Our Carnival of Resistance: Migrants Rise Against the Hostile Environment

On Sunday 19th June 2022, Regularise, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Migrants Organise, Remember and Resist and Fridays for Future co-organised and staged a ‘Carnival of Resistance’ in London, as part of the Solidarity Knows No Borders week of action, to mark 10 years of the Hostile Environment* and to commemorate years of resistance in the struggle to end the UK Government’s hostility towards migrants and refugees. 

With over 450 people registered to attend, it was bound to be a popular carnival, with people travelling from across London and from further afield including from cities such as Manchester and Oxford.  We held the event in the beautiful gardens of the appropriately named ‘Living Under One Sun’, a welcoming community space in Tottenham. The event was free to attend, as were all the activities, and we were very fortunate with the weather.  

The space and activities on the day meant that we could learn together, create art, play together, make friends, dance, connect and build solidarity in the fight for mobility and migrants’ rights, justice and liberation. There were informative workshops on a range of topics including the following:

  • Haringey Anti-Raids ran two workshops outlining how to resist immigration raids to protect members of our communities who continue to be systematically targeted by the State. This included practical advice and tactics on what to do if you see an immigration van or immigration compliance and enforcement (ICE) officers. In the past months, there have been success stories where quick mobilisation and collective resistance have stopped people whose home is the UK from being abducted and detained during immigration raids in Peckham, Hackney and Glasgow. You can find more information on resisting immigration raids here.
  • Know Your Rights – Access to Healthcare was an information session led by Patients Not Passports exploring the healthcare system in the UK and what entitlements migrants (including undocumented and underdocumented people) have in accessing healthcare, and what barriers they face in accessing healthcare. Find out more information here.
  • Know Your Rights – Housing & Squatting was an information session organised by Regularise with speakers sharing their lived experience of homelessness due to the hostile environment’s restrictions on housing. Topics included a brief history of squatting and the laws in the UK, finding places to live and supportive communities through squatting disused non-residential places, being part of the squatting movement, and the pros and cons of squatting as migrants and refugees. The discussion was well attended, receiving positive feedback from the attendees. Find out more information about squatting here including practical squatters evenings.
  • Mitie Must Fall detailed how to fight against private companies that profit from the Hostile Environment. Mitie is the largest provider of immigration removal/detention centres and is also involved in deportations. 
  • An all-day arts and crafts tent was facilitated by Remember and Resist who guided people in lino printing and painting, which people of all ages enjoyed, creating some beautiful t-shirts, tote bags and pictures showing their support for border abolition, free movement for all, and in solidarity with all migrants.
  • Closing the day was the African Drumming workshop facilitated by West African Master Drummer Alex Dayo from Drumming School. Dozens of kids and adults participated, guided by our master drummer, providing a rhythmic backdrop to dance along to or to just relax and connect with old and new friends, for those who were not drumming.

Refreshments were available throughout the day and for lunch, we were treated to delicious food with flavours from South West Asia, including vegan options, and wonderful baklava for dessert. We had plenty to go round and it was incredibly filling. 

Fattoush and maqlubah dishes just before lunch was served to attendees.

After lunch, we opened up our kids tent for face painting and the kids were excitedly, but very patiently, lining up to get lions, unicorns, rabbits and more painted on their faces. 

Overall, the day was joyous, full of energy and life-enriching. The event demonstrated the collective need for people from all walks of life, including those with lived experience of being on the margins of society as a result of exclusionary immigration policies, and various communities coming together to learn, organise and strengthen each other’s communities. 

The Carnival of Resistance was made possible by the dedicated team of volunteers and organisers from the respective charitable and grassroots organisations, and supporters. 

Until we meet again, take care and solidarity from the carnival organisers. A luta continua! ✊🏿✊🏽✊🏻

*The Hostile Environment is a term coined in 2012 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to refer to a set of policies the Government would and has since introduced with the aim of making life unlivable for undocumented/irregularised migrants in the UK. Most of these laws were introduced in Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016. They include:

