Posts Tagged ‘Home Office’

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – 2012

Friday, May 10th, 2024

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – Thursday 10th May 2012 saw two rather different marches by workers taking place in London, with a large protest by police and a day of public sector strikes with trade unionists marching to a rally. I also visited the Parliament Square Peace Campaign.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Other groups including Occupy and Right To Protest and others joined in call for justice in the policing of protest.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union but can join the Police Federation, a staff association that can represent and support their interests. Although it cannot call for strike action it can organise demonstrations such as this one, attended by off-duty police and some family members.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

It was an impressively large march, but rather dull as it marched past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St, most wearing black caps. The Police Federation had provided 16,000 black caps to represent the number of warranted officers expected to be lost over the next four years due to the cut in the police budget of 20-30%.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

My pictures concentrate too much on the relatively few officers from some areas who had come with placards. Most simply marched and mainly in silence. A few carried carried small posters with the names of officers who had been unable to attend due to being at work – and there were some police who were policing the police protest, on rather better behaviour than at some other protests.

Some people also came to protest against the police, with the Space Hijackers setting up a ‘professional protest stall‘ at the side of the march offering advice on making placards and chanting. Most of the police marchers were amused by their chants such as ‘One Solution – Institution’ and some of the mock placards, although there were a few jeers.

Those Police policing the protest were less amused, and threatened the Space Hijackers with arrest unless they removed one of their placards with the well-known acronym ACAB. They also stood in front to try and hide them and other protesters including those with a ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ who were shouting slogans against police violence and over deaths in custody for which there is seldom if any justice.

Some from Occupy London had come with plastic police helmets to join in the march, saying they were not against the police but called for a force that worked for the 99% rather than the 1%, or as one long-winded placard put it, “A fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!”

Others taking part on the march included Ian Puddick who got intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses. He marched with a sign ‘Police Corruption‘ and unfortunately there is still a great deal of that as well as racism in forces around the country.

More on My London Diary at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor.


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March

Unite, PCS and UCU were holding a one day strike against public sector cuts in pensions, jobs and services. Many had been up in the early hours picketing at their workplaces long before I arrived in London, but there were still pickets in place when I visited Tate Britain and walked past the House of Commons on my way to a rally outside St Thomas’ Hospital on the opposite bank of the Thames.

I arrived late for the rally there and people were just getting ready to march to a larger rally at Methodist Central Hall.

Workers are incensed by increases in their pension contributions and plans to increase them further. They are also worried by the increasing state retirement age which also applies to their pensions. Now in 2024 it is 66 and will increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. A further rise to 68 is planned and the date for that is likely to be brought forward – as the rise to 67 was.

As they marched, people were chanting “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late“. Pensioners also feel they are being cheated by the government’s decision to index them to the CPI inflation rather than the higher RPI inflation figures, which will mean them receiving some 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

I left the marchers as they went into the rally at Central Hall and returned to photograph the police march and visit the peace camp in Parliament Square.

More pictures at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square

I went to talk with Barbara Tucker who was continuing the Parliament Square Peace Campaign begun by Brian Haw on the 2nd June 2001. The protest, continued by her and other supporters was about to reach a total of 4000 days of 24 hour protest in the square, with others in the group maintaining the presence on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight.

They had then continued for almost 11 years despite constant harassment years by police, who have been pressured by politicians – as well as passing two Acts of Parliament intended to end the protest.

As I wrote in 2012:

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. This was apparently one of two visits over the weekend by police and council in which they illegally removed property from the site.

4000 Days in Parliament Square.

Despite an increase in harassment as a great attempt was made to clean up the capital for the Olympics, the peace protest continued in the square for another year, with Barbara Tucker starting a hunger strike in January 2013. Eventually she became too ill to continue and the protest came to an end in May 2013.


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Croydon, Abortion & Windrush – 2018

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

Croydon, Abortion & Windrush – I began work on Saturday 5th of May with a late May Day march in Croydon, then came to Westminster where abortion rights protesters were meeting to oppose a ‘March for Life’ anti-abortion march and rally. At Downing Street there was a rally against the racist attacks by Theresa May against the Windrush generation, which later marched to continue at the Home Office, where I ended the day after photographing the anti-abortion march.


Croydon march for May Day – Saturday 5th May 2018

Although International Workers Day is celebrated internationally on May 1st, in Croydon there was a march and rally on the following Saturday.

Croydon is just 15 minutes by public transport from the centre of London, and those who were able to do so had probably joined the main London march on May Day, while others will have had to wait for the weekend to celebrate, so the march and rally on Saturday made sense.

