Humanitarian Action and the Propagation of Racism as World Order

An anthropological perspective


The historical role of anthropology in creating the concept of race and propagating it into a colonial reality of global power systems provides key context to probing both today’s role and challenges of the field at its intersection with humanitarian action. This article applies an anthropological perspective to humanitarian racial dynamics, progressively identifying five principle mechanisms which serve to uphold oppressive infrastructures. These racial dynamics and mechanisms will here be conceptualised, contextualised and then unpacked – drawing their bases from specific examples of case studies in contexts of institutional fragility in Gulu, Juba and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The anthropological analysis of humanitarian propagation of racism illuminates key corresponding challenges for the sector in fragile settings. Racial inequality impedes and undermines the core humanitarian mission, and addressing it presents an essential contemporary challenge to the sector.


Establishing key concepts as well as the context within which they will be applied is imperative. Before evaluating the role of anthropology in the humanitarian sphere and the challenges it faces in fragile states, it is necessary to elaborate on the key elements of said inquiry so as to better understand their deployment throughout.

2.1. Conceptualisation
2.1.1.What is institutional fragility?

The context of institutional fragility, or the ‘fragile state’, is one which in itself presents a challenge to humanitarian actors. Fragile states are traditionally considered those whose:
‘state structures lack political will and/or capacity to provide the basic functions needed for poverty reduction, development and to safeguard the security and human rights of their population.’ 
Recent years have seen this definition evolving into an even more vague one of ‘fragility as a combination of risks and coping capacities in economic, environmental, political, security and societal dimensions’.
Fragility also designates failure, violence and a threat to the international community. It has thus been critiqued for its location of culpability in affected nations which ignores (and distracts from) failures and involvements and international and subnational levels. Such a location of culpability legitimises intervention through justification by negation that solutions to this ‘fragility’ come from ‘non-fragile’ states and their actors, without interrogating existing power structures or their implications. Therefore, being present in such a problematic context as institutional fragility in itself poses a challenge to humanitarian action and its non-political agenda.

2.1.2.What is anthropology?

Anthropology almost defies definition, leaving it up to its practitioners and those who engage with it to dictate of what it consists. Such lack of definition is corroborated by Perrson-Fischier:
‘Anthropology is the study of man (GR. anthropos). Anthropologists study humans, culture and societies all over the world. This means that anthropology does not have a specific subject matter as its objective of study […] As long as it involves humans, anything and everything can be the object of study for anthropologists.’
Such an interpretation of the field as so broad as to be without a ‘specific subject matter as its objective of study’ suggests that the role of anthropology in society is similarly relative and vast, however the rather stricter history of anthropology as a racial science has held enormous impact in dictating and defining comprehensions of ‘man’. This has far-reaching consequences in the constructs through which we understand cultures, societies and people. It is therefore essential to contextualise anthropology by delving into its history in order to be able to discuss its role in humanitarian action as well as the challenges the sector faces.

2.2. Contextualisation
2.2.1. A reflexive turn

Nazaruk’s assertion that anthropology is steeped in subjectivity, and their emphasis on the ‘reflexive turn’ (auto-anthropology) leads me to make a contextualising self-analysis. Bearing a life-experience of whiteness, resource-rich privilege, euro-centric education and systems of knowledge which ‘other’ those identified as divergent from the values of neoliberal capitalism, risks colouring my anthropological perspective. Furthermore, having no contact with affected people whilst undergoing studies which render them academic subjects, my understandings are detached from the reality they attempt to engage with. Although this paper will article to be thoroughly well-founded it is inevitable that it will be affected by said factors.

2.2.2. Anthropological history: the construction of race

Nell Irvin Painter’s book The History of White People outlines in detail how anthropological scientists toiled for centuries in (now-denounced as baseless) efforts to construct the idea of human races and categorise people based on physical traits and ‘moral’ characteristics; race as a concept predicated on the superiority in terms of beauty, slavery, labour and class of the white race(s). These anthropologists consist of western academic elites whose pseudoscientific efforts to validate their own superiority would last for centuries and still retain much legitimacy.
‘Biologists and geneticists (not to mention literary critics) no longer believe in the physical existence of races – though they recognize the continuing power of racism […] It took some two centuries to reach this conclusion, after countless racial schemes had spun out countless different numbers of races, even of white races, and attempts at classification produced frustration.’
Irvin Painter’s analysis is corroborated by that of Hoyt which highlights the danger such a construct’s consequences continue to perpetuate. This construction of race pedalled by anthropologists with all the legitimised weight of academia and science behind them, as well as the concept’s inextricable link with superiority, has acted as an essential axis of oppression since the eighteenth century whilst playing an integral role in violent and political measures against the poor, working class and people of colour, as well as the colonial project.

Anthropology has therefore done much to dehumanise the human and its legacy is powerful since the construct of race feeds essentially into the way people and cultures are still understood. In light of this, in the current context of humanitarian action in fragile states, it is crucial to look at the role anthropology plays in terms of understanding racial dynamics in these settings. Particularly since such themes surrounding race often go superficially passed over. Consequently, interrogating the role of anthropology in the racial dynamics and racialization of the sector is an endeavour which this paper will undertake.


Racial dynamics are immense, complex and pervasive in the humanitarian sector, and will not be fully addressed in this paper. It is of course far from the truth to imply that all westerners are white and all those affected by humanitarian crises are people of colour. Nonetheless, although such false binaries certainly exist, there are real tendencies of affected populations to be largely non-western people of colour and humanitarian ‘international personnel’ to be white westerners. When addressing such dynamics it must be with the consciousness that race does not only mean skin colour. Whiteness is a construct of power and will be treated as such going forward.

3.1. Racial binaries in humanitarian language and literature

A key aspect of racial dynamics in humanitarian aid is the propagation of artificial racial binaries: the white race versus the otherized non-white race. This is because the concept of humanitarianism is ‘predicated on whiteness’. Whiteness with its inherent meaning of superiority defines by negation those who do not fall within its category as non-white and therefore inferior: a binary which is consistently exemplified in both theory and practise.
Baker identifies this binary in his discussion of humanitarianism as neocolonialism, interpreting it as a ‘space that exists between a privileged U.S. ‘helper’ and a the subaltern African ‘helped’. A space that was historically constructed around, and still manifests itself today because of, whiteness’. Such a space is reinforced by the language which steeps the humanitarian sector, a reinforcement which a brief look at its linguistics can confirm. ‘Humanitarian action’ lays out a definition of those who are active, and by negation those who are passive; ‘recipients’ differentiates between those who actively give and those who passively receive; ‘beneficiaries’ similarly differentiates between those who passively benefit, and those who act in order to create/ provide this benefit, and, ‘victim’ connotes passivity, contributing to stereotypes that erase individuals by equating them to their situations: the grammatically active subject and the passive object are clearly divided. Such language is reproduced throughout the sector in practise and literature, and, although not of itself a core generator of racial dynamics, is emblematic of the racialized concepts which scaffold humanitarian ideologies.

In humanitarian agencies’ Codes of Conduct such differences are clear cut: rules and regulations are starkly different with regards to affected people and humanitarian professionals, with the official literature hinging on such vocabulary and the dynamics it entails. Although there is meaningful room for this differentiation – such as in terms of safeguarding – a failure to diverge whatsoever from this binary erases the reality of humanitarian action as something undertaken first and foremost by affected people themselves, when almost all humanitarian professionals are from affected communities. Such binaries propagate damaging and reductive racialized ideologies of white saviourism and fail to recognise the complex realities of humanitarian work, eschewing affected people into passive invisibilities and subtly upholding racial stereotypes.

3.2. Racial inequality in (mal)practice

The racialized ideological binaries inevitably translate from theory and linguistics into practise. The case of humanitarian intervention in Gulu, Uganda from 2006 exemplifies this. The town with a population of just over 100, 000 had over 500 NGOs operating within it. It was consequently flooded with white foreign humanitarian workers, most of whom were afforded gated and guarded private accommodation, 4x4s and, most importantly, immense salaries (frequently over $100 000 per annum) with Ugandan people performing the same or similar work receiving salaries which were small fractions of this sum. White humanitarian professionals were also afforded regional management or director positions with little or no experience. The intervention provoked reactions in regional press such as ‘What are all those NGOs doing in Gulu?’ as well as investigations alleging the organisations’ direct contribution to child labour and exploitation in the district. The ‘space’ identified by Baker and DuBois exists here physically in the form of keen lifestyle and resource disparity. It is a disparity which demonstrates the tangible manifestation of a propagation of racialized ideologies. A vocabulary of beneficiaries, help, aid, recipients etc. quickly becomes inadequate and distorted under this anthropological spotlight.

Catastrophically, the inequalities evidentiated in Gulu are emblematic of the worldwide humanitarian presence.
“When you are local, you’re not paid equally to international employees, and that determines where you will live, what type of car you use, how you are able to enhance your own security.”
Local staff are paid, on average, four times less than their international counterparts (nine times less in pacific countries) despite similar levels of education and experience – with international staff also often having extensive benefits including double the quantity of annual leave as well as accommodation, health insurance, additional training, psychosocial support and even children’s school fees paid for by their organisation. This standardised dual salary systems is cited as an ‘economic apartheid’ creating damaging brain drains in places of operation. Over 80% of local humanitarian workers said that their pay was not sufficient to meet their everyday needs. The dire practical manifestations of such disparate ideological binaries therefore fiercely perpetuate racist inequality as well as poverty and fragility itself. The effect this has on the safety of local professionals is of serious concern, and is reproduced by the recent rise of ‘Remote Management’ which, despite potential advantages (such as efficiency and cost reduction), effectively outsources personal risk to national staff.

These differences have life and death consequences. Worldwide, 80% of humanitarian personnel killed, kidnapped or seriously wounded are local staff (overwhelmingly people of colour) working in their country of nationality. This lethal inequality was identified in an OCHA publication as increasing alongside fatality in 2017, with improved risk sharing measures urgently needed.

3.3. The scales and silences of humanitarian racism

Racial and national inequalities are therefore formal systemic elements of the humanitarian industry. Not only that, however, oppressive racial dynamics are equally rife among humanitarian individuals. Importantly, the Australian wage gap study also reveals a culture of silence and taboo amongst staff surrounding their material inequalities. White international staff are cited as as being reluctant to discuss such issues due to personal vested interests, and quickly defensive when addressed, whereas national staff are generally unable to discuss them due to dependence on their organisations and the entrenched unequal hierarchies and power dynamics to which they are subjected. As well as silence as tacit complicity, innumerous testimonials evidence other overtly racist prejudice and behaviour of individual humanitarians. It is thus clear that racial power dynamics are at play on every scale of humanitarian sphere.

