Blog Archive

Friday, 26 October 2018

315000 sign our petition in support of Delsie Gayle

On Monday chair of BARAC UK , Zita Holbourne launched a petition in support of Delsie Gayle after she was racially abused in a Ryanair flight.

Please sign the petition

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

We Stand With our sister Cecile Kyenge MEP

We Stand With our sister Cecile Kyenge MEP


Cecile Kyenge is an Italian MEP. Over a prolonged period, she has been subjected to horrendous racist abuse, misogyny and threats by those who say she should not be a politician in Italy or in Europe.

Some of this abuse has come from other politicians and political parties. Northern League senate vice-president Roberto Calderoli likened her to an orangutan and said she should not be involved in Italian politics but ‘should do politics in her own country’.  There have also been calls for Cecile to be raped. She has had bananas thrown at her.

Cecile has a legal case naming ten Italian politicians because of their abuse.

The leader of Northern League, Now Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, has compared African migrants to slaves and Northern League has ordered a process to expel undocumented Roma people from Italy.

Recently a town in Italy has denied school meals and bus services to children of migrant families, applauded by Salvini who has also blocked NGO rescue ships from Italian ports and has made a proposal that would force what he calls “little ethnic shops” to close by 9pm, targeting Asian shop owners.

In September I was part of a European wide trade union delegation visiting Palermo, Sicily to bring a message of solidarity with refugees and migrants.
We agreed a statement which initiated a European public sector union network of support. Cecile was invited to attend the first day of our programme and sent a video message. In my speech, I gave a message of solidarity with Cecile and called on participants to stand up to all forms of racism.

We visited one of several support centres for migrants, providing shelter and training.  In the same week a decree drafted by Salvini was approved outlawing the type of support centre we visited and also abolishing humanitarian protection for those not eligible for refugee status amongst other plans targeting migrants.  

As a result of the direct attacks on her and hostile policies and actions targeting migrants and refugees by Northern League, Cecile has expressed the view that they are racist. In response Matteo Salvini is now suing Cecile for defamation.

The attack on Cecile in suing her for speaking out about racism is an attack on us all, it is an attack on equality and on human rights and it is an attempt to legitimise racism and silence voices opposing it.  But it is also a direct attack on Cecile because she is a black, migrant woman.
We know first-hand that black women politicians, campaigners and activists face horrific abuse because of their race and gender and we  recognise that all have a responsibility to stand up to it. We condemn the horrific abuse and harassment of our sister Cecile and we offer our whole-hearted solidarity and support.  We thank Cecile Kyenge for her courage and determination and for speaking out for all of us.

We also encourage people to sign the petition in support  initiated by Operation Black Vote.

Zita Holbourne; Co-founder & National Chair;
On behalf of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK

Friday, 12 October 2018

Black History is World History

Zita Holbourne, National Chair of BARAC UK, writing for the Morning Star newspaper on why in the midst of the Windrush scandal and hostile environment Black History is as important as ever;

Black history is world history, and attempts to water it down are harmful to black people in our struggle against racism, says ZITA HOLBOURNE

Read here;

Defending Black History Month

Thursday, 11 October 2018

European Public Sector Unions Welcome Refugees & Migrants to Europe

Our chair Zita Holbourne spoke in her role as National Vice President of PCS Union, at a conference organised by European public sector unions in Palermo, Sicily on 28th September, you can watch her speech below and read her article on the PCS website.

Read here

The conference agreed a statement (below), which Zita contributed to and a network to welcome migrants to Europe, oppose racism & stand for properly resourced public services responding to the needs of refugees and migrants.

Zita Holbourne speaking at EU Care conference


Proposal for a statement by FPCGIL e CCOO
European solidarity? A European network of public service workers to welcome migrants

Migration is a global, social and economic phenomenon. Migration has existed since the beginning of time, it has benefit socially and economically.  It cannot be dealt only as if it were an emergency and a security issue, as it has been the case until now, but as a structural phenomenon that involves the whole European Union and across the world and will continue to do so.
Without a common coherent, solidarity and human rights framework, the ad-hoc  security-based approach to migration at national and EU level contributes to fear and causes racism and xenophobia.
Racism is real. In the last few months in Italy and many other European countries we have witnessed a resurgence of racism, outburst of verbal and physical violence involving fascist and populist right wing groups but also ordinary people victim of fears and insecurity who are led to believe that migrants are the enemy to persecute, insult,  and reject. Those who hold racist views feeling emboldened to express them and carry out racist and xenophobic abuse and hate crimes.
The European Union cannot be conceived of as a mosaic of national borders: the Mediterranean countries form the southern frontier of the European Union and carry out activities for the EU in the field of migration processes to promote reception and integration. These are important activities that involve all public sectors: from health to local and central governement, including civil servants,  to rescue at sea, from security to social services, as well as processing of asylum claims and related services, local social services, housing, training, promoting  integration in the labour market and society.
It is fundamental to understand that workers in those services are European,  far beyond that of a single nationality; their fundamental, transnational job is to welcome and integrate migrants on behalf of the whole of Europe.
Until now, their national isolation, a lack of adequate resources and investment and the need to always work in emergency situations have created stressful working conditions and objective problems. This means that the work being done does not always meet the needs of the citizens concerned.
Indeed, the key issue of staff shortages throughout Europe, due to the economical crisis approach,  in particular in the public services dealing with the reception, care and integration of the newcomers, and the absence of a common European policy, are ignored for squalid political and electoral reasons.
To build a European sense of solidarity that can accommodate and manage migration in a qualitatively adequate manner, creating a structured and coherent system, a single one for the whole Union, it is necessary to develop common standards and tools to allow all public workers in the Union, whatever their country of origin, to work in the same direction. In particular, this must go through in changing the Dublin Rules that have burdened the countries of the southern frontier disproportionately.
We agree with EPSU calling for an EU-wide relocation system based on social, economic criteria of host countries as well as preferences and language and family connections of newcomers concerned.
It is also necessary to place at the centre of the political debate the importance of the role played by the public institutions, at national and local level, the working conditions of workers who deal with the reception of migrants and the search for solutions that allow a genuine system of integration, based on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, ‘International standards for refugees and migrant workers’ rights (i.e. UN Conventions, as the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and Core Human Rigths Conventions of the UN, including the one on migrant workers and ILO conventions) as well as  the national constitutions.
Appropriate resources must be allocated by the Union to increase the budget for migratory issues which, on the one hand, take into account the dignity and rights of the migrants and, on the other, invest in and enhance the work of all workers dealing with migrants in  cooperatives, NGOs, public administrations that should all be working within a public sector ethos, developing a fundamental role of integration and defending the democratic values of the European Union.
Further, the public security services of the various states working at the borders must guarantee the respect of human rights of newcomers and be able to work in a safe and healthy working environment. In this sense it is necessary to respond to the needs of the security forces members. Governments must therefore provide sufficient technical and human resources, qualified training, relevant to the work done by people working in this sector; there is no doubt that if police personell and other security workers do not operate safely, they can hardly guarantee the security and safety of others.
In our view, relaunching EU safe channels for regular migration are essential to  guarantee security and legality as well as reducing so-called irregular migration, the consequences of which are often conditions of widespread illegality and the exploitation of migrants at work. Furthermore, stopping the migrant smuggling industry is a goal that the European Union is quite capable of.
Furthermore, the creation of humanitarian channels, for all those fleeing wars (conflict, poverty, persecution, climate change) and inhumane conditions, could avoid the terrible escalation of deaths at sea which in recent months has seen a terrifying increase as recently reported by UNHCR.
As a European public service delegation underlined at a meeting in Melilla on 13 and 14 June last, “It is at the basis of the values of the Union to ensure the saving of lives and the protection of asylum rights and this has to be a central element of reception policies.”
As public workers’ unions, we therefore believe that to build and support these demands it is necessary to create a European network of reception workers, and for this reason we ask our European Union Federation, EPSU, to support this call and help connect all workers in Europe who are operating in the migration area to encourage decent reception and a human-right based approach to migration. We invite other unions affiliated to EPSU representing those workers to join the network and to build a powerful voice to represent our interests towards the EU institutions (Parliament, Council and Commission).
Through this virtuous connection it will be possible, building upon the European trade union meetings in Melilla and Palermo, to exchange important shared experiences that might initiate a dialogue in Europe with the institutions.
The aim is to achieve at least adequate “EU legal minimum social standards” including through European sectoral and cross-sectoral social dialogue, to give much more emphasis on the importance of the work in public services dealing with reception and to overcome the difficulties of workers.
The European network of reception workers can also be a means to strengthen the role of public service unions internationally as key stakeholders in promoting access of migrants to basic services, a commitment stipulated in the United Nations Global Compact on Migration agreed last July, and underlined by the PSI, our global union federation.
The network should also aim to influence the European elections in May 2019, asking the progressive political forces to defend in their programmes the need for humane response of migration and quality of public services, also as an extraordinary antidote to the re-emergence of fascism, racism and xenophobia. (European citizens, even those who are frightened by the migratory phenomenon, has to understand that adequate welcoming and integration of migrants has unavoidable costs and should support to invest economical resources for this aim.) cfdt
We know well that in Europe there is a general situation of crisis and social injustice, of a failure to satisfy human rights, not the least at work, and there are those who use and exploit the fears and uncertainties of ever broader social categories, accentuating dangerous divisions between workers and citizens.
We also know well that the European Union is based on strong values so it is necessary to mobilize citizens and cultural, philosophical and militant  forces.
We know well where this road can lead and we cannot stand and watch. We all have to affirm strongly: no to racism and xenophobia, yes to human security, and yes to a quality reception through public services and public work.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Stop Helping the Home Office to Deport People