It wasn’t a huge march, though doubtless more made their way to the rally later at Rusking House, where the speakers were to include Ted Knight, once the leader of Lambeth council and then one of the best-known Labour politicians, derided in the press of the day as ‘Red Ted’. One of the largest groups on the march was the supporters of the local Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaign fighting against proposed cuts there.

More pictures at Croydon march for May Day.


Women protest anti-abortion march – Parliament Square

Feminists in the abortion rights campaign held a rally in Parliament Square before the annual March for Life UK by pro-life anti-abortion campaigners was to arrive for their rally.

They opposed any increase of restrictions on abortion and called for an end to the harassment of women going into clinics and called for women in Northern Ireland to be given the same rights as those in the rest of the UK, as well as supporting the Irish referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution dating from 1983 which effectively banned abortion in Ireland.

More pictures at Women protest anti-abortion march.


Anti-Abortion March for Life – Whitehall

I walked up Whitehall to meet the several thousand anti-abortion campaigners, mainly Catholics, marching to their rally in Parliament Square.

They argue that even at conception the fertilised egg should be awarded an equal right to life as the woman whose body it is in, and call legalised abortion the greatest violation to human rights in history.

This was the first London march by ‘March for Life UK’ who had previously held marches in Birmingham and came a few weeks an Irish vote was expected to repeal the 8th amendment and allow abortion in Ireland, and some posters and placards called for a ‘No’ vote in this.

More pictures at Anti-Abortion March for Life.


Windrush rally against Theresa May – Downing St

I remained on Whitehall to join a rally at Downing St organised by Stand Up to Racism calling for Theresa May’s racist 2014 Immigration Act to be repealed and an immediate end to the deportation and detention of Commonwealth citizens, with those already deported to be bought back to the UK.

It demanded guaranteed protection or all Commonwealth citizens and for those affected to be compensated for deportation, threats of deportation, detention, loss of housing, jobs, benefits and denial of NHS treatment and an end to the ‘hostile environment’ introduced by Theresa May.

Speakers also condemned the unusual moves by the Tories in ways that threaten the normal working of Parliament to try and keep information about the Windrush scandal secret. Aong those speaking were Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, trade unionists, and people from organisations standing up for immigrants and opposing immigration detention including Movement for Justice who brought two women who had been held in Yarl’s Wood to speak.

After the rally at Downing Street protesters marched to the Home Office for a further rally there.

More pictures on My London Diary:
Home Office: Windrush Immigration Act protest
Downing Street: Windrush rally against Theresa May


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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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End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth 2015

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth: Saturday 11th April 2015 saw what I think was the largest protest to date outside the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre on the Bath Road immediately north of Heathrow airport.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

Various organisations had held protests here over the years, but these had grown since Movement for Justice began organising them, bringing a large group of current and former asylum seekers out from London on the tube to Terminal 5 and then on the short bus ride to the prison. They included some who had come from other cities in the country – and even from Glasgow. Other groups at the protest included No Borders, Southall Black Sisters and Shoreditch Sisters W I.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

There are two detention prisons on the site, both surrounded by 20ft high fences with a private road to a BT site running between them. Called Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, they were in 2015 both run by Mitie’s ‘care+custody’ division, and the overall name for the centre had changed to Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre, which made clear that the government intention was to deport people rather than operate a fair asylum system.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

The Home Office has long proved itself to be both incompetent and racist, and huge backlogs have built up over the processing of asylum claims. They seem to start from the position that all asylum claims are unfounded and those making them are liars, often despite the evidence. Claims that should be processed in days take months or years – during which time people may be kept in detention centres like these generally quite unnecessarily. We should imprison criminals, not asylum seekers.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

As I commented in 2015:

these are prisons, with those inside being unable to leave; they have a few privileges denied those in normal jails, including the use of mobile phones, but some disadvantages, including that they are all on indefinite sentences at the whim of government and subject to a constant threat they will be forcibly bundled onto a plane and taken back to the country from which they have fled, often at fear of their lives. These prisons are also run by staff who often lack the basic training, supervision and accountability of normal jails.”

The majority of those who claim asylum are eventually granted leave to remain in the UK as their claims are well-founded. Some have been deported before they are given time to prove their cases to the Home Office’s satisfaction under “fast track” procedures that have been ruled illegal.

Our laws prevent them from working and contributing to our economy and society, and almost all are keen to do so and have skills which are in short supply. We need a system that gives people the medical treatment they need and gets them back into normal work and life as quickly as possible. Instead far too many are simply parked in prisons like these without proper medical care and largely isolated from those who could help them. Its both inhumane and economically unsound.

Although police and a large team of security guards stopped the protesters from going down the road toward the prison blocks, forcing them into a pen in front of the administration building at the front of the site, the loud protest could be heard throughout the site. Some of the prisoners were able to use their mobile phones to welcome the protesters and let them known about the poor conditions inside, and their calls were relayed over the public address system the protesters had brought.

Most of those who spoke at the protest had themselves been held inside these or other detention centres often for long periods after escaping from beatings, rape and torture in their home countries, and several spoke about their experiences in the system here. Some said they had been treated as troublemakers because they stood up for their rights – and that inmates who failed to do so, whatever the strength of their cases, were likely to face deportation.

I was tired after a couple of hours of the noisy protest, with chanting, singing and dancing – though mainly I had just been taking photographs, and left to catch a bus home. I could hear the protest continuing from the bus stop several hundred yards away, and when the bus came – ten minutes late – saw the protesters making their way out of the site to a public footpath which runs along the side of the Colnbrook site to continue their protest closer to those prison blocks.

Many more pictures on My London Diary at End Immigration Detention.


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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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Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – 2018

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – London hasn’t had a great deal of snow for some years, but when I got off the bus on Wednesday 28th February 2018 close to London University I found myself walking into a blizzard. There was a couple of inches of snow underfoot and the biting wind was driving dense snowflakes into my face making it both difficult to walk and hard to see where I was going.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

I slipped a few times and almost fell as I walked through Byng Place, only just managing to stop myself and my camera bag falling into the snow, and for the first 15 or 20 minutes after I reached the meeting point for the march it was difficult to take pictures, with snowflakes landing on the lens surface as soon as I took away the cloth I had stuffed against it inside the lens hood and raised the camera to my eye.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

Most of the pictures from the start of the protest were ruined by snow on the lens making some areas soft and diffuse. It might sometimes have been an arty effect but wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately after a while the snow died down and I was able to work more normally, though the occasional flake kept coming and there were a few thick flurries later on the march.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

The UCU was on the fifth day of a strike to try and get the universities to talk with them about pay and pensions. On this march to a rally in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, they were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions. And plenty of their students had come along to show their support.

Although students are now paying high fees for their university courses, the pay of university teachers has not benefited from this, and has not kept up with inflation. Much more teaching at universities is also being done by graduate students and others on part-time or often zero hours contracts.

What particularly inflamed the situation was the intention of the universities to end the long-established pension scheme, replacing it with one that would greatly reduce pensions, and their refusal to discuss this with their union, the UCU.

The 5 day strike was supported overwhelmingly by UCU members and had shut down 61 UK universities, despite draconian threats by the management at some of them such as Royal Holloway (RHUL). Pickets had stood in the freezing weather and few people had crossed the picket line.

The move away from the pension scheme was largely driven by a small number of universities, particularly the Oxbridge colleges. Many of these are extremely wealthy, some owning huge areas of land including large parts of London and having vast reserves, not least in their wine cellars. A number of college principals had given their support to the union.

The dispute between the employers and the UCU continued for five years and was only ended in October 2023 when the employer body UUK made an offer of full restoration. This came after 69 days of strikes by the UCU and was a historic victory for UCU members and reversed further cuts made in 2022.

University teachers continue to fight for better pay, more appropriate workloads and job security. FE teachers, marching because of the loss of 15,000 jobs in the sector particularly as adult education has been savaged by austerity, and whose wages had been cut by 21% since 2009, continue to be treated unfairly.

I went into the rally in Central Hall largely to try to get warm after the freezing march, and was fortunate to arrive early enough to get inside – many of the marchers were left outside the the cold where the speakers went outside to speak after making their contributions in the hall.

The event was running late because of the larger than expected number of people on the march, and by the time the main speakers, John McDonnell and Frances O’Grady had performed I’d missed the time for another event I’d planned to cover, the handing in of some NHS petitions at the Department of Health. I But I was pleased to be able to stay longer in the warm.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs
HE and FE march for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

I left the Methodist Central Hall and walked down to the Home Office where an emergency protest was taking place to support the hunger strike and refusal to work by the 120 women and a few men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood.

They had begun their action a week earlier to demand the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights and end the separation of families, end indefinite detention with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end the re-detention of those released from detention.

Their statement also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for more than ten years and for the Home Office to stop deporting people before cases and appeals have been completed, as well as making full disclosure of all evidence to immigration tribunals.

They called for those in detention centres to be treated with dignity and respect and be given proper health care and an end to the detention of highly vulnerable people. They also want an end to employment in detention centres at ‘prison wages’ of £1 an hour.

Among the groups supporting the protest were the Movement for Justice, All African Women’s Group, Queer Strike and No Borders. Some of those taking part in the protest had previously served time in detention centres and knew first hand about the shameful way the UK treats them and some spoke at the event and several of those taking part in the hunger strike were able to speak to the protest from inside Yarls Wood by mobile phone.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Peckham & Stockwell Protests – 2017

Sunday, January 21st, 2024

Peckham & Stockwell Protests – on Saturday 21st January 2017 I spent the day in South London, photographing protests in Peckham and Stockwell.


Peckham welcomes march against deportations

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

Immigration raids in south London had target long-established African, Asian and Caribbean communities, dividing families, deporting people who have built lives in the UK with parents, partners and children here. Protesters compared the deportation flights which followed with slave ships, with deportees shackled with a guard on each side in a cruel and divisive act of racist discrimination.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

The Home Office had carried out many of these forced deportations unlawfully, and the High Court had decided that their use of the ‘detained fast track’ procedure from 2005-2014 was unlawful and went beyond their legal powers. Had we as individuals had acted illegally for so long and so persistently there would be little doubt that we would now be in prison.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

But the government gets away scot-free. The 10,000 or so asylum seekers deported under the old system could in theory ask for the decision made on their cases to be set aside and lodge a new appeal, although very few are likely to be in a position to do so.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

The protest was organised by Movement for Justice, but supported by many other groups including including SOAS Detainee Support (SDS), Anti Raids Network, Zimbabwe Human Rights Organization Mazimbabweans, Jewdas, BLMUK, London Mexico Solidarity, Fight Racism – Fight Imperialism (FRFI), Sisters Uncut – South East London and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.

After a short rally the protests marched down Rye Lane, the main shopping street in Peckham, attracting a great deal of support from shoppers on the crowded street.

Some went into shops and handed out leaflets there and on the street. They held a short rally at the south end of the street before returning for another in the square by Peckham Library.

Peckham march against deportations


Oh! Mother march against knife crime – Peckham

Another protest march was taking place in Peckham during the afternoon. Oh! Mother, A Christian organisation based in South London which campaigns for change in communities was protesting to put an end to gun and knife crime.

Their march followed the stabbing to death in Peckham on 30th December 2016 of 24 year old Ernest Kalawa. Among the marchers were members of the dead man’s family, some of whom wore t-shirts commemorating him.

Oh! Mother march against knife crime


March against closing community centres – Stockwell

Members of Lambeth Labour were meeting in Stockwell to march to Stockwell Community Centre, one of two local community centres in Stockwell and Kennington Park which are run by Hyde Housing Association which were threatened with closure.

Lambeth Council is spending £50 million on a new town hall and had pledged £20 million to support the vanity Garden Bridge project, but the Labour-run council had made drastic cuts in community services, including library closures and selling off council estates to developers but has refused to support these community centres.

Lambeth Labour Council is one of a number of London Labour councils dominated by right-wing members who appear to have lost any sense that councils exist for the benefit of their residents rather than of the councillors.

Lambeth appear to follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Southwark, here journalist Anna Minton found that “20 per cent of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists” for developers in the planning industry and that a significant number of Councillors and Council officers are making use of a ‘well-oiled revolving door’ to the industry.

March against closing community centres



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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.


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.


Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Sunday, June 4th, 2023

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage: Tuesday 4th June 2013 saw quite a mixture of protests around Westminster with a regular daily protest during the Parliamentary session calling for the return of Shake Aamer and in solidarity with Guantanamo hunger strikers, a protest at the Home Office against the deportation of gay asylum seekers to Uganda, at the Ministry of Justice against privatisation of legal aid and protesters for and against outside the House of Lords were debating the gay marriage bill.


Bring Shaker Aamer Home Vigil – Parliament Square

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Protesters were keeping up their daily vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament to remind MPs that British resident Shaker Aamer was still held in Guantanamo despite being cleared twice for release. They called on the UK government to urge President Obama to release him and close down the illegal prison camp.

The Guantanamo hunger strike was now putting the lives of the hunger strikers in danger, with over 40 of more than a hundred taking part now being forcibly fed, including ‘prisoner 239’, Shaker Aamer from Battersea.