These inequalities created by humanitarian action are not exclusively the result of racial dynamics. Oppressive racial dynamics do however, play a fundamental role by feeding into such material realities. Racialized concepts of whiteness as western, superior and more valuable logically translates into the treatment of white westerners as just that – more valuable beings in the humanitarian organism who are provided greater wealth, resources, quality of life and safety.


The humanitarian sector’s dehumanising objectification and invisibilization of people of colour who have survived sexual violence contributes to oppressive racial constructs that position people of colour (particularly females) as inherently less human and valuable. The handling of sexual violence ‘scandals’ alongside a brief look at case studies of South Sudan and the DRC will provide context for this interpretation, demonstrating how decades of failure to carry out real inclusion, participation and centring of affected people is linked with a denial to adopt a ‘reflexive turn’ or meaningfully interrogate the racial power dynamics of humanitarian work from an anthropological perspective.
Recurrent corporealization of survivors of sexual violence, as well as devaluation in comparison to white counterparts, speaks to the subject-object binary that humanitarianism perpetuates. Both processes are linked, acting as methods of dehumanisation and playing key roles in contexts of institutional fragility.

4.1. The comparative valuation of violated bodies

A report from the Feinstein International Centre shows that following the high-profile subjugation of a group of female humanitarian aid workers to sexual violence in Juba, South Sudan, women who were international staff were immediately evacuated from the country and provided with relevant physical, psychosocial and emotional healthcare and put on indefinite sick leave. The Sudanese staff members however who had experienced the same thing, were left in Juba, with the report declaring it ‘unclear’ what support they were provided, if any, and suggesting that it is likely they would be expected to rely themselves on local health care services since resident staff have different packages. It concludes that national staff are ‘often disadvantaged in the care they receive’. An extreme reproduction of the material inequalities earlier exposed, this example of race dynamics in South Sudan demonstrates the dehumanisation and devaluation of black bodies, with white humanity and pain being comparatively centralised.
Such valuation is further evidentiated by the continued overt sexual exploitation exacted by the aid industry on affected people. With internal inquiries dating back to 2001 and over 40 major organisations implicated, the scale of systemic sexual violence is both astonishing, prolonged and well known by the sector itself. In a ‘Do No Harm’ roundtable on the issue, INGO representatives chose to emphasise the scandals’ impact on on the integrity and funding of their organisations, conceding that 5% of ‘complaints’ made by beneficiaries are relating to (highly unreported) sexual violence, but dismissing the complaints as being ‘often a way to vent’. The crude dismissal of voices of affected people on their experiences of sexual violence, alongside a focus on industry priorities demonstrates the extent of the devaluation taking place.

Affected people of colour lose when comparatively valued against the vested interests of white international workers and their organisations.

4.2. Spectacular Suffering: white narratives invisibilize Congolese humanities

Elisa García-Mingo’s anthropological paper ‘Cuando los cuerpos hablan’ draws from ethnographic research with survivors of sexual violence in the DRC and discusses how they are both regarded and treated by humanitarian actors as mere bodies, passive objects of violation with narratives heavily focused on the brutalisation of their physicality which invisibilises and disenfranchises them as individuals and actors with stakes and control in their own situation. Survivors’ own narratives are demonstrated as being distorted and written over by humanitarian actors who contribute to a relocating of testimonials’ power and truth in objectified interpretations focusing on physical aspects. García-Mingo attests that the humanitarian sphere ‘concibe los cuerpos de las mujeres como “cuerpos sociales”, en el sentido de que la guerra transforma los cuerpos individuales en cuerpos sociales.’  The study outlines how humanitarian organisations actively reproduce reductive and damaging stereotypes of Congolese people and the DRC as a country, as well as reinforcing inter and extra-sectorial colonial amnesia.

The systematic dehumanisation of Congolese women for the purpose of gaining funds and legitimising intervention has led to ‘mass-mediafication’ of human suffering, and its transformation into a spectacle, as evidenced by decades of humanitarian campaigning hinging on reductive racial narratives.
‘Este tipo de historia […] encaja en los estereotipos que circulan sobre la salvajería del África Negra […] Las agencias humanitarias y los productores de conocimiento han contribuido a elaborar una imagen problemática de la RDC que tiende a la simplificación y al reduccionismo.’
Such narratives are created for western audiences, and erase the identities and existences of their subjects by emphasising shocking corporal horror without including names, testimonials, voices or perspectives of the people themselves. Congolese women are thus corporealized by whitewashing their narratives which transforms them into the object of their bodies.

Such dehumanisation and devaluation fuels entrenchment of racist structures in humanitarian action through the commodification of black bodies and their suffering as objects of consumption for western audiences and donors.


The metaphor of humanitarian architecture against its blueprint efficiently resumes the key challenges of anthropology in the sector. The case studies from contexts of institutional fragility in Uganda, DRC and South Sudan have helped demonstrate the existence of complex and oppressive racial structures throughout the profession.       These are however, in stark contrast to the ‘blueprint’; the aspired functioning of the humanitarian organism. The blueprint consists of essential principles and focuses which supposedly lie at the core of humanitarian work. In practise however, an anthropological perspective on racial dynamics has shown this not to be so.

5.1. Key challenges for humanitarian action

The humanitarian sector’s perpetuation of racial inequality is in direct contradiction to the reasons for which it purports to exist. The core humanitarian principles, particularly those of humanity and impartiality, are actively impeded and turned on their head by these inequalities. The ultimate humanitarian mission of saving lives and a needs-based alleviation of human suffering is doomed so long as the sector’s own structures propagate oppression which causes suffering and costs the lives of affected people of colour. So long as humanitarian actors continue to manufacture the very poverty and fragility they aim to address, the challenge of dismantling their oppressive racial structures will remain absolutely paramount.

Contexts of institutional fragility are those of humanitarian action’s standard operation (presented in this paper’s case studies) and heighten these inequalities due to the increased vulnerability factors affecting their residents. Institutional weakness, corruption, or collapse provokes an environment highly conducive to the exploitation of unequal power dynamics. It is therefore essential the sector interrogates its racist structures and holds itself accountable, because it is uniquely positioned to impunatively exploit them.

The structural mechanisms afore-identified and explored, here collected, include:
> Enforcement of an ideology of binaries between employees and ‘beneficiaries’. (3.1.)
> Vastly different renumeration, benefits and promotion practices between white people and resident people of colour. (3.2.)
> Cultures of wilful silence on racial inequality. (3.3.)
> The devaluation of objectified bodies of colour in favour of white interests. (4.1.)
> The imposition of white narratives: dehumanising erasures. (4.2.)
The meaningful addressing and deconstructing of each of these structures pose key challenges to the humanitarian sector. Until it meets them, its core principles and focuses which pretend a prioritisation of humanity, will translate ineffectively, if at all, from paper to reality.

5.2. The central position of anthropology

As a field concerned by humans, cultures and societies, anthropology is excellently positioned to study, denounce, discuss and deconstruct what it once constructed: race. A concerted and continuous effort to sustain such a spotlight could contribute to mitigating the extent and proliferation of racial inequality by humanitarian actors. An anthropological focus could also illuminate the interaction of racial dynamics in complex social networks with those of nationality, class, gender identity, functionality, sexuality and other social axes. Such an sorely needed undertaking should challenge the perpetuation of inequality’s exploitation in fragile contexts of silence and taboo.

Perhaps through dismantling the humanitarian edifice and reconstructing a more levelled one in accordance with its raison d’être, it could for the first time somewhat resemble its paper counterpart.


The humanitarian propagation of structural racism around the world, both within and without of its own remit, is partly evidenced in this anthropological perspective on the sector’s racial dynamics and racialization. Formal and informal industry-wide standard racial inequalities serve to make white humanitarian actors into their own ‘beneficiaries’ whilst disadvantaging and endangering affected people of colour. At both individual and systemic levels these social dynamics are in play, and serve to transform humanitarianism into a mechanism of racial oppression.
The comparative valuing and centring of white voices, narratives, bodies and lives as superior upholds racist and colonial constructs, particularly in contexts of institutional ‘fragility’, the exploitation of which presents a key contemporary challenge to the humanitarian sector going forward, and the role of anthropology within.


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Weaponised Sovereignty and Enforcement of Human Crisis

On the externalisation of European migration controls

The shifting paradigm of migration control paints a new and foreboding European landscape home to a remoulded weaponised sovereignty which instrumentalises the private sector and its neighbouring countries in order to bar migrating people from accessing laws created in their interest. Extra-legal and unofficial channels of control have been erected leading to the impediment of access to existing as the legal subject ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum-seeker’ to whom International Refugee Law applies. In her paper La dimensión externa del derecho de la union europea en materia de refugio y asilo: un examen desde la perspective del non-refoulement Joana Abrisketa unpacks the externalisation of the European Union’s (E.U.) migration controls, the mechanisms through which the shifting system is implemented and the legal implications and obscurities it entails. This article will respond to these findings by analysing the core dilemmas arising from the text. Key problems posited by the new externalised system include, the tension between the controls and the individuals’ right to leave their country, the volatile form of sovereignty being utilised and the insufficient and incomplete nature of current jurisdiction. These fundamental tensions and challenges arising from externalised migration controls and their applications to non-refoulement scaffold the new framework of security, ‘irregularity’ and illegality which force affected people into ever-worsening and protracted situations of crisis and vulnerability.


The identification of a two-headed monster in the form of a dual external and internal migration control system which sees the erection of virtual borders, private outsourcing, third state manipulation via ‘agreements’ and the creation of international and transit zones which fragment state territory gestures towards a new kind of insidious selectively contortionist sovereignty which is increasingly utilised in the reinforcing of Europe’s anti-migrant paradigm.
These measures are indicative of the adaptive nature of the kind of sovereignty wielded by European states which can be expanded extraterritorially and imposed, or withdrawn to suit their respective interests. In the context of the migration controls identified, sovereignty is not only privatised, but actively weaponised against forcibly displaced people on, or aiming to arrive at, the continent. The volatile kind of sovereignty which effectively engenders such varied mechanisms and the system’s duality is one which equips particular potency thanks to accumulated resources and influences of its holders, which can then be expanded extra-territorially and imposed onto other sovereign states or which can equally be withdrawn and renounced to private and other external actors according to its interest. The wilful fragmentation of state territory and jurisdiction through the creation of international and transit zones such as the creation of such an ‘international zone’ in Paris’ airport and the use of Christmas and Manus Islands by the Australian state to process its asylum applicants are given examples of the phenomenon. The legal amputation of the state’s own territory in terms of jurisdiction shows its ceding of legal control and responsibility to external actors in order to undermine the principle of non-refoulement and enable the return and deportation of people seeking asylum without violating international law since they have, thanks to such sovereign acrobatics, not technically entered state territory and are thus not subject to asylum-seeker status, but rather left with an undefined legal status. Furthermore, this ceding of control is accompanied by the gaining of control by the private sector whose air and transport actors take no-entry decisions and fulfil a border-control role on behalf of their state contractors. The sinister placing of the prevention of human movement into the free market not only further empowers the private and security sector within the conventional realms of state jurisdiction and control, but incentivises the proliferation of the anti-migration European paradigm and its mechanisms by monetarily incentivising private security actors.

