Posts Tagged ‘asylum seekers’

Strangers Into Citizens – 2009

Saturday, May 4th, 2024

Strangers Into Citizens – Strangers into Citizens held a march and rally on Monday 4th May 2009 calling for long term irregular migrants living in the UK to be provided with a way to earn indefinite leave to remain here.

Strangers Into Citizens

There are thought now around 800,000 people living in the UK without a legal permit to do so. Accurate figures are impossible to find as these people obviously do not want to be recorded by the authorities.

Strangers Into Citizens

Many are working and carrying out work that others do not want to so but are essential to keep our economy running. One of the reasons why the UK is attractive to migrants is the size of our hidden economy, economic activities entirely hidden from HMRC.

Strangers Into Citizens

Almost one in ten UK citizens takes some part in this hidden economy, though for many their activities are on a small scale and often transitory. But almost half of those gain an income that if declared would put the above the current tax threshold. Some of these are people without legal residence, while there are others who have permission to be here but not to work. And of course others are just tax evaders.

Strangers Into Citizens

It would benefit the economy and those concerned to regularise their position so they could both work here legally and pay tax. There are also a significant number with qualifications which could take them out of the largely unskilled manual work that makes up much of the hidden economy and put their skills to work, profiting both themselves and the country. Having people with Maths or Engineering degrees making a poor living as cleaners (and I’ve met them) makes no sense when they could make a much greater contribution.

The UK has an ageing population and increasingly fewer of us are likely to be economically active – the ONS model suggests there will be an additional 317,000 people economically inactive in the UK by 2026 compared to 2023, and this trend seems likely to continue. We need migration to make up the gap and regularising the position for those already here would certainly help.

There are no legal routes to enter the UK to claim asylum and those who want to do so must either enter irregularly or come on tourist or other visas. The majority of migrants enter the country legally but overstay the terms of their visas, some claiming asylum, others just melting into the community. Another large group of migrants are the children born here to irregular migrants – until 1st January 1983 this automatically made you a British citizen but now this is only the case if one of your parents is British.

Over many years now we have seen an increasing ratcheting up of racist rhetoric and policies by the two major parties, each determined to outflank the other in appeasing the extreme right and playing on fear. The Tory government has increasingly introduced criminal sanctions against those who enter the country in ways it calls illegal, with all those arriving by them now being threatened with deportation to Rwanda, whether or not that country is actually a safe destination.

But the number Rwanda expects to take over a five years is only 1000, just 200 per year. In the year ending June 2023, official statistics show 52,530 irregular migrants were detected on, or shortly after, arrival to the UK on various routes, 85% of them on small boats. There are of course no figures for how many came and were not detected.

The UK currently does have a very limited partial amnesty scheme. Those who have managed to stay – legally or illegally – continuously for 20 years can apply for a visa which grants another 30 months of residence, while those with 10 continuous years of legal residence can also apply for an extension.

Many of those who I marched with on Monday 4th May 2009 from Lambeth were from London’s large Latin American community. Some were probably irregular but most will have entered the country legally as EU citizens and some have been given asylum here or be waiting for the Home Office to process their claim. The Home Office states the average time is six months, but the actual average is estimated to be somewhere between one and three years.

Others had marched from other areas of London, many starting from seven religious services in various parts of the city. The marches joined in Parliament Square to march together to Trafalgar Square where there were a large number of speeches in support of an amnesty from religious, political and trade union groups as well as representatives of various ethnic groups and migrants from a number of countries, followed by music and dancing.

More on My London Diary at Strangers Into Citizens.


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Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea, 2006

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea: I don’t often look back at posts from the early years of My London Diary for several reasons. Before I redesigned the site some time in 2008 there were no links to individual stories which makes linking to them trickier, and the stories and pictures come at different positions down the monthly page. Also in the early years I wrote entirely in lower case, something I now find an annoying affection. And back them the software for converting raw digital images wasn’t quite as good and the images are sometimes a little lacking in colour quality.

Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea

So here I re-present my post for Monday 10th April 2006 in a more convenient fashion. I’ve updated the text to conventional capitalisation, corrected a few spellings (back then I wrote in software without a spell-checker) and made a few minor changes to make the text easier to follow. The pictures – both those in this post and the larger number I link to on My London Diary are exactly as posted in 2006. Communications House was demolished in 2013-4 and new offices erected on the site which is now home to a number of businesses but no longer used by the Home Office.


Against Detention and Deportation – Communications House, Old Street

Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea

If you are an asylum seeker in Britain you have to sign on regularly at one of the Home Office locations. When you enter the doors of Communications House next to Old Street station (or any of the other locations) you cannot be sure that you will ever come out. Despite the regulations, some asylum seekers have been bundled onto planes and flown back to the country from which they have fled, others have found themselves banged up in detention centres such as Harmondsworth for years with no trial or appeal.

Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea

On Monday 10th April 2006, various groups including the All African Women’s Group, African Liberation Support Campaign Network, Payday Men’s Network and Women Of Colour formed a line along the front of the building over the lunch hour to protest and hand out flyers about the unfair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum and Vauxhall to Battersea

This was a part of a global action demanding justice and proper legal rights for asylum seekers and others without proper legal documentation, calling for an end to racist discrimination and inhumane policies.

more pictures


New Flats Along the Thames – Vauxhall to Battersea

I had to leave for a little business elsewhere, then took advantage of the decent weather to take a walk along the Thames from Vauxhall to Battersea on my way home. As you can see I walked a little along the south bank, then back to Vauxhall Bridge to go along the north bank. Later I went on both banks between Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Bridge.

What was not long ago a totally industrial reach of the river is now largely lined by expensive riverside blocks of flats. St Georges Wharf is on the site of the Nine Elms Cold Store, and is now largely finished except for a tower whose slim 181 metre cylinder will soar far above the 72 m of the existing flats.

Along Grosvenor Road on the north bank are Rivermill House, the Panoramic, Crown Reach, and a survivor from the past, Tyburn House, followed by Eagle Wharf, with Eagle House and 138.

One minor gain for the public from this is increased access to the riverside, with new developments having a public footpath on the bank. But when soon all you will be able to see is the flats on the other bank, this perhaps isn’t a great gain.

In Pimlico there are often great contrasts between council or Peabody estates and millionaire apartments across the road on the river side, and some pricey stuff in some of the squares. A few yards makes a huge difference in price – and the newer buildings have often blocked the views some council tenants used to have of the river.

William Huskisson, Statesman 1770-1830. The main claim to fame of this MP for Liverpool was the he was the first to be killed in a railway accident, when knocked down by ‘Rocket’ during the opening ceremony of the Liverpool & Manchester railway on 15th September, 1830. Pimlico Gardens

Across the river are views of Battersea Power Station, gutted and largely left to decay by various developers over the years, roofless. Despite their efforts it still stands, its brickwork and four tall chimneys dominating the area.

The waterworks building on the north bank is also still there, and next to it around the canal a new Grosvenor Waterside is nearing completion.

Across Chelsea Bridge, between it and the power station is Chelsea Bridge Wharf, another huge development. Its a relief to be able to walk across the new bridge under Chelsea Bridge into the peace of Battersea Park with its Peace Pagoda. Next to Albert Bridge is a small wild area that looked very spring-like in some dramatic light under grey clouds.

There are more new flats and offices past Albert Bridge, including Foster and Partners building. It’s stunning close to, but seen from across the river is rather disappointing. Their Albion Riverside next door is a futuristic structure, like some vast mothership landed on the riverside, a fungus from which spores are doubtless emerging to colonise the country.

Many more pictures from the walk spread over a number of pages starting here.


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Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine – 2014

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine – Three protests in Westminster on Thursday 13 March 2014.


Badger Army Says End Culls – Old Palace Yard

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

Bovine TB is a great problem for dairy farmers and the great majority of them are convinced that badgers play an important role in spreading it, although scientists estimate that around 94% of all infections are spread from cow to cow. A major part of the problem is that the test used for the disease in cows fails to detect a large proportion – perhaps a third – of infected cows.

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine
Bill Oddie

Around 20,000 cows are slaughtered each year because they are found to be infected and compensating the farmers costs us over £100 million a year. The Badger Trust argues in a report based on scientific evidence that a more effective approach than culling would be to focus on “cattle, cattle testing and vaccination and enhanced cattle biosecurity (including cattle movement).”

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

There is no scientific consensus that the killing of 260,000 badgers since 2013 has had any effect on the spread of the disease. DEFRA continues to support badger culling but Labour in 2023 pledged to end it if elected – though they have already drawn back from most of their pledges.

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

The cull has provoked strong emotions on both sides and this protest on a day when MPs were discussing the cull reflected that. You can read more about it and see more pictures on My London Diary at Badger Army Says End Culls.


End Persecution & Sexual Abuse at Yarl’s Wood – Home Office, Marsham St

A short walk away outside our “dysfunctional” and Home Office – then under Theresa May and her racist “hostile environment” policy – a protest called for an end to the psychological, sexual, physical and legal abuse of women asylum seekers and immigrants held at Yarl’s Wood and for the detention centre to be closed down.

Many women have made complaints of sexual abuse by male prison staff at the centre, and one who was awarded compensation was was horrified to learn that the man who abused her was still working there, free to commit further offences.

