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Enforced returns to begin

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
It seems that enforced repatriation of failed Iraqi asylum-seekers is about to begin. This would be fine, of course, if we could have any faith at all in the systems and people who make the decisions about who is in danger and what is 'safe' for whom... There is so much evidence to suggest that they often get it very wrong indeed.

In the meantime, pressure on asylum-seekers wishing to appeal a decision against them is increasing. New measures to deprive families of their homes and benefits have been described as a kind of 'blackmail' since they force people to choose between homelessness and separation from their children or returning to a country where they fear for their lives. Ironically, such measures may also turn out to be much more costly to taxpayers than the current ones.

Hmmm...so we're clearly talking practical solutions, rather than reactions driven by fear, ignorance and desperate attempts to win votes, then?

Call me an old hippy...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
...but I'm loving this.

Join a new country

danny wallace
Originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

If you're a bit fed up with all the shenanigans of our current law-makers and leaders (and, let's face it, they're a pretty useless lot, right now) why not join a new country instead.

Unfortunately, so far it seems to be modelled on something depressingly familiar: a King, a predominantly male cabinet... sigh...

More from the Edinburgh Book Festival

Monday, August 22, 2005

xinran xue
Originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Xinran Xue gives the 2005 Amnesty Lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival tomorrow (Aug 23).

Before moving to London, Xinran worked as a journalist and hosted a nightly radio show in China called Words on the Night Breeze. The show, which ran for seven years, was the first to give a voice to Chinese women, gaining millions of listeners, many of whom wanted to share their stories.

Xinran now has an intersting column in The Guardian where she writes about what it's like to be a Chinese woman living in the UK; and she's the author of part-memoir, part-novel The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices.

Plus, if you're in Edinburgh, look out for readings from members of Write to Life, part of the Festival's Imprisoned Writers series. Amazing people with incredible stories to tell, every one of them.

Being Luis

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

I've just come across this recently published autobiography by exiled Chilean, Luis Munoz. It looks intriguing.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
This year's line-up is positively bursting with big ideas. There's a special theme, 'Nations Unlimited', exploring aspects of 'nationhood, identity, borders, emigration, immigration, exile, religion, and statelessness.'

There's even a strand called Imprisoned Writers which includes readings from some of my friends at the Medical Foundation's Write to Life. Go for it, guys.

What are'unacceptable behaviors'?

Friday, August 05, 2005
Why do I feel so uneasy about this big, brave plan to exclude people from the UK if their presence is deemed 'not conducive to the public interest'.

I am really concerned that those it's aimed at - people who seek to 'foment' terrorism' - will not get caught and instead, as we've seen in the past, the proposed list of 'unacceptable behaviors' will be used to discriminate against people who have every right to come here and/or who desperately need to seek refuge in the UK.

Isn't this, anyway, a case of closing the gate after the proverbial horse has bolted? I want to see more details about these 'new powers' and the impact they might have.

New flavours every time

Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Doreen Baingana

Via The Literary Saloon

The Ugandan poet and novelist, Doreen Baingana, talks about the difficulties of being read primarily as an 'ethnic' or African writer.

'The current focus on aid for Africa is one I applaud,' she says, 'But it leads many people to hold such narrow impressions of one of the most diverse continents.'

'As an African writer, I pluck what I know and throw it into a pot with what I don't and what I conjure out of nothing and dreams. I shake in all sorts of spices, grains, water, salt and lies, African or not, and try to create a new stew with new flavours every time. I ask my audience to demand this much of me and other African writers. To expect so much more than yesterday's leftovers: the newspapers' diarrhoeic stream of problems and problematic stories. Let's imagine together all the possible and impossible ways individuals try to make sense of themselves and their worlds, African or otherwise.'