Saturday, December 29, 2007

Campsfield latest

More astonishing yet unsurprising news from the Campaign to Close Campsfield. Yes, that's a paradoxical expression, but I don't know how else to describe the behaviour of the government's immigration system.


The forced removal of a detainee by GEO guards a week ago, triggering Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre's third major incident of 2007, was not only violent; it was also illegal. The alleged victim, an Edinburgh Airport security-worker and father, Davis Osagie Odiase, has been traced by campaigners to the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow. It appears he was taken there after the flight on which he was to have been removed to Benin, the West-African country Odiase left when he was aged two [yes, that's right - MR] was cancelled.

Under Home Office rules, asylum applicants may only be removed from the country if their application and any appeals have been rejected. But it turns out that Odiase is scheduled to appeal his case at the High Court on March 18th. So not only the removal attempt last week, but also his 3-month detention in Campsfield, was illegal.

According to detainee-support organisation Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) the Home Office could be obliged to pay for his return-travel to London from Benin to attend the hearing if he is removed from the country, as well as being sued for wrongful imprisonment. Odiase is now, also, needed as a witness by Thames Valley Police investigating the alleged assault [on him by Campsfield's privatised security guards - MR].

A spokesman for the Campsfield campaign, Bob Hughes, says, "This is target-culture in action. Home Office contractors' profits and jobs depend on meeting their targets for detentions and removals, so everything else becomes secondary. Families are torn apart and thrown onto state benefit. People lose their jobs and even their homes when breadwinners are seized and locked up. Racism must be a factor in all this: nobody would even dream of doing this to people who are white and middle-class. It would be front page news, and absolutely rightly so."

Odiase told BID he has not been given a medical examination, only paracetamol, despite a suspected broken nose and being barely able to walk. He also faces a renewed removal threat on Boxing Day, unless the Home Office can be persuaded to recognise his legal situation and halt the removal.


Meanwhile, Oxford building-worker and cricket-player Michael Lee Sinclair will spend Christmas in Dover Immigration Removal Centre - where he was taken after Campsfield was evacuated - instead of with his wife, Paula, and their children in Headington. Sinclair fell foul of immigration law last year when, on Home Office advice, he returned to Jamaica for a spouse's visa, and was inexplicably refused.

He applied for immigration bail on Friday but was refused because, in the Immigration Judge's opinion, there was "a risk of absconding" - despite his considerable and self-evident family ties. Hughes comments: "Immigration judges usually decide there is a 'risk of absconding' where someone has 'insufficient family ties'. But now it seems they lock you up either way. Lives are being wrecked by all this, and at lavish, public expense. The cost of this week's mayhem could easily run into millions - and all to meet targets, made up on the spur of the moment, by politicians desperate to appear 'tough'. Surely this is an abuse of political power. Most of us believe we have governments and pay taxes to prevent or to cure harm, not to cause it."

GEO = "Global Expertise in Outsourcing", a Texas-based company previously known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, implicated in the running of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. GEO has managed Campsfield IRC since May 2005.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan: stop all the clocks

As everyone reading this will know by now, Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. The understandable reaction of sheer outrage is turning into violence by some of her supporters and this looks likely to escalate. The murder of the most popular politician in a country is never going to happen without major disturbances.

What makes this murder so terrible is that millions of people in Pakistan saw Benazir Bhutto as embodying their hope for democracy and social justice in a country with a long history of military intervention in government, and serious problems of murderous oppression and terrorism by extreme reactionaries. No matter that Benazir Bhutto had been accused of corruption during her two previous terms as Prime Minister; no matter that she was a bourgeois populist politician with an eye to the main chance. To so many people in Pakistan, she represented their will to build a better society. They would have become disillusioned with her once again, but that will would have survived - and it will survive.

It is important, of course, not to have illusions in what Bhutto and her Pakistan People's Party represent. The Pakistani Left has been encouraged by developments in Bhutto's position over the last few weeks, but this is really only to say that they were happy she had to make concessions to the Left in order to maintain and develop the massive popular support she needed to regain her position in Pakistani politics.

