Solidarity with #PowerBeyondBorders Campaigners

The below message was delivered to the Reclaim the Power’s Power Beyond Borders camp on Tuesday, 30 July. It was written in solidarity to those who took a series of incredible actions against UK Home Office, Hallmark Depot and Drax. The statement written by PSG founder Rumana Hashem, was read out by Put Down the Sword’s founder Angela Ditchfield on behalf of all at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

This message comes from the hearts of Bangladeshi migrants and environmental activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group. We congratulate the super dedicated climate and migrants rights activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp. We wish we could be in the camp with you. Due to our visa, immigration status, and other material issues we couldn’t be physically there but we wanted to let you know that we are with you in spirit.

It is heartening to see climate activists at the Power Beyond Borders camp are taking just actions as required for five days. It is splendid that Reclaim the Power network have reached out to migrants and Black and Minority Ethnic groups for an inclusive climate justice action. Thank you for taking an intersectional approach to climate struggles and for seeking to build a planet free of fossil fuel, and of exploitation and hostility.

There is no doubt that climate change is interrelated with migration and refugee “crisis”. Those of us are fighting at the frontline of climate campaign in Bangladesh and Phulbari know very well that our goods, including coal and gas are allowed to cross borders – as robbed by certain corporations such as the UK-based Global Coal Resources Management and Tullow Oil Plc. The governments in the UK and elsewhere are fully aware of this free movement of goods from Bangladesh, and let their companies to inflict violence killing indigenous people in northwest Bangladesh.  But our people, especially students and migrants in the UK, are not welcome or treated with respect.

Due to hostile environment and new immigration legislation by Theresa May, more than 7,000 legal Bangladeshi students were forced to leave the UK between 2014 and 2017. ‘Accusations of faking English tests came amid department’s “hostile environment” policy. A Financial Times report showed that the Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 international students of faking their proficiency in English and ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result’ (Financial Times, 01 May 2018). At a personal level, the author of this statement of solidarity has experienced hostility for years in Britain. Despite Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, this author’s work permit was curtailed for three years (2014-2017). I was forced to collect a second/fresh biometric and pay £280 for no good reason. During the renewal of biometric, there was no paid work and no money to survive. There was only a feeling of vulnerability and of being unwelcome.

This is not an uncommon story. Thousands of international im/migrants have undergone such harassment and face hostility in the UK. If you are a climate activist, your burden would be doubled.

The same government let toxic corporations to forcibly displace 1,30000 people including 50, 000 indigenous families from Phulbari of northwest Bangladesh.  A London-listed company called the Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc. want to build a massive open cast coal mine by polluting our water and livelihood, grabbing our land, homes, and by exploiting government. Over the course of 30 years of coal extraction, GCM would like to export 94 percent of extracted coal and give only 6 percent to Bangladesh government.  They would enjoy a tax holiday and would not pay any tax for the extracted coals for 9 years.

When non-violent people took to the streets to protest, they faced violence by company-hired security forces. Three people were shot dead and 200 plus injured in unauthorised shooting, which shook up entire Bangladesh. But the company is aggressively moving ahead to build the mine without a license from Bangladesh government.

This one story tells a lot about UK government’s inaction to climate and migration issues. When evicted people from Phulbari would want to enter the UK and re-make home in London, would UK’s Home Office let those people? We know the answer is “NOT likely”. Migrants’ rights and climate justice are inseparable issues. Thank you for taking this interconnected actions by risking your bodies.

We are saddened to hear that police targeted some activists after the protest at UK Home Office on Monday. The hostility against migrants is once again visible.

We stand in solidarity with all activists at Power Beyond Borders. Congratulations for your deliberation and your efforts to bring in justice.

Sending courage, peace and power to the camp!

Long Live Power Beyond Borders!

Anxious Phulbari people to be evicted. File photo. Courtesy: NCBD