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The summer of 2015 has seen a massing of support for refugees in Europe. If even the typically hostile Daily Mail urges us to think of the lives lost in the Mediterranean, inflammatory and completely dehumanising remarks like those of Katie Hopkins, just seem like a distant memory – and the fear towards ‘the other’ that the media had for so long attempted to smear us all with, appears to finally be well and truly changing.
In this context, and the thousands of people who are joining social media campaigns, setting up groups and organisations, raising thousands of pounds in donations, and making trips to Calais, as well as now also contacting existing organisations to ask to find out more and offer help, and helping to bring existing campaigns (like those of City of Sanctuary, Oxfam and Citizens UK) closer together in a wider spirit of solidarity, we could be heading towards a shift from the ‘little islander’ narrative that parties like UKIP have played on, and create a new narrative of international solidarity and a shared destiny for us as 21st century global citizens. However the next months transpire in terms of the media coverage and levels of support, people will still want to seek sanctuary in Europe from military warfare and the more oppressive regimes, so we must not forget the thousands of people who are still yet to make Britain their home, at least for some time, and show people some of the same welcome that has been so inspiring to see transcribed on banners across football stadiums in cities in Germany, and at the railway stations as people arrive – including now in Budapest, as donated shoes are left for the next to arrive there.
Wales has come together to show its support – the Nation of Sanctuary campaign has been launched and Facebook groups to support people in Calais and beyond have attracted thousands of people. Here are some for west and south Wales:
Cardiff became the city it is today because of immigration. The docks in Cardiff were built by the sweat of the brow of Irish migrant labour in the nineteenth century. They brought people from around the world to settle here and build a life for themselves. We need a 21st century culture of hospitality and welcome across Wales, especially for refugees who are seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.
At midday today, Wales will hold at least three demonstrations to support refugees and migrants, and highlight the need for greater support for Syrians and other asylum seekers already in the UK. The Cardiff demonstration is called ‘Wales says #RefugeesWelcome’ – marking the hashtag that trended as opinions about this summer’s refugee crisis changed. It will assemble at the statue of Aneurin Bevan, as we remember that the NHS wouldn’t be the same without the hard work and dedication of migrant labour in Britain. It will end with a march to the Home Office on Newport Road.
This protest has been initiated by campaigners from Cardiff People’s Assembly, Cardiff Stop the War Coalition. HOPE not hate South Wales, No Borders South Wales, Rumney Forum, UNITE Cardiff Community Branch and others. It is supported by Welsh Refugee Council and Trinity Centre Cardiff. It is part of a European day of action. The activists of Europe can work together, even as the governments of the nation states argue over who is to blame and what principles of the EU might remain after this summer. It is in fact working class solidarity that is needed more than ever, and is a part of the migrant struggle. If the working class is divided, the elite find it easier to exploit us – it is only through solidarity that we can build on what we have in common, then focusing together on the need to challenge those elite powers, that, at the moment, can decide all our lives and our futures – and work together to not be dominated by them. The refugees’ struggle is our struggle, and we’ve got a world to win.
Call-out for a meeting of groups and networks involved in migration struggles in the UK and beyond.
Some of No Borders South Wales and former Bristol No Borders have been working together to restart No Borders groups in this part of the UK. We’d like to invite people from around the UK, and involved in different networks and groups active in migrant justice, to Bristol, for a discussion of how we can better unite around ongoing campaigns and struggles.
Many of us are involved in:
• Campaigns against detention
• Anti-deportation campaigning
• Solidarity with people in Calais and Morocco and other flashpoints
• Campaigns against destitution
We want to talk about ‘where next’ for many of these campaigns and how we can be stronger together and reach out to more people who may agree with us at the same time.
The proposal for the weekend is as following:
Saturday 25th April
6:30pm – 7:30pm
Meet-up after the ‘Resistance Struggles against Immigration Controls in Europe’ by Tracing Movements films at Hydra Bookshop. (Part of the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2015)
For those people already in Bristol for the bookfair, we will meet at Hydra bookshop and go to a pub together to kick-off the discussions around networking and solidarity between the groups. We may have some focus on where next for a local group, but the meeting is open to all and will be taken up largely with a ‘go-around’ and introductions. This will also be a chance for anyone who can’t stay for the whole weekend to feed into the discussions the next day.
