Blog Archive

Friday, 9 October 2020

BARAC UK Statement on Proposed Home Office Immigration Enforcement Centre at Royal Dock, Newham, London: Oppose Warehouse K


BARAC UK Statement on Proposed Home Office Immigration Enforcement Centre at Royal Dock, Newham, London

Oppose Warehouse K 

We are concerned that in one of the most multicultural boroughs in the UK, the Home Office is planning to relocate an Immigration Enforcement Centre based in Central London currently, to Newham.

This centre would be a place where those threatened with deportation would be required to sign in with the Home Office. We have reported over several years, numerous cases of individuals complying with requirements  to sign in with the Home Office on a regular (weekly/ fortnightly/monthly) basis and who were seized with no notice, sometimes torn away from loved ones, including children and taken to immigration detention centres and booked onto flights,  often charter flights, for mass deportations causing trauma, distress and illness for the individuals concerned and their loved ones.  This has included the Windrush Generation and their descendants and also people who have fled persecution and death threats in their own countries.

During the lockdown period we became aware that a large number of families in Newham were experiencing extreme poverty and denial of basic human rights due to having no recourse to public funds. 

These are  people who have sought asylum in the UK and who can legally work  but who have lost jobs due to the pandemic and are not allowed to claim benefits or access government coronavirus measures. 

We responded by directing some of our humanitarian aid funds for refugees to purchase food and baby essentials for families impacted, at least two of whom had babies born during lockdown.

We also wrote to the UN Special Rapporteur for  extreme poverty asking him to investigate urgently, having previously given evidence about poverty and recism in the UK. 

The people most impacted by Home Office 'hostile  environment' policies have been those from the African, Caribbean and Asian regions. 

Establishing such a centre in Newham creates a hostile environment in Newham for the multi ethnic population living here.

The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, in a recent statement, said that; 

"Newham Council have been made aware that the Home Office intend to use the Grade II listed Warehouse K building, next to the ExCeL exhibition centre, for immigration enforcement purposes, something which was not referred to in an application put forward last October."

"Although planning permission was granted in October 2019 for alterations and listed building consent for the continued use of the building for offices and employment uses, the application did not refer to a range of enforcement uses which are not appropriate at the Royal Docks leisure and residential area, and is contrary to Newham’s Local Plan policies, and its policy position against the hostile environment."

We are concerned about the lack of transparency  in making the application for planning permission and that when making it, the government communicated that it would only be used for offices for employees with no mention of the true intentions.

We have also seen reports that the government plan to include a holding centre on the same premises which could "accommodate" 35 people.  This means it would not just be a reporting centre where people may be taken and transferred to a detention centre but that people may be detained within it. 

In our work supporting people who have been detained, we know that for those held, conditions are worse than prison, with vermin and cold temperatures reported and the uncertainty of not knowing if you will ever be released and see loved ones again or be taken at extremely short notice and deported humanely.  We remember Jimmy Mubenga. 12th October is the ten year anniversary of his death on a British Airways flight whilst being deported.

We are further concerned about the very close  proximity of the planned centre to London City Airport and how the airport might be used to facilitate  such deportations. 

Mayor Fiaz went on to say in her statement;

“Newham Council stands in solidarity with the Windrush generation, whose experiences laid bare the scandal of the hostile environment. We celebrated their contributions as a nation in June; and we are now marking their significance during Black History Month which starts today. The proposed change of use of Warehouse K in Newham would be wholly at odds with our approach to stand with our communities in that same spirit of solidarity."

In the middle of lockdown, the long awaited Windrush Lessons Learned report was published, which concluded that the Home Office was guilty of being institutionally ignorant of racism  and made a number of recommendations,  yet to be implemented, which included training for Home Office staff, on the history of black people, race and migration in relation to the UK.  The establishment of such a centre in Newham not only creates a hostile environment but demonstrates no attempt what so ever to learn lessons. Furthermore the vast majority of Windrush generation 'victims' have not received compensation for the injustice, trauma and losses they have endured.

