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Season 4 Episode 6 – The Immigrant “Race”: Part 1 with Maya Goodfellow

In this episode we interview Maya Goodfellow, author of ‘Hostile Environments: How Immigrants became Scapegoats’ for the first part of our series on about the racialization of immigration. In this enlightening and extremely topical episode, we discuss security security discourses of the ‘scary’ migrant, racial capitalism and the racialization of citizenship.

Posted by Katharina Oemmelen on

Season 4 Episode 6 – The Immigrant “Race”: Part 1 with Maya Goodfellow

In this episode we interview Maya Goodfellow, author of ‘Hostile Environments: How Immigrants became Scapegoats’ for the first part of our series on about the racialization of immigration. In this enlightening and extremely topical episode, we discuss security discourses of the ‘scary’ migrant, racial capitalism and the racialization of citizenship. 

 
The word ‘immigrant’ carries all kinds of ideas in its three syllables. It’s weighed down by all the meanings it’s been given. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about: ‘low-skilled’, ‘high-skilled’, ‘contributor’, ‘drain’, ‘cockroach’ or just, plainly put, simply ‘a concern’. Not all of these terms are necessarily negative, but each of them is impersonal, clinical and cold.’

Maya Goodfellow 

The episode starts off by questioning the very definition of ‘the immigrant’. The obsession with the topic of migration – the term is widely used throughout the media and politics – seems not to be deterred by the fact that most people do not know its exact meaning. Dating back to the 1951 UN Refugee convention, the definition of a migrant as ‘a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least a year’ carries with it its own subtleties. Maya points out that by changing the time-frame that determines when one is considered an immigrant, the measurements of migrant numbers change drastically. 

Before delving into some of the contemporary problems of British immigration policy, our panellists are curious to find out more about the historical origin of the debate. In fact, British history and legislation has been deeply entwined with the movement and integration of foreign people for decades. Using examples from the 1905 Aliens Act directed against Jewish refugees, Maya points out how the concerns of people have changed little in the past century, though anti-immigration sentiments are now directed against people from different places and cultures. 

A consideration of the many actors involved in enforcing and debating immigration highlights that counter to popular sentiment, the UK in fact benefits from an incredibly unequal global economy. Maya gives an insight into the role of the Home Office and private corporations, and draws connections to the gross exploitation of people in detention centres.

“We live in a world where it is necessary to remind people that immigrants are not things, not a burden and not the enemy. That they’re human beings.”

Maya Goodfellow 

The episode then turns to a debate about the racialisation of immigration: Why is the racialisation of immigration permitted? How does it tie into our institutional power relations? And why do people buy into this rhetoric of hate? The answers are multiple, some more obvious while others are surprising. Maya links the process of racialisation to British imperialism, the labour movement and questions of nationalism. She outlines the impact of the last Labour government on immigration policies, and points out issues with the British education system. How can it be that a pupil can go through the entire education system without touching on British imperialism? The episode reveals how deeply the racialisation of ‘the other’ is entwined within British institutions – and what needs to be changed. This leads onto a more positive note; Maya tells us about the people, organisations and movements that she has met throughout her research, which have shown empathy and compassion with immigrants – and there are many of them!

“Choosing to do a project on the Indian independence movement at A-levels history was the only time I can really remember in my education that I learned about something that reflected my lived experience in any kind of way” 

Maya Goodfellow 

Find ‘Hostile Environments’

  • On Verso – https://www.versobooks.com/books/3064-hostile-environment
  • Or in your local bookshop! 

Links for further information: 

  • Maya Goodfellow’s ‘Hostile Environments’ https://www.versobooks.com/books/3064-hostile-environment (or find it at your local booskhop
  • Maya Goodfellow on the current border regime –  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2020/jan/21/why-stronger-borders-dont-work
  • more to follow 

Mentioned in this episode: 

  • UN definitions of a migrant – https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/migration/index.html
  • The 1905 Aliens Act – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Edw7/5/13/contents/enacted
  • BBC documentary on immigrant nurses in the NHS – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b083dgt
  • Docts not cops – http://www.docsnotcops.co.uk
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Season 4 Episode 5: Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities: A Right or Privilege?