Sunday 26th April
11am – around 2:30pm
UK migrant solidarity meeting towards a UK Convergence, campaigning together to end migrant detention and support overseas struggles.
Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Easton.
Join us for a Kebele Brunch to help kick-off the after-party hangover for some, and kick-off exploring the possibility again of a radical and inclusive UK network for all!
No Borders activists in the UK last met in London in 2012 as part of a week long convergence. Since then Movement for Justice has built a UK-wide network of activists, and other migrant solidarity groups sprung up in Cardiff, Manchester and Brighton, among other places.
11am – Vegan brunch (plus introductions?)
11:30 – 12:30pm – Updates from different UK city or region groups and report-backs from Calais and No Borders Morocco.
12:30pm – 1:10pm – Working session one – splitting into two groups
1) Working towards a UK Convergence this summer – do we have the capacity for an indoor or outdoor convergence?
2) Building the campaign to end detention in the UK – what can we do to work better together?
1:10pm – 1:20pm – Fag, coffee and tea break.
1:20pm – 2pm – Working session two – again splitting into two groups
1) What next for No Borders internationally? How can we work to build a global movement?
2) Exploring the possibility further of a Bristol and south Wales No Borders group. (This could also be moved to 6:30pm)
2pm – around 2:30pm – Summing up the working sessions, concluding discussions, and discussion on future meetings.
★ Ⓐ★☮★ Revolution Solution in partnership with The Hold Up and No Borders South Wales present: Hip Hop, Live Music and Spoken Word at The Red and Black Umbrella ★Ⓐ★☮★
Live Sets include:
★ Saturday 14th February 2015 ★
Sweet beats provided through the night by DJ Alkemy
Reggae mix by Kei Hu and Kamake
★ Doors open 7pm, acts start at 8pm till late
★ Red and Black Umbrella
★ 57-58 Clifton Street, Cardiff, CF24 1LS.
★ Open Mic and Cypher to end off the night. Local MC or Poet and feel like dropping a sixteen or some spoken word? Here’s your chance.
★ We’re looking to build something sustainable so there is a suggested donation of £4 on the door. All funds raised go back into the space and to support No Borders.
★ For any more info see Farcebook page
The No Borders South Wales noise demo was reported on Indymedia:
You can read the full report here.
We plan to hold another demonstration soon. Come to our next meeting on Tuesday 21st October at 8pm to find out more.
Opposing borders for a free and equal world.
On the 14th of May this year the Queen gave royal ascension to the Immigration Bill. This bill had been launched on October 9th 2013 and sponsored by the Home Secretary Theresa May. It outlined the Coalition government’s new approach to what it considered to be the key problems of the immigration sector. Hopefully this post will highlight some of the history, contents and responses to the bill, which given its cross-societal nature, have been widespread and largely in opposition.
In overview, the bill deals with several large areas:
1) The extension of fingerprint and biometric controls, passport controls, and embarkation orders in order to better and more quickly identify illegal migrants. Increase powers to inquire into partnership and marriage statuses to prevent sham marriages.
2) Cut the number of decisions on which a migrant can appeal against asylum refusal and deportation from 17 down to 4. Create a policy of ‘deport first and appeal later’ in cases where no clear threat to life exists. Advance government pressure to reduce the use of Article 8 (EHR Right to Family Life) in court hearings. Increase restrictions on multiple requests for bail from immigration detainees.
3) Restrict access to illegal migrants in a number of areas. Firstly require landlords to check immigration status on prospective and existing tenants. Secondly enforcing a payment on those subject to immigration controls for short term stay visas or longer than 6 months (asylum seekers excluded) for use of the NHS. Others include requiring bank workers and driver licensing authorities to check applicants against immigration databases.
4) Increasing regulation over the immigration advice sector and enforcing payment of unpaid civil penalties.
