Friday, 25 October 2013

Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in India

Interview with Dave Skivington by Press Gang Member, Howard (Part 1)

In a recent interview with David Skivington, author of the novel Scar Tissue, he recalled that inspiration for his book came from the disturbing experience he had while travelling in India at the age of 18. David recalled that while he and a friend were walking down the street in Calcutta they “were approached by a man [who was] basically offering us young girls for sex.” Shocked and upset by the event, David went on to research the extent to which human trafficking was prevalent in India. The results of his findings inspired him to put pen to paper in the form of Scar Tissue.

Although the event that moved David to write Scar Tissue may be upsetting, it should not come as a surprise. A recent study by the Australian-based rights groups Walk Free found that just under half of the 30 million people enslaved in the world are in India. It should be noted that although not all of the men, women and children enslaved are done so for the purpose of sexual exploitation, this does not make their condition any less horrific. Many of these modern day slaves are born into debt bondage and because of this, or due to the persistence of the caste hierarchy, they are forced to work tirelessly in unsafe conditions in mills, factories and kilns from an early age. Many are coerced through means of sexual violence.

It is widely recognised by both the Indian government and international observers that, while it may not be the only form of enslavement, the trafficking of persons in India for sexual exploitation is widespread. The practice is not only limited to Indian nationals but there are also large numbers of Nepali and Bangladeshi women and children trafficked as India increasingly becomes a destination for trafficked persons as well as a source.

The Indian government has a number of measures in place to try and tackle the issue including the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the National Advisory Committee to Combat Trafficking, and nation-wide Anti Human Trafficking Units. Despite these measures, it would seem that the prevention of trafficking is limited and the conviction rate of those responsible is poor. Indeed, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime reports that in 2008, out of the 8512 people against whom prosecution for trafficking in persons commenced, only 1565 were convicted.

The United States’ Department of State ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2013’ observes that although the Indian government is making significant efforts to ensure the problem of human trafficking is recognised and tackled, it still does not comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. While actions such as the establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units are commended for being steps in the right direction, they are at the same time criticised for being inefficient, negligent and, at times, existing on paper only.

These figures, and the overall assessment of human trafficking in India, are deeply disturbing. Facts and figures, however, can only go so far in opening people’s eyes to the grotesque nature of the situation. It is for that reason that books such as David Skivington’s ‘Scar Tissue’ serve such a vital purpose. Despite being fiction, it is often the case that the story told is not too far removed from the truth.

This is a truth that everyone should be aware of.

Review of David Skivington’s Scar Tissue coming soon.

For more information on the issue of human trafficking and global slavery see:

Adam Leake

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The great British property scandal

Mark Harper the immigration minister was one of the panellist on  BBC Question Time last week. ( so obviously immigration issues were on the agenda.

"Massive effect on public services... housing."

"We cannot take any more... we are full."

"Pressures on public services... housing...  immigration."

In many people's mind the problem of housing shortage and immigration are clearly linked and it therefore becomes all too easy to blame migrants.

But that's dodging the issue. Just for a moment put the immigration issue on one side and simply consider housing.

One of the most devastating impacts of the housing shortage is homelessness. There are 75,000 homeless people in the UK, but for each homeless person there are almost ten empty houses - with an estimated 710,000 empty houses in the UK. ( How many more are effectively empty because they are second homes?

Professor Alex Marsh in his personal blog earlier this year highlighted the lack of effective housing policy in what he called, "Aggressive intolerance as a substitute for aggressive housing policy?"

He goes on to highlight that, "overall... immigration is not the key driver of dwelling population imbalance" and notes that credible evidence seemingly has little impact on the immigration debate.

I worry that as we creep nearer to an election politicians will utilise safer, simplistic arguments around immigration rather than be brave enough to challenge the public by debating the real issues and causes for concern such as inequality, unemployment, housing, education and health.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Immigration Bill 2013/14

The Immigration Bill 2013/14 is now available to view on the Home Office website. The Bill aims to make it much more difficult for migrants to settle in the UK with the changes seriously affecting the social and legal rights of asylum seekers.

