Fighter for Immigration Rights
The anti-racist movement has lost one of its foremost fighters. – Founder of ‘No One Is Illegal’
Steve Cohen was not the easiest of men or the least controversial of campaigners, but he has left behind him a host of tangible achievements that few can rival. Unusually for today, he extended his notion of personal oppression, as a Jew, into an understanding of the racist treatment of all migrants in a globalised world. And, yet more unusually, he married theory and practice.
In 1983 Steve was one of the first to suggest in the UK the surreptitious emergence of a form of anti-Semitism on the Left and, though I could not agree with many of his interpretations in the pamphlet. That’s funny you don’t look anti-Semitic (he was always one for a jokey aside), it was certainly a brave broadside.
But it was in the field of fighting immigration controls that Steve’s legacy really should be celebrated. Numerous individuals from Nasira Begum and Anwar Ditta to Viraj Mendis and Florence Okolo owe much to his campaigning and even to the fact that we remember those names even today.
What he realised very early on when working (he was a trained barrister) at the North Manchester Law Centre was the need to combine community campaigns with the legal battle. It was this understanding that led him to help establish and coordinate the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit for many years.
Remembering Steve Cohen
25 March, 2009
“Happy are they … who walk by faith and hope; to whom the guiding star of their youth still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not entered! They have not been “hurt by the archers”, nor has the iron entered their souls. The world has no hand on them.” — William Hazlitt
Guardian: Interview with Steve Cohen
26 October 2005
Steve Cohen spent 25 years as an immigration lawyer in Manchester. His latest book argues for an end to all controls.