Tomorrow,  10th of October, as part of Newham's Black History Month programme, BARAC UK will be hosting a panel debate and film screening about the Windrush Scandal and hostile environment where attendees will hear first hand from those impacted and those campaigning for justice:

The Home Office are currently conducting a consultation which is only open until 20th October. You can respond by email or online, using this link:

The Home Office state that they estimate almost 20% of all of those reporting to the centre will be Newham residents, given the number of London boroughs, this is a huge proportion of Newham residents being targeted and threatened with deportation. It's  presence creates a racist, frightening  and unsafe environment for local people and must be opposed. 
Please respond registering your opposition and concerns by the deadline.


Thursday, 8 October 2020

Black History Month Greetings and Reflections by Zita Holbourne, Poet~Artist~Activist - National Chair of BARAC UK


Black History Month Greetings from Chair of BARAC UK; 

Zita Holbourne


When Black History Month was established in the UK, the aim was that October would open a series of black history events / activities which would run through the whole year from October to September.


Nevertheless, October gives us an opportunity to focus on the histories, achievements, talents and struggles of black people, for black people to share knowledge and for others to listen, learn and acknowledge.


This year has been one of collective trauma for black communities. Black people have been impacted disproportionately by the coronavirus pandemic, more likely to be in precarious and front line jobs as key workers, having to go to physical workplaces through the lockdown and  with people from African and Asian diasporas up to 4 times more likely to contract and die from covid and many in our community losing loved ones, family and friends but unable to grieve and say goodbye in traditional and familiar ways.  One of the people who died from coronavirus that I didn’t know personally, but whose death impacted really badly on me and many others, was Belly Mujinga, a transport worker, who  was kind, caring and helped everybody she encountered, way beyond the call of duty, on many occasions, who was spat at whilst doing her job by a member of the public and who was made by her employer to work out in the station rather than in the ticket office, despite her being in a high risk group.


As if that was not bad enough the killing of George Floyd (and others) in the USA, was captured on video and witnessed through social media across the world.  This led to global black lives matter protests, a rallying call for justice and for race equality.


In the midst of the pandemic the Windrush Lessons Learned report was finally published with a list of recommendations for the Home Office to address what was described as ‘institutional ignorance of racism’.


Meanwhile the vast majority of people who are entitled to compensation because of the injustice they faced as part of the Windrush Generation, have yet to receive it, some had already died and in July, one of those impacted and who has also campaigned for justice, the wonderful Paulette Wilson passed away, adding to our sorrow and trauma.


The protests over the summer sparked a refreshed debate about the legacies of enslavement and colonialism and their role in allowing racism to thrive today.


We saw institutions and businesses jump on the black lives matter ‘slogan’ one minute, declaring their anti-racist credentials, irrespective of their track records, in a tokenistic way and then we saw some institutions who sought to claim those three words: Black Lives Matter  - distance themselves the next minute.  We also encountered the ‘white lives matter’  and ‘all lives matter’ declarations from those who did not want to understand that if all lives actually mattered there would be no need for those with a lived experience of anti-black racism to inform the world that black lives matter as it would be taken as a given.


When we started this year, none of us anticipated how different to everything we were familiar with and expected, it would actually be. The impacts on everyone have been vast - dramatic, distressing and frightening. Some people have lost their lives, others have lost their businesses or jobs  and even for those who have not lost lives or livelihoods or loved ones they have experienced changes and challenges and had to adapt immediately to new ways of living, working, communicating and more. But there have been disproportionate impacts on many with protected characteristics, black, Asian and minority ethnic people, women, disabled people, LGBT plus, young people, older people. and multiple impacts for those who are intersectional. 


So, when we speak about celebrating black history month, it will be understandable that for some people,  they are not in a space or a time where they feel able to celebrate. But Black History Month is also an opportunity for reflection, for personal learning, for acknowledging our struggles and our accomplishments  and given the year we have encountered thus far, black history month is more important than ever in providing an opportunity for us to have conversations about what  it is like to live with racism, to campaign against it, to be labelled or harassed and bullied, to experience microaggressions, to be barred from promotion and progression, to feel isolated at university or in the workplace and for institutions and businesses to not just reflect but to act upon their own failures in tackling racism and creating safe equal environments and to address these issues be it as employers or  service providers  and not just in a tokenistic trivial way.


