Friday, March 28, 2008 

Marred by inhumanity.

Again, you probably didn't notice, but yesterday saw the release of a report far more important than Tanya Byron's. The Independent Asylum Commission reviewed the system (PDF), and you probably won't be surprised to learn that it concluded:

Key Conclusions
1. The Commission has found almost universal acceptance of the principle that there must be an asylum system, and that it must be applied fairly, firmly and humanely. These criteria must be fulfilled for the UK system to be ‘fit for purpose’.
2. The Commission has found that the UK asylum system is improved and improving, but is not yet fit for purpose. The system still denies sanctuary to some who genuinely need it and ought to be entitled to it; is not firm enough in returning those whose claims are refused; and is marred by inhumanity in its treatment of the vulnerable.

Luckily, that means that there's someone in it for everyone. The Mail then opens its report with these first two paragraphs:

Public confidence in the asylum system is being eroded by the Home Office's poor performance in deporting failed applicants, a highly-critical report warns today.

The 18-month study by an independent panel also claims the system is failing to deal "firmly" enough with bogus applicants or to give real refugees the protection they badly need.

Throughout the article it's at pains to point out that it's the work of bleeding heart liberal left scum:

The commission is a think-tank of lawyers, clerics, liberal campaigners and experts.

The Independent Asylum Commission said its investigation would take account of a variety of viewpoints.

But critics were uneasy that it was influenced by charities and campaign groups involved with asylum issues, tilting the balance against more rigorous rules.

The body, set up by the Citizen Organising Foundation, which promotes community activism by training local leaders in campaigning techniques, is led by 12 commissioners, many of whom are associated with liberal causes.

They include Katie Ghose, a lawyer and director of the Institute for Human Rights pressure group.

Another is Zrinka Bralo, a journalist from Bosnia, who is executive director of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum in West London.

Also on the board is Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, canon theologian at Westminster Abbey, who has called for the poorest in society to be exempt from fines and debts, and Dr Silvia Casale, a prison reformer, criminologist and member of the United Nations sub-committee on prevention of torture.

Others include Lord David Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons and panel cochairman Ifath Nawaz, president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, who has claimed tougher counter-terrorism laws fuel extremism.

Of course, it doesn't say who these "critics" are exactly; probably because it'd have to list the MigrationWatch head himself, who doesn't seem to have bothered reading the report or even reading its conclusions before commenting, which makes clear that there's a culture of disbelief towards asylum seekers and their claims. He pops up in the Times' report as well with this comment:

“Despite its official-sounding title, this is a private initiative by a number of charities involved in asylum issues,” he said. “If you set foot in Britain and say the word ’asylum’ you have an 80 per cent chance of staying, more often than not illegally. No wonder they are still queuing up in Calais.”

Which appears to be the general attitude towards the report. The comments on the Times, Express and Mail articles are all united in their condemnation of asylum seekers in general. This one perhaps sums them all up:

This is a joke - if the UK were inhumane, it would not be such a magnet.

- Ian Millard, Exeter UK

Sigh. The Telegraph and Sun don't seem to have reported on it at all, or at least I was unable to find an article on it on either of their sites. The Express and Mirror entries seem to be directly from the wire services.

It's impossible not to agree with Matthew Norman in the Independent, the only newspaper which has consistently campaigned about the inhumanity currently inherent in the system, something dismissed by the Border and Immigration Agency's Lin Homer with the following:

The claims made in this report are not based on any thorough knowledge. I totally refute any suggestion that we treat asylum applicants without care and compassion.

110 pages worth of report and the person in overall responsibility says it's not based on any thorough knowledge. Could it possibly be that it's in fact your claims that are not based on any thorough knowledge, Ms Homer? In fact, would it be going too far to call you a fucking ignorant liar?

As Norman concludes:

What we of the liberal centre-left have done is join Brown, Miliband and all those who so absolutely fail to represent our beliefs in allowing ourselves to be brow-beaten into silent, sullen acquiescence by the unrelenting right-wing propaganda of recent decades. We glow in Sarkozy's facetious praise when we should shriek in rage about what a nasty, brutal, mean-spirited country our spineless apathy has helped create, and this report on the systematic maltreatment of asylum-seekers shames and diminishes us all.