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Although today the daily protest was small it drew attention to itself with large bright orange banners and those taking part all in black hoods and orange jumpsuits, and one wearing ‘chains’ around hands and feet.

Bring Shaker Aamer Home Vigil


Stop Deporting Lesbians to Uganda – Home Office, Marsham St

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

A few days ago on 30th May 2023, Uganda’s President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act which is said to be among the harshest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world. It imposes the death penalty for some so-called aggravated cases and largely repeats a similar 2014 law which was declared unconstitutional by Uganda’s constitutional court.

Uganda was a British protectorate from 1894 to 1962 and inherited anti-gay laws from colonial penal code, which have been widened since independence. Wikipedia puts it clearly “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda face severe legal challenges, active discrimination, state persecution and stigmatisation not experienced by non-LGBT residents.” It goes on to state “Violent and brutal attacks against LGBT people are common, often performed by state officials.

Despite the dangers the Home Office was continuing to deport gay people who had fled Uganda because of the danger and often violence they had suffered because of their sexuality back to where they faced persecution and probably death.

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

The protest came after lesbian Jackie Nanyonjo died following injuries inflicted on her during her forced deportation by thugs contracted to the UKBA in March, and a day before flights were due to return ‘Linda N’ on Qatar Airways and ‘Josephine’ by Royal Air Maroc.


Linda N, a known lesbian activist and member of the Movement for Justice was dealt with under a ‘fast track’ procedure designed to prevent proper consideration of cases, and despite a great deal of evidence was told she had not done enough to prove that she was gay. Josephine, a woman aged 62 with family in the UK, came here for sanctuary after refusing to carry out female genital mutilation (FGM). If returned she will be subjected to punishment beatings for her refusal and possibly killed.

The protesters called for an end to racist immigration policies and the release of these women and others held in Yarls Wood and an end to deportations still taking place to Uganda and other unsafe countries including Afghanistan.

Stop Deporting Lesbians to Uganda


Save Legal Aid & British Justice – Ministry of Justice, Petty France

Around a thousand people including many lawyers and other campaigners for justice blocked the road in front of the Ministry of Justice for a lengthy rally against proposed changes to the legal aid system which would mean that instead of people being defended by lawyers with the relevant expertise they would be assigned to the company who had made the cheapest bid. Large companies with little legal connection including Eddie Stobart and Tesco were expected to bid for the work, putting the many small specialist law firms which currently exist out of business.

As speakers pointed out these changes threaten the very heart of our legal system, severely reducing the chances of those who are not rich to get justice.

The changes were being proposed without proper consultation and regulations to bring them were tocome into effect within 3 months, without any pilot scheme, without an debate in the Houses of Parliament and with no proper examination of the evidence.

Among the speakers were several QCs, including Dinah Rose, Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Fordham, representatives of human rights organisations and charities, MPs David Lammy, Jeremy Corbyn, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter and Bianca Jagger.

Many more pictures including those of most of the speakers at Save Legal Aid & British Justice.


For and against Gay Marriage – Old Palace Yard

Two groups of protesters were in Old Palace Yard. Stonewall had come with posters, t-shirts and vuvuzelas along with other LGBT protesters including Peter Tatchell and there were others including one in drag waving a rainbow flag.

A short distance to the side were a similar sized group organised by Christian Concern, an evangelical organisation who prayed and sang, murdering ‘Amazing Grace’ several times while I was there. At there centre were a black couple dressed as a bride and groom standing on a base resembling a wedding cake.

As well as these two groups which carefully avoided any direct conflict – one woman from ‘Christian Concern’ who came and began to tell the LGBT protesters that she was praying for them was quickly dragged away by one of their organisers – there were also a number of religious extremists also wandering around the area and protesting much of the day, some holding up large print posters of Bible texts, others standing still and preaching – though as I pointed out there there seemed to be nobody listening to their amplified sermonising.

I think the real debate is not about marriage but about having an established church which has made marriage both a civil and a religious contract. The law should clearly separate the two and religious bodies can now outside the established church do so should they chose. Some Christians would have no problems with having religious ceremonies for gay marriages, but others would not be forced to do so.

My elder son and his bride had two ceremonies some weeks apart, one a religious one with an Imam officiating and the other, some weeks later, with an official registrar present. Marriage law is essentially about the civil contract and I can see no reason against this applying to any couple whatever their genders – nor did the House of Lords.

More pictures at For and against Gay Marriage.