Institutional racism is costing lives – something needs to be done to change this

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Wednesday 20 December 2017 17:48 GMT
PC Kevin Duffy, 52, and PCSO Andrew Passmore, 56, were found guilty of misconduct in a public office in connection with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol in 2013
PC Kevin Duffy, 52, and PCSO Andrew Passmore, 56, were found guilty of misconduct in a public office in connection with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol in 2013 (PA)

It is a tragedy that it has taken the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi for institutional racism to be acknowledged. It is an even bigger tragedy that lessons were not learned to prevent the murder of Kamil Ahmad just three years later, also a disabled asylum seeker, also in Bristol.

The individuals and organisations that failed Bijan and Kamil need to be held to account. The public apology offered by Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, on behalf of the council is to be welcomed. However, this should not distract us from the wider systemic inequality which prevented either man from moving to places of safety.

The rights of asylum seekers and of disabled people have been repeatedly reduced over recent years. Already in 1999, asylum seekers lost the right to any acknowledgement of the extra costs associated with disability in the UK. Asylum seekers also became subject to forced dispersal to areas of low-cost accommodation around the country.

More than a decade later, the Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced similar policies, including the bedroom tax and the reduction in disability benefits, but this time affecting citizens.

This more recent legislation, together with other attacks on the rights of disabled people, led a UN to accuse the UK Government of “systematic” violation of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

Neither the police nor the council failings can be held responsible for the wider denial of rights to disabled people, asylum seekers and refugees. The bigger issue is how we ever came to tolerate, and how we can reverse, the withdrawal of rights from certain categories of people such as to remove the most basic of human rights: life itself.

Rebecca Yeo

Christmas compassion

What an awful indictment of our society. I watched people walking over and around a rough sleeper yesterday as though he did not exist. Presumably they were rushing to buy Christmas presents, quite probably for people who had too much stuff already. Where has our care and compassion gone?

Martin Cross

If one commits a serious crime, there is a bed for one in jail. If one’s flight is seriously delayed, a room is found in a hotel. If one becomes ill enough, one gets a bed in a hospital. If one has to leave one’s home because of flooding, alternative accommodation is found. All immediate responses.

If one is classified as homeless one remains homeless. There are some political expressions of intent, but thousands remain homeless.

In a wealthy country, with thousands of empty rooms and beds every night, there should not be a problem. Why can something not be done now? Tonight?

Ian Turnbull

Muslim charities

I must applaud the very fine article by Anna Soubry and Wes Streeting about acknowledging the work of Muslim charities over Christmas.

The only comment to make is that this is exactly what this country needs to see and would it not be splendid if this and similar reports could be read throughout the media, especially some tabloids?

After all I would hazard to say, most Independent readers are relatively aware of the good work being done by minority sectors of the community.

Well done again both of you.

Robert Boston

What if we have a Labour government while Trump is in power?

Very few are likely to knock Jeremy Corbyn for his loathing of Trump. But as long as Trump is around there will be no post-Brexit trade deal between the US and a Labour government.

So why does the Labour Party not admit that there needs to be at least a five-year transitional period before we end our membership of the single market? The Tory option of a two-year transition will leave the UK bowing and scraping before Trump to secure a deal.

Henry Hoppe

Our NHS is crumbling

The stark news yesterday that “the number of unfilled doctor positions has risen beyond 10,000 for the first time, while vacancies for nurses soared to 40,000 within the health service in England” is of great concern, yet also depressingly unsurprising.

For all of those unfilled positions, current doctors and nurses are working doubly, triply hard to cover the staff shortages. How do we feel about that? Perhaps nothing until we are lying on a (non-private, obviously) hospital bed with neither nurse nor doctor available.

Jeremy Hunt has had an extraordinarily Teflon ride as our Health Secretary. Why? How much more damage should he do? How much further should he nudge the NHS towards total disintegration and thence to privatisation before we care as much about the NHS as we seemingly did about Europe? (Never trust a bus.)

At the Conservative Party conference he told us that more than 5,000 (is that 5,001, do we think?) new places on nursing training courses are to be created. When? That will take some years to feed through and, even then, that small number is not going to make any noticeable difference to the current shortfall.

At the same time, he cynically announced that “our NHS is nothing without its nurses”. Well, with a shortfall of 40,000, Jeremy, perhaps that moment has arrived. Your work here may well be done.

Our NHS is also nothing without its doctors. Where shall we find those (qualified) 10,000? And how can we possibly reward the heroic souls who choose to remain in our beleaguered NHS?

Perhaps now (for the benefit of the vicar’s daughter) we should all recite: “...and there is no health in us.”

Beryl Wall
London W4

Christmas isn’t always happy

So it’s Christmas – for many a great time of year to celebrate family. But for how many will it be the very worst and loneliest time of the year?

The more family, sharing and home are celebrated, the more those with no family, home and no one close must feel so desolate.

The media, TV and shopping centres continuously tell us “this is what you don’t have”.

The best of times for many, the worst of times for many as well.

But the show goes on. There is giving and sharing and some will help the homeless. But that’s all a bit of a Christmas token isn’t it?

It’s not the real deal. It’s not a real community of caring where people come first, where no one is homeless, and no one is not cared for.

Personally I still have memories of village life back in the 1950s. Everyone knew everyone. No one got left out. But that is largely all gone now, isn’t it?

And a word for all dads and granddads who through divorce and separation lost touch with their children and in turn grandchildren. Many fathers, and some mums, lost contact with children when young and this has never been repaired.

For many this is not a happy time, it’s a sad time.

Not Christmas celebration, Christmas desolation.

Jeff Williams

The meaning of radical

I refer to Emily Dinsmore’s piece in which she states that a young person cannot call themselves a radical unless they support Brexit.

The difficulty with this argument is that it conflates Brexit as a method by which to secure a desired radical outcome and Brexit as a radical outcome in itself. Dinsmore doesn’t address this at all and, whilst it’s true to say that Brexit might produce a radical outcome (of which Lexit would be an example) it might also produce a highly reactionary outcome.

A nativist, deregulated, xenophobic Singapore-on-Thames might be trumpeted as radical, but then we’re into a much wider debate about semantics. Personally, I would regard it as a reactionary backlash against what some perceive to be a society too multicultural, a world too global and activity too regulated.

There was also a sense in which Dinsmore championed her position on the basis that, by voting in the way that she had, she represented a minority view amongst young people. If there had been a referendum on, say, capital punishment, with a majority of young people voting against its restoration and a majority of older people voting in favour, would she take the same view?

Is it radical to execute people because it hasn’t been done for quite a while and can be portrayed as this fresh new breeze blowing through our social consciousness?

Just because Dinsmore happens to have bucked a demographic trend, it doesn’t make her a radical. If she is genuinely a radical, she has to say what she wants out of Brexit and how the fact of Brexit might be expected to deliver it.

I would say that this particularly vexed question has been filling many newspaper columns without anyone being much the wiser as to what the outcome will be. I suspect Dinsmore doesn’t know what it will be either.

Richard Bell

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