In recent weeks, disturbing news has been coming from Brook House immigration detention centre. Brook House is being used to hold people for charter flight mass-deportations to various European countries. People from countries including Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Kuwait are being dumped on arrival, left on the streets of Germany, France and Spain.
The Home Office has admited the majority of those being detained for removal are refugees with valid asylum claims. However, the government seems stubbornly committed to invoking the Dublin Regulations, forcing people to apply for protection in other European countries they may have passed through. A completely unnecessary , cruel – and in the middle of a pandemic – dangerous political choice.
These Walls Must Fall campaigners in Liverpool have spoken out. Read their solidarity message below.
Our message to people inside Brook House, who are struggling, is: be strong. We on the outside are fighting for you. We need you outside, we need you to come and help us, fight this system together. You know you are not alone.
Content warning: self-harm, suicide
We are campaigners in Liverpool with These Walls Must Fall. We have all experienced the threat of deportation, and some of us have been held in immigration detention. We are making this statement in response to the recent and upcoming charter flights, and the hunger strike protest and recent suicide attempts in Brook House.
We know what it means to be persecuted, to suffer harsh times. It’s a matter of life and death
It is inhuman and unjust to be detaining and deporting people, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a reason why people have risked their lives crossing the borders to reach this country. People born in the UK might not understand what it means to be persecuted. We know what it means to be persecuted, to suffer harsh times. It’s a matter of life and death – it’s not a joke. People come here because they don’t have a choice: you need to be here to be alive. Going back is not an option. Even if charter flights are returning to European countries, people have good reason want to stay in the UK. People have family and support networks here, speak the language, or have been mistreated in other European countries they have passed through.
The government is risking people’s health by trying to deporting people in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. It’s not possible to enforce social distancing on a flight – charter flights are expensive, they want to fill the plane. And there is no way to socially distance if you are making someone get on a plane by force. The British government is currently advising people against all but essential travel to France and Spain, because their coronavirus cases have increased so dramatically. So how can we deport people there? If someone is deported and dies of coronavirus, or commits suicide, the British government will be responsible.
Some of us have been detained. We understand why people feel desperate. One of our members says:
‘When I was in detention myself, I felt the same thing – I stopped seeing myself as a human being. They wanted to return me to the country from which I was escaping. That made me just want to disappear, I just wanted to die. Let me just end my life, because I’m not going back there’.
We send our solidarity to those on hunger strike inside Brook House. A hunger strike is a way of saying: please – listen to our voice. Our message to people inside Brook House, who are struggling, is: be strong. We on the outside are fighting for you. We need you outside, we need you to come and help us, fight this system together. You know you are not alone.
We have always thought Britain was a welcoming country. People are kind here. But the system is not kind. The Home Office shouldn’t be able to decide whether people can live here or send them away to die. We are all humans. It’s important to have that sense of humanity – to care for one another – to treat people how we would like to be treated. The public don’t know the way people are being treated. When we talk to friends, they are shocked. And it’s the public who can raise their voice. We have to make our voices heard.
It’s important to stop that flight – and all the flights.
We want to end detention.
We want our campaigning to give people hope.
Please join us.