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This week there has been a rebellion in the majority of the UK’s migration prisons.
The wave of strikes initially broke out in Harmondsworth IRC in London – the largest of what are increasingly becoming concentration camps, with people held because of their ethnicity and many sent to their death. There have been strikes in at least 8 of the UK’s detention estate. The people on hunger strike are protesting the terrible conditions they must endure in such facilities, with many of them detained for years without trail, having never committed crimes. Seeking asylum is not a crime.
“They can’t send us back. Some people have very bad situations in their countries. So they have to do something with us. That is what we are trying to do.
The home office doesn’t talk with us. Only the officers in here are trying to scare us.”
“The block is a cell with nothing inside no window no nothing and your there on your own. If a dog was in there, I would feel sorry for it. You can only speak to the wall. Nothing in there.”
#END DETENTION! STOP DEPORTATIONS!
NO BORDERS! – FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL – NOT JUST THE RICH AND PRIVILEDGED!
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!
Along with other groups who have been calling for the end of detention for children through two campaigns “Outcry! – End Child Detention” and “End Child Detention Now” No Borders South Wales also feels it is long overdue to put an end to such a practice.
The damaging effects on physical and mental health were clearly outlined and backed by evidence from studies as detailed in the joint statement “Significant Harm” by the British Paediatric Mental Health Group (2009).
But although children are particularly vulnerable when detained, it must not be overlooked that all people detained are experiencing the same horrific conditions whatever their age.
The UK is unique in Europe for Read the rest of this entry »
Mashal Jabari has been released, the emergency campaign spearheaded by the Welsh Refugee Council has managed to release a 14-year-old Afghan orphan from detention.
Staff at the Cardiff office of the UK Border Agency had insisted that he was 18 and held him in adult detention ahead of deportation next week. He was released from Campsfield House IRC early yesterday evening following a Judicial Review where the Judge ruled that at present – until another full age assessment is completed – Mashal is to be considered 14 years of age and placed with Read the rest of this entry »
The Welsh Refugee Council is calling on the UK Border Agency to release Mashal Jabari, 14 years of age, from Campsfield detention prison, and to suspend removal directions until a full assessment of his age can be made. It is very unusual for the Welsh Refugee Council to comment on individual cases, which adds extra urgency to the compelling compassionate grounds for why this boy should be allowed to remain.
Zaki Jabar, aged 15, arrived in the UK alone and extremely traumatised in November 2008. He came from Afghanistan and when he left his father was missing presumed dead and his mother was sick. His family had been attacked after his father had given assistance to the American forces, and Zaki had seen his sister killed. He was placed in foster care in Leicester by Rutland Social Services and given Refugee Status. He is currently sitting his GCSEs. He was anxious to trace his younger brother Mashal.
Mashal Jabari arrived in the UK in October last year, and claimed asylum on arrival. By then he knew that both his parents were dead. He was assessed as being over 18 even though he said he was 14. He was sent to Cardiff where he was Read the rest of this entry »
At midday this Wednesday 27th May, we will be holding a picket outside the UK Borders Agency at 31-33 Newport Road, Cardiff (map) to protest against the systematic de-humanisation of migrants in the UK via enforced destitution, detention and deportation. The picket will also be in solidarity with the repressed migrants in Calais, looking toward the Calais No Border Camp in a month’s time. The demonstration will be from 12noon until 1pm, so come and join us, we will have a selection of banners and placards, but feel free to bring your own too!
The situation for migrants in Calais is nothing short of a major humanitarian crisis, which has been created by Read the rest of this entry »
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 the 16th – 17th April the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has called a demonstration outside the UN office in Geneva against policies that victimise Iraqi asylum seekers in Europe.
We will be holding a demonstration in solidarity with the IFIR outside the UK Border Agency, 31-33 Newport Road, Cardiff on Friday 17th April at 1pm. We call on all opponents of the illegal invasion of Iraq to join us. Showing solidarity Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday at midday, a group of 15 people picketed the Cardiff branch of the UK Border Agency, protesting against the dehumanising migration controls enacted by the government. The offices on Newport Road are housed within a non-descript building and one of the aims of the picket is to highlight what goes on here. This includes the fact that this is where asylum applicants are required to sign on a regular basis, risking being grabbed and detained in the process, and is also from where ‘snatch squads’ of immigration officers leave from to conduct dawn raids on unsuspecting families to take them into detention prior to forced deportation.
Unusually for one of our regular pickets, there was Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday No Borders activists from South Wales joined around 200 people from across the country in Bedford for a march on Yarl’s wood immigration prison to call for an end to the detention of migrants. This particular facility has the capacity to hold 405 people, and specialises in locking up children. The march coincided with other protests against immigration detention centres in Manchester and Edinburgh.
Gathering in the busy town centre, participants gave out leaflets inviting people to join the march and held placards and banners aloft. After listening to a compelling speaker or two, and becoming annoyed by the personally intrusive Read the rest of this entry »
- In Bedfordshire, outside Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre, gather 11.30am at Bedford Town Centre.
- In Manchester, outside Pennine House, the detention centre near the office of Border and Immigration minister Phil Woolas, who was detained on friday evening. The extreme views of Mr Woolas have resulted in his receiving a pie in the face on an earlier occasion
- In Edinburgh, outside the offices of Group 4 Securicor (G4S), one of the largest private companies involved in the border prison industrial complex, running five immigration prisons in the UK and many more around the world at a considerable profit.
There are 13 immigration prisons in the UK and every year up to 30,000 innocent people including 2000 children are detained without committing any crime. The government wants to increase detention by 60% and have Read the rest of this entry »