Our ‘Remember Oluwale’ project starts with the knowledge that David Oluwale came to the UK as what would now be called an ‘illegal immigrant’.  (At the time, by stowing away in a cargo ship he was simply in breach of maritime regulations.) Thus we are educating and campaigning on the complex issue of migration, and demanding hospitality and fair treatment of everyone who arrives in Leeds, whatever their legal status.

It’s worth recalling that David was imprisoned for twelve months in Armley Jail in Leeds for his crime of stowing away. It’s equally important to note that he was then he was set free, and was able to work and live in the city without restriction. (Well, restrictions were imposed by the police and the health service, but his citizenship rights were not in doubt.)

This was because he was a British Citizen, having been born in the British colony of Nigeria, a member of the British Commonwealth.  Immigration controls on Commonwealth citizens were imposed with increasing severity from the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act onwards, but it wasn’t until the 1981 Nationality Act that their British citizenship was formally removed.

From the 1950s racism against black British citizens in the UK became increasingly obvious. It was most spectacularly expressed in the violent assault on ‘West Indians’ and Africans in Notting Hill (London) in 1958 initiated by so-called Teddy Boys and inflamed by the British Union of Fascists.

Because black citizens organised to defend themselves against these attacks, these events were dubbed the ‘Notting Hill Race Riots’. Black people throughout the UK, like David Oluwale and his friends in Leeds, were from thenceforth even more on guard against organised racism, as well as the everyday abuse and exclusion they experienced.

There has been much progress in the intervening years in countering racism. Progressive change has resulted from the political activity of grass-roots organisations created by black and Asian citizens themselves.  Racial discrimination is illegal and the Equality and Human Rights Commission is supposed to ensure fair treatment. Multiculturalism has been the dominant ethos of the UK since the 1990s and, despite recent severe criticism by Labour and Conservative politicians and others, it remains in place.

Nevertheless, we are now witnessing torrent of radicalised abuse against migrants. It’s a variant on anti-black racism – a throwback to the ancient xenophobia of those Brits who are as hostile to ‘foreigners’ with white skins as it is to those with darker skins.

In the past months we have seen extraordinary scare-mongering about the impending ‘invasion’ by Romanians and Bulgarians. This is the context in which we recommend a careful reading of this article by Guardian journalist Seamus Milne.

He starts by noting that only a handful of European Union members from those countries has actually arrived. He then offers a close discussion of the undermining of low-paid people’s economic security that has resulted from the deliberate effort by globalised capitalism to lower its wage costs. His solution to this problem is to stop scapegoating ‘immigrants’ and to rebalance the economy in favour of those on the lowest income.

Please read the full article here  It’s a useful contribution to our educational and campaigning work in support of ‘immigrants’ of every complexion.