Over 100 people held a lively protest in Crawley, West Sussex, on 21 April, 2007, against a new planned detention centre nearby. The protest, called by the No Borders network in the UK, aimed to show opposition to the new purpose-built Immigration Removal Centre (as it's called by the government) which is being built at Gatwick Airport. The new prison for asylum seekers will have a capacity of 420 places for male and female detainees and is another step in the Labour government's efforts to meets its target of 4,000 places in detention centres throughout the country.
The demonstration, which was mainly made of two large groups from Brighton and London, marched through Crawley town centre in the high of Saturday's shopping spree. Many leaflets were given out, informing locals about the reasons for the demonstration, whilst pointing out the fact that a new concentration camp for innocent people is about to be built on their doorsteps. Policing was relatively low but the level of surveillance and 'information gathering' was incredibly high and intimidating.
12:30pm - Some 70 protesters, mostly from Brighton, are already there, in the Jubilee Field in Three Bridges near Crawley. Three police vans and two cars could be seen, with around 15 cops and 3 surveillance cameras. But no sign (yet) of a pen, although Stuart McDonald, a well-known cop from Brighton who specialises in rounding people up and trying to extract information out of them, is there. The London coach is stuck in a big traffic jam and hasn't arrived yet. More people are expected to come from Leeds and elsewhere.
13:10pm - The London coach arrived at about 12:45 with some 30 people, including Sambaistas from the Rhythyms of Resistance samba band. The two groups met up in the Jubilee Fields and have begun marching towards Crawley. Reports suggest there are some 100 protestors and 8-10 cops. Slogans spotted on banners include "Stop this racist prison", "Free all immigrants", "Abolish false divides" and the like.
13:30pm - People are marching in Crawley town centre, with lots of attention from shoppers, some appeared "mystified". People are chanting "Close all racist prisons" and "No borders, no nations, stop deportations". Protesters have taken one side of a dual carriageway but police have closed the other side too.
13:40pm - Apparently more cops were waiting for protesters in Crawley. They are busy gathering information, taking loads of photos and video.
14:15pm - The march has stopped in a park in front of Crawley shopping centre, with more than 100 protesters. Samba rhythms of resistance and speeches, and lots of shoppers listening. Protesters had taken the road successfully and were unhindered by cops. They just 'walked them' with two vans following behind. Protesters were not 'kettled' and were able to determine the route of the march.
14:30pm - The protest is over now and people are trying to find where police had moved their coaches to. Protesters had decided not to march to Gatwick and the new detention centre's site in the middle of nowhere.
A new purpose-built Immigration Removal Centre is planned at Gatwick Airport as part of the government's five-year strategy for asylum and immigration. The centre will be developed in partnership with BAA Lynton.
BAA Lynton, on behalf of the Airport Property Partnership, will shortly commence the process of obtaining planning consent to develop the new site, which is located within the boundary of Gatwick Airport. The Government has already seen the 'benefits' of locating removal centres close to airports, with operations at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, and at the existing centre at Gatwick, Tinsley House. The latter was also developed by BAA Lynton in a similar way to the new centre being planned.
The new centre, which is due to open in 2008, will have around 420 places for male and female detainees.
There are 10 immigration detention centres in the UK. 7 are run by private companies contracted by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), while 3 are run by the Prison Service.
As of January 2005, these prisons have a total capacity of 2,644. However, the Labour government, which inherited 700 places when it took office in 1997, aims for a total of 4,000 places.
In addition, there are many so-called Short-term Holding Facilities at many ports and airports throughout the country as well as at a number of immigration reporting centres.