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Keep up the fight after Rwanda deportations blocked

The Tories have a long-term plan to use racism to divide the opposition to them
Issue 2809
Protesters against Rwanda flight with placards including "All refugees welcome"

Protesting against the Rwanda flight plans outside the Home Office on Monday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A deportation flight to Rwanda designed to massively escalate the government’s assault on refugees did not take off on Tuesday. It came after a series of legal challenges and furious protests. Throughout the day the number of those on board fell after legal challenges. These culminated in action at the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of “real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment”.
 
And activists launched protests across Britain. On Tuesday afternoon Stop Deportations protesters locked themselves together with metal pipes and blockaded exits of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). It’s where the potential deportees were thought to be held.
 
On Tuesday or the previous few days there were demonstrations at the Home Office, Rwanda House, Brook House IRC, the Royal Courts of Justice, MOD Boscombe Down and in numerous towns and cities. They included Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Cambridge, Abergavenny, Chesterfield, Manston airport, Nottingham, Sheffield, York, Edinburgh, Brighton and Swansea.
 
The cancellation of the flight is a massive relief to those who were targeted and their supporters. And this victory is hugely welcome. But the government will not give up. The Tories want to use the prospect of removal to Rwanda to intimidate people from claiming asylum in Britain.
 
Home secretary Priti Patel said after the flight was cancelled, “We will not be deterred from doing the right thing. Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.”
 
Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said, “We are relieved to hear the flight to Rwanda did not take off as planned tonight.” But “it is clear that the government remain determined to press on with this deal”. He said this “leaves us to continue to witness the human suffering, distress, and chaos the threat of removal will cause”.
 
Stand Up To Racism said, “It’s hugely welcome that nobody has been deported to Rwanda tonight. Solidarity with all those who protested. But we know this is not the end and the struggle goes on against all racist deportations and state racism.”
 
Earlier on Tuesday, foreign secretary Liz Truss said she hoped the flight would “establish the principle”. That principle is to tell desperate people fleeing war, repression and poverty that, if they don’t drown in the Channel, the British government will expel them to Rwanda. 
 
Those targeted would be dumped in central Africa with no prospect of a return to Britain, however powerful their cases for protection. Instead, the Rwandan government would consider their application, and if they were successful, they could stay in the country. If not they would be deported from Rwanda—to some unknown destination. It’s a fearsome prospect.
 
In 2018 Rwandan security forces shot dead at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo when they protested against a cut to food rations. Authorities arrested and prosecuted over 60 of them on charges including “spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state”. These same laws could be used against the people Britain now wants to pluck from south coast beaches.
 
Truss also said the government is prepared to “face down” future legal challenges to its plans, adding the numbers of people being sent to Rwanda by the end of the year “will be significant”. She pledged that those who the courts had blocked from Tuesday’s flight would be on future ones.
 
The loathsome Boris Johnson accused lawyers representing migrants of “abetting the work of criminal gangs” at the start of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Did it not enter anyone’s mind that this coming from the leader of criminal gang whose law-breaking during lockdown should have brought them all down?
 
Johnson, Truss, home secretary Priti Patel and the rest of them are prepared to wade through human suffering in a vile search for votes. They hope that enough people will back them to boost the Tories. 
 
They are helped by a Labour Party that offers no clear opposition to deportations. It quibbles over details but doesn’t confront the whole policy. Instead the Tories’ racism has to be taken head-on.
 
As a first step, everyone angered by the Rwanda plan should join the TUC union federation demonstration on Saturday. Stand Up To Racism has a section on it raising slogans that include a welcome for all refugees and opposition to the Rwanda plan. The Tories will return to this accelerated form of deportation brutality. Anti-racists have to keep up the fight.

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