Nevertheless, there can be no question of whose "side" socialists are on in this crisis. The nature of the political forces that planned Bhutto's assassination, whether or not they were "al-Qaeda" members (incresingly just a convenient label) is amply revealed by the circumstances of the assassination. The assassin, having taken a shot at Benazir Bhutto, did not content himself with being arrested or shot by the police, and becoming a "martyr" for his foul cause. No, he found a knot of random bystanders, paralysed by shock, and blew himself up in their midst, murdering a further twenty people. His epitaph is this: he didn't just hate Benazir Bhutto enough to kill her; he hated the human race enough to kill anyone and everyone with a human face and a human heart.

There are questions about the role of the Pakistani dictatorship, and especially its secret services, in all of this. Bhutto herself said that they had refused to provide her with adequate protection because elements in the dictatorship wanted her dead. This is very likely to be true, as there will be many generals who want to stop democracy at any cost, even civil war, and some who sympathise with the clerical fascists. After all, the Pakistani secret services played a key role, supported by their US counterparts, in setting up the utterly reactionary Mujahedin in Afghanistan to fight the Russian occupation. Now the border between the two countries is porous both to the guns the Mujahedin's descendants need and the heroin they use to pay for it, and the Pakistnai armed forces refuse to do anything about this.

Benazir Bhutto was determined to reverse this situation and said so very forcefully, which is another reason why both the clerical fascists and elements within the Pakistani military dictatorship wanted her dead. Socialists may quail at her proposal to allow US troops to cross the border to hunt down terrorists. It is certainly not a solution any socialist would propose or give active support to. But if the USA, for its own reasons, destroyed the terrorist cells and the wife-burners and acid-throwers of the North-West frontier, it would be unconscionable to cheer for the "resistance".

The workers and people of Pakistan face a titanic and desperate battle against dictatorship and reaction, for democracy and civil rights and to make their aspirations to a better society and a better world a reality. If you make a resolution this coming New Year, let it be to support Pakistani socialists, trade unionists, democrats, secularists, feminists and LGBT liberation campaigners in their life-and-death struggles for freedom and justice.

Link: Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas...

...and a happy New Year to all my readers. Well, there must be a few of you. I was recently informed that I'm the 98th most popular political blogger in Britain, which swelled my ego for a moment, until I realised I was behing Bristol University Conservative Association - not so good after all (and I'm certainly not adding a link!)

For my Christmas plans I refer you to my post of a year ago today. Christmas is nothing if not predictable, which is a good thing, all things considered. A disadvantage of being here with my family is that I have to rely on the computers in the local library, which I've come to the conclusion are gerbil-powered. You can hear the poor little creatures scurrying around in there on their treadwheels. If you want the computer to do anything at all complicated the pattering of little feet gets more and more desperate, and you're terrified one of them is going to have a heart attack.

Anyway, all the best for the festive season, and you'll hear from me when I resurface...!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Plus ca change...

Now to turn to the less urgent news. In the Lib Dem Leadership Stakes the bookies' favourite has won by a nose, or 500 votes: Nick Clegg has secured top spot in the Useless Party. Still no-one has ever heard of him, but that's a qualification for being a Lib Dem leadership contender. His task now is to make sure no-one ever hears of Evan Harris, or Lynne Featherstone, or a few others I could mention. Good luck to him in that noble effort.

During the hiatus, the Lib Dems' acting leader, Vincent Cable, has been making a bit of an exhibition of himself in Parliament in one of the MPs' periodic mock-Homeric battles over a corpse. The decedent, in this case, is Northern Rock, the bank that had to take an enormous loan from the Bank of England to avoid immediate bankruptcy. Cable wants it to be nationalised - so he says - and Gordon Brown is apparently considering it. But all this means is that this week the Lib Dems are posturing left.

Neither Cable nor Brown actually wants to nationalise Northern Rock. What they want to do is to "stabilise" it - that is, make sure it isn't about to go bankrupt by paying off its massive debts out of public funds - and then, once it's a going concern again, flog it off to a private company or consortium that can make a tidy profit out of the deal. Obviously this will work perfectly, er, just like it has with the railways.

The obvious problem, though, with a private-sector solution to the problems of Northern Rock is that it's been tried already - for the whole of the bank's existence, in fact - and it doesn't seem to have worked. Private companies are distinctly wary of bidding for Northern Rock because they'll have to pay back half the Bank of England loan immediately. In fact, let's put it more strongly: potential bidders have reacted like dinner party guests served up dead cat wuith Yorkshire pudding. Hence the turn, in desperation, to temporary nationalisation. But all parties continue to repeat, at every possible opportunity, that they insist on a market solution for Northern Rock, even when the market has so obviously and catastrophically failed.

