Ann Dummett – Obituary

Guest contribution by Sue Shutter (Executive Committee ILPA) 

Ann Dummett, a founder of JCWI and a staff member from January 1978 to November 1984, died on 7 February 2012, at the age of 81. Her death is a huge loss to all who work for race equality and justice, areas where she has done so much for the past 50 years.

Portrait of English Racism

Ann’s 1973 book A Portrait of English Racism was a revelation to many. In simple and vivid language and examples, it showed how English society worked to define immigrants as ‘others’ and reinforced perceptions of difference. The book sprung from Ann’s pioneering work as the Community Liaison Officer in Oxford in the 1960s, a forerunner of Race Equality Councils.

Ann and her husband Michael had decided in 1964 to concentrate on work against the injustice of British immigration laws; they were active in the Campaign against Racial Discrimination and then, together with Vishnu Sharma, Joe Hunte and others, campaigned to set up the organisation that became JCWI, concentrating on the immigration laws as the most powerful manifestation of racism.

Ann was appalled by the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act and the following 1971 Immigration Act and lobbied powerfully against them. She wrote A new immigration policy for the Runnymede Trust in 1978; her views on the current policy could be guessed from the fact that the cover illustration was from Alice in Wonderland.

When the Labour Government in the late 1970s proposed changes in British nationality law, but without removing the race discrimination inherent in it, Ann moved to working against the nationality law proposals, and then against their enactment by the Conservative Government as the 1981 British Nationality Act.

British Nationality Bill

Ann was the linchpin of the nationwide campaigning against the 1981 British Nationality Bill. She brought JCWI, the then National Council for Civil Liberties and other organisations together as AGIN, the Action Group on Immigration and Nationality, and coordinated the campaign. She prepared campaigning materials which were used in hundreds of public meetings all over the country – a tape-slide show with a simple explanation of the provisions of the Bill and their injustice, including soundtracks from Wagner and Parry’s Jerusalem and travelled the country with different speakers. She drafted letters and petitions and campaigning documents, responses to the Green Paper and the Bill for use by community organisations, amendments and briefings for MPs; her views came over in all the opposition to the Bill.

Ann wrote the first practical guide to the provisions of the law, the AGIN Guide to the British Nationality Act, in 1982, with Ian Martin, the only guide to the law until Fransman was published in 1989. AGIN existed from 1976 to the later 1980s, and Ann wrote many pamphlets and leaflets for it.

After the 1981 Act had come into force, she moved from JCWI to be the Director of the Runnymede Trust from 1984 to 1987, and wrote Towards a Just Immigration Policy 1986. She continued to use her writing skills in information and campaigning, she wrote Subjects, citizens, aliens and others with Andrew Nicol, now a judge and a knight in 1990, and contributed numerous articles to journals and books on anti-racist and immigration and nationality matters, both within the UK and mainland Europe.

Ann also worked with the Commission for Racial Equality, and with their support prepared a comprehensive list and commentary on Ministerial statements on the immigration exemption in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act of 2000, for the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association in April 2001. She wrote ILPA’s submission to Lord Goldsmith’s 2008 Citizenship Review, contributed to the Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law, and spoke at ILPA meetings. She was widely recognised as an expert on these matters and continued to oppose the unjust proposals and actions of governments of all parties.

Ann was much more than an academic writer and campaigner and a leading expert on British nationality law. She always retained her keen sense of the injustice of the law and the damage that racism does to people. Her concern for others shone through and she always made time for them. Her meticulous thorough work and commitment inspired and encouraged others. She went out to train community group activists in nationality law, so that people affected could get accurate advice and help from groups they trusted in the panic-stricken years after the 1981 Act. And her care for Michael was amazing – she always knew what he wanted before he did, and provided it, and a frequent sight was of them sitting together in meetings (this must be some years ago now…) with her lighting cigarette after cigarette for him as he spoke, and almost as many for herself.

You can access the obituary that appeared in the Guardian here.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

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