The opposite type of shift in sovereignty, however, is witnessed in the readmission agreements between European and third states. The state’s sovereignty and jurisdiction has been assessed as exceptionally extending beyond its territory, and that a case by case assessment must be enacted so volatile these legal contexts (Bankovic et. al. c. Belgium). Abrisketa, however, highlights the dubious nature of the judicial consent exercised by third states in these ‘cooperative’ agreements, as well as the sovereignty:
‘en el marco de los acuerdos de asociación se suscita la cuestión sobre las condiciones en las que los Estados de origen de los refugia – dos asumen sus compromisos, aun cuando exista la manifestación jurídica del consentimiento y, por tanto, de la soberanía’
These accords facilitate the transfer of money and other resources to the third state in order to encourage them to both prevent their population from migrating, and preemptively preparing for readmission when they do. Such examples include the agreement between Italy and Libya which affords the Libyan state with financial, material and consultative support, boats, and the training of coast guards. The issue of jurisdiction is thus outsourced to make these states the ‘guardians’ of Europe’s external borders. European sovereignty again reshapes and reapplies itself according to the vested social and political interest of its owner, now reaching extra-territorially. Such mechanisms give rise to an understanding of a kind of shapeshifting sovereignty which takes on new significance in the continent’s securitised response to increased migration this decade. Traditional state functions and concepts of sovereignty are subverted. International justice bodies are having to take increasing decisions on the grey frontiers of its insufficient jurisprudence to regulate and guide the interpretation and application of the law, just as it is deliberately circumvented and stretched into loopholes by states at their convenience.


The ways by which European state sovereignties are currently equipped to evade the legal order therefore create a stark tension with the rights of individuals. The obfuscation of the legal order and creation of circumventing exterior systems also puts into doubt the legal legitimacy of their application to individuals. The text thus throws into question the legitimacy of both parties, although it is not exactly a level playing field. Art. 14 Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives all people the right to seek asylum. The legal status gained by people fleeing their country from persecution becomes that of refugee once they leave their country for said motivations. People prevented from leaving their country are thus unable to gain this legal status, and the parallel prevention of arriving to the territory of European countries equally impedes the ‘asylum-seeker’ status from being realised. People are therefore left with an undetermined legal status as the Convention of Geneva cannot apply to them and they are kept outside of the European legal order, meaning that they are blocked from becoming subjects of the law designed for them – with them as affected people being the ‘legal interest’ at the heart and inception of such jurisprudence. These human repercussions of extra territorial controls further highlights that the conditions of the legislations’ applicability are preventative due to being contingent on physical access to state territory rather than on need for protection or vulnerability criteria. This is shown to push people into dangerous and illegal contexts such as smuggling and trafficking in order to access state terrain and seek protection; the lack of safe and legal routes for migrating people forces them into illegality in order to hope to benefit from the application of non-refoulement, and refugee or asylum-seeking status. Those able to take such measures to arrive at European soil are also likely to be the most capable and resourceful, disadvantaging people affected by more vulnerability and without physical, social or financial ability to go to such monumental extents.

There is a need for better clarified and developed jurisprudence, a measure which would certainly take important steps towards mitigating some of the challenges posed by externalisation measures. Insufficient and incomplete jurisprudence catalyse the impact of an already hostile migrant control system. The incomplete nature of the universal right to leave one’s own country, for example, is demonstrated to be due to the lack of its pairing with a corresponding state obligation to allow people exercising this right into its territory. This incomplete nature which provides only partial and pseudo-‘universal’ rights to individuals, lies within the tension between the interests of the state and of the individual, and speaks to the importance of afore-discussed weaponised sovereignty. Hence the tension evident from the text between rights of the state and the individual is seen to not be being consolidated but, rather, to be at ever tenser odds in the context of migration and externalised controls.
Although non-refoulement can exceptionally be applied extra-territorially there is still need for clarification. The conclusion suggests preliminary in-country exams to assess motivations of those seeking protection which could project the values of non-refoulement towards the E.U. rather than being subject to the instrumentalised sovereignty of its states. Moreover, the humanitarian visa provides another prospective adaptation responding to the demonstrated inadequacy of current jurisdiction applied to non-refoulement which only established to where a person cannot be returned and not from where. These threats to and underminings of individual rights are in contrast to values that the E.U. purports to spearhead, indicative of the E.U.’s own moral and ideological crisis whose effects are felt in the social and political spheres. The human impacts of these legal inadequacies has far reaching implications in contemporary humanitarian crises, as their prolonged nature is exacerbated by external migration controls which exploit such inadequacies to enforce vulnerability and exposure to crises.

The externalisation of migration controls are indicative of a new securitised paradigm upheld by contortionist instrumentalised sovereignty, looking to outsource legality responsibility and jurisdiction to third states and private actors. The emerged securitised European context to migrating people sees total emphasis placed on irregularity and illegality (rather than protection, need or humanity), concepts into which affected people are forced through the withholding of safe legal routes and the applicability of the law. The incomplete nature of current jurisprudence is shown by the text to not be offering adequate or clear responses to modern problems, and the need for answers and improvements to these lacks thus become key. The construction of an extra-legal and extra-territorial migration control system which circumvents and undermines not only non-refoulement but the legal order entirely competes head-on with the unfulfilled rights of millions of individuals. The human impact of enforced legal and physical inaccessibility to refuge and protection calls into serious doubt the legal and moral legitimacy of E.U. bodies.

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A repetition on ‘old news’, that racism mustn’t become part of the furniture

Here is a short piece about racism, with which I don’t aim to bring anything new. I don’t try and shed some insightful new light or edgy thoughtful analysis or anything most people don’t already know. I just want to talk about what is already well known, again, and what bears retaining and talking about over and over again. I want to just repeat millions of other people and myself on what seems to have almost become ‘old news’, so obviously please don’t expect to learn anything – my voice is certainly amongst the very least important on this topic being a white person and so ensure to listen to others’, however that does not it make it any less important to speak.

This is a perspective of racism from my personal white view point and I will focus on white people’s behaviour and responsibility in or without of anti-racism work. It is also very brief and general. All opinions, experiences and criticisms from all people are very warmly encouraged.

The pervasive everyday imposition of racism into so many threads of the tissue of the contemporary, past and near future world is on the one hand so age-old, and on the other so perpetually shocking and abhorrent in a way that words don’t justify. As a white person, however, its very existence can actually just pass me by. I am able to not think about racism for prolonged periods of time – which is stupefying – to be able to effectively ‘check out’ of this core aspect of our society as casually as I would log off from my email account. Like checking out of the existence of the world, opting out of reality at my unconscious convenience. This is something that is improved but never quite eradicated by continuous active engagement and education. It doesn’t cease to blow my mind racism’s extent, structure and painful malevolence despite it being the centuries-old concreteness of our different lived experiences. And this is such a privileged position to have – the option to forget, to be shocked perhaps due to benefitting from rather than experiencing racism. This illusion of involvement or detachment, however, is one that is particularly damaging in the white experience, since being ‘detached’ is in fact being involved in a complicit way. Being involved through consensual silence and siding with the status quo of structural racism which demands seeming inaction or passivity – which is to say the maintenance of the contemporary order to which we in fact are actively attending during our ‘un-involvement’.

So insidious and massive and complex but so permeating and lying within so many of our everyday actions and interactions and internal thoughts and just everything. And most people on this earth are in someway living through its oppressive and violent consequences or their effects every day. But somehow racism and its infinite implications and manifestations in our lives and selves seems to have become boring. So normal that it’s part of the furniture and keeps going largely deliberately unnoticed and ignored. Like all structural travesties its has been ground into a mundane accepted normality, which is in itself also super old news of course, but – even the old news-ness of the old news of racism is still shocking?! That’s still an everyday punch in the face surely? All of the time the evil which crushes out the jagged contours of our shared experience is ignored. And like everyone else I do get the reasons why this happens, but the problem is they are shit. So it just seems constantly baffling how everyone (white people!) is not in a state of constant rage and resistance at the fact that this has become our world, and our communities and friends and selves and human beings everywhere are subjected to its horror and un-humanity. Maybe this is naïve. I just think it always bears reminding ourselves, namely white people, of racism and its urgently irrevocable unaccetaple-ness – to not to subsume it into the quotidian greyness of the capitalist architecture.

Being actively involved, being emotionally and personally invested is crucial, because of course every person does have an active personal stake in racism and its destruction whether we acknowledge it or not. It’s our responsibility as people, and particularly as white people at the oppressive end of the power dynamic, to actively work to undermine and deconstruct it – revert everything that is so intolerable. It seems to me that for white people the very minimum we should do is work against racism in our circles, our environments and relationships, however ‘hard’ it may seem personally or however ‘inconvenient’ it may be in the moment.

What is imperative is breaking the silence (read ‘Transforming Silence into Language and Action’ , Audre Lorde). This speaking out, this active face-to-face challenging of racism in our everyday should surely be at the foundation of change and resistance. Lorde teaches us how we cannot wait to do this. We cannot wait for other people’s words. We cannot wait for a future confidence to speak. Nor must we wait for some violently overt or explicit form of racism to present itself before us, we mustn’t vow to act only in the most extreme circumstances, doing so being an allay of personal conscience more than anything else. Because racism today tends to not look like that in English society (although it frequently does). It has adapted and reshaped itself excellently in accordance with modern norms and social codes, but is as potent as ever. This adaptation and ‘everyday’ reforming of racism’s tools is precisely how it succeeds in continuing to work so effectively and install itself everywhere. It has succeeded in making itself (or rather, we have succeeded in making it) acceptable, palatable, reasonable.

We cannot wait in silence. Because when those so called ‘passable’ racist comments, stereotypes or ‘jokes’ are voiced – this is racism – you are looking at it stark in the face in all its insidious potency, and we absolutely must not let it grow and go unchallenged. That is racism – that is the moment to seize and stop it in its tracks – these situations (not exclusively of course) are what demand the breaking of silence and the the initiation of action, which should grow collectively. The incessant normalising of racism has made it wildly justifiable and acceptable to let racist comments, ‘micro’ aggressions, opinions and actions slide by unchallenged in silent acquiescence. This is part of the contemporary boredom of dealing with the topic of racism, the white ‘forgetfulness’ and convenient ‘checking out’. Reverting this requires resistance.

So all this poorly articulated waffle is to say that racism is fucking crazy and awful and as white people its existence should never be far from our thoughts and actions.