Meanwhile, those who know what economics actually means in real life - workers, that is - have voted to strike at BAA airports over management plans to close their final salary pension scheme. Solidarity to them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Act now to save Iranian trade unionist Mahmoud Salehi!

(Again, this appeal for solidarity doesn't need any comment from me).

From the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran

1- URGENT ACT NOW - Amnesty International Online Action for Salehi

2- To All Medical Organizations, Nephrologists, and to all diligent persons of conscience in this field (From Najibeh Salehzadeh)

3- Prominent Labour Activist Mahmoud Salehi's Life is at Risk! By Iranian labour solidarity organizations in Europe, North America and Australia


(1) Call on the Iranian authorities to release Mahmoud Salehi on humanitarian grounds, or to ensure he urgently receives appropriate medical treatment.

Jailed Iranian trade union leader Mahmoud Salehi is facing an acute medical emergency and Amnesty and the international trade union movement are coming together to press the Iranian authorities to release him or protect his health.

The Amnesty UK hosted online web action for Salehi is now live at Please circulate this as widely as possible and create links from you websites. We will be circulating this to further networks in the period ahead.

We have also completely updated our Iran Trade Union Action pages at: On these pages you can find other actions, including how to send a message of hope to Salehi and fellow jailed Iranian trade unionst Mansour Ossanlu and their families. PLEASE ACT NOW!


(2) To All Medical Organizations, Nephrologists, and to all diligent persons of conscience in this field: From Najibeh Salehzadeh

Yesterday, December 16th, 2007, my husband Mahmoud Salehi was returned to prison from Tohid Hospital in Sanandaj where he had been refused all medical attention and any visit from specialists. His right kidney is completely impaired and the left, which is polycystic, is hardly functional.

On December 11, 2007 Mahmoud was taken to the hospital because he had lost his balance, collapsed and fell completely unconscious. At the hospital, instead of treating his kidney disease, they placed him in the Neurology Department. This hospital neither has a specialized department for kidney disease, nor capable Neurology services.
He has not been able to release fluids for over a week now; his stomach is swollen and there is a high risk of septicemia (blood poisoning). The prison authorities obviously insist to deprive him from any kidney diagnosis and treatment.

Mahmoud's kidney problem is hereditary. His mother had the same problem. His sister and her younger child are suffering from the same illness. In 1981, Mahmoud consulted Dr. Abrishami, a Nephrologist in Mahabad city, where he was in exile as the result of his labour activities. That is when he found that he had kidney stone. He hasn't had a chance for any effective treatments ever since, as he has been repeatedly incarcerated for his worker activism.

In April 2004, my husband met with Anna Biondi of the ICFTU committee. In that meeting he talked about Iranian workers' condition. The mission was paying a formal visit to Iran upon an invitation by a government-sponsored organization. As this was not pleasant to Iranian authorities, they arrested him for the action he had taken in organizing the international worker's day (May Day) celebrations. His actual imprisonment is also with the same excuses!
Last year, prior to his arrest, Dr. Moussavi- a specialist in Saqez city advised him to consider beginning dialysis. Doctors in the city of Rezaieh, after having several tests, also diagnosed kidney infection which required a kidney surgery immediately.

The pre-surgery preparations were done but the judicial authorities maliciously arrested Mahmoud on April 9, 2007 and put him behind the bars. As a result, he missed his surgery appointment.

It seems that his arrest was intentional to deprive him from all possible treatments and medical care. Presently, instead of being treated by a kidney specialist, he has been seen by others. That might be good only for the prison's medical filing purposes but it will extend my husband's deprivation of an effective kidney treatment and care.

At this point, the physical health of my partner is extremely severe. One of his kidneys has stopped working and because of being deprived of proper medical treatment the other kidney is losing its functions. His blood pressure fluctuates and his blood sugar is surging. He falls unconscious about twice daily. The lack of treatment of his kidney has affected his heart as well. His feet and legs are swollen and the excessive injections of tranquilizers have seriously endangered hiswell-being.

My husband, Mahmoud salehi, is a labour activist. He is very well known both in Iran and abroad. All these attempts are to eliminate him because of the role he has played in raising awareness and forming workers' organizations along with his fellow comrades. Helping to neutralize such plots against Mahmoud will contribute to the continuation of actions for creating a healthy society society. A society in which there is freedom of speech, right to strike and right to organize for all workers.

