Campaigning against deportation – an inside story

What on earth made anyone come up with the concept of ‘illegal human beings’? It should be illegal to have such a concept about people.

A month ago my partner and I were taken to a detention centre because the Home Office refused the asylum application we had been pursuing since our arrival in this country four years ago. During this time we have been given accommodation in north London and, because we are not allowed to work, we have been at college, firstly to learn English, and now my partner is a year away from her media diploma and I am about to finish a higher national diploma in fine art. Every week, while trying to lead a normal life, we have been signing on at Communications House at Old Street, where there is a constant danger of being taken prisoner and being deported against our will.

We left our country because of dangers resulting from our political activities and if it wasn’t for this, we would be living where we were born. We left out of a necessity for peace and the fear of suffering persecution. But we came up against the political agenda of the British government, which is to attack the constitutional rights of migrants, despite the existence of international human rights legislation.

At the detention centre we saw children and pregnant women. The psychological situation of these families is extremely traumatic. There are playgrounds and even a library but the walls of the detention centre are identical to the walls of a prison. There is a horrible irony in this picture with room walls painted with multicolour smiles and blue skies in the foreground, while on the horizon you can see police, wire, and the gigantic walls outside.

Many people have been taken to airports by the authorities, who, for example, tried to split up a family of four, who we met. Many of them have come back to the detention centre after their commercial flights were cancelled because people refused to travel with a person who was shouting and telling everyone how his family had been split up without his consent. They showed us the scars of their battles with the migration agents and told us about police brutality – about being hit and kicked on the floor in front of their children. An Algerian we met told us that he, his wife and two children had been in Yarl’s Wood for nine months and they had tried to deport him four times. He had been living in the UK for 11 years and the children were born here. He has tried to contact the media without any response.

Six hours before our flight, when we had exhausted every legal possibility, we had to think about what we would do if we were forced onto a plane, and plan how to protest against this. A few days before our departure was due the family and friends of John Freddy Suarez had waged a successful campaign to stop a commercial flight, by distributing information to the people who were due to board the plane, informing them about his situation. While we were inside, lots of information was circulated about our case and people from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) were all ready to go to the airport and protest there, as John Freddy’s family did. They had prepared a document in English and Portuguese, informing passengers about our case and planned to petition people to stop the plane leaving until we were safe. Fortunately our case reached the court in time and at the last minute our deportation was cancelled and we were released, seven days after being detained at Communications House.

We have to thank comrades from FRFI who helped us throughout our time in detention by finding us a lawyer, visiting us and calling us constantly. Throughout the time we were inside, we knew our comrades were working outside.
Our experience proves to us that detention centres are racist and should be closed down. It also shows us that solidarity and direct and co-ordinated action can overcome the isolation that asylum seekers face and that campaigning can prevent people being deported against their will. We can exercise our right to stay!

Marcelo Duchen

FRFI 210 August / September 2009


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