Even the act of writing this is indicative of a serious problem and catastrophic failure on the part of white people since it is partly demonstrative of our very real need to actually remember that racism is a) a serious problem b) with which we are implicated, and c) exists. The fact that these most shockingly basic facts are so ferociously obliviated by the conscious white experience lies at the heart of racism’s power and continuation, and thus white responsibility.

Here’s a very non-exhaustive list of voices and resources which speak about racism, related and many other diverse topics:

Media platforms
Media Diversified
Skin Deep
Burnt Roti
Everyday Feminism
Rife Magazine
Bitch Media

Azeema, ed. Jameela Elfaki.
Consented, ed. Amit Singh & Mike Pope.
gal-dem, ed. Liv Little.
Burnt Roti, ed. Sharan Dhaliwal.
Skin Deep, ed. Anuradha Henriques & Lina Abushouk.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Renni Eddo-Lodge.
The Good Immigrant, ed. Nikesh Shukla.
From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra.
The History of White People, Nell Irvin Painter.
Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano.
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
Western Supremacy: the triumph of an idea, Sophie Bessis

Say Your Mind (@SayYourMindPod), Kelechi Okafor.
Behind the Bastards

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Neocolonial Travel: ethical stagnation in crossing borders

‘Travel’ is the dream which we seem to lust after exponentially. We are increasingly enabled to realize yearnings for enrichment, escapism, self-discovery and adventure. Apart from it really isn’t. And the way we travel, the way we think and dream about travel needs to be taken apart and put back together into a new shape and by different people.

The tourism industry and backpacker culture are part of the scaffold upholding violent neocolonial, capitalist and white supremacist mechanisms which dictate the way in which we move both ethically and physically. A scaffold we climb through when we subscribe to and enact these ideas and templates of modern travel. We must interrogate how we cross borders, the way that we occupy and treat spaces in travel destinations, and, we must understand the act of crossing borders as an expression of not only our own privilege, but of a power dynamic which stems from the obscured history of colonialism and sprouts into the neoliberal economic violence and hegemony of today.

Tourism in the Caribbean in context – history

Caribbean countries are, alongside South East Asia, a top travel destination for Westerners, with the tourism industry growing year on year since 2010 and by more than 5% in 2017 alone. What is lost in the act of nationals of imperial powers entering these countries is the historical context of 500 years of colonialism, genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and plantations in the earliest region of Western imperialist expansion. As a result of these devastating upheavals, every ethnic and cultural group existed within the paradigm of the colonizers’ superiority, invalidating and destroying their native cultures and lives. This is a legacy which white people benefit from all the time, and which directly enables all (particularly white) Western nationals to cross borders, to ‘move’ in the most far-reaching, global sense of the word. To travel is often to reap benefits of a privilege whose past is horrific and whose present is refusing millions of people access to safe spaces, settlement and home; allowing the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean each year.

This destructive oppression exacted on Native Americans and imported African populations by white bygone (and not so bygone) generations has transformed but not disappeared. Over half of Caribbean countries are still Western colonies, with fifteen non-independent states owned by the UK, the USA, France and the Netherlands – not to mention the private purchase of islands in the Virgin Islands and St Vincent and the Grenadines amongst others.

Tourism in the Caribbean in context – economics & trade

Western-controlled economic and trade legislation has stripped the region of further autonomy. Caribbean countries are often obliged to borrow on international financial markets with unfavorable terms, causing them to become reliant on grants and loans from sources such as the EU, the World Bank, the IADB and the IMF, indebting them further to western financial powers. The US and Canada are heavily relied on for exports. Free Trade Agreements and Bilateral Trade Agreements between Caribbean nations and US/ EU states led to opening of service industries, strengthened extra national investor rights, intellectual property rights and the opening of public procurement markets. Basically a tightening of control and an erasure of state sovereignties by building steep power dynamics into legal jurisdiction and trade regulations.

The explorer mindset

What does it mean, then, when we travel in this context? When by moving, we are contributing to and reinforcing violent trade and economics, and complicit in the erasure of the past? We travel for ourselves, for our experiences. Unfortunately today’s reductive travel ideology is loaded with imperialist capitalist notions: ‘the exotic’, ‘tropical’, ‘paradise’, ‘escape’ and ‘exploration’ for solely individual gain – as if foreign countries are there to be explored, awaiting your personal discovery of them. These attitudes which construct the Western view of the world and foreign spaces are direct products of our neocolonialist occupying, consumptive, invasive outlook which informs and shapes our understanding of travel and foreign spaces (check out this article by Carinya Sharples). Tourism has commodified and prepackaged whole countries and populations, which are presented to the privileged global consumer not as a complex place and people existing in their own right, but as a commodity to be purchased, experienced and otherwise enrich the lives of its ‘consumers’. This is clearly massively destructive and dehumanizing on so many levels. These rhetorics manifest themselves not only through the more commonly critiqued voluntourism and white saviourism in popular culture (look out for 2018’s ‘Basmati Blues’. Or don’t.), but more subtly and insidiously in the way voyage, and the occupying of foreign spaces is carried out on a daily basis.

Bearing this in mind, is the exclusive and privileged act of crossing borders in itself not playing to a system of oppression we all want to overturn? It seems this kind of movement is impeding ethical mobility, mobility of ideas, rights, progress and reparation. Western travel is contributing to moral stagnation. It is movement which, seen in context immobilizes us in history’s deathly legacy and in strangling structures of white supremacist capitalist ableist cisnormative hetero-patriarchy. This is something we should actively resist.

We need to question the way in which we travel and the way in which we occupy spaces abroad. Why are we there? Are we riding the wave of individualism, or can we re-envision travel as a social and mutual experience? Something that is intertwined with a responsibility, with work, with giving. A relationship with the space you have entered and those whose home that is. Backpacker tourism is lacking this dynamic. ‘Skint’ backpackers are known for bargaining and hitchhiking from country to country. Would you bargain for a coffee in your own country? Online travel blogging speaks to this culture which elevates the entitled thin wealthy white able-bodied backpacker, brushes off their privilege and says “Yes! Anyone can quit their job and go traveling for months!”. Well no, not anyone can do that.

I worked in the tourism industry for two years and found it bleak, escapist and grating. Not to say that it wasn’t good at times or to demonize those involved with tourism – we know these are political and institutional structures – but we do each have a choice as to how we engage with them. I noticed a popular streak in tourist thinking is that being a tourist is an act of generosity: “oh how fortunate all these recipients of my generosity”. By endowing this place with your money and your presence you are benefiting them, and acting as a benevolent rung on the ladder to fulfillment and prosperity.


This is indicative of entitled, reductive white savior thinking rife in our neocolonial society. The tourism industry presents destination holidays as an escape from reality – an escape from the world and civilisation, implying that the place in question exists outside of these things. Hence the question posed by ‘journalist’ Caroline Broué to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at La Nuit des Idées in Paris this January: “are there book shops in Nigeria?”.

The beneficiaries

On top of the damaging and racist ideology which the tourism industry upholds, it is another facet of control and a tool in rendering the Caribbean economically dependent on the Global North. Until recently Caribbean countries were the most tourist dependent in the world, with tourism making up almost 15% of their GDP and 13% of employment. This dependency, tided up with aforementioned means of economic control, benefits the Western tourist and business the most. Two-thirds of the hotel rooms in the area are foreign owned, as are most of the tour companies and airlines (who are able to pick and choose destinations, schedules and prices, influencing the influx of business to any one place). Many of these foreign-owned or chain international resorts are all-inclusive, meaning tourists rarely venture from their hotel to use local businesses and service providers, so only about a third of the money spent by vacationers remains in the Caribbean and the rest is retained by overseas firms. Although tourism is financially essential and beneficial to many destination countries, its benefits are skewed towards extra-national bodies which dominate the industry. When I worked at resorts in the Dominican Republic, it was the norm that a large proportion of managerial and ownership positions were occupied by white Americans and Europeans, whilst service positions were filled almost exclusively by local Dominican people. I don’t mention this a blanket truth at all, but as a non-representative indicator of the problematic degree of Western control in tourism and the toxic power dynamic this produces.

Travel gentrification

Development caused by tourism’s ever expanding belly has also driven up land prices, making it more likely that land will be bought by rich foreign developers. Such is the case in Santo Domingo’s colonial city which is seeing a sharp loss of residents and houses as its tourist centre swells. Residents may be forced to leave their homes due to the increasing cost of living and rent, the privatization of spaces or even due to construction.This is only one example of travel related gentrification.

Moving forward

The oppressive mechanisms obviously do not just affect Caribbean countries – they affect all countries in varying and complex ways. I’m not saying “let’s boycott travel!”, but more, “let’s reinvent travel” – deconstruct and reshape it, and let that be a long, thorough and continuous process. The onus is particularly on all of us who are part of oppressive demographics and nations. We must thoroughly educate ourselves on the places we visit by purchasing, reading and listening to the work of its native population. Did you plan to stay in a hostel, or is there an independent local alternative? As individuals we do have agency, and our activism needs to be anti-racist and anti-capitalist, all-inclusive and intersectional if we are to hope to meaningfully change these industries and infrastructures. Be aware of unlearning that you have yet to do to challenge your behaviour and mindset towards foreign places and people. This work may well best be done at home.

We have a responsibility to exercise absolute respect in the places we are visiting; this is someone’s home, someone’s community that we have entered uninvited. Travel is normally a mutual experience for the both local residents and the visitor, and it’s easy to lose sight of this. We will leave, unaffected by the aftermath of our presence. We are obliged to disrupt and revoke the lethal mechanisms of discriminatory travel privileges and ideologies – crossing borders is expressing our (neo)colonial-given right, one denied today to millions of people to devastating consequences. Perhaps staying put and expending our resources and energies on tackling these injustices at home is a better spent act of ethical motion than a holiday.

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The white s****** and breaking it.

Hello white people, here are some thoughts for you on breaking the white silence. I am white.

What is white silence?

White silence is the silence of white people in the face of racist behaviour, attitudes, micro and macro aggressions. The eye-glazing over self-enforced obliviousness to racism in all its manifestations. The silent withdrawal in the face of racist abuse towards others. White silence is this and more. It is also the overriding, more long-reaching silence which creeps its tendrils into all white relationships, taking hold in all aspects of life, hanging on for years and years, crossing generations. It is the white person’s silence on racism when they aren’t directly presented or confronted with it. The absence of any discussion, any conversation, any acknowledgement, any slight confrontation or addressing of discrimination and systematic racism which constructs our world.

White silence in the face of racism is a culprit of the continuation of the violent systematic racism. Silence is not only complicity – it is enabling the murderousness of racial oppression. It is a breeding ground of racism’s perpetuation. This silence envelopes people; it’s carried around with each individual like their own icy cloak of feigned obliviousness and conscious dissociation. It is the sudden self-imposed deafness and blindness which falls sharp as a hammer when witness to racist abuse.

