IMMIGRATION REPORTING CENTRE IS BLOCKADED – campaigners fight to end dawn raids

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‘No Borders’ banner on the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ demonstration on May 7th
‘No Borders’ banner on the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ demonstration on May 7th

THE Glasgow Reporting Centre at Brand Street was shut down on Tuesday morning as ‘No Borders’ activists and others opposed to the forced removal of refugees staged a protest against dawn raids in Scotland.

Protesters blockaded the bases of Immigration Enforcement Officers in simultaneous actions across Britain, stopping them from entering or leaving in vehicles.

Protests were staged at immigration reporting centres in Glasgow, Bristol and Portsmouth.

The Scottish Executive Cabinet has recently announced its total and fundamental opposition to dawn raids – to any kind of forcible removal of children – and to the detention of children. They also called for an amnesty, but they were rejected by Westminster.

Protesters on Tuesday said their aim was to ensure that families throughout the country would be safe, regardless of where they come from.

The nationwide protest coincided with the United Nations International Migrants Day.

‘In response to the growing number of attacks on family homes by the Borders and Immigration Agency, the No Borders network have taken action to expose and prevent the sinister tactic of “dawn raids’’ employed against families and young children,’ a press statement said.

In Bristol, the protesters were in place in time to thwart bemused immigration officials, whose vehicles were trapped in the car park.

A frustrated police officer on the scene was heard to say, ‘how did you know a dawn raid was happening this morning?’

‘Dawn raids are used to gain custody of whole families in order to imprison them,’ said a statement.

‘Every day, doors are kicked in and families are snatched from their beds and taken to detention centres, where they are punished for seeking refuge in this country.

‘They are taken away from their houses, jobs, schools and communities – their lives.

‘Immigration Enforcement Officers come in the middle of the night as the children and their parents sleep in bed, and have not left to go to school or work.

‘It also ensures no witnesses are present.

‘There are no official statistics as to the number and regularity of these raids because the government will not release the figures.

‘But the fleets of vehicles which have been blockaded this morning and the harrowing personal accounts of families indicate large-scale capacity.

‘Today No Borders have highlighted just a few of these bases, which are hidden around the country.’

Simon Summerhill of the No Borders network said: ‘We are here to expose what the government is doing – breaking down doors and snatching children from their beds in the middle of the night.

‘Some children go to school, others go to prison.

‘Immigration officers regularly target the vulnerable – families, children and the ill or traumatised, in order to boost their official figures of deportations,’ he alleged.

Campaigners added: ‘Asylum seeking children are denied the human rights that all other children have.

‘These rights include the right to go to school, the right to privacy, the right to family life (as established by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989).

‘Under UK laws, children seeking asylum can be sent to jail and are often denied the right to education.

‘No Borders maintains that a legal system which divides between children that have human rights and those that do not, is institutionally racist.

‘To deny a child the right to education because of their background is racist, just as to deny an adult the right to work because of their background is racist.’

Nikki Dickinson of No Borders said: ‘This is institutionalised child abuse.

‘They take kids who have already been traumatised and cause them even more distress.

‘The effects of snatch raids, detention and deportation on children are unmeasurable.

‘The families have often been settled in an area for years, and their removal affects the community around them – family members left behind, friends and teachers at school, neighbours.’

No Borders is a coalition of groups who argue against all immigration controls and that freedom of movement is a basic human right.

Meanwhile, anti-deportation campaigners managed to successfully blockade the front entrance of the Home Office headquarters on Marsham Street in London.

Within seconds they unfurled a banner saying ‘No Child is illegal; Child Detention is a Crime!’, and one individual secured the two main doorways off with ‘police, Do Not Cross’ tape.

Security appeared, demanded they move and ordered a journalist not to take photographs.

‘The blockade lasted long enough to cause some disruption and allowed time to send the message out that child deportation and detention was illegal,’ said campaigners.

Activists chanted ‘Stop Deporting Migrant Children’ to highlight the abhorrent practice of dawn raids in the deportation of women and children.

Campaigners added: ‘Often, it is the most vulnerable immigrants who bear the brunt of the UK’s target-driven deportation policy. . .

‘This dictation of immigration policy to a set of arbitrary targets for deportation negates the consideration of the human rights of detainees and their personal difficulties, however desperate their plight might be, for instance, the deportation of Ugandan children and young women back to their home nation where they have already suffered severe violation of their human rights, including in some cases, torture.

‘We draw no distinction between this discriminatory practice and any other institutional racism, because both at heart are devaluing people’s lives and freedoms based on arbitrary differences, be it in place of birth or race.

‘Dawn raids have an irreversible and detrimental effect on babies and young children, which can leave them traumatised for life.

‘A dawn raid will happen at around 6 in the morning, policemen and immigration officers will break down the door while they are in their beds, to be sent to indefinite detention, and forced removal. It’s a lesson about the world no child should learn.

‘We demand the immediate halt of dawn-raids and child imprisonment, as well as the end of all deportations, in particular those of rape and torture victims, and those in danger.

‘For a complete freedom of movement for all and the right to a life with dignity.’

A protest was also staged against ‘snatch squads’ from Greater Manchester’s immigration reporting centre at Dallas Court.

They also hung a banner reading ‘Caution snatch squads – we are watching you’.

A spokesman said: ‘The pressure on those profiting from detentions and deportations is on. Direct action here has a direct impact on the lives of those affected.’

l People being detained in holding rooms at Heathrow are being subjected to ‘dehumanising’ treatment, the prisons watchdog has said.

Prisons chief inspector Anne Owers said her teams had watched as a detainee was told he did not need lost shoes in the hot country he was being deported to, while another suffered an offensive confrontation with staff.

Inspectors toured the holding rooms on a spot check in October after finding shortcomings during their last visit two years earlier.

Heathrow’s four terminals have rooms to temporarily hold people suspected of ‘illegally’ entering the country.

Another set of rooms is used for people being deported on flights out of Britain.

Owers said inspectors had seen staff using ‘dehumanising’ language, including calling detainees ‘bodies’ in ‘pens’, while children and women were being held in the same rooms as men they did not know.