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Racism policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic Uncategorized Webinars

Racism, policing and the politics of surveillance: video recording

Here the video recording of SSAHE’s second webinar with Gracie Mae Bradley, Adam Elliott-Cooper and Maya Goodfellow. The webinar was recorded on 6 July 2020. The webinar is chaired by Bahriye Kemal and Nando Sigona.

About our speakers:

Gracie Mae Bradley is Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty where she leads strategy and campaigns across policing, immigration, counter-terror, and surveillance. She is also on the Ada Lovelace Institute ‘Rethinking Data’ Working Group and the defenddigitalme Advisory Council.

Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper is a research associate in Sociology at University of Greenwich. His research focuses on geography and spatial theory, social movements and activism, anti-racism and British policing in Britain and its colonies. Recent publications include ‘Our Life is a Struggle’: Gender, Respectability and Black Resistance, and The struggle that cannot be named: violence, space and the re-articulation of anti-racism in post-Duggan Britain. He sits on the board of The Monitoring Group, an anti-racist organisation challenging state racisms and racial violence.

Dr Maya Goodfellow is a writer, academic and broadcast commentator. She has written for a range of publications including the New York Times and Guardian. Maya is the author of Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats (Verso, 2019). She holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London where she examined race and processes of racialisation in British international development discourse. She is a trustee of the Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank.

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Racism policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic Webinars

Webinar update

Racism, policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic | A Zoom webinar organized by Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment (SSAHE) | Monday, 6 July 2020, 5- 6.30 pm

This event is now sold out. We have now released waiting list tickets on our EventBrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-racism-policing-the-politics-of-surveillance-in-times-of-covid-tickets-110635102570

As we have reached our Zoom capacity, we will also live stream the webinar on Youtube. On Monday, we will circulate the URL to those who have registered on EventBrite.

Can we draw your attention to the image in our poster, ‘Eyes of a Cloud’ by  Leroy Letts. Letts is artist and poet-performer of  Jamaican heritage who has been subject to the hostile environment, on-going surveillance, the Windrush scandals and other struggles for much of his life. Our co-chair for the webinar, Bahriye Kemal, met Leroy through her work at Kent Refugee Help, a charity that supports foreign national prisoners in London and Kent, which is when he started painting; he is an excellent artist and poet-performer with so much potential, yet sadly he is currently destitute.

As Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment has no income, the organising committee agreed to fundraise amongst ourselves to pay Leroy an artist fee for using his painting. For this we have set up a PayPal money pool account that will welcome our donations until Tuesday 7th July. If you want to donate, here is the link: https://paypal.me/pools/c/8qupSAVOSq

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Events Racism policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic Webinars

WEBINAR: Racism, policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic

Racism, policing and the politics of surveillance in times of pandemic | A Zoom webinar organized by Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment (SSAHE), Monday, 6 July 2020, 5- 6.30 pm. 

This Webinar will take place on Zoom. To attend register on EventBrite. Once we have reached our Zoom capacity, we will open an EventBrite waiting list. Everyone on this list will receive a link for a YouTube live stream of the event.

 

An yu cyaan awsk Joy Gardner

Bout her sufficaeshan

[…]

Yu cyaan awsk Olivier Price

Bout di grip roun him nek

 

But yu can awsk di PCA

Bout di liesense fi kill

[…]

Dat plenty poleece feel dem gat

(Linton Kwesi Johnson, ‘License Fi Kill’, 1998)

Because white men can’t

police their imagination​

black men are dying​

 

(Claudia Rankine,

Citizen: An American Lyric ​, 2014)

 

Racism is ingrained in our capitalist societies which are built on historically-defined regimes of racialized accumulation. It inflicts violence and structural disadvantages on racialised citizens and migrants. The brutal murder of George Floyd in police custody is the tip of an iceberg made of hundreds of black and minority ethnic lives who are daily subjected to police violence and silenced by a judicial system unwilling to protect them. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the extent of social inequality and racialized oppression into sharp relief through the disproportionate number of deaths among black and minority ethnic communities in Europe and North America, fuelling pre-existing and deep resentment among those who experience them everyday. The Covid-19 pandemic has also escalated the state surveillance and monitoring capabilities and weakened checks and balances to executive and police powers which are likely to disproportionally impact negatively on racialized communities. George Floyd’s murder has triggered a global social movement that has united behind the banner ‘Black lives matter’ a broad and diverse alliance of groups, communities and individuals.

