The Permanent People’s Tribunal: Its role in the people’s indictment of the ‘hostile environment’

Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). 

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) approach to uncovering the inconvenient truths that governments and other elites don’t want you to know about has been around since the days of the war in Vietnam.

In 1979 the tribunal took its present permanent form to provide a structure supporting the complaints of people denied the protection of human rights norms and law.  With a secretariat based in Italy, the PPT provides a means to scrutinise the actions of authorities which follows the structure of judicial inquiry. 

It was pioneered in the late 1960’s in the form of a tribunal into war crimes being committed in South East Asia, convened by the two of the foremost intellectuals of the day, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. Between 1974 and 1976 the tribunal was re-constituted to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorships in Latin America.

Recovering authority

Being independent of the structures of the state, the PTT is important because its judgments and decisions rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, as well as the integrity and capability to judge of the Tribunal members. The goal of PPT Sessions is “recovering the authority of the Peoples when the States and the International Bodies failed to protect the right of the Peoples.”

The current inquiry into violations of the rights of migrants and refugees has been taken up out of concern that the new politics that emerged across the world in recent years, with the common features of authoritarian populism and rigid nationalism, is having dire consequences for people who have moved across borders in pursuit of personal safety and improved livelihoods.

The PTT has convened hearings to consider the evidence on these issues in France, Italy and Spain. In November it will be coming to Londonfor a two-day session in order to hear first-hand accounts of the ways in which the lives of migrants have been affected by the toughening of immigration law and policy.

Exploitation

In preparation for the London hearing a team of UK-based migrant and refugee rights experts has been working to draft an indictment, setting out what they believe to be the most dangerous features of the situation in this country.

The indictment centres on the greater risks of exploitation that have been created for migrants by government policies which have undermined workplace rights for decades.  The growth of hyper-casualised, zero-hour contract jobs during this time has impacted on all workers but has had a disproportionate effect on people whose access to protection and rights are often obstructed by their immigration status.

The ‘hostile environment’, the impact of which on long-established migrants from the Caribbeanhas become so well understood since the beginning of this year, has drawn hundreds of thousands more into its maw whose situations are yet to be fully scrutinised by the public.  The London hearing of the PPT will be an opportunity to do that.

Challenging secrecy

Severely shaken by the revelations of extreme hardship imposed on hapless migrant groups, the UK Home Office has tried to defend itself by claiming that the shocking revelations of people losing their rights after forty or more years residence in the UK have been ‘exceptional’ cases brought about by poor decisions on the part of officials. 

The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has attempted to salvage the reputation of his department by promising that all will be put right after an internal review of its work has been completed.  In the meantime he has attempted to cover the whole operation under a blanket of secrecy, imposing ‘non-disclosure agreements’on aggrieved individuals as a condition for receiving compensation for the damages they have suffered.  

London hearing

The London hearing of the PTT will provide a opportunity to challenge this attempt at covering up the harm done to migrant and refugee communities. It is expecting to hear evidence from community-based organisations on just how systematic the business of stripping away rights for migrants has been over the years, compelling thousands to seek livelihoods in the most exploitative sectors of the labour market and denying them the right to pursue collective grievances through trade union representation.

The team convening the London hearing have made a public call for submissions of evidence from migrant community organisations, trade unions, legal representatives, faith communities, as well as from individuals who have experienced a violation of their human rights to security and a dignified occupation.

Visit the London hearing’s webpages for details on how to submit your evidence, or get in touch with the team of convenors to find out more about plans for the hearing in November. 

Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). He is a co-convenor of the London hearing of the PPT on violations with impunity of the rights of migrants and refugees.

Reports/Blogpost

The Permanent People’s Tribunal: Its role in the people’s indictment of the ‘hostile environment’

The current inquiry into violations of the rights of migrants and refugees has been taken up out of concern that the new politics that emerged across the world in recent years, with the common features of authoritarian populism and rigid nationalism, is having dire consequences for people who have moved across borders in pursuit of personal safety and improved livelihoods. Read more  by Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM).