The protest took place following reports of the disappearance of a detainee called Saba from Pakistan, who women in Yarl’s Wood believe had committed suicide there. It was supported by the Movement for Justice, Southall Black Sisters and the All African Women’s Group, and protesters included women who had been held in the detention centre while their asylum claims were being considered.

In my account on My London Diary I give more details about her and also of the cases of a political refugee from Mali who had been illegally deported back there in the previous month, and a Kurdish trade union activist also illegally deported by the Home Office and then in hiding in Turkey where she had attempted suicide.

There had been many other reports of violence against women the centre, and the protest organisers stated:

Yarl’s Wood women are fighting back against attempts to deport them or their sisters to persecution and death and exposing sexual abuse by male staff. The frightened response of the Home Office and its agents is to increase the repression in Yarl’s Wood, breaching even the present, inadequate legal rights of detainees and creating an environment that can drive women to suicide.”

The protest called for a public inquiry into abuses at Yarl’s Wood and for it to be shut down.

End Sexual Abuse at Yarl’s Wood


Ukraine Vigil – Downing St

Finally I went to Downing Street where on the pavement opposite Ukrainians had set up a permanent vigil, hoping to get the UK Government to stand up against Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea.

There wasn’t a great deal happening during my brief visit, and I was correct to think that the UK government would take anything but half-hearted action. To do more might hurt the City’s financial interests – and those of some leading Tory MPs and their family businesses. The failure of the west to end its aggressive Cold War attitudes to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 was bound to have highly poisonous repercussions. We should have welcomed the country into our sphere and dismissed the NATO hawks.

A few more pictures at Ukraine Vigil.


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Goodbye and Good Riddance – March 2023

Monday, January 1st, 2024

Goodbye and Good Riddance – March 2023: Continuing from yesterday’s post some more pictures from 2013, from my albums on Facebook from March 2003.

Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Croydon Residents Protest 15% Council Tax Hike. London, UK. 1 Mar 2023. People from the London Borough of Croydon protest outside the Council offices against the council raising Council Tax by 15%. The huge rise is needed because of of swingeing cuts in support from central government and years of mismanagement by both Labour and Tories, particularly in the council’s housing company. The proposed rise comes on top of years of cuts to essential services in the borough. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
A Tree Is Planted In Memory of Bruce Kent. London, UK. 4 Mar 2023. Jeremy Corbyn and Valerie, Bruce Kent’s widow, come to plant the tree. Several hundred came to the planting of a tree in Finsbury Park in memory of Bruce Kent who died last June. A prominent Catholic priest he became a political activist and one of the great peace campaigners of our times. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn and Kent’s wife Valerie who together planted the tree. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Million Women Rise 2023. London, UK. 3 Mar 2023. Women, including many from migrant groups, met just off Oxford Street for a march organised by Million Women Rise, a collective led by Black women, which welcomes all women to attend. They called for an end to male violence against women and girls in all its forms. They want an end to everyday and structural racism at the heart of policing and our immigration system and society generally. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Bank of England – Hand Back Venezuela’s Gold. London, UK. 4 Mar 2023. A protest at the Bank of England on the 10th anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death demanded they return the 31 tonnes of Venezuela’s gold in their vaults. The UK government has refused to recognise the elected government of Venezuela and insists the gold belongs to the opposition led by Juan Guaido whose interim presidency has been dissolved by the democratically elected National Assembly. Peter Marshall
Save The NHS, Support Strikers and Welcome Migrants. London, UK. 11 Mar 2023.Thousands marched in London from a short rally at Warren Street calling for decent pay for all NHS workers. They demand an end to NHS privatisation and a return to a publicly funded public service. Migrants Are Welcome with and have played a vital role in the NHS, with large numbers of nurses, doctors and other staff from abroad, and they supported Gary Lineker in his description of the substance and tone of Government policies. Peter Marshall
Iranians Continue Protests For Regime Change. London, UK. 11 Mar 2023. Iranians continue their protests in London in solidarity with protesters in Iran calling for the end of rule by Mullahs. In Parliament Square a group held placards against the gassing of schoolgirl protesters and Iran and calling for Twitter to ban the Taliban, as well as pictures of those killed and held Iranian flags and banners supporting the mourning mothers and fathers of Iran. Peter Marshall
Save Our Schools Carnival, London, UK. 15 Mar 2023. Striking teachers, parents and supporters march to a carnival event in Trafalgar Square organised by the National Education Union as a huge Budget Day show of strength to demand the Chancellor and ministers deliver a fully-funded above inflation pay rise to #SaveOurSchools. They demand action to end poor pay, low funding, the SEND crisis and excessive workload, to support pupils in poverty and end inappropriate inspection and tests. Peter Marshall
UN Anti-Racism Day March. London, UK. 18 Mar 2023. Women Life Freedom, Iran. Thousands march through London to make clear that refugees are welcome and oppose the government’s racist policies against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. They demand safe routes for migrants and an end to institutional racism in policing and an end to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and prejudice against Black, Chinese, Asians, gypsies, Roma, travellers and other communities in the media and government. Peter Marshall
UN Anti-Racism Day March. 18 Mar 2023. Thousands march through London to make clear that refugees are welcome and oppose the government’s racist policies against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. They demand safe routes for migrants and an end to institutional racism in policing and an end to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and prejudice against Black, Chinese, Asians, gypsies, Roma, travellers and other communities in the media and government.
Peter Marshall

More pictures from these and other protests in March 2023 in my Facebook Albums.


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Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria – 2016

Sunday, December 17th, 2023

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria – Three protests in London on Saturday 17th December 2016.


Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday – Trafalgar Square

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

A silent vigil on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square marked the 29th birthday of trans-gender whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, jailed for 35 years in 2013, whose courageous leaks revealed war crimes by US, UK and other governments.

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria
A Queer Strike protester and veteran peace activist Bruce Kent

Working for the US Army as a specialist intelligence analyst as Bradley Manning she released almost 750,000 documents to Wikileaks in 2010 showing the US, UK and other governments’ war crimes and corruption in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Israel & the Palestinian Authority, Peru, Venezuela and elsewhere. Some were classified and many others were highly sensitive and incriminating. In 2013 she was sentenced to 35 years and held in the maximum security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

The London vigil was a part of an international day of action for her release. Since she came out as a trans woman in 2013 she had been repeatedly harassed by the military in prison and twice in 2016 had attempted suicide. Protesters around the world called on President Obama to release her on the basis of the prison time she had already served before he left office. The following month he commuted her sentence to around seven years and she was released from jail. She spent a further year in 2019-2020 after she refused to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday


Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan – Downing St

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

Kurds, many wearing or waving the flag of Free Kurdistan called on the civilised world to recognise the sacrifices made by the Peshmerga in fighting for freedom and against Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria.

The Peshmerga is the army of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, first formed in the18th century as border guards but more recently fighting for Kurdish autonomy, although it also includes Assyrian and Yazidi units. Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq, and under the Iraqi constitution the Pershmerga is responsible for the security of the region.

They played a key role in US missions against al-Qaeda after 9/11and were with other Kurdish forces now fighting against ISIS with some support from the USA. But the USA was refusing to directly supply any weapons except through the Iraqi government who were failing to pass any on the the Pershmerga as they feared they would be used to promote an independent Kurdistan. And in London people seemd to be clearly calling for a free Kurdistan.

The result of this failure to pass on weapons is that the force is poorly armed, mainly using Soviet-era weapons they captured in earlier Iraq uprisings and now weapons captured from ISIS in 2014. This protest called for greater support to provide them with modern weapons and other support they lack including ammunition, ambulances and military communications equipment.

Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan


Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

A short walk away in front of the Houses of Parliament Healthcare workers held a die-in at Parliament in solidarity with the Syrian people.

They called for an end to the bombing of civilians, hospitals and schools by the Assad regime and for the UK government to put pressure on the Syrian government to allow the delivery of aid. They urged the UK to make airdrops of aid, provide safe passage to all those trapped and grant asylum to refugees.

The protest was organised by Medact’s Arms and Militarisation (MAM) group along with Syria solidarity activist groups and individuals including the Syrian British Medical Society.

Peter Tatchell holds a poster

Between 2014 and 2021 when the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme closed, the UK accepted around 20,000 Syrian refugees. When adjusted to reflect the population size of European countries this puts the UK well down among European countries. For the total number of resettled refugees from 2008-20021 the UK comes fifth behind Germany, Sweden, Norway and France but adjusted for population size we are in 10th position.

But along with the USA, Britain failed to take any effective action in support of the Syrian revolution and the crimes against the people committed by the Assad regime, and were severely outplayed by Russia who backed Assad.

Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria


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Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood – 2015

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood – On Saturday 7th November 2015 Movement for Justice organised a large protest with other groups to show solidarity with the women locked up inside Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre and to demand that all such detention prisons be shut down.


MFJ Meet To March to Yarl’s Wood – Twinwoods Business Park

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Yarl’s Wood was built on a former wartime airfield in remote countryside five or six miles from the centre of Bedford, perhaps chosen in part for its remoteness, which makes it difficult for visitors or protesters to get there.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

But Movement for Justice – MfJ – and others had organised coaches from around the country, including eight from London as well as one from Bedford Station to bring people with others arriving by car, taxi or bicycle. The road leading to the prison is private, but people were able to meet on a public road around a mile away outside the main entrance to the business park there.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive there was lively rally with a great deal of dancing, singing and chanting, keeping everyone’s spirits high, and keeping us warm as a chilly wind with occasional spots of rain swept across the open site on top of a high plateau.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Among those at the protest were many immigrants who had themselves been detained at this or other detention centres around the country while waiting for a decision to be taken on their asylum claims. Sometimes this takes several years and those who are taken to prisons such as these are held indefinitely, never knowing if or when they will be released or taken under guard to be forcibly deported.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Many inside have fled their countries after violent attacks including sexual assault and rape and deserve humane treatment not imprisonment. Few if any pose any real threat and could be housed outside, often with friends or relatives in this country. If they were allowed to work many would make a positive contribution. They would also be much more able to contact their solicitors and collect information to support their asylum cases than from inside the detention centres where access is limited.

Instead the Home Office locks them away and sometimes seems to have forgotten them and lost the key. One woman was detained for a couple of days less than three years before being released – after which she returned with the MfJ and spoke at protests which give those still inside some hope and remind them that they have not entirely been forgotten.

More at MFJ Meet Outside Yarl’s Wood.


MfJ ‘Set Her Free’ protest at Yarl’s Wood

As well as MfJ, Sisters Uncut, Lesbians & Gays support the Migrants, All Africans Women’s Groups, Glasgow Unity and others had come to join in the protest. Eventually with around a thousand people gathered it was time to march, though a few coaches had not yet arrived.

We set off on the long walk to the detention centre, with banners and placards, a short distance along the road and then down the public footpath which runs through a couple of fields and across another track, and into a field on the north side of the prison, about a mile from where the campaigners had gathered.

Here there was a fairly steep rise a few feet up a hill from the 20 foot high fence around the detention centre and from the top of this we could see the upper floor windows, some of which had women at them, though only through the dense thick wire grid of the upper half of the fence.

The windows do not have bars, but only open a few inches, but this was enough for the women inside to put their hands through and hold towels and clothing to greet the protesters. Some managed to hold out messages: one read ‘We came to seek Refuge. Not to be locked up’ and another ‘We are from torture. We Need Freedom’.

The lower 10 feet of the fence is made of stout metal panels, and beating or kicking on these makes a very loud noise. Later some protesters brought up rope ladders so they could hold placards and banners on the more open top of the fence so they could be seen by the women inside.

The prisoners are allowed to have phones which they need to contact their solicitors and advisers over their cases and some were able to use these to communicate with the protesters and to have their voices relayed over the PA system the protesters had brought.

There was a heavy rain shower during the protest, and the ground which was already muddy and with large puddles became very treacherous and getting up from the concrete and narrow flat area at the bottom of the fence became difficult. But soon the sun was back out again.

Most of those who spoke at the event were former detainees, some of whom had friends who were still inside the immigration prison.

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave and the low winter sun was beginning to make photography more difficult. It seemed a long and rather lonely journed as I made my way back to the road, boots heavy with mud. But I was free to go, while women who had come to this country seeking asylum from danger and violence in their own countries were still locked up by a hostile and unfeeling government.

More at MfJ ‘Set Her Free’ protest at Yarl’s Wood.


Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice – 2012

Monday, November 6th, 2023

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice After a protest at Harmondsworth Detention Centre following the death of a detainee I travelled into central London to cover a protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square on the eve of US Elections.


Noisy Demo after 17th Immigration Death – Harmondsworth Detention Centre

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

Campaigners from the All African Women’s Group and others demonstrated noisily at the Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre as the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman paid a visit following the death a week ago of Prince Kwabena Fosu, a Ghanian who died after ‘restraint’ by GEO Group staff.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

Statements from other Ghanian detainees at the site alleged that Fusu had sustained massive blows from one officer who has later asked to change his “blood stained clothes so that no one would notice what happened” and that the officer concerned is now on leave “in order to pervert the course of justice“. There appears to have been no proper police investigation of his death.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

The protesters walked down the private road leading to a BT facility which runs between the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Detention Centres just north of Heathrow airport, ignoring a sign stating “No Tresspassers Allowed‘ with a banner ‘We will NOT let this death be Silenced‘ and made their presence obvious to the men imprisoned inside with a megaphone and some loud shouting.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

The detention centres are surrounded by 20ft high stout metal fences, the lower half with metal sheeting and the top 10ft of a heavy metal gauze. Through this those on the upper floors of the centre could see the protest and we could see rather shadowy shapes watching us below, and could hear some shouting and people banging on the bars of the window as guards tried to stop them.

I walked with the protesters around the Harmondsworth site, watched by police and G4S security staff. When some protesters began kicking and stamping on the metal fence to make a noise, police and G4S security came to tell them they must stop and leave the site.

