On 19th October a former member of Movement for Justice released a testimony disclosing harassment, abuse and control committed by the organisation. This was followed by further testimonies of a similar nature from other people who have been involved in MfJ. These were disclosed on the Facebook page and on the Unfollow MfJ blog.
These testimonies include disturbing accounts of individual manipulation, abuse and control by high-level organisers of MfJ, as well as systemic problems in how asylum seekers, young migrants and people of colour are treated and viewed within MfJ organising. The Unfollow MfJ statements indicate a serious tokenizing and marginalizing of migrant voices, undermining MfJ’s claim to place these voices at the centre of their organisation. The testimonies also describe people’s personal lives being controlled by organisers in the group, and outline serious manipulation and harassment by some MfJ organisers following any challenge of this control. Regarding MfJ’s response to these testimonies, there are online comments from MfJ members that seem to attempt to discredit the Unfollow MfJ statements by portraying them as coming from the right and playing into the agendas of right wing views, white supremacy and racism. This cynical and dismissive response does not create an environment that enables people who have experienced abuse, control or harassment to speak out. Rather, it enables abuses of power to go unchallenged.
SDS want to express our solidarity with the people who have come forward about the abuses of power within the organisation. We appreciate that it must have been incredibly difficult to do so, especially given the many forms of discrimination and silencing that seem to have been permitted for ‘the sake of the movement’, both historically and at present. The movement in which SDS situates itself is one that fights for an end to borders and prisons and depends upon safe and supportive spaces where all those working towards this goal feel able to express their opinions. Consequently, SDS feels that we have a responsibility not to recreate structures of violence, oppression and abuse. We’re concerned that MfJ has dismissed the statements without addressing them, without exploring what could have happened differently, and without seeing that the people involved are okay. There have been no indications that MfJ is engaging in a process of accountability, or that they are working towards ensuring the same patterns of abuse and control do not repeat themselves. This is distinctly discouraging and disappointing from a group that claims to ‘fight for everyone’. We want the survivor(s) to know that we stand with them and do not align ourselves with groups who dismiss or disregard the importance of these disclosures.
One of MfJ’s most well-known activities over the past few years has been the Shut Down Yarl’s Wood demonstrations, which are incredibly moving protests led by the women inside Yarl’s Wood IRC. These protests are powerful displays of strength from, and solidarity with, the women held in this prison, and have been important in building visibilIty and momentum around the fight to end immigration detention. The next Yarl’s Wood demonstration is due to take place later this month on 18th November. SDS has been discussing whether attending this protest would indicate an acceptance and dismissal of what has unfolded about MfJ. Though we acknowledge that these demonstrations have been made bigger and louder with the help of MfJ organisers, both inside and outside Yarl’s Wood, we also feel that these demonstrations are not about, or for, MfJ. These demonstrations are about the women in Yarl’s Wood. They are about showing solidarity with their struggle. These demonstrations are spaces where we can visually and vocally show that we stand with the women inside; that we admire their courage and strength; that we are listening. We feel that to not turn up on the 18th would be a huge disappointment for the women inside Yarl’s Wood. It should not be these women who suffer the consequences of a group’s harmful actions. SDS will therefore be heading to Yarl’s Wood to show solidarity with the women inside just as before but will be taking alternative transport to MfJ’s buses, details about this will be coming out soon.
SOAS Detainee Support