jan2On Thursday 29th January 2009, around 25 people braved the freezing cold conditions to hold a picket for about 2 hours outside the UK Border Agency at 31-33 Newport Road, Cardiff. These offices are where decisions are made about who gets detained, deported or in rarer cases granted leave to remain. ID cards are issued here for non-EU students and spouses and immigration ‘snatch squads’ operate from this address. This is also the local reporting office, where asylum applicants must ‘sign on’ as part of the conditions of their continued residence in the UK and then sometimes are detained  prior to deportation. It is the face of Britain’s racist immigration policies right here on our doorstep.

Whilst holding our regular pickets we witness asylum applicants attending to ‘sign on’, their papers being inspected before they are granted admittance. Any accompanying friend or family members made to wait outside while they go in. We often also see the arrival of newly found asylum seekers who are about to be dispersed around Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and elsewhere. They turn up with guards in anonymous white Transporter vans, complete with child car seats in the back.

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With placards aloft, handing out leaflets to passersby, banners tied between lamposts, we received hoots of support from passing motorists. We also got one moronic jeer of ‘get a job!’, aside from thinking that at this time of economic difficulty and mass redundancy a little sensitivity about such a matter is called for, a straw poll of people at the picket showed nearly everyone was in employment, apart from a number of students, some of whom have jobs too. The reason that the pickets are held on a weekday lunchtime is because the Agency is situated in the middle of large amount of workplaces and centres of study, making it the convenient location for a quick protest during a dinner break! 

Two police officers maintained a presence throughout the demonstration, once again making a fuss about us keeping off one patch of ground for some unknown reason, though after five minutes the cold proved too much for them and they maintained this presence from inside the building! Come along next time if you can make it. Don’t worry if you can’t stay for long, lots of people just pop down for twenty minutes before grabbing a sandwich and heading back to work. In the current climate, with government ministers using the rhetoric of the extreme right and a tabloid witchhunt against  anything foreign, it is more important than ever for us to show solidarity with migrants in our communities and show the Border Agency what we think of their oppressive activities!

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