Memory, Archive and Resistance

A young Richard Leese to the right (The Tandana archive GB3228.6)

As part of the World Without Borders activity focusing on the trial of the Stansted 15, the GLC Story archive hosted a teach-in that reflected on the long history of resistance to immigration controls and the relevance of archiving for today’s activists.

The event was held in London on 9th February 2019 and was attended by nearly one hundred people, many of them active in campaigns against deportation. It provided us with the opportunity to reflect and discuss ways to learn from the past, to document contemporary injustices and provide materials for future activists.

I introduced the first session based on the involvement of the Asian Youth Movement in campaigns against family separation and deportation.  I developed the presentation through my own experiences and engagement with the Tandana and Steve Cohen archives held at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource centre. In developing the story, I reflected on the political, social, legal and technological changes between the 1980s and now.  Our campaigns relied on meeting to develop materials and plan events, going out to mobilise in local areas and writing to potential supporters.

Those experiencing family separation or deportation were at the centre of the campaign and meetings were organised to ensure their full involvement and agreement with the tactics we developed. Whilst we believed that immigration controls were racist, the people we worked with were central and in most cases were the focus of our campaigns.

In Manchester, we worked with the law centre to align the campaign with the legal appeals process. The testimony of campaign supporters, particularly from local communities, was recognised when the case was considered by the immigration appeals process and the Home Secretary. Sita Balani talked about her research on the Asian Youth Movement and we discussed how their radicalism was dissipated by state funding.  We concluded that anti-deportation movements need to be self-reliance and to engage with direct mobilisation to build their campaigns.

Tej Adeleye from the George Padmore Institute talked about the history of the materials they have assembled. She also outlined the training they provide in creating archives and managing highly sensitive material.  Anne Neale and Sue Shutter talked about the development of Right to be here: a campaigning guide to the immigration laws a campaigning guide developed by the GLC’s anti-deportation working group as well as their personal involvements in campaigns.

Smaller groups discussed how archives would be useful to current and future activists.  The event was concluded with a film and discussion.  Tasting Freedom (1994) documents the experiences of asylum seekers who were imprisoned.  The film is centred around testimony from asylum seekers about their treatment, the consequences of individual treatment in being moved to prisons and the resistance through a hunger strike that led to their release. It also includes background material from lawyers who represented them and a trial of the Home Office for Human Rights abuses.

The film documents the death of Omasase Lumumba in Pentonville prison in 1991 and Joy Gardner who died at home while being arrested for deportation in 1993. Omasase’s friends talk about his mental distress at the time and Joy’s mother is seen demanding justice for her daughter.  Contributions in the subsequent discussion reflected how little has changed since then.

Nigel de Noronha

Nigel is a trustee on the Coming in From The Cold project and also works as Assistant Professor in the faculty of social sciences at The University of Nottingham.

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