Last year 15 activists took part in a protest to prevent a charter flight organised by the Home Office from deporting 57 people to Nigeria and Ghana. The anti-deportation activists, members of the group End Deportations, were subsequently arrested and yesterday stood for trial charged with terrorism offences.
The use of terrorism laws in relation to the protest is unprecedented and has prompted calls for the charges to be dropped from politicians across party lines including Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party and Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary.
Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors and Black Lives Matter UK have released the following statement in support.
‘There comes moments when the people begin the collective cries to say enough is enough and take action in solidarity with those who are bearing the brunt of brutal systematic oppression. Today the 15 people facing trial on terror-related charges for preventing a secretive deportation flight, and the people in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre who are on hunger and labour strikes for “unfair imprisonment and racist abuse in this archaic institution in Britain” are just those people.
Under Theresa May’s “hostile environment” following the legacy of successive neo-liberal governments, we have increased immigration controls, privately run detention centres, immigration raids, chartered deportation flights, and the use of ordinary folk such as teachers and nurses as Home Office spies to report on the “immigrant” lurking behind every corner.
These policies are nothing less than institutionalised racism, and the creation of a two-tier system in our society, where citizenship grants you access to basic human rights and everyone else is dehumanised and scapegoated.
Across the pond, Donald Trump has also created an environment that mirrors the UK’s xenophobia and anti-black and brown immigrant sentiments and practices. Over the last year the United States government’s policies and practices have torn the most vulnerable families apart and criminalised the courageous and brave activists who’ve stood up for those families.
In an act to stop the tearing apart of families and communities, the 15 activists on trial today prevented a secretive charter flight from boarding, taxiing and taking off towards Nigeria and Ghana. They laid on tarmac for 10 hours through the night in front of one of the many secretive deportation flights and stopped it taking off so people on the flight could stay. Some of those who were due to be deported that night are still in the UK and have ongoing legal cases to remain with their families and in the place they call home.
The activists are now being charged under terrorism laws for the first time in Britain – setting a dangerous precedent for all those who are moved to protest. The message from the authorities is clearly one to scare off anyone who challenges the government’s racist, unjust deportation regime.
But what we know right now is if we can’t stand up to the Donald Trumps and Theresa Mays of the world the fate of our families and communities are doomed. This is a time to show solidarity, and remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants, from the women inside Yarl’s Wood on hunger strike today, to the previous hunger strikes in detention centres in the 1990s, to the rich history of radical black organising, protest and direct action globally’.