The police officer in charge read a notice charging the protesters with aggravated trespass and warning them that unless they left the site now they would be arrested, and that they were banned from returning withing 3 months. The protesters decided to leave rather than be arrested, and very slowly left the site.

As so often in cases involving custody deaths, the inquest was long delayed and only concluded around seven and a half years after Fusu’s death. It concluded that his death had been contributed to by neglect and multiple serious failures by the Home Office, GEO who were running the detention centre when he died, Primecare who were responsible for healthcare services, doctors and everyone else involved.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “It is unconscionable that someone entrusted to the care of the state can die in this way. The jury have delivered a damning indictment of all of those responsible. Prince was failed at every level, by individuals and agencies who owed him a duty of care. He was treated in dehumanising way and as a discipline problem rather than as a seriously unwell man in need of compassion and medical care.

“His death comes as a direct result of the UK’s hostile immigration policies. This reinforced a toxic culture of indifference and neglect, where professionals who came into contact with Prince were simply unable to see the human being before them.”

No criminal charges have been taken against any of the companies or individuals involved in Fusu’s death. The CPS took years to decline to bring any charges of corporate manslaughter. After deciding to bring lesser charges under the Health & Safety Act 1974, they then reversed that decision.

More pictures at Noisy Demo after Immigration Death.


Truth, Justice and the American way? – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

On US Election night the London Guantánamo Campaign hosted a protest outside the US Embassy at which various organisations raised human rights concerns about prisoners in the USA.

Among the other organisations with speakers at the event were Stop the War, tne Green Party, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Free Talha Campaign, Cageprisoners and more and there were also some performers between the speeches. And thre was a silence with candles being lit to remember the many who have been killed.

The protesters gathered around the statue of former president Eisenhower to one side of the Embassy frontage, which was being lit up for election eve with a laser projections of the stars and stripes.

The speakers highlighted shameful human rights abuses being carried out by the USA, particularly at Guantanamo, and called for whoever was elected President to close the prison camp and end the unlawful practice of extraordinary rendition. There were also those calling for the release of Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning, the whistle-blower jailed for releasing details of US war crimes.

Aisha Maniar, organiser for the London Guantánamo Campaign, said: “Four years ago, a new American president, Barack Obama, promised the world a change it could believe in. One change he put his name to in writing was the closure of Guantánamo Bay and the end of military tribunals there. That has not materialised; the American administration has added drone attacks to its repertoire of extralegal activity, expanded the scope of arbitrary detention without charge or trial, and over 160 prisoners remain at Guantánamo Bay after almost 11 years, including British resident Shaker Aamer.”

More at Truth, Justice and the American way?


Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow 2014

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow: Back in 2014 I could take a bus a short walk from my home which took me to within a few yards of what had recently been renamed the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre on Bath Road to the north of Heathrow Airport. And since the bus only ran every half hour I arrived a while before the protest there began and had time for a short walk – and almost half an hour to wait on my way home.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

Surprising both buses had fairly clean windows and I also took a few pictures through them on my journey, and you can see a few more at Colnbrook and Heathrow. Before the protest I’d walked beside the Duke of Northumberland’s River which runs through the extensive grounds of the British Airways offices, and on the other bank is a tall fence for the Immigration Centre and BT premises.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

The river is a man-made distributary of the River Colne, dug to take water to the Isleworth flour mill and Syon House. Along with another channel, the Longford River, built to take water to Bushy Park and Hampton Court, it has been rerouted around Heathrow airport and some of the pictures from the bus show the two in their new largely concrete channels beside the perimeter road.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

There are two immigration prisons on each side of a private road leading to the BT site behind. On the left of the picture is the Harmondsworth prison block, and on its right the high-security Colnbrook centre. At the start of the month both had been taken over by Mitie, as ‘Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre’, making ‘Care and Custody’, the Mitie subsidiary running the centre the “largest single private sector provider of immigration detention services to the Home Office.”

Mitie’s track record in running such centres should have disqualified them from running and government services. At Campsfield there had been three mass hunger strikes, a suicide and a disastrous major fire – perhaps why they had become one of the government’s favourite contractors.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

The name ‘Immigration Removal Centre’ reflects the government’s racist policies towards asylum centres. It wants to remove immigrants, whether or not they have a sound case for asylum. Such centres lock up people making it harder for them to pursue their case to remain in the UK and easier for them to be deported. The great majority of those imprisoned will eventually be given the right to remain in the UK, but may be held in centres like this for many months or even more than two years before being released so they can continue their lives – and make the positive contribution they will to UK society and our economy.

At previous protests here the protesters had been allowed to march down the private road between the two prisons and continue alongside the 20 foot fence around the Harmondsworth site back to the front. But now – perhaps due to the new management – police refused to allow them access, restricting the protest to a pen in front of the centre’s administrative block.