A number of political factors and myths have led up to this bill being passed. As part of the general attack on the welfare state by the coalition, there has also been a policy of using immigration as the ‘sharp end of the wedge’. Nowhere more clearly has this been demonstrated than the increasing attacks on so-called ‘welfare tourism‘, in particular health tourism. The bill also plays into general public fears about abuse of human rights legislation to overstay in the UK, hence the attacks on Section 8 and other rights designed to protect family life. But far and away the bill is aimed at, in Theresa May’s own words, ‘creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants‘, which is just what is aimed at with the removal of access to public services and private rented accommodation.
However, the reality on the ground does not bear out to these concerns. In particular the shocking lack of evidence for the claim that EU migrants are costing the NHS and the welfare state a fortune. After some particularly unpleasant comments by the Coalition aimed at European migrants, the European Commission demanded proof that welfare tourism was costing what Theresa May described as an ‘unacceptable burden’. What emerged from a leaked document was that in fact the UK does not keep figures on EU migrants who access welfare benefits, and so were unable to tell the Commission even how many migrants had rightfully accessed benefits, let alone fraudulently. In an immortal line the document stated ‘we consider that these questions place too much emphasis on quantitative evidence’. In other words, because some voter saw lots of Spanish people in an A+E once it must be the case that there is abuse, don’t let pesky evidence get in the way. In fact, figures for the cost to the NHS from migrants reveal that, at a generous estimate, migrants cost 12 million pounds a year. In perspective, this is 0.06% of the amount the NHS is being required to slash, or 0.011% of the total overall budget. So much for evidence based policy.
The major problem that this bill faces is the totally unethical and unworkable proposal that private landlords should become an arm of the immigration service, on pain of a £3000 fine. There has been an outcry from various organisations ranging from landlord advocacy groups, to homeless charities. If the bill goes through, the future of the rental sector will become thus: when someone applies for accomodation or is requested a property in the private sector through a Local Authority (LA), they will become subject to an immigration control. Every person regardless of skin colour or accent is in theory supposed to be checked. But overwhelmingly the concern is, even from landlords, a default to only accepting a UK passport or worse, a white UK passport. Given that there are in theory over 200 types of European ID documents, it’s not a surprise that landlords aren’t happy. In fact there is an endless list of ways in which this bill could go wrong, including – the changing nature of immigration statuses, surcharge by letting agents for immigration checks, clash between s.193 homelessness duty from an LA and immigration status and people fleeing violence or domestic abuse who may not have access to their documents. Overall this is an ill thought out piece of legislation, but the pilot schemes will be rolled out on the 1st of December in various cities. Despite this attempt to drive out illegal migrants, all this bill will do is make life harder for ordinary people, create discrimination where there was none and force illegals into the hands of criminal landlords. A recipe for housing exploitation and homelessness is to be expected.
To prevent this becoming an excessive length piece, there will be a follow up to cover the responses and opposition to the bill. For further information on the contents of the bill click here. A
We plan to meet fortnightly to build campaigns in the South Wales area as well as looking to our day of action during the NATO summit in Newport this September.
The next meeting will be on Monday 4th August at 7pm at the Red and Black Umbrella Social Centre on Clifton Street, Adamsdown.
We aim to keep meetings to an hour and then get something to eat or drink together afterwards.
If you can’t make the meetings you will be able to get a message to us through 078 4560 1239 or noborderswales[at]riseup[dot]net.
Racist vans, harassment of migrants via text messages from private companies, cuts to legal aid, cuts to English language learning provision, cuts in support services – and phone-lines that people now struggle to use…and more to come from the new Immigration Bill – some might just conclude that the government’s policies are an attack on the vulnerable, but then again, when hasn’t this been the case?
Home Secretary, Theresa May has openly stated a desire to create a “hostile environment” for all but “the brightest and best” migrants.
But whatever governments try to do, people will be there, working together in unity and solidarity to try and change the far-right policies that don’t help anyone, even the richest or bigoted.
Action has been taking place around Europe to build resistance and empower people to stand up for their rights.