But it is also an opportunity for us to lift up our voices collectively, to share stories of unsung sheroes and heroes, to share our histories and herstories, to meet – be it virtually – to acknowledge the skills and talents in our communities and the pioneers whose shoulders we sit upon.


As a visual artist and poet, I have  created a daily visual diary through the pandemic and the black lives matter protests  and am doing the same through black history month to document my personal and our collective experiences through arts and creativity. On Instagram @zitabaracuk you can view them.  I have art/ poetry in two virtual exhibitions - one in the UK on the impacts of coronavirus  Life Interrupted and one in the USA on black lives matter - Speak Your Truth .


I started Black History Month at an opening  event which I hosted / chaired  with historian David Olusoga, where he spoke about black lives matter in the context of Black British History. Too often we hear USA black history being shared with us but not UK black history and I was struck by something David said that in Bristol a school was teaching about the Montgomery Bus Boycott  and Rosa Parkes but they knew nothing of the Bristol  Bus Boycott and Paul Stephenson.  This made me both sad and angry in equal measure.


Paul Stephenson who was central to the Bristol Bus Boycott is one of the people who inspired me as an activist from a young age. When I was 19 years old, as part of a photographer placement with the Caribbean Times,  for a project I was doing at art school, I visited Paul in Bristol where he was giving us an interview in relation to a friend of his who had passed away in London. I expected to be in Bristol for a couple of hours but it was nightfall by the time I left and by the time I left my life had become enriched and informed by the experience and knowledge that meeting Paul Stephenson gave me. He took us to his home where I was stunned to see framed photos in his front room of Muhammed Ali and his family which led to the first black history month of the day but then he took us on a tour of Bristol and all the while he was driving us around he was teaching us the history of the impact of enslavement of African people and the transatlantic slave trade on Bristol, pointing out street names and places  - which we have seen come to the fore in Bristol and other cities this summer with the toppling of the Colston statue and he taught us about the Bristol Bus Boycott, he taught us about the economic impacts on race and black communities by physically taking us around to see this with our own eyes and  before we made the long journey back to London, he treated us to local culture and hospitality in St Pauls  at a Caribbean pub for some rum and a Caribbean cafĂ© for some rice and peas and jerk chicken.

As I sat on the coach on the journey home, I didn't imagine I would see him again, let alone host him at seminars and conferences I co-organised, would share platforms with him as a speaker and spend quality time with him.  


I often wonder how many years it would have taken for me to know about the Bristol Bus Boycott if I had not met Paul Stephenson that day.


That day had a profound impact on me then, not just because of what he taught us, but because he took the time to give up his day to be with us, to show us the city, the politics and history of it and to share his knowledge and wisdom with us and to welcome us like you would family. He taught me community in a strange city I had never visited and only knew about vaguely and he enriched my mind with knowledge that had never been taught to me in school.


This June marked the ten year anniversary of BARAC UK, when we were established we did not imagine that ten years down the line we would still exist and still  be campaigning against the impacts of austerity and against racism and injustice and that ten years of campaigning alone could fill a book of black history and will.


There are many untold stories of the history and presence  of black people in the UK and a starting point could be for you to just share your own story, or the story of a family member with your own friends, colleagues or circles, it doesn’t have to be a public event.


As a trade union representative and community campaigner  I have been and will be speaking at a range of different black history month events, but in one of my local  union groups I am part of, this is exactly what we will be doing  - simply sharing testimonials of our lived experiences of racism and challenging it and surviving it but also of the impacts of it, with our colleagues at our black history month event.


Each one teach one – the knowledge your hold and take for granted – may be a revelation and an inspiration for another.


On Saturday 10th of October,  as part of Newham Black History Month, BARAC will be hosting a panel debate and film screenings from the film Is Britain Racist,  about how, what became known as the Windrush Scandal, came about, our campaigning against it since 2012 and joining BARAC representatives on the panel will be Glenda Caesar who was directly impacted by it and the maker of the film about those impacted and those who have campaigned , Jean-Marc Aka-Kadjo.


But in addition to the Windrush Generation and how they have been impacted, we must also remember that their descendants – the children and grandchildren who joined them in the UK  as babies or young children and even some born in the UK are also being targeted for deportation , people like Osime Brown, a young 21 years old black man with severe autism who came to the UK aged 4 years old and who was wrongly convicted under now defunct joint enterprise law and who is being targeted for deportation, my heart goes out to his mother and family who like so many other families find their lives torn apart and forced to fight and campaign for justice  and for their families to stay together.


One of the events I attend every year during Black History Month is the United Family and Friends Campaign annual march against deaths incustody. Over the years of being an activist and campaigner I have met with, campaigned with and supported so many families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the state. The huge number of black people who have died like this should not be part of our history in the UK or in the USA but it is  and this year because of covid restrictions and safety, the event will be online and I encourage you to join those families and show your love, support and solidarity because they need it.




I have written here about many struggles and injustices that black communities have encountered,  but our history did not begin with our oppression  and we have a rich history  to learn about and share – humanity began on the continent of Africa and in my role as a member of the UNESCO Coalition ofArtists for the General History of Africa, I would like to remind people of the 8 volumes of the history of Africa which UNESCO has written in order to document that history.


Even in the face of racism here in the UK – we have achieved, we have succeeded, we have represented and we have enriched British culture as have all of the communities  who came to the UK and made it their home.  Be it in business, through the arts, sports, literature, academia, at work, in education, in communities, in politics and in every part of life,   we have contributed to British History  - so we have a story to tell, a story to share, a story to educate during black history month.


Black History is world history  and another event I will be doing for black history month is a book reading from my book Striving for Equality Freedom and Justice  - a book which fuses the poetical with the political and documents black history from the Haitian Revolution to the Black Lives Matter Movement. For Black History Month I  would like to pay tribute to my publisher Hansib Publications and Arif Ali. Hansib is one of the oldest Caribbean publishers in the UK, they started publishing newspapers - the Caribbean Times and then also the Asian and African Times newspapers and it was through the Caribbean Times that I met Paul Stephenson and got my first works published - photographs.  So Hansib has also been part of my journey and history and they are most certainly part of black history. 


For this Black History month I would  also like to pay tribute to the black people I work with every day in the trade union movement and in community activism, in the arts and in campaigning – you are making history every day but I would also like to remember our ancestors and those who put themselves at great risk to pave the way for us and to the pioneers who were brave enough to be the first but opened the doors for other to follow and those who are the unsung sheroes and heroes who quietly behind the scenes, never seeking glory, work tirelessly on our behalf.

I would encourage you to click on the hyperlinks included to find out more about the people and events if you don't already know. 


Black History is World History.


Zita Holbourne


Photo credit: Elizabeth Dalziel photographer,  courtesy of Women Activists of East London exhibition. 

 All other photos courtesy of Zita Holbourne/ BARAC UK and all artwork created by Zita Holbourne. 




Monday, 20 July 2020

Press Announcement: Zita Holbourne, Chair of BARAC UK to give the Slavery Remembrance Dorothy Kuya Memorial Lecture 2020

Zita Holbourne, Chair of BARAC to give the  Dorothy Kuya Memorial Lecture as part of the International Slavery Museum; Slavery Memorial Weekend of online events. 

BARAC UK is delighted that our National Chair; Zita Holbourne has been asked to give a lecture for Slavery Memorial Day 2020 . The lecture has previously been delivered by Diane Nash, Selma Voting Rights Campaign, Ndaba Mandela, son of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King III, son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King. 

Zita Holbourne said:

"It is an honour and privilege to be asked to deliver this important lecture to mark Slavery Remembrance Day and in memory of the phenomenal campaigner for race equality and justice, Dorothy Kuya. At this time where there is a growing black lives matter movement globally, after over a decade of austerity impacting adversely and disproportionately on black communities  and in the midst of the coronavirus crisis which is also impacting disproportionately it is crucial that the legacies of enslavement and colonialism which contribute to systemic racism today are addressed as a matter of urgency. The themes for this year's UNESCO Slavery Remembrance Day are healing and remembrance. We remember the plight of our ancestors and the brutality they faced but we live with racism every day - for healing to happen there must be reparations and there must be race equality in our lifetime."

