As I’m sure you know, Watford midfielder Al Bangura has been refused asylum and faces deportation back to Sierra Leone. It was really heartening to see Watford fans show their support with banners and placards at the match last week, and I’m glad for Bangura that he has the full support of his team and manager Adrian Boothroyd, who are trying to do everything they can to overturn the deportation decision.
However, Boothroyd’s quote “This country seems to allow anybody in to send benefits wherever they fancy and we have one young man here who pays his taxes, has a fiancée and a newborn son and somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good decision to send him back to Sierra Leone. It’s ridiculous,” shows that he is racist towards to asylum seekers and immigrants but making an exception for his star player.
According to Home Office statistics, there are currently under 60,000 asylum seekers in Britain. (homeoffice.gov.uk)
Britain has a population of around 60 million, so asylum seekers make up 1 percent of the total population – hardly a number to ‘swamp’ a country. Asylum seeker benefits are paid at just 70 percent of the level of ordinary British benefits, meaning the majority of asylum seeker families live well below the poverty line.
Most benefits they do receive are in the form of supermarket vouchers (including Starbucks vouchers, although any family surviving on £35 a week will not be heading to their nearest Starbucks to redeem half their benefits on a few super-moccachinos when they have children to feed and clothe!) So much for being able to send any benefits home!
Additionally, any single asylum seekers whose cases are rejected get their housing revoked and their benefits stopped and so become destitute (there are an estimated 300 destitute asylum seekers in Newcastle alone).
Many asylum seekers are pregnant or have young babies and children. However, this doesn’t stop Labour’s immigration police kicking doors in and dragging families out of their houses in dawn raids under the cover of darkness; neither does it stop families being deported back to ‘safe countries’ such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently there are 1,635 asylum seekers locked up in privately run detention centres where scabies, sickness and diarrhoea are rife and minimal medical or psychiatric care is available. A report by Save the Children in 2005 estimated that 2,000 children are detained in these centres each year. In fact, many asylum seekers give birth in detention centres – and what’s their crime? Fleeing for their lives with their children to escape Britain’s wars and economic looting abroad.
As for paying taxes, Bangura is lucky to be able to pay taxes legally; the right to work was taken away from asylum seekers in 2001 (a fact not mentioned by the Sun or Daily Mail as they whip up racism against asylum seekers!). In fact, many asylum seekers who are forced to work illegally end up being locked up in prison, where they work on prison labour!
Whilst Boothroyd has our solidarity in supporting Bangura against his deportation, his view of asylum seekers and knowledge of the asylum system needs to be challenged. Whether Bangura is deported or not, the situation for other asylum seekers will remain the same and looks likely to worsen under Labour’s New Asylum Model. Individual cases do little for the thousands of asylum seekers who are not lucky enough to have rich white friends and supporters to organise a high profile campaign for them.
The only way to change the system is for asylum seekers, British workers and immigrant workers to join together, overcome the divisive, manufactured state and media racism that keep them from struggling together for the benefit of all, and fight together against this disgusting state of affairs.
Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (a member of Tyneside Community Action for Refugees)