Grenfell one year on: No justice for immigrant Muslim working class community

Grenfell Tower

Forty nine out of the 72 confirmed deaths at Grenfell Tower were Muslims. Journalist Richard Sudan has been covering the tragedy for the past year and argues that the victims haven’t received one scintilla of justice.

One year on from the Grenfell Tower fire and no criminal arrests have been made. The inquiry is under way but many are concerned that the terms of reference which the community would like to see the inquiry framed around, have and will be sidelined.

Theresa May – after initially refusing to meet with families in the immediate aftermath of the fire – subsequently promised that families would be re-housed within two weeks. It didn’t happen.

One year on, families – dozens of people – remain un-housed and living in hotels, many of them having been offered inadequate housing, if indeed they have been offered any.

Many have not been provided with the mental health services they need, having suffered deep trauma in the wake of Grenfell. Indeed, much of the help and support which has been given to victims has been set up by the community, individuals and local groups, filling in the gaps where local government should have stepped in.

The faces of some of the Grenfell victims

Millions of pounds donated by members the public in good faith to the victims and families at Grenfell have been held back by the London Emergency Trust, with only a fraction of it reaching those who need it.

Members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have resigned before being held to account for their decision making. Rock Fielding Mellon is one example. Efforts were made to stop journalists and the public attending council meetings in days following the fire at Grenfell.

Legitimate questions raised by the community, regarding the numbers of those who died in Grenfell Tower have been dismissed by most of the political class and media as “conspiracy theory.”

Many are mindful of the limits of a government-led inquiry, the Hillsborough inquiry offering a stark reminder that it may take many years for any semblance of justice to emerge from Grenfell.

Keeping the spotlight on Grenfell

These are simply some of the points and dynamics which are the backdrop and contrast to the empty words from politicians. Much of the mainstream media at least, one year on, have pretty well removed the spotlight and focus from Grenfell Tower.

Musicians, citizen journalists and bloggers have arguably been the ones which have kept a spotlight shone on Grenfell.

The reality, as we mark the one year since the fire, is that families who have had their lives torn apart have not seen a scintilla of justice.

The government’s response to Grenfell has been nothing short of a national disgrace. It says something that many of the mainstream red top tabloids, and right wingers, sought fit to highlight the immigration status of those who died in the fire, reminding us that we live in a country in which immigrants are viewed as having less humanity than other human beings.

The fire and response to the fire at Grenfell, encompasses much of what is wrong with the country.

Would the response to Grenfell on the day itself, and in the days following, have been the same if the dynamics of race and class were different? I believe so. Those people died because they were poor working class and Muslim immigrant communities.

Theresa May didn’t meet any Grenfell families

The hostile environment fostered in Britian for immigrant communities is not new. And part of that dynamic is that black and brown working class and Muslim communities are often forced to live in poor accommodation.

At Grenfell, a greedy Tory council cut corners, because the safety of those living in the tower was not a priority and did not matter to them. The safety of the residents at Grenfell was expendable.

At least 72 victims were left to live, and ultimately die, in unsafe substandard conditions, in one of the most affluent areas in the country. Left to die in a building without adequate fire precautions, so that Grenfell Tower looked pretty and aesthetically pleasing to richer residents, decked out as it was, with highly flammable and lethal cladding shamelessly fitted to Grenfell Tower to save money for an RBKC which itself had millions of pounds in surplus.

The Inquiry will continue and the time it will take, will likely remove the sting from already dwindling public interest in Grenfell.

Because let’s face it, Britain as a nation has placed more priority in celebrating and maintaining privilege, than ensuring that Grenfell sees justice. Millions aligned the streets recently for the Royal Wedding to catch a mere glimpse of an over privileged family who don’t give a damn about them. I doubt we’ll see anything like that marking the one year anniversary of Grenfell.

Maintaining a spotlight on Grenfell, supporting those directly affected, and also those who are continuing to keep pressure on the government and authorities is the minimum we should be asking from our communities.

Grenfell must never be allowed to happen again. And we must never allow the politics of race and class to be removed from discussions about Grenfell.

What happened at Grenfell was a crime caused by the rich and powerful, and which was paid for by working class Muslim communities. The same vested interests which ultimately caused the fire at Greenfield will doubtless try to steer responsibility away from themselves for as long as possible. We must not let them.

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