This SSAHE webinar brings together a range of perspectives on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on new and existing forms of racism and racial oppression, and the spaces and geographies that make and break black lives. It examines policing of black and minority ethnic lives and the changing politics of surveillance fuelled by big data and technological innovation, and suggests alternative ways we can re-read, reconstruct and remap the contemporary moment and everyday life, so as to police the imagination of the racist minds to take responsibility for their actions.

Speakers include:

  • Gracie Mae Bradley Government accountability and campaigning for change in a public health emergency
  • Adam Elliott-Cooper Beyond Reform: Policing, Racism and Anti-Racism in Britain
  • Maya Goodfellow The hostile environment during coronavirus: understanding immigration enforcement, surveillance and racism in the UK
  • Saskia Sassen The politics of surveillance encounters police brutality (USA)

The webinar is chaired by Bahriye Kemal and Nando Sigona

About the speakers

Gracie Mae Bradley is Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty where she leads strategy and campaigns across policing, immigration, counter-terror, and surveillance. She is also on the Ada Lovelace Institute ‘Rethinking Data’ Working Group and the defenddigitalme Advisory Council.

Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper is a research associate in Sociology at University of Greenwich. His research focuses on geography and spatial theory, social movements and activism, anti-racism and British policing in Britain and its colonies. Recent publications include ‘Our Life is a Struggle’: Gender, Respectability and Black Resistance, and The struggle that cannot be named: violence, space and the re-articulation of anti-racism in post-Duggan Britain. He sits on the board of The Monitoring Group, an anti-racist organisation challenging state racisms and racial violence.

Dr Maya Goodfellow is a writer, academic and broadcast commentator. She has written for a range of publications including the New York Times and Guardian. Maya is the author of Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats (Verso, 2019). She holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London where she examined race and processes of racialisation in British international development discourse. She is a trustee of the Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank.

Professor Saskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a Member of its Committee on Global Thought. Her research focuses on immigration, global cities, new networked technologies, state in world economy, with inequality, gendering and digitization running though her work. She is the author and editor/co-editor of several books, including The Mobility of Labor and Capital (Cambridge 1998), Territory, Authority, Rights (Princeton 2006) Deciphering the Global: Its Spaces, Scales, and Subjects (Routledge 2007), Cities at War: Global Insecurity and Urban Resistance (2020). The project Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (Oxford, UK: EOLSS Publishers) for UNESCO focuses on sustainable human settlement, for which she set up a network of researchers and activists in over 30 countries.

Dr Bahriye Kemal is an academic, writer/poet, and activist. She has published on space/place, displacement, borders, conflict, and solidarity/activist movements as related to postcolonial east Meditereanean and Britain. She is author or editor of books and journals, including Writing Cyprus Postcolonial and Partitioned Literatures of Place and Space (Routledge, 2020), Nicosia Beyond: Barriers: Voices from a Divided City (Saqi, 2019), and Visa Stories: Experiences between Law and Migration (2013). She is a lecturer in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent. She is an active member of organisations that work with displaced people, including serving as trustee for Kent Refugee Help, a charity supporting refugees and migrants in Kent and London prisons.

Prof Nando Sigona is Chair of International Migration and Forced Displacement and director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham. He is author or editor of books and journal’s special issues including Undocumented Migration (with Gonzales, Franco and Papoutsi, 2019); Unravelling Europe’s ‘migration crisis’ (with Crawley, Duvell, Jones, and McMahon, 2017), Within and beyond citizenship (with Roberto G. Gonzales, 2017), The Oxford Handbook on Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (with Fiddian Qasmiyeh, Loescher and Long, 2014), and Sans Papiers. The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants (with Bloch and Zetter, 2014).

Poster artwork: ‘Eyes of a Cloud’ by  Leroy Letts.

 

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Statements

Statement of solidarity with the BLM and anti-racist movements by SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment)

As social scientists studying migration and racism, we have long been concerned with the ways in which racism impacts all of society, both migrants and citizens. We strongly condemn the ways in which racism inflicts violence and structural disadvantages on racialised Black, minority ethnic, refugee and migrant groups. Social science scholarship has shown how racism pervades our societies, through histories of colonialism and imperialism and through other forms of structural, systemic, institutional and everyday racism, oppression and injustice, made even more visible in these times of deepening global economic crisis. It is from the fact of these oppressions that the hostile environment for immigrants has been constructed, which we are pledged to oppose.

At this moment, a movement has emerged, galvanised by the protests against the cruel racist murder of George Floyd at the hands of US police which scandalised the world. The Black Lives Matter movement points out how racism is as deadly as the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither racism nor COVID-19  is a fact of life that must be endured; we can eradicate them. If there is a political will, we can address and change the racist state practices, institutions and everyday behaviours. As social scientists, we affirm our solidarity with these protests and movements, at this particular historical moment and always. Racism and structural racial inequalities must be eliminated.

As social scientists within Higher Education institutions, some of the ways in which we can do so are by calling out, analysing, protesting and challenging intellectually, structurally, pedagogically and politically:

  • the racism underlying UK and EU migration and asylum policies, the arsenal of hostile environment policies and the ways different forms of racialisation pervades every part of UK society and globally;
  • the border controls and the culture of surveillance on our campuses affecting international students, scholars and university workers, which is a critical part of the hostile environment;
  • the silence in many British academic circles around colonial and racist research traditions; and
  • the casualisation of academic work and lack of career progression and the ways it especially affects staff from racialised minorities.

We support:

  • anti-racist actions that seek to push back against the criminalisation and devaluation of Black lives in our own campuses and elsewhere;
  • the demands emerging from racialised and migrant communities for an end to oppressive policing of the places where we live and work, and the denial of rights to NHS healthcare and social benefits;
  • the proper representation of Black staff and students at all levels of HE, in particular senior levels; and
  • the urgent efforts to decolonise schools and academic curricula.

All these struggles are interconnected and need to be addressed as part of our ongoing professional and political ethics.

 

Who we are:

Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment is a group of UK scholars, originally formed as a project of the Academy of Social Sciences Special Interest Group (SIG) on Refugees, Migration and Settlement.

We work as social scientists on issues of racism and migration in the UK and globally. We also believe in our duty as social scientists to use our research to inform political debates and to challenge the ‘Hostile Environment’ for migrants produced by current government policy.

Our website is at: acssmigration.wordpress.com

Read our new report here

Categories
Migrant rights? From policies to politics in a post-Covid era Video

VIDEO: Migrants rights? SSAHE webinar

Here is the video of our 1 June 2020 webinar, “Migrant rights? From policies to politics in a post-Covid era“, hosted by the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and featuring Don Flynn, Adam Hanieh, Heaven Crawley and Eleonore Kofman. Details below. We will publish texts of some of the talks and other posts relating to the event in this section of our website.

Categories
Race and migration in the time of the pandemic

Covid-19 & Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children in the UK

The daily lives of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are wrought with challenges and uncertainty. As they wait months, sometimes even years, for their asylum status to be determined, they are expected to adapt to a new culture, learn English, build new relationships, and overcome past experiences. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these children are now facing further obstacles. This briefing document, prepared by Roxanne Nanton with support of Professor Giorgia Donà, presents the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK. It will also identify the responses to Covid-19 from the government and charity sector, as well as recommendations for the transition to the post Covid-19 phase.

READ/DOWNLOAD THE BRIEFING [PDF]

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Events Migrant rights? From policies to politics in a post-Covid era Webinars

WEBINAR: Migrant Rights? From policies to politics in a post-Covid era

A webinar organized by SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment), Monday, 1 June 2020, 5pm.

REGISTER HERE. JOINING INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE SENT TO REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS.

UPDATE: WATCH THE WEBINAR HERE.

In the years around the turn of the millennium it seemed conceivable that a rights-based approach to immigration policy might be adopted by the leading liberal democracies. Initiatives promoted by the United Nations and the World Bank linked migration to development. An International Convention on the Rights of Migrants and their Families gained support among some governments and an annual Global Forum on Migration and Development brought the UN affiliated nations into discussions about the practical measures that might be taken to move in this direction.

The actual history of immigration policy, in the UK and elsewhere since this time has gone in a very different direction. Many of the pre-existing rights that assisted immigrants become established in new countries have been badly eroded, with the framework for policy having taken the track of ‘hostile environment’ in the UK and closure on asylum protection for refugees across the rest of Europe.

What lessons are to be learnt from the earlier failure to advance a rights-base for immigration policy? How will the current economic crisis impact on the rights of migrants? What might emerge for the rights agenda from the confused haze of Brexit and the Covid virus? Has public reaction to the hostile environment scandal opened up space for an intersectional mobilisation in support of the rights of migrants?

These and other questions will be considered by a panel of discussants consisting of Don Flynn, Adam Hanieh, Heaven Crawley and Eleonore Kofman and co-chaired by Nira Yuval-Davis and Rachel Humphris.    

Categories
Race and migration in the time of the pandemic

Grey zones in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic

This post, written by Georgie Wemyss and Nira Yuval-Davis, continues our  series on race and migration in the time of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has both exposed and sharpened local and global inequalities. One of the most extreme form of inequalities that often seems to be overlooked is that between those of us who belong, who have citizenship status and claims of entitlement, precarious as it often proves to be in these days of unprecedented crisis of neoliberal economies, and those who have no such claims and rights and who are abandoned to starve and/or locked down in detention camps and other forms of incarceration.

