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News arrived on Tuesday afternoon that the Saleh family had been given removal directions for 8am the next morning. Friends of the family immediately scrambled to get to the hated ‘Barnardo’s’ detention centre ‘Cedars’, near Pease Pottage. By midnight we had some idea of numbers – around 20, or 25 tops – and all met up nearby for an impromptu picnic and a chat about what to do. Everyone was on the ball, everyone determined to do whatever they could to hold up that bus.
While we were talking two devastating pieces of news came through. An injunction had been passed to stop the Saleh family’s deportation but after a phone call from the UKBA explaining that the Border Agency had spent £60,000 on chartering a plane to deport the family, Judge Eady had reversed his decision and cancelled the injunction.
While we were reeling from that we were told that Mrs Saleh, a personal friend to some of us and the mother of one of our closest mates, had slit her wrists.
People fell to their knees, weeping. Others held each other tightly. As phone calls were made to scrape together further news, a picture emerged. Mrs Saleh was alive and, despite the mental and physical harm done to her by this situation, was still due to be deported. In her desperation she had written a message in blood on the wall of her cell: “I only wanted to save my children.”
We turned up at Cedars in drips and drabs, approaching on foot from the north in small, discrete groups who could duck into hedges and cover the white of their faces as headlights swelled in the darkness. At around 1.30 the first group was stopped by a police car near the entrance to the centre but others slipped past and melted into shadows and hedges. Police followed, trying to pick people out with torches but couldn’t seem to get a handle on our numbers. People moved up and down the road, drifting around the gates to the centre, and gradually moving to block both gates. A line of police formed up on the left gate but left the other gate alone as a small number of people were already clinging securely to the bars – they stayed there all night.
There was a stand-off for a good hour and a half. More police arrived and blocked the left gate, asking demonstrators to get off the drive but not trying to move them. The right hand gate, with people still clinging on, was further blocked by the arrival of a police car. The atmosphere was tense, as whispered plans were formed and reformed. More cop vehicles arrived on the scene, and a dog unit could be heard, gradually moving around behind the demonstrators at the left gate. People kept milling around, with no consistent numbers on either gate but lots of movement between the two. Police numbers seemed to be around the 30-40 mark.
The bus arrived at left gate around 3am. A line of us linked arms and tried to stand in its path but were roughly pulled apart and moved aside by police – the manhandling was quite intense considering our low numbers and some of the cops seemed rather wound up, barking at us to “back off” while holding us two-on-one in assorted wrist and arm locks.
That was when the screaming started. As the ruck was broken down one of ours was lying face down on the edge of the drive with two pigs on top of her, wailing at the top of her lungs for a medic. The medic was restrained a couple of metres away but the cops would neither let him go, nor get the injured woman the attention she needed. As the bus went into the centre everyone held at left gate except for this woman was shoved onto the grassy area between left and right gate. The medic kept an eye on the injured who was now frozen in a dodgy kneeling position, and kept asking the cops to let him through, call one of their medics, get an ambulance or at least support the person’s drooping head as the back injury could have been some kind of spinal. None of the cops seemed to give a toss but eventually an ambulance was called, although one of ours had already called one.
As the bus pulled through the gates a shadow darted across in front of it, dived beneath the chassis and locked itself on to the vehicle’s front axle. Immediately the call went up NOT to drive or try to drag the hero away. The bus was immobilised!
It was a good half hour before the ambulance arrived for our injured one, during which time no support or first aid was given by the police, no medic was called from Cedars, our medic was prevented from assessing the woman and the cop assigned to ‘looking after’ her pretty much just wandered around with her hands in her pockets.
Then, after around 45 minutes, the Fire Brigade arrived to cut away our lock-on hero. People tried to persuade them they were enabling an illegal deportation and that the family would face honour killing, violence and rape if they complied with the police. Unfortunately the fire crew did not show their usual courage and made no attempt to delay their work. This horrific system is made up of thousands of people ‘only doing their job’. Lock-on guy was busted for aggravated trespass but has now been released on bail without charge. Perhaps the CPS is unsure whether a lock on in this case counts as disruption of a ‘lawful’ activity, as the deportation itself is so dodgy…
Then came a quiet spell. Some of us watched silhouettes – possibly those of the family – waving from a first floor window. Others attempted to engage individual cops with the issue. Mostly we got blank faces, and cowardly rubbish about ‘following orders’. However, we pressed on, talking to them anyway undeterred by their refusal to talk to us. Eventually some of them wavered, clearly interested now. We attempted to persuade them that they, as individuals, had full autonomy at every moment of their lives but were using their energy and choices to protect an activity they couldn’t actually defend in conversation. Another cop was welling up when we explained that Mrs Saleh’s 17 year old daughter now faces FGM, rape and forced marriage. She was wiping tears away as we told her about our friend in Cardiff, desperate for her mother not to be sent away to her death, and wondered aloud what we would do without our own mothers. We explained that her shield of passive aggression, training and discipline was a barrier to her expressing the healthy emotions she clearly felt about the situation, that we were there because we felt something and she was there because she wasn’t allowed to. I hope a degree of soul searching has followed that conversation.
