Migrant, Refugee, and BAME Communities Speak out Against Public Silence

As migrant and BAME groups in Britain, we reaffirm our fundamental right to the freedom of expression, and publicly to express our anxieties about the suppression of information on the history and lived experience of our communities.

Many of us arrived in the UK as migrants and as refugees, seeking safety from war and repression, and the effects of racism, persecution and colonialism both past and present. As a result, we know their oppressive impact on our communities, and can identify where many of the current experiences of injustices we face in Britain today are also based on racism and colonialism.

These problems are having a destructive impact on public discussions about race and immigration. It is therefore our right, and also our responsibility, to relay our direct experiences of human rights abuses suffered here and abroad, as well as their structural and historical causes, to address them. This democratic obligation is recognised in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, to “receive and impart information”, and provides the basis for a democracy to function. As the Institute for Race Relations recently confirmed, our communities: “have a right to be heard, to make…information public, while others have the right to hear them, and the arguments based on these facts”.

We are deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948, when the majority of its people were forcibly expelled. These facts are well established and accessible, are part of the British historical record, as well as the direct experience of the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian community in the UK has raised the disturbing absence of key information about these past and current injustices, and highlighted the racism it exposes then, and now.

Public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines, and therefore withholds vital knowledge from the public. This silencing has already begun. Today we can freely describe the racist policies experienced in the era of British and European colonialism in our countries of origin (indeed it is taught in British schools), but the colonial history of the Palestinians is continually erased. This is a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public: we must all hear the full story of the Palestinians in order to make sense of the current discussions about racism and Israel.

We also know of the efforts by organisations – including UK-based fundamentalist groups aligned with the far-right in the US – to deny Palestinians’ basic humanity by suppressing their entire history and current plight. At the same time, hard-line conservative groups in the US, such as the Middle East Forum, are providing funding and support to anti-Muslim extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), deliberately increasing hatred, fear, and confusion. These coordinated efforts by right-wing extremists are being actively encouraged by President Trump’s racism and fear-mongering, which is now aimed at dismantling UNRWA, the UN agency that protects Palestinian refugees.

Over this past year, several terrible events have demonstrated the dangers of silencing migrant, and BAME communities. The fatal fire at Grenfell Tower and the shameful Windrush scandal have shown the active legacies of British colonialism, where racism forms an integral part of British policies, and renders our communities invisible. This denies our dignity and humanity, and our right to fair treatment under the rule of law: the bedrock of British society.

We urgently remind politicians and public bodies of their responsibilities to uphold the principles of the Human Rights Act for every British citizen and resident in the UK equally, especially the direct victims of colonialism, racism, and discrimination. As migrant and BAME communities we stand as one, united against all attempts to suppress our voices and our calls for justice, freedom, and equality.

National Membership Organisations and Coalitions

  1. The Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK (3 regional branches)
  2. Black Lives Matter UK (3 local chapters)
  3. Kurdish Assembly in the UK (8 regional branches)
  4. Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) (11 regional offices)
  5. Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) Community (5 regional branches)
  6. The Palestinian Forum in Britain (2 branches)

National Organisations

  1. The Arab Labour Group
  2. The Association of Muslim Researchers (AMR)
  3. Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts UK (BARAC UK)
  4. Black Studies Association
  5. Black Women’s Forum UK
  6. The British Arab Association
  7. British Muslim Initiative (BMI)
  8. The British Palestinian Communications Centre
  9. The British Palestinian Policy Council
  10. The Cordoba Foundation
  11. Europal Forum
  12. Facilitate Global
  13. India Matters UK
  14. Ikram United Kingdom and Eire
  15. Kurdish Student’s Union
  16. Lebanese Association of Britain
  17. Media Diversified
  18. Migrants Organise
  19. Migrant Rights Network (MRN)
  20. The Monitoring Group (TMG)
  21. Momentum Black Caucus
  22. Movement for Justice
  23. NUS Black Students’ Campaign
  24. NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign Black Caucus
  25. NUS International Students’ Campaign
  26. NUS LGBT+ Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour Committee
  27. NUS Scotland Black Women’s Caucus
  28. NUS Trans Students Campaign Black Caucus
  29. NUS Women’s Campaign Black Caucus
  30. The Palestine Return Centre (PRC)
  31. Pal Med UK
  32. The Society of Black Lawyers
  33. South Asia Solidarity Group
  34. Tunisian Association in Britain
  35. United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC)
  36. Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO)

Trade Unions and Workers’ Associations

  1. Indian Workers Association (G.B.)
  2. IWGB, United Private Hire Drivers Branch
  3. IWGB, University of London Branch
  4. Muslim Workers’ Association
  5. PCS Union National Black Members Committee
  6. Right 2 Work UK
  7. United Voices of the World (UVW)
  8. University and College Union (UCU) Black Members Standing Committee

Community Associations and Groups

  1. Advancing the Voices of Muslim Women Against Islamophobia (AVOW)
  2. Afghan Community and Welfare Centre
  3. African Rainbow Family
  4. All African Women’s Group
  5. The Arab Refugee Support Group (ARSG)
  6. Baraka Youth Association
  7. Bristol Somali Forum
  8. The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CACC)
  9. Communities Inc, Nottingham
  10. Community Integration Project, London
  11. Congo Great Lakes Initiative
  12. Daikon
  13. Dar Assalam – Iraqi Association in Britain
  14. Dardishi – Arab Feminists Magazine/Group
  15. Decolonising Our Minds
  16. Deport, Deprive and Extradite Project
  17. Eritrean Elders Welfare Association in UK (EEWA-UK)
  18. Eritrean Muslim Youth UK (EMYUK)
  19. Eritrean Parents and Children’s Association
  20. The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS)
  21. Grenfell Speaks
  22. Humanity for Grenfell
  23. Iraqi Transnational Collective
  24. Iraqi Women’s Organisation: Tadhamun
  25. Islington Somali Community
  26. Jawaab
  27. Justice for Grenfell
  28. Kashmiris for Labour
  29. Lambeth Somali Community Association
  30. Leeds Unity Centre
  31. Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
  32. London Latinx
  33. London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium
  34. Meridian Women’s Association
  35. The Meena Centre, Birmingham
  36. Migrant Media
  37. Migrant Solidarity Manchester
  38. Min Quan – Chinatown People Rights Group
  39. Minaret Community Centre
  40. Muslimahs Resist
  41. Network of Eritrean Women
  42. Nijjor Manush (Bengali and Bangladeshi Campaigning Group)
  43. North West Peoples’ Voice
  44. Olive – Palestinian Youth Group
  45. Pakistani Community Centre Oldham
  46. Racial Justice Network
  47. Rethink Rebuild Society (Syrian)
  48. Roj Kurdish Women’s Assembly
  49. Sante Refugee Project
  50. Skin Deep
  51. Southall Black Sisters
  52. South People’s Project (SOPPRO)
  53. University of Leicester BAME Network
  54. Voices for Creative Non Violence UK
  55. Warwick Anti-Racism Society
  56. West London Moroccan Association – Widadia
  57. Women’s Alliance for Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria
  58. Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike
  59. Yemeni Community Association, Greater Manchester

Supporting Organisations

  1. Amos Trust
  2. Artists for Palestine UK
  3. Brighton Kurdish Solidarity
  4. British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
  5. Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA)
  6. The Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)
  7. Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration (CTDC)
  8. El-Funoun Scotland
  9. Empower Her Voice (EHV)
  10. Friends of Birzeit University (FOBZU)
  11. Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas (FONSA)
  12. The Galilee Foundation
  13. Haldane Society of Lawyers
  14. Independent Jewish Voices
  15. Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK)
  16. Kilmarnock and Loudoun Trades Union Council
  17. Labour Representation Committee (LRC)
  18. Momentum Barnet
  19. Momentum Camden
  20. Momentum Hackney
  21. Momentum Hounslow
  22. Momentum Oxford
  23. Momentum Wandsworth
  24. Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
  25. Network of Photographers for Palestine
  26. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)
  27. Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
  28. Sabeel-Kairos: Taking Action for Palestine
  29. Scotland Friends of Palestine
  30. Socialist Resistance Bookshop
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