In the first six months of 2008, 32,230 people were deported from the UK, up 6 percent from the first half of 2007 — now the number is only 13,225, but deportation rights groups still face resistance from British government.
In an effort to halt the deportation of 70 Iraqi refugees, a group of over 30 people blockaded the Harmondsworth and Coinbrook flight to Baghdad by encasing their arms in blocks of concrete mixed with steel, glass and other materials.
The group included members of the detainees’ families, local passerby’s and activists from the No Borders network – a group dedicated to the campaigning for freedom of movement and an end to migration controls in the UK.
During the blockade, the Immigration Advisory Service lawyers worked behind the scenes to pursue a judicial review on the basis that deportation would breach the deportees’ human rights under international law.
According to the Home Office, Iraq was now safe and therefore the refugees were able to return to their own countries. However, the escalation and increased violence surrounding the fighting in Kurdistan and other regions blatantly contradicted the Home Office’s statement and therefore the lawyers continued their pursuit for a judicial review.
Only 30 minutes into the blockade, the activists received word that they had won an injunction against the mass deportation, but it wasn’t clear whether all of the deportees had received their freedom.
“We were determined to continue the blockade until we could be sure the whole flight had been stopped,” said No Borders.
It took nearly 30 minutes for cops to arrive at the scene, and when they did they made no attempt at first to clear the blockade. It wasn’t until 8 pm when the City of Westminster Police arrived and demanded the protestors to move across the street or be arrested.
“We were expecting the specialist lock-on cutting team,” said No Borders, knowing only a team of specialists would be able to remove the blockade without causing harm to the protestors. “The lock-ons featured glass tubes around the arms, and nails read to smash the glass under pressure. People in the lock-ons could be seriously injured by cut arteries unless specialists removed them with extreme care.”
Finally, around 9 pm, activists decided to lift the blockade after all of the deportees were accounted for, except for ten people who agreed to return voluntarily to Iraq.
“The cancellation of this flight is an important victory in the struggle against deportations,” said No Borders. “Legal action was successful this time, but it is not always the case. We hope the action will inspire further acts of resistance, both within and without.”
The last blockade in the UK occurred in May 2009 in Colnbrook. Since then, mass deportation flights have become increasingly frequent, but No Borders assures the public that resistance is stronger than ever.