Join us to put the Hostile Environment on trial

Join us to put the Hostile Environment on trial


By: Tamara Hopewell
Date: 26 October 2018
Campaigns: Migration

ppt-londonThis November the hostile environment will be out on trial in front of a panel of expert jurors. The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is coming to London as one in a series of hearings on the violations of the rights of migrants and refugees. This is a peoples’ tribunal and therefore we welcome the public to join us, hear evidence and make real links with on the ground groups that are fighting for the rights of migrants and refugees.

A brief history of the PPT

Following in the steps of the Russell Tribunals, the PPT was formed in Bologna, Italy in 1979. The Russell Tribunal II was created in order to publicly and in an international manner denounce the crimes committed by military dictatorships in Latin America in that era. 

From the experience of two Russell Tribunals it was decided to draft a document which systematically collected the norms and principles which guided the ‘opinion tribunals’ (aka the Russell tribunals). This document, along with others, would go on to form the basis for the PPT.

Much of the work carried out by the PPT is also based on the principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples and the main international instruments protecting human rights. The declaration was proclaimed in Algiers in 1976 by non-governmental actors and was the outcome of a complex process, coinciding with the conclusion (with some exceptions) of the 30 year process of decolonisation. 

It is a grassroots initiative which aims to fill in the gaping holes in international law and enforcement. Particularly, by listening to those across the globe whose cries for justice are often not heard. It allows for allegations and accusations to be brought forward in a collective manner. These voices are not spoken on behalf of, but rather, are given a space. In many ways it has become a laboratory within which international law is interpreted and the principles that inspired it are monitored. These principles are not and should not be treated as static. Through examining their validity, relevance and weaknesses they can evolve and change in suit with our society. 

The forum has now held 42 sessions dedicated to the violation of human rights in different parts of the world. Previous hearings on migration have taken place in Barcelona, Palermo and Paris. By having the tribunals across the world we are able to understand the similarities and differences between and within countries.  

The London hearing 

The hearing in London with be putting the hostile environment on trial. It will be focused on the rights of migrants in the chain of labour, violations to their right to work (or to not work) and their resistance to the system. 

The indictment lays out the responsibility of the British government, both in its own right and as a member of the EU, for its neglect of the rights of workers and for the creation of an underclass of workers who are super-exploited, seen as disposable and easily deportable. 

Evidence will be brought forward by migrants themselves as well as organisations that represent them – such as trade unions. It is an important opportunity for solidarity groups to come together alongside migrants and the public to share these stories (in the form of evidence) and to build links of solidarity to fight them together. 

The two days will also be chance to celebrate resistance. Not only the resistance of migrants who day in day out continue living their lives in the face of adversity and governmental hostility. But who also through overt resisting, through strikes and campaigns, have won so many battles over the years – including the forced retreat on some of the hostile environment policies. 

Although the hearing is being held in London, that is not to say that the focus will solely be on the treatment of migrants here in the UK. Theresa May may have claim to the name ‘hostile environment’ since 2013. However, the treatment of migrants across fortress Europe are in many ways similar. They are forced in the shadows and the underbelly of society. The tribunals are working towards fighting for rights that span the world. So that there is no person who is dehumanised or classed as other. For now, on the issue of migration this may mean working with a smaller number of countries in Fortress Europe, but we will keep fighting. 

Where: Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ 

When: 3-4 November