What happened at the Rwanda flight protests in Birmingham city centre

Protesters gathered in Birmingham last night to protest against plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda

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A protest calling on the UK government to reverse a policy to send refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda was held in Birmingham city centre on Tuesday evening (14 June).

Activists organised the rally - held in the city centre’s High Street - as part of a national day of action called by Stand Up To Racism, the PCS union and charity Care4Calais; challenging the government plans for offshore detention in Rwanda.

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It comes as Priti Patel says preparation for the next deportation flight of UK-based asylum seekers to Rwanda “begins now” after last-minute interventions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) led to the initial flight being cancelled on Tuesday evening (14 June).

The Home Secretary said she will “not be deterred from doing the right thing” despite all migrants being removed from the plane that was due to take off last night.

Photo from SUTR Birmingham of Tuesday’s protestPhoto from SUTR Birmingham of Tuesday’s protest
Photo from SUTR Birmingham of Tuesday’s protest

Protesters gather in city centre

The campaigners are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary to reverse a decision to send vulnerable migrants to Rwanda.

“We stand with refugees! Stop the Rwanda deportation flights! No to the racist Hostile Environment!” were among the chants during Tuesday’s protest as many held up placards displaying “Refugees Welcome Here”.

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Espoir Njei fought for her right to stay in the UK after escaping persecution in Cameroon. She now campaigns for the safety of asylum seekers and refugees.

“I think it’s cruel, it’s inhumane, it’s devastating,” she said.

Espoir NjeiEspoir Njei
Espoir Njei

“I lack adjectives to describe it but it’s bad, it’s bad, because come to think of it, the UK is known for its high degree or high allegiance to human rights; and we know that nobody flees a country because he or she is fine where they are, and if they come to a place where they think they deserve protection, why send them back to where they came from to go and die?

“And we talk of human rights? We talk of human protection? We talk of the importance of human life? Where is that importance?

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“Each time I think of it, I feel like crying because it’s not fair. They all know what these people are going to face back in Rwanda.”

‘We need to build a world that protects everyone’

Eiri Ohtani is the Director of Right to Remain, a national organisation that helps people to establish their right to remain in Britain and challenge injustice in the immigration and asylum system.

Eiri Ohtani Eiri Ohtani
Eiri Ohtani

She said: “People who come to our shore in search of safety, whatever their methods of arrival, need compassion and protection: this has always been the case and we must ensure this will always be the case,” she said after attending today’s Birmingham demonstration.

“Protests, litigation and outright condemnation from so many groups and communities show that this Rwanda deportation plan has no place in Britain.

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“We need an alternative world where everyone can exercise their right to remain with dignity and humanity, where they need to be. We need to build a world that protects everyone - and we are capable of it.”

Protests also took place at the Brook detention centre near Gatwick on Sunday 12 June, and followed another mass protest that stopped an immigration raid, in Peckham, London on Saturday 11 June.

Care4Calais and Stand Up To Racism are additionally organising a major bloc on the TUC’s upcoming ‘We demand better’ protest in London on Saturday 18 June.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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