On 27 April 2011, campaigners leafleted customers outside a Barnardo's charity shop in Marylebone, during the busy lunch hour in London's West End, to protest against their involvement with the UK Border Agency.
Barnardo's is the UK's largest children's charity. The protesters wanted to raise awareness among Barnardo's customers about the charity's controversial new involvement with the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Barnardo's has accepted a government contract to run a creche at the soon-to-be-opened "pre-departure accommodation facility" near Gatwick. This is essentially a prison where asylum-seeking families with children will be detained pending a deportation attempt by the UKBA. The security at the prison will be done by G4 Securicor - the notorious firm involved in the deadly deportation of Jimmy Mubenga in October 2010. The government are claiming to have ended child detention, and introduced a new 'compassionate approach to family removals'. Barnardo's support for this process adds a veneer of respectability to the government's deception. Indeed, at the planning application meeting for the new prison, councilors said any concerns they had about the welfare of the children were reassured by Barnardo's involvement.
Campaigners warn that their boycott of Barnardo's shops will continue until Barnardo's withdraw their support from the UKBA's new prison for asylum-seeking families. The shop manager was visibly embarrassed by having campaigners outside with a banner saying "Barnardo's believes in locking up children". Most customers and passers-by were surprised to hear about the charity's new venture. The manager refused to speak with campaigners when they tried to explain what the protest was about. Instead, he called the police in a futile attempt to get them to go away. It is disturbing when the government, large corporations and the UK's biggest children's charity work together to detain and deport people fleeing violence and poverty.
If you want to organise your own shop boycott demo in London, there are shops in Chingford, South Woodford, Wanstead, Golders Green, North Finchley, Whetstone, Chiswick, East Sheen, Marylebone, Brixton and Eltham.
To find their shops across the island see here.
A flyer can be downloaded here.