Migrants before the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Barcelona

Bridget Anderson is Professor of Mobilities, Migration and Citizenship at the University of Bristol was serving as a juror at the hearings of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) in Barcelona. The PPT is a grassroots initiative  that searches for truth and moral reparation in the service of liberation and justice and is a direct continuation of the Russell Tribunal. In the last year it has held a series of hearings on the treatment of migrants and refugees within and at the borders of the European Union. The most recent one focussed on the gender dimension. People gave angry and moving testimonies. One of the witnesses reported on the forced separation of children from their mothers by the Spanish state. We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about the atrocity of the Trump administration’s cruel removal of children from their parents. Yet the forced separation of children from their mothers is perpetrated by European states too. Read the Article of BRIDGET ANDERSON, 27 July 2018, in Open Democracy.

 

 

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Contact us

We would be pleased to respond to any query you might have about the project.

We hope you will be able to Sign On to this Call for Support to the London PPT Hearing –this will be highly appreciated. The link for Sign-On 

For more information please e-mail us at pptlondon@transnationalmigrantplatform.net

In solidarity for the rights of migrants and refugees!

Don Flynn and Margaret Healy

 

Call for Support

SUPPORT our Call for a Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on
Violations with Impunity of the Human Rights of Migrant and Refugee Peoples' in London
Click here for Sign-On

 

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE PPT
A BRIEF GUIDE

There are several ways that your organisation can help. You can either join us a Co-Convenor, or you can help us in small but important ways by becoming a supporting organisation.

What does the Co-Convenors Working Group do?

There are already 17 co-convenor organisations on the working group. They are helping to prepare the London hearing through raising funds, preparing leaflets, organising the preparatory work (translation, interpretation, and logistics) and attending regular meetings and participating in sub-committees.

What does a supporting organisation do?

By adding your name as a supporting organisation, you register your public support for the aims of the Tribunal. That’s enough and you don’t have to do more unless you want to.

Here are some other things you could do as a supporting organisation.

  • Circulate the call to all your members and encourage them to sign up as supporting members
  • Follow us on Face book and Twitter (@PPT_UK_Hearing)
  • Make a donation. We need £35,000 to cover the costs of the Tribunal.
  • Invite a member of the Co-convenors working group to your workplace to explain the PPT
  • Encourage your organisation to submit evidence for the Tribunal by the deadline of October 5th. (Details of how to format and submit your evidence can be found on our website)
  • Organise a safe space for a hearing at your workplace/community centre. We particularly welcome first-hand testimony for migrants and refugees themselves, though we recognise that can be difficult. At the hearing, we will be listening to evidence about the treatment of migrants and refugees in: hotel and catering industry; health and social care; care and domestic work; rural and agrarian work; construction; seafares and oil-rig workers. But we will also have a strand on Self-Employment and Destitution as well as work in detention.

Above all, join us on the 3rd and 4th November. This is a public opinion tribunal and the process belongs to you!

For more information please e-mail us at pptlondon@transnationalmigrantplatform.net

In solidarity for the rights of migrants and refugees!

We look forward to hearing from you.

Don Flynn, Margaret Healy, Dorothy Guerrero, Global Justice, Rita Chadha, Migrants Rights Network
(PPT Steering Group – London Hearing, Co-convenors)

 

The hearing in London will taken place in late October. It will convene before a panel of international judges. The panel will consider and indictment which sets out charges against UK authorities for violating the rights of migrants and refugees. The co-convenors will shortly be sending out a call for evidence relating to the charges set out in the indictment. The purpose of this request is to ask whether your organisation could register its support for the London hearing by agreeing to join our list of sponsoring organisations.

As co-convenors  we would be pleased to respond to any query you might have about the project. We could also provide you will a representative of the steering group to meet with you or speak at any meeting of your organisation about the plans for the London hearing. More information will follow soon…