Anti-deportation campaigners tried to stop the collective expulsion of approximately 50 Iraqi refugees from the UK today . Campaigners locked themselves to the gate of Tinsley House detention centre at Gatwick airport, where some of the deportees are being held, in an attempt to prevent the forcible deportation.
Nine people have been arrested following this blockade. Six of the arrestees had locked and glued themselves to the prison's gate to prevent Iraqi refugees from being taken to Stanstead airport to be forcibly deported on a special charter flight to Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, later today.
The blockade, which lasted for over 6 hours, managed to prevent a WH Tours couch and G4S vans from leaving the detention centre. Soon after the protesters were violently removed by police, however, a coach carrying between 8 and 12 Iraqi refugees due for deportation left for Stanstead. Others were reportedly taken from Campsfield and Dover detention centres, although some had outstanding appeals and judicial reviews. At least one man won a last-minute High Court injunction and was returned to Tinsley House.
Despite today's 'sad' results, campaigners have vowed to step up their fight against collective expulsions and deportation charter flights. Rich Whitman, one of the protest campaign calling itself Stop Deportation, said:
"The fact that the UK government is still refusing to ratify Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits collective expulsion of foreigners, is very telling about its policy on immigration. Arguing that Iraqi Kurdistan is 'safe' when people are fleeing the region everyday is just silly. Many of those who've been forcibly deported over the last year or so have been killed, committed suicide, or been imprisoned and tortured by the Kurdistan regional government or Islamist groups."
Iraqi Kurds who have been deported back to Kurdistan over the last few months, and their families in Kurdistan, have recently formed a Deportees Committee to resist forcible deportations to Kurdistan. A demonstration was held last Sunday in Sullaimaniyyia, northern Iraq, to protest against the Kurdistan regional government's complicity in EU's immigration policies. Dashti Jamal of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), who was present there, said: "These people clearly did not want to return. They had lives back their [in the UK]. Some of them had left their families behind and may not be able to see them again. Many feel unsafe and some have had to change their names or move somewhere else under very difficult conditions to survive. Surely this this is not what I would call 'safe'."