UK: "Convergence" in London: No Borders conference, arrests of activists and collective deportation

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The weekly No Borders "Convergence" at Goldsmiths College in London could not be more time-sensitive: a report on unsafe return from the UK to Congo has just been released [1], and a collective expulsion to Ghana was carried out on 15 February 2012. Some of the No Borders activists who were trying to stop the deportation have been arrested and await trial planned on 8th March 2012.

No Borders: "stop deportation"

A deportation flight of Ghanaian nationals, detained at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres, was planned on Wednesday 15 February 2012 at 00:10 from Stansted airport. Over 40 protesters from the No Borders movement tried to block access to both detention centres in an attempt to prevent detainees' transfer to the airport.

As reported by on the London No Borders' blog:

"Eleven [of the protesters] had locked their arms together inside heavy-weight concrete blocks, while another suspended herself from a 10ft tripod made of scaffolding poles". [2]

This action delayed the deportation and enabled to save time until court injunctions called for the cancellation of some detainees' deportation order. Around 1 a.m. on Wednesday 15 February, 11 protesters, including one German and one French, were arrested by the police and held in custody until Thursday. They were released on bail until the plea hearing.

"There is no reason why they should have been refused bail after 24 hours", No Borders' press office commented today. The group does not exclude that such lengthy custody may be an attempt to stop protesters from participating in the Convergence events.

Deportation policy at odds with human rights standards

The UK's deportation policy does not comply with EU's highest human rights standards: article 4 of Protocol 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) prohibits collective expulsions but the UK, together with five other EU member states (Bulgaria, Greece, Lichtenstein, Malta, and Switzerland), has not ratified it. There is no monitoring mechanism of forced returns either, since the UK opted out of the EU Returns Directive.

Collective expulsions are thus perfectly legal, at odds with European standards. Wednesday's deportation has been carried out despite the situation in Ghana which includes, as reported in the UK Home Office operation guidance note, a significant degree of violence in the Upper West region, abuse of virgin young woman, stigma of HIV-Aids positive people, widespread homophobia and detention conditions which may put life at risk. [3]

A year ago, the UK authorities had been pressured into stopping the deportation of a Ghanaian woman suffering from HIV-Aids after she had been the victim of sex trafficking and who would face stigma in her country of origin if returned. Only with the intervention of the European Court of Human Right could her deportation be suspended in April 2011 under the interim measure foreseen by Rule 39 of the ECHR's Rule of Court.

Despite the UKBA's ensuring that it is safe for people to return, a recent report published by Justice First documents serious allegations of inhuman and degrading treatments in Congo by returned Congolese nationals whose asylum claim was rejected by the UK. The UK has obligations under international law not to return people at risk of persecution and degrading treatment in their country of origin. [4]

This is the second flight chartered by the UK to Ghana since November 2011.

The eleven protesters are accused by the Crown Prosecution Service of breaching article 14 of the Public Order Act, most probably under the charge of 'serious disruption to the life of the community' although this has still to be confirmed at the plea hearing.

Several people gathered in support of the No Borders participants outside Uxbridge court on Thursday 16 February morning when protesters were summoned to court. Several officers from the Territorial Support Group (London Metropolitan's unit specialised in public order containment) stopped and searched many of the supporters outside the court, officially to prevent the collective organisation of any escape attempt. The plea hearing is due on 8 March 2012 at 9.30 a.m.

The No Borders Convergence lasted until Saturday 18 February 2012, where a demonstration will be organised (see programme [5]).

[1] Justice First (2012) Unsafe Return, Refoulement of Congolese Asylum Seekers
[2] London No Borders (16 February 2012) Harmondsworth blockaders held by police for second night
[3] United Kingdom: Home Office, Operational Guidance Note: Ghana (December 2011)
[4] Care (4 April 2011) Update deportation of trafficked woman

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