The Home Office: A History of Racism

The Tigers of Tower Hamlets Stirred

Browsing online on social media, I came across a set of pictures by East End photographer, Phil Maxwell. These incredible photos capture a protest in 1984, organised by the original handsome Bengali migrants of Tower Hamlets. Looking carefully at these photos, I was immediately struck by the political acumen of this migrant community, my own community… as well as their suave fashion sense!

They were out in full force, defending the rights a recent widow, Afia Begum, whose husband had tragically burnt to death. Due to his death (as she was here legally as a spouse), Afia and her young child were hounded by the police like criminals, swiftly deported in a 6:00am raid in a manner unprecedented, as her case was still being looked at in European Courts. She was here perfectly legally.

She was one of the first victims of the institutionally racist Home Office: her and her husband were asked to come to this country to help rebuild it, and she was then Windrushed out on a whim.

Amazing photos. Just take a look at the pics…and keep reading below to learn about a surprising fact I uncovered!

Afia Begum & Jeremy Corbyn

I had never heard of Afia Begum so I Googled her to read about her case.

Her treatment was described by the European Parliament as ‘callous and showing the racist and sexist nature of the United Kingdom immigration laws’. The Dutch government wanted to offer her a home because they regarded the actions of the UK as cruel.

The second link I found on Google was from Hansard (Parliamentary record) of an MP demanding her case be brought up in Parliament in 1984, before I was even born.

Guess which that MP was?

You’ve guessed it.

THANK YOU JEREMY CORBYN. As ever. Quietly working for the people from day one, and never ever asking for reward.

This is why people will fight to protect you Jeremy — as you have always fought for us.

Read the below carefully. It is an extract from Jeremy’s speech in Parliament, and the response of the speaker. Click here for the full exchange.

***

Mrs. Afia Begum (Deportation)

HC Deb 08 May 1984 vol 59 cc738–41

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the deportation of Mrs. Afia Begum. Mrs. Begum has a perfect legal right to be in this country as the wife of somebody who had permanent residence in the country. On 15 March 1982, her husband, Abdul Hamid, was tragically killed in a fire in their tenement house in the east end. Further to that, Mrs. Begum arrived in this country and was told by the Home Office that the basis on which she would be allowed to stay in this country had in fact changed. Since then, she has been the subject of an unremitting war waged by the Home Office to try to ensure that she is deported from this country. An unprecedented number of representations have been made by Members of both Houses of Parliament asking that she be allowed to remain permanently in this country in order to look after her baby and to care for her sick and elderly father. For the last year, she has been in hiding while the Home Office has been hounding her like a criminal throughout London.

Last Thursday morning, at 6 o’clock, a police raid was made on the house where she was staying with her daughter, and she was picked up. Further urgent representations were made to the Home Office by a number of hon. Members asking that she be not deported. Indeed, on Thursday evening, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and I attended the Home Office to plead her case. We were informed on Friday afternoon, after the House had risen, that our representations had fallen on deaf ears and that Mrs. Begum was to be deported the following morning.

We have since learnt that, during the afternoon of Friday, Mrs. van den Heuvel, the leader of the Socialist group in the Dutch Parliament, sent a telegram to the Home Office saying that she would be making an application to the Dutch Ministry of Justice yesterday morning to ask that Mrs. Begum be allowed temporary leave to remain in the Netherlands while her case was heard at the European Court of Human Rights.

My reasons for making this application, Mr. Speaker, are that it is unprecedented for somebody to be deported from this country while the case is before the European Court of Human Rights – it is due to hear the case later this month – and while there is a Bill before the House which, if it were carried – it has already been given a Second Reading – would have the effect of altering the law to prevent the Home Secretary from changing the basis on which somebody is regarded as resident in this country.

Those are the reasons, Mr. Speaker, together with widespread disquiet about the way in which this poor woman and her baby have been hounded by the Home Office and by immigration officials, and thrown out of this country, after being dragged from their home at 6 o’clock in the morning, and the fury that runs through the Asian and Caribbean community in this country that —compared with the way that the Government bent over backwards to bring Zola Budd here at the drop of a hat, because she was white and was from South Africa – Mrs. Begum, the widow of somebody tragically killed in a fire who, if her husband was still alive, would have a perfect right to stay here, has been bundled out of the country as if she were a criminal. She is no criminal but a victim of circumstances.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the deportation of Afia Begum from the United Kingdom last Saturday. I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member has said, but I regret that I do not consider that the matter which he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order №10. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.

Endnote (Thanks to Phil Maxwell’s blog for this):

Jeremy Corbyn accompanied Afia and her baby to Heathrow airport and tried to persuade immigration officials that she had a legal right to stay in the UK. Unfortunately, she was deported.

Read more:

Learn more about Afia’s case: http://www.spectacle.co.uk/spectacleblog/despite-tv/sari-squad-the-afia-begum-campaign/comment-page-1/

Pictures by Phil Maxwell: https://www.flickr.com/photos/studio31whitechapel/3929240204/

Phil Maxwell’s blog: http://philmaxwell.org/?p=28632

Parliamentary Record (Hansard): https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1984/may/08/mrs-afia-begum-deportation