No one is illegal!

The following is an extract from the Manifesto of the No-One is illegal group. The full text can be found at their web site


Immigration controls should be abolished. People should not be deemed "illegal" because they have fallen foul of an increasingly brutal and repressive system of controls.

Why is immigration law different from all other law? Under all other laws it is the act that is illegal, but under immigration law it is the person who is illegal.

Those subject to immigration control are dehumanized, are reduced to non-persons, are nobodies. They are the modern outlaw. Like their medieval counterpart they exist outside of the law and outside of the law's protection. Opposition to immigration controls requires defending all immigration outlaws.

Immigration controls are not fascism. Detention centres are not extermination camps. However immigration laws are different from other laws in one other significant way.

They are the result, at least in part, of organised fascist activity. This country's first controls were contained in the 1905 Aliens Act and were directed at Jewish refugees fleeing anti-semitism in Eastern Europe and Russia. A major, perhaps the major, reason for the implementation of this legislation was the agitation of the British Brothers League. This was a proto-fascistic organisation which was formed in 1901 specifically around the demand for controls, which organised major demonstrations in London's East End and which can legitimately be viewed as the main force behind the legislation.

The first controls directed against black people - the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act - quickly followed events in Notting Hill and Nottingham in 1958. These were the so-called "race riots" - so-called to give a spurious impression of both spontaneity and non-political street fighting. The reality was that these physical and political attacks on black people were engineered by explicitly fascist organisations such as Oswald Moseley's Union Movement and Colin Jordan's White Defence League. And these organizations had a specific demand - immigration controls…

Immigration laws are inherently racist, since their purpose is to exclude outsiders. And they feed and legitimise racism. Far from being a natural feature of the political landscape, they are a relatively recent and disastrous distortion of it, explicable only by racism. This, together with the fascist origins of such laws, renders problematic the notion of "reform", as opposed to abolition, of immigration controls.

Controls are not simply about exclusion and deportation. They are a total system. A system of extremes of pain and misery. They are international in the sense that virtually all countries, particularly all industrial countries, use controls. They are also international in the way the old British Empire was international.

British Embassies, British High Commissions, British Consulates encircle the globe denying visas or entry clearance to the unchosen.

A vast edifice of repression is built to prevent the movement of people. Those who attempt to flee wars and repression, or to improve their situation through migration, are forced to resort to buying false papers from agents or, worse, to travel clandestinely, again usually with the help of often unscrupulous agents. In the process many of them suffer great hardship, and thousands die. The answer is not to abolish agents, unscrupulous or otherwise. It is to abolish the controls on which the agents, the pain and the misery breed…

Immigration controls are racist. The first post-war controls, contained in the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, were directed at black people. However all those subject to immigration control are not black.

Within the last decade there has emerged or re-emerged a racism against those from Eastern Europe, often combined with an anti-Islamic racism which ensures controls are directed against all those from Bosnians to Serbs to the Roma to the nationalities of the new Russian empire. There is nothing new about this.

The first immigration controls, contained in the 1905 Aliens Act, were imposed against refugees - Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia. Controls were again imposed on Jews attempting to escape Nazism.

In short the first half of the twentieth century was about controls against Jews, the second half about controls against black people and the last decade has been about controls against anyone fleeing war, poverty or mayhem or anyone wanting to join family here.

Today there exists, however fragmented, a movement against immigration control - a movement which challenges deportations, which opposes detention centres, which offers solidarity to refugees. The great strength of this movement is that it has united and formed a coalition between liberals and socialists, between reformists who don't challenge controls on principle and socialists who are opposed to all controls - and who argue no-one is illegal.

The greatest weakness of this movement is that on the level of ideas liberalism dominates. Many of those critical of controls believe that such controls can somehow be sanitised, be rendered fair, be made non-racist. Even socialists are sometimes reluctant to raise the demand for the abolition of all immigration controls or to take this demand to its logical conclusions, in case this alienates potential allies against the abuses that follow from them…

It is our position - a position which denies anyone is illegal, a position that is for a world without borders - that immigration restrictions can never be rendered fair or non-racist. This is for the following reasons.

First controls are inherently racist in that they are based on the crudest of all nationalisms - namely the assertion that the British have a franchise on Britain.

Second they are only explicable by racism. Their imposition is a result of and is a victory for racist, proto-fascist and actual fascist organisations. It is impossible to see how legislation brought into being by such means, legislation accompanied by the most vile racist imagery and assumptions, can ever be reconfigured and rendered "fair".

Third the demand for "fair" controls simply ignores the link between immigration controls and welfare entitlements. This link is itself intrinsically unfair - and racist.

Finally controls can never be "fair" to those who remain subject to them.

The demand for no controls - based on the assertion that no one is illegal - is frequently derided as utopian and is compared adversely to the "realism" of arguing for fair controls. However this stands political reality on its head. The struggle against the totality of controls is certainly uphill - it may well require a revolution. However the achievement of fair immigration restrictions - that is the transformation of immigration controls into their opposite - would require a miracle…

The way forward

To build the widest possible alliance in all struggles against immigration controls amongst those of differing political views. But to do this without collusion with controls and without compromising with the principle of no controls. To do this on the basis of challenging and winning over those involved to a position of opposition to all controls.

Over the last few years No One Is Illegal groups have been formed throughout Europe and North America… In England groups are emerging calling themselves No Borders. The demand for no controls, rather than being seen as extreme, operates as a rallying call to the undocumented and their supporters. Our aim in producing this, our initial manifesto, is to encourage the formation of No One Is Illegal/No Border groups throughout this country - groups specifically and unreservedly committed to the destruction of all immigration controls.

Steve Cohen (Manchester)
Harriet Grimsditch (Bolton)
Teresa Hayter (Oxford)
Bob Hughes (Bristol)
Dave Landau (London)

No One Is Illegal, Bolton Socialist Club, 16 Wood Street, Bolton, BL1 1DY.
Email: info@noii.org.uk
Web site: http://www.noii.org.uk