Sunday, 23 March 2008

The Workhouse

Next in line for reintroduction, also with a nice flavour of the mid Eighteenth Century is the Workhouse.
I live in Tottenham, an unlovely part of the North London Borough of Haringey. I love it, because I like my neighbours. But it is bleak. It has no centre and little soul and fairly bristles with workhouses. People migrate here from numerous different countries, but in the lattice of streets where I live, the population is mainly Kurdish, from Central Turkey. They are not PKK and need asylum as much to escape unwelcome and violent attention from that organisation as from the equally violent and unwelcome interference from the Turkish Gendarma, the military police. A mixture of studied ignorance and institutional brutality from the Home Office has resulted in large numbers of what can only be called Ignored Asylum Seekers. These are the ones who cannot be deported because their case for asylum is too good. So the HO has instead adopted a policy of first ignoring them and then criminalising them by refusing to allow them either to work or to claim benefit. They have to survive, so they work illegally and are exploited to the limits of their endurance.
So we have in Tottenham a critical mass of criminalised workers, who, as my friend Jamal did, work standing up for at least 14 hours a day with no break, (stop and think about that for a second), no day off and no holiday. He worked like this, without a single day off, for six years, rarely seeing the light of day, because mostly he worked nights. He is one of hundreds, possibly thousands. Jamal worked at the front of the shop, he met the customers; we all knew him. Most of the women, however, especially in the kebab and pizza shops, are at the back, in the kitchens. You wont see them. Our local economy is more or less dependent on these people. Remove them and we lose our entire local community. Welcome to Britain’s workhouses.

No comments: