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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!
The following article written by one of our group first appeared on Waleshome.org last week, where it has already the 2nd highest number of comments. We reproduce it here in it’s unedited original form.
MIGRATION is one of the most contentious issues of modern times. Add the “im-” prefix and it’s practically a swear word in some circles. If public debate around the issue is ever given any lip service, it generally has a whiff of racism, or more increasingly the stench of fascism about it. The right-wing gutter press have managed to file ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ into the same category as child killers and sex offenders. There is so much that can be said to counter tabloid lies on immigration, it would be easy to fill a whole article with facts refuting them. But these can be easily found elsewhere, here I will sketch a rarely-articulated history of Wales which undercuts the dominant right-wing discourse on migration.
Opponents of immigration often fix upon the notion of an indigenous culture that requires defending from outside influence, a ‘way of life’ that is under attack from foreigners. The ‘shared identity’ of the nation-state is appealed to, promoting the idea that the interests of all indigenous people are separate to those of ‘foreigners’. This imagined community of a country is a construct, even in a small nation like Wales most people never know, meet, or even hear of most of their fellow countrymen. Any concept of national identity is not innate and unchanging, but fragile, contested, and constructed over time. The hegemonic concept of national identity serves as Read the rest of this entry »
While the image of Britain as a tolerant country that welcomed migrants is a debatable one, if you read the right-wing press you might be forgiven for thinking that any welcome that did exist had disappeared altogether, and in terms of its migration regime it most definitely has. Despite increasingly draconian laws however, there are still many people who believe that somehow the UK Border regime is too tolerant and needs to ‘toughen up’. Take Paul Goddard over on The Lone Voice blog, who recently commented on Babi Badalov‘s deportation:
“it is rather satisfying to see that the Immigration Agency actually do throw people out when they find their cases wanting.”
We are sad to say that the UK Border Agency (do try to keep up Paul!) carry out around 180 deportations every day – that’s a person every 8 minutes – with these often being to countries which the government knows are unsafe. Some contributors to “a lone voice” seem fully aware of the dangers people are deported into, commenting:
“Lets hope he gets killed asap back in his homeland.”
and from another
“If Babi faces execution … will the video be available on You Tube?”
It’s quite common for advocates of “stronger borders” to be revealed as nothing more than racial supremacists. MigrationWatch, for example, possibly the foremost anti-immigration organisation in the UK was founded and is still partly run by Professor David Coleman, a long-term member and sometime office-holder of the Eugenics Society and its successor the Galton Institute (sneaky name change due to the highly discredited theory being widely recognised for the racist nonsense that it is!). Amongst other things he thinks Ethiopians should have fewer babies, and Europeans more. In a similar way MigrationWatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green, has publicly stated that
“We have no problem with immigration from Poland, which is valuable to all sides.”
but has great concerns about people from
“the distant cultures of Asia and Africa”
To these “balanced migration” advocates, Europeans = good, Asians and Africans = bad. Whitey is welcome, darkie has got to keep out. These outspoken voices often bemoan being labelled as racist for their views, claiming to represent mainstream opinion, or the ‘silent majority’.
Our experiences as No Borders activists paints a very different picture. Even though we hold what those in government, sundry influential right-wing nuts, and their apologists in the tabloid press might consider an ‘extreme position’ on borders and migration, we have found our views usually go down pretty well with the people we meet.
We do a lot of campaigning ‘on the street’, putting our message out there and making the case for the abolition of borders and in favour of individual migrants’ campaigns to stay. And far from continually meeting with abuse from knuckle-dragging racists we’ve found that once we make our case, and explain the human stories which lie behind the faceless (and dubious) statistics trotted out by the likes of Migrationwatch, people are usually quite quick to express support for what we do.
For too long now we have allowed popular discussion of migration issues to be dominated by the unthinking right and their allies on both sides of the mainstream political spectrum: a big part of our job now has to be to get out there and put our ideas in the public domain. We have to speak to our friends, our neighbours, and those in our communities; we need to produce our own media and sometimes engage with the corporate press. If our experiences since setting up this No Borders group are anything to go by, we’ll find more support amongst the general public than the shrill and callous ranting of a lone voice might suggest.
On Thursday, No Borders Manchester activists attended an event at Manchester University where the recently appointed Minister for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas was speaking. They first asked him for his passport, presented him with the very 1st ‘No Borders eco-nationalist award’, and then proceeded to chuck a cream pie in his face!
Since becoming Border and Immigration Minister, despite remarking that;
“when immigrants get here I think we’re cruel to them as a society” and “the asylum processes has caused untold human misery and division within our communities.”
Phil has come out with some incredibly draconian and reactionary comments;
“I think [the immigration system] has been too lenient and I want to make it harder”
“We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It’s not. It’s easy. “
“We have to have a population policy and that means at some point we will be able to set a limit on migration. This Government isn’t going to allow the population of this country to go up to 70 million.”
We’re not sure if the last quote, pandering to the overpopulation myth means Phil wants to put a limit on the number of births in the UK (perhaps with a Chinese style ‘One Child policy’), but it is hard to see how else the government is going to be able to fully control the size of the population.
You could leave your family, friends, home. Risk your life in search of a better one. You could survive, unlike the 1000s that die crossing oceans & borders around the world every year. You could enter the UK.
You could be imprisoned in one of its 12 privately run detention centres, where you could be subject to physical, mental, & racist abuse.
You could be deported back ‘home’ where you could face war, torture, rape, repression, imprisonment – all of which you could have been fleeing in the first place.
You could be working in degrading conditions on the black market – cleaning, prostitution, Read the rest of this entry »