Harmondsworth - it is only right to rebel against a despicable system

5 December 2006

The riot which broke out at Harmondsworth "removal centre", last week, highlighted one of this government's most abject policies.

Like the other similar "centres" which exist across Britain, Harmondsworth is a prison in all but name. Yet, its inmates are not criminals. Or rather, their only "crime" is to be immigrants and to have been refused leave to remain in Britain by some faceless Immigration bureaucrat. In addition to being faced with forcible deportation, these immigrant workers are treated like hardened criminals and subjected to a vicious prison regime.

It is not the first time that Harmondsworth has erupted. Its last major riot took place in 2004, after a prisoner committed suicide as a result of ill-treatment by the prison administration. However, nothing was done to improve conditions. On the contrary, an official report, which was released last week by the prison inspectorate, exposes the systematic use of solitary confinement and "physical force" by the private company which runs the centre - a subsidiary of catering giant Sodexho.

By an ironic but revealing, twist, it was the prison's managers' decision to prevent inmates from hearing the findings of this report on TV, which triggered last week's riot. And, once again, the government's only response was to use more "physical force", by sending in armed squads.

The treatment which is meted out against immigrant workers in this country is a scandal. It is an insult to human dignity that every one of us should oppose. And it is all the more revolting as the only real purpose for Labour's anti-immigrant policy is to woo reactionary prejudices. Because it is a lie to claim that "we cannot afford" to welcome those immigrants who wish to come and work here, or that immigrants are an unbearable burden on the NHS and education, as some Labour ministers have said time and again. As if there was not enough wealth in this country to build enough houses, schools and hospitals for all its population.

If there is something we cannot afford, it is not the presence of hard-working immigrant workers, but the parasitism of a capitalist class which is an unbearable burden for the whole of society!

The Harmondsworth rioters deserve all the support we, workers, can give them - against a system which is geared to crush the poorest, whether British or immigrants.