Globe, Human Rights, Migrants, Multiculture, Politics, United Kingdom

“It is violent… to criminalise immigrants”: Trenton Oldfield

Despite the fact that historically, the greatest number of immigrants have been Europeans, today they are doing all they can to block the entry of those whose identities they stole.


Virginia Moreno Molina


The European colonisation of South America is something that stands in conflict with the massive deportation of immigrants resulting from the harsh anti-immigration policies that are currently being implemented, especially in the United Kingdom.

In addition the criminalisation of human rights in the face of continuous threats by the British government has made immigrants even more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and racism.

Trenton Oldfield speaks to The Prisma about these issues based his own experience with the Home Office and about the case of Isabella Acevedo.

Together with his wife Deepa Naik they helped in the defence of this Colombian immigrant who was deported to her country after having worked for the Minister of Immigration, Mark Harper for 7 years, and living in Britain for over a decade. His decision to get involved in her case came from the attempted deportation that he suffered himself. Talking about his own case he says: “It would have been different if I were not white”.

After they attempted to deport you to Australia for a peaceful protest in 2012. What do you think about the legal proceedings in your case?

I knew when I made the protest that I could go to prison but they couldn’t deport me because my so-called ‘crime’ was non-violent and a prison sentence would likely be less than 3 years. I was also married to a British citizen and I had a child. However, these things weren’t actually even taken into consideration.

The Home Office attempted to deport me by stating that I was “not conducive to the public good”.

So we appealed that decision because I have spent a long time doing public work.

In my position, I am a middle class male, my work is known in the community, which are all huge advantages. And the other factor is that I am white so I get a lot of sympathy from people, even the judges. It would be very different if I were black.

But in Britain 55,000 people remain in jail. I believe about 70% has not been convicted and they can spend months, sometimes years, waiting for a trial. The Home Office wins most of the cases and people then lose their family, their job, their immigration status, and their lives are destroyed, simply because they were in the wrong place in the wrong time.

On that occasion, you said that Australia is a “particularly racist” country. Did you experience this racism while you were living there?

This is a fact, Australia is racist, it is an illegal country and an illegal occupation of stolen lands, Indigenous people were not even considered human beings until 1967 when the constitution was amended. Before then, they were considered ‘flora or fauna’.

Racism exists because everything is taken from indigenous people; their lands, their culture; their language; their customs; their autonomy etc.

I can’t imagine my daughter being there, or my Indian partner, having to live under these conditions. How could I put them in danger? How could I participate in continuing the genocide of another group of people? It is impossible for me.

We wrote an article recently in The Guardian, about Isabella and we wanted to demonstrate the concept of “We are here because you are still there”. We wrote about Isabella’s situation, why she has the right to live in Britain, because she has been pushed off her lands by Europeans, they have stolen her natural resources – all the gold of Colombia is here, the vast majority of food eaten here are from South America And that’s why we work on this. Because the companies with European interests are trying to control South America – it is hypocritical and violent to criminalise people, migrants, for coming to Europe when it is because of Europeans and their companies that people can no longer live on their own lands.

What are things like for an immigrant when they arrive in the UK?

I think everybody’s experience as an immigrant is very different. I don’t consider myself an immigrant. I was living in an illegal place and now I’m living where I should be; where my family originates.

Here is an anecdote: once I was travelling in Australia and I came across a farm where people could have a shower and rest – the farmer was about 50 years old, and he told me that ‘illegal’ immigrants’ had been coming there for as long as he could remember to work on the lands.

And he said “The government let them in because they challenged the trade unions as they would work for much less money. Then, as soon as the trade unions were broken, the government turned on the migrant workers – calling them ‘illegal’ and essentially criminalising them. And that was when I realised that immigrants are always going to be vulnerable.

The term migrant has become synonymous with black or brown people, but what’s really important to note is that the greatest migrants in the history of the world have been the Europeans. Something like 480 million European people, probably more, are living around the world right now, while 720 million are living in Europe. There are almost as many Europeans living outside of Europe as there are inside. It is incomparable to any other group of people, from anywhere else in the world.

How do you think the situation should change?

Europe, morally and technically cannot close its doors. Because all their wealth, all their institutions are a result of colonialism and slavery.

So until they return the gold, the art and artefacts in the British Museum and in the homes of the ‘aristocracy’, the minerals, the money that the city of London stole and so on – it’s not possible even to imagine that they can close the borders. On the other hand, other countries with indigenous people, can say no to immigration.

