Posts Tagged ‘No Borders’

Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business

Thursday, November 4th, 2021

Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business was the call by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) on their march through London on Wednesday 4th November 2015 against the abolition of maintenance grants and demanding free education without fees and huge student debts and an end to turning higher education into a market system impoverishing staff and students.

The march began in Malet St outside what had been the University of London Union, founded in 1921 as the University of London Union Society and was run by students for students. In 2013 the University of London decided to close ULU, taking over the building and running it as ‘Student Central’, now managed by the university, though continuing to offer similar services and resources for the 120,000 students, including bars, restaurants, shops, banks, a swimming pool and a live music venue – though some of these were on a reduced scale. But in 2021 it was announced that Student Central was to close and the building would become a teaching space for neighbouring Birkbeck College.

There were some speeches in Malet St before the march began, with speeches from several student representatives from various universities around the country, teaching staff and some fighting words from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also marched with the students.

Antonia Bright of Movement for Justice spoke about the UK’s racist immigration policies and invited students to protest at Yarls Wood on the following Saturday.

Among the marchers was a ‘black bloc’ carrying red and black anarchist flags and including Class War carrying their ‘WE HAVE FOUND NEW HOMES FOR THE RICH’ banner, along with a ‘book bloc’ carrying large polystyrene padded posters with the names of left wing and anarchist classic books on them or slogans such as ‘Rise, Riot, Revolt.’

The march went through Russell Square Square and down to High Holborn where it turned west and then took Shaftesbury Ave and the Charing Cross Rd to Trafalgar Square.

From there it went down Whitehall to Parliament Square where I left it briefly to photograph campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign who had mounted a weekly vigil for his release from Guantanamo and were holding a ‘Welcome Home Shaker’ celebration.

I caught up with the marchers again at the Home Office, where there was a great deal of noise, confusion and coloured smoke before the marchers turned around and walked back towards Victoria St.

They gathered outside the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills, where a black clad block charged the mass of police protecting the building, but were forcefully repelled. More police arrived and started pushing everyone away, including peaceful protesters and photographers. I was sent flying but fortunately into some of the protesters rather than to the pavement.

Eventually the pushing stopped and the police set up lines across the street which prevented the more peaceful protesters leaving the area. I tried to leave, showing my press card. After some minutes of being refused I found an officer who let me through and I walked along the street to rest and wait to see how the situation would develop. Eventually the students managed to break through the police line and run along to join the others already there, and they moved off. I decided I’d had enough and made my way to Victoria station to catch a train.

More pictures:

Students at Home Office and BIS
‘Welcome Home Shaker’ celebration
Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business


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A Wet Day at Yarls Wood

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Five years ago Movement for Justice organised a protest outside Yarls Wood on Saturday 10th September 2016, and I took the train to Bedford where there was a coach to make the five mile or so journey to the remote site on a former WW2 airfield, now a business park. Unfortunately it is so remote that the coach driver didn’t know the way, and we ended up making a lengthy detour and arriving over half an hour later than we should have done.

The coach set us off as usual on the road outside the Twinwoods Business Park entrance, around 3/4 mile from the Immigration Removal Centre. A rally was taking place on the grass there while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Eventually we set off marching down the road to the public footpath that leads along mainly muddy tracks beside several fields to that beside the immigration prison. The prison has a 20ft high fence around it, the first 10ft with solid metal sheeting and the upper half with a thick gauze through which we could see the women at the windows welcoming and signalling to us.

The field rises up quite steeply from the fence, enabling us to see the two top floors of the nearest wing of the centre, a private prison run by Serco. Going further back the lower floor where famiilies were housed became partly visible. Those held inside are in indefinite detention, never knowing when they will be released or deported – and one woman was kept locked in there for just one day less than three years.


Many of the supporters of Movement for Justice have previously been held in this or similar detention prisons, and a number of them spoke at the protest about their experiences inside. We also heard from some of the women inside, who unlike those in our normal jails, are allowed mobile phones. Some told us how Serco security guards had prevented them from coming to the windows and were threatening those who greeted the protesters with solitary confinement.


Other groups from around the country had come to support the protest, and among them were Latin American women and Sisters Uncut, who at one point provided a display of coloured flares from the top of the hill. Unfortunately be the time I had clambered up to muddy slope to take pictures it was past its peak.


