People have taken to the streets in numbers to protest the Tories’ racist plans to deport asylum speakers to Rwanda. rs21 members report on a week of mobilisations in London against the deportations.
Around 1,500 people turned out for yesterday’s (June 13) demonstration, following another demonstration the previous Sunday at Brook House detention centre near Gatwick Airport, to show solidarity and make contact with migrants detained in the centre who are due to be deported to Rwanda.
The demonstration, called by the Solidarity Knows No Borders network, brought together antiracist and migrant solidarity initiatives including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM), Global Women’s Strike, All-African Women’s Group, Care4Calais, Migrants Organise, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), Channel Rescue, Stand Up to Racism, Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), Freedom From Torture, Anti-Raids Network and others.
The aim was to fight the brutal and illegal plans to thrust Britain’s repressive immigration politics on the central African nation by deporting migrants there as a ‘deterrent’. The move is both an absolute dehumanisation of those subject to such deportation, as well as a logistically absurd plan, described by one speaker as ‘red meat’ to distract from the Tory government’s rapidly evaporating legitimacy.
The demo itself began at 5:30pm at Marsham Street, London outside the Home Office, with a strong showing even before the official starting time.
The demo was tightly policed with a looming threat of repression – there were ten police vans parked opposite Parliament, and riot police deployed on the other side of the road. However, while the police initially attempted to keep the road open for traffic, the numbers quickly meant that they were forced to close it.
On Monday evening the Court of Appeal upheld earlier an High Court decision and did not grant an injunction stopping the flight. The appeal was brought forward by a coalition of PCS union and two refugee charities. A separate Asylum Aid injunction to halt the flights was also thrown out by the High Court, but the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) won their individual challenge.
As of 8am Tuesday morning, eight people were still confirmed for the Stansted-Kigali flight (scheduled today for 9:30pm), down from 130. There is still a chance the Privilege Style plane may not take off today, although as of 4pm all of the court challenges brought by four of those due to be deported had been refused.
Speakers at the Home Office demonstration connected the issue to ongoing antiracist struggles in the country right now, as well as a pervasive mood of repression, government corruption and economic pressure, giving the feel of a growing resistance not just to this or that single issue, but state racism and the violence of capital as a whole.
The speaker from the Global Women’s Strike pointed out that the Tories were in lockstep with other racist regimes around the world like India and Israel, and condemned the Labour Party shamefully whipping its peers to abstain on the Nationality and Borders Bill. (One of the biggest cheers came for calling Keir Starmer a ‘scab’.)
A PCS and BARAC speaker spoke up for PCS members planning to take action against the Rwanda plan with the message that civil servants are answerable to ‘the people, not the government’.
The IWGB Couriers speaker recounted the recent street battle in Dalston, where police and immigration officers tried to detain organised couriers who are in dispute with Hackney Council harassment and access to safe parking spaces. Hundreds of local residents gathered within an hour or two and resisted the police. He ended saying, ‘the state is a farce, the police is a farce, we have the power, we will fight and we will win.’
LGSM speaker Amardeep Singh Dillon highlighted a similar event recently in Peckham where local people spontaneously resisted and defeated an immigration raid. They gave harrowing details of protesters being brutally assaulted, with a man suffering a hip dislocation and a woman being beaten up by police (who were wearing Pride badges!)
The overall mood of the demonstration was angry and defiant, and one of the recurring chants was: “We will win!”. There seemed to be a commitment to going beyond the tactic of the demo, mobilizing the militancy necessary to combat pervasive state racism, as the speaker from the Anti-Raid network put it: ‘Not just saying no, but doing no’.
MODEL MOTION FOR TRADE UNION BRANCHES – to adapt as appropriate for your union branch
Statement of solidarity with workers resisting Rwanda deportations
(Union branch name) opposes the Home Secretary’s racist proposal to banish people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda. We consider the plan to be a threat to the lives of refugees, and a tabloid-pleasing stunt to salvage the reputation of a discredited, incompetent and corrupt Conservative Government, rather than a serious attempt either to protect vulnerable refugees from people traffickers or to safeguard the British asylum system from alleged abuse.
We further note the comments of Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, that the scheme represents a threat to the safety and dignity both of those attempting to seek asylum in the UK, and of those Home Office workers charged with the responsibility of attempting to implement this inhumane and abusive proposal.
We resolve to support those workers – within the Home Office, the aviation industry or elsewhere- seeking to resist employers’ efforts to make them complicit in this scheme, to support the legal challenge to the scheme jointly brought against the Home Secretary by Detention Action, Care 4 Calais and the PCS, and to make a financial contribution of ____ towards the legal costs incurred in that challenge.
We also resolve to send this motion (appropriately amended if necessary) up through the union’s structures, to local trades council(s), and to Labour Party branches we are affiliated to.