In our previous blog we showed how everyday bordering, from the lockdown of individuals in their homes to the lockdown of regional and national borders, is central to the technologies of control used to try to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Our earlier research on bordering also showed that neoliberal globalisation’s firewalls and everyday bordering have created a situation in which increasing numbers of people globally are ‘suspended’ in grey zones – spaces outside the protection of contemporary states. Grey zones are neither socially nor spatially neutral – they are more likely to be occupied by specific groups living in particular places and experienced differently according to individuals’ social and economic positionings. Here we show how national and local COVID lockdowns have created a continuum of exclusionary, menacing grey zones inhabited by older citizens and low paid care-workers in residential homes through to precarious workers and overseas students in the Global North, and by mobile labourers and people seeking refuge across the globe.

Despite early identification of the vulnerability of older people to the virus, governments did not prioritise the protection of citizens living in residential care homes. The lockdown prevented visitors, including relatives and media, from entering and checking up on residents at the same time as low-paid carers (disproportionately from BAME communities and often with temporary visa status) lacked PPE and virus testing. In Spain deceased residents were found abandoned in their beds by the army brought in to disinfect. In the UK the excessive death toll of residents has been linked not only to the virus but to its consequences such as staff absences and physical distancing leading to individuals being isolated in their rooms and not eating or drinking enough or receiving medical attention.

The virus and the economic lockdown together have extended the grey zone inhabited by citizens who were just surviving in precarious jobs. With death rates from the virus generally disproportionately high amongst those from lower socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities, Uber drivers and those working as security guards and as carers have lost their lives and others their incomes and homes.

Even the future is a continuation of the grey zone for increasing numbers of UK citizens, including those in previously ‘secure’ work and part of the government’s COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme who need to cross income thresholds and demonstrate suitable accommodation to reunite with family living abroad face an uncertain future.

Neoliberal bordering has created new grey zones also for other social groupings, such as international students. Different technologies of bordering work as computer firewalls that perform intelligent filtering of those who cross borders in different ways. In the era of free movement for EU citizens, work visas became increasingly difficult for citizens from Europe’s ex-colonies to obtain. In parallel, student visas remained available and families sold property to pay for expensive courses expecting students to work long hours in precarious British jobs in order repay their investment. Since the lockdown of universities, many students have been trapped in the UK , dependent on charity because the precarious work on which they had relied no longer exist. In the USA students were ordered to vacate their residences forcing many overseas students to leave the country and making other disadvantaged students homeless and without the campus jobs on which they depended.

Grey zones such as those experienced by racialized workers on cruise ships or migrant miners across the Global South have become more like prisons in the COVID -19 lockdowns. At the beginning of the pandemic the media focused on wealthy passengers stranded in the ocean on cruise ships denied access to a series of ports and dependent on their governments to repatriate them whilst the crew who looked after them remained invisible. Three months later, sick and isolated crew from across the Global South are confined to cabins in leisure ships that are customarily registered to low-regulation states and exist outside the jurisdiction of the countries where they sail.

When lockdown policies were declared in cities, including in India and Chile, workers from rural areas were evicted and stranded with no public transport operating. Some started walking home to their remote villages and unknown numbers have died while many thousands of others who cannot prove their citizenship are threatened with arrest and being put in detention camps with no adequate sustenance let alone proper care or social distancing. So, whilst documented migrant labourers, including in Gulf states, have experienced unemployment and loss of income, the reserve armies of undocumented migrant labourers have been forced in many countries to hide to escape detention by the authorities.

The existing grey zones in which refugees have been forced to live, pre-COVID-19 and in many cases for decades, have become harsher and more dangerous. In Bangladesh, the government withdrew 80% of humanitarian aid staff severely limiting aid to the 900,000 Rohingyas confined to camps near the Myanmar border. In Calais, the minimal food resources provided by the French State have been halted and food distribution left to a dwindling group of volunteers.

In the UK, hostile environment discourses and everyday bordering policies led to asylum seekers not accessing health services to which they are entitled for (the justified) fear that their personal details will be reported to the Home Office and or because they are asked to pay full charges as private patients and cannot afford to pay them.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has brought with it both an expansion and for most a deterioration in their conditions in the indeterminate in-betweenness of the grey zone limboscapes in which people find themselves stuck – whether or not they are incarcerated physically. Of course, like in any other social space, different people in diverse locations experience these grey zones in distinct ways. However, they all share experiences of exclusion from social and political entitlements and the inability to plan even for the short-term future.

The worry is that with growing suspensions of democratic and civil rights under the pandemic regime and the growing dependency on surveillance as the basic technology to regulate all citizens’ movements, any rights-based approach which would protect those in the grey zones would be further delegitimised. Those in the grey zones are going to be even more excluded from these new social and political contracts between states and their populations and might be left starving, stuck, and in growing numbers dying.

 

Categories
Race and migration in the time of the pandemic

Debunking ‘The virus does not discriminate’ myth: The unequal impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority groups

Continuing our series on race and migration and the virus crisis, today’s post is by Farjana Islam and Gina Netto. A final version is forthcoming in Radical Statistics and is posted here with permission.

 

A myth has been popularised in the UK that the ‘the virus does not discriminate’[1] rich or poor, powerful or powerless, however, the emerging evidence suggests otherwise. In the UK, early analysis of critically-ill COVID-19 patients indicated not only that older people, particularly men and those with underlying conditions were more likely to be affected, but that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (i.e. BAME) groups might be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.[2] Initially, the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICU) revealed that 35% of the first 3883 critically-ill Coronavirus patients identified as BAME, while they comprise 14% of the population in England and Wales. A similar trend has also been reported in US cities like Michigan, Louisiana and Chicago, where people from African American groups disproportionately died from the COVID-19 infection. In the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care, Runnymede Trust, New Policy Institute[3] and The British Medical Association[4] concurred in attributing the over-representation of BAME groups in mortality rates to underlying health conditions, overcrowded housing conditions, and other ethno-cultural factors such as multi-generational households. At the time of the writing (21 April 2020), the number of deaths among those affected by the disease have continued to increase. Given the scale of the pandemic and the low likelihood of a vaccine being developed in the near future, it is important to develop further understanding of factors contributing to the high mortality and morbidity rates among these groups of people.

This applies particularly to the large global cities in which such groups are concentrated, particularly London, the worst affected area with the highest COVID-19 death toll. The city – which displays acute fragmentation and spatial concentrations of poverty, particularly along ethnic lines (Cox and Watt, 2002; Hamnett, 2003) – contains the major share of BAME people living in the UK. This includes 58.4% of Black people and 35.9% of Asian people.[5] Drawing on recently completed doctoral research, we turn the spotlight on Black African Carribeans and British Bangladeshis living in two London boroughs to consider the impact of COVID-19 on these communities. These are the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney area where British-Bangladeshis (32%)[6] and Black African Caribbean (23%)[7] people are concentrated, respectively. We argue that while underlying health conditions, overcrowding and multi-generational households are indeed important contributory factors, there are other socio-economic factors which have not yet been captured statistically that are important to note. Greater understanding of the socio-structural problems arising out of poverty and deprivation which result in the greater vulnerability of these groups to contracting the disease is needed in order to formulate appropriate policy interventions to control the spread of the disease. This is likely to become increasingly important as the UK begins to consider a staged recovery period from the pandemic and the need for an approach which is more responsive to geographical variations in the spread of the virus.

Categories
Race and migration in the time of the pandemic

Covid-19 and The Banality of Evil (Nira Yuval-Davis and Catherine Rottenberg)

Continuing our series on Race and migration in the time of the pandemic, we publish here a piece by Nira Yuval-Davis and Catherine Rottenberg published yesterday by Al-Jazeera.

From the very start, a narrow-minded nationalistic agenda has shaped the way the UK Government has handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only has the UK refused to cooperate with the rest of the EU in coordinating the acquisition of necessary medical equipment, but it has consistently refused to take the global nature of the pandemic seriously. These decisions have resulted in an ad-hoc and completely inadequate response to the calamity, leaving close to 30,000 Brits dead so far.

Johnson and his ilk have failed to do much of anything efficiently during this unprecedented crisis: from the unfulfilled promise and continued failure to carry out mass public testing through bungling of the importation of necessary protective gear for front-line workers, to misleading the public about the number of deaths by omitting, until recently, those who have not died in hospital.

The Banality of Evil

Going back to Hannah Arendt’s notion of the ‘banality of evil’ may help us make sense of what is going on, only one would have to introduce an important twist to her claims.

Arendt first coined the phrase when covering Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker magazine. She invoked the term to describe how Eichmann, a key bureaucratic functionary of the Nazi party, carried out his technocratic duties without questioning their purpose. The term was meant to capture the specific way in which Nazi crimes against humanity had been committed in a quotidian, systematic, and efficient way, without these crimes being named or opposed.

What we can learn from pandemic-stricken UK is that the banality of evil can take form not just through the efficient execution of one’s bureaucratic and technocratic tasks. Rather, it can also take form through the carrying out of bureaucratic tasks in an incompetent and negligent way.

Incompetence and Negligence as Evil