Barge the Bibby Stockholm has arrived in Cornwall. It comes as the Conservative government prepares to use it to detain hundreds of refugees. However, people were not happy with this physical representation of the state’s racism being on their doorstep – nor with its existence more broadly. So, Cornwall resisted. Campaigners called for more people to fight back against the Tory government’s hostile environment.
The Bibby Stockholm has a long history. It was previously accommodation for offshore workers. However, as Leasing Life reported, it’s also been used to detain refugees before:
The Bibby Stockholm was previously used to house asylum seekers in the Netherlands in the 2000s but was taken out of service after a Dutch media investigation uncovered abuses taking place on board.
The government announced it would be using it to detain male refugees and would be operational for “at least” 18 months. It also said that more of these barges were on the way. The government also noted how barges will “cut the cost to the taxpayer” – blaming refugees for trying to come here, and not the government for its disastrous hotels policy. Of course, this also ignores the fact that the problem is not where and how the government detains people – but the fact that it does so in the first place.
Confining hundreds of people in isolation on a barge is just more of the political theatre that the Government has created to obscure its gross mismanagement of the asylum system.
Currently, the Bibby Stockholm is moored at Falmouth, where a company is inspecting, then refitting, it. So, local people have decided to act – and took to the streets in protest at the government’s treatment of refugees.
Cornwall resists again
Cornwall Resists is a network of grassroots anti-fascist groups in the county. As the Canary has documented, it has been prominent in resisting both the far-right’s and the state’s racist abuse of refugees in Cornwall. Most recently, it countered the far-right when racists targeted a hotel housing refugees in Newquay. Now, the group has turned its attention to the Bibby Stockholm – with a protest on Wednesday 10 May.
Cornwall Resists told the Canary it organised the protest because:
People who have fled their homes in search of safety deserve our compassion, dignity, and respect. They do not deserve to be scapegoated, detained by the state, and treated as less than human, whilst the rich in parliament profit from the very wars from which people arriving on our shores were displaced.
Around 100 people turned up to show their disdain for the Tories plan – and solidarity with refugees:
We marched to where we could see the ship from above – and encourage everyone to do the same if you haven’t yet. It is a prison ship. With a tiny living space for each of the 500 single men that will be held off the coast of Devon, and records of deaths and multiple accounts of abuse from the last time it was used to house refugees, it is a floating human rights violation.
The group told the Canary:
Cornwall once again stood in solidarity with refugees – and vowed to keep up the resistance to complicity in border violence and racist agendas. If you’re looking to get involved with future actions then get in touch, or keep up to date with our socials.
Instead of more ministerial cruelty, we need sweeping asylum reforms, with an emphasis on deciding claims fairly and efficiently, acting on those decisions, eliminating wasteful repeat reconsiderations of decisions that people are entitled to asylum, and making a real effort to reduce huge backlogs and unreasonable Home Office workloads.
“Unreasonable Home Office workloads”. Yes, civil servants must be exhausted – doing the bidding of, and/or actually being, racists and fascists all day long. Of course, hand-wringing Amnesty arguing for “sweeping…reforms” and ‘fairness’ and ‘efficiency’ is hardly a solution.
It actually still reeks of white, Western privilege. Black and Brown refugees can still only come to the UK on certain conditions that other white refugees (like Ukrainian ones) don’t have to meet. Ultimately, ‘reforming’ a racist system will only rearrange the racism into a different format. Black and Brown refugees will still have to jump through hoops intentionally put in place for them just to come to this God-awful country. They’re hoops white people don’t have to jump through. The state and society’s ‘othering’ of Black and Brown people, and the overt implication that they don’t really belong here, will continue regardless.
Moreover, and as always, another issue with Amnesty’s sentiment is that it assumes the state has a problem with how it treats refugees. Whereas in reality, a hostile environment where humans are housed on barges simply for fleeing war, persecution, or to seek a better life, is exactly what the colonialist UK government and its agents want. The only way to begin to stop this is to resist, like Cornwall did. It’s certainly not begging the government for reforms and fairness.
Black and Brown people, not least those that are UK citizens but also refugees, are entirely expendable to the state. Forcing some of them to live like criminals in a 20th century dystopian novel is par for the course.
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