Helping Mahmoud with his physical and emotional health is a humanitarian duty for us and for every person of conscience. For both personal and social reasons, I urge you to act in every possible way to prevent Mahmoud's death in prison for a treatable illness. We need to help prepare Mahmoud's treatment in a specialized clinic.

With many thanks,
Najibeh Salehzadeh, Mahmoud Salehi's wife
26 Azar 1386 (December 17, 2007)


(3) Prominent Labour Activist Mahmoud Salehi's Life is at Risk!
To:- International workers' rights organizations- Amnesty International- Doctors Without Border and Lawyers Without Borders

As you are aware, Mahmoud Salehi, a well-known labour activist and a representative of bakery workers of Saqez, who was arrested during a May Day demonstration in 2004, has been imprisoned since April 2007 in Sandandaj's central prison. Mahmoud has been detained while he suffers from serious kidney disease. His health is being deteriorated drastically on daily basis. One of his kidneys has stopped working and the other one requires continuous and essential care and dialysis treatment by specialist physicians.

In recent days, Mahmoud's physical health has been severely worsened and his blood pressure has been increasing. As a result, his brain's vessels are damaged and he has fallen unconscious a number of times in recent days.

On December 11, 2007, Mahmoud was taken to the Towhid Hospital in city of Sanandaj while unconscious. In Sanandaj, there are no specialized facilities for kidney disease patients, thus in that hospital they have only been giving Salehi tranquilizers and sedatives.
Moreover, Mahmoud Salehi was insulted, mistreated and threatened with death by one of the jail security guards last week. Some of the prisoners have been on hunger strike to protest such mistreatments.

Labour, human rights and freedom-loving organizations! Mahmoud Salehi's life is at risk and the Islamic Republic regime is directly responsible for his well-being and life. It is absolutely necessary to exert pressures on the Islamic Republic regime for the freedom of Mahmoud Salehi and his proper treatment by specialist physicians. We, as representatives of the solidarity committees and organizations with the Iranian labour movement ask internationallabour and human rights organizations to take urgent actions by pressurizing the Islamic Republic for immediate release and treatment of Mahmoud Salehi. Our urgent request is that you formally demand the Islamic Republic government to release Salehi for urgent medical treatment by qualified specialist physicians. Furthermore, we call for a medical mission to be dispatched to Iran by concerned international organizations to visit Salehi for medical examination and in order to pressurize the Islamic Republic for his immediate medical treatment.

What is going on in Campsfield?

Here is the latest urgent news update from the Close Campsfield Campaign. I thought I had ceased to be able to be astonished by the incompetence and sheer malice of the government's abominable detention system and the private prison companies that play such an important part in running it. Unfortunately it seems I was mistaken. I reprint the update without superfluous comment.


The explosion of anger this morning [17th December] at Campsfield was due to a firm belief among many inmates that Davis Osagie, the man allegedly beaten by guards, had in fact been murdered by them.

Detainees were awakened by his screams and shouts of "Murder!". When they tried to open their room-doors to investigate, they found they had been locked in. Some men are said to have kicked their door(s) down in order to get to Osagie's assistance. Conceivably, they knew only that someone was in dire distress.

After the immediate panic had subsided, guards unlocked the rooms, assuring inmates that it was all over and there was nothing to worry about. Then detainees noticed "a lot of blood in the corridor", where Osagie had been taken, assumed the worst, and the trouble started in earnest.

The detainee who told me this, at 1:30 pm, said there were still bloodstained tissues blowing around in the wind on the path below his window. He assumed the blood was Osagie's. Heating and electric power for the block had been turned off so the whole place was freezing, and the detainees had eaten nothing since 5:30 yesterday: collective punishment.

I could hear police dogs barking in the background. The centre was surrounded by riot teams (three large busloads of whom had arrived after 9am) and police, including mounted police. A massive (and no doubt massively expensive) show of force, against men who by this stage posed no threat to anyone, if indeed they ever had posed a threat.

At 2:20 pm, my contact phoned to say that the police riot squad were moving into Blue Wing; a few minutes later he called again to say that they were beating people up - he could hear screams. Then he rang off and when I tried to call him back his phone was switched off, as was that of my other contact. No calls were being put through to the centre "because we have an ongoing incident".

