Home | 21st December 1995 | Issue 54



Been involved in some direct action recently and spotted a couple of 'friendly' faces ? Wondered why they are wearing police uniforms, know your name, can't do enough to help you and seem to make it to more actions than the most dedicated activist? Welcome to Inspector Barry Norman (left) and Sergeant Andy Brittan (right) - the public face of the recently formed police 'Forward Intelligence Team' ('FIT')-The 12 strong team has been set up to gather information on "potential troublemakers". They operate in uniform and are seeking to build a "rapport with [key] street activists so that people likely to provoke disorder can be identified early in an event".

Norman and Brittan first came into the open when they arrested, a Reclaim the Streets (RTS) activist. The team said they wanted to start a "dialogue" with RTS, as they "actually agreed with what they were trying to achieve, but didn't want those nasty anarchists coming along and spoiling it for everyone". If RTS gave them information in advance of where the parties were likely to occur, the police would obviously not try and stop them, but would merely be there to make sure they run smoothly......

Norman and Brittan have taken to following RTS activists around. "They kept on coming up to RTS people at Critical Mass actions, filming us and trying to find out who we are, what we're up to. "One bloke wouldn't give his name, so they followed us all back to a pub. Someone went outside to check the bikes were safe, to find the police trying to break off the D-locks! They explained that we weren't allowed to leave our bikes there so we moved them to an authorised lock up spot. When we left the pub later, however, we found that one bike was missing, belonging to the person whose name the police were trying to get earlier! To get the insurance he had to go down to the local police station, report the offence and give his name and address. Bingo - the police have got his details." Since then Inspector Norman and Sergeant Brittan have spent most of their time turning up on actions and chatting to activists. They were last spotted at Whatley Quarry chatting people up.

"They are the Earth First!, anti-roads and Reclaim the Streets homework brigade. Their role on actions is to collect information, identify "key" activists, start informal dialogue, and to try and control and diffuse the situation. It's really important that people know who they are, and don't talk to them.

These people are here to attempt to break up direct action groups. If we get to Know who they are and how they work it makes their job all the more difficult.

Their team are obviously trying to build up files on people. They're going to be around for a while yet so it's important people get to know them. But it's also important people don't get paranoid."


*Cedric Brown, chief executive of British Gas got a 75 % pay rise - he's now struggling on a mere £475,000 a year. Despite the fact that British Gas made profits of £1.23 billion last year all Christmas parties have been cancelled to save money!

* In early October 50 hospital cleaners were sacked by Pall Mall (profits of £7 M) for refusing to sign a new contract, which would have cut wages by £35 a week. Join the daily picket lines outside Hillingdon hospital.

* In late October 45 workers were sacked from JJ Fast Food Distribution for joining a union. They were working 60-70 hours a week for between £130-£240 without sick or holiday pay as well as having to pay parking fines and any damage to trucks etc. out of their own pockets! Join the picket lines Mill Mead Rd behind Tottenham Hale 6 am daily - and boycott Jenny's Burger Bars.

* Mersey Docks and Harbour Company despite making a tidy £35 million last year want a 7 day week, 3 shift day with no union recognition for dockers in Liverpool. Random sackings led to 500 being given the boot as they refused to cross picket lines.

* 40 dole offices are on strike over low wages and performance related pay, workers will also get sacked if they don't hassle enough people off the dole! Don't worry, its all getting much worse if the JobSeekers Allowance goes ahead. Young people who refuse to work for low wages will lose all benefits. While Michael Portillo has said £60 a week is enough to live on, he gets £67 000 a year, £42 000 as office allowance and travel expenses. How does he manage?!

