Buses surrounded in London to prevent returns to Rwanda

Buses surrounded in London to prevent returns to Rwanda
Buses surrounded in London to prevent returns to Rwanda

Activists occupied the road and managed to prevent the departure of a bus on Thursday in London, supposed to take migrants to a center in the south of the country.

AFP

Defenders of asylum seekers are mobilizing in the United Kingdom to prevent the arrests or transfers of migrants and thwart the plans of the Conservative government, which intends to deport thousands of them to Rwanda starting this summer.

Parliament voted on April 23 a controversial law aimed at sending irregular migrants to Rwanda where their asylum applications will be considered, without the possibility of them returning to the United Kingdom, whatever the outcome.

Rishi Sunak’s government, which wants to begin these expulsions within nine to eleven weeks, has started arresting migrants in recent days, in operations that have sparked a wave of concern among migrants and the associations that support them.

Heading south

Dozens of people gathered outside a hotel in the Peckham district of south London on Thursday to block a bus that was to take migrants to Bibby Stockholm, a huge barge moored in the south of the countrywhere hundreds of applicants are already housed.

For several hours, they prevented the vehicle from leaving, in particular by forming a circle around it and opposing the police, noted an AFP journalist.

Forty-five people in total were arrested and placed in police custody for obstructing the road, refusing to comply and for violence against the police, even though no member was seriously injured, announced Scotland Yard.

“They’re not going anywhere.”

The street “is completely blocked by people who resist the transfer” of migrants. “We are far more numerous than the police. They won’t go anywhere,” the SOAS Detainee Support association which helps migrants said on X.

According to the British news agency PA, the asylum seekers were taken off the bus and were not transferred.

In recent days other similar gatherings have taken place, in London, Glasgow or near Nottingham, near the immigration centers of the Ministry of the Interior, where migrants and asylum seekers regularly have meetings, and in front of the hotels where some are staying.

A mayor takes action

In Margate, Kent, where migrants were also to be transferred to Bibby Stockholm, demonstrators managed to push back the government, after blocking the departure of buses chartered for their transport last week. “Margate is ready to defend its own residents,” said its mayor Rob Yates, who also opposed the transfer of migrants.

These actions are “completely unacceptable,” a Downing Street spokesperson responded on Thursday. “We will not let a small group of students, posing for social networks, prevent us from doing what is right for the British people,” British Interior Minister James Cleverly also reacted on X.

Massive influx of refugees

These operations come at a time when the number of Channel crossings by migrants has broken a historic record in the first four months of 2024, with more than 8,000 arrivals on the English coast.

On Wednesday, 711 migrants arrived on 14 small boats, a record for a single day since the start of the year, while 66 others, including women and children, were rescued off the coast of Dieppe, France, their boat having been in difficulty.

The British government has made the end of these crossings a priority, a few months before the legislative elections, and insists in particular on the dissuasive nature of the law allowing expulsions to Rwanda.

Against the advice of the UN and Europe

He said he hoped to expel “by the end of the year” an already identified group of 5,700 people, despite calls from the UN or the Council of Europe to abandon his project.

A union of senior civil servants, the FDA, has also filed an appeal, arguing that the new law exposes civil servants to breaking international law if, as provided for in the text, the British government decides to ignore a possible decision to the European Court of Human Rights against expulsions.

A first migrant has been expelled to Rwanda on Monday, according to British media, but as part of another program, based on volunteering.

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