SUPPORTERS of asylum-seekers staged protests across Britain yesterday ahead of a mass deportation to west Africa on a charter plane booked by the Home Office.
Detainees at an immigration removal centre were locked up ahead of the departures to Ghana and Nigeria planned for 10.30pm from an unconfirmed airport.
More than 30 women were shut in one room in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Others were shut in the units that they were in at the time and none of the women were allowed to return to their own rooms.
Detained Zimbabwean nurse Leslyn K called Black Women’s Rape Action Project to say that the inmates feared that guards were picking women one by one to put them on the flight.
She said: “Some of the women being removed have ongoing immigration cases and some can’t afford to pay the £800 fees to apply for the right to stay.
“Others have suffered rape and other terrible violence and need specialist help. They should never have been detained in the first place.”
In Glasgow, Police Scotland broke up a peaceful blockade at the Home Office’s Brand Street office in solidarity with lesbian Beverley Vaanda Kanjii, who has said she would rather die than be forced back to Namibia, and her 14-year-old son, who had both been grabbed in a dawn raid.
The Unity Centre in Scotland said that the controversial practice of using a list of “reserve” detainees, to be put on the flight if others manage to halt their deportation, means that some would be flown out of the country even though they have ongoing claims.
Elias “Lord” Apetsi — a student in Glasgow, where he had lived for 10 years — was also taken closer to London for a flight to Ghana, days after he was elected by NUS Scotland to represent refugees.
The father of two British children had his application for permanent residency submitted late through no fault of his own, said the Scottish Greens, who have been campaigned for his release.
More than 100 of his supporters assembled at the Scotland Office in Edinburgh yesterday and another demonstration took place outside the Home Office. MSPs also pledged to write to Tory Home Secretary Theresa May over the decision.
LGBT advocate Favour Onuzulike was also detained at an airport although his emergency application was still pending.
A demonstration was held in Swansea yesterday with backing from Cardiff Pride, the Public and Commercial Services union and Fire Brigades Union.
The organisers said that Mr Onuzulike would face 14 years in prison in Nigeria as his identity was put on the front of newspapers that revealed he was gay.