Protesters blocked immigration detention centres and a coach transporting five asylum seekers for deportation to Rwanda.
Stop Deportations protesters have taken direct action to resist the first deportation flight, which is believed to be flying from London Stansted airport to Kigali, Rwanda this evening after 10.30pm BST.
Protestors locked themselves together with metal pipes and blockaded exits of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centres (“IRC”) at Heathrow, where the remaining people the Home Office intended to put on the flight to Rwanda are being held.
The flight due to depart this evening is the first deportation in Priti Patel’s racist, inhumane, and barbaric Rwanda Asylum Plan, which has received widespread condemnation and criticism from members of the public, campaigners, human rights organisations, the UNHCR, Members of Parliament and the PCS union.
The Rwanda policy has been the subject of multiple legal challenges in the High Court and Court of Appeal in the last few days. Although the courts did not grant an injunction to stop today’s flight, pending a full hearing on the legality of the policy, multiple successful challenges have been made on behalf of individuals. This means the vast majority of people originally intended to be on the flight have been removed. We understand there are five people still at risk of being deported to Rwanda this evening.
Stop Deportations activists said: “This policy is the result of years of portraying migrants as less than human beings; it makes it possible for the Home Office to inflict pain on them and get away with it. We, the public refuse to accept the Home Office’s cruel, inhumane and unlawful plans. As the courts continue to be complicit with the violent border regime, the only way to resist this systematic racial oppression is continuing to show up and take to the streets. We demand that the Rwanda Asylum plan is scrapped and will continue to take to the streets until this demand is met.”
“No one should be on this flight. No one should be deported under such racist and discriminatory policies. It’s clear we cannot trust the courts to give us true justice and prevent this racist, fascist deportation, so that’s why we have taken action. No deportations, not to Rwanda or anywhere else.”
“We cannot rely on the courts or politicians to stop this violent border regime, which is why so many of us are coming together to take direct action against immigration enforcement. We have shown up in our hundreds to stop immigration raids in our communities, in Scotland and in London. We have taken to the streets in mass protest against this Government’s vile immigration laws and policies. We have stopped coaches and planes in their tracks to resist deportations. We will continue to build power and solidarity as Black, Brown and Racialised people are targeted by borders, prisons and police – because we must now organise to counter this fascist Government with love, care and community.”
“I’ve been an anti-war and climate activist for the last four years and this flight represents the very worst of government legislation regarding refugees. People are fleeing war, persecution, drought and famine. With the worsening climate crisis, climate refugees will need a safe place to go to when mass crop failure means people cannot feed their families, which is already happening in Yemen. We must act as if this is the early days of a fascist government willing to dehumanise people for votes, because that’s where we’re at.”
The direct action today comes after numerous solidarity protests being held outside Rwanda House in London, Brook House IRC, St Peter’s Square in Manchester, George Square in Glasgow, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Home Office. All called for a stop to Priti Patel’s cruel Rwanda Asylum Plan. The public sentiment is clear: the Government needs to scrap the Rwanda plan.
On Monday 13th June 2022, the courts heard an appeal for an interim injunction to be placed on all deportation flights to Rwanda until an application for a judicial review could be heard in July which would determine whether the Rwanda Policy is lawful. The disappointing news that the case led by Care4Calais, Detention Action, and the PCS Union, was denied is disconcerting especially as the UNHCR and countless other organisations have highlighted that the Rwanda policy is unlawful. A further legal challenge to the policy brought by Asylum Aid and supported by Freedom for Torture at the high court was also dismissed.
The failure of the courts to stop this flight left Stop Deportations with no choice but to take direct action against this brutal, racist regime, by stopping coaches from leaving Colnbrook IRC.
The Home Office is rushing to deport traumatised and marginalised people, some of whom have not even had prior access to legal assistance due to the many structural barriers to obtaining proper redress – given the difficulties in contacting lawyers from detention, problems in obtaining free legal advice and the complicity of the courts in maintaining borders.
Approximately five asylum seekers from multiple locations including Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Albania are among the first deportation flight to Rwanda (which is 4,000 miles from the UK). Care4Calais has estimated that 70% of those people that the UK is forcibly trying to deport to Rwanda, are potential victims of torture or trafficking. All [seven] of the people that are due to be on the flight have stated that they are worried about their safety and terrified of being forcibly taken to a country they have no connection to and the consequences this will have on the lives of their families.
The Home Office originally intended up to 130 people to be on the flight.
While the Home Office describes Rwanda as a “safe and stable” country, concerns have been raised about the safety of asylum seekers both in the UK and by Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. The UNHCR raised concerns about the discriminatory access to asylum procedures in Rwanda especially for LGBTQIA+ people. Further concerns have also been raised about access to health and other services for those that will be forcefully removed. BMJ have reported that the Rwanda Asylum plan fails to safeguard refugees’ medical care, especially as they will be at a higher risk of death from Malaria.
The Home Office’s approach to asylum seekers has been consistently brutal and inhumane. It threatened those who were on a hunger strike over plans to send them to Rwanda with faster deportations if they refused to eat. Asylum seekers at both Brook House and Colnbrook IRC have been subjected to appalling conditions. Furthermore, there are mounting concerns that children have been wrongly assessed by the Home Office as adults, and they will end up being deported to Rwanda.
These examples epitomise the cruelty and sharp racism of detention centres and the deportation regime. Stop Deportations recognises borders in the UK as a violent extension of Britain’s colonial legacy, which seeks to oppress Black, Brown, and Racialised communities.
Privilege Style is suspected to be operating this first charter flight to Rwanda. Whilst it is unsurprising that such commercial giants will always put profit over people, Stop Deportations joins calls to tell airline workers to refuse to cooperate.
Just after 7pm, the EHCR granted a rule 39 request ruling that the asylum seekers due to be on tonight’s plane must not be deported, on the basis of real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment.
Stop Deportations report that at least nine activists have been arrested at the scene. They are encouraging supporters to join the demonstration at Colnbrook IRC, and to support the detained activists who have been taken to police stations in London.
The chartered plane arrived at MOD Boscombe, where further protests are taking place. The plane was expected to take off at around 9:30pm. After several last-minute legal interventions on behalf of individuals, it is unclear how many people are on board.
At nearly 10pm, Care4Calais reported that there have been two more legal interventions and there is one person left on board.
Just after 10pm, reports confirmed that the plane is now empty and nobody will be deported to Rwanda on the 14th of June.
Image: Stop Deportations Twitter.