A Season of Targeted Goodwill?

I must confess to being deeply prejudiced towards  those who staff the UK’s Border Control zones. I know they’re only doing their jobs, but so many exude the smirking officiousness that accompanies the wearing of uniform. And, of course, their blinkered outlook reflects the instrumental ideology of their management and the government. So often this obsession with targets floats free of the contradictory mess, that is reality. It is devoid of imagination. It pretends to be without politics. It lacks even professional ethics.

This emptiness is symbolised by the UK Border Agency’s Christmas card [click to enlarge], which without irony designs a Xmas tree to celebrate its nationalist success in ‘controlling the flow of migration’.

I am grateful to Jeremy Harding of the London Review of Books for drawing my attention to this smug seasonal greeting – see his piece, ‘Would they have let the Magi in?

Within it he confirms a position the Collective have held for decades. If capital can circulate wherever it wishes, so should labour. Drawing upon the Christmas story Jeremy concludes,

Joseph would probably have been asked to take off his shoes at security, before having his head shoved back down a tunnel in Gaza.

In response Clare Sambrook of the END CHILD DETENTION NOW campaign underlines further the dubious character of the Border Agency’s attempts ‘to ensure fairness’.

This Christmas, as it does every year, the UK Border Agency is holding children against their will in conditions proven to damage their health and sanity, with help from commercial contractors SERCO and G4S , whose shares are evidently a ‘solid buy for these uncertain times’.

These children and babies have committed no crime. Their parents have only exercised their legal right to claim asylum. The government pursues its punitive policy of dawn raids and detention even though, as UKBA’s Dave Wood let slip in evidence to a parliamentary committee lately, ‘absconding is not our biggest issue. It does happen but it is not terribly easy for a family unit to abscond.’ [Hansard]

Seven friends working pro-bono on the END CHILD DETENTION NOW campaign urge people who mind about this to sign the on-line petition at Number10, calling upon the government to stop the forcible arrest and detention of these children and their parents –  No Child Detention

More than one hundred leading writers and illustrators, including Andrea Levy, Quentin Blake, Nick Hornby, Jacqueline Wilson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kamila Shamsie, Ian Rankin, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Pullman, Julia Donaldson, have called upon Gordon Brown to stop detaining children.

Author Beverley Naidoo speaks movingly of  running a story-telling workshop with children detained in the Yarls Wood Immigration Centre.

Five locked doors and corridors decorated with murals lead to Crane section for families – mainly mothers with children. We are introduced to the primary teacher. The young lady smiles and we shake hands, but my brain takes time to connect. She is wearing the Serco uniform, with keys attached to her waist. A guard-cum-teacher or a teacher-cum-guard.

As it is we’ve no faith in signing petitions for the perusal of Gordon Brown. With all its dilemmas there is no alternative to creating together the social force that can turn this unjust world upside down.

Looking forward in 2010 to doing our little bit in pursuit of this life-enhancing vision.

In criticism and solidarity

TT [on behalf of the Critical Chatters]

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 12:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Tony, thanks for this. Surging petition numbers are helping us to rally the opponents of child detention and get the media’s attention.

    So please do ask friends to sign the public petition at

    And please urge doctors to also sign:
    best wishes, clare sambrook of end child detention now

  2. Clare

    Whatever our scepticism, good to see that the petition tactic is producing results. I’m not proud so I’ll nip round to Downing Street and sign up right now!



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