Early in the morning of March 17th, anti-deportation activists bravely put up a blockade of Tinsley House, an immigration detention near Gatwick airport, in order to try and prevent removal of Iraqi asylum seekers collected from here and also at detention centres at Dover and Campsfield (Cambs). Find full reports and pictures on Indymedia.
And not only action on the outside, since at the same time everyone inside Tinsley was on hunger strike, due to changes in the meal system since Brook House opened (breakfasts and evening meals are shipped from the new centre, portion sizes are smaller & evening meals have to be ordered 48hrs in advance).
The blockade, which lasted for over 6 hours, managed to prevent a WH Tours couch and G4S vans from leaving the detention centre, some by locking and by gluing themselves to the gate. At least one detainee won a last-minute High Court injunction and was returned to Tinsley House. Soon after, the activists were violently removed by police, with 9 arrests. Following this, a coach carrying between 8 and 12 Iraqi refugees due for deportation left for Stanstead airport. Others were reportedly taken from Campsfield and Dover detention centres, although some had outstanding appeals and judicial reviews. Later, the charter flight went ahead and landed in Erbil, northern Iraq, with approximately 60 people on board. At least two people had won High Court injunctions and were taken off the flight.
All 9 arrested on the action were released on bail between 9pm and 2am. Their bail conditions include keeping away from Sussex, all UK airports (except for pre-booked flight) and all UK Border Agency facilities (detention centres, reporting centres etc.). They are due in court on March 30th.
Even when they eventually go ahead, delaying such flights can help give time for court injunctions to go through. Plus it is necessary to highlight and subvert the ongoing state practice of deporting people from UK to dangerous areas where they do not want to be sent. The government is using charter flights in part because of the actions taken by detainees, other passengers & supporters against their removal on commercial flights and presumably because they see it as efficient to round people up and move them in groups like farm animals.
More to follow on the hunger strike.
More details on Indymedia: