In the lead up to a charter flight to Nigeria scheduled to leave around 24 January, Monday 9 January signified the start of a fortnight of international action against mass deportation from the UK, called for by Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary and Nigeria Deportation Support Group.
Charter flights refer to the hire of a whole private aircraft by the Home Office to forcibly deport up to 100 people at a time, most commonly to Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The cost of this practice means immigration raids targeting the sick and those less able to put up a fight, are ramped up prior to the flight in order to fill all the seats in a hurry. Not only this, but deportees and their security escorts being the only people on board means conditions are not monitored and countless abuses go unaccounted for.
The actions due to take place in Britain, Nigeria and Jamaica will express the anger of a global community of anti-racist campaigners and migrant support organisations, who are standing up against the British government’s racist immigration policies that are ripping communities apart. Several demonstrations outside embassies in London are planned, as well as marches through Brixton and Peckham – areas of London that are home to diasporic communities being hit hard by immigration raids.
The brutality of mass deportation is an appendage to the British right wing’s scapegoating anti-immigration rhetoric, that blames “foreigners” for austerity and disregards lives lost in the Mediterranean as readily as it will endanger lives and ruin the futures of integrated members of society. These are innocent people who have sought asylum and lived most of their lives in the UK, who have parents, partners and children here, some of whom have serious health problems or who are long-term carers to elderly and disabled relatives; others are students prohibited from finishing courses.
International protesters are unified in their outrage and condemnation of the colluding of the Nigerian and Jamaican governments with former colonial and occupying power Britain, who continues to exploit on behalf of British and Western corporate interest. Under a “memorandum of understanding”, Nigerian and Jamaican governments have been bullied into an agreement under which deportees are admitted in Lagos, Accra and Kingston.
As well as protesting the treatment of migrants in detention and unfair deportation, the actions will also shine a shaming light on private company Titan Airways, who, despite providing aircrafts described as “modern-day slave ships”, describes itself as “the UK’s most prestigious charter airline”. Another privately contracted company, TASCOR, provide private security staff or “detainee custody officers” clad in military style uniform, under government contracts worth £120 million.
The whole process is corrupt and inhumane.
On arrival in the “home country”, following a charter flight during which movement is restricted by “waist restraint belts”, deportees are abandoned to re-start their lives, often without papers or belongings and without support from any government. Many end up in poverty, cut off from family, friends and all they’ve known in UK and face violence on the streets and little support from organisations.
Resistance up until this point has been exercised by activist groups and detainees outside and within detention centres. Collective organisation at Yarl’s Wood successfully prevented a deportation in November 2015 and Home Office “immigration enforcement” vans have been met by angered community members, with raids successfully blocked.
Ultimately, the British government’s practice of charter flight deportation is enabled by the complicity of the Nigerian and Jamaican governments, who are profiting from criminalising citizens and sacrificing their futures. The demonstrations taking place are a call for transparency around procedures relating to deportations, to highlight racist policy and the continuation of colonial brutality and a lack of accountability on behalf of the British government for its violent history of imperialism.
This fortnight of action is not the beginning of resistance against mass deportation, but is an integral part of the building of an international movement to disrupt it.
Upcoming STOP mass deportation actions:
January 14th – March through Brixton
January 17th – Demonstration at Jamaican High Comission
January 21st – March through Peckham
January 25th – Defend international students
For more events by Movement for Justice: