No Borders, no nations, no deportations

Terry Conway urges activists to unite in mass action and solidarity to protect asylum seekers fleeing the destruction of capitalism, in the face of the British government's escalating cruelty towards them.

 

In a major show of May Day solidarity, several hundred protestors in Peckham, South London, managed to block the removal of a coach load of asylum seekers to the prison barge, the Bibby Stockholm. The barge, where an Albanian man killed himself last December and which is also thought to be warehousing torture victims, is expected to be a staging post for Rwanda, despite the fact that it is understood flights are not yet ready to try.

The raid came less than a week after the Tory’s notorious Rwanda Act finally received royal assent on April 25 after the House of Lords attempts to water down the bill finally ran out of steam. Perhaps more tellingly, it came the day before many local and mayoral elections in England (there were no elections in Scotland on May 2, and in Wales only elections for Police and Crime Commissioners). Rishi Sunak was determined to try and stem the tide of support bleeding away from his chronically failing government by focusing minds on his determined anti-immigration stance.

On Sunday, April 27, the government announced the Home Office would launch ‘a major operation to detain asylum seekers across the UK in preparation for their deportation to Rwanda’, some weeks before they were expected to act. While immigration raids have been a standard part of the British States’ ‘hostile environment’ long before the Rwanda legislation was agreed, there was no doubt that this was an escalation and one happening with the electoral timetable in mind. Campaigners also received information that some asylum seekers were receiving notices mentioning possible removal to Rwanda.

“While immigration raids have been a standard part of the British States’ ‘hostile environment’ long before the Rwanda legislation was agreed, there was no doubt that this was an escalation and one happening with the electoral timetable in mind.”

Activists responded quickly through existing networks, mainly built in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against the repressive Police Bill. Stalls were organised near immigration reporting centres to reach as many asylum seekers as possible and inform them, in a variety of languages, that despite recent legal changes, they do still have some rights. At the same time, messages went out widely on social media, alerting a wider network of people that they might be called on at short notice to block a removal.

For seven hours, protestors blockaded the road outside the hotel where the asylum seekers are currently housed, with calls for additional bodies going out throughout the day. At 3 p.m., the coach finally left—empty. 45 activists were arrested.

But while May Day was a victory for international solidarity, on Friday, May 3, at least two other raids took place in different parts of London—in Hounslow and in Croydon. At the former, the coach was delayed for some time by activists, but they weren’t able to prevent people from being taken away in the end. I’m not sure what happened in Croydon; I’ve not been able to find any more information after the initial call-out. Further, there was a successful raid at 200 Brand Street, Immigration Centre, Glasgow, as a result of which a mother and her three children were forcibly removed and apparently transported to Bradford in a taxi.

Meanwhile, campaigners in Portland, Dorset, where the Bibby Stockholm is moored, are also keeping a close eye on what’s going on and reporting many new arrivals. They mainly focus on providing practical support to people who arrive with few possessions, particularly clothes and phones. The latter are particularly essential, and you can make a contribution for refugees throughout Britain here.

This powerful article from Zrinka Bralo, who came as a refugee from Sarajevo to Britain in 1993, reminds us of the desperate cruelty the British state has been meting out to migrants over decades, though the suggestion that this started under Theresa May ignores the role of previous Labour administrations in imposing immigration controls. But I love her use of the slogan ‘be realistic, demand the impossible’.

“But I love her use of the slogan ‘be realistic, demand the impossible’.”

Since May 3, the social media networks I have access to—mainly on X and Instagram—have been quiet, with no further call-outs for anti-raid support. But the quiet is unlikely to last for long, so I would urge readers to try and link up with activists in their areas.

It’s also worth noting that far right campaigners, including Tommy Robinson, are all over social media demonising both anti-raids campaigners and the people to whom they were seeking to offer sanctuary. As we stand in solidarity with migrants, we need to be aware that racism is a key mobilising tool for these reactionary forces, and this could lead to physical confrontations not only with the police but with their thugs too.

“As we stand in solidarity with migrants, we need to be aware that racism is a key mobilising tool for these reactionary forces, and this could lead to physical confrontations not only with the police but with their thugs too.”

Mass action on the streets is a key part of what solidarity looks like, as those fleeing the destruction capitalism has wrought on their homes are subject to yet further inhuman treatment.

See https://www.migrantsorganise.org/we-keep-each-other-safe-rwanda-resources-and-actions/?s=08) for a useful bundle of materials for both migrants and campaigners.

Main Image >> Michael Chessum


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