A 1,000-strong protest on Monday night raged at judges’ decision to allow the Tories’ first deportation flight to Rwanda. The crowd gathered outside the Home Office in central London hours after the Court of Appeal threw out a case by Detention Action, Care4Calais and the PCS union.
The first deportation flight is due to leave on Tuesday—marking a serious ramping up of the Tories’ assault on refugees.
Beth, who works with Citizens of the World Refugee Choir, joined the protest to “show defiance”. “I don’t accept the court’s decision,” she told Socialist Worker. “The law cannot be trusted—we have to fight for our rights. There is so much enshrined in law too that is no good for us.”
Chants of “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” rang out as protesters blocked the road.
Justice Jonathan Smith ruled last Friday that there was “material Public interest” in allowing home secretary Priti Patel to continue with Rwanda deportation policy. On Monday three judges told Detention Action, Care4Calais and the PCS that Smith “conducted the balancing exercise properly”—and that the flight could go ahead the next day.
Already over half of those due to be kicked out of Britain on the first flight have been taken off after individual legal challenges. And, with less than ten reported to be still on the flight, it could even be cancelled. But Patel will continue to plan more deportations.
Jeremy Corbyn MP told the crowd, “This is a human rights issue and an utter disgrace. The government is outsourcing refugees and we have to absolutely say no. It’s good how Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed into Britain. But we need the same response for every refugee.”
Laila told Socialist Worker that she came to the protest “because someone has to do something”. “I feel sick to my stomach at what the Tories are doing,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how cruel they are.
“Refugees don’t walk across the world because they have nothing better to do. They risk their lives to reach safety only to be kicked out and treated so horrendously. How has it come to this? We have to stand up.”
Trade unionists with Unite, TSSA and NEU banners joined the protest. Michael is assistant secretary of the NEU education union branch in Lambeth, south London. “I’m here because I’m disgusted with these racist Tories,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’re told in schools to teach about British values. What am I supposed to say?
“The truth is the Tories stir disgusting racism. We’ve had so many cuts and that is down to them. Yet they tell us cuts to the NHS and education are because of refugees.”
Michael added, “As a trade unionist I’m here to show solidarity with my fellow workers around the world, including refugees and those being deported. All trade unionists have to get involved in the fight against racism—it’s there to divide and rule the working class.
Protest at the Home Office to stop the #Rwandaflight
— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) June 13, 2022
The crowd celebrated protests at a detention centre near London Gatwick Airport on Sunday. And that a protest blocked an immigration raid in Peckham, south London, the previous day.
Protester Lauren added she is “disgusted” by what’s happening. “We need a new system—one without borders. The Tories are racist to divide us, but also because their system is rooted in colonialism and racism.”
Boris Johnson is hoping to use deportation to regroup the coalition of voters that brought him to office in 2019. He cynically posed as an anti-establishment candidate defending the Brexit referendum result in the general election.
Now Johnson is relying on similar rhetoric over refugees. He wants to portray any legal challenge to deportations as a sign of “elite judges” and “lefty lawyers” thwarting the will of the “British people”.
It’s up to anti-racists and the left to stop Johnson and the Tories—and build opposition to Britain’s racist system of detention and deportation.
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