The protest was one of a number here organised by the Movement for Justice, and supported by many other organisation and the protesters argued for some time to be allowed to march down the roadway and around the Harmondsworth centre as usual but without success. Eventually the around a hundred protesters who had travelled out to the western edge of London moved into the pen provided.

The majority of those attending the protest were immigrants, many of whom had been held in this centre or others around the country. Harmondsworth imprisons male detainees, and many of the women at the protest had spent time in Yarl’s Wood near Bedford. Later MfJ would concentrate their protests at that centre.

The protest was a very noisy one, with loud shouting and drumming and a great deal of dancing between the speeches. Phone calls from inside told the protesters that they could be heard inside the cell blocks.

Most of those who spoke were former asylum speakers and told of the suffering they had endured in our immigration detention. As some said, it was worse than prison, as the detention was indefinite. They had no release date to look forward too, and could have been deported at any time back to the countries which they had fled in fear of their lives.

Speakers also called for an end to the ‘Detained Fast Track’ system, deliberately set up when Labour where in power to make it impossible for many asylum claimants to defend themselves against deportation and remove them from the country before they are able to do so. It’s a shameful system that no country that believes in the proper rule of law, fair play and human decency could support.

Various legal challenges to ‘Detained Fast Track’ led to the High Court declaring in January 2017 that DFT had denied justice to asylum seekers for the previous ten years, with thousands being deported without a lawful hearing of their cases.

A friend of the family of Rubel Ahmed who described how he died in Morton Hall immigration detention centre in Lincolnshire on September 5th 2014 after having been refused refused medical treatment for his chest pains. Fellow prisoners heard him screaming for help, and had rioted after his death, taking control of the detention centre until brutally suppressed. One who contacted the press was brutally beaten by prison guards.

Many more pictures from the protest on My London Diary at Close UK Immigration Prisons.


Save Legal Aid – 2013

Sunday, July 30th, 2023

Save Legal Aid – 2013: On Tuesday 30th July 2013, ten years ago today, the Save Legal Aid Campaign held a rally outside the Old Bailey in protest against proposed cuts in legal aid which they say would severely damage the UK justice system, removing legal aid completely for many and providing a poor quality cut-price service for others.

Save Legal Aid - 2013
Labour shadow minister Sadiq Khan in fighting mood

The proposals would bring in compulsory tendering on price, with legal aid services being provided by the lowest bidder and remove any choice by defendants of who should represent them. They say this would replace all the current specialist solicitors by groups such as Tesco and Eddie Stobart employing less qualified and experienced people and providing an inferior service for those unable to pay – and so choose – their solicitors.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

The rally also celebrated the successes of the UK’s legal aid system, which speakers said had been the envy of the world since it was brought in on 30th July 1949, exactly 64 years earlier, an event celebrated with the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the cutting of a cake by MP Diane Abbott.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

For many of us those celebrations rang hollow. The legal aid system by 2013 was but a pale shadow of that brought in by the Legal Aid and Assistance Act on 30th July 1949. It was a skeleton that was being celebrated, although one that as several speakers who had benefited from it showed still had some effect. In the unlikely event we ever get a reforming Labour government it could perhaps still be revived, but more likely any future government will destroy it still more as New Labour did.

Legal cases in the UK are incredibly expensive in part because of the nature of our legal system which is an adversarial one, but also because of some traditional practices which render it less efficient and protect the interests of some of those who are a part of the system.

Save Legal Aid - 2013

Probably the only sound legal advice is to stay away from the law unless you are very rich. Although its often said that the same law governs both rich and poor, in practice that is not really the case, and in particular those in the middle of society get screwed.

Legal Aid was first introduced in the UK in 1949 when the welfare state was attempting to make justice fair for all. It could be claimed for almost all criminal or civil matters except libel and defamation and around 80% of the UK population were eligible for some support, with those more able to pay receiving support on a sliding scale depending on their income.

It wasn’t then a great cost to the economy as then only a small fraction of the population gad access the the legal advice that might have led them to take action in the courts. If you were poor you seldom came to court except when arrested – and most cases were dealt with by magistrates with legal aid seldom being involved.

In the 1970s Law Centres were set up in many of the poorer areas of the country, giving free advice and explaining and aiding their clients to take matters of social welfare, housing and criminality to the courts. And in 1973 a ‘Green Form Scheme’ was set up to allow those of low incomes to get legal advice from solicitors. Both led to increases in cases and a corresponding increase in the overall cost of legal aid.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, the The Immigration Act 1971 and the the British Nationality Act 1981 each led to a predictable and dramatic increase in the number of cases requiring legal aid to resolve disputes.

Various actions were taken to reduce the cost to the country of legal aid, with eligibility being drastically reduced both by income limits and by reducing the areas of work for which it was available.

