Cardiff PR salute the work of Cardiff activists in raising funds for the children of Ama Sumani, the Ghanaian woman deported to her death while receiving vital medical care in the UK. Her death was a tragedy rightly described as state murder. It has been followed, however, by excellent news for another important anti-deportation campaign. Jason Travis of PR, chair of the Sukula family campaign, gives his account of their victory:
On 27th March, almost three years after the start of the campaign the Sukulas, a Bolton family of asylum seekers who fled the civil war in the Congo, finally received the news that they’d been given indefinite leave to remain.
Over 3000 people have supported the campaign that has also had the support of Unison, the NUT, the NUJ and other unions.
The Sukulas were one of the first families to have all benefits withdrawn under the notorious Section 9 that the government had hoped would drive families out of Britain by taking away their homes, their benefits and even their children who would be placed into the care of social services with the adults made destitute and homeless.
The campaign declared that if any attempts were made to evict the Sukulas we would form a physical blockade around the house to prevent either eviction or deportation. We gained support of local unions and Bolton Unison backed social workers who refused to initiate care proceedings purely because of government imposed destitution. This stance was backed by the British Association of Social Workers and later Unison nationally.
As a result of this defiance by workers and the massive community support, taken up by the local paper the Bolton News, the council refused to evict the Sukulas. Following this another ten Greater Manchester councils and then councils in Yorkshire made a similar commitment to refuse to evict families of failed asylum seekers. The Sukulas themselves lived 17 months without benefits living only on community support and proceeds from the campaign (which is therefore several hundred pounds in debt). Hundreds demonstrated against the Act and led by the Sukula campaign Section 9 was smashed!
In addition we successfully campaigned against Flores Sukula being expelled from Bolton Soxth Form College- purely on grounds of being a failed asylum seeker- with Bolton NUT and the NUS threatening a campaign of massive publicity and protest of the college authorities didn’t back down. We also, through trade union support, demonstration and threatened pickets prevented the forced dispersal of the Sukulas to Liverpool.
We feel that as a consequence of the Sukula campaign, together with a growing number of similar campaigns around the country, the government had to back down and settle thousands of asylum cases, the so-called legacy cases. If we had not assembled a range of trade union and community activists prepared to take militant action up to and including physical blockades then the government would not have its policy on families left in tatters.
There is however still a lot to do. We have always from day one campaigned against all deportations- of men, women, children of anyone. This is why we have supported the No One is Illegal trade union conferences, the second of which met 29th March 2008 with some hundred trade unionists planning action to oppose immigration controls and organise migrant workers.
We demand the right to work and have continually pushed for a national network of trade unionists and community campaigns prepared to take physical action and strike action to defend migrants and refuse to implement immigration controls. We need a network of parents, teachers, other education workers and students to declare schools are no deportation zones. But we also need community campaigns with the ability to mount emergency defence pickets and we need trade unions to recruit all workers- documented or otherwise- to demand the right to work and organise at trade union agreed rates and to turn the success of exemplary campaigns like the Sukulas into a national movement of defiance to smash all immigration controls.
The family and campaign thanks everyone who has supported us and will continue to fight against all deportations.
For details of CardiffPR’s work supporting Congolese and other refugees in South Wales, email firstname.lastname@example.org.