*Workfare trials from April in Hull and Maidstone. The long-term unemployed will have to either work for their dole or get cut off. The Low Pay Unit announcing its yearly Scrooge at Christmas Award said that the judges this year were faced with an exceptionally difficult task. "Since the abolition of Britain's legal minimum wage system in 1993, competition for the award has become intense." So this year the award goes jointly to:

A private residential home in Corby: Mrs. A, a care assistant, was on duty 112 hours a week. A letter from her employer states: "I would like you to work as follows: Monday to Sunday inclusive 5 pm to 9 am. Salary will be paid monthly in arrears at the rate of £150 per week. The lady was off work through stress and exhaustion for a few days and received no sick pay. A children's clothing manufacturer in Lancashire, Starlite Garments:

Two women making children's clothes were required to work 42.5 hours a week (9am till 6 pm with half an hour lunch break) for £25 a week (59p an hour) When challenged the employer stated that the rate was really £57 a week (£1.34. an hour) but the women worked too slowly for that. AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR?

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When the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) became law last year the government thought they could get away with attacking fundamental human rights by saying they were targetting 'undesirable' groups like travellers, hunt sabs and road protesters - the government's 'enemy within'. They ended up uniting an enormous range of groups and people in opposition to this attack on our rights.

Next year the government has a new target - asylum seekers fleeing to Britain from persecution and war. Just like with the CJA, attacks on basic rights are dressed up as being necessary to deal with a 'marginal' group of lying, cheating troublemakers.

But this time they're not just taking away people's rights. They want to starve families. They want to make thousands of refugees homeless and destitute. They want to force people escaping barbarous regimes to go back to the countries they nave fled. They want to kill people.

They think they can get away this because the 'opposition' in parliament is no such thing and they don't believe anyone else will stand up to them.

And, just like with the CJA, we will prove them wrong by fighting them every inch of the way.

We are publishing this special feature, an interview with someone working with refugee communities in east London, to let people know about the government's plans for asylum seekers - and what we can do to oppose them.

What laws are the government bringing in to attack asylum seekers?

There are two major changes taking place. Firstly the abolition of the right to benefits for asylum seekers, which were to come into affect on January 8th, but have been temporarily postponed. Then there's the Asylum and Immigration Bill planned for later in the year.

Peter Lilley, the social security minister, announced the social security changes at the Conference Party conference this year to great applause. The changes mean that the majority of asylum seekers in Britain - people fleeing persecution, torture, war and conflict in various parts of the world - will be denied any social security benefits, like Income Support and Housing Benefit, when they come to apply for asylum.

It's estimated that 13,000 people will be affected by these changes right away. These are people who have applied for asylum in the UK since October as well as several thousand people who have received negative decisions before that and are waiting on appeals. Out of these 13,000 people it's estimated there will be between 1,500 and 3,000 children.

People who apply for asylum at their port of entry - that's about one in five asylum seekers - will still be entitled to benefits until their cases come up but the majority will have no entitlement to any benefits. However people seldom apply for asylum at their port of entry because they have a massive and well-founded fear that they're not going to be believed by immigration officials and that they'll get sent right back. People have landed at Heathrow or Gatwick after dangerous, exhausting and sometimes terrifying escapes from persecution and tend to find their feet for a few days before applying 'in country'.

If the benefit cuts go ahead these people will have no right to benefits while they pursue their claim. Alongside this, anyone who has applied for asylum since 11th October 1995 and has been getting benefits will have their benefits stopped immediately if they have their asylum claim refused. The government says you still have a right to appeal - but how are you meant to pursue an appeal that might take months if you're homeless and destitute?

The average length of time it takes for an initial decision on an asylum claim is 18 months. If you get a negative decision and appeal against it it can take many more months, sometimes over a year, to be heard.

Where do asylum seekers come from?

Asylum seekers come to Britain from many places in the world where there is persecution, conflict and torture. Amnesty say torture is carried out in 96 countries throughout the world at the present time.

