Activists blockade Heathrow detention centre to stop mass deportation flight to Ghana

* No Borders activists block both exits of Europe’s largest immigration prison using heavy concrete blocks and a scaffolding tripod
* Dozens of migrants held at the prison are due to be deported to Ghana on a specially chartered flight at midnight

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Mainstream media coverage: Guardian | BBC |

Harmondsworth Ghana blockade"Anti-deportation campaigners are blockading both exits of Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres, near Heathrow airport, in a bid to stop the forcible deportation of dozens of Ghanaian migrants held at Harmondsworth. A specially chartered flight carrying up to 50 deportees is scheduled to leave to Gahana from an undisclosed airport at ten minutes past midnight tonight.

Eleven activists from the No Borders network [1] have locked their arms together inside heavy-weight concrete blocks, preventing the coaches carrying the deportees from leaving the detention centre. Another protester is suspending herself from a 10ft tripod made of scaffolding poles. The blockaders, joined by at least twenty protesters holding banners and chanting anti-deportation slogans, have vowed to remain in place until the flight is cancelled.

This is the second time there has been a mass deportation flight to Ghana from the UK. The first was in November last year. Charter flights are being used increasingly by European governments to deport more and more unwanted migrants to a growing list of countries, with an average of one flight a week from the UK alone. [2]

The action coincides with a week-long 'convergence' of No Borders activists from across Europe at Goldsmiths college, south London. The event's callout had called upon supporters to “take action against various aspects of the border regime in London and the surrounding areas.” [3]

One of the blockaders, Dave Leighton, 34, said: “This flight has to be stopped. Everyone, not just a privileged few, should enjoy the freedom to move and stay wherever they want or need, regardless of their nationality or bank balance. Forcible deportations reinforce a screwed-up system whereby the rich and powerful use borders as a convenient tool to divide and distract ordinary people from the real causes of inequality.”

Another protester, Yvonne Mason, 26, added: “My friend will be on that flight. He suffers from chronic injuries following his violent arrest during an immigration raid last year. He has been locked up at Harmondsworth for almost a year without access to proper medical treatment. He should be provided with care and support, not be deported against his will.”


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Notes for editors:

[1] No Borders UK is a network of groups and individuals who stand against all forms or repression and control and struggle for the freedom of movement for all. For further informations, see

[2] As the government seeks to increase the number and frequency of forcible deportations, the use of specially chartered flights to more and more countries has increased significantly over the last few years. In the financial year 2009-10, there were 67 such flights, deporting a total of 2,144 people, at a cost of £10.3 million.

Every deportation is a violation of people's right to freedom of movement but mass deportation flights are a particularly sordid way to do that. On top of the trauma and hardship caused by forcible deportation, these charter flights further undermine the legal rights of deportees, as the emphasis is on filling the flight and getting rid of them as soon as possible, outside the public gaze, rather than ensuring the appropriate legal avenues have been exhausted. The UK Border Agency's Enforcement Instructions and Guidance states that "charter flights may be subject to different arrangements where it is considered appropriate because of the complexities, practicalities and costs of arranging an operation". Charter flight deportees are told that "removal will not necessarily be deferred in the event that a Judicial Review is lodged".

[3] The No Borders Convergence 2012 (13th – 18th February) is a week-long event featuring workshops, meetings and actions against the border regime. The callout and programme can be found at