A white person who says nothing in the face of racial prejudice and doesn’t discuss it in their white circles, is enabling racism. They are supporting it – every discriminatory remark or ‘joke’ let slide is them approving and normalizing that attitude, that behaviour. They are deeming it acceptable. A white person who never checks up on the attitude of their white friends is accepting and condoning any attitude. They consider themselves outraged and appalled by police brutality against people of colour. Against the murders and violence that the system of racism perpetuates – the same one they benefit from. Well the ‘jokes’ and prejudicial judgements their white friends make which they ignore are all part of this same beast. One they’re nourishing by keeping their mouth shut.
Does any of this sound familiar?

White silence is the privilege of choice to ignore and avoid racism. White silence is the denial of the responsibility of the role of whites to destroy the oppressive mechanism that they created. It is the malicious void that stands between many white people and their friends, relatives, and acquaintances where racism goes undiscussed.

The void in which attitudes and behaviours go unchecked. Where racism goes unacknowledged and lies, disappeared from sight and mind.

Six crucial pitfalls to breaking the white silence

  1. I am definitely going to bring this up with my brown friend!” Stop. Right. There. Do not choose to break the silence with your friends and relatives of colour. The point of speaking out about racism is to educate, challenge and prevent other white people’s racist behaviour and their perpetuation of white supremacist mechanisms. You should never force the topic of racism on a person of colour unless they explicitly want to engage with you on it – it can be extremely triggering and painful so make sure you focus on the white people around you. They are the ones who are the problem.
  2. I agree with all of this! Job done.” Having opinions alone is not enough. Thinking in your head ‘Yes I am definitely against racism. I want the system crushed!’ and these sentiments leaving your head once in a blue moon, is not enough. Challenging white perpetuation of racism with your voice and actions is a daily responsibility.
  3. I retweet things on social media hoping my white friends will see and get the message!” So this is to placate your own guilt and insecurities rather than instigate any actual change. It is good to be active and call out oppression on social media but more importantly, you need to be physically having the conversations in the real world – directly, regularly. See something unacceptable on social media? After shutting it down, call that person, go and see them. It’s not just the thing they said but all the prejudice behind that which must be addressed. If you don’t do this nobody will.
  4. “I discuss white privilege and the system of racial oppression all the time! (With other white people who already completely agree with me and do more than I do in terms of educating themselves and others around them).Fine, but no. It’s good to do this – but to only do this is pretty much useless. Talk to white people who don’t agree with you/ do not already engage with this topic. And, if they do purportedly agree, what are they actually doing about it?
  5. “My set-in-his-ways dad will take decades of convincing.” Well we don’t have decades. These conversations are urgent and their lack has devastating daily consequences. Breaking the white silence at your own snail’s pace, aka four uncomfortable half-hearted conversations a year with your ‘I am always right’ father isn’t good enough. Get over it and have the difficult talks. The more you do so the easier it will become.
  6. I don’t pose a problem, I’m already against racism.” Ok… but can you be sure? What does that actually mean – in what ways are you ‘against’? What are you DOING to actively dismantle racism? Holding that opinion about yourself is only benefitting you – it needs to take shape in your words and actions. Be very cautious about considering yourself fully ‘woke’, ‘anti-racist’ or an ‘ally’ – chances are you still have massive amounts of listening, learning and unlearning to do, as well as oppressive behaviors, beliefs and prejudices you have not yet become aware of or fully addressed. Do this work. It’s up to nobody but you to educate yourself and confront the oppressive practices and beliefs of yourself and those around you.

Eight Steps to SMASHing your silence

  1. INTERVENE IF YOU EVER WITNESS RACIST ABUSE, OR DISCRIMINATORY BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS ANY PERSON OF COLOUR AND SHUT IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY. Make sure the person receiving the abuse is safe. If possible find out how they want to handle the situation, e.g. distance themselves/ report the abuser etc. If they are not safe, or the abuse (verbal or physical) does not stop immediately, call the police. If you are not sure what you are witnessing – intervene and double check.
  2. Call out discriminatory attitudes and behaviours  however small or large. Be it jokes, use of language, judgements etc. This is essential. Other white people’s silence needs to be called out too! Discuss it all – if you make them uncomfortable or distressed it’s means the conversation was sorely needed. People are usually far far more concerned about being considered racist than about the impact of their words and actions. This in itself is very problematic and needs sorting out.
  3. Bring up racism with white people. Have the conversations regularly: the existence of systematic racism, white privilege, white responsibility, why reverse racism doesn’t exist, their own attitudes and behaviour. Be prepared for defensiveness, hostility, hurt and anger. Deal with it. Make sure to follow up on these conversations down the line, has the person made any progress, done some learning, been thinking about what you talked about? Be persistent. Work at it hard and often.
  4. Educate yourself continuously. Work to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible so that when you do engage in these conversations you can be effective and aren’t just basing things upon your personal opinion. Diversify your media and reading material. Accept that you yourself still have a long way to go in terms of continuously learning and re-learning about the system of racism, its impact, its profoundly important history, politics and its existence in your person, your life, your relationships and surroundings.
  5. Break the silence in all your white spaces, not just those that are convenient for you. “I’ll talk to my really open-minded and understanding best friend!”, ok good. But do not solely them and then feel triumphant. Each conversation is important, but what about your other friends, elderly relatives, extended family, colleagues and partner/s?
  6. Accept that your feelings are not the priority. Breaking the white silence can cause tension, upset and more in your relationships. This kickback only goes to show how very necessary being vocal is. Don’t get caught up in your own discomfort or frustration, or that of your white counterpart. You and the white person you are talking to benefit from this system every day. You exist quite possibly because of and certainly through it. It is those excluded by the constructed category of whiteness who are made to suffer, not you. Don’t lose sight of that in your conversations.
  7. Be prepared for retaliation when breaking the white silence. Be prepared to be shut down, dismissed, made to feel like you are the problem – this should reinforce your conviction not demoralise you – these reactions show how important it is to  have these conversations. They are just a tiny glimpse of the kind of response people of colour receive on a daily basis. So it is infinitely better that you are faced with this backlash and hostility. It is our responsibility to deal with this and reduce as much as possible the amount that people of colour have to be confronted with such behaviour.
  8. Listen to people of colour. Here is where you can shut up and be quiet. So you think you understand racism? People of colour have lived experience of racism. You can never fully understand or empathize with what they go through. Do not pretend otherwise. People of colour are silenced enough by white supremacy and its institutions, your role is to listen, learn and appreciate their sharing when they choose to do so. Do not to show off your supposed ‘woke-ness’ or anti-racist efforts. It’s the minumum obligation as a white person, not something you should expect awe or gratitude for. Practice humility. Remember – racism can be very boring, exhausting, painful or traumatic for people of colour. Do not force the subject upon them.

These suggestions are in no way exhaustive. There is so much work to do and so many ways to go about it. Do not only take my word – a white person – with my own biases to address and learning to do. Go listen and learn from people of colour first and foremost. Make sure you pay to consume the works of their emotional and intellectual labour, then review it, shout about it, buy it for your friends. Here is a very short list of recommendations of where to begin listening and learning from.

Media platforms
Media Diversified
Skin Deep
Burnt Roti
Everyday Feminism (they offer a course ‘Healing From Toxic Whiteness’)
Bitch Media

Azeema, ed. Jameela Elfaki.
Consented, ed. Amit Singh & Mike Pope.
gal-dem, ed. Liv Little.
Burnt Roti, ed. Sharan Dhaliwal.
Skin Deep, ed. Anuradha Henriques & Lina Abushouk.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Renni Eddo-Lodge.
The Good Immigrant, ed. Nikesh Shukla.
From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra.
The History of White People, Nell Irvin Painter.
Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano.
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
Western Supremacy: the triumph of an idea, Sophie Bessis

Say Your Mind (@SayYourMindPod), Kelechi Okafor.
Behind the Bastards

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Bristol Free Voice: a refugee media project

Photo: Mohamed Mujahid

Tired of the misrepresentation of refugees and asylum seekers in the media, Bristol Free Voice is tackling the issue head on. Founded earlier this year, the grassroots community journalism project is a platform for people from refugee and asylum seeking communities in Bristol to own and create their media.

Whether talking about the heavy subjects in the refugee community like homelessness and the asylum system, or things that we all share in common like music and cooking, BFV is about letting the people affected tell the story they want to tell that day. You can listen to the project’s first productions here.

I spoke with three of the project’s facilitators: Fatima, Jasmine, and Georgia, as well as Esam, one of its principal founders (pictured above).

Esam, why did you want to start Bristol Free Voice?

Esam: I found that the media in this country is showing a lot of ugliness of asylum seekers and refugees, which is not true. They affect our situation – we’ve become like a scapegoat. They say that migrants or asylum seekers come here to steal our houses, our jobs, our education, whatever. Some of my friends unfortunately have been harmed. They’ve been attacked, you know, by racist people. My friend from my country, he was killed. And other people from different communities, they’ve been killed because they were asylum seekers, or they were refugees.

I found a real lack of information in the newspapers, the local newspapers and other media. For those reasons I talked with my friends and different communities about this issue, and I thought it should have its own group – our project – to deliver true stories from asylum seekers and refugees. So that people understand how much people have been affected, and how their lives have become difficult, many people are living in limbo, even homeless.

What kinds of issues do you hope to address with Bristol Free Voice?

Fatima: And it’s not a case of ‘this is what BFV want to get from people’ – it’s more the other way around. So what do people want to share? What do people want to talk about? The power to decide is within the people we want to record. So the issues can range from anything as political as, you know, as the housing issues, and concerns people have about the asylum seeking process – or – it can be something as light hearted as talking about their hobby of cooking, it can literally be anything. I think that’s the unique thing about BFV: there isn’t a particular area that we want to focus on, it’s more that, this is a space where you can talk about whatever you want to talk about.

Esam: They want to have a truthful place to say ‘this is a human being’. People are really interested in sharing their life stories, stories of their journeys, whatever is happening to them here in Bristol. People like to talk about their own life experiences in the UK, their journey and why they decided to leave their country or family. We want everybody to feel safe with us. We want to be respectful and not attack anyone. We want to deliver those true stories to people when they listen, to find out – what is the reality?

Is there anything that stands out for you guys from your experience of being involved with BFV?

Georgia: For me, some of the stories that stood out the most were the ones that were most simple, talking about simple objects and senses that reminded them of home and what they were looking for in finding home and yeah they’re really powerful. You should listen to the one with the rose.

Fatima: Yeah it shows how home can literally be anywhere. So whenever you look at a rose, or think of yoga you’ll be like ‘Oh that reminds somebody of their home back in Kurdistan’.

