced workers, demanding they be paid the London Living Wage now, not from September as the college has offered; the workers need it now.

This was a noisy protest with trade union members and students banging on drums, whistling, blowing plastic horns and chanting slogans, mainly “Living Wage Now!” with RCA security and a couple of police looking on.

After protesting at the entrance to the RCA for some time they marched out on to the main road and held a short rally at the end of the college building close to the Albert Hall before going on a further noisy protest at a small enclosed yard next to a college dining area.

Poverty pay at the Royal College of Art.


Free the Hares boys protest at G4S – Victoria St

Finally I went to Victoria Street where protesters on the wide pavement outside the G4S offices were calling or the release of 5 young boys from Hares, held and tortured in Israeli jails which G4S helps to run.

They were arrested two years ago after they had been accused of throwing stones at an incident when an illegal settler crashed into the back of a truck. If they are ever tried, like most Palestinians in Israeli courts they are likely to be found guilty – even if there is little or no real evidence and could be sentenced to over 25 years in jail.

The protesters also called for the release of other Palestinian child prisoners, handing out leaflets and displaying banners which detailed some of the cases and the torture of children often tortured and held in isolation in small dark cells in the prisons for which G4S provides support.

Free the Hares boys protest at G4S


Racist UKBA & 3 Cosas

Monday, October 24th, 2022

Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA – Eaton House, Hounslow – Thu 24th Oct 2013

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters speaking in front of the Hounslow Reporting Centre

Although I grew up in Hounslow, ten miles west of the centre of London, I’ve not often returned there in recent years, and the protest organised by Southall Black Sisters outside the Hounslow Reporting Centre on Thursday 24th October 2013 was the only one I’ve so far photographed in the town.

The UK Borders Agency reporting centre is at the western edge of the town, opposite Hounslow Heath where highwaymen once roamed and was the aerodrome from where the British Empire’s first scheduled daily international commercial flights took off in 1919. The large brick block once housed the UK laboratory and factory of US chemical manufacture Parke-Davis, once the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, now a subsidiary of Pfizer, who had set up a dyestuffs factory here before the first world war, though the Research and Administration building in front of which the protest was held only dates from 1954.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) say that after the Refugee & Migrant Forum East London (RAMFEL) succeeded in its legal challenge over Theresa May’s Home Office advertising vans (which were also criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority) “the UKBA has shifted the ’Go Home’ message to reporting centres in Glasgow, Croydon and Hounslow.”

Their protest against the Government’s anti-immigration campaigns outside the Hounslow reporting centre stated “We will not tolerate underhand tactics used to instil fear and divide us. Let us return to the streets and make our voices heard. We need to fight for our rights.”

I joined the group of around 30 people, mainly SBS members, most wearing t-shirts with the message ‘Do I look illegal?’, but they were joined by others from Sol-Fed and other groups who had brought a large banner with the message ‘F**K ALL RACISM – NO ONE IS ILLEGAL’.

And no person is illegal, but those called it lack permission to be here, though many will in time be granted it. In France, such people are said to be ‘without papers’, but none of us in the UK needs papers to live here, so an appropriate but less biased term might be ‘without status’. The term ‘illegal immigrants’, a deliberately biased description of people who do not currently have a legal right to live in this country.

The protesters blew plastic horns and whistles and generally made a lot of noise, as well as shouting a number of chants including ‘Theresa May, drop the pretence, Go home vans cause offence’, ‘We are humans not illegal, We want justice for our people’ and ‘Money for jobs and education, Not for racist deportation.’

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave. You can see more about it on My London Diary at Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA.

3 Cosas Defy London University Protest Ban – Senate House, Thu 24th Oct 2013

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign is for sickpay, holidays and pensions for all workers at the University of London, where many low paid workers are outsourced to companies who employ them often in the legal minimum wage and conditions of service, and also often employ bullying managers to overwork staff. They often fail to provide proper safety equipment to do the job.

The workers, many of whom are Spanish speaking, have for some years been demanding they should be directly employed by the university where they work rather than these contracting companies, and there have by now been many long and successful campaigns to achieve this.

The University management in 2013 had responded to their campaign with a ban of protests in and around Senate House, and threatened to bring police onto campus to prevent further protests and to bring charges of trespass against any protesters. This was seen by workers and staff and students as an attempt to prevent free speech and freedom of assembly at the university similar to that of of authoritarian regimes overseas, rightly condemned across academia and the rest of society.

On Thursday 24th October, staff students, the IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) trade union which represents many cleaners and other trade unionists defied University management ban of protests by holding a noisy protest in and around Senate House.

After protesting on the streets around the Senate House, some of the protesters walked in around another building while others scaled the gates to protest at the bottom of Senate House. Eventually police came and tried to stop them walking out. But there were too few of them to be effective. The protesters walked out and ended their protest in front of SOAS.

More on My London Diary at 3 Cosas Defy London Uni Protest Ban.


Marikana, Bangladesh, Bahrain & Brazil – 2018

Saturday, August 13th, 2022

Marikana, Bangladesh, Bahrain & Brazil – 2018. One of the joys of London is its multi-cultural nature with so many people from different countries and nationalities working here and many for various reasons choosing to make a new life in the city, and the four protests I photographed on Monday 13th August 2018 reflected that diversity.

Marikana, Bangladesh, Bahrain & Brazil - 2018

London has long been a cosmopolitan place, and has a long history of welcoming people fleeing from persecution and oppression, certainly from the days of the Huguenots and in the late nineteenth century the Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. London has also memorials to a number of the liberators of South America who were given refuge here, as well as European revolutionaries such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Mazzini.

Marikana, Bangladesh, Bahrain & Brazil - 2018

In the twentieth century things began to change, beginning with the Aliens Act 1905 which was aimed at denying entry to ‘undesirable’ Jewish and Eastern European immigrants. But subjects of the British Empire still had free movement, though restrictions were tightened up against those from South Asia after the First World War.

After the Second World War we needed immigrant workers to run public services but also began to set up tight barriers against immigration from the Commonwealth. In the current century we have clearly racist anti-immigrant policies and now even plans to forcibly deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

There are now many different national communities living in London, often gathered mainly in particular areas of the city. And from these are many groups still highly concerned about events in their countries including some who have come here as political refugees. Often their concerns are shared with others on the left in the UK who come to protest with them.


Justice For Marikana – 6th Anniversary – City of London

Marikana, Bangladesh, Bahrain & Brazil - 2018

South Africa was once a key part of the British Empire, and its mines in particular contributed greatly to the wealth of London and many mining companies are still based in the city. The earliest demonstrations I attended were against British companies and the UK government who supported Apartheid and these and the boycott continued for many years.

34 Striking miners were shot dead by South African police at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in 2012, and three days before the 6th anniversary of the massacre the Marikana Solidarity Collective organised a tour of the City of London protesting outside the premises of investors, insurers and major shareholders profiting from the violence against people and nature in Marikana.

Lonmin plc was founded in London in 1909 as The London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited and became a huge company. As well as mines the company diversified its interests and for 12 years from 1981-93 was the owner of the Observer newspaper. Even Prime Minister Edward Heath described the company, then notorious as Lonrho, in 1973 as “an unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism” for its busting of sanctions against Rhodesia.

The protesters carried banners and large portraits of some of the murdered miners. They met up at St Paul’s Cathedral and then left to march to the offices of several investors, insurers and shareholders profiting from the violence at Marikana, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice and for reparations to be made to their dependents and to those survivors who were injured and arrested. The tour ended outside the London offices of BASF who are the major customers for the platinum mined at Marikana.

Justice For Marikana – 6th Anniversary


Release Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia -Downing St

The Bangladeshi Nationalist Party UK protested opposite Downing St for the release of their party leader, Begum Khaleda Zia, jailed in February for five years for embezzlement of international funds donated to Zia Orphanage Trust.

Khaleda Zia was the First Lady of Bangladesh during the presidency of her husband Ziaur Rahman who founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the late 1970s, was Bangladesh’s first female head of government from 1991-6 after the BNP won the country’s first democratic election in 20 years, and served as prime minister later in 2001-6.

The BNP claim the charge against her was politically motivated. Her son has also been sentenced to 10 years in jail but remains in London. Some Bangladeshi friends say there is little to chose between Zia and her rival, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, leader of the Awami League and Prime Minister of Bangladesh since January 2009. They say both are corrupt and neither represents the interests of the people of their country.

Release Bangladeshi opposition leader


Attack on Bahrain Embassy hunger striker – Bahrain Embassy, Belgrave Sq

Inminds Islamic human rights organisation protested outside the Bahrain embassy after an attack in the early hours of the previous morning on hunger striker Ali Mushaima who was on hunger strike there since the start of August to save the life of his father Hassan Mushaima, one of the leaders of the 2011 mass movement that peacefully called for human rights and democratic reforms in Bahrain.

Inminds had protested in support of the Ali Mushima three days earlier, calling for the release of his father and all the other 5000 Bahraini prisoners of conscience languishing in the Al-Khalifa regimes jails and for and end of the dictatorship’s crimes against the Bahraini people.

Police had failed to properly investigate the early morning attack when a bucket of an unknown liquid was thrown over the hunger striker on the pavement below from the Ambassador’s balcony, but came to harass the protesters, trying to prevent them protesting in front of the balcony.

The protesters refused to move and then performed a rather unrehearsed short play in which Theresa May sold arms to the Bahraini dictator which he used to shoot protesters, who were then chained up. Unlike in real life the International Criminal Court came to their rescue, released them and condemned the Bahraini regime for their crimes against humanity.

Attack on Bahrain Embassy hunger striker


Free Lula – Brazilians for Democracy & Justice – Brazilian Embassy, Cockspur St, St. James’s

Brazilians protested outside the Brazilian embassy calling for the release of Lula – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – the former trade union leader who was President of Brazil from 2003-11 in order to enable him to stand for election again in October 2018.

The right-wing Brazilian government had brought highly dubious charges against both then President Dilma Rousseff and Lula to impeach Dilma in 2016 for what was not an impeachable offence and to send Lula to prison in an attempt to prevent the Worker’s Party (TP) winning in the forthcoming elections.

Unfortunately he was not able to stand in 2018, and the far-right Bolsonaro became President. But Lula was released pending appeal in November 2019 and in March 2021 the Brazil Supreme Court ruled the judge in his trial was biased and the following month restored his political rights and all his convictions were nullified. He is now the front runner for the 2022 presidential elections.


Close Down Yarl’s Wood – August 2015

Monday, August 8th, 2022

Close Down Yarl’s Wood – Yarl’s Wood Immigration prison, near Bedford

Saturday 8th August 2015 saw a large protest outside the immigration jail at Yarl’s Wood where asylum seekers are locked up indefinitely by our racist immigration system without trial, a prison run for profit by a private company where detainees are subjected to abuse and sexual harassment.

Yarl’s Wood was used to detain women, many of whom had fled abuse and violence in their own countries only to arrive in this country and be locked up and further abused here. The detention centre is in a remote location in a business park on a former wartime airfield around five miles from Bedford.

The protest was one of a long series organised by Movement for Justice, but was supported by a large number of other groups, particularly many women’s groups including Sisters Uncut. In my post on My London Diary I listed 25 of them, but there were others too. This was only the second protest they had organised at Yarls Wood, but it came after a series I’d photographed at the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres.

MfJ is a small Trotskyist group which has been one of the most active UK groups organising against racism and for civil rights in the UK since it was formed by students in North London in 1995. This protest came a couple of years before a bitter dispute led many other groups to end cooperation with them, but MfJ continue their active role, in particular in opposition to deportation charter flights and the shameful Rwanda plan.

The main entrance to the detention centre is on a private road which is gated some distance from the centre. The coaches bringing people from across the country, and me and others from Bedford Station were parked in a long line at the side of a public road around a mile to the north, close to the locked entrance to the business park. The protest began on an area of grass here as we waited for everyone to arrive, and there were speeches and much chanting and dancing.

