Since 1990, 1518 people have died in police custody in England and Wales. Not a single law enforcement officer has been convicted for involvement in their deaths. Last month, campaigners from England – including Shaun Hall, Kadisha Brown-Burrell, Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett and Marcia Rigg, whose brothers all died in police custody – travelled to California to take part in the Caravan for Justice, a tour through eight counties where communities have been affected by law enforcement abuses. More »

Mali’s Porous Borders

On Friday, Bamako flashed into the European media’s consciousness. In the early morning, men with automatic weapons had arrived at the Malian capital’s Radisson Blu hotel. Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, they killed two security guards and took 170 staff and guests hostage. It was the third attack of its kind this year. The first was at La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako on 7 March, where five people died; the second, on 7 August, was at the Hotel Byblos in central Mali. Thirteen people died. More »

Cases of Mass Mistaken Identity

‘Terrorism and immigration are not the same,’ an Afghan migrant in his thirties tells me. Self-evident facts need to be reiterated in a state of emergency. He’s married to a French person – no names at this point – and expecting a French passport shortly. He’s worried, like all migrants of Muslim origin, about the next step in the confrontation with Isis: migrants were regarded with suspicion long before last week’s attacks in Paris. He’s with friends, new arrivals from Kabul and Jalalabad, queuing in the drizzle outside the offices of a refugee support NGO, Terre d’Asile, in the 18th arrondissement. They have folders of documents to help them make asylum claims, but they’re confused, and so am I: procedures have changed since I last lent a hand with a claim. More »

At Harmondsworth

When you go to see someone at Harmondsworth Detention Centre near Heathrow, you sit in a waiting room until your ticket is called and you are led into the large visiting room. After a while, the person you are there to visit enters through a door on the other side. The waiting room and visiting room are decorated with photographs printed onto canvas. The photos are the stock kind you might get on the desktop of a Windows PC: deserts, beaches, lush forests, drops of water, lands of mineral richness. They appeared after Mitie took over running the centre from GEO (both are private companies). Artwork by detainees used to decorate the walls, but now those pictures are stacked up in the corner. More »

The New Normal

Nearly a week after the killings, business-as-usual is the banner flying over Paris. The return to normal, with its flavour of defiance, can be observed in action anywhere from Châtelet as far as the city gates. (At Château Rouge, three stops from Porte de Clignancourt, the pace of African street trade is undiminished – phone cards, groundnuts, roasted corn cobs – as dense crowds gather round the vendors.) But normal is highly circumscribed and the siege yesterday in St Denis illustrates how elusive ordinary life can be on the other side of the Boulevard Périphérique: scores of armed police and soldiers deployed; 5000 rounds discharged; an explosives-suicide in the apartment under siege; the suspected ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, shot dead; eight arrests. Worse, perhaps, than the immediate fear among residents is the fact that the suspects were tracked to a neighbourhood with a conspicuous migrant culture. Roughly 60 per cent of under-18s in the department of Seine-St Denis are descended from immigrants. Through no fault of the residents or the security forces, we can if we like make a reductive association between the killers and a diverse group of citizens who nonetheless look much the same in the bleak light of emergency: ‘Muslims’. More »

How to play hooky in New York

On Tuesday Sam and I went to see his doctor. We took the subway but weren’t sure which train. A workman told us then asked where we were from. ‘You’re so lucky,’ he said when I told him we were from London. ‘In this country the individual isn’t allowed to protect himself.’ Presumably that was a reference of some kind to gun control. Perhaps he thought we didn’t have it and he did. In the doctor’s waiting room, the patient before us had thought she should cancel: ‘It didn’t seem the right day to be travelling into Manhattan.’ She’d come from Brooklyn. The doctor’s phone rang while we were with him. He looked at it and left the room. He came back smiling. The call was from his son’s elementary school. Two boys from the neighbouring high school had phoned to say there was a bomb in the building. The police were summoned, the school was evacuated, the children were allowed home. There was no bomb.

At Wembley

‘The most bloodthirsty line in the French national anthem was written with the English in mind,’ David Bell wrote in the LRB in 1998. Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, the military engineer who composed the words to the ‘Marseillaise’ in 1792, took the line about watering furrows with ‘sang impur’ from a poem which was much more specific about whose impure blood it should be. More »

Meanwhile, in Beirut

At around 6.00 p.m on Thursday, 12 November, two bombs went off in a shopping district in southern Beirut. At least 43 people died and more than 200 were injured in the deadliest blast to hit the Lebanese capital since the end of the civil war in 1990. Isis claimed responsibility.

No monuments in Europe were lit up with the tricolour Lebanese flag; no Facebook safety check was turned on for Beirut residents; there was no one-click feature to allow Facebook users to add a Lebanese flag filter to their profile picture. Not many Western heads of state felt obliged to offer public condolences to Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million people which has taken in more than a million Syrian refugees. More »

Who is the enemy?

After a busy night for the police, France woke on Monday to news that more than 20 people had been taken into custody and 104 placed under house arrest. In the evening Hollande proposed a raft of measures to the General Assembly and the Senate involving tweaks to the constitution that enable the government ‘to manage a state of crisis’ and deal with the new reality (‘we are at war’). He also proposed 5000 more police and soldiers on the payroll by 2017, 1000 more border staff, 2500 new prison staff. More citizens with dual nationality would have their French nationality removed and be subject to ‘expulsion’. More »

Spylessness, and Other British Values

There are many ways of defeating a nation. One is by destroying its ‘values’. If they are liberal, it can be difficult to defend and preserve them in time of war. Modern terrorism, we are told, is a kind of war. The French republic is struggling to maintain its founding principles of liberty, equality and fraternity in the face of it. Other nations have been through the same experience, and quandary, in recent years. The United States was only half successful at keeping its ideals intact after 9/11. Norway was much admired for its determination to do better after the Utøya massacre of 2011. More »

Advertisement Advertisement