How did BFV decide to begin by focusing on audio and radio?

Fatima: After having our first workshop one of the main things to come out of it were questions of privacy and anonymity. One of the things about the asylum seeking and refugee communities is that because they’re so misrepresented in the media there’s a lot of mistrust, fear and misconceptions about the role of media. People have had bad experiences. And we wanted to focus on, what form of media can ensure that anonymity? And we thought that recording was the best way to do that – to focus on the voice itself by using audio and radio to begin with.

Could you give me an example of something you’re working on?

Jasmine: So at the moment I’m working with a person at Borderlands and we’ve been talking about doing something to do with music so, we haven’t started recording yet, but it’s like the history of Ethiopian music and the origin story of melodies in Ethiopia and then hopefully playing some music as well and kind of making it into a bit of a piece. It’s almost going to be like a podcast and radio show and that will be the first of that kind, but we will probably do more of after that. We’re trying out different things.

Listening to The Voice Box

Georgia: We did a lot of recordings at the Refugee Festival ‘Celebrating Sanctuary’ event as well. We went around asking the public about how the festival made people feel and why they thought it was important and we’re going to turn that into a podcast.

Esam: At the moment we’re focusing on recording stories from asylum seeking people in Bristol, and had a workshop – a project called The Voice Box – and we shared that in the Refugee Festival.

How do you feel that current media spaces in Bristol cater for people who fall under the classification of refugee or asylum seeker?

Georgia: Bristol in general has a lot of really great grassroots organisations, like The Bristol Cable and Ujima Radio who are really interested in our project which is good.

Fatima: If it wasn’t for those organisations and the projects that are already happening in Bristol I don’t think BFV could have even spoken to the people that we have. We realised early on actually we need to start working with organisations that already exist and have already built that relationship with the community, and the community trusts these people. Rather than building a whole new relationship with people which would take so much longer, let’s work with already existing projects and organisations and go from there.

How have you personally found being involved in the journey of Bristol Free Voice?

Fatima: I’ve also realised what a privilege it is to actually listen to people’s stories. Because they don’t have to share it. They don’t have to tell us what they think. They don’t have to share their experiences with us – but they want to. So I think that in itself is a privilege. Whenever I listen to someone I think, wow, this person has trusted us with their story.

Jasmine: At the moment it’s a small project, we’re hoping for it to grow but we don’t want to say ‘this is theplatform’. We’re not saying ‘this is representative’ – it is just literally snippets of conversations with some really amazing people.

Is there anything you’d like to say to potential audiences?

Fatima: To listen to people’s stories with an open mind. Just allow yourself to absorb the story that is being told to you, the experiences being shared with you, and just allow that to manifest itself within you. Let it be how it is, rather than trying to label it, rather than trying to constrain or box it into something.

Esam: I want to say thanks to them. I would like to ask anybody if you are interested or you feel you want to help these people who’ve fled from their countries and come here seeking safety, we would like people to listen to our stories. We like people to contact us if they’d like to join us. We welcome anybody.

Earlier versions of this article were published on The Bristol Cable and Rife Magazine.

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Unaccompanied refugee children await Judges’ decision on their future.

A High Court hearing against government closes as the future of thousands of children hang in the balance.

Last Thursday 22ndJuly I went to the end of a three-day high court hearing in London, the result of which will dictate the fates of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable children.

The charity Help Refugees brought a legal challenge against the UK government over its implementation of the ‘Dubs Amendment’, a clause in the Immigration Act allowing unaccompanied asylum seeking children into the country. The challenge was made in reaction to the horrifying U-turn made by the government earlier this year, which brutally slashed the number of children that the Dubs Amendment would permit entry to from 3,000 to just 350 (not even 1 space per constituency).

Interpretation of Courtroom by Jacky Lakrichi

The futures of many unaccompanied asylum seeking children hung in the balance on Thursday. In the Royal Courts of Justice, Leigh Day Solicitors argued against the defendant representing the Home Secretary – AKA Amber Rudd. The premise was that the ‘consultation’ conducted with local authorities to arrive at the appallingly meagre number of 350 spaces was seriously flawed, if not just nonexistent.

With over 95,000 unaccompanied children now in Europe having fled persecution and violence, and more than 10,000 recorded as missing here, the urgency that these children be helped is something hard to put into words.

It is important to think about this not, however, as a series of worsening statistics and facts, nor as a messy array of socio-political and legal issues, but as a group o

f real individual children living real nightmares. Now. Children are homeless. Children are subject to violence and abuse and from the police and general public. They are falling victim to smuggling, to human trafficking worth billions of pounds, to sexual abuse, exploitation, disease, psychological trauma and suicide with every day that passes. As much as the discourse on this topic balloons out into political fencing and the hypothetical practicalitiesof housing and space and foster care and benefits… in each case what is fundamentally being discussed are these individuals’ lives and deaths. That fact cannot, and must not, be escaped.

The preliminary number of 3,000 spaces for these children, according to the state’s own legislation was meant to be reached through a consultation process run by central government with all 650 UK constituencies. The constituencies would then supposedly assess their capacities on a local level to see how many spaces were available throughout the country, giving an overall national figure.

Help Refugees’ lawyer argued that this process was ‘so unfair as to be unlawful’ – listing evidence demonstrating the crippling inadequacy of the government’s pretense at consulting local authorities. She argued that the government ran a ‘stealth’ consultation during which apparently, most local authorities did not even know they were being consulted. They certainly didn’t know that there was a consultation “cut-off date”, let alone when that actually was. The result of all this obscurity was the warping of England’s so-called ‘capacity’ for these infants into almost nothing: The whole of Scotland was recorded as having just 6 spaces. The whole of Northern Ireland was recorded as 0. The whole of the East Midlands was recorded as 0.

This wasn’t because these regions didn’t try their best. 91% of places offered by Scotland, 86% of those in Wales and 45% of English spaces were not counted at all because they arrived after the secret cut-off date.

The government admitted that an ‘administrative error’ led to 130 of the extra places not being counted.

The prosecutor was the one person during the entire day who struck me as demonstrating some real compassion and engagement with the human essence of this court hearing. Even the judges became irritable – at one point one of them interrupted by yelling something resembling “this is just intolerable!”, standing up and leaving. So the court took a 5 minute tantrum break. Apparently this was because the evidence was being given too fast and the prosecutor was ordered to massively condense and speed up her argument. To me this impatience seemed kind of tragic really, but then so did the fact this monumental decision lay in the hands of a tiny, demographically predictable handful of people.

Mr Magnell, The Home Secretary’s defender, listed off reams of statistics which were punctuated with an array of sparklingly sharp arguments (here paraphrased in my own words). Arguments such as “well, constituencies should have contacted central government if they didn’t understand the details of the consultation they didn’t know was happening”… were heard, alongside a dash of …“we got one email from someone saying Northern Ireland didn’t want to have an event about Dubs ‘at this point in time’, so clearly we could only conclude that there was not a single space available in the whole of Northern Ireland, and that there would be no point replying or contacting them again in any form until after the deadline they didn’t know existed for the consultation they didn’t realise was happening, had passed”.

Stunningly, in about 30 minutes Help Refugees’ prosecutor managed to rip through these, and many more of Mr Magnell’s points of steel (which he had been carefully honing since 10 am that morning) with a brilliantly viscous conclusive argument, hammering in the absurdity, unfairness, and down right unlawfulness of the whole thing. She strongly urged the judges that the whole consultation should be redone, with children being accepted into the UK on a rolling basis in the meantime.

Lord Alfred Dubs himself slipped into Court Room 3 during the proceedings and sat at the front to watch the concluding hour of the legal battle over his addition to the Immigration Act. Dubs, at 6 years old, was a child refugee himself who fled the Nazi Regime in Czechoslovakia along with over 600 other unaccompanied children who arrived in England via Kindertransport. Since then he has led a left-wing political career culminating recently in the championing of the rights of those who today are reliving versions of the journey he once took.

All that’s left now is to wait for the decision. According to one of Leigh Day’s lawyers I chatted to after the hearing, the judges can can take more or less as long they fancy to let us know. From weeks, to months (although she thought anymore more than 6 months is very unlikely). Every day that passes though, is another day thousands of children are languishing in quite literally unthinkable circumstances. And besides, whatever the result, ‘Dubs’ is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now more than ever it’s up to us to take responsibility. Power always lies with the governed, not the governors, as Chomsky said. We have the collective power to influence this situation. This was the feeling I was left with after that day in court. Because even those within the institutions trying to make a dent in this ‘hostile environment’ by wading through the political and legal bogs, are seriously impeded. At the end of the day, the power which is dictating these children’s current reality is accountable to us. This, people, is democracy in action: the 5th biggest economy in the world slamming its doors on the largest humanitarian crisis in living memory. Which, by the way, it more than helped to create.

In Bristol only  3 ‘Dubs children’ are currently being caring for, leaving a further 7 empty spaces which are still on offer… This is a number which must increase. Groups such as Bristol Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign, Borderlands, Bristol Refugee Rights and Bristol City of Sanctuary are all doing invaluable work to aid vulnerable asylum seekers on a local level and can always use more support.

Reading and informing yourself about these situations is tantamount to ignoring them if it leads to nothing. As I write this, and as you read about me writing it, there are tens of thousands of individuals who are living the reality behind these words. We must talk to each other about this. A lot. To people we normally wouldn’t talk to. We must contact the council and offer up our homes as refuges. We must pick up a pen and paper – not a computer – and write letters to our MPs. Letters demanding they not only fulfill their original Dubs quota, but go beyond that to accept a higher number of unaccompanied children… and we must encourage others to do the same.

This is not just because we are human beings, but because we find ourselves in positions of safety and privilege which carry with them not just the power, but the responsibility to enact change.

Want to take action?

Now is the time.

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Breaking Promises, Breaking Children.

Last week saw the government backing out of the ‘Dubs’ amendment, a policy which promised to take in 3000 out of the 95000 unaccompanied migrant children. Instead we will accept a maximum of 350.

It is now essential that the public take responsibility into their own hands to speak up on behalf of these children whose voices are being smothered, whose lives are being threatened and whose human rights are being violated by a government accountable to and representing – us.

This disgusting and shameful move on the part of the British government is indicative of the landslide in ideology towards the extreme right, nationalism, xenophobia and self-delusionary resistance to globalisation. Following Trump’s Muslim ban, it is shocking to see the UK government rapidly mimicking such sentiments with political action. Currently 200 children (under 15s) have been accepted under the Dubs amendment, and in a sly low-key announcement on Wednesday 8th February it was revealed that the scheme is set to close once another 150 children have been brought to Britain, leaving the total amount of children allowed refuge here 10% of what was originally promised.

