Communications House November Picket

Yesterday’s No Borders London picket of Communications House was uneventful, just a few of us leafleting asylum seekers, staff, and passers by. The police pulled up, having been called out with a claim that 40 people were demonstrating – we asked them to send down the other 30 if they came across them.

Still as well as letting more people know about what goes on behind the doors of this anonymous building at Old Street, we managed to pass out information to many asylum seekers and to have some interesting conversations about their experiences.

We listened to tales of destitution, of sleeping rough on the streets, in vans, in launderettes.

Tales of an unsympathetic bureaucracy, seemingly intent on wearing people down so that they agree to ‘voluntary’ deportation. Beyond the doors of Communications House was described as being like a post office, take a ticket and wait to be called to the desk to have your papers stamped - only with the constant threat that you might be detained, your mobile phone confiscated, shipped off to a detention centre then deported. Seemingly arbitrary changes in routine – being asked to attend to sign on monthly, weekly or even daily. Turning up to sign on and then being told you’ve got to come back the next day instead, dragging your child behind you in the cold.

Tales of anger – one man said ‘What are we going to do to stop this? Migrants built this country, your grandparents came here to build this country then they say that they want to deport you’.

Tales of resistance, of the long haul through the system refusing to give in, writing letters, making friends and enemies. Occasionally of more spectacular successes – somebody told us of being detained in the past on a ship in Sweden, and of how people were freed as a result of militant demonstrations by Swedish supporters.

Another picket of Communications House is planned at 1 pm next Tuesday November 7th by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! - see details here.

Text of No Borders London leaflet given out at Communications House yesterday:


Picket Communications House, junction of Old Street and City Road (Old Street Ø), 1-3pm every first Saturday of the month

COMMUNICATIONS HOUSE is a "reporting and enforcement centre" of the Immigration and Nationality Department (IND). Asylum seekers who report here can be detained and removed–and may not ever see their friends and family here again. 85 people, including families, were seized this way in six months to April 2004.

• Communications House contains a "Short Term Holding Centre" managed by private prison company GSL (previously part of Group4)–subject of 2 major media exposes of racist abuse by employees. Those seized at Communications House are held incommunicado until a Wackenhut van removes them to their unknown fate. Friends, lawyers and family may not discover what has happened to them for days.

• Communications House is part of a spreading Gulag of prisons (“holding”, “detention” or “removal centres”) that hold thousands of people who have committed no crime–almost all run for private profit.

• It's right in the heart of London yet few know it is there, or what happens there. Many people will be appalled to learn about it.


It isn’t possible to give a guaranteed way of avoiding detention or deportation for those migrants under threat, but there are things that can help.

Some people succeed through campaigning, making a noise, luck, having support, good legal advice or a combination of these. A few may succeed through keeping quiet and hoping not to get noticed but if we’re going to make a real difference we have stand up together.

• Make sure you know your current legal position. Don’t leave things to your solicitor as they may not be doing anything, and as you may need to know in a hurry. Make sure you have an emergency contact for your solicitor. The Refugee Legal Centre have an emergency advice line for outside office hours on 07831 598057. Keep a file of all relevant information handy for yourself or for a friend if necessary.

• Take a friend with you if you have to report.

• Make contacts and get support wherever you are. The more roots you have and the more people you have to make a fuss for you, the harder it is for the government to lock you up or expel you.

• Never give up. There is always another chance to sort out your situation, more evidence for your claim, a chance that people will listen.

• If detained you are entitled to challenge your detention and to apply for bail. A good place to start is Bail for Immigration Detainees at or on 020 7247 3590.

• Contact us on 0794 0143 983

No Borders London is a group of people who are against controls on the movement of people, and who organize actions against borders and in support of those affected.

We are not lawyers but have experience and some resources to help people fight for themselves.