There are people seeking asylum from Angola where one of the longest running and most devastating wars in the world is still going on. People are coming from the brutal dictatorship that runs Sudan and from Kenya, where President Moi is desperately clinging to power by imprisoning, torturing and murdering democracy activists. Some come to Britain from Algeria where militias and the army are killing hundreds of people. In the last two years the largest number of asylum seekers have been from Nigeria where in 1992 the military government of General Abacha refused to accept the results of a general election and has been imprisoning and killing democracy activists ever since, particularly Ogoni activists protesting against the complete destruction of their homeland in the search for oil.

If you talk to refugees you hear so many stories about the real reasons people seek asylum. They are desperate for protection from the abuses they've suffered. I know one mother from Ethiopia who lives in east London with a seven year old son who fled when her husband was 'disappeared' by the Ethiopian government. She has already had a refusal on her initial asylum

claim because the Home Office didn't believe that her claim to be in fear of persecution was genuine! This is absolutely typical. Her son has quite serious medical and educational needs and this woman is frantic as she waits for her appeal because so few people are being granted asylum and it's very difficult for people to be believed that their fear of persecution is genuine. If she loses her appeal in the New Year she'll be returned to Ethiopia.

Children have been through the most frightening experiences and many have lost their parents. Every year at least 400 unaccompanied refugee children apply for asylum in the UK. Sometimes they enter after their parents have paid to have them escape conscription into militias and armies. Many of these children are acutely vulnernable and rarely getting the support they desperately need to rebuild their lives. The immigration laws often prevent them from being reunited with surviving relatives.

‘The rich world is increasingly closing its doors to people from poorer countries'

You hear so many horrifying stories. I know of some Zairean children who saw government soldiers kill members of their families and are severely traumatised by their experiences. They need help, not attacks from a racist government. I knew one 11 year old unaccompanied Zairean boy who could remember Zairean soldiers coming to his house, taking his father away (that was the last time he saw his father), raping his aunt and his mother fleeing. He still hasn't received a decision on his asylum claim so his position is very insecure. If the Home Office makes a decision which doesn't recognise his fear of persecution then his benefits will be stopped and he will face deportation. He's been waiting for that decision for four years.

I know a Ugandan man who has been waiting for eight years between putting in an application for asylum and getting a decision. Not knowing what's going to happen to you creates an enormous sense of fear and uncertainty.

The government say they are bringing in these laws to deal with a flood of bogus asylum seekers entering the country. How true is this?

The government says that the majority of asylum seekers are bogus and it's completely untrue. Even the small proportion of people who are recognised as genuine refugees will have to starve and become homeless while their claims are decided, an average wait of 18 months. Only a tiny number of asylum seekers are being recognised as refugees. Last year only 825 were granted refugee status.

It's worth remembering that Britain has the lowest proportion of refugees per head of population of any developed country. The argument used by Michael Howard for the Asylum Bill is a circular one. Since 1993 the government has granted asylum much more rarely, resulting in three quarters of all asylum applications now being refused. They then use the fact that they refuse all these applications to 'prove' that the majority of applications are bogus!

The reality is that the standard of proof that refugees have to provide about their persecution is so high that it's almost impossible to prove you're a genuine asylum seeker. For instance 99% of asylum applications from Nigeria are being refused despite the well documented abuses of human rights in that country.

The majority of refugees in the world are cared for in the poor countries of the world who don't always have the means to give the support that refugees need. Over a million people who fled from Rwanda are now in Zaire, Uganda and Tanzania. Millions of Afghani refugees have been cared for in Pakistan. Less than 10% of the world's 27 million recognised refugees are cared for in the rich world, less than 6% in western Europe. But even this tiny number is going to be reduced even further. Why are they doing it? You just have to look at the racism of the government and the way they use the issue of asylum seekers to create the impression in people's minds that we are being 'swamped' by asylum seekers when it's simply not true.

The rich world is increasingly closing its doors to people from poorer countries. It makes no difference whether you come to join family members, to improve your life or fleeing for your life. The rich countries, without any real public debate or discussion, are working to bury the international legislation, like the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, which protect refugees. The rich countries want to make the concept of asylum a thing of the past.

The government said last week that it was delaying the benefit cuts so they can be debated in parliament. What does this mean?

The changes to social security changes have been put off because some MPs said that to put the changes through without a debate in parliament would have been "an abuse of parliament". Nothing about the abuse of people's rights, they're only concerned about the abuse of MPs' rights! So a concession was made to discuss the changes in parliament before they're brought in. The changes have not been withdrawn.

How does the Asylum Bill fit in with the benefit cuts?

Taking benefits off refugees goes hand in hand with the Asylum Bill. For example the Asylum Bill contains measures for declaring some countries as 'safe countries' - the so-called 'white list'. People coming from these countries will be deemed to have an unfounded claim and will find it enormously difficult to prove their case. Alongside this, the government is planning to bring in a speeded-up procedure for asylum seekers from some other countries, in effect a parallel white list. Countries like Nigeria and Algeria have been left off the white list but have been put on the list for speeded-up procedure. People from these countries will have a matter of days to prove that their fear of persecution is genuine.

Asylum seekers have to provide documentary proof of their fear of persecution, something that is all but impossible except for a tiny minority of them. How can you prove you were threatened with death or tortured within a few days? Even when people bring documentary evidence with them they are regularly disbelieved. People with bruising and scarring consistent with torture are often completely disbelieved. This year around 40,000 people will seek asylum in Britain - most of these will be refused and the applicants deported back to persecution and torture.

‘The only way these laws will be beaten is through direct action that makes them unworkable'

Is there much opposition to the benefit cuts and the Asylum Bill?

The government enacted the 1993 Asylum and Immigration Act, which made it easier for asylum seekers to be detained, with very little opposition from the Labour Party. The same thing's happening again. Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, has stated that no one could put a wafer between Labour and Conservative policies on immigration, which says it all really.

Labour is very good at creating a mist around what they do on lots of issues like education, health and immigration where they say they are opposing the government but actually don't. Jack Straw says Labour wants a consensus with the government on immigration because he's afraid that Labour will be seen as being 'soft' on immigration and asylum seekers. No one should imagine that Labour will oppose racist immigration laws - when they were in government they forced Indian and Pakistani women to undergo virginity tests on arrival in Britain in order to get into the country!

The opposition that has been built so far has been built in communities directly affected by the changes. Last week in Hackney there was a 2,500 strong march against the benefit withdrawals and over 90% of the people there were Turkish and Kurdish workers whose families and friends will be directly affected by the new legislation. There wasn't a single Labour Party banner, a single left-wing banner and only one union banner from the local National Union of Teachers. People from McLibel turned up and people from local community centres. The Refugee Council and churches in communities where refugees are being threatened are starting to open premises as shelters for refugees who will be made homeless and destitute. There are some positive, grassroots community initiatives.

The only way these attacks are going to be defeated is through direct action. The only real opposition to this government over the last two to three years has been the direct action of people standing up for themselves and each other, not from politicians.

The direct action needed to defeat the attacks on asylum seekers has to involve picketing and occupying places in opposition to the attacks, letting people know what's really going on. But it also needs to give support to the thousands who are going to be in desperate need - people without food to eat or anywhere to live. The experiences of the anti-roads movement and the fight against the CJA are going to be essential in organising the opposition that's needed. How do you organise squats? How do you organise to keep people going? The anti-roads campaigns have made sure that activists have been fed - asylum seekers are going to need to squat and they are going to need people to help them. What will be successful is people doing things for themselves. Even a group of six or seven people getting together to support a family can make a difference.

There's panic amongst professionals working in local government and education and housing about the effects of these changes because their services won't begin to be able to meet the needs of the people affected. Social Services have a legal obligation to care for children but not the parents. Pressure has to put on local authorities not to evict families into destitution.