In this episode, we discuss the provision and effectiveness of existing laws aimed to protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are joined by two guests, both students at British universities who have themselves experienced the marginalisation and discrimination that is imposed on persons with disabilities – sometimes unconsciously. The podcast touches on issues of positive discrimination, intersectionality and ‘invisible’ disabilities. 

Posted by Katharina Oemmelen on

Season 4 Episode 5 – Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities: A Right or Privilege?

In this episode, we discuss the provision and effectiveness of existing laws aimed to protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are joined by two guests, both students at British universities who have themselves experienced the marginalisation and discrimination that is imposed on persons with disabilities – sometimes unconsciously. The podcast touches on issues of positive discrimination, intersectionality and ‘invisible’ disabilities. 

There are various legal frameworks in place that promote the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights for disabled people, and requires all institutions to make reasonable adjustments in order to grant those. These rights are outlined at the supranational level in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and domestically within the UK’s Equality Act 2010. The importance of such documents is emphasized by Gerald, who explains that “issues of persons with disabilities appear to not be a priority for institutions, if not for the existence of laws”. This is partly due to a lack of awareness, as the discourse on disabilities is ironically often dominated by people who are not themselves disabled. It is also because institutions do not see the necessity of implementing provisions and adjustments for various disabilities before a disabled person requires it, without realising that this hinders many from ever making it to university in the first place. 

Despite legal frameworks being in place, the sad reality is that many institutions are still reluctant to implement procedures or policies. The speakers point out that there exists an issue of priorities set within universities. Ideally, institutions should make anticipatory adjustments for students even before they arrive. However, since the government won’t and can’t enforce this, institutions only follow the law if they are threatened to be sued because they are disregarding it. Sadly, institutions count on the fact that this rarely ever happens. They are aware and take advantage of the fact that disabled students are unlikely to have the energy and resources to deal with a law case against the institutions discriminating them – on top of all the other challenges they are dealing with. 

“And for the people who say, what if you get an undue advantage? If I’ve gone through a court case in order to be able to get a lift in a building, and the issue is that you think that I get an undue advantage, I think that is completely the wrong perspective and also just belittles how much time and energy is put into getting very simple things.”

Rensa Gaunt 

The episode is special in the way that it gives a deep insight into the emotive every-day experiences of people with disabilities, and shows the listener why this is an issue that everyone should care about. The speakers point out that having a disability is not asked for – any person can become a disabled person at any point in time. Furthermore, they recount personal experiences to demonstrate the complexity of the issue at hand. First and foremost, each disability is different, and requires individual adjustments and provisions. Furthermore, students with disabilities are also dealing with a range of other identities, which often further increases their burden. For instance, Rensa explains that women’s pain conditions are often not taken serious and are consequently diagnosed too late.

“The blood that runs through our veins is the same as everyone else’s. It doesn’t take heaven and hell to meet the needs of disabled students” 

Ebenezer Azamati 

Where do we go from here? What needs to be done to change the attitude of institutions, and help people with disabilities enjoy the same rights as all of us? Recognising that not every disability is the same, and consequently providing help that is tailored to everyone’s needs, is a crucial first step. For that, Resna points to the importance of providing points of contact that are aware of the problems faced with people with disabilities, who will understand the individual problem and help to make adjustments. Appointing disability officers within the university, and each college, is one way to assure this. Furthermore, we must deconstruct the stereotypes that are associated with the term ‘disabled’. Not everyone disabled student, for instance is helpless and constantly needs our help. On the other hand, however, many forms of disability are invisible – such as mental illnesses – and shouldn’t be overlooked. 