"Striving for Race Equality, Justice and Freedom. Zita Holbourne is a lifelong community and human rights campaigner and activist, as well as an artist, curator, poet and writer. She avidly campaigns for equality, freedom, justice and human rights and will delve into these topics as part of her keynote speech, discussing reparations for past atrocities, healing our collective trauma and equal rights for the future generations. From Windrush to the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19, systemic discrimination and State brutality to everyday racism and micro aggressions, we are living with the legacies of enslavement and colonialism. Zita will explore this difficult but much needed narrative."  International Slavery Museum

"Zita Holbourne is a tireless national campaigner fighting for equality, freedom and racial justice. A lifelong trade union and community activist she has lead the campaign against racism and austerity for over ten years as co-founder and National Chair of Black Activist Rising Against Cuts ( BARAC UK).
Zita is a beacon of resistance amongst the black community both in the UK and internationally. 
It has been inspiring to work alongside her in BARAC UK and I am so pleased that she has received this recognition. 
Her grassroots work in fighting for the rights of others and to demand social justice are to be commended. It is a fitting achievement that Zita is to give the International Slavery Museum Slavery Remembrance Lecture 2020."

Donna Guthrie BARAC UK Women's Officer

"Zita Holbourne is a long standing campaigner, trade unionist and internationalist who has inspired me and many others over many years. She is a firm believer in the principle of self-organisation and the empowerment of oppressed people.

It's been a privilege to have worked alongside her within our trade union (PCS) as well as BARAC UK. I have always admired her tenacity, particularly in difficult situations.

I am so pleased that Zita has been invited to give the Dorothy Kuya Slavery Remembrance Memorial Lecture this year. Noting the eminence of previous recipients of this honour it is well deserved recognition of her efforts."

Hector Wesley
BARAC UK Officer at Large

The lecture will be available online via the International Slavery Museum website and social media platforms. There will be two lectures on the weekend of 21st to 23rd of August by Race Equality, Human Rights Campaigner, author and artist Zita Holbourne and by Professor Stephen Small of the University of California together with a libations ceremony and other events.

More information can be accessed here

For press enquiries contact: or 

Zita Holbourne is an award winning human rights campaigner, community and trade union activist, a poet, writer, visual artist, curator and vocalist. She  campaigns for equality, freedom, justice and rights through activism and arts. She is the co-founder and National Chair of BARAC UK,  the National Vice President of the PCS Union and the Joint National Chair of Artists' Union England, part of the UNESCO Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa, author of the book Striving for Equality Freedom and Justice. She is the winner of the National Diversity Awards Positive Role Model for Race and the Legacy Awards Life Time Achievement Award for Equality Champion. 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Watch BARAC Ten Year Anniversary event and full version of the film Is Britain Racist about Windrush and related injustice

Thank you to everyone who came to our virtual ten years anniversary event.

We held zoom event where we looked back at the past ten years and current racism and injustice including the murder of George Floyd,  Black Lives Matter movement, disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black communities.

We also launched a new film by documentary film maker, Jean-Marc Aka-Kadjo - is Britain Racist. Jean Marc spent over two years documenting the campaigning against the hostile environment, injustice faced by the Windrush Generation and their descendants in order to make the film.

Speakers at the event included Jean- Marc together with Chair of BARAC UK who chaired the event, Zita Holbourne,  Donna Guthrie, National Women's Officer  and Hector Wesley, Global Justice officer for BARAC UK.

Click play to watch - there are two 13 minute segments of the film in this video.

Watch the full film here

You can also access the film  on our Black Activists Rising Against Cuts Facebook Group - it is pinned to the top as an announcment.

BARAC UK on facebook

Thank you for being part of our journey


Artwork by Zita Holbourne copyright June 2020

Sunday, 14 June 2020

BARAC UK Ten Year anniversary zoom event and launch of the film Is Britain Racist, 21st of June