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Monday, January 21, 2008 

The plight of Gaza.

The old maxim goes that a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Those imprisoned and at the mercy of the state are by definition the most at risk of ill-treatment.

By that definition, the enclave of Gaza is to all intents and purposes a prison, albeit an open air one patrolled from the air by helicopter gunships and remote-controlled drones. The two main exits from the strip, into Egypt and Israel respectively, are almost always shut, despite previous promises from Israel to keep them open, and even then exit is only possible through applications for visas, which are seldom issued. The irony is not lost on the people of Gaza that one of the few things guaranteed to get you out of the Strip is to be so seriously injured that the hospitals within the territory cannot cope with your injuries and so request a transfer to a hospital across the border.

For a number of months now Israel has been slowly but inexorably cutting the amount of power it allows into the Strip, ostensibly in response to the continuous fusillade of home-made rockets fired into Israel by the various militant groups, including Hamas, although strictly it is meant to be maintaining something approaching a ceasefire. Gaza's only power station, which was previously bombed by the Israelis during the 2006 incursion into Gaza which some argue prompted Hizbullah to launch its own raid into Israel, killing and capturing two soldiers, which in turn set-off the summer war between Hizbullah and Israel, cannot provide full power to the roughly 1.4 million Palestinians that live in the territory, and so the people partly depend on the supply into the Strip from Israel's own stations. Israel's move over the past week to an almost complete blockade meant that the station's dwindling supplies were almost down to nothing yesterday, and from being able to supply power for around 12 hours a day, those operating the station had no option but to plunge the territory into darkness. Combined with the economic blockade which has left farmers unable to sell their crops, the massive rise in unemployment and the relentless poverty that goes with it, Gazans are increasingly left to rely on food aid from charities and the UN.

Even this is now threatened by Israel's actions, which almost certainly constitute collective punishment, a war crime under the Geneva Convention. The sheer brazenness of Ehud Olmert, making clear that while live cannot go on as normal in the areas of Israel threatened by the sporadic, ineffective, impotent mortar fire, he'll make certain that life will also "not go on as usual" in Gaza, is the kind of bravado and belligerence which makes it incredibly difficult to believe that there's any chance of peace for years still yet to come. After all, what is exactly "usual" about life in Gaza? The only thing truly regular that we in the West see there is the protests and funerals; it's far too dangerous now for anyone other than local journalists to report on the territory, after Alan Johnson's kidnap last year, and so we hear very little about the crushing helplessness, the constant anger and fear, or the despair of a people that have long had all their hopes and dreams obliterated, of any kind of progress or improvement in their harsh lives.

But, says the neutral observer, wouldn't all this be ended and lifted if the Palestinians sorted themselves out and put a stop to the rocket fire? It would be lovely if things were so simple. The very firing of the Qassams is a sign of the weakness of the Gazans; they're the equivalent of a placebo, a weapon that makes those who fire them imagine that somehow it's resisting the Israelis, while all its doing is in fact contributing to the siege mentality. Even if Hamas decided to halt all the rocket fire tomorrow, the occupation itself would not be lifted, nor would the checkpoints be opened, or probably even the crops allowed through. The people would be back where they started, no better for anything that's occurred since the settlements were evacuated and the current policy of blockading the Strip was decided upon. Since Hamas seized the strip last year, the stranglehold has only tightened as Israel has tried to put pressure on the movement and dismally failed. Fatah's decision for its workers to strike in response only further put popular sentiment behind Hamas as the services disintegrated.