“It is the environment, not the condition, that makes us disabled” 
 

Links for further information:

  • UK Equality Act 2010 –  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance
  • A summary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons – https://www.britannica.com/topic/United-Nations-Declaration-on-the-Rights-of-Disabled-Persons
  • Office for Students on the rights of disabled students – https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/beyond-the-bare-minimum-are-universities-and-colleges-doing-enough-for-disabled-students/
  • The Guardian on disabled students – https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/17/universities-can-do-more-to-support-their-disabled-students
Posted by Katharina Oemmelen on

Season 4 Episode 4 – Kashmir: caught in a cross-fire

In Kashmir, thousands of people are living in constant fear of detention and unrest. These conditions are part of a long history of struggle between India and Pakistan over the semi-autonomous state. Recent developments, including the repealment of Article 370 and the communication blackout, have further worsened conditions, leading to serious human rights infringements. This episode gives insight into the complex historical and political processes at play as well as how the everyday lives of Kashmiris are affected. 

Kashmir has been a site of contestation between India and Pakistan since 1947 – the year of India’s partition. That year, a Hindu Prince named Maharaja Harri Singh was in charge of governing the Muslim-majority region and was presented with the choice to join either India or Pakistan. At the time, the region was struggling against insurgents from Pakistan, which shaped his decision to become part of India. Article 370 was enshrined in the Indian constitution, which gave the state of Kashmir a semi-autonomous status and control over its own laws, defence and foreign relations. Hence, while Kashmir is essentially ruled by a state governor with special privileges, Kashmir’s borders are administered by India, Pakistan and China. 

Source: Time

The past few months have seen a sharpening of the conflict caused by several key events. Firstly, the Indian government initiated a communication blackout which included the complete shut-down of internet and phone lines. Our guest speakers explain that this is an important political strategy, as the only narrative of the conflict that is available externally is the one produced by the Indian government. However, the blackout does not only affect communication between families and reporters but also has economic and social dimensions. Hospitals can no longer access data on patients, severely impacting the provision of healthcare. Meanwhile, farmers are cut off from the international market and suffer severe economic consequences. 

On August 5th of this year, India’s prime minister, Narindra Modi, repealed Article 370 and sent military troops into Kashmir, making it the most densely militarised zone in the world. The region has since experienced numerous arrests of political leaders and youths. These can be traced back to the Public Safety Act, which grants the Indian government the ability to detain any individual without trial for up to two years. The ‘lawless law’, as Amnesty International has pointed out, severely restricts the agency of Kashmiris and has resulted in incidences of physical violence and torture. The stories told by our speakers conjure up a picture of how India retains control of the region through “naked coercion”. 

“One million military soldiers for a population of eight thousand people” 

The control over the narratives surrounding the conflict are a key political tool used by the different parties to shape the situation. For one, the widespread attention given to the ongoing dispute between Pakistan and India is hiding the fact that Kashmir, itself, is a political community with claims to sovereignty. Despite being an important third party, Kashmiris have never been given a chance to vocalise their concerns on the international stage. Considering the perspective of the Kashmiris gives right to a third option – autonomy – which up until this point has not been seriously considered. Despite ethnic and religious differences among Kashmiris, there exists a strong political identity with the overwhelming majority supporting the claim for a politically independent community.  

 
“The only thing that would stop these human rights abuses reoccurring is self-determination, so to talk about human rights without self-determination is to miss most of the story” 

Intertwined with this are discourses of nationalism. Some claim that the conflict has resulted at least in part from the nationalist project of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). India’s ruling party is attempting to increase Hindu settlements and alter the majority-Muslim demographic of Kashmir. Furthermore, the dispute can be analysed as an imperialist project shaped by the bureaucratic system inherited from British colonial rule. Our speaker highlights the important fantastical space that Kashmir occupies in the Indian imagination since colonial times, which further feeds into desires of control over the space.


Links for further information:




Posted by Katharina Oemmelen on

Season 4 Episode 3 – The Politics of Exhaustion at the British Border

This episode focuses on the UK’s policy of deterring refugees and migrants from seeking asylum by extending the Home Office’s domestic “hostile environment” beyond state borders and into mainland Europe. We investigate the ethical and legal aspects of these policies and their implications on the lives of refugees across Europe.

In line with the Home Office migration policies set out in 2012, the UK government has pledged to stop ‘onward movement’ of migrants who attempt to leave their first save country of arrival in order to find a better life  for themselves in another. This strategy, which Theresa May laid down in her 2016 Speech at the first ever UN summit on mass movement of refugees, has become an all-too familiar British policy line, with disastrous consequences. The UK has since mobilised vast amounts of resources to pre-emptively stop refugees from crossing its borders, including funding for a border wall in Calais and a further £6 million towards security equipment and coastal monitoring. 

‘Women, children, sick… there are families with children here… That poor woman with a 3 or 4-year-old child, how can they tolerate this? We have people here who have a broken leg, who have a cold or don’t feel well and can’t walk…they will freeze from the cold. Illness, sickness…’.   

Source: Welander, M. (2019) The Politics of Exhaustion and the British Sea Crossings Spectacle

It is important to consider these policies in light of the larger migration question within Britain. The drastic measures taken combined with a dehumanising rhetoric around refugees posit immigration as a major factor shaping politics and the lives of British citizens. However, 84% of the worlds’ refugees are accommodated by poor and middle-income countries, most of which are located in the Global South. At the forefront of the migration debate are thus the minority 16% of refugees, of which the UK shares a tiny fraction compared to Italy or Germany. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that British migration policies are highly porous, creating what are effectively open borders for highly skilled workers while excluding those with few or no skills. This ignores the reality that the UK is highly dependent on low-skilled workers for economic, social and not least demographic reasons. 

The podcast gives insight into the situation of the Calais and Dunkirk refugee camps, where daily violence has become the reality for many people. Facing sustained intimidation and violence by the state authorities, the camps’ inhabitants are sleeping rough and are facing mental health problems while being exposed to the horrific physical conditions of the winter months. Marta’s research on the refugees’ situation led her to coin the term ‘Politics of Exhaustion’, which encompasses both the British border policy and its devastating consequences. 

the politics of exhaustion can be understood as a complex deterrence approach with the objective of exhausting asylum seekers, mentally and physically, with the ultimate goal of deterring them from approaching Britain for asylum, or indeed other European asylum systems”

The podcast delves into the myriad forms of  structural and physical violence that take place in the British ‘border zone’. Most of these are covert forms but others are highly visible, combining physical dispersals and push-backs, arbitrary detention and removals, evictions and demolitions.  In the episode, Marta outlines the work of Refugee Rights Europe, the NGO she set up in response to the wide-ranging human rights violations of refugees seeking security in Europe. She highlights how the Politics of Exhaustion also play out against NGOs, through increasing intimidation of aid volunteer as well as the obstruction of the (already extremely limited) inflow of aid. 

 “The most subtle forms of violence and neglect and intimidation, they all contribute to this really heightened sense of exhaustion that people keep exerting, keep using their agency to try and find a solution to their predicament but being constantly pushed back” 

– Marta  Welander










Links for further information:




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S4 E2 – Investigating Raqqa: Amnesty’s inquiry into the coalition’s military campaign

From June to October 2017, the US-led Coalition launched an aggressive and highly destructive military campaign in Raqqa, Syria to oust the so-called “Islamic State” from the city. Amnesty International and the Digital Verification Corps came to Queens’ College, Cambridge for the opening of an exhibition featuring photographs, interactive screens, and even a Virtual Reality experience. This episode of Declarations explores the event, giving you an insight into the panel discussions and visitors’ impression, and thus uncovers a unique perspective on the impacts of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

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S4 E1 – Welcome to Season 4

In the first episode of this seasons’ Declarations podcasts, the new team of panellists sets the stage for a discussion of some of the human rights issues that do not receive enough attention. The podcast gives rise to a dialogue around the very principles of human rights, informed by the panellists diverse geographical backgrounds and personal interests. Through their experience with human rights issues in NGO work, academia as well as their personal lives, they problematise some aspects of human rights while highlighting its immense potential for positive change. 