Part one of the Bill, as well as Schedules one and two, enlarges state powers to search individuals and premises, as well as record, use and retain biometrics.  

Part two of the Bill amends the right of appeal, drastically reducing the number of appeal rights that currently exist, form seventeen to four. Under the new Bill an appeal case will only be possible if it involves a human rights claim; where someone says that they need humanitarian or asylum protection; where such protection has been provoked and where someone has the right to remain under EU law. The four categories of appeal do not account for situations where there has been a factual error which has led to the decision.

Time-limited immigration status under the bill will have to make a contribution to the National Health Service, a subject which has been heavily criticised. The Charity Doctors of the World UK have condemned the new laws relating to the access to the NHS as “unethical”, with the danger of penalising those who are most vulnerable. DOTW, while acknowledging that it may make sense for groups like tourists to contribute to health costs, they have stated that there is no economic argument to impose such a levy on these vulnerable groups.

Landlords under the new bill will be liable to a civil penalty of up to £3000 if they rent their premises to residents who do not have legal status. The bill essentially is turning landlords into immigration officers when they are not trained to deal with the complexities of the system, with over 400 types of documentation. Surely the measure to have landlords check the immigration status of residents will just create circumstances where they look to not to rent to anyone who is not British to avoid the risk of being held liable.

Part four introduces stricter investigations into “sham marriages” and civil partnerships and extend powers for information to be shared by, and with, registration officials. Marriages and civil partnerships will be referred to the Home Office to be investigated.

The proposed Immigration Bill 2013/14 will make the UK a much more hostile environment for migrants, a situation which liberty director Shami Chakrabarti has described as a “race relations nightmare waiting to happen”. The changes that the Bill plans to impose are not just “nasty” but also is lacking in ethical or financial justifications. 

On the 22nd October 2013 there will be a protest against the New Immigration Bill opposite the House of Commons in London at 10:30am. This protest is scheduled for the day of the Bill’s second reading in the House of Commons, and is a demonstration against the infringement on the social and legal rights of migrants. 

Hannah Conway

Friday, 18 October 2013

An Integral Role

The recent Immigration Bill has called into question what role refugees and asylum seekers have in the UK. 
The impact that refugees and asylum seekers have had on British culture and public life is often seen through a negative light but the success of Olympians, such as Mo Farah who was originally an asylum seeker from Somalia, who came over to Britain is testament to what allowing refugees to enrich civil life can bring. One of Leeds most famous exports to the world was started by refugees. Marks and Spencer’s started by Michael Marks a Jewish refugee from Russia and Thomas Spencer a cashier from Yorkshire.     

However, there is a negative perception surrounding asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. A sizable proportion of public opinion appears to favour a harsher approach towards asylum seekers and refugees. In my opinion this is because asylum seekers are not allowed to work. The Refugee, Education, Training and advice service in Leeds says that the unemployment of refugees is six times higher than the UK average. Especially amongst politicians on the right-wing of the spectrum the opinion seems to be that immigrants are taking “British jobs”; this is a mistruth. According to the charity Refugee Education Training Advice Service 55% of asylum seekers who arrive in the city do not speak any English, and there are fears that there is a lack of integration from refugees and fears of isolation.  

Interviews . . .     

Solomon arrived in the UK eight years ago from Eritrea after tensions with its larger neighbour Ethiopia escalated into war.   Solomon says that Eritrea his garage was very busy as he said: “I would maybe 200 customers every day back in Eritrea but at my garage in Leeds I see only 3 or 4 people a day. Sometimes I do not see anybody”.   

However, despite the lack of customers Solomon seems full of hope about the future and says he is happy in the UK. He said: “I like the UK apart from the weather as it is too cold here. But now that I’m working it does not feel as bad as when I did not have a job.  It’s a quiet garage at the moment but I have only had it since January. When people her about it they will come.  I am very happy at my work”.      

It took Solomon eight years before he was able to own a business. Considering his experience of 25 years of ownership of a garage in Eritrea it is hard not to feel that his expertise was wasted during those eight years. 

Jack Elliot.