I started a petition on Monday night calling on British Airways to stop working with the Home Office, deporting people. Last week it was revealed by The Guardian that Virgin has declared it is no longer collaborating with the government to deport people.  I am quoted in the article.

In just 36 hours since launching this petition in has gained 27000 signatures. People are quite rightly outraged by the treatment of Windrush generation people and their families who have made their lives in the UK, working & contributing taxes for decades,after raising children & grandchildren.

I also have a related petition focused on the Home Office. If you read the updates you will see that the Home Office have failed to comply with 2 separate Freedom of Information requests and I have had to report them to the Information Commissioners Office.

Please sign here

Petition text;

Virgin Airlines have announced that they will no longer work with the Home Office to deport immigrants from the UK amidst concerns the Home Office is wrongfully removing members of the Windrush generation and LGBT asylum seekers.

People deemed as illegal immigrants are detained and removed using these flights - sometimes this whole process happens in as little as 2 weeks. This leaves very little time to get legal support and to appeal the Home Office’s decision. As a result people who actually have the right to be in the UK, are at risk of being deported - and disgracefully they have been.
Last month, the Home Secretary admitted that at least 63 people were wrongly deported from the UK who were part of the Windrush generation.These are people who were invited and immigrated to the UK legally, built their lives and made their homes here and then were forced to leave.  
The decision by Virgin to stop participating in this is a big step in helping to save people facing such injustice. I hope that if other airlines follow Virgin’s example, it could encourage the Home Office to make the system better and fairer.
That’s why I’m calling on the UK’s largest airline, British Airways (BA) and other airlines, to commit to not helping to deport people too.

Three major US airlines - American Airlines, United and Frontier - asked the federal government to stop using their flights to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families before Donald Trump signed an executive order to end separations. I want to see UK airlines taking as strong a stance, and standing up for what is right.

As the National Chair of BARAC UK - Black Activists Rising Against Cuts - we work regularly with  people who are targeted by the Home Office including those from the Windrush generation and so I see the damage it causes to their lives and the communities they are part of when they are torn away. The tide is turning. Corporations are learning that it is important to listen to the public and recognise the role they play.

Please sign my petition.

Zita Holbourne
National Chair;  BARAC UK 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Press Release; BMElawyers4Justice Launch; Windrush 11 point plan

London, 1st May 2018: BMELawyers4Justice (formerly BMELawyers4Grenfell), an organisation comprised of some of the UK’s leading BME legal specialists, community justice groups and the wider community, are in the process of challenging this Government’s immigration and deportation policies affecting those who either entered or whose parents/grandparents entered the UK as Commonwealth citizens under the express invitation of the UK government.  

The ‘Windrush Scandal’, is not isolated to Windrush.  The same issues affect many others, both from the Commonwealth and those born overseas. Despite having been told that they were part of the Empire, these migrants were met with a wave of prejudice and sometimes outright hostility, something they had not been prepared for.

It has now emerged that many have been deported and others still face being threatened with deportation under new immigration rules whereby people are being ordered to prove they have the right to be in the UK to rent property, work or access services and benefits, despite living and working here for decades, some over 50 years.