This is a deeply worrying decision, not only because of the wider political attitude it speaks of, but because of the real life impact it will have on thousands of destitue children around Europe. Those who are unthinkably traumatised, hugely vulnerable to abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking, disease, suicide, homelessness and to whom we promised refuge, are now to be left abandoned to fend for themselves. Around 95,000 unaccompanied migrant children in Europe are in dire need of help. Over 10,000 are missing. Of the migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 31% were children, and children make up about 30% of asylum seekers in the EU. Last year almost 150 children are known to have drowned whilst seeking refuge crossing the Mediterranean sea.


Daniel aged 9, orphaned, from Eritrea, was sleeping in a damp and dangerous lean-to in the Jungle, where he was regularly subject to CRS tear-gas attacks and violence. He had the right to be in the UK under the Dublin 3 regulation but his voice was not being hear. Thanks to charitable action he is now with his older brother in the UK and with legal representation to protect his immediate future, but many others are still not.

The number of unaccompanied child refugees to be accepted into the UK will now be determined by individual local authorities. With neither example nor policy being set by central government and with limited funding available (especially after recent cuts) it is likely that very few councils will step up to welcome these children. If each constituency offers refuge to just 5 unaccompanied minors then 3,000 children will be brought to Britain. If each constituency takes 30, then 19,500 children would be brought, making an enormously significant impact in the near 100,000 seeking help. Despite the UK’s ability and responsibility to contribute towards this situation’s resolution, the political climate is clearly encouraging a retractive distancing from the issue, and there is little sign of a strong or united grassroots movement on its behalf to pressure MPs and Whitehall into action. It seems increasingly, however, that grassroots campaigning is one of the few and most effective choices being left to UK citizens who disagree with their country’s shutting of eyes and doors to one of the most disastrous humanitarian crises of our time. Indeed, public pressure on MPs who in turn put pressure on parliament was the principle factor which caused the Dubs amendment to be passed in May 2016. Similar pressure can be applied to similar success in the wake of this callous and frightening act.

Immigration minister Robert Goodwell saw his announcement as a ‘proud’ moment for the nation: “The UK can be proud of its record helping refugee children and I can today announce, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, that the government will transfer the specified number of 350 children pursuant to that section, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision.”

Human Rights Watch identified the Dubs criteria for acceptance as ‘restrictive’ and deemed its execution as inconsistent with its purpose << the process for children to seek transfer to the UK has been non-transparent and arbitrary, and that children’s mental health has suffered. Children said they did not have information about how and when they would learn the outcome in their cases, the selection criteria, what recourse, if any, they have if they are not accepted, and how they could follow up with the UK Home Office […] The UK Home Office should broaden their criteria for application of the Dubs amendment to ensure that older children are not precluded from consideration>>.

The May 2016 consensus of 3000 children – a number identified by the International Development Committee – as being the UK’s fair share in the Europe-wide effort towards humanitarian relief for unaccompanied children, was already meagre and unambitious ccaptura-de-pantalla-2017-02-19-a-las-15-56-36onsidering the scale of need, the UK’s position as the sixth richest country in the world and the enormous wealth which is held by banks and financial institutions which the taxpayer bailed out with tens of billions of pounds. Last week’s backtracking on the Dubs’ amendment was justified by saying that the local authorities responsible for the children’s care have limited capacity. However, after a Conservative MP pointed out that the new cap represents fewer than two children per local authority, Home Secretary Amber Rudd offered an alternative reason, claiming that the provision is encouraging human trafficking. Regardless, Rudd’s remarks in the House of Commons suggest that the real reason for this decision is to reduce refugee numbers. “We do not want to incentivise journeys to Europe,” she said. This echoes the government’s statement that it wants to avoid creating a “pull factor” that might encourage more parents to send their children across Europe, but Vincent de Coninck who manages an emergency day centre on the edge of Calais said it was ridiculous to think that any of these minors or their parents had any knowledge of UK asylum law: “They don’t know anything about the system. I try to tell them they will be better off staying in France, but the smugglers give them false information. The only way to fight against this mafia is to offer a legal way to get to the UK, and yet the British government has just done the exact opposite,” he said. “I can’t decide who I feel more angry with – the French or the British.”

This week’s ditching of the Dubs amendment comes just as the UK government announced it is also suspending the resettlement of disabled child refugees, and is a retreat from
involvement in refugee protection at a time when it is desperately needed. A separate accelerated scheme to bring unaccompanied refugee children with direct family links to Britain under the Dublin convention is also to come to an end. Theresa May ordered
the Home Office on Monday to look into reports that children dispersed from the Calais camp before Christmacaptura-de-pantalla-2017-02-19-a-las-15-56-48s were now returning to the French port. The charity ‘Help Refugees’ will be legally challenging the government in May, claiming that it has violated the 2016 Immigration Act’s clause 67 o
n ‘Unaccompanied Refugee Children: relocation and support’ which states that ‘The number of children to be resettled […] shall be determined by the government in consultation with local authorities.’ There has been minimal if any communication from central government with its constituencies: Hammersmith and Fulham councils’ repeated offers to take in more child refugees has been ignored by the Home Office.

The far right ideology driving this rejection of child (and other) refugees is not only inhumane, it’s self-delusionary. In this year’s January/ February issue of Foreign Affairs Richard Hass argues for a new model of world order ‘World Order 2.0’ centering around the notion of sovereignty as global responsibility, or ‘sovereign obligation’. He argues that the system of independent nations conducting their behind-border affairs as they please is now defunct. In an increasingly globalized world problems such as climate change, cyberspace, health (epidemics and spread of disease), nuclear armement and migration have come to affect all countries, regardless of their perceived responsibility in the problems themselves. These are border defying problems, and nations should collectively accept responsibility for the resolution of new global challenges. If every country behaved like England is now, these new most serious challenges would be totally neglected and continue to escalate freely. Hass sets out his clearer vision for this new kind of world order that needs to come, saying that ‘globalization is here to stay, and the inadequacies of traditional approach to order […] will only become more obvious over time’. If the UK government thinks it can hide from the wind of globalization by burying it’s head in the sand, it is more frighteningly blind than many of use believe. Engaging in the resolution of issues such as the migrant crisis is part of being a nation in today’s world, whether the Conservatives like it or not. To prioritize weak points of national self interest in the face of this humanitarian calamity is not only irrevocably damaging to those experiencing it, but is politically out-dated, regressive and foolish, as well as damaging to the global community – UK included.

Parallels abound with 1930s and 1980s are ringing truer than ever, but not eliciting a discernable response to the impending danger which seems to loom, electrical, before us. There is a resounding echoing of xenophobic and antisemitic sentiments which were legitamised by the British immigration policy in the 1930s-40s. According to Whitehall And The Jews, 1933-1948 by Louise London: “The process…was designed to keep out large numbers of European Jews – perhaps 10 times as many as it let in. Around 70,000 had been admitted by the outbreak of the war, but British Jewish associations had some half a million more case files of those who had not. The myth was born that Britain did all it could for the Jews between 1933 and 1945. This comfortable view has proved remarkably durable, and is still adduced to support claims that Britain has always admitted genuine refugees, and that the latest harsh measures against asylum seekers are merely designed to exclude bogus applicants. . .We remember the touching photographs and newsreel footage of unaccompanied Jewish children arriving on the Kindertransports. There are no such photographs of the Jewish parents left behind in Nazi Europe. . .The Jews excluded from entry to the United Kingdom are not part of the British experience, because Britain never saw them. . .Memories of the unsuccessful public campaign to persuade the government to rescue Jews from mass murder faded quickly.”

In Calais over 1000 unaccompanied refugee children were left to fend for themselves after the Jungle’s destruction. Almost 400 of those had been identified as having a legal right to come to Britain, and there are now at least 200 sleeping rough in the area. Hundreds who had been in the camps have been identified by charities such as Care4Calais as now officially missing. These are children set on coming to England either to join their waiting families across the channel, because they already speak good English, or because their parents have told them to go to the UK. Student volunteers offering food, hot drinks and sleeping bags to these homeless children had their names and addresses taken by police, and were told that what they were doing is illegal. There are increasing reports of abuse against child and adult asylum seekers by French police (and ordinary citizens), and since November’s destruction of the Jungle authorities are taking a very hard line in crushing the beginnings of new camps which may try to form around the area. Police run regular patrols at night so the children sleep without tents, or even standing against trees, to stay hidden. They do not risk staying two nights in the same place or lighting fires to keep warm. If conditions in the vast camp were highly inappropriate for children, they are now far worse. Many get hypothermia from living outside unprotected. Many have no food, water, toilets, bed, access to shelter, physical or mental health facilities, legal advice, or any kind of support for neither their asylum applications nor their general wellbeing. There have been reports of children beginning to bury food so that they can find it even if they are chased by the police. These children are not only horrifically neglected, but made to live in a state of fear due to active persecution by French authorities, and the active rejection by British ones.

Many children are suffering from PTSD. Many children cried in their assessment interviews. Many children described having bottles thrown at them, being racially abused or otherwise harassed by the public. It is imcaptura-de-pantalla-2017-02-19-a-las-15-57-05portant to condemn, petition and pressure the English (and French) government in their despicable handling of this crisis. It is also important to recognise their shunned responsibility as our own – not just because we are human beings, but because we are privileged citizens with whom the power to change this situation lies. It is important to read and think about this situation not as a series of worsening statistics and facts, nor as a messy array of socio-political and legal issues. It is important to think about this as an enormous group of real individual children living real nightmares. As much as the discourse on this topic balloons into political fencing and the hypothetical practicalities of housing and space and foster care and benefits… in any situation what is fundamentally being discussed are these individuals’ lives and deaths. That fact cannot be escaped. It is important not just to read and think about it. Not to just understand and care about it. Because if we read and think and care but don’t act, we may as well not care at all. Public passivity, apathy and silence is what has allowed these political actions which create the children’s personal realities. And ‘public’ does not mean the wider national disengagement – it means the summation of every single individual’s (in)action. Empathizing and caring about these children is the same as hating and rejecting them if it isn’t translated into action. We must talk about this with the people around us. We must contact the council and offer up our homes as refuges. Crucially, we must write to our MPs demanding our constituencies accept more unaccompanied children, and we must encourage others to do the same.

We are all individually answerable to the suffering of these children. The responsibility lies with us.


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Who cares about corpses in the street.

Have you ever seen a dead body on the street?

Most of us haven’t. What if you did? You’d undoubtably have some violent reactions. Call 999. Try and resuscitate them. Shout and cry. All of these? Lots of other things too probably. It’s something that would affect you for life. What about a body lying unconscious outside in the night. This is a sight for immediate panic: uncertain of their age, gender, medical conditions, general state of health anything could be wrong. Again, I’m sure you’d be extremely concerned. What if it was one of these common below zero winters? We would care about this person’s survival… it’s not every day you come across a life or death situation like that.