I don’t believe in no borders; I believe Europe ought not to have borders but I believe the rest of the world has the right to have them. I believe the indigenous people from Colombia have the right to say “no, we don’t want Europeans because we know what has been happening in the last 500 years” Colombians of European descent should return to their homelands in Europe. If Colombians live respecting indigenous peoples and their authority, then they can remain there – but the indigenous peoples can say “no, this is not your country”.

People are very comfortable with globalisation, but globalisation has always worked in favour of Europe: it never works to anybody else’s advantage. When globalisation started, the academics said “don’t worry, globalisation will help people to have more identity in their own culture”. Everybody knew that was wrong, and their culture has just been destroyed by living a very superficial ‘Westernised’ life.

How are you connected with the defence of the rights of immigrants?

I have never been involved in any group. I have big differences with the organisations that work for immigrants, because our argument is that “We are here because you are still there”.

A lot of organisations try to make things less difficult for migrants (i.e. offering English lessons), but they don’t deal with fundamental issues of why people are moving to Britain. It shouldn’t be about mitigating things but about changing them.

So that the immigrant doesn’t have to excuse themselves or ask to be given things (rights, wages, better working conditions). These NGOs demand better conditions for detention centres and for people to be treated better.

But detention centres shouldn’t exist at all. They still maintain the status quo. That’s the difference from my point of view.

‘The government of David Cameron has made several threatening statements about immigrants in recent years. One of the latest was: “we will find you and send you home.” What do you think about that?

It is terrible and it is purely politics. This is how the black or brown immigrants are always vulnerable. They are constantly used to win elections. We have to understand that Europeans are deeply racist.

When I heard David Cameron say that, it made me laugh and upset me at the same time. Because it is terrible and ridiculous at the same time in historical terms.

David Cameron thinks he is so much better, superior, than other people particularly black and brown people. This creates a violent situation.

It will never end until people stop thinking that they are better than other people. And the big problem of European people is that they think that they are better that everybody else.

When they say something like this, “we will hunt you down and deport you”, they are opening the door for people to expose those who don’t have documents: making it okay to exploit them, abuse them, to be racist…

Every part of the culture is criminalising human rights, making people less and less human, and more and more vulnerable to violence, and that violence will end with murders and deaths. And that’s what David Cameron is doing in every situation. On the other hand, when I was in prison I was furious with the NGOs, because they told me that I had to admit my crime before I could get help. And the majority of people were there without having committed any crimes, so they force you into being a criminal, in order to be able to receive help. The system makes you a criminal, even though you know that you are not. Charities should not focus on ‘reforming’ prisoners but concentrate on changing the justice system, the judges, the lawyers, the culture itself to say that prisons and detention centres shouldn’t exist.

In the case of Isabella Acevedo, she was given no notice of deportation. Why do you think they acted in that way?

The violence is inevitable in the culture we are living in now. There are so many cases about human rights abuses including deaths in custody

The conservative government can say they are going to throw out Human Rights, and very few people will go to the Houses of Parliament and says “how can you possibly do this?”  The politicians are given the benefit of the doubt, that they will do the right thing. But history shows they are not going to do the right thing.

In Isabella’s situation, they just wanted her to disappear, with no resistance, no recourse to appealing, no protests from her loved ones and many thousands of supporters.

They took her at midnight from her room – never allowed her to call her daughter or lawyer, never allowed her to pack her own bag or change from her night clothes. They never told her where she was being taken, which airport, which flight or to which city. Disgusting.

After the suspension of the minister Mark Harper, was again re-elected as Minister of disabled people, how was this possible after what happened?

It is, unfortunately, not surprising considering this violent culture where ruthlessness and illegality is awarded.

For seven years he exploited Isabella and he was happy to pay her less than the minimum wage (which he then claimed back from the government as his expenses, so essentially, we the tax payer paid his salary and £22 a week for Isabella). For seven years, he didn’t give her sick leave, no holiday pay, no raise… nothing. When he found out what she was, technically he was in a difficult position. He should have sat down and said to Isabella: “Look this is the situation; we should try find a way to make this better or less problematic, let me help you”. But he ordered her arrest at her home.

As in Isabella’s case, there are thousands of undocumented people who work day after day trying to get a residence permit, how they could facilitate this task?

I don’t know very well how we can do this but the fundamentals have to change, the people, the politics. How, for example, can they have millions and millions march against illegal war in Iraq and Parliament completely ignore them? It doesn’t make sense. Parliament should support vulnerable people. Politicians represent people, but which people? They have all the privileges. Anybody that is undocumented should be made legal immediately. They should stop using ideas of illegal and legal. And if you want to talk about illegal people here, talk about the Europeans who are in other parts of the world.

(Translated and revised by Graham Douglas) – Photos: Pixabay

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