Al Jazeera

‘Shut them down’: Protesters demand end to ‘racist’ detentions

London, United Kingdom – Migrants, asylum seekers and social justice campaigners in the UK are joining forces to call for the closure of the country’s notorious immigration detention centres amid concerns for the well-being and dignity of those locked inside.

Several hundred protesters gathered recently outside the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres, two adjacent facilities on the perimeter of London’s Heathrow Airport, the latest in a series of demonstrations intended to draw attention to a system that critics decry as racist and brutal. Continue reading

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Al Jazeera

Women seeking asylum in UK face ‘trauma and disbelief’

London, United Kingdom – Msgana walked for three days and three nights across the desert to escape from Eritrea into Sudan.

Women protest against the detention of asylum seekers [Simon Hooper]

Women protest against the detention of asylum seekers outside Harmondsworth detention centre in April [Simon Hooper]

From there, with the help of a family member, she arranged to be transported to Europe. After 30 days hiding aboard a ship, Msgana eventually reached the northern French port of Calais. She was then smuggled onto a lorry bound for the UK and, she believed, a better life.

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Al Jazeera

Migrants to UK face political backlash as election looms

Chatham, United Kingdom – For hundreds of years, ships set sail from Chatham’s Royal Dockyards to extend and enforce British power and influence around the globe. Now the world has come to Chatham.

New shops catering to migrant tastes are re-shaping Chatham's high street. [Simon Hooper]

New shops catering to migrant tastes are re-shaping Chatham’s high street. [Simon Hooper]

Shop fronts on the southern English port town’s busy high street advertise foods from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey and SIM cards offering cheap international calls, while halal butchers and kebab grills vie for customers alongside traditional pubs, fish and chip shops and Indian and Chinese takeaways.

Such cultural diversity has become commonplace in many British towns since 2004, when the expansion of the European Union brought an influx of workers from Poland and other central and eastern European countries.

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Al Jazeera

Somali man ‘dragged bleeding through airport’ in forced removal ordeal

A Somali man forcibly returned to Mogadishu from the UK under a controversial new scheme to send home failed asylum seekers has described how he was punched and kicked by the British guards who accompanied him, and left bleeding in a cell after having a tooth knocked out.

African Union soldiers prepare for an attack on al-Shabaab rebels in southern Somalia.  [AMISOM]

African Union soldiers prepare for an attack on al-Shabaab rebels in southern Somalia. [AMISOM]

The man, who did not want to be identified because he fears for his safety, also told Al Jazeera how he was restrained in handcuffs for most of his journey aboard Turkish Airlines flights via Istanbul and pressured by his escorts to sign a document stating that he had returned to his homeland voluntarily.

Speaking on the telephone from the Somali capital, he said he was resigned to dying in a city that is still plagued by ambushes and bombings and considered unacceptably dangerous for returning refugees by most humanitarian organisations.

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News

Asylum seekers protest over ‘inhuman’ UK detention centres

Protests including hunger strikes and sit-ins are taking place at several immigration detention centres against the UK’s controversial fast-track asylum system in which detainees say they are being treated as criminals and given little chance of proving that their cases are genuine.

The protests started at Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow Airport last Friday when about 150 detainees staged a sit-in in a courtyard and threatened to go on hunger strike. A detainee at Harmondsworth said that about 300 people were involved in protests by Thursday, while other protests have taken place at three other centres in southern England.

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Al Jazeera

UK government ‘facilitating forced labour’ of domestic workers

London, United Kingdom – British politicians have backed calls for the government to reverse controversial changes to visa rules for thousands of migrant workers, which anti-slavery campaigners say have made the UK a “significant facilitator of forced labour”.

In a report published earlier this month, members of a parliamentary committee examining government proposals to tackle what it has called “the scourge of modern slavery” warned that changes to the visa regime had “strengthened the hand of the slave master” and said: “The moral case for revisiting this issue is urgent and overwhelming.”

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Al Jazeera

Somalis in UK fear ‘death sentence’ returns to Mogadishu

When Ismail finally touched down on British soil early last year after many months being smuggled over land and through the air from Somalia he believed he was finally on the verge of beginning a new life.

Several Somalis have been held in immigrant detention centres pending removal [Home Office]

Several Somalis have been held in immigrant detention centres pending removal [Home Office]

“The Britain I had in mind was one in which they welcomed people of different colour, different religion and different backgrounds and where human rights were respected,” Ismail, who preferred not to use his real name, told Al Jazeera.

“I wanted to live in a safe place where I could just study and work and help my family and support myself, so what happened to me was a big shock.”

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