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty

New Labour reformed the system when they came to power, but their reforms proved a disaster and they piled a second disaster on top by privatising the system. By the time the coalition government came to power there wasn’t really a great deal left, but their Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) saw off most of what remained.

Since then, to get legal aid you have to have a disposable income of less than £733 a month and less than £8000 of disposable capital. Those receiving universal credit and some other benefits also qualify. There are different income and asset qualification levels for criminal proceedings in Crown Court cases.

As well as these tests legal aid is only available if your case passes a “merits” test as defined by The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013. It has to be assessed by the Director as being in the public interest and having at least a 50% chance of success.

Speakers at the protest included Raphael Rowe, wrongly imprisoned as one of the M25 three, Anne Hall the mother of Daniel Roque Hall, a man suffering from a rare condition who would have died in prison without legal aid which got him released to receive care, and Sally, the mother of a rape victim who police failed, as well as Sadiq Khan MP Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Ian Lawrence of NAPO, activist, poet, co-founder and co-chair of BARAC Zita Holbourne, Shauneen Lambe of Just for Kids Law and criminal defence solicitor and Justice Alliance member Matt Foot, but the loudest applause was for a rousing speech by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty. You can see pictures of all of them and more about the protest on My London at Save Legal Aid.


Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14: This protest on Saturday 21st July 2018 was the 14th organised by Movement for Justice outside the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood and I think their last there. I missed the first so this was my 13th visit to this remote location, cyling uphill the five or six miles north from Bedford station. I had previously photographed a number of protests organised by MfJ outside the two immigration prisons (officially called detention centres to make it sound nicer) on the north of Heathrow airport, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, a rather easier journey.

Unlike these two prisons which housed men, Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to hold women, though there were also a few families there. The protests there had attracted more campaigners because of this, with women being seen more widely as victims than male asylum seekers. And many of those who were locked up inside were women who had been raped as well as beaten and otherwise subjected to traumatic events before fleeing their countries.

Many of the women – as too the men elsewhere – were kept locked up for many months and some for years in indefinite detention while the Home Office refused to believe their stories or to properly investigate their cases, often demanding paperwork it would be impossible for them to provide. The remoteness of the centre and only limited access to internet and telephones makes it difficult for the women to progress their cases.

Many of these are people with desperate needs for counselling and help, but instead as various investigations, official as well as undercover journalism – had shown are held under appalling conditions in this and other centres run by private companies such as SERCO, with detainees refused their human and civil rights, assaulted, sexually harassed and assaulted, denied proper medical treatment, poorly fed and forced to work for £1 an hour on menial tasks.

The protests here are greeted by the women, giving them the assurance that they have not been forgotten and that there are those outside who support them. Those able to get to the windows facing the hill on which the protesters stood so they could be seen over the tall prison fence – the lower 10ft solid steel and above that another ten foot of dense metal mesh – shouted greetings, waved and held up messages.

A powerful public address system meant those inside could hear the speeches, some by former inmates of Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres, and some by those inside, relayed by mobile phone to the amplifier, as well as by some leading MfJ members.

Most of those inside will eventually be released, the majority getting leave to stay in this country. Some are taken to be deported with the MfJ and other organisations then working desperately and often successfully to stop their deportation flights back to terror and violence in their home countries.

This was by far the smallest of all the protests at Yarl’s Wood organised by the MfJ, following complaints made against the organisation by a former member who appears to have been treated badly by them. But however justified her personal complaint, her comments revealed little or nothing about the nature of the group which was not already on Wikipedia or otherwise common knowledge. But the dispute led to many other groups ending their support for protests organised by the MfJ, some organising their own protests but with very limited success.

Mabel had been held in Yarl’s Wood for a day or two less than 3 years

Other groups were and are working – as MfJ still is – to support detainees. The MfJ has played a major role in protests against our racist immigration detention system and in actions to prevent deportations. It still seems to be supported by many former detainees who have always played a leading role in the protests both at Yarl’s Wood and at Harmondsworth.

The Home Office finally decided it was too easy for protests to be organised outside Yarl’s Wood and moved the women – many of whom were released at the start of the Covid epidemic – up to an even more remote location in the north-east, with Yarl’s Wood being used to house those who had crossed the Channel in small boats.

The Illegal Immigration Act finally passed a few days ago intends to deport almost all migrants and asylum seekers (other than those coming under special schemes for Ukraine, Hong Kong etc) to Rwanda without any consideration of their asylum claims. Efforts to persuade the government to set up safe routes for those claiming asylum were rejected by the government in the latest ratcheting up of its racist policies, justified by them through the doublespeak of “compassion” while showing not the faintest scintilla of any real compassion.

More on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14.