Anti-racists on Merseyside are organising to confront the recently announced Home Office policy of sending refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda in central Africa. And the campaign has already had an important success with one person scheduled to be deported now released.
On Friday of last week, an urgent call came from the Care4Calais refugee charity. Around 100 refugees had been brought to Liverpool and accommodated in hotels used by the Home Office, almost certainly ahead of their transport to Rwanda. Care4Calais called for volunteers to visit the hotels and distribute information leaflets in different languages containing essential contact details for legal and welfare support.
Many of the refugees did not realise they had a right of appeal before deportation, but the chance to do this was running out.
It was vitally important that they received the information before they had their phones seized. Many volunteers came forward and covered all of the accommodations during last weekend.
From this initial response, a coalition came together quickly made up of a range of organisations. These included Care4Calais, Stand Up to Racism, These Walls Must Fall, Solidarity Knows No Borders, Asylum Link, Many Hands One Heart, Merseyside Youth Justice Group and others.
On Sunday Care4Calais released the good news that, “The first of the people who were given Rwanda notices has been released from detention.
“The man, we’ll call him N, said he couldn’t believe it. N left Sudan in 2015. The Janjaweed militia attacked his village and killed his mother and sister. They shot and crippled his father and shot N in the head and back and left him for dead. Luckily an NGO found him and took him to a hospital at a refugee camp. But the refugee camp was not safe either.
“When he was recovered he left. It took a couple of months to cross the Sahara and reach Libya. He was taken captive and imprisoned for nearly two years, forced to do hard labour, beaten and kept short of food.
“When N finally escaped he made the terrifying trip across the Mediterranean. He has a cousin in the UK and so headed for Calais. Having no money to pay smugglers he tried to sneak into lorries at night, but one night the French police caught him and beat him so badly, kicking him in the face and head, that his eyesight remains impaired.
“Finally he reached what he believed to be the safety of the UK. But less than 24 hours after arriving he was given a letter saying he was to be sent to Rwanda.
“He said, ‘I could not believe the UK would do this. I have suffered so much. The cruelty was a shock. I showed them the marks all over my body and asked how they could do this to me.’ He said to those 99 people who are still in detention and in receipt of the dreaded Rwanda notices, ‘Don’t give up my brothers. Since we left our homes it has been so hard. Don’t give up now. Be strong.'”
The day before this announcement 70 protesters assembled around a banner which read “‘No deportations to Rwanda”. At the protest, which was covered by Grenada Reports regional television news, speakers talked about the traumas suffered by those seeking refuge. They noted the perilous journeys made to reach Britain and the dangers that expulsion to Rwanda would mean.
Many refugees have lost family members or even their whole families, and many have experienced torture. Others described the illegality of the Home Office’s Rwanda plan. The protest was united in one clear message—”No deportations to Rwanda! Refugees are welcome here!”
The government says that removals to Rwanda could begin as early as 6 June. The PCS union, Care4Calais, Detention Action and Freedom from Torture are challenging the removals to a place of danger in the courts. But more direct solidarity and protests on the streets will be needed.
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