No Border campaigners to protest in Croydon today
21 September, 2007
Campaigners from the Gatwick Area No Border Camp will today gather in Croydon from 10am to 2pm to protest against the mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers at the hands of the UK immigration authorities. They will be joined by other protesters from London, Brighton and elsewhere at Lunar House in East Croydon, which houses the headquarters of the Border and Immigration Agency and its principal asylum screening unit, where people first go to make an asylum application.
Protesters will be armed with a lot leaflets, some of which will be directed at the victims, others at the public and some at the people working in Lunar House and the nearby immigration reporting centre, Electric House.
The 4-day camp, which started yesterday with a public meet-and-greet in Crawley, is part of a campaign against a new immigration detention centre that is being built at Gatwick Airport as well as other immigration prisons and controls throughout the country.
A spokesman from No Borders UK, the network organising the protest camp, said: "We will gather outside Lunar House and Electric House to raise awareness about the injustices that this immigration system represents; inform asylum seekers about their rights and show them solidarity and support in their struggles against an inhumane system that is destroying their lives everyday."
The afternoon will see a second set of workshops covering such topics as migrants' struggles (London Tube cleaners, the sans-papiers movement in France etc.); monitoring immigration services; anti-deportation campaigns; the new racism and fascism; and the border regime of Fortress Europe.
For further information, please contact:
The Gatwick Area No Border Camp press group
Tell: 078 0750 3282
Notes for editors:
1. The Gatwick Area No Border Camp is taking place between 20 and 23 September, 2007, near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, to try and stop a new detention centre that is being built at Gatwick Airport, with planned demonstrations in Crawley, Croydon and Gatwick. The protest camp, the first of its kind in the UK, is also be an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, with numerous workshops, plenaries and others activities. For further details, see www.noborders.org.uk.
2. Lunar House in Croydon houses the the headquarters of the Border and Immigration Agency and its principal asylum screening unit, where people go to make an asylum application. The massive twenty-storey office block has become synonymous with the BIA and is perceived by the British public as the front line of Britain's immigration service.
Many asylum applicants are detained there "in order to speed up the processing of their asylum claims." People are selected in accordance with certain criteria, including designated nationalities and, in many cases, they have no in-country right of appeal. This means they can be removed as soon as the asylum claim is refused.
The holding facility at Lunar House is used almost exclusively for the detention of asylum seekers, male and female, rather than other applicants attending Lunar House's public enquiry office. Most detainees are sent from Lunar House to one of the fast-track processing centres: Oakington, the so-called Immigration Reception Centre where asylum applicants are subjected to the new fast-track process; Harmondsworth's fast-track unit for single males; or Yarl’s Wood's fast-track unit for single females. The smaller of the two 'holding rooms' in use at Lunar House, originally intended for families, is now occupied by adults. Lunar House also has a third 'secure unit', which is separate from the holding rooms and close to the escort vehicle access door. It is basically a single-occupancy cell containing only a platform bed and a toilet, as well as a call bell and a surveillance camera.
The 'holding facility' is run by G4S?, with a minimum of two detainee custody officers on duty between 10am and 7pm five days a week, but more staff could be called and the holding room could be in use seven days a week. The average occupancy is between 6 and 7 detainees, of which almost a third are women. The highest occupancy rate in 2006 was 13, which was the capacity of the Oakington escort vehicle. The average duration of detention at Lunar House is allegedly just under two and a half hours but many people are known to have been held for much longer. Also, many people would have been queuing and sitting in the asylum screening unit within the building for a lot longer before being brought here.
3. Electric House is Croydon's regional reporting centre, where people subject to immigration controls report at given intervals (mostly weekly nowadays). When their applications have been refused, they can be detained for removal when reporting to the centre. People detained elsewhere in the region, including families 'snatched' from their homes in dawn raids, could also be brought to Electric House by the 'snatch squads', which are based at Electric House too. All detainees (men, women and children) are held in a single holding room. The average time detainees spent at Lunar House is around four hours, but some have spent 10 hours or longer waiting to be transferred elsewhere.