Apart from it is.

Every day.

And, shockingly, the very vast majority of people don’t care, self-inflict unawareness and carry on. This cold glassy regard of society passes the point of heart breaking. It is murderous. How as human beings with the capacity for compassion have we been so conditioned that we have arrived here? Our hedonistic individualist society is appallingly desensitised to and distanced from human strife, suffering and violations of social justice. Unless of course these are directed at us or those in our near vicinity. But please, please can we stop with this shudderingly frightening apathy. The shrugging acceptance of this as some kind of inevitable norm, as the unopposable ‘way of things’, as an intrinsic element of modern life and society that must be accepted and lived through nonetheless. It must be neither accepted nor lived through. It must be directly opposed and transformed.

I was in the park the other morning, it was -7 degrees and there were four unconscious figures lain in the middle of the grass. The park was full of people walking their dogs, going to work, doing whatever you do on a Monday morning. They were all calmly walking past these bodies. Without even a glance. Without even a pause of acknowledgement. This may sound surreal. Unfortunately it’s what goes on on a daily basis in countless places across the world, especially cities like mine.

These people were rough sleepers covered in blankets and highly visible. Homeless people. The stigma surrounding homeless people is costing lives. Wait — no, scrap that: not ‘the stigma’ – the active expression of an arbitrarily constructed and foundation-less stigma by people all around us, and perhaps even people such as yourself, is killing the vulnerable. The quantities of homeless people in our towns and cities is reaching ever-increasing heights year on year. It is a humanitarian crisis. We are surrounded by, living next to and amongst these people. Would you not hope that if life dealt you a series of cruel and unfortunate blows that your fellow humans would reach out and help? Ok maybe not help. It’s likely that their own personal schedules, desires, objectives, values, finances etc etc. supersede your acute and desperate need for support with your physical health, mental health, finances and shelter. That’s fine. That’s more or less to be expected. Deplorable and revolting as it is. However, if your very LIFE was in danger, if you were in a critical condition facing death – you would think that out of the entire population of people surrounding you – some, if not all, would take immediate and decisive action. How about nobody. The idea that you would be left to die as feet continued to tread softly around your body, is surely unimaginable. Unimaginable, or, in the case of thousands of rough sleepers around the country, a day-to-day reality.

I live in Bristol, a city whose homelessness problem is just one example of the wider national humanitarian crisis. In 2010 there were only 7 rough sleepers on the streets of Bristol. In 2014 there were 41 and in 2015 94. Over a four-year period council spending on services preventing homelessness will be cut by around 40 percent. Already, Bristol City Council’s budgets for preventing homelessness have been reduced by 20% from 2011-2015. Last year 5,600 households in Bristol either became homeless or were threatened with homelessness.It is a problem which is accelerating at an alarming rate.

Crisis UK recently published their 2016 report ‘the homelessness monitor’ which is the result of five years of work and research into homelessness across the UK. It reveals a similarly extremely worrying trend of sharp increase fueled by socio-economic factors, and a general political, as well as public, disregard for victims of homelessness.

<< Homelessness is a crisis. It is devastating and should not happen to anyone. Homelessness is an isolating and frightening experience. Homeless people are invisible, ignored and forgotten. At worst, homelessness can mean sleeping rough on the streets. However the problem of homelessness is much bigger than that of rough sleeping. After years of declining trends, all forms of homelessness have risen due to the shortage of housing and ongoing effects of the economic recession combined with government policies – particularly reforms and cuts to housing benefit. Independent research carried out for Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that homelessness is likely to increase further still. Almost one in ten people say they have been homeless at some point, with a fifth of these people saying it happened in the last five years.>>

The report revealed that government street counts estimated around 3,569 people sleep rough on any one night across England in 2015, a rise of 30% on the previous year and double the amount since 2010.  But this is only a tiny snapshot – the actual figures are much higher.  8, 096 people were seen sleeping rough in London in 2015/16 which is a 7% increase compared to 2014. 8% of 16-24 year olds report recently being homeless. Housing benefit has been cut by around £7bn. Housing benefit for many young people is so low it often won’t cover the cost of even a room in a cheap shared house, leaving people to sleep where they can – on the floors of friends or family or, at worst, the streets. Up to 80% of homeless people have mental health problems and the average age of death for a homeless man is 47 (compared to national average 77) and 43 for a woman (compared to the national average of 80). These figures are only a slim reflection of the reality, as the government definition of ‘homeless’ excludes the large proportion of those actually homeless from their statistics, and so do not take into account the huge numbers of people sleeping in caravans, tents, hostels, shelters, who are squatters, sofa surfers or anybody not physically lying down on the street at the exact time of the count. Homeless people are far more likely to be attacked, victims of traffic accidents and freezing winters.

These are some of the people whom life had treated the cruelest. Victims of an oppressive capitalist hierarchical system which disdains to have a safety net to catch those in economic turmoil, abusive relationships or migrating from war-torn home countries. The running argument seems to go that we can’t help everyone. People all over the world are suffering atrocities, why should I choose to help this one on the street next to me? Well. Because they are next to you. Most people don’t present themselves directly before you like this… if a lost child approached you for help I’d really hope you wouldn’t give yourself the same excuse. Maybe you would. It isn’t the same, but it isn’t that different either. We have the power to make an impact in eachothers’ lives. We exist in an immediate community together. There are not different species of people existing in your microcosm from whom you are unrecognisable and separate. Homelessness can happen to anybody. Ideas of difference breed hate. We must learn from the appalling manifestations of such hate and ideas of difference which, before our eyes, are manifesting themselves with increasing explosiveness around the world – and we must NOT reproduce them. We must directly oppose them. To do anything else is to be complicit. To tell yourself anything else is to indulge in dishonest platitudes.

The homeless are one group of vulnerable and suffering people to whom it is easy for us to share our compassion and demonstrate our solidarity any day. They are part of all of our lives. Surely caring about our fellow beings is the most fundamental and important action we can take during our lives. If you don’t want to buy them a coffee because you’re too busy, fine. To be dismissive or commendatory about their potential death is not fine.

Stop walking past these people as if they’re objects. Start treating them for what they actually are.

Bristol Post:
Crisis UK:

[All accessed 03.12.2016]

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Dispelling the myth of ‘bad’ english

Hi there fellow english speakers. I used to be one of these people – big time. The pseudo-intellectual person offended by misused apostrophes, confused homonyms (like ‘their’ and ‘there’), the ‘mis-use’ of grammar in many natural ways of speaking, incorrect spellings, sentence structure, punctuation, the lot of it. ( >> Including prepositions ending sentences.) Basically a fucking deplorable SNOB.

This problem seems to me to arise from its basis in the premise that there is a right and a wrong way to use (english) language. Or even just a better and a worse way. This assumption that how you speak is a reflection of your literacy level, your education or your class, is sometimes true, often false, and – most importantly – besides the point. People speak how they speak because of geography and the other people they mix with. We teach each other language sooo… it just depends who you spend time with! And guess what – IT DOESN’T MATTER. Language isn’t fixed . It’s something which exists for the purpose of communicating with people, so the only issue you should ever have is one of communication: if you actually cannot understand what somebody is saying. When this is the case, sure, you have a communication problem which you need to figure out together in a SENSITIVE non-dickish way which doesn’t offend or smugly laud some imagined linguistic superiority. Feeling good about your on point knowledge of grammar and polished BBC-News-Reader accent? Hey, congratulations!!! You know how to conventionally conjugate the verbs of your native language! How erudite and impressive! Apart from it’s not. It’s bullshit. Jamila says why:

Every person has their own unique way of speaking and using language – yes there are arbitrary grammatical ‘rules’ which exist, but only to aid communication and understanding, not to dictate how people should and should not use the language they are speaking. I don’t CARE where you come from, who your parents are, if it sounds street or soft or northern or eastern or deep or broken or awkward or mixed or thick or like a harpsichord. I don’t care if you’ve been speaking the language for 5 minutes or 50 years: if it’s coming out of your mouth that means you own it. The language someone speaks is part of their personal identity and nobody should criticise or try to change that. So unless you genuinely do not understand somebody you can keep your mouth shut with regards to your opinion on the relative articulacy or poorness of their speech. Who are you to decide? Who is anybody to decide? Language has no rules. PEOPLE decide what language means, how it is used and how it changes. A person can speak, dress, eat, conduct their life in whatever way they’re comfortable with without judgment from people who feel like they must go around imposing their contrived superiority on the perceived inferior world around them. When we hear ‘WE WAS’ or ‘I WEREN’T’ or if you read ‘HENRYS BURGERS’ we know exactly what is being said – there is no issue with understanding. If you’re not sure exactly what ‘fleek’ or ‘slaying’ or ‘paaed’ means, if that comprehension isn’t crucial to you, your personal affront at being excluded from areas if vocabulary and language is insignificant. Well yes, yes it might sound strange to you or different from what you’re used to. Tough. Surprisingly enough the world is under no obligation to conform to your idea of normality.

Criticising, correcting and just all-round feeling superior to people because of their different uses of language is an irrational and stupid attitude we all need to stop right now. It’s worse than stupid: it’s harmful. It is one of the many components feeding into the life-altering systematic oppression of people of colour, lower classes, people considered ‘foreign’, anybody with an accent etc. etc. and is ANOTHER way in which we are discriminating, forcing a dominant oppressive culture on others and being shits. The implication when a person corrects linguistic ‘mistakes’ from their ‘superior’ position of speaking better english, is that they are also better, since they are displaying what is conventionally perceived as a superior level of class and eduction, as well as a stronger ‘claim’ on the language and ‘belonging’ to the respective country using it. The act of correcting somebody on how they are using their language may seem helpful or instructive, but it is a an assertion of privilege. A privilege whose dominance systematically and oppressively crushes the voices and lives of the people everywhere. Such perpetuation and reinforcement of oppressive notions is seriously hurtful, upsetting and destructive to the people around us. Of course those who do actively condemn ‘bad’ english are normally not concertedly trying to be mean or discriminatory. Ironically, it is largely coming from a place of ignorance rather than a place of malice. In the very act of trying to demonstrate their intelligence the “Grammar Nazi” (as they have been popularly and revoltingly coined) is only revealing their own narrow-mindedness and lack of knowledge. Ignorance, however, is no excuse.

So, get off your high-ass linguistic horse. Now brutally kill it. Good. Also tear your eyes away from [insert generic 95+% white, cis, straight, middle-upper class national piece of media]. Now put down whatever esteemed literary book written by a famous white old man from hundreds of years ago you were planning to read later. Have a long hard think about Western/Euro-centric education and conditioning. Go and find some diverse voices to read and listen to. And then see if you still feel so ‘good’ about your english.

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