15 July 2022 by BETHANY RIELLY
PROTESTS are being held outside detention centres across Britain this weekend to demand the government drop its “inhumane” plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The nationwide action is aimed at sending a message of solidarity to men and women imprisoned inside the detention estate, campaigners told the Star.
Rallies are set to take place outside Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, near Heathrow, as well as Dungavel in Scotland and Derwentside — the Home Office’s new all-women immigration removal centre in County Durham.
It has been organised by a wide network of refugee and migrant right groups, including SOAS Detainee Support, the All African Women’s Group, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.
Geraldine, a refugee from Zimbabwe, is among those joining the protests to oppose the “inhumane” deal.
She told the Star that the government’s plans to deport asylum-seekers on a one-way ticket to Rwanda has spread fear among the refugee community in the UK.
“We are afraid,” she said. “We are afraid, because they can start with the asylum-seekers and then what if they come for us — the refugees,” she asked. “What if they say: ‘Now we will find another place where we should take you to’.”
Having arrived in Britain in 2001 after fleeing persecution for her political activities, Geraldine was eventually granted asylum, and now supports other women as a member of the All African Women’s Group.
“We have women in our group who are from Rwanda, who are refugees, and they’ve actually fled the persecution that is happening in Rwanda,” she continued. “And that very same country is where they want to send the people. Rwanda is not a safe country.
“Everyone is scared. The genocide happened in Rwanda. The government there, they even follow people in South Africa, they follow the opposition people and activists.”
She said that some women are now going “underground,” over fears of being sent to Rwanda, putting them more at risk of exploitation.
The Home Office has continued to detain dozens of people with a view to sending them on a one-way ticket to Rwanda despite ongoing litigation challenging the plans.
At least one woman has also been detained and given a notice of intent of the government’s decision to deport them to Rwanda, according to reports.
Cristel Amiss, joint coordinator of Global Women Against Deportations, one of the groups involved in this weekend’s action, told the Star she fears women with experiences of torture and sexual violence would be sent to Rwanda, as well as mothers with children in the UK.
“Priti Patel claims men are ‘elbowing women out of the way’ when they come across on the boats yet she has constructed a regime that makes it virtually impossible for women to enter the UK to get status,” she said.
Ms Amiss said the weekend of action is part of a growing anti-deportations movement, which in recent months has seen activists blockade detention centres and thwart immigration raids.
“We’re all entitled to safety and protection wherever we’ve come from and wherever we’re travelling to,” she said. “We are determined to get rid of the Nationality and Borders Act, end detention and deportations.”
Cal Shaw from North East Against Racism, one of the groups that will be protesting outside Derwentside on Saturday, told the Star: “We see the Rwanda deal as being a significant ramping up of racism of an already racist system further bolstering the hostile environment for migrants — particularly for women with children and those being separated from their children. We oppose deportations to Rwanda or anywhere else.”
Protesters will also gather in Bonn Square in Oxford on Saturday to oppose the government’s decision to reopen Campsfield detention centre, four years on from its closure following concerns about the treatment of detainees, as well as Manchester.
Geraldine added that she wanted to send a message to detainees this weekend that they are “not alone.”
“There are other asylum-seekers and refugees who are thinking of them, who are supporting them and feeling their pain because we’ve walked that journey, of not knowing what’s going to happen to you today or even tonight.”
To find a full list of this weekend’s actions click here