At 7 am this morning 4 women and 3 men D-locked and superglued themselves to the main gates of Tinsley House IRC at Gatwick Airport in an attempt to prevent the forced* mass expulsion of around 50 Iraqi refugees.
A special deportation charter flight is scheduled to leave Stanstead airport to Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq) later today. If it goes ahead, it will be the eighth time in the last eight months that people have been deported to Iraq by charter flight.
Unlike many other European countries, the UK government is refusing to ratify Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the collective expulsion of foreigners. The Home Office also claims that Kurdistan is 'safe' but recent deportees have committed suicide, been kidnapped and been killed in car bombs. It is particularly dangerous at the moment as political in-fighting intensifies in the run-up to the regional elections.
One of the protesters, Brian Arcola, said: "Charter flights like this are the latest step in the government's macabre immigration policy. Aside from the ethical implications of handcuffing and deporting innocent people under the threat of the baton, by not telling them when they're going to be deported they deprive many people from adequate legal representation. If there's to be any truth in the claim that Britain is a tolerant, fair country, this has got to be stopped."
One of the deportees, whose real name cannot be used for his own security if he goes back to Iraq, said earlier on the phone: "I've been in the UK for nine years. I have a partner and an 18-month-old son. If I am deported, all this will be gone. I've made a life for myself here, living as everyone else does in this country, but I'm now being treated like I'm a criminal, imprisoned then deported." He added: "I left Iraq originally because my life was threatened by a radical Islamic group. That same group is now more powerful than they were before. I won't be safe, I won't be safe."
Another Iraqi refugees, who was deported last month and prefers to keep anonymous, said: "I don't know when I'll see my partner or my daughter again. I speak to them in tears on the phone every night. I am still in shock after being sent back. I have had to change my name so I'm not targeted by the same people who threatened to kill me before. My entire world has caved in."
*Each deportee is handcuffed and accompanied by two security guards.