Activism

Rallies planned outside detention centres in solidarity with those locked up ahead of Rwanda flights

The protests will take place this weekend at Heathrow, Gatwick, and in Manchester, Oxford, and Bristol.

UK Jamaica policy

Protesters outside the Rwanda High Commission. Image: Greg Barradale/Big Issue

Protesters will gather outside immigration detention centres this weekend in the latest show of resistance to the UK’s Rwanda policy.

Activists from a coalition of groups will rally outside detention centres near Heathrow and Gatwick and in Manchester, Oxford, and Bristol, in a bid to support those still detained.

The flights have been suspended until September, with a High Court case and a new prime minister on the way, but all Conservative leadership candidates have said they will back the UK’s Rwanda policy.

Zehra Hasan, advocacy director at the JCWI, one of the groups involved in the protests, told The Big Issue protesters planned to show solidarity with those in detention, including many who remained fearful of being deported to Rwanda.

“Last month we saw a huge public movement against Priti Patel’s cruel and racist Rwanda deportation flights, with protests, direct action, phone blockades and legal intervention successfully grounding the first plane,” Hasan said.

“Now, despite the entire Tory cabinet collapsing, this government sadly appears just as committed to their sadistic anti-refugee policies as ever.”

Demonstrations, called by SOAS Detainee Support and the Solidarity Knows No Borders Network, will take place on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July.

On Saturday, protests will take place outside Colnbrook and Harmondsworth, by Heathrow Airport, and Brook House and Tinsley House, by Gatwick Airport, at 3pm.

Protests on that day will also take place in Oxford’s Bonn Square and outside Manchester Short Term Holding Facility at midday, and outside Durham’s Derwentside and Hassockfield immigration removal centres at 2pm.

The first flight, planned to take off on June 15, was cancelled after a last minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling came as the plane was on the runway, with asylum seekers on board.

On Sunday, a protest is planned outside Dungavel immigration removal centre, in Lanarkshire, at 2pm.

In the run up to the first flight, protests sprung up as anger grew over the policy. Hundreds gathered in cities across the UK in the days before, while protesters laid in a road in a last-ditch attempt to delay the flight.

A court case brought by a number of charities will be heard by the High Court on September 5 – the same day as the new prime minister is announced.

Ali Jones, an organiser with SOAS Detainee Support, said: “We know of people who are under extreme distress – some are even contemplating taking their own lives. We are here to let them know that we will not allow this to happen, and that we will fight alongside them.”

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