Campaigners from the Stop Deportation Network and the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees are now (12 May) blockading Colnbrook detention centre, near Heathrow airport, to stop 45 Iraqi refugees being forcibly deported to Iraqi Kurdistan on a specially chartered flight. Six protesters have encased their arms in glass and plastic tubes and concrete blocks, blocking the entrance to Colnbrook and Harmondsworth detention centres. The coaches to carry deportees to the airport have not been able to leave.
One of the deportees has been on hunger strike for 10 days in protest at his forced removal. Najih Rahim Mohammed said: "They haven't even listened to my case properly. I haven't been able to get a decent solicitor as I don't have enough money. I've just heard that the people I left Iraq to escape –people who had killed my brother– have recently kidnapped my uncle but the UK government doesn't care. Many of us have established lives here but the government doesn't care either. I have a daughter and a partner here. I have a life here but they want to send me back to Iraq. Why? It's not fair."
Dashty Jamal, secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
(IFIR), said: "Deportations to Iraq are inhumane and must be stopped. They place people and their families in great danger. Many of those who have been sent back are forced to live in hiding to avoid persecution by the Kurdistan Regional Government. IFIR has received reports of deportees who have committed suicide, been kidnapped or killed in car bombs. Nobody should be sent back to Iraqi Kurdistan."
The flight is thought to be carrying approximately 60 refused Iraqi refugees, with around 45 of them currently held at Colnbrook. More people are held in Brook House detention centre, near Gatwick airport. Typical of Iraq mass deportation flights, the time, airline and departure airport are not disclosed by the Home Office.
If it went ahead, the flight will be the 9th mass deportation flight to Iraqi Kurdistan in the last 10 months. Iraqis are also deported individually or in groups of two or three on commercial flights such as Royal Jordanian.
A similar mass deportation flight to Iraq in March this year was met by campaigners with a similar blockade of Tinsley House detention centre at Gatwick airport.
One of the Stop Deportation Network said: "Deportation charter flights such as this one are fast becoming the government's favoured way to deport those who have fallen foul of its macabre immigration controls. Every deportation is a violation of people's right to freedom of movement but these charter flights are a particularly sordid way to do that. On top of the trauma and hardship caused by deportation, these charter flights further undermine the legal rights of the deportees whose lives are torn apart. Many deportees have not exhausted all legal avenues available to them and have not had access to adequate legal representation as the emphasis is on filling the flight and getting rid of them as soon as possible and outside the public gaze."