imc-uk-features | 18.04.2007 11:49 | Migration
Thursday, 12th April, saw a national day of action to protest against deportations to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nine coordinated protests took place in Birmingham [video], Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, London [audio|video], Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham. The protests, called by the Congo Support Project and supported by many other groups, including NCADC and No Borders, were to mark a Directions Hearing for the Country Guidance Tribunal regarding DRC asylum seekers facing mass deportation.
Earlier this year, in a Home Office operation named Castor, 38 DR Congolese nationals, including 21 children, were forcibly removed on a charter flight, operated by XL Airways, from Stanstead airport near London. There are signs that another 'operation' is already being planned.
taking the street
In Birmingham, over 200 people protested at the immigration reporting centre in Solihull. The peaceful protest was marred by a large police presence and was penned, twice, into Sandford House's car park. Protesters, however, broke off after a while and blockaded the road for about 2 hours. Two people were arrested, one also assaulted by an aggressive cop. They were released later on but only because their fellow protesters, in an empowering show of solidarity, refused to leave the site before they were released. [Report | Photo report | Report & photos | Video]
In London, about 30 protesters gathered outside the Home Office on Marsham Street. The protest was relatively small, but the police presence was big (the ratio between police and protesters was two to one). Yet, the demonstration was lively, loud and there were some damn colourful shirts on display. Protesters sang and chanted for the entire two hours, and seemed ready for more noise as they left, when their permission to protest had expired and the police moved in to usher people on. [Report | Audio | Video]
In Nottingham, a demo organised by the local Congolese community with support from No Borders Nottingham and the Nottingham Refugee Campaign Group, attracted some 50 supporters, mostly Congolese. Protesters assembled in the Market Square where they remained for around an hour, before marching off to the Magistrates Court where they maintained a noisy presence. [Report and pics | Notts feature on DRC deportations]
Unfortunately, no reports on the other protests have (yet) been published.
No Deportation to DRC!
Since the DR Congo elections last year, described by most Western media as "democratic", more than 150 people have been gunned down by the security services in Bas-Congo for peacefully protesting against the election results. Hundreds more have been killed in Kinshasa in violent clashes between president Joseph Kabila's guards and forces loyal to his contender in the presidential elections, Jean-Pierre Bemba. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by conflict in the eastern part of the country. Massacres, extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture and rape are endemic, while thousands continue to die each week as a result of starvation and disease.
Since 1998, the country has suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the African World War), the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, thanks to Western governments and corporations racing for the country's rich resources and supplying the fighting parties with deadly weapons. More than 3 million people have died since and, according to the United Nations, some 1000 people still die every day as a result of the conflict.
The Foreign Office is advising British nationals "not to travel at all" to eastern and north-eastern DRC and against "all but essential travel" to the rest of the country, as it is deemed "too unstable". Yet, the Home Office continues to 'remove' Congolese asylum seekers, including children born here to Congolese parents, to a place where they risk losing their lives.