Archive for the ‘refugees’ Category

On the destruction of the ‘Jungle’, Calais

October 29, 2016

bulldozers

cannot erase memories
obliterate hardship
pulverise poverty
demolish bigotry
bury hatred

fire

cannot consume wounds
burn away torture
scorch suffering
ignite crushed spirits
blaze uncertainty

politicians

sitting in comfort
start conflict
invade countries
bomb civilians
divide and rule

people

create society
comfort losses
heal scars
renew hope
start anew

Adrift

October 29, 2016

They came – a few hundred, not thousands as claimed
Fleeing fear and persecution – they should not be blamed.
Desperate people, not a swarm, horde or flood
The same as you and me, made of flesh and blood.

Ils sont arrivés – quelques centaines, ce n’est son pas des milliers  selon
Qui fuyaient la peur et la persécution – ils ne devraient pas être blâmés
Des gens désespérés pas un essaim, une horde, ou une inondation
La même chose que vous et moi, de chair et de sang.

The Express and Daily Mail bleat unsparing, vile attacks
Some people sadly taken in by lies of right-wing hacks.
You might think World War III was on its way
If you read the tabloid press – so we need to sway

 «Aujourd’hui en France>> avec des attaques viles, impitoyables
Malheureusement certains croisent les mensonges de la droite.
Vous pourriez penser que la troisième guerre mondiale était sur son chemin
Si vous lisez la presse tabloïd donc nous aurons besoin de tangeur

the balance back – fight for the oppressed and the poor.
Unify against bosses, politicians who waged war
which created refugees; dispossessed, homeless –
It was not poor people who got us into this mess.

lutter pour les opprimés et les pauvres.
S’unifier contre les boss, les politiciens qui font la guerre
Qui a créé des réfugiés; dépossédés, sans-abri:
Ce ne fut pas de pauvres gens qui nous ont mis dans ce pétrin.

Immigrants were not responsible for the financial crisis
While bankers rake in billions, the media divides us.
We need solidarity, not racism against fictitious “angry mobs”
Who are no threat in reality, just want the chance to get jobs.

Les migrants ne sont pas responsables de la crise financière
Alors que les banquiers râtissent des milliards, les médias nous divisent.
Solidarité, contre le racisme fictif «des foules en colère»
Qui sont pas une menace en réalité , ils veulent une chance de trouver un emploi.

But they cannot work, just get by on an Azure card
Not welcome in certain places. Bureaucracy gone mad.
The system treats the asylum seeker like a criminal
No independence, singled out – the message is subliminal.

Mais ils ne peuvent pas travailler, juste obtenir une carte Azure
Seulement accepté dans certains magasins. Bureaucratie devenue folle.
Le système traite le demandeur d’asile comme un criminel
Pas d’indépendance, persecuté – le message est subliminal.

And the police respond with Operation Stack
COBRA is convened: we are under attack.
The refugee is dehumanised, feared by all and sundry
But millionaires are fêted, when they come to the country.

Et les flics réagissent avec l’Opération Stack
Le comité d’urgence est convoqué: nous sommes sous la menace.
Le réfugié est déshumanisé, craint par toute l’humanité
Mais les millionnaires sont acclamés, quand ils viennent au pays.

Anthology in solidarity with refugees

September 5, 2015

artPoems for People: an anthology in solidarity with Refugees

Aim: To publish and promote an anthology of poems to raise awareness of issues faced by refugees and show solidarity. Funds raised over and above the anthology’s costs will go to charities supporting refugees. The anthology will be produced by an experienced editorial committee, typesetter and Five Leaves Publications who will not charge for their time and will be available in print and as an ebook. Proceeds from sales will go to registered charities supporting refugees both in the East Midlands and abroad.

Donations are welcome – please click on the link above to donate to the cost of producing the anthology.

This is based on a suggestion of Ambrose Musiyiwa, who was inspired by the poetry collection 150 Poems for Human Rights. The plan is for an East Midlands anthology of a hundred poems or pieces of micro-fiction, in solidarity with the refugees who are taking to boats and rafts to cross the Mediterranean, or making their way with difficulty through Europe and, in a small number of cases, arrive in Calais with the hope of reaching the U.K. The aim of the anthology is to enable readers to take a view of the situation which is not governed by the fear and hatred, whipped up by the language of media and many politicians. The anthology will be produced by an editorial committee, typesetter and publisher who will work free of charge. The anthology will be published by Five Leaves Publications in Nottingham, and will be available both in print and as an ebook.

Submission Guidelines:

Please submit no more than three pieces of work. If you submit work which has previously been published, please give details of where it has appeared. The editors would particularly welcome writing which sheds a new light on the refugee experience in some way, writing which is specific rather than general, and writing which is not unremittingly gloomy, harrowing or preachy. We hope for a variety of work and an anthology which will interest, engage and surprise readers.

Poems should be no more than 42 lines (and much shorter work is welcome). Micro fictions should be no more than 100 words. All work should be single-spaced. Please include a biography of 50 – 100 words.

All submitted work should be in English. In the case of translated work, it is the translator’s responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright-holder of the original work.

Please send your submissions, preferably by email to poetsinsolidarity101@gmail.com by midnight on 28 September 2015. Send all material in a single word attachment AND in the body of the email. If you do not have access to email, you may submit by sending two copies of each piece of work by mail to: Poets in Solidarity with Refugees, 36 Leybury Way, Scraptoft, Leicestershire LE7 9UB. In either case, remember to include your contact details.

About: Poets in Solidarity with Refugees is a group of writers, artists and literature promoters, mostly based in the East Midlands, who want to share and welcome stories from refugees fleeing war-torn countries. Poems and fiction for the anthology will be selected by an experienced editorial panel and backed by a promotional campaign.

Darker Shade of Blue – the Azure card

January 20, 2015

These are notes from a public meeting hosted by Leicester Civil Rights Movement, which detailed the plight of asylum seekers in the UK, today.

We heard first-hand accounts of what it is like living on an Azure card – the card given to asylum seekers who are under Section 4, awaiting a result on their claim for asylum. The card limits where you can go to for food and other essentials: asylum seekers live on a measly £36.62 a week. They do not have access to other benefits and are not legally allowed to work. The voucher scheme was first used in England in 1999 and is currently frozen – it does not go up in line with inflation.

“Not having cash means that you cannot shop in charity shops or the market, which would be cheaper and preferable to supporting big business. I can only use Tesco, Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury for food – otherwise I need to exchange the card for cash”.

“I have been an asylum seeker for three years, living in a pub and destitute. When you get the Azure Card, it reminds you of a sunny sky, a symbol of hope. But the reality is not like that. Maybe your nearest supermarket is far away, or you may be old, disabled or sick – you still have to walk to the supermarket and back”.

Azure card

“It makes you feel like a criminal, people in the queue stare at you”.

“I can’t save any money from week to week – if you do not use all the money up within a week, it disappears. It makes you a prisoner – you have no choice about where to shop or what to spend your money on. You cannot save up to give someone a gift, or to celebrate. You need to rely on other people to exchange the card for cash – this makes you vulnerable to exploitation”.

“The Home Office want to send me to Nottingham – I don’t know the city, where the shops are – how can I use the card?”

“The card can only be used in the big supermarkets, Mothercare and Boots. I am only allowed to buy food and toiletries – nothing else. I can’t get a phone card, or use a bus. I need to transfer money into a bank account in order to get a phone contract or top up a phone. I can’t do that with an Azure card”.

We heard that it is Home Office policy not to believe applicants when they first apply, so that the vast majority of asylum seekers need to produce additional evidence so that their case can be reconsidered. They are then given an Azure Card, which they could remain on for years.

Asylum seekers have to report to a centre every month – they should be given a bus pass to enable them to do this – but many do not have the confidence to challenge a shop assistant or bus driver if they are refused, the knowledge to whom they should apply, or the English language skills to fill in a form correctly. In addition, many suffer from mental health issues due to the traumatic experiences from which they are fleeing. This adds to the alienation, contributes to stress and makes their situation even worse.

This affects thousands of people, in every major city in the UK.

Asylum seekers cannot travel to visit friends or a solicitor – they cannot travel by coach or train. They have a right to live as well as merely survive. They don’t have access to money, clothes, etc. Women have been denied sanitary pads. Most asylum seekers have had their Azure card refused as they have tried to use it, even in supermarkets which are part of the scheme. Often, because of trauma, they do not have the confidence to argue their rights with a cashier – they may just walk away and their journey to the shop is wasted. If they create a fuss in the shop, generally their card would be accepted – but this draws attention to themselves. Pregnant women have been denied use of the Azure card in Asda – “We can’t take these”.

Why do the government do this?

They want people to leave and become fed up with living in Britain. The official line is that asylum seekers can go to a supermarket and buy food and essentials – what more do they need? There is no account given to people’s basic human rights.

Charities like the City of Sanctuary link people up with asylum seekers, to exchange cards for cash. This helps to some extent, but increases the vulnerability of asylum seekers and affects what little independence they have.

Obviously, we need to get rid of the card, but it is just part of the whole corrupt and rotten detention system. The big four supermarkets make millions out of asylum seekers’ plight – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/supermarkets-rake-44million-governments-asylum-4635562

We heard from a volunteer with Refugee Action, a charity which offers support to asylum seekers and those with Section 4 support.

He reported that Iain Duncan Smith was considering extending the use of the Azure card to people with gambling, drug or alcohol problems, so that they can only spend money on essentials. This stigmatises people with drug and alcohol problems even more than they are already. There is a real risk that while the scheme may begin with people who have drug / alcohol problems, it could eventually cover everyone on benefits.

Asylum seekers cannot unify as a community – Home Office seeks to chop-up their means of support, by scattering them across the country – so they are disenfranchised. The message is that you are not welcome here. Much of the mainstream media constantly spreads propaganda that asylum seekers and immigrants are to blame for the country’s problems, responsible for failings of services. Thus, the government seeks scapegoats, excuses to carry out its austerity and cuts programme.

“People with dependency issues and drink / drug problems could unite with asylum seekers to stop this campaign of stigmatisation. People with problems often self-medicate – I knew a woman who lost both her children, but ended up using heroin. People can be labelled as “criminals”, “CHAVs”, “uneducated”, but I have experienced peer-led communities, who helped me overcome my drinking. This was as a result of a social phobia – used as a coping mechanism”.

“There is a connection, sympathy and similarity between members of these communities, both are alienated and disenfranchised. Whereas, if you have plenty of money, you are welcomed into the country on what is called an “entrepreneurial visa”, yet vulnerable people, who have gone through horrific experiences, are being targeted”.

“We need to defend high quality, publicly provided drug and alcohol services. We need to empower a disenfranchised working class and connect up community organisations with each other”.

It was felt that getting rid of the Azure card is fixing a small cog in a big wheel – but it would be an important start and give people confidence that they can win victories. If people are not getting served in a supermarket, we could target each supermarket individually. Pickets could support people, there could be a photo-op with giant Azure cards. We need to give people the confidence to approach management if they are refused.

The findings of the meeting correspond with a large-scale report carried out by the Red Cross, drawn from first-hand experience with working with asylum seekers across the country. They recommend withdrawal of the scheme completely and abolition of the law which does not allow Section 4 asylum seekers to receive any cash – http://www.scribd.com/doc/234776188/Azure-Card-Report-2014 – It found that the scheme affects the mental health of the vast majority of asylum seekers, most of them do not understand it or their rights, the vast majority have been refused use of the card and they feel embarrassed and stigmatised as a result of using it.

Sodexho run the Azure card system. The Mirror ran a story showing the money made from asylum seekers by the “big four” supermarkets – Tesco £20.6m, Asda £11.3m, Sainsbury £5.9m, Morrisons £2.4m. “Often people are asked for their signature to buy something. Shops are inconsistent – they may take a card one week and not the next”.

“If you ring the Home Office, they say that all shops are aware of the scheme and they would chase up any shops not complying with it – however, how many asylum seekers would know who to contact, how could they without a phone card?”

I would add that this stigmatisation of marginalised groups is part of capitalism. It is a deliberate strategy, to isolate and atomise working-class and poor people. Mainstream politicians, of all parties, argue that cuts are inevitable and we have no choice but to accept austerity.

Yet the people of Greece and Ireland have shown that there is an alternative to division and scapegoating, by rising up en masse against debts and water charges. We need to do the same here, and also build a political voice for those who have no party to speak for them. I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition – which is an attempt to build a new political voice for the oppressed.

Stunted growth

April 26, 2014

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/dailystar/Pictures/2013/11/29/226942_mainimg.jpg

 

Fragile flowers should be left to sink roots

Drink deep, life-giving liquid.

Burst open in a joyous display of colour

Run riot, in glorious exuberance.

 

Instead they find themselves uprooted

Forced to fend for themselves.

Amidst mass-produced slaughter,

Innocence wilts and dies.

 

Children dodge bullets and traffic.

Violence packaged and commodified.

Desperate, they hawk blood-red roses

In the fast lane of life.

 

Poem inspired by a news segment on BBC Newsnight, in which a father in Syria describes trying to care for his family, with no hope of getting a job, and no welfare state. He says that he watches his young children try to sell flowers to passing motorists – most ignore their attempts. When his youngest daughter gets tired, he takes over himself, but he said that the children sell more flowers than he can.

 

Paul Murphy (Socialist Party MEP) on the humanitarian crisis as a result of the civil war:

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6512

 

 


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’ (£4 pbk, £2.50 pdf e-book).

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