More cops arrived on site, and around 5.30 we got the message that the family had been moved from their rooms to board the coach. This was make or break time.
The cops around left gate had surged and now an escort van was waiting for the bus in the driveway. We were hideously outnumbered. Someone counted 30 cop vehicles on Brighton Road – more than one car for each of us – and who knows how many cops. The bus moved to the gate at around 6.30am, running very late. It had been held up for hours but was now implacable. One of ours tried to stand in front of the escort van and collapsed rather than be moved away. Physically restrained and overwhelmed, we could do nothing but shout and struggle as the coach drove past.
We piled into cars and tore down the motorway but could find no trace of the bus. One car went to Heathrow but no-one would tell us anything, the others went to Gatwick and came up blank but ran into a ton of armed cops, who weren’t too pleased by the sudden appearance of ‘No Borders’ types and gave our crew some hassle. Sadly, the Saleh family was deported at 8am but we couldn’t even confirm this for hours.
We now have more details. The day after the Director of Prisons issued a damning report ordering G4S to stop using force on minors in detention centres, Mrs Saleh’s 17 year old son was beaten up under the noses of sell-out charity Barnardo’s for resisting deportation. The family called us from an airport in Italy before being bundled onto a Denim Air charter flight and landing in Cairo that evening. They received some form of hassle from Egyptian airport staff and are now lying low, waiting for the next move.
Before their plane even touched down an appeal launched by Mrs Saleh’s solicitor was gathering serious momentum. Due process has been undermined in deporting this family before their judicial review hearing. A judge has reversed an injunction based on the cost of the family’s charter flight after being leaned-on at the 11th hour by some UKBA scumhole. And a minor was beaten up at a Barnardo’s-run detention centre within 24 hours of fierce condemnation of such practices by the Director of Prisons. These people are going to learn that they are not invulnerable and there are serious legal consequences to their actions.
Love and rage to all people facing detention or deportation, and to everyone fighting this sick, sick border regime.
PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION in Support of SALEH FAMILY!
Saturday 27th October, 11.30am
Aneurin Bevan Statue on Queen St, Cardiff.
Bring signs, banners, instruments and friends!
Despite the best efforts of a handful of friends and family who blockaded Cedars detention centre and held up the coach for 5 hours, Mrs Saleh and her children were taken to an airport on Wednesday morning and deported to Egypt. However, the appeal against this course of action is building serious momentum as there have been a huge number of irregularities, illegalities and clear cases of abuse surrounding these events. Watch this space – we will be posting a detailed update really soon.
DEMONSTRATE! In Support of the Saleh Family
11.30am, Saturday 27th October
Aneurin Bevan Statue, Queen St, Cardiff.
Bring banners, signs, messages of support, and of course everyone you know!
In the UK, on average, 50 people a day are forcibly removed from their homes and deported. In Cardiff, snatch squads leave from the UK Border Agency on 31-33 Newport Road in order to smash in peoples’ doors and drag them out of bed.
On Monday morning, UK Border Agency ‘Officers’ were at work early, busy at an address on Newport Road. The UKBA used dark blue anonymous unmarked vans, with blacked Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday afternoon over 30 people joined with No Borders South Wales outside Newport Passport Office to protest against the introduction of ID cards for non-EU foreign nationals resident in the UK from this November.
Thousands of copies of our new leaflet “Big Brother is coming“, produced especially for the event, were distributed to members of the public. The leaflet lays out the government timetable for rolling out the scheme and makes the point that these new ID cards are not only a repressive measure against migrants, they are the first shot in an attack against everyone’s freedom. The vast majority of passers by who took the time out to speak with people on the demonstration were very supportive of our campaign and were adamant that they would not accept an ID card themselves.
