Letter from Mukami McCrum
26 juin 1998 (survivreausida.net)
26 June 1998 Member of the International Working Group on Immigration Rights and HIV
Mukami McCrum lives in the UK. She is involved in frontline HIV prevention and support for African women. In April, she accepted MAHA’s invitation to join the International Working Group on Immigration Rights and HIV. As she was unable to attend the 12th World AIDS Conference, she sent us this letter.
My name is Mukami and I have lived in Europe for the last 25 years. I am very diasppointed that I cannot be with you today due to unforseen problems but I send this message because I would like to add my voice to yours in raising concerns at the treatment of black and migrants people in Europe who are living with HIV/AIDS.
During my stay in Europe my children and I have experienced a great deal of racism and discrimination at the streets, work place and at the borders. As a result I became involved in the struggle against racism by challenging the system and the policies which deny us basic human rights. It became clear very early on that our very survival and our rights depended on our ability to create support systems for those who do not have the strength to resist. In particular I worked with battered women focussing on the health issues for black and migrant women. It is them I became aware of the additional diffulties people and families living with HIV/AIDS faced.
Initially we had to deal with the stigma and the myths surrounding the African’s following the statement that AIDS came from Africa. I recall a women who phoned my office in tears because she had just found out that other students in her class did not want to sit next to her in case she infected them because they believed thast all Africans had AIDS. Children in schools reported the same problems. At the same time those of us who have families and friends in the South were aware of the increase of the numbers of people who had become ill or died, and the implications this had on the family and community. The response of the authorities, and I am ashamed to say of some black and migrant people, was to suggest that closing the doors and tightening the immigration controls would be a good way of keeping ’Europe clean’. Of course the liberal and demopcratic stastes of Europe did not make this public. They discussed it behind closed doors but the right wing extremists did not waste time in telling us what the politicians could not say in public. That We were the problem. The Single European Act of 1992 and subsequent legislation were clearly targeted at blackand migrant people. The press played its part in maligning all black people collectively and inciting xenophobia. You know the history and therefore I should not spend too much time on it.
However I am contantly appalled when I read or receive information that some countries deport people who are HIV+ to countries where treatment and facilities are limited or non exixtent. Deportation under any circumstances is a very cruel and traumatic experience which is carried out in an inhumane and uncaring manner. It is such a frightening experience that people under threat are known to commit suicide by jumping from high building to their deaths, or from ships into the sea. Others have gone on hunger strikes or set themselves on fire. It is inconceivable, and it defies logic that while everyone now recognises that AIDS is a global issue, hence this World Aids Conference, that some countries lack compassion and common decency to realise people need support not deportation. Europe and the western world have a lot to answer for when it comes to social, economic, political and encvironmental factors which make people migrate or become displaced persons. It seems to me that Europe is blind to the impact of its policies and deaf to the cries of help. Although I am a passionate believer in human rights, I am not at all surprised that Europe does not honour its Conventions. History of Europe is full of examples of cruelty and disregard of human rights. What I am asking for is a recognition that black ansd migrant people who are living with HIV/AIDS are not here by mistake. They, like all migrants are here because they are part of this planet and what happens in one remote corner has implications for the whole planey. Europe has always had the problem of how to extract labour from people without meeting its obligation to them in terms of their welfare and other social and individual needs. The quick answer for Europe is exploit and run. I am afraid this not an option any more and it is important that forums like this consider strategies for making governments, financial institutions and private companies become accountable for their policies which lead to vialotion of human rights. Deportation and denial of treatment of people who are vulnerable is a violation of human rights.
I hope that you will have a successful conference and no doubt I will get a rport later. With best wishes,