We can make sure that the people affected by these new racist laws do not become destitute, do not starve and are not forced to live on the streets. There's a lot we can do. We can inform ourselves about what's happening, get in touch with refugee groups and start to help out. People need to be collecting money, collecting clothes, cracking squats, networking... If we allow asylum seekers - one of the most vulnerable people in British society - to be picked off and attacked like this who's going to be next? We cannot afford to leave the campaign to defend asylum seekers to be run by opposition politicians - they will pretend to oppose the new laws, just like they promised to oppose the CJA, but actually do nothing. The only way these laws will be beaten is through direct action that makes them unworkable - and by giving practical support to those affected. The politicians are giving lots of speeches but local authorities will be cooperating with the new laws while they talk about opposing them. We can't allow that to happen. 

8th January - Torchlight procession to Downing Street, meet St Martin's in the Field, Trafalgar Square, 6pm 

Saturday 13th January - Rally at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, 1.30pm

Saturday 24th February - National demonstration against the Asylum Bill, Embankment to Trafalgar Square, 11am


Near Luton, a collection of people have got the authorities running scared. Police operations have been launched against them. The local press have run smear campaigns. MPs and freemasons have tried everything in their power to eradicate them. Michael Howard has refused to conduct an enquiry into the situation. These people however have refused to stop committing their heinous crimes. In an unprecedented attempt to destroy the momentum behind their success, the police have now charged one of the alleged ringleaders with ABH and murder. 

So what vile shape do their activities take? What is this hot bed of evil terrorism which has attracted such attention from the forces of law and order?

Well, they like animals, for one and they like showing little children round their farm. They like building loving, supportive, creative environments in which people can come into. And they like to dance. They like to gather others to dance on the earth, to perform the oldest act of celebration known to humanity. These activities may not seem to warrant the extreme reaction they have incurred, but there is an explanation. You see, these people don't want to be paid for what they do. Money, to them, is no great god, no substitute for personal power. Their acts are performed only for their own intrinsic value. These people are an example to anyone who refuses to accept capitalism. 

These people are freedom fighters. These people are Exodus.

The blatant framing of Biggs, a leading member of Exodus, is the latest incident in a campaign of police harassment which has continued since Exodus began in 1992. The authorities are so afraid of the "massive but passive" resistance which has met every attempt to eradicate the collective, that they are reduced to fitting Biggs up on a murder charge. That a death occurred recently is not in dispute. That this death was a tragic accident is accepted by the friends and family of the person involved, by local people and by the pathologists who have investigated it. On the 2 days following the incident, the local papers reported "no suspicious circumstances" and "no foul play". So why is Biggs currently bailed to Devon "for his own safety"? 

The events of that night are clearly recorded. The person in question had been drinking in a local pub, and had got involved in a fracas outside, which Biggs and others were asked to break up. The person involved then ran down the road (alone, as verified by a CCTV camera in Dunstable Main Street) and into a park. A good distance into the park, he tried to climb a fence, but fell onto a metal spike and injured his head. He crawled a short way, but was later found dead from a combination of hypothermia and head wounds. Coroners recorded an accidental death. 

On hearing of the death the next morning, Biggs went straight to the local police to make a statement. He then went about his usual business in Luton for the next two weeks. Bedfordshire Police, however, saw an opportunity to turn public opinion against the collective and to remove one of the perceived ringleaders more or less permanently. The subsequent arrest and charging of Biggs hangs on two points. One is the statement of a female witness which appears to have mysteriously changed after the coroners' report was seen. The other is a statement from the Desk Sergeant of Dunstable Police Station, who claims to have overheard Biggs bragging about the murder to another person in the cop shop. Biggs was only there on Tuesday. The other person was only there on Thursday. 

The police look like they are on their way to repeating a situation whereby they're tying themselves up in knots with their own evidence. You don't have to be a SchNEWS reader to be aware that the police consistently fabricate evidence against 'undesirables'. Biggs is not a wage slave. He is black. He has multiple facial piercings. These alone are seen by many as reasons to deprive him of his liberty. But the sheer tenacity of the campaign to lock him up speaks volumes about the real reasons behind it. You see, Biggs has refused, time after time, to be silenced or intimidated. The collective as a whole have stood up to the authorities. They've called every bluff, challenged every lie and continued to enjoy the relative freedom of their lifestyle - a lifestyle which epitomises almost everything the CJA seeks to destroy. It is for this audacity that they are being persecuted - for proving to others that there is an alternative. 

