On Immigration, Photography and Female Genital Mutilation: Dilemmas for Youth Workers

Once again we are apologising for the lack of posts on the site. We have been prioritising support for the In Defence of Youth Work campaign – see http://indefenceofyouthwork.org.uk

Hopefully, however, we will get back into the swing of posting more regularly here. Ironically we might do so as the increasing threat to youth work in the UK means that the In Defence site will be preoccupied with resistance to cuts in jobs and services. This means that we might well shift some news and analysis of a broader nature to here.

To get us on the move again, find below a cocktail of connections:

Back at Xmas 2009 we reported on the dire situation facing mothers, children and young people at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre. In a victory for campaigners the family wing is to be closed. The new government will now have to square a claim that it will protect the welfare of children, whilst maintaining and probably tightening the country’s immigration laws.  As we have said before, if money can cross borders without interference, so should workers – a position that would land us in hot water in Arizona and beyond

Justin Wyllie has as usual two challenging pieces concerning young people on his Blog. The first concerns a young sixteen year old photographer being stopped from taking pictures of an armed forces parade, whilst the second accuses the Ministry of Justice of lying in its claim that restraint is an instrument of last resort in Secure Training Centres. In this regard the Guardian describes the  Prison Service manual on the use of restraint as ‘a brutal guide to punishing jailed youths’

Back in the mid-80’s I was involved in a heated debate with youth workers about whether there were any grounds for any of us  judging the practices of other cultures.  There was much talk about respect and diversity, which was both eye-opening and suffocating by turn. Inevitably race and gender were at the heart of differing stances. Within the argument I was charged with racism, because I refused to accept the cultural practice of ‘infibulation’. Perhaps high-mindedly I argued that humanity at its best had created universal values, human rights, which I wished to defend and extend in the teeth of any particular culture’s opposition. The evening ended in a high degree of tension. In one way or another the dilemmas surrounding the comparability or otherwise of cultures have never gone away, indeed perhaps have deepened. I am minded of this specific incident and forced to think afresh about the contemporary situation by the claim that British girls undergo horror of genital mutilation despite tough laws
This seems all the more relevant, given the overriding emphasis on child protection within the world of Children and Young People’s Services.


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)  
Tags: , , , , ,



Simply to send the Collective’s greetings on International Workers Day. In Britain the significance of this day has been eroded gradually, whilst, for example, in Turkey and Iran the trade unions are physically  prevented from celebrating the history and spirit of the struggle to change society. On May Day 1977, 37 trade unionists were killed in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and efforts by unions in recent years to commemorate that massacre – and to demand justice – have been met by fierce repression.

In these confused and contradictory days, when a mood of passive conformity still seems to prevail, it is all too easy to forget what we owe to those who refused to be cowed in the past. Remembering Rosa Luxemburg’s injunction will stand us in good stead:

‘Those who do not try to move, do not notice their chains.’

In solidarity with all those, who refuse to sit still and quiet.

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 7:42 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,