UK police arrest 45 at protest against migrant removals

UK police arrest 45 at protest against migrant removals
UK police arrest 45 at protest against migrant removals

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Police in London made 45 arrests yesterday as protesters tried to stop the removal of migrants from their temporary accommodation, after the UK government began detaining people before controversial deportation flights to Rwanda. — AFP pic

LONDON, May 3 — Police in London made 45 arrests yesterday as protesters tried to stop the removal of migrants from their temporary accommodation, after the UK government began detaining people before controversial deportation flights to Rwanda.

Dozens of people surrounded a bus believed to be taking asylum seekers from a hotel in the Peckham area of south London to the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge moored off the south coast of England.

Several other protests have been held or are planned around the country to stop immigration officers detaining migrants.

In Peckham, police moved in to disperse the protesters, who had formed a human chain around the bus and blocked the road in front of a hotel.

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Most had their faces covered and hire bikes were put under the wheels of the bus, which reportedly had its tyres slashed or deflated.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan, from the Metropolitan Police, said officers were sent to remove people from the road.

“A total of 45 people have been arrested and taken into police custody for offences including obstruction of the highway, obstructing police and assault on police,” he said.

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The bus left the scene without the seven migrants on board, according to protesters. Similar action in Margate, southeast England, on Wednesday also stopped migrants being taken to the Bibby Stockholm.

Interior minister James Cleverly was defiant and condemned those seeking to stop the removals.

“Housing migrants in hotels costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds every day,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

“We will not allow this small group of students, posing for social media, to deter us from doing what is right for the British public.”

Cleverly’s ministry this week confirmed that it has begun detaining asylum seekers before planned deportation to Rwanda, after parliament passed a law declaring it a safe country.

Several migrants were seen in photos and video footage released by the ministry being taken away in handcuffs by immigration officers.

Channel crossings

The ministry has not confirmed how many people have been held so far, but the government says it expects Rwanda to take 5,700 migrants this year.

The protests come after official figures published on Thursday showed that 711 people were brought ashore the previous day after trying to cross the Channel in small boats from northern France.

The number is the highest on a single day so far this year and comes even as London insists that its plan to “stop the boats” is working, including through the Rwanda deportation scheme.

The new high is more than the previous 2024 single-day record of 534 on April 14.

It takes the total number of migrants who have made the Channel crossing so far this year to 8,278 — up more than a quarter on the same period in 2023.

The highest-ever single-day arrivals figure was 1,295 and was recorded on August 22, 2022.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said the figures demonstrated why the Rwanda plan was needed but the main opposition Labour party called it “unaffordable and unworkable”.

French police on Wednesday said they had rescued 66 people after their boat ran into trouble off the coastal town of Dieppe.

UK police have made several arrests as part of an investigation into the deaths of five people whose boat got into difficulties off the French coast on April 23.

Migration — both regular and irregular — has been a major political issue in the UK, given the government’s promise to tighten the country’s borders after leaving the European Union.

But doing so has proved a challenge, with the Conservative government desperate to trumpet successes as it goes into local elections on Thursday and a general election later this year.

Some 122,600 people have been intercepted in British waters and brought ashore since the UK began recording such arrivals in 2018. — AFP

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