Academic Boycott of International US conferences in Solidarity with People Affected by ‘Muslim Ban’

You can sign the letter here.

London Demo at Downing Street today (30 January 2017) 6-8pm. Demo at Warwick (Piazza) 2pm. More demos around the country/world.

“On 27 January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order putting in place a 90-day ban that denies US entry to citizens from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. So far, the ban includes dual nationals, current visa, and green card holders, and those born in these countries while not holding citizenship of them. The Order also suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria. There are indications that the Order could be extended to include other Muslim majority countries.

The Order has affected people with residence rights in the US, as well as those with rights of entry and stay. Some of those affected are fleeing violence and persecution, and have been waiting for years for resettlement in the US as refugees. Others are effectively trapped in the US, having cancelled planned travel for fear that they will be barred from returning. The order institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialised as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.

Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas. We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the US while the ban persists. We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.”

Post-Brexit immigration and EU privilege

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the home office that my application for a permanent residence card – a now necessary pre-step to naturalisation, even for EU citizens – had been unsuccessful. My first reaction was actually a loud laugh at the absurdity of it all. Not only was this form unnecessary in the first place, because EU citizens already have the right of permanent residence, but the grounds on which the application had been rejected, especially after having lived and worked in the UK for more than 18 years, seemed utterly ridiculous.

Since Brexit, EU citizens have been complaining on and offline about the ‘abuse’ they are now suffering at the hands of the British government. It is not my intention to participate in this public display of self-pity and anxiety. In fact, I am rather appalled by it. While I don’t want to diminish the experience of individual discomfort, what EU citizens in the UK are experiencing is merely a soft taste of what other immigrants, especially if non-white/poor etc, have been facing over a much longer period. I am very aware that I was able to cynically laugh at this rejection letter because I know (or feel) I have the right to be in the UK – a ‘right’ that I gained essentially through exclusionary politics and dubious economic considerations.

Moreover, xenophobic immigration regulation is not a phenomenon that came out of nowhere and is limited to the UK – it just hasn’t happen to you yet. In a way, I am relieved that EU immigrants have finally been shaken out of their carefree state that has hindered us in taking initiative on immigration matters that concern ‘others’. Even if you think you have empathy with immigrants, have donated money/signed petitions, or have, like myself, experienced the deportation of friends and colleagues on mind-blowingly absurd evidence, it is a different matter to find yourself in a similar sort of situation, or at least the (real or imagined) prospect of it.

At present, there are a number of help pages that offer both practical advice and critique from a legal perspective such as this one. Universities, and other businesses, are have also become frustrated about the amount of visa and permanent residence rejections their staff are facing, and have started to assemble legal teams, to save costs and reputation. What I am hoping, however, is that the current responses will not just entail anxious searches for pricey legal assistance – basically, those amount to individualised band aid responses that still come out of a position of privilege and could even fuel the immigration industry, thus making things worse for others. What has been needed for a long time is co-organisation with other immigrants and UK citizens against UK (and hopefully not just UK – this is a wider pattern) immigration policies and other normalisations of (white) nationalism. (My white British housemate, coincidentally, has been threatened with redundancy after refusing to instill ‘British values’ – now apparently mandatory ‘to increase job prospects in the British economy’ – in his adult education centre oil painting classes.) Please post information on initiatives, events, commentaries etc in the comments section.

In the meantime, for fellow applicants who are seeking to apply for permanent residence/naturalisation, it may be important to know that much of the information the home office supplies you with in preparation of your application is simply false or misleading. Here are some examples:

  • On the website it says that your documents will be returned within 10 days. This is not true. It will take at least 6-8 months. Even if you ask for your passport to be returned, this will take at least two more weeks. Get a second passport or ID card, if you can. Try not to send in your driving licence either if you need it in the next few months.
  • You will not receive an acknowledgment of the receipt of your documents until about 2 months after you have submitted your application. The processing fee, however, will be immediately deducted upon the home office receiving your application. This is the only way you can tell that your documents are safe(ish).
  • In the guidance notes and in the email you will receive from the home office, it will tell you that, if they require any further information for your application, they will contact you. They will not. Instead, they reject your application straight away, if even a tiny piece of evidence is missing, no matter how long you have been living in the UK.
  • There will be many cases where you have the evidence, but you don’t want to supply it. This includes documents that are hard to get hold of or need to be translated against a hefty fee (hospital reports, evidence of comprehensive health insurance while studying). There are ways around it, especially if you have been in the UK for a long time, but these are also not clear. Seek legal advice at a free local service or through your employer. Don’t fuel the immigration industry with more money!
  • The evidence you need to submit is very unclear. For instance, they did not accept my work contract, which clearly states how much I will earn over the next three years, as evidence that I was in work. Apparently, there is an undisclosed list of documents that the ones you have submitted are checked against. Not even lawyers can make sense of this, so some have started calling upon the government to at least make things clearer.
  • You will be able to reapply. I didn’t have the time to figure out the appeal process (deadlines!), so this is what I will be doing at some point. Looking at the amount of work it takes you to fill in the form, but also the amount of work it takes the home office to process your form, this cannot be a money-making exercise (the fee is about £65). The process is more likely designed as a means of demoralisation. If you experience anxiety, speak to as many people as possible: friends, people at your local hangout (pub, café), your MP, pressure groups. This will help relieve pressure, make the issue more public, and hopefully lead to mobilisation. Of course, there is the danger that you also help spread anxiety, but not saying anything at all seems definitely worse. At the same time, please be sensitive to people who are in a less privileged position.

For reference, here is a partially anonymised scan of my rejection letter from the home office.

Please note that this blog post may be amended as more information comes in.

Echoes of Cologne Forum Now Online

People from Syria hold placards reading 'We respect the values of German society' and 'We are all Cologne' during a rally outside the main railway station in Cologne, Germany, January 16, 2016, where the vast majority of dozens of New Year Eve assaults on women took place. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay - RTX22NN4

People from Syria hold placards reading ‘We respect the values of German society’ and ‘We are all Cologne’ during a rally outside the main railway station in Cologne, Germany, January 16, 2016, where the vast majority of dozens of New Year Eve assaults on women took place. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay – RTX22NN4

The forum on the Cologne sexual assaults that I curated has now been posted on the Society & Space website. It also carries a resonance with the UK’s EU referendum that saw some references to Cologne. The forum will be published as a series, with more contributions appearing in weekly instalments (new entries welcome!). Many thanks to all the contributors and to those who helped recruit them, especially during hectic term time.


Open University webcast: Citizens without frontiers? by Engin Isin

Just watched Engin Isin’s inaugural lecture on the Open University’s webcast site. Currently thinking a lot about state and ideology construction and how climate change is used in the service of limiting, rather than promoting identification with a global humanity/care for others. Isin addressed these issues by pointing to the tension between ‘bounded’ citizenship and the idea of citizenship without frontiers, the latter being currently open to only a limited number of people for particular reasons (fame, expertise etc). Rather than arguing for a particular model of boundary practices, he highlighted the dangers and opportunities of both ‘boundedness’ and being ‘without frontiers’: boundedness having the disadvantage of limitation of access, but the advantage of having a space to act from; being without frontiers having the disadvantage of having to make (ethical, political etc) compromises, but offering opportunities for the imagination of a new cosmopolitanism. the latter was also linked to the danger of ‘covert’ politics of transnational organisations.

Isin placed particular emphasis that certain ‘without frontiers’ movements resulted in another kind of boundedness, because there not moving away enough from established conceptions of what transnationality looks like. Questioning the powers and capacities we possess as citizens, he pointed towards the capacity of citizens ‘without accreditation’ to act within and across boundaries. In this context, Isin challenged the notion of citizenship as ‘leaving behind his or her particularities’ in order to function as a political subject, representing ‘nobody and nothing but itself’. The way he proposed to think about it is in terms of a subject with boundaries that are like ‘nothing we have known before’.