The ‘March for Freedom‘ walked for 450km between Strasburg and Brussels, and defied laws by crossing borders that is now a normal occurrence for Europe’s citizens, but denied to vistors seeking sanctuary from wars and conflict.
Activists in Calais have stood up to openly fascist groups and seen support grow as far-right demos were cancelled. Many have now reclaimed a major space in the city to use for solidarity work.
Here in south Wales, activists have recently become involved in the necessary work to support destitute asylum seekers. The government cuts are forcing more people to sleep rough. Cardiff Destitution Network is helping to make the grass-route changes that challenge this bogus system, it was set up by solidarity activists in CMS Wales, which has been active since 2012 after being inspired by the Unity Centre in Glasgow. Some activists have spent less time coming to meetings and more time helping to promote events and organise local benefit gigs which help to fund the vital work that keeps people safe and alive.
Some have worked with various organisations to help make Cardiff a ‘City of Sanctuary’ – hoping that their input helps to make a real difference on the ground so that those that need to the most can directly benefit from the ‘award’.
Many others have been involved in anti-deportation campaigning, alongside friends in south Wales and a now released Dignity marcher to South Wales from Bristol.
We want to build on this though.
We have plans to hold a day of action during the NATO summit in South Wales, and also to help organise a new No Borders Convergence, bringing together migration activists from all over the UK and beyond. Our friends in Bristol and Leeds are growing the No Borders struggles there, and other groups in Manchester, Brighton, Oxford and Nottingham are building a new Migrant Solidarity Network, which Cardiff is also linked to.
This work is to create a world where no one is oppressed or discriminated against because of their status, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
We want a No Borders group again, that will use protests and many forms of direct action to get results. When detention centres have been blockaded and flights have been cancelled, people’s lives have been saved. We’re meeting tonight to help make this happen. We hope that you can join us at Cathays Community Centre from 6pm to be a part of it. We will aim to meet regularly after that.
You can contact us for more information but we’d like to see you stand together with us if possible.
For a world without borders, in which all are equal and live without conflict.
URGENT CALL OUT TO ALL THE ANTIFASCISTS IN BRITAIN A WHITE PRIDE WORLD WIDE DEMONSTRATION HAS BEEN CALLED BY THE NATIONAL FRONT IN SWANSEA ON THE 5th OF APRIL 2014. THE DEMO IS CO-ORGANISED BY AN UMBRELLA GROUP OF BRITISH WHITE NATIONALIST THAT CALL THEMSELVES 'FOR RACE AND NATION COLLECTIVE'. The National Front is on the rise in south Wales. In January 2014, they held their Annual General Meeting in Swansea. This meeting went ahead un-disrupted by any antifascist and/or antifa. Since then, people from several areas throughout south Wales have contacted the NF to organise local demonstrations. In one of them, a small group of people confronted them. However, no call out was made nationally. In March 2013, the first UK-wide White Pride World Wide event was held in Swansea organised by the National Front. Up to 100 fascists attended and although outnumbered, they held a static demonstration with minimal confrontation or disruption. This time, they are trying to make it bigger than last year. The NF is also part of For Race and Nation Collective: a combination of multiple fascists groups who believe in white supremacy. They are co-organising this demonstration. If they are not properly confronted again, the city of Swansea is in danger of becoming the White Pride UK Capital. Swansea is becoming the NF capital in Wales, as mentioned earlier. This as we know, must not happen. Fascists should not be welcomed in Swansea, Wales or anywhere on this planet. We, as antifascists in Wales want the National Front and all fascist groups out and out forever. This is an urgent call out for anyone who identifies as an antifascist to come to Swansea on the 5th of April 2014. This is the time when we urgently need all the support from anyone from anywhere who is against fascism and racism. Please put the 5th of April 2014 in your diary and come to Swansea to stop the UK’s White Pride World Wide. See you on the streets! ¡No Pasarán! • We are an independent group of antifa people who live in Wales • Our main objective is to organise resistance against fascism in Swansea. We are currently organising a counter demo.
Emily Yeh has lived in Newport for 18 months, arriving to seek sanctuary from Taiwan. She refused to be an intelligence officer for the Taiwanese government as she became morally uncomfortable with the work she was asked to carry out.
She was detained on Tuesday 10th December, “Human Rights Day”, and held at Newport Central Police Station. As soon as news came out that she was to be forcibly removed from the police station to a detention centre, some 25 friends turned up to show solidarity and kept a presence there for over 12 hours. She is now in imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood, a detention centre run by Serco, on behalf of the UK Home Office, who intend to forcibly remove her from the UK.
Since then, her friends and other activists have set up a campaign (originally referring to her as M.Y. to protect her identity) calling for her to be returned to Newport – where she can continue to build a new life for herself within the community where she has become such an important and valued member. In Taiwan she would face a very uncertain future. There is a website and a Facebook page with daily updated information.
Hundreds of emails and phone calls later – most during a phone blockade of EVA Airways, who were due to fly her out of the UK – Emily is still in the UK, but has been taken ill; with bad stomach pains, blood in her urine, and a diagnosis of kidney stones, and possible epilepsy.
Emily is incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support she has received, and, as she attempts to recover from her illnesses, almost definitely made worse by the stress of her situation, she is in talks with her solicitor, who is also fighting for her to stay in the UK, as is her right under the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Her friends have reported that Emily claims that staff at Yarl’s Wood had “pushed (her) off her seat” and that there were “bad things said to her/about her”. If confirmed, this would be a serious allegation against the staff there, especially after when much controversy has already surrounded Yarl’s Wood, after hunger strikes, fires and the recent sexual abuse some of the woman detainees have suffered at the hands of its staff.
The campaign still hopes and plans to continue trying to persuade the airline not to take Emily, and for the Home Office to release her so that she can be returned to Newport where she belongs.
If you want to get in touch with the campaign, you can do so at email@example.com
In Calais, inside an old “cash and carry” of beers ,which is abandoned since years and called “Beer house” by its inhabitants, living about 150 and 200 hundred migrants from Sudan, Chad, Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Palestine…)
They have found a shelter there since almost a year. It’s been some time that the authorities want to close this place and the eviction is really near ( a matter of days).
The inhabitants wanted to express their non-understanding of the situation and their fear of loosing even the last peaces a human live. With the eviction of the beerhouse the authorities would reach a new level of violation against humanity.
The people from the beer house explaining their situation themselves like that:
“ The life is hard in “Beer house”, there is no shower, no toilets, no electricity, no water, no food. We can only eat what Salam gives to us and it is only one meal a day. When the winter will come, it’s going to be very cold and we will a lot of diseases. Besides, We can’t even wash our clothes.
We live like dogs while we are human beings. Even dogs have a roof and food to eat in Europe and treated better than us. They live in a house and us amongst the garbage.
Despites those conditions, we have accepted this situation, and now they want to withdraw from us the small thing we have? Here, we died already one time, and, by putting us in the street, they are going to kill us again. What are the police and the government are going to do for us if we are in the street?
Are they going to help us ?
We are not seeking to condem France but to lights up our inhumane living conditions and to call for help to live at least under human conditions.”
About fifty of us are asylum seekers or are willing to become one.
Some of us are waiting since two years in Calais without any answer from the government and a place to stay, while other are waiting in the streets for the first asylum interview for months.
We don’t have access to a house or a center for asylum seekers. We would just be put in a “foyer” which are like jails with strict rules and no freedom. Under such conditions the french government is forcing us to ask for asylum in England.”
This is the case for most of the inhabitants of the beer house. Put under pressure and fear, caused from the coming eviction. People hurry to cross to England and taking by that even all the risk. For example fourteen people tried to cross in a truck full with
chemical products where they almost choked.
The « beer house » inhabitants would like «the whole world”, to worry about their living conditions, the eviction and its consequences.
People from Cardiff joined the ‘Dignity not Destitution March’ in Bristol this weekend, in solidarity with destitute asylum seekers. Marches and demonstrations were also held in Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and Glasgow.
This weekend, Cardiff Migrant Solidarity are announcing the creation of a new resource called Share Dydd. Share Dydd aims to offer hospitality, in theform of accommodation, meals, welcome and solidarity, to destitute asylum seekers in Cardiff.
