No One Is Illegal

Last Friday 13 3 09 evening, two dozen activists entered the offices of Minister for Immigration and Borders Phil Woolas in Oldham, ‘detaining’

[] him for about 30 minutes.

The campaigners included members of No Borders Manchester[]

No One Is Illegal [] and the Anarchist Federation []. The action intended to mirror the government’s practice of detaining migrants in ‘immigration removal centres’ without prosecution, trial or sentencing, for indefinite periods of time. They called for all immigration prisons to be abolished.Every year up to 30.000 innocent people including 2,000 children are detained arbitrarily and indefinitely in the UK under immigration powers, in purpose built prisons for migrants.

Torture and rape survivors are routinely detained, so are pregnant women and people who have or develop serious illnesses and mental health problems. 2,500 people are currently locked up in 10 British immigration prisons, 7 of them owned and managed by private companies.

There are also a number of ‘short-term’ detention centres at British ports and airports. Phil Woolas is seeking the expansion of the detention estate to 4,000 spaces. Brook House, a new immigration prison at Gatwick airport is due to open this spring [ and there are plans to build another ‘mega’-detention centre near Bullington, Oxfordshire.

Groups affiliated to the UK No Borders network [] are now calling for demonstrations against immigration detention on Saturday 21st March. A protest march [] will lead from Bedford to the Yarl’s Wood detention centre, which was half destroyed by fire in 2002, following an uprising ignited by the ill-treatment of a sick woman by guards. Transport is available from London. Solidarity demonstrations are planned in Manchester and Edinburgh.

Fires, riots and hunger-strikes in protest at appalling treatment and conditions are such a common occurrence in British detention centres that it would be impossible to document [] them all.

Many protests have also highlighted racism and violence from guards, obstruction of asylum claims, attempts to isolate people from outside support and targeting of so-called ringleaders. Similar conditions can be found in detention centres across Fortress Europe, with the recent destruction by fire [] of a centre in Lampedusa, Italy, grabbing the headlines.

The demonstration in Manchester [] will be going to the newly-expanded ‘Pennine House’ detention facility at the airport. The campaign to close this prison has achieved a high profile recently after the invasion of Phil Woolas’s offices and an intervention [] during a speech by Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese.

In Edinburgh [], campaigners will picket the private security company G4S. G4S profits from running immigration prisons in the UK, including Dungavel near Glasgow and Pennine House. They have also received the contracts for Brook House.

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