This year our country celebrates two 70th anniversaries – the creation of the NHS and the arrival of SS Windrush at Tilbury Port. The two are intertwined and inseparable, with so many of the Windrush generation helping to build the health service that we all rely on.

I am proud that Unison backed the Windrush campaign when many, including the Prime Minister, seemed unaware of the lives blighted and families placed under intolerable pressure.

The Windrush generation served us all and made our country a better place. Many of them were members of Unison – working for the benefit of all of us in our town halls, schools, hospitals and countless other public services.

Yet that same generation now face cruel and inhumane treatment at the hands of the government, including in many cases – denial of access to the NHS and other public services they and their families helped to build.

The disgust so many of us felt hearing about the Albert Thompson case – the denial of life-saving treatment to someone who has lived here for 44 years – has only increased as further sickening examples come to light. Deportation and the threat of deportation loom large for too many people who have done nothing but build their lives here. Tens of thousands of Windrush children have been affected and subjected to perverse tests (including being asked for four pieces of documentation for every year of residency) that few of us could ever hope to pass.

As a result, honest, decent citizens are being driven to despair by a Kafkaesque immigration system that demands impossible evidence from those who rightly consider themselves to be British citizens.

It’s inconceivable that people who have lived, worked and contributed to society for decades should be threatened with deportation, when their children and grandchildren were all born here. Or people denied access to healthcare like Albert Thompson. As Nye Bevan said “no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”.

That’s why I recently wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd demanding that Albert Thompson receives the immediate treatment he needs and deserves, an end to the threat of deportations, respect for those who have given decades to our communities and confirmation of the legal status of the Windrush generation once and for all.

It is shameful that the government has allowed this to happen – that through legislation of its design, so many could face the crippling fear of deportation, or the unthinkable reality of being ripped from their homes, cast back to a country they left decades ago. This injustice is contrary to the country we should aspire to be.

Yet we should also be crystal clear at whose door the blame should lie. Theresa May – as Home Secretary – introduced the principle of “hostile environment”, meaning that immigration checks became a barrier to hospitals, housing and work for the Windrush generation. Worse still, it damages public services to be asked to act this way, simply in order to implement unfair rules.

That Theresa May and her successor Amber Rudd seem to have been genuinely unaware of this most grievous injustice again shows the callous disregard and ignorance which have become the hallmarks of this government.

It’s time the legal status of the Windrush generation was confirmed once and for all – but the stain their treatment leaves on the already ugly record of this government will take a very long time to fade.

Convoy header with lorries

 

Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch is backing a major initiative to respond to the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II.  Millions are fleeing war and persecution, and are displaced, destitute and homeless in Turkey, Jordan, Lebannon and camps in Europe.  Thousands of refugees, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, are trapped in camps in France; most in the port of Calais.

Several Trade Unions, War on Want, The People's Assembly, The Stop the War Coalition, Stand up to Racism and Muslim Association of Britain are organising a convoy to deliver aid to camps in the Calais area on June 18th 2016.  As well as delivering aid the Convoy to Calais will be a call to the UK government to do more to support refugees, including taking in unaccompanied children. 

Oxfordshire UNISON health branch has agreed to support an Oxford contingent to the national Convoy to Calais and has agreed funds to support members wishing to join the convoy and to provide aid, and support transport costs if needed to Calais.

If you would like to join the convoy as part of the UNISON and Oxford delegation please reply to this email as soon as possible so arrangements can be made for transport and ferry bookings.  It is anticipated that the Oxford-Calais-Oxford journey will be a full day event, leaving around 7am and returning after midnight.

UNISON Health branch is also asking for members to collect donations of aid to go to Calais with the convoy.  We are asking members to talk to work colleagues about organising drop of points in your workplace for donations and to talk to colleagues about donations.  Please only donate or collect items from the priority list which can be downloaded here.  If you are organising a collection in your workplace please let us know so we can advertise the collection point on the facebook event page (please share too) and make arrangements for all donations to get to the convoy.

There will be an organising meeting at 6.30pm Thursday 19th May in Oxford town hall for anyone wishing to go or build support for the Oxford delegation to the Convoy to Calais.  Organising meeting facebook event

 

 

oxford refugees welcome webThe past year has seen a growing refugee crisis as European governments fail to agree any kind of coherent policy to support the hundreds of thousands of desperate people fleeing war zones in the hope of a stable life in Europe.

Instead of mobilising the huge resources of the European Union to prevent people drowning in the Mediterranean, provide emergency shelter, food and medical aid, and agreeing a plan to help people find work so they can support themselves, refugees have been met with a barrage of racism, razor wire, and brutality.  The barbarity of the government response includes removal of ships to rescue refugees in peril of drowning on the basis that letting them drown would deter others making the journey, a view previously expressed by the fascist leader of the BNP.  In spite of hundreds drowning the boats still come, often with children - people are that desperate.

Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch is calling on members to support a demonstration against the racist and fascist EDL holding a national march in Oxford on Saturday 4th April. Oxford residents opposed to racism and fascism will be assembling for a peaceful protest in Bonn Square from 12 noon to show that the majority reject the EDL's racist lies as they try and scapegoat minorities, particular Muslims, for problems in society.  Facebook event

Local trade unions, including Oxfordshire Unison health branch, plus over 300 people have signed an open letter condemning the decision by the English Defence League to call a national demonstration in Oxford following the jailing of a group of men for sexual exploitation of children. Local councillors, trade union activists, and residents and students in Oxford are included in those who accuse the EDL of exploiting the suffering of these victims of abuse in an attempt to stir up race hatred against the Muslim community and to build there fascist organisation here.

Unity between black, white and migrant workers is the way to beat cutsThere is a growing hysteria around the so called “debate” about the impact immigration has on people in the UK. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, mainstream parties are united in claiming that immigration is a problem.    UKIP has even gone so far as to talk about “repatriation” of European workers, and its persistent scapegoating of migrants has garnered support from the inhabitants of the political sewer, including ex-leader of the fascist BNP.  Protesters challenging UKIP’s racism have had to face the nazi thugs of Britain First and the English Defence League who have turned up to “protect” UKIP meetings.   Potential supporters of UKIP are now faced with the question about who poses the real problem - the overseas workers or the nazi thugs energised by UKIP’s racism.

The reality of racism

The reality of migrant workers is profoundly different from the image painted by racists of “benefit scroungers”  - who are, contradictorily, “stealing our jobs”.
Alicja Plewczynska, a clinical support worker in a team helping people with treatment resistant depression, came to work in the UK from Poland 9 years ago.  Alicja told The Organiser how European workers were first welcomed, but was now finding growing hostility.   Alicja said “We were told we were needed to work, that without us the British economy would crash.  I sold everything to come to live here to work and to buy a house — I didn’t want to claim any benefits.”

Transport from Oxford to the London march is free to Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch members and their families.