Asylum seekers become destitute because they have been refused sanctuary by the Government and all financial and other forms of support has been withdrawn from them. In very limited circumstances refused asylum seekers can apply for ‘Hard Case’ support, or Section 4, as it is known. However many asylum seekers don’t apply for Section 4, because they are afraid, as it means they will have to agree to return home to countries where there is on-going conflict, violence or human rights abuses.
They remain here, cold and hungry on the streets of Cardiff.
We hope to launch Share Dydd this later in the summer
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as campaigning against the racist border regime, it’s important to organise against fascist thugs when they try to take over our streets. Ignoring the obvious contradiction, the National Front have called a “White Pride World Wide” demonstration in Swansea on March 9th, and a strong antifascist presence is planned in response.
The National Front showing up again after all these years is easily interpreted. With the English Defence League in a shambles and the BNP imploding, racist yobs are hoping to unite under an old banner unsullied, as they see it, by the various failures, fractures and disgraces that have engulfed the far right in recent years. We need to take them seriously, and oppose any attempt to bring their hateful, hideous ideologies onto our streets. A threat to any section of our community is a threat to society as a whole and must not be tolerated, whether it comes in the form of a dawn raid by the UKBA, or a fascist’s intention to intimidate their way through the city centre.
“Only one thing could have stopped us – if our adversaries had, from the first day, smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our movement.” – Adolf Hitler
Counter-demonstration to meet at Castle Garden Square, 11am. More details coming soon.
Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/events/113020642216513/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Citizens UK is an organisation that aims to unite “community leaders” for a strong civil society. The ‘Temple of Peace & Health’ was the host to an event by Citizens UK to develop a chapter in Cardiff.
Four activists from Cardiff decided to try and bring some accountability to the organisation on December 5th this month, after experiencing the effect that family detention and deportations have on people known closely.
The reason that Citizens UK is a target, is that despite having a campaign to end child detention in the UK, it has failed to speak out since the opening of the most recent detention centre, CEDARS, which opened last year. CEDARS is controversially partly run by charity Barnardos, for families in the UK, and despite the fact that no open procurement tendering process for the facility, (as required by EU and UK legislation), took place, activists came together over a year ago to try and close CEDARS before it was even open, which was also made harder by public access to the planning application being restricted. Because of the difficult nature of the campaign in 2011 and noticeable absence of more establishment campaign groups backing it, CEDARS opened in August 2011. Since then, the centre has held over 40 families and around 100 children, yet Citizens UK still attempt to claim on its website that all child detention has ended, when UKBA figures themselves contradict this.
Offical figures show that hundreds of children have been detained since 2010, some of them more than once – which breaks the ‘red lines' that Barnardos have set themselves in the running of this detention centre – and in the figures released by UKBA only days before, 47 children have been detained by UKBA in the last 3 months, with more than half of those in existing detention centres, explicitly against one of the campaign demands that Citizens UK had in 2010.
Leaflets with these facts, and a quote from Citizens UK claiming that all child detention has ended, were taken to the event at the Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, and left on every table and in front of most of the attendees. This leaflet also questioned why Citizens UK has not spoken out against CEDARS detention centre and highlighted the campaign that is ongoing against Barnardos for allowing this detention centre to be built due to its complicity in the running of it as an accomplice to notorious security company G4S.
As the charity Medical Justice puts it:
“they ruined the campaign to end the detention of children, which campaigners felt could be achievable as the government had already promised it.”
As the distribution of these leaflets was allowed to take place without incident, despite them being very critical of Citizens UK, campaigners stayed for a while to talk to some participants about their concerns. Some participants even came themselves to talk to the group, and after a brief discussion about the groups aims, we wait to see if Citizens UK might now speak out against future detention, or campaigners might be back to future events to hold them to account for 2010 promises.
Cardiff activists also encourage other groups to take the campaign to Citizens UK in other cities until child detention has finally ended in the UK.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
No-one is illegal!
End all child detention!
 Leaflet below
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!