BARAC UK turns ten years old next week. We cannot believe that ten years has passed either. We started as a campaign against the forthcoming disproportionate impact of austerity on black workers, service users and communities in June 2010 and never anticipated that we would still be here ten years later. Hand in Hand with austerity came deepening racism and injustice which has continued to this very day. In the ten years since we were formed we have campaigned against institutional racism, every day racism, racism and injustice at work, in the labour market,  in education, in wider society, in the arts and culture sector, in policing and public institutions, we have co-founded several other groups including Movement Against Xenophobia,  Elbow Out Ebola,  BME Lawyers 4 Grenfell, BAME Lawyers for Justice and we have campaigned against deaths at the hands of the state and human rights abuses globally.  We have campaigned for refugee and migrant rights and for seven years coordinated regular humanitarian aid  and solidarity work, fundraising and raising thousands of pounds and conducting regular aid missions to people who are displaced in France. . Our work has been recognised nationally and internationally and we have worked with our sisters and brothers for global justice.  We have organised numerous marches, protests, lobbies of parliament,  direct actions. Our campaigns have included Windrush Day of Action, MLK50 Equality In Our Lifetime, I am an Immigrant Campaign, Dear White People film campaign, ending with our national chair co-hosting  a Leicester Square premier film screening, we have been joined in the UK and supported by the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, we forced the British Olympics Association to do a U-turn and much more. During the past few years we have had a big focus on  Windrush justice and campaigning against the 'hostile environment' more widely.

BARAC UK was co-founded by Zita Holbourne and Lee Jasper who were the co-chairs until Lee stepped down and Zita took up the role of National Chair. 

We want to thank all of the people that kept us going and supported and stood with us,  especially the activists who led the local BARAC structures in different cities, a big shout out goes to Colette Williams and Maurice Shaw   - Manchester BARAC co-chairs,  Maxie Hayles - Birmingham BARAC Chair, Pauline North, Bristol BARAC Chair, Graham Campbell, Scotland BARAC Chair and all the other convenors, activists and members of BARAC.

We thank all those partner orgs and individuals  we have  worked with, those who affiliated with us and worked with us including trade unions with a special thank you to the Public and Commercial Services Union who have supported our journey from the very start and continue to do so.

We thank everyone who has supported our campaigns over the years, attended events and demos, answered our call for action to challenge racism, injustice and cuts and to support our humanitarian aid work.  We see you and appreciate you. 

Sunday 21st June is the 10 year anniversary of BARAC UK & the eve of National Windrush Day . We will be holding a zoom event from 3 to 4.30pm launching the full length documentary Is Britain Racist made by film maker Jean-Marc Aka-Kadjo over a 2 year period charting the Windrush Scandal and BARAC and others campaigning opposing it, on the eve of Windrush Day we want to highlight the ongoing injustice and will be showing segments of the film plus holding a discussion on Windrush, Coronavirus impacts on black communities and Black Lives Matter with co founder and National Chair of BARAC UK , Zita Holbourne  plus National Women's Officer Donna Guthrie and International Officer Hector Wesley with q&a & discussion.  

Jean - Marc Aka-Kadjo says:

This documentary will take you on a journey that shows the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those who came to Britain during the Windrush era from various countries within the Commonwealth. The film is candid and exposes and reveals truth. Individual interviews, news feeds and archive footage have been utilised to show how the lives of individuals from the Windrush era, and the lives of their loved ones, have been affected by the recent changes in British law…and what is being done to help them. 

Zita Holbourne, Chair of BARAC UK says:

We have fought for justice, equality, rights and freedom for many years, way before BARAC UK was formed and will continue to do so. The deepening racism  and injustice our communities face globally demonstrate that our organisation and many others like it are still needed  and will be needed for some time. The impacts of coronavirus on black communities are huge - with black people over 4 times more likely to die, this has a direct link to discrimination and poverty and globally people, predominantly young have take to the streets over the past fortnight crying out that black lives matter, because George Floyd was murdered by police in the USA but also because many more have died because of racism in the USA, in the UK and around the world, because institutional racism and every day racism destroys lives, because we are still far from having race equality. We have supported and campaigned for decolonisation of our towns and cities and universities and curriculums for many years and we are glad that there is now a serious discussion about the glorification of historic statues  of people who enslaved and murdered our ancestors and who endorsed and allowed racism to thrive and who were complicit in enslavement and colonialism.  In 2017 we published our 2025 vision for race equality and it is interesting to see that some institutions and businesses now are only just starting to consider their own part in allowing institutional racism to continue in their own organisations - for those organisations to say black lives matter is all very well but actions speak louder than words.

 You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Jun 21, 2020 15:00 London

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. from

Please see attached flyer.

There is also a facebook link below to share on social media.

A selection of photos from recent years follows: