Protesters chanted “no Rwanda” as they rallied outside an immigration removal centre in opposition to Government plans to start sending migrants to the east African country from next week.
Demonstrators shook the outer fence of an immigration removal centre on Sunday in protest at the Government’s Rwanda policy — and people inside the facility appeared to be shouting back.
Scores of activists marched to the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, close to Gatwick Airport, near Crawley, West Sussex.
Dozens of activists shouted “we are with you”, “set them free” and “deportations no more… Britain is a racist state”.
Some activists banged the outer fence of the immigration centre and people inside the compound sounded like they were chanting back.
In unison with protesters, people inside appeared to chant: “No Rwanda.”
The plans would see some people who have entered the UK illegally flown to Rwanda to seek asylum there.
A High Court ruling means the first flight to the east African country could proceed on Tuesday but campaigners are due to challenge this in the Court of Appeal on Monday.
At the protest, teacher Jane Fisher, of Croydon, south London, who volunteers with Care for Calais, which delivers emergency aid to refugees, told the PA news agency: “There is a young boy called Sami and he was from Afghanistan, his parents and his sister were blown up in a car bomb and he is 17 and he has come across.
“He is really frightened he is going to be sent to Rwanda.
“He keeps asking about it because the refuges don’t know what is happening.
“I meet some amazing people and all of them have got horrible stories.”
Abbas Artan, 24, an asylum seeker originally from Somalia who crossed from Calais to the UK in a small boat in October, says he has been living in limbo at the Radisson Red hotel near Gatwick Airport for the past eight months.
On the Rwanda policy, he told PA: “The Government must stop this because the people suffer a lot.
“Someone comes here to change his life, to send them back to Rwanda when there is nothing there… some people have said ‘I will kill myself if I’m sent there’.”
He said he fled Somalia because the militant jihadist group Al-Shabaab tried to recruit him as a soldier and knocked out his teeth with the butt of a gun when he refused.
His journey to the UK saw him cross from Somalia to Ethiopia, then Sudan, Libya, Italy, Sweden, Germany and France, before crossing the Channel.
Christian Hogsberg, 42, a history lecturer at the University of Brighton, told PA he was at the protest against the Government’s Rwanda policy to “show solidarity with refugees who are facing the danger of deportation to authoritarian regime Rwanda at the hands of a Tory Government that is playing the race card in the most shameful manner”.
He accused ministers of trying to get Britons “to blame people who are some of the poorest and most powerless people in the world rather than those who are really responsible for the cost-of-living crisis in our country”.
Up to 130 people have been told they could be deported, and on Friday the High Court in London heard that 31 people were due on the first flight, with the Home Office planning that more planes will go later this year.
The first claim against the policy was brought by lawyers on behalf of some asylum seekers alongside the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), as well as groups Care4Calais and Detention Action, which are challenging the policy on behalf of everyone affected.
The Prince of Wales is reportedly “more than disappointed” by the Rwanda policy, allegedly privately calling it “appalling”, according to reports in The Times and The Daily Mail.
On Sunday, Rwanda’s lead negotiator for the deportation agreement with the UK said the country is ready to accept people in “tens of thousands” but will start on a gradual basis.
Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to the Rwandan Ministry of Justice, also defended Rwanda’s human rights record and said it was not illegal to be homosexual.
She told Tom Swarbrick on LBC: “Actually, based on our history we understand the importance of protecting anybody from hate speech and discrimination, this is not tolerated in our society, the freedom from discrimination due to sexual orientation of a person is guaranteed in our constitution and the rule of law is there to enforce that.”