Finally the protest began its march, setting off around 300 metres along the road to a bridleway which eventually after around a mile of walking led to a hilly field beside the 20ft high fence around the prison. The lower 10ft of this is solid metal sheeting, but the upper 10ft a sturdy metal gauze, and from the hill we could see women at many of the windows waving to greet the protesters. Those held inside feel isolated and forgotten, though there are a few prison visitors and they are allowed some phone contact with solicitors and others to pursue their asylum cases.

Protesters made a great noise, kicking and banging on the metal sheeting of the fence as well as shouting, and had brought a sound system so that they could speak to the women outside. They were also able to make phone contact with some of them and amplify their voices too.

The windows of the centre only open a couple of inches, but some were able to squeeze their arms through the gap and wave cloths or articles of clothing, while others held up messages to the glass. One carefully drawn one read ‘We Want Freedom – No Human Is Illegal – Close Yarls Wood’ while another simply read ‘Help’. Others wrote their mobile numbers large enough to be read by the protesters to contact them.

A group of people wearing face masks began to write slogans on the fence, and soon a long length of it was covered with them ‘No Borders’, ‘No One is Illegal’ ‘#SetHerFree’, ‘Shut it Down’, ‘Gaza 2 Yarls Wood Destroy Apartheid Walls’, ‘Racist Walls’ and more.

The speakers on the hill facing the prison included several who had been held inside Yarls Wood and could see women inside they knew, and others who had been in other detention centres. Most people who are held in this way are finally released and allowed to stay in the UK – sometimes after several years of imprisonment – and their seems no justification for locking them up in this way.

Here’s the final paragraph I wrote back in 2015:

Too soon we had to leave. And they had to stay. As I walked away to catch the coach back to Bedford station I felt ashamed at the way that my country treats asylum seekers. They deserve support and humanity and get treated worse than criminals.

More on My London Diary: Close Down Yarl’s Wood


End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

Saturday, July 16th, 2022

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! The main event I covered on Saturday 16th July was a march and rally organised by the the People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism as an emergency demonstration after the Brexit referendum result a few weeks earlier. But I also photographed three other events, two on the edges of this and the first totally unrelated.


Falun Dafa march against Chinese repression – Regent St

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

I hadn’t been aware that practitioners of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), an advanced Buddhist practice of moral rectitude, meditation and exercise founded by Mr Li Hongzhi in 1992, were to be marching through London to protest the continuing torture and repression they have experience in China since 1999, and simply came across them as I walked up Regent Street towards the BBC where the People’s Assembly march was gathering.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

I think I had first photographed Falun Gong when they took part in the Westminster New http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2004/01/jan.htm Year’s Day Parade back in 2004 but I had taken pictures of them quite a few times since then, both at major events and the regular protests that they hold. They have maintained a small permanent 24 hour protest opposite the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place for many years.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

In China, Falun Dafa have been subjected to forced labour, psychiatric abuse, torture and even execution to supply human organs for Chinese transplant operations since they were targeted in an antireligious campaign by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999. In earlier years the party had encouraged the movement and the spiritual practices from which Falung Dafa emerged as an extremist form. While Falun Dafa is a cult with some beliefs that endanger its adherents and many would find abhorrent this in no way justifies their criminal persecution in China.

Falun Dafa march against Chinese repression


End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! – BBC, Regent St

The People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism march had chosen to start outside the BBC, as I wrote “in the forlorn hope that they might for once cover a protest in Britain properly. Many marching and at the rally showed great support for Jeremy Corbyn as our next prime minister – and the only hope of a future for the Labour Party.” Unfortunately that was not to be – and we are suffering now.

Many of those urging the public to vote to leave Europe in the months leading up to the referendum had represented this as a way we could control immigration to this country, and had deliberately stirred up racist fears. The result had been an increase in racist and other hate attacks, particularly directed against refugees and asylum seekers. Many were on the march to support the human and civil rights and show solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers against the upsurge in racism and hate attacks.

The Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, first announced in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May was cited, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Office_hostile_environment_policy Wikipedia, “as one of the harshest immigration policies in the history of the United Kingdom, and has been widely criticised as inhumane, ineffective, and unlawful” with the UN Human Rights Council finding it fostered xenophobia and the Equality and Human Rights Commission finding it broke equalities law – and of course it led to the Windrush scandal.

I took pictures of the people preparing to march and walked with it a short distance down Regent Street before leaving to cover two other events before returning to the rally at the end of the march.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!


Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ – Marylebone

One of the groups taking part in the march were United Voices of the World supporters including some of those taking part in the long strike – then on its 38th day – at 100 Wood Street in the City of London.

Ian Hodson, BFAWU

They had told me they were going to leave the march for a short ‘flash mob’ at the headquarters of the CBRE who run 100 Wood Street which was around a quarter of a mile from the march route.

I’d stayed behind for a few minutes photographing the marchers before I left to run after them. When I arrived they had already gone into t he office foyer and were protesting inside, but the doors had been locked. I took a few pictures through the large glass doors but was then able to get inside for a minute or two as some started to leave. After taking a few pictures of the group in front of the offices I ran off to find a small protest by the EDL which had been organised to oppose the day’s big march with a rally in Hyde Park.

Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ


EDL march and rally – Hyde Park

Few EDL members had turned up for the event, well under a hundred, but they were easy to find as there were several times as many police who had turned up to prevent any trouble between them and anti-fascists and were marching as a loose cordon around them down Park Lane.

A few anti-fascist had come to oppose them, but most had left to join the main march after seeing how few of the EDL had turned up. Police escorted the EDL into the park, where they had set up a pen for their protest, but they refused to march into it. After some heated arguments with police the the EDL stewards calmed down the others and they agreed to hold their rally in front of the pen instead of in it.

There was a small incident when a woman walked past on the opposite side of the protest to me and shouted ‘Black Lives Matter’; stewards rushed towards her and manhandled her rather roughly away while a large group of police stood by watching but failed to intervene.

EDL march and rally


Peoples Assembly/Stand Up to Racism rally – Parliament Square

Jeremy Corbyn was there on a hat

I took the tube to Westminster and joined the crowd relaxing after the march in a sunny Parliament Square. Whereas the Hyde Park rally had been full of bitterness and hate, here the mood was much warmer and positive, though there was considerable anger expressed against government policies by the many speakers.

Zita Holbourne of BARAC and PCS holds up her ‘We Stand with Jeremy Corbyn’ poster

But while I’d been kept out out the small crowd in Hyde Park by police and stewards, here I was free to walk around and people were happy to be photographed. It was a totally different atmosphere.

I didn’t photograph every speaker, but you can see I think thirteen of them in my pictures from the event, as well as many pictures of the others standing or sitting on the grass to listen to them. Perhaps the most interesting was an asylum seeker, brought to the microphone by Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice, who spoke briefly about her experiences in our racist asylum system.

Peoples Assembly/Stand Up to Racism rally


The Racist UK Immigration System

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

The Racist UK Immigration System: The Home Office a couple of years ago commissioned a report following the huge publicity over the Windrush scandal after government ministers had been forced to agree to educate all Home Office employees about our colonial history and the experiences faced by black people coming to the UK.

The report, “The Historical Roots of the Windrush Scandal“, by a well-known historian the Home Office refuses to name, details how the whole history of post-war British immigration legislation since the Second World War was “designed at least in part to reduce the number of people with black or brown skin who were permitted to live and work in the UK“, reflecting the “racist ideology of the British Empire.”

For over a year politicians and others have been calling for the report to be published but the Home Office has refused. Last month it was leaked in full to The Guardian, but is still not available to the public, despite having been paid for by our taxes. Many requests for its publication from MPs including the home affairs select committee and campaigners over the past year had been turned down and a freedom of information request about it was refused.

The protest began on Bath Road in front of the Immigration Removal Centres

Some speculate that the true reason for it being kept secret was because it was in direct contradiction to last years report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which had ludicrously concluded there was “no evidence to suggest that Britain was an institutionally racist place.

Others suggest the refusal to publish was that it would bring new highly discriminatory policies being introduced – such as the attacks on cross-channel migrants and the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda – liable to greater opposition as a development of an already clearly racist immigration system.

Colnbrook on the left, Harmondsworth at right

Back in June 2014, when the Movement for Freedom organised a protest on June 7th outside the adjoining Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres on the northern boundary of London Heathrow, the thrust of the protest was against the the unjust ‘Fast Track System’ and mistreatment of detainees by private security firms inside these immigration prisons.

John McDonnell speaks outside the detention centres on Bath Road

Local MP John McDonnell who came to speak told the protest that when he first became MP for the area in 1997 the immigration detention centre was only a small building housing a dozen or so detainees rather than the two large blocks the protesters were in front of. The protesters argue that immigration detention is almost entirely unnecessary, existing only to deter immigration and harass and punish those who come here to seek asylum.

Asylum seekers wave from behind the 20ft fence, razor wire and window bars

The fast track system was set up with the deliberate aim of deporting people before they had time to put together the evidence that would enable them to properly present their case to remain. You don’t get a certificate given to you for being tortured or raped but our system treats all of them as guilty, trying to evade our immigration laws and rather than the Home Office having to prove their stories are fabricated calls on them to provide proof of threats, torture, rape and other events that forced them to flee. Legal challenges including that by Detention Action in 2015 found “rules setting the tight timescales for asylum-seekers to make appeals were unlawful and ‘ultra vires’ and that the strict time limits in and of themselves were ‘structurally unfair’.”

Although the legal judgements led to the suspension of DFT, the deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda currently about to take place clearly represent a ratcheting up of this punitive approach and seem likely also to be successfully challenged in the courts – thought not before hundreds or thousands have been wrongfully deported.

The detention centres were built on a site which has a private road leading to a BT site at the rear. After the speeches on the public highway in front of the site, the marchers walked down this road, making a lot of noise chanting and shouting as well as with whistles and other noise-makers. Detainees came to the windows and waved thanking the protesters for their support, and some were able to communicate using mobile phones.

Mobile phone messages from inside were broadcast to protesters using a megaphone

The two detention prisons are both surrounded by 20 foot high fences, the lower half solid metal sheets and the upper half with a dense solid wire mesh, which makes photographing the windows difficult. But we could clearly see the detainees and they could seem the long banner with the message ‘Stop Racism – End Fast Track – End Detention’ which was held up, and we could make out some of the messages they had written calling for freedom.

We were able to walk completely around the Harmondsworth building (but not the higher security Colnbrook one) and when I left the march organisers were planning to return their route in the opposite direction as they had so many phone calls from those inside, but I had to leave.

Diane Abbott published an opinion piece in The Guardian on the leaked report at the end of May this year, “The truth is out: Britain’s immigration system is racist, and always has been. Now let’s fix it“. Unfortunately I think our current government is unlikely to have any interest at all in doing so. She ends her piece: “The system is calibrated for racism. It always was. We know it, and now we know that, behind closed doors, Priti Patel’s Home Office knows it. The dirty secret is no longer secret.”


Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End – I travelled to Tottenham and Kilburn to photograph protests but fortunately the people from Ponders End had come to protest at Westminster. All three protests I photographed on Saturday 29th March 2014 were about the inhumane policies of the Tory Government.


Mothers march for justice – Tottenham

Rev Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson

Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty, an indefatigable lifelong campaigner on behalf of the poor died in 2020, aged 87. His first job after National Service in the Army had been with the family firm selling champagne around London, but after a dozen years until he discovered a vocation to become a worker-priest and was ordained as a deacon in 1967 and then a priest in 1968. Around 1981 he became a parish priest in Turville, the location chosen for The Vicar of Dibley, making his priority the support of the poor in a area of extremes of wealth.

