On 12 November 2010, over 150 people marched from the Angolan Embassy to the Home Office in protest at the death of Jimmy Mubenga during a deportation.
Campaigners from the Angolan community first delivered a letter to the Angolan Embassy to call on the authorities to intervene. The march, led by the family and friends of Jimmy Mubenga, then marched to the Home Office. Although marchers had only been given permission to use the pavements, the sheer volume of people meant that very soon they took to the roads and were eventually given a police escort on a circuitous route to the Home Office.
The demonstration, held a month after Jimmy’s death, was attended and supported by people and organisations from across the country – No Border groups from across the UK, the Campaign to Close Campsfield, Hackney Refugee and Migrant Support Group, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, the Movement for Justice, FreeMovement, the National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns, Medical Justice, the Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Crossroads Women’s Centre and Cambridge Migrant Solidarity and a large contingent from the Angolan community. Also in attendance, to show their solidarity with the Mubenga family, were the two sisters of Sean Rigg, who died after being arrested by Brixton police officers in August 2008.
Along the route, marchers were diverted twice by the police. On the first occasion it was to avoid the changing of the guard and scaring the horses. On the second diversion, which took marchers through Petty France, near the Ministry of Justice, and past the Wellington barracks, demonstrators were abused by soldiers leaning from the windows of the barracks. A bottle of orange juice was thrown – only narrowly missing the Mubenga family and a pram carrying Jimmy’s baby. Organisers who remonstrated with police officers on motorbikes at the front of the march were shrugged off. (The incident was officially reported to the police and the organisers have told IRR News they will also be complaining directly to Wellington barracks.) Watch some video from the demonstration on YouTube.
On finally reaching the Home Office, the rally began after a two-minute silence. Speeches were made by (among others) Jeremy Corbyn MP, Emma Ginn (Medical Justice), Adalberto Miranda (Union of Angolans in the UK) and Deborah Coles (INQUEST).
* Jeremy Corbyn (MP): ‘The most grotesque travesties of justice occur in our prisons, in our immigration detention centres, and youth custody centres, ending up in people being deported in the way that Jimmy was and dying in the process. In demanding justice for Jimmy in reality we are demanding justice for a much wider group of people in a much wider world. When the history of the latter part of the twenty-first century is written, we will see the stories of those that have tried to flee from poverty and oppression from many parts of the world in order to economically survive and the hypocrisy surrounding the way in which migrant workers and others are exploited, ill-treated and then deported, even though the wealth of the west continues to rise. We call for justice for Jimmy, for the truth to be told and, above all, to end deportations that are forced and end the detention of people and start the process of granting recognition to those that are trying to survive and contribute to our society and our economy. I appeal to everyone in this country to think very very carefully about what we are doing to those just trying to survive.’
* Adalberto Miranda (Union of Angolans in the UK): ‘Coming here, to the Home Office, under these circumstances, makes today a very strange day for us. It is strange because for many of us here today, who came to this country seeking refuge or asylum, the Home Office symbolises a place for protection, for shelter, peace and freedom. In other words, it represents many of the rights that were denied to us in our own countries. Today, instead of coming here to cry out for your help, we are here to cry at the death of our brother, Jimmy Mubenga. We come here to ask why you deceived Jimmy so badly. We come here to ask why you gave him the wrong set of keys. He asked your permission to enter into the land of freedom, and you gave him the keys for the land of oppression and humiliation. He begged you to allow him to live with his family, and you sent him alone to the mortuary. You wanted so very much to get rid of Jimmy on that bloody Tuesday, 12th October, that any means, for you, justified the ends. Your hunger, together with G4S’s desire to eat, turned Jimmy into a piece of meat. But we are amazed that, one month later, you have still not digested that meat. Jimmy is still here in the UK. Does this mean that finally, you have granted him indefinite leave to remain? Or are you going to continue with the deportation process? I want to remind you of this: Jimmy died because of something called a UK residence permit, meanwhile British citizens are making their fortunes in Angola because of something called oil. We do not understand why, after living in this country for so many years, Jimmy could not have been allowed the right to live with his family here, especially in these difficult times. After all, it is so many of you who blame the lack of father-figures in black families for the rise of criminality within the British black community. Congratulations, then, with your mastermind plan that removes the father-figure and thereby condemns, in your thinking, yet more innocent black children to lives in crime. Recently, British society was choked with grief by the actions of a woman who dumped a cat in a rubbish bin. Soon after her actions were caught on CCTV, police called her crime an animal cruelty offence because of the likely suffering she caused the cat. That woman eventually resigned from her job because she couldn’t cope with the reactions from her colleagues at work. Mary Bale became a hate figure for dumping a cat in a bin. She was under investigation, then charged and finally fined. While we wait for the truth to come out on Jimmy’s death, we – the sons and daughters of Africa – are wondering whether the British authorities value a cat more than a person from Africa.’ (Read the full speech here).
* Deborah Coles (INQUEST): ‘We’re working with Mrs Mubenga and we are calling for an urgent parliamentary scrutiny of the use of force during deportations. We have long-standing concerns about the use of restraint against people in different forms of custody. We fear Jimmy’s’ death was a tragedy waiting to happen. And we want to support the family as much as we can. There is an ongoing police investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that investigation. But in order to prevent other deaths and other injuries we feel that this is an issue that needs urgent scrutiny and we will be working with the family and