Posted by Katharina Oemmelen on

Season 4, Episode 2 – Investigating Raqqa: Amnesty’s inquiry into the coalition’s military campaign

From June to October 2017, the US-led Coalition launched an aggressive and highly destructive military campaign in Raqqa, Syria to oust the so-called “Islamic State” from the city. Amnesty International and the Digital Verification Corps came to Queens’ College, Cambridge for the opening of an exhibition featuring photographs, interactive screens, and even a Virtual Reality experience. This episode of Declarations explores the event, giving you an insight into the panel discussions and visitors’ impression, and thus uncovers a unique perspective on the impacts of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) occupied Raqqa, Syria’s sixth largest city, in March 2013. From then on, the city’s 250,000 – 300,000 civilians suffered under the powerful presence established by the ‘caliphate’, which was ruling through oppression and violence. In 2017, a coalition headed by the U.S., the U.K. and France launched a military attack that encompassed four months of heavy shelling, with disastrous consequences. 1,600 civilian lives were lost and many more were injured. Those that survived the attack were left with a city in ruins – more than 80% of the city was destroyed via aerial bombardments – making healthcare, education and employment inaccessible. While the coalition has promised to reconstruct the cities’ infrastructure, civilians are left on their own in their efforts to rebuild their homes and lives. 

“Even though these actions were regarded as legal in the international sphere, they do not reflect a way of life that we would want for ourselves”  

Jing, Producer of Declarations 

The situation in Raqqa needs to be paid more attention, for several reasons. Firstly, it sheds light on the role that the Coalition – led by some of the most heavily-equipped military actors – played in the Syrian civil war. While former defence secretary General James Mattis claims to have done “everything humanly possible” to “avoid civilian casualties at all costs”, witness testimonials and on-the-ground research shows otherwise. Furthermore, the war in Raqqa represents a global trend of modern urban warfare, painfully revealing some of its most destructive features: Artillery strikes launched from up to 40 km away. As a result, no American soldier risked their lives on the ground nor witnessed the impact of their action. Simultaneously, however, the use of artilleries is “inaccurate to the point of being indiscriminate” (Amnesty International). Each shell has a marginal bearer of more than 100 meters, being launched into neighbourhoods where 5 meters can make the difference between a military base and the home of an innocent family. 

“In five months, they fired 30,00 artillery shells on ISIS targets… They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa than any other Marine artillery battalion since the Vietnam War.”

Sgt Major John Wayne Troxell, November 2017 (Source: Amnesty International) 

In order to create a holistic picture of the city-wide destruction of the military campaign, Amnesty carried out one of the most ambitious research projects. One important facet of this was the Digital Verification Corps – an open source investigation conducted by university students from South Africa over Hong Kong to Cambridge. The podcast discusses the vital contribution that this new strategy of data analysis has made possible, with comments from both Amnesty staff and students. Amnesty’s investigation was also supported by the ‘Strike Tracker’ project, in which the public could assist in analysing satellite images of Raqqa. Such forms of coalition are mutually beneficial to Amnesty and the researchers, contribution to fighting human rights violations and increasing awareness of these issues. 

“It is ultimately very easy to show destruction, rebels and victims, really easy to feel emphatic about that. But it is very difficult to get a sense of understanding, to really grasp intuitively the scale of destruction and responsibility, which should be extended more broadly across societies in the world.” 

Max, Producer of Declarations




What you can do to help: 

Links for further information