  • ‘Right to Rent checks’ –  the UK Government made it mandatory for landlords and agents to check the immigration status of potential and existing tenants. This requirement restricts members of British society who have been made undocumented/irregularised (with many having lived in the UK for more than 5, 10, and even 15 years) from being able to rent a room or property, thereby increasing the risks of exploitation and destitution that undocumented people face when trying to secure the basic need of housing. Another consequence of this policy is that it has increased racial discrimation particularly against African/African-Caribbean people looking for housing in the rental market. Currently, the Right to Rent scheme is only applicable in England as, after it was found to cause racial discrimination, it has been declared unlawful by the High Court halting its roll out in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 
  • ‘Right to Work’ – Though the UK Government created and introduced the offence of employing someone without authorisation to work in 2006, it was in 2016 that the Government effectively criminalised the act of working, itself, when they made it an offence for someone to work if they do not have authorisation to do so (either as part of their leave to remain or if undocumented). The Government also increased the penalties for an employer to employ someone with no authorisation to work, making it extremely difficult for undocumented people to find work whilst increasing their risks of exploitation and workplace abuse, and also making it difficult for employers to fill vacancies
  • ‘Bank account checks’ – In 2014, new legislation was put in place to prevent undocumented people from opening bank accounts by forcing banks to check the immigration status of people wanting to open new bank accounts as well as existing bank account holders. This puts undocumented migrants in a position where, in looking for alternative ways to hold funds, they could be exploited and/or scammed. After the Windrush Scandal was exposed, the Home Office temporarily suspended the checking of existing accounts.
  • ‘Restrictions to Universal Healthcare access, NHS charging & reporting’ – restrictions to accessing NHS care were expanded in 2014, firstly with the introduction of the immigration health surcharge (IHS) that is mandatory for all migrants living in the UK with temporary status (i.e. without ILR/permanent residence) to pay, along with a health care levy for anyone applying to migrate to the UK (the exception is those who are granted refugee or humanitarian protection status). In 2017, the Government introduced mandatory immigraiton checks, upfront charging (i.e. charging before any treatment is received) and denial of care (if unable to pay) for anyone deemed ineligible to receive free NHS care, i.e. undocumented people, regardless of whether they work and pay taxes. In England, if unable to pay healthcare debts of over £500, it was made a requirement for the NHS to notify the Home Office for enforcement which has put a barrier to migrants accessing healthcare even in the case of accidents and emergency (A&E) or for the treatment of specific infectious diseases that are exempt from charging. Fears around reporting and charging have led to otherwise avoidable deaths of undocumented people, e.g. due to COVID-19.
  • 20 Year Rule on Long Residence’ – In 2012, as part of the hostile environment, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government removed the ‘14 Year Rule on Long Residence’ and replaced it with the ‘20 Year Rule on Long Residence’. The 14 Year Rule on Long Residence introduced by the previous Labour Government under Tony Blair provided a route to settlement for long-term undocumented residents by permitting them to regularise their status following 14 years of ‘continuous residence’. This allowed them to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) (similar to ‘settled status’) immediately. In comparison, the current ‘20 Year Rule on Long Residence’ only permits undocumented migrants living in the UK to apply for Limited Leave to Remain (LLR) after 20 years of ‘continuous residence’ for 30 months (2.5 years) at a time over a 10 year period until becoming eligible to apply for ILR. This makes it over 30 years living in the UK until one can settle, meaning the duration to gain ILR has been more than doubled. While the population size of undocumented migrants likely remains the same, these undocumented members of British society are expected to live highly precarious lives for a lengthy period of time.

The exclusionary policies introduced, along with the punitive enforcement practices, essentially make border guards out of healthcare workers, social workers, landlords, staff at financial institutions, employers and university staff. As a result of restricting rights and access, many migrants have been made more vulnerable to exploitation, destitution and abuse, experienced increased precarity and for longer periods of time, lacked access to healthcare, and lived with a heightened fear of being detained and forcibly removed from their home in the UK; all contributing to the sustained suffering that undocumented people continue to endure whilst living in the UK.

The Hostile Environment (renamed the ‘Compliant Environment’) has been further bolstered by the new Nationality and Borders Bill that came into effect on 29 June 2022, a bill introduced by the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, which effectively criminalises those travelling by irregularised means to seek safety and/or better lives (going against international refugee convention) and pushes individuals and communities further into the shadows and margins of society.

N.B. The show of solidarity in the week of action is by no means the end. We have a long and arduous road to travel in the struggle for mobility and migrant rights, justice and liberation. Galvanised and determined as we are, we must be steadfast in our quest to achieve our aims – an end to the Hostile Environment against migrants and refugees, and an end to all forms of exclusion. We must strive to create communities and a society that welcomes all human beings with kindness and compassion, no matter where they were born or which part of the world they have moved from or through.

If you have any questions or would like to get involved by volunteering with Regularise, please contact us at info@regularise.org 

If you would like to organise a solidarity event or action together, reach us at solidarity@regularise.org

Check out/sign up to the FIRM Charter here and remember – Solidarity Knows No Borders.

#SolidarityKnowsNoBorders #EndTheHostileEnvironment #10YearsTooLong

Additional resources:

Anti-Raids (resisting immigration raids)

Looking to contact or to join an anti-raids group in your area? Here are some existing anti-raids Twitter accounts: @AntiRaids (Main contact if you see a raid) ;  @HaringeyAR (Haringey) ; @WFAntiRaids (Waltham Forest) ; @LewishamAR  (Lewisham); @BrisAntiRaids (Bristol) ; @Camdenantiraids (Camden) ; @NewhamAR (Newham); @TowerHamlets_AR (Tower Hamlets) ; @HackneyAntiRaid (Hackney) ; @SLantiraids (Southwark and Lambeth) ; @AntiRaidsLeeds (Leeds) ; @Deptford_AR (Deptford) ; @WestLdnAntiRaid (West London); @CPAntiRaids (Crystal Palace) ; @raids_anti (Croydon) ;  @McrAntiRaids (Manchester) ; @Antiraids_Ed (Edinburgh).

Getting involved: https://network23.org/antiraids/getting-involved/

Healthcare in the UK

Join the campaign to end the hostile environment in healthcare: https://patientsnotpassports.co.uk/join

All UK residents are entitled to free primary care, which means you can register with a GP regardless of your immigration status. All accident and emergency care is free for everyone. This includes those seeking asylum and those who are undocumented.  If you’re struggling to register with a GP, contact the Doctors of The World advice line which is open 10am to 12 midday Monday to Thursday on freephone 0808 1647 686.

Squatting and housing

ASS – Advisory Service for Squatters (if you need legal help/support with squatting) https://www.squatter.org.uk/

Address: Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX.

MONDAY to FRIDAY from 2pm-6pm

Email: advice4squatters@gmail.com

Notes for new squatters (including what squatting is): https://network23.org/ass/for-new-squatters/notes-for-new-squatters-2/

Practical Squatting (if you need to learn the how to’s on squatting and to meet others in order to find/form a crew to squat with): https://network23.org/ass/for-new-squatters/practical-squatters-evenings/

Email to find out where/when the next one is: practicalsquatters@riseup.net

London Renters Union (LRU): https://londonrentersunion.org/

Get involved in LRU: https://londonrentersunion.org/get-involved/

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