A dozen police were waiting by the Passport office at 2pm when people arrived. The senior officer informed people that they were willing to ‘facilitate’ the protest providing only two people were stood outside the entrance to the passport office and everyone else stood on the other side of the road. The police were politely but firmly told that that was both unreasonable and unacceptable. The officer then said he would go inside the office and then return to implement “another course of action”. Unsurprisingly, this other course of action was to completely abandon his original demand and only ask us not to block the entrance, which we had already told him we had no intention of doing.
Though in this case the police soon realised we were not going to be bullied around and the protest was able to pass off without too much of their interference, it is a concern that less experienced people wishing to exercise their legal right to protest are intimidated into being sidelined into designated “protest zones”. Across the UK police forces regularly demand that protest organisers contact them beforehand, despite the fact we all have the right to gather and protest without asking for permission. Under the guise of “minimising disruption” and even protecting the protest from disgruntled members of the public(?!?), it is increasingly common for police to view an effectively policed protest as one which as few people as possible are aware is happening. A good example of this was the march against the military academy in Cardiff which the police forced out of sight down back-streets, earlier this year.
Four officers from Gwent Police’s ‘Evidence Gathering Team’ filmed participants at the demonstration constantly, both from a distance and at close range. They also frequently checked the inside of their hats where we believe they kept their ‘spotter cards’ which identify known activists. These four officers then followed a number of the demonstrators to a local pub where they stood outside patiently in the rain, waiting for them to come out and then followed them again, over the River Usk to the legendary TJs where Smash EDO were showing a film to build support for their upcoming protest before day two of No Border Fest. Their actions are clearly politically motivated. As one passer by noted:
“I didn’t know there were so many police in Newport”
The reaction of the NO2ID campaign to the introduction of these ID cards has been underwhelming to say the least. And has largely been limited to the press release quoted in a previous post and this extract from a longer comment on their website:
“Resistance to the database state is growing, but that has not discouraged Whitehall. It seems more determined than ever to sneak round obstacles using misdirection and to find new, softer, targets…
Latest of those soft targets are overseas students, and people seeking to settle in the UK with British husbands and wives. Those, people with strong reasons not to make a fuss, are the ones to be targeted for the new biometric card scheme that will act as a test bed for the ID scheme. Jacqui Smith’s launch of “ID cards for foreigners” was a shameless piece of spin to try to associate the unpopular ID scheme with the popular policy of restricting immigration.
There’s no real link. And it is unclear how much technology there is yet. But immigration law already gives the Home Office some of the powers it would like to exert over everyone, and so it has a free hand to try out, on a few selected foreign residents, the processes it eventually intends to use for everyone else.”
The discussion about this protest on the NO2ID forum certainly seems to reveal real naivety amongst at least some sections of NO2ID supporters, with one poster commenting that
“They aren’t ID cards for foreigners. They are biometric residence and work permits.“
It comes to something when a supposed opponent of the database state is inventing meaningless spin for the government as they are about to introduce the first ID cards! It is a shame that this new move by the home office is not recognised by more anti-ID activists for being what the government is very open about. This unwillingness to defend the rights of migrants endangers the struggle for everyone’s liberty. Previously Defy ID has been a vehicle for opposition to ID cards from a libertarian perspective, but given the manner in which the government is using a a greater repression of migrants as a testing ground for this scheme No Borders must intervene.
A Kebab-house was closed & 5 takeaway workers arrested when cops & immigration bureaucrats raided Cardiff’s ‘Chippy Lane’ at the beginning of July.
One worker at Dorothy’s Fish Bar said:
“There have been lots of police here, at least 20 officers. They sealed off Caroline Street at both ends & have been through all the takeaways looking for illegals. They checked all the staff’s passports & their status.”
It isn’t known what people were nicked for, they could have been so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ or asylum seekers awaiting Home Office approval to stay in the UK. Under current laws refugees are not allowed to work or earn money while their applications Read the rest of this entry »
Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a police officer has powers to detain for up to 9 hours ‘whether or not he has grounds for suspecting that a person’ is a terrorist. Yes, you did read that right. If a plod doesn’t like the look of you, he can keep you locked up for hours on end, even if he hasn’t got any real reason for it. This is what happened to Aisha Pritchard & her Palestinian husband Sadi Elhaloul when they were due to fly to Dubai for a 4 day break on 14th December. After going through the usual security procedures, just before they boarded the plane they were hauled off for ‘questioning’ by some boneheaded special-branch redneck. After being released without charge they’d missed their flight, & were left Read the rest of this entry »