He resurrected the practice, now common of being a McKenzie Friend, which allowed him to stand with and represent those brought to court over debts, particularly those unable to pay the Poll Tax. His revelations on the activities of bailiffs enforcing debts lead to a Code of Practice which, at least when enforced, gives some protection to the vulnerable, and it was his initiative in commissioning the Family Budget Unit to investigate the actual costs of living that led the the UK and London Living Wage being established.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Spiderman led the march

His work in later years was largely about housing and homelessness, and I met and photographed him on many protests. He set up the charity Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) but then resigned as its chair so he could campaign politically through Taxpayers Against Poverty.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, murdered by police in front of a banner with his picture

The march in Tottenham on 29th March 2014 organised by the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty demanded living incomes and decent truly affordable homes and rejected the unfair Tory bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, which were the cause of hunger and cold homes. He spoke before the march and walked on it with a placard hanging from a string around his neck: ‘We march for Freedom from Hunger, Cold, Outrageous Rents – Fight for a Living Wage’.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

The march was smaller than hoped, several hundred rather than the hoped for ‘1000 Mothers March for Justice’, though more were expected to turn up at Tottenham Green East for the rally at its end, unfortunately after I had left. Those on the march included representatives from many local groups as well as others around London, and they carried an impressive number of banners.

Mothers march for justice


Kilburn Uniform Day – Kilburn Square

A few miles to the west, the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community was holding a two hour protest in Kilburn Square on the main Kilburn High Road over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

In 2010 food banks were rare things in the UK, used over the year by around 60,000 people. After ten years of Tory policies this had increased to around 2.5 million, around 40 times as many. Much of that increase is a direct result of government policies, including its inhuman sanctions policy against benefit claimants, as well as of poverty wages and unfair employment practices such as zero hours contracts.

Moving people onto Universal Credit resulted in many being without resources for five weeks, sometimes considerably longer. As I wrote “Our government appear to be completely out of touch with how many people in the country live. They simply cannot comprehend what it means to be without money, or without friends or family you can rely on for a few thousand when you have a problem. Many people on low income simply don’t have any such resources – all they have is debts and bills to pay.”

Things have got worse since 2014, and soaring energy prices along with the additional National Insurance payments coming in next month will again put more families into desperate levels of poverty – and increase those evicted as they cannot pay the rent. It isn’t that the country doesn’t have the money – we are still one of the richest countries in the world – but that increasingly the already wealthy are getting richer while the poor sink into more desperate poverty.

And it’s successive governments – including New Labour – that are to blame, with a failure to build sensible amounts of social housing, the encouragement of high cost private housing and buy to rent. The wealthy have got tax breaks while many working full-time have been finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. And tax avoidance has reached huge levels thanks to a failure to plug silly loopholes and face up to the problems caused by off-shoring. We should have a zero-avoidance policy not one that encourages it.

Kilburn Uniform Day


Fellow Students Fight for Yashika – Parliament Square

The final event I photographed was a lively protest by fellow students and supporters at Parliament urged then Home Secretary Theresa May to abandon the planned deportation of 19 year old model A-level student Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius due to take place on Mothers Day.

She came here with her family who claimed asylum after physical abuse from a relative in Mauritius in 2012, but the claim was rejected and the whole family are under threat of eviction – and as she is now 19 they decided to deport her alone weeks before she was due to take her A levels in Ponders End.

We continue to see “a ‘tougher than you’ shift to the right over immigration played out by both government and opposition over the past years, each trying to outdo each other … So we get foolish and desperate measures like the immigration vans, and raids at tube stations and other public places by the Border Force based unlawfully on racial profiling.”

Migrants, including many who are here without legal right to remain, play an important part in keeping London running despite government attempts to identify and remove them. Estimates in 2014 were that there were around half a million in the city and without them, “London would grind to a halt. They do mainly the low paid dirty jobs no one else would want for pay that isn’t enough to live properly on in London – often at below the minimum wage because of their immigration status.”

The protests and a petition with over 170,000 signatures failed to have any effect on the heartless Home Office and Yashika was deported. But good news came later. Perhaps because of the huge publicity around her case she was welcomed and supported back in Mauritius and was able to take her exams there. Despite her studies having been interrupted by spells in Yarl’s Wood immigration prison she was able to gain her A levels and go on to university – and keep out of the media limelight.

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika