Protesters marched up to the detention centre near Gatwick Airport where refugees who are due to be deported are being held and chanted together to stop the Tories' racist deportation plan, reports Ellen Graubart
What an amazing and uplifting moment it was when the asylum seekers responded to our chants of "NO RWANDA, NO RWANDA"! We could clearly hear them echoing our chants!
This was the scene soon after a crowd of 500+ deeply concerned people gathered on Sunday on the perimeter of Gatwick airport, and then marched on to Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. Brook House is a privately-run detention centre with a notoriously cruel history, previously run by G4S and currently managed by in Serco, in which the Home Office houses asylum seekers awaiting deportation are housed. It is conveniently placed, adjacent to the airport from which the Home Office has scheduled the first flight to send asylum seekers - by force - to Rwanda. The Home Office has stated that the detainees will be processed in that country for decisions regarding eligibility to claim asylum in the UK: a nonsensical and expensive way to deal with the problem, also ensuring that the detainees will be permanently stranded in an unsafe and alien country.
The demonstrators had come at very short notice to express their anger and disgust at the UK Home Office’s decision to permanently deport around 100 asylum seekers to Rwanda on the following Tuesday June 14, a country where none of them have ever lived or had any connection to, and to a country with an appalling human rights record. The Home Office is in effect bribing Rwanda to off-load a problem caused by its own inability or refusal to face a problem which has been caused to a large extent by wars in which the UK has overtly or covertly participated in, not to mention the effects of climate change, which has largely been driven by fossil fuel burning in the most developed countries.
This audacious, blatantly racist plan is apparently intended to discourage asylum seekers – who are overwhelmingly black or brown fleeing from war-torn countries (often wars that the UK has played a leading role in), where starvation and other kinds of deprivation are rife from – even attempting to cross the English Channel, and thereby stop the people smuggling trade. As long as the Home Office will only allow people to seek asylum once they are in the UK, and will not allow them to enter legally to apply for asylum, desperate people have no choice but to turn to people smugglers, and will go on risking their lives, no matter what, to survive at all.
They have already faced horrors which we in our safe lives find hard to imagine, and which the Tory government fully knows about and obviously care nothing about. The story is completely different for the white victims of war fleeing the Ukraine, who have had every possible bit of help from the UK government to have them speedily ushered to safety here in the UK. Consider also the fate of thousands of Afghan people who have been abandoned to a horrific fate after the collapse of the Afghan government after decades of UK and western intervention and wars.
At the time of writing, seven people are estimated to be on the flight which is due to depart today. Unfortunately, an attempt to block the flight at the Court of Appeal on monday was dismissed. Despite the court's decision, there are many questions about the legality of these deportations which the UNHCR is extremely concerned about, although Home Secretary Priti Patel erroneously and in a cavalier manner assures the court that the UNHCR concurs with her view.
Although the demonstration ended with the knowledge that a message of solidarity and compassion was heard and welcomed by these victims of racism and geo-politics, the fight to end this barbarous policy put in place by a cruel, inhumane government is a fight that we have no choice but to win.
Ellen Graubart was born in India of American parents and came to London from Virginia as a teenager to study art. She lives and works as an artist in Hackney. She is a member of Counterfire, Stop the War and Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
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