We are only now told that the government failed to keep detailed records of Windrush arrivals, and landing cards recording their arrival dates were destroyed in 2010, months after Theresa May became Home Secretary.  In May 2012, Theresa May said the new measures were designed to create a "hostile environment" for people who were in the UK illegally.  That hostile environment has led to numerous deportations, including Windrush migrants settled in this country for decades being deported ‘in error’ and others being refused re-entry to the UK. 

Whilst we welcome the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd this is not enough.

We propose an 11-Point Plan for reparations of the human rights abuse suffered by the Windrush and Commonwealth generation and their descendants:

1. The immediate resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May as the chief architects of policies designed to create a hostile, unfair and racist environment.

2. An independent Ombudsman be appointed to investigate and establish how many people have been wrongly detained or deported and order the immediate return of those unlawfully deported and award full compensation for all those that have suffered loss, financial or otherwise, (injury to feelings of the highest tier under the Vento guidelines) for those who faced deportation, lost employment housing or access to NHS and other basic services;

3. The immediate grant of full UK citizenship of all those Commonwealth citizens in the UK before 1973 & their descendants;

4. All those affected by the 2014 Act to be protected from deportation or administrative removal as so called “foreign criminals”;

5. An immediate end to the adoption of immigration targets for removals or deportations;

6. A halt to the practice of paying Commonwealth Governments for those deported or removed under any circumstances;

7. An impact assessment by the Children’s Commissioner on the effect on the children affected by these policies;

8. A guarantee that the current rights of Commonwealth citizens will not be rendered unlawful or more precarious in any post Brexit immigration policy being formulated by the Home Office;

9. A full review and report to be laid before Parliament within 6 months on the implementation of the above legislative and policy changes by the Immigration Ombudsman;

10. Home Office removals and deportations to be subject to an annual independent audit to ensure the policies ad practices conform to a culture shift to ensure a compassionate and humane approach in line with the letter and spirit of Article 8 ECHR.

11.The Home Secretary shall have the power to revoke British Citizenship removed forthwith.

D. Peter Herbert OBE, co-founder of BMELawyers4Justice and Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: “The newly appointed Home Secretary will need to urgently address the fact that his department is institutionally racist and has over 50% of its decisions overturned on appeal.” 

Ismet Rawat, co-founder of BMELawyers4Justice and President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers. She added “Those of us working in the criminal justice system at the time of the Macperson Report were hopeful that it marked a turning point for this country as a whole.  Sadly, despite the phenomenal work undertaken and its 70 recommendations, it was soon left on the shelf.”

Zita Holbourne, National Chair & Co-founder BARAC UK said: “That the government would authorise a flight to Jamaica in the midst of the Windrush Scandal beggars belief. There has to be protection for not just those of the Windrush generation but their families also." 

Lee Jasper of Black Sox saidThe Government knowingly pursued a strategy of state endorsed racism. The PM’s dogged refusal to take full political responsibility is further evidence of the utter and total contempt, this Government holds black people in the UK, today.  Now the focus must be on removing Theresa May as Prime Minister, who knowingly allowed British black citizens to be arbitrarily arrested detained and deported.

For further information please contact:
D Peter Herbert O.B.E – Society of Black Lawyers – 07973 794 946
Ismet Rawat – Association of Muslim Lawyers – 07852 146 056
Zita Holbourne – Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) – 07711 861 660
Lee Jasper – 07984 181797

Notes to Editors 

About BMELawyers4Justice
BMELawyers4Grenfell is an umbrella group comprising of leading British BME lawyer andcommunity justice groups – Society of Black Lawyers, Association of Muslim Lawyers, Blaksox, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK Society of Asian Lawyers, Operation Black Vote (OBV) who have been working, severally and jointly, for over 40 years in the pursuit of justice in our communities. We are joined and supported by BME lawyers and community groups and volunteers.

Monday, 12 March 2018

BARAC Interview with Rokhsana Fiaz, standing to be the first black (BAME) and Muslim female directly elected mayor

Interview with Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz who is standing to be Newham's Labour mayoral candidate.

If elected it will be a historical event as she will be the first directly elected black (BAME) Muslim woman local authority mayor. She was interviewed by National Chair of BARAC UK Zita Holbourne, filmed by BARAC Women's Officer Donna Guthrie. In the interview she sets out her main priorities and thoughts including on social housing and supporting young people, opposing cuts, privatisation and Academisation of schools, climate change, the environment, standing up to racism and what International Women's Day means to her. 

Interview with Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz