Socialist Worker

Refugees handcuffed on a burning bus

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2593

A passerby took a picture of the burning bus asylum seekers were detained on

A passerby took a picture of the burning bus asylum seekers were detained on


Security guards refused to let refugees facing deportation leave a burning bus until they were handcuffed.

And they initially wouldn’t let them move further than 20 feet from the flames before the vehicle exploded on Wednesday 14 February.

This is just one glimpse of the brutality of Tories’ racist immigration laws, which lock out refugees trying to get into Britain and criminalise those who come here.

The ten asylum seekers were being transported from Harmondsworth immigration detention centre in west London, the largest prison for refugees in Europe. The bus caught fire on the M25 motorway on its way to a Pakistan-bound flight from Stansted Airport.

Four asylum seekers spoke to the Guardian newspaper about their treatment at the hands of the outsourced Capita security guards.

Ali said, “They were handcuffing the detainees instead of leading us to safety. I feared for the lives of all the people on board.”

A Capita spokesperson claimed it was “factually inaccurate that when the fire was identified the individuals were then handcuffed”.

Ali also said that the guards knew about an oil leak when the bus arrived at Harmondsworth. “Three different officers have told me that oil was leaking from the back of the bus and there was a puddle of oil on the ground,” he said.

“They told me that managers at Harmondsworth knew about it and they should have stopped us from getting on that bus.”

At Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre prisoners begun an all-out hunger strike this Monday, according to the Detained Voices website. They had been on partial hunger strike for a number of weeks.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti visited Yarl’s Wood last week. Abbott slammed the “shocking treatment” of detainees and said Labour would end indefinite detention for people awaiting deportation.

Anti-racists should demand that any incoming Labour government will stop all deportations and shut down the detention centres. It should grant asylum seekers indefinite leave to remain and open the border for refugees in Calais.

Resisting the Tories’ racist assault also has to mean defending freedom of movement—and fighting to extend it to people beyond Europe’s borders.

A key part of that is making sure there’s the biggest possible turnout on the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on 17 March.

Go to Students Against Racism conference on Facebook, page 12 and standuptoracism.org.uk for a list of rallies building for 17 March demonstrations

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