UP TO 500 protesters marched in Crawley on Saturday to demonstrate against the building of a new immigration detention centre at Gatwick Airport.
The lively demonstration left the Memorial Gardens in Crawley Town Centre to chants of ‘No borders, no nations, stop deportations!’ and ended at the present immigration detention centre at Tinsley House at Gatwick.
Tinsley House was the first UK purpose-built detention centre. Opened in 1996, it has a capacity to hold 135 people and around 11,000 detainees currently go through the centre each year.
In 2001 it became the first centre to hold families.
On the march were banners declaring: ‘Asylum seekers welcome’, ‘Against fortress Europe’ and ‘Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism’.
There were also banners from Manchester and from Holland, where the delegation demonstrated last May in Zaandan against the Dutch government’s decision to increase the number of immigrants being detained.
The Dutch banner read: ‘Stop Detaining, Stop Exclusion. No human being is illegal.’
Before the march got under way, Mafungasie Maikokera told News Line: ‘I am 100 per cent against the detention centre.
‘I am here in solidarity with all those being detained. It is time to end these cruel detention centres.
‘I have been detained after seeking asylum from Zimbabwe and it is horrible, really bad.’
Her friend and fellow detainee, Esthery Murumbi added: ‘I was detained as well at Bedford. I came to seek asylum and get protection. People should be allowed free to go to any country they like.’
Also noticeable at the march was a large contingent of police who constantly filmed and photographed the protesters.
Even before the march got under way, police arrested one demonstrator for allegedly swearing. Organisers told News Line that the demonstrator ‘was only making comments to a friend’.
One other demonstrator was arrested as the march went through the town centre, but he was released later without charge.
The march was organised by the No Borders campaign which had set up a camp just outside Crawley to highlight the incarceration of immigrants and their families, and as a response to the Home Office order to build a new ‘prison’ at Gatwick.
No Borders state: ‘This is a prison for refugees and migrants.
‘People are being held without trial for no other reason than that they have fled to this country to escape persecution or poverty, for a better life, to join their families, to earn money to send to families where they came from – for a myriad of reasons that nearly everybody would see as normal human rights.
‘The No Borders Camp recognises that these are and should be human rights for everybody – Freedom of Movement and the Freedom to Stay.’