For the moment, Israel's casual inhumanity has been put checked somewhat by the international outcry, the only force which ever makes it so much as think twice,
with Ehud Barak agreeing that the curbs will be diluted tomorrow so that fuel, food aid and medicines can be delivered. Then it will doubtless be back to the same old, with Israel making certain that Gaza cannot sleep, work or just exist while Sderot is threatened by fireworks that occasionally injure or kill, but do cause significant psychological distress. The same fear and anxiety that Gazans live with their entire lives. As Israel continues to make their short existence as miserable as possible, there will never be a shortage of the young ready to take the places of those killed or arrested in their small acts of defiance. For a young country that is meant to feel existentially threatened from all sides, it is remarkably cavalier about those within that, without a settlement to satisfy them, will only continue to fight.

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Friday, November 30, 2007 


In more general terms, I confirm that it is Home Office policy to remove political dissidents to Uzbekistan

To me, this damns this government far more than anything that has currently emerged over the David Abrahams affair.

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Friday, August 10, 2007 

The inhumanity of one "anti-imperialist".

I began this week by writing a piece about the ructions on the pro-war left, linked in with Johann Hari's attack on Nick Cohen's polemic on the failures of the left and Oliver Kamm's article on the same day claiming that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki shouldn't be viewed as a crime. I'd never of imagined (although I perhaps should have) that by the end of this week I'd be writing about how one anti-war supposed leftist seems to have been trying his best to be as inhumane as those who cheered on the "shock and awe" in the first place.

It's well known that Neil Clark, rather than being an anti-imperialist as he describes himself, has a tendency to be apologetic towards such human rights defenders as Slobodan Milosevic, but even by his low-grade of rhetorical standards today's piece on Comment is Free scrapes the very bottom of the reactionary, unpleasant, nauseating barrel. Titled "Keep these quislings out", it's the first, and probably will be the only article to attack the growing campaign for Iraqi employees of the British armed forces to be given refuge here.

The entire basis of the article seems to be based on the mind-numbing, idiotic belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Despite the fact that the blogging campaign for the Iraqi employees' plight to be recognised was started by Dan Hardie, who opposed the war and opposes the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq, and that the vast majority who have wrote about it were all anti-war, the simple fact that some of those who supported the war are also now supporting the campaign has been enough for Mr Clark to aim his limp arrows against the translators in their entirety. There's nothing wrong with chucking vitriol at Harry's Placers or that fat turd Stephen Pollard, but doing so for the purpose of denying those with the threat of murder hanging over their heads is the moral equivalent of refusing to even piss on someone who's on fire because you don't like them.

Clark then compounds the insult by referring to those who have worked with the British forces as both "quislings" and "collaborators". It's quite clear what Clark's pointing towards: that those who dared to believe they could rebuild Iraq, regardless of how Saddam was overthrown, are the modern equivalent of the fascist apologists and enablers of the 1940s. This is all the more hypocritical because of a recent posting on Clark's own blog, entitled "There was only one Nazi Germany", where he agrees with Jonathan Cook that it's impossible to paint Iran as a modern-day fascist state. It seems it's fine to bring up the inescapable Nazis after all, as long as they help along your own twisted argument. Perhaps Clark ought to have read the accounts of three interpreters who were interviewed in yesterday's Guardian, especially the first:

I chose to work for the British because I love their democracy and passion for human rights and I want to see it in Iraq.

And who could possibly disagree with those sentiments, even if you disagree with the method which brought the British into Iraq? Iraq is a hellhole now, and it's a hellhole of our own making, but what kind of inhumane bastard would deny the Iraqis the opportunity to rebuild their country in our image purely because of who supported the war in the first place, or as the case is, their escape from murderers who share none of the democratic sentiments they do? It's also not as if Clark has only recently taken to throwing the "quisling" tag around: back in 2003, he wrote a comment piece on the murder of the Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, calling him the quisling of Belgrade.

Clark ends his flatulence with this especially noxious, illogical blast of wind:

If that means some [the Iraqi employees] of them may lose their lives, then the responsibility lies with those who planned and supported this wicked, deceitful and catastrophic war, and not those of us who tried all we could to stop it.

But this is a false dichotomy. The responsibility doesn't just lie with the warmongers, it also lies with the murderers executing those they see as collaborators, a view that Clark himself seems to share. It's up to those of us who tried to stop it to now redirect our efforts to ensure that as few more people die as a result of what was done in our name as possible. Clark instead would prefer that more blood is spilt rather than giving "self-centred mercenaries who betrayed their fellow countrymen and women for financial gain out of Britain" the opportunity of a life away from the constant threat of death purely because of the job they chose. As Jamie points out, if you don't oppose cold-blooded murder, how can you oppose war? Or is it, to come back again to the quisling charge, that Clark views such men and women as untermensch?

As others have suggested, maybe it's a good thing that such a disgusting, despicable piece of writing appeared on CiF. If this doesn't motivate more people to sign the petition and write to their MPs on behalf of those we've abandoned to a unimaginable future, then very little else will.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007 

Scum-watch: Burn, terrorists, burn!

Knowing my penchant for stalking the Sun newspaper, a friend of mine a couple of days ago asked if the Scum had started to complain about the care which Kafeel Ahmed was receiving. Ahmed, as I'm sure you've forgotten, was the member of the terrorist clown squad who opted once his martyrdom attempt had failed to turn himself into a moving, punching, God-shouting ball of flame. I laughed. Surely not even the Sun would quibble over the treatment of a man who could potentially hold vital information, not just about the London and Glasgow attacks, but also about other plots and jihadists he had been in contact with.

How wrong I was.

FURY erupted yesterday as it was revealed the NHS is lavishing more than £5,000 a day battling to save the suspected car bomber who turned himself into a human torch at Glasgow airport.

The whopping bill for specialist treatment is being run up even though Kafeel Ahmed’s chances of survival are said to be “practically zero”.

The cost to taxpayers emerged as Scotland Yard last night brought the first charges over the attempted bomb blitz on the UK a week ago.


Hospital treatment, skin grafts and round-the-clock nursing care have already cost a massive £36,000.

Every day up to 15 cops are on armed guard at the hospital — costing taxpayers thousands MORE.

A source at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital said: “It’s ironic considering he is accused of wanting to die. A lot of people think he should have been left to burn."

One would expect that anyone else who had suffered similar injuries, self-inflicted or not, would be treated in exactly the same way as Ahmed. The Sun almost appears to be suggesting that certain people, purely because of what they're alleged to have done, should be refused treatment and left to die. This prompts the question: where do you draw the line? Should only terrorists be refused treatment? How about murderers? Should those who try to commit suicide and fail, or self-harmers' be similarly denied? After all, they did it to themselves. Why should the taxpayer pick up the bill?

Health care, like the justice system, should be blind. Those seeking treatment shouldn't be judged on what they might have done, but on what's wrong with them. Ahmed, despite what he attempted to do, is as much human and as much deserves to live as the rest of us. This might seem unpalatable to some, and the cost of doing so might seem astronomical, especially if the patient might well die in any case, but to start refusing treatment is an incredibly slippery path. Regarding others as below the niceties which we extended to each other is something "they" do; the very last thing we should be doing is emulating their contempt for humanity in general.

The Scum leader additionally picks up the baton, in a comment titled "Terror madness":

THE £5,000 spent each day easing Kafeel Ahmed’s pain is mind-boggling.

Here is a suspected terrorist who apparently intended to die in flames, taking with him as many innocent people as possible.

Plenty wish he’d met his maker. But a cop’s heroism prevented it.

Now doctors are fighting to save him — against his will and at huge cost to the very people he would probably like to annihilate.

Yeah, and? Plenty of people are treated against their will: Ian Brady springs to mind. By the way, by "plenty" does the Sun happen to mean "we"?

He has the generosity of our welfare state to thank for those efforts, though he’s unlikely to thank a soul.

The tireless battle by NHS staff to save his life is a tribute to the democracy Ahmed would seemingly like to destroy.

Indeed it is. What does it say about our freedom and democracy that the nation's biggest selling newspaper wants to rip-up those very freedoms and seemingly let such people die without treatment? Our democracy deserves better than a newspaper which demands we do exactly what the terrorists' themselves want.

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