International Women’s Day 2021 – “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” (Audre Lorde)

On International Women’s Day, End Deportations Belfast calls on feminist groups and women’s organisations to join our campaign to end the criminalisation of migration in the UK and on the island of Ireland and oppose the violence of border controls and detention against those on the move.

We believe that feminism should focus on challenging all the practices that strengthen inequalities including the targeting of migrant and BAME communities through a hostile environment.

The hostile environment is about making borders part of everyday life.

It is the natural counterpart to the billions of pounds spent on walls, fences and oppressive border infrastructure. It aims to turn ordinary people – doctors, landlords, bank managers and employers – into immigration officers and send a clear message to immigrants – that they are not welcome.

The hostile environment is harmful and at times lethal. It breeds racism and xenophobia. It has serious consequences for the communities targeted.

Opposing the hostile environment is a feminist issue!

Evidence suggests that women and girls can suffer disproportionally from these attitudes, experiencing not only discrimination based on their migrant status but also based on their gender. Furthermore, as a result of such hostility LGBTQ+ individuals who might be seeking asylum face huge challenges in obtaining the international protection they are entitled to.

In Northern Ireland the hostile environment operates through disproportionate immigration checks in workplaces and homes. It also involves checks during travel, for example in airports and ports. We have evidence of security agents from both jurisdictions conducing immigration checks across the land border with the Republic of Ireland, irrespective of the Common Travel Area. Evidence submitted to EDB by members of the public, indicates that these checks essentially constitute racial profiling of cross-border travellers.

The Larne House Detention Centre is another component of the hostile environment and border regime in Northern Ireland. Open since 2011 in part of a disused RUC/PSNI barracks, the detention centre is currently run by the private security firm, Mitie, which profits directly from this enterprise. Those detained here are either released, deported or most often moved to other larger detention centres in England or Scotland. Under international law, immigration detention must only ever be used as a last resort. However, this is not the case in the UK where detention is used routinely and comes with a high financial cost.

In Larne House, women and men are detained in the same space and whilst they have their own cells for sleeping, all of the communal areas are mixed. Two independent reviews of the facility recommended that a separate space should be made available, but this is yet to happen. This means women, and sometimes men too, often stay in their cell at all times as they might feel unsafe in the shared areas. Our research indicates that the centre currently does not collect information on LGBTQ+ identity of those detained. This suggests a clear disregard for the different experiences and needs of those detained.

As a group of feminist anti-racist, anti-detention, anti-borders activists, EDB stands with all people no matter their immigration status, their gender or their sexual orientation.

Our campaigns currently focus on:

Opposing, Documenting and Resisting Racial Profiling on cross-border travel (you can tell us about YOUR experience here…)

Shutting down Larne House Detention Centre.

As the great Audre Lorde wrote: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

On this International Women’s Day, we call on women, feminist groups and women’s organizations in Northern Ireland to join us in the opposition against all deportations and stand in solidarity with all the migrant women & LGBTQ+ folks affected by the hostile environment and their communities.