The rain continued, though fortunately it was not too heavy, but the slope towards the fence meant that some areas were waterlogged and others were slippery mud. It was a noisy protest as people shouted and kicked the fence and battered it with branches. On my way back to the coach I went to take a look at the real wood called Yarl’s Wood to the south. I’d hoped I might find another view of the prison, but was disappointed. it seemed a shame that such a peaceful wood should be mired by taking its name for this shameful immigration prison.

Many more pictures at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary.

Close Down Yarl’s Wood: 2015

Sunday, August 8th, 2021

I’m not sure what is happening at Yarl’s Wood now. Temporary huts were erected there to house destitute asylum seekers at the beginning of 2021, but abandoned in February by the Home Office after a legal challenge and a local and national outcry. In 2020 it’s purpose was changed from holding women to holding men, and there were reports that most of the women had been removed, but according to the Asylum Information Database there were 238 asylum seekers still held there at the end of 2020. Both Home Office and Serco web sites appear to lack any information. Six years ago today, on 8th August 2015 I attended a protest there and wrote the following report, illustrated here with just a few pictures from the many in the original My London Diary post.


Yarl’s Wood Immigration prison, Bedford. Sat 8 Aug 2015

Around a thousand protesters in a field adjoining the detention centre joined with detainees locked up in Yarl’s Wood to demand an end to immigration detention and the whole racist system which locks up migrants and asylum seekers without trial, subjecting them to abuse and sexual harassment.

Coaches came from around the country to drop protesters outside the business estate on a former aerodrome in the middle of the country around five miles from Bedford, and a coach from Bedford Station made two journeys from there to bring myself and the others who had arrived by train. Others made their journey there by taxi, car and bicycle, and a few by bus, which dropped them at the centre of a village around a mile away.

The protest was organised by Movement for Justice and there is a long list of other groups that supported it and the campaign to close detention centres, though I think there were also others present: Women for Refugee Women, Right To Remain, CheltFems, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, All African Womens Group, Refugee Support Devon, Exeter City of Sanctuary, London Palestine Action, Diásporas Criticas, South London Anti Fascists, No One Is Illegal, Jewish Socialist Group, Left Unity, CUSU Women’s Campaign, Freedom Without Fear Platform, Black Dissidents, Feminist Fightback, Women’s Association for the Guild of Students, University of Birmingham, Unite Hotel Workers Branch, Plan C, Birmingham, Leeds Feminist Network, Sisters Uncut, SOAS Unison.

The protest started next to the road at the front of the estate to give time for all the protesters to arrive, and then walked along a public bridleway which goes close to the detention centre. The protesters were allowed into a field which ran along the side of the high fence around the centre for today’s protest – at a previous protest they had pushed down fences and breached barbed wire to get to the fence.

There was a rapturous welcome from the women inside the prison, who came to the windows, shouting and waving and holding up signs. Protests like this really give the prisoners hope, and show them they have support and are not forgotten. Together, inside and out people chanted slogans ‘Shut Down Yarls Wood’, ‘Detention Centres, Shut them Down’ and more.

A small rise in the field help us see the windows on the first floor and above despite the fence, solid for around 10ft with another 10ft of mesh on top. People banged it to make a noise, kicked it, and banged it with pots and pans, and some climbed on others shoulders to lift up banners and placards so those inside could see.

Then a group of people wearing face masks began to write slogans on the fence, and soon a long length of it was covered with them ‘No Borders’, ‘No One is Illegal’ ‘#SetHerFree’, ‘Shut it Down’, ‘Gaza 2 Yarls Wood Destroy Apartheid Walls’, ‘Racist Walls’ and more.

Inside the women waved. The windows open to a small gap and one woman waved her leg though it, decorated with paper tied around. Others waved clothing and held up signs, some with slogans like those held up and shouted by the people outside. One carefully drawn one read ‘We Want Freedom – No Human Is Illegal – Close Yarls Wood’ while another simply read ‘Help’.

The organisers had mobile numbers for some of those inside – and others inside wrote theirs large and held them up in the window. We were able to hear greetings and reports from some of those inside, their voices on the phone amplified on the megaphone.

They too could hear the speeches from outside, including several by women who had been held with them inside the prison. Many are held for long periods in this and other detention centres, never knowing when they might be let out – or an attempt made to send them back to the country they were desperate to escape from.

Too soon we had to leave. And they had to stay. As I walked away to catch the coach back to Bedford station I felt ashamed at the way that my country treats asylum seekers. They deserve support and humanity and get treated worse than criminals.


Many more pictures at Close Down Yarl’s Wood.


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