Stop Deportation | 30.06.2009 13:30 | Migration
Campaigners from the Stop Deportation Network have staged a sit-in outside the centre's gates, preventing coaches carrying families due to be forcibly deported on a specially charted flight today from leaving.
Earlier this morning, another group of protesters staged a short demonstration outside WH Tours offices in Crowley, near Gatwick, before being removed by police. WH Tours is a private coach company contracted to carry deportees from detention centres to the airport.
One of the families to be deported have been on hunger strike inside Yarl's Wood for the past two weeks in protest at their 'inhumane' conditions and treatment. Another family, Juliet and Steve Umoro and their two children, were granted a last-minute injunction as the children are suffering from malaria. Steve is in the process of lodging a civil claim against Serco, which manages Yarl's Wood, for having his tooth smashed and rips damaged by security guards who assaulted him on 17th June as they tried to break up the hunger strike.
Many of today's deportees are victims of torture, rape and female genital mutilation. However, as one of the 'white list' countries set out in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, Nigerian asylum applications are almost automatically dismissed by the Home Office regardless of the merits and evidence supporting individual claims. Cases certified as 'manifestly unfounded' under the Fast Track system are often not examined properly and claimants do not have the right to in-country appeal against the Home Office decision. With charter flights, claimants do not even have time or adequate legal representation to seek a judicial review.
One of the deportees, known as Sandra, said:
"We are so scared about going back. My children are not sleeping and eating because they are so worried. I don't see why we can't live here. My daughter was born here; all our friends are here. We have been treated so baldly -locked up with no proper health care and without our cases being considered properly- and now we are being forcibly deported and don't know what's awaiting us."
One of protesters, who preferred to keep anonymous, said:
"We will stay here for as long as we can if it stops people being deported. Mass deportation flights such as this one are fast becoming the government's favoured way to deport those who have fallen foul of its macabre immigration controls. Every deportation is a violation of people's right to freedom of movement but these charter flights are a particularly sordid way to do that."
A public demonstration at the Home Office headquarters in central London is planned this afternoon. A similar protest is also planned in Dublin by Resident Against Racism.
Notes for editors:
1. Stop Deportation is a loose network of groups and individuals who campaign and take action against deportation, with a particular focus on mass deportation flights. Details of the network, plus a briefing on mass deportation flights, can be found at http://stopdeportation.net.
2. Details of previous Stop Deportation blockades (Tinsley and Colnbrook) against mass deportation flight to Iraqi Kurdistan can be found at http://stopdeportation.net/node/6. Pictures and videos of the actions can be found at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/03/424608.html and http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/05/430420.html.
3. Details of the Yarl's Wood hunger strike can be found at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/06/432625.html.
4. As the government seeks to increase the number and frequency of deportations, it has started to increasingly use specially chartered flights to deport as many as 80 people at a time. In 2008 alone, there were 66 such flights, deporting a total of 1,529 people.
5. Deportation charter flights limit refugees' access to due legal process. The UK Border Agency's Enforcement Instructions and Guidance states that: "charter flights may be subject to different arrangements where it is considered appropriate because of the complexities, practicalities and costs of arranging an operation." Charter flight deportees are told that "removal will not necessarily be deferred in the event that a Judicial Review is lodged." The emphasis is on filling the flight
rather than ensuring the appropriate legal avenues have been exhausted.
6. According to Section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, a "manifestly unfounded" asylum claim is defined as "a claim which is so clearly without substance that it is bound to fail." It is possible, according to the Home Office immigration rules, for a claim "to be manifestly unfounded even if it takes more than a cursory look at the evidence to come to the view that there is nothing of substance in it." The 'manifestly unfounded' certification process is applied automatically to all asylum and human rights claimants that are entitled to reside in the countries listed in Section 94(4) (‘white list’), unless the Home Secretary is "satisfied that a claim is not manifestly unfounded." As of April 2009, the list includes Albania, Mauritius, Ghana (men only), Bolivia, Moldova, Gambia (men only), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mongolia, Kenya (men only), Brazil, Montenegro, Liberia (men only), Ecuador, Peru, Malawi (men only), India, Serbia inc. Kosovo, Mali (men only), Jamaica, South Africa, Nigeria (men only), Macedonia, Ukraine and Sierra Leone (men only).
7. In its 2009 World Report, Human Rights Watch maintained that Nigerian state security forces "continued to commit extrajudicial killings, torture, and extortion. Intercommunal and political violence, often fomented by powerful politicians, claimed hundreds of lives." The report can be found at http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79250.
The coaches left immediately after. People on the coaches have been told the flight has been delayed to 8 tonight, giving more time for high court injunctions to come through in time.