Despite the continuing harassment, Exodus have consistently pulled off coups of their own. The local newspapers are heavily subsidised by Whitbread, who weren't too happy when their pubs emptied on the nights of Exodus' dances. They ran full page spreads in the run up to Biggs' drug trial, anticipating him being jailed. When this failed to happen, Exodus arranged a meeting with the editor, accusing him of slander and masonic connections. He resigned 3 weeks later.

And the enquiry? Exodus are determined it will go ahead. All donations received at their dances, instead of building and repairing the people's sound system, are currently being channelled into a 'justice fund' (we like it!). Where others see insurmountable obstacles, Exodus see only challenges which can and will be met. Biggs, meanwhile, is still exiled in Devon. Requests to be bailed closer to his people have been denied. Faced with the prospect of spending the festive season alone, he is planning to hand himself in for voluntary imprisonment in Luton, thus denying the police the opportunity to fabricate bail-jumping charges or to claim that his safety would be at risk. His convictions remain unshakable. As he says, "the words of Bob Marley continue to inspire us. Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!" 

If you want to know more about Exodus read the excellent SQUALL £2.30 from PO Box 8959, London N12 5HW

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It seems even vicars are getting in on the direct action tip. During the last confrontation with bailiffs trying to evict people from Holtsfield a vicar d-locked himself onto one of the bungalows! The bailiffs could come back anytime, so get on the action phone line to help the residents protect their homes described as "a unique part of the nations built legacy." Or write and hassle Barclays Banks to stop the financial support of the property company that want to pull down the houses and build new executive types 01792 234027

*** The McLibel Trial entered legal history last week as the longest libel trial in British legal history. Independent sources suggest that its cost McDonalds £5 million so far and may not finish till at least April 96. McRipOff must be rueing the day they issued the writ. As Elton John once uttered: "Sorry seems to the hardest word" 0171 713 1269

*** Are you one of the many SchNEWS readers currently living in one of Her Majesty's penal institutions? If so you can get free books and other publications from the Terry O'Halloran Memorial Fund. Just write to them at BCM Box 5960, London WC1N 3XX.

*** Patrick Quinn was killed in Hammersmith Police station in 1990 and Malcolm Kennedy was charged with his murder. Kennedy says he saw police officers assault Quinn. Pickets in support of Kennedy: Hammersmith Police Station 8th January and 5th February. Contact Colin Roach Centre, Tel: 0181 533 7111

*** The Yukon Territorial Government are organising their 4th annual wolf kill. 132 wolves have been slaughtered and a recent survey shows that only 38 wolves are left alive. Demo Jan 9th outside Canada House London. Contact 01373 473 711


While 820 000 properties are empty in Britain, Brighton with the highest percentage of homelessness clamps down on squatters. The result... After being evicted from the Nunnery by the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, Seamus Mannion said: "I have been homeless for 8 years and I was hoping this would give me a chance to get back on my feet. I will have to go and sleep rough now. I really think the Nuns are being unchristian. It is getting very cold and it's coming up to Christmas" 

Last week, aged 43, he died of bronchial pneumonia after having spent the last few weeks sleeping outdoors.

From all of us at the Nunnery, farewell 'Sweet Village Prince', we remember you as a kind gentleman of the Emerald Isle with a liking for the demon drink (and bovril). The Funeral Service will be at 9 am on 29th December at Woodvale.


The SchNEWS warns all readers not to attend any illegal gatherings or take part in any criminal activities. Always stay within the law. In fact please just sit in, watch tv and go on endless Xmas shopping sprees filling your house and lives with endless consumer crap.... you will then feel content. Honest.

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