I asked to speak to Davis Osagie and was told "he's on his way to the airport". If (as reported earlier) his destination is Benin, whose government refuses to accept him, he may turn up again in another detention centre after a long and awful return-flight with his guards - at massive public expense.

The show of force at Campsfield this morning was amazing. Money seems to be no object when it comes to terrorizing migrants. It is certainly effective. My contact said that his first thought when he was awakened by Osagie's screams was "what they are doing to him, they can do to anyone!"

Dr Helen Groom, who attempted unsuccessfully to see detainees this morning for Medical Justice, points out that forcing prisoners to be helpless witnesses to abuse in this way, is in itself a severe form of torture. So far, there is no confirmation from the Home Office of the astonishing news, supplied by a co-detainee earlier, that Mr Osagie had been working as an immigration officer before being betrayed by a colleague, and detained.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bluish Brown and brown envelopes

So, how much money have various Labour politicians taken from slightly dodgy sources? On one level, I suppose, the answer is "who cares?" After all, we know that all political parties (including, apparently, "Respect") do it all the time. Peter Watt, the Labour Party General Secretary who has been forced to resign over the dodgy donations, was really doing no more than his job. As an appointed bureaucrat, his job was to make the heavily indebted Party solvent and not ask too many questions about where the money was coming from.

This, however, begs the question. Peter Watt was doing his job, yes, but was it a job worth doing? The people who appointed him certainly were not entitled to make him the scapegoat for a general acceptance of borderline illegality among the Party leadership; and wanting to accumulate donations is natural for a Party bureaucrat. The fact is, though, that the public at large is not happy. They don't understand the precise legal issues, but they don't like the Labour Party taking money from people who are slightly dodgy and, more importantly, very rich. And this is actually a good thing.

You see, people expect some corruption from the Tories. It took a much greater amount of "sleaze" and two prison sentences for perjury for the Tory Party to become associated with an unacceptable level of corruption. It takes much less in the case of Labour because somewhere in their minds, working-class people still think Labour is their party. This, however, is a point of view that is receiving more and more shocks.

The Party leadership would do well to remember that the purpose of a political party is to win elections, not to balance the books. It's all very well getting money to spend on expensive campaigns but if the way the money is got will put people off voting for you, it's at best a wasted effort and more probably, very risky indeed. People don't vote Labour because they get a glossy mini-pamphlet through their door with a photoshopped picture of Gordon Brown getting down with some kids on the cover. They vote Labour despite...well, you get the picture. The most effective means of getting people to vote for you is, always has been and always will be personal contact door to door with Party activists. That and having policies that actually help and empower people of course, and not selling off their homes, schools and hospitals!

This being the case, what is the worst thing Brown could possibly do now? Well, he could insist on sticking to the same old neo-liberal policies that have halved the number of Party members since 1997, and at the same time indicate symathy for Hayden Phillips' idea of restricting union donations - the one kind of donation that hasn't been involved in some kind of scandal! And this, er - this is what he is doing. Already Brown has got the unions to vote to stop themselves putting contempoorary resolutions to Labour Party Conference, under the cover of spurious election fever. This is highly likely to result in yet more union disaffiliations for Labour and deceasing union participation in anything to do with Labour or elections.

The old situation in which Labour had a virtual monopoly of the vote in many working-class areas has already been greatly undermined. Does Brown want to strike it the final blow, and condemn Britain to a future of coalition government? If so he's going the right way about it. We thought it was Blair who thought the formation of the Labour Party had been a mistake (!!!) and was over-keen on the Liberals - though the way the Liberals are going at the moment, they're more likely to form a coalition with the Tories than with Labour. And we all know what happens with "no overall control". We've probably seen it in our local councils. The invariable result is a f###ing mess.

The unions and the left are going to have to make a crucial decision, and make it now. There are two ways to reassert the voice of the working class in politics. One is to form a new workers' party, but if the union leaderships won't even assert their members' rights in the Labour Party, they certainly won't do that. The only alternative, then, is to fight wholeheartedly and unsparingly, starting now, to reverse both the undemocratic constitutional "reforms" of the Bournemouth conference and the current direction of the Labour Party. Otherwise those dedictaed Brown-noser union leaders like Derek Simpson who constantly insist on the primacy of supporting the Labour government, even if it's "not ideal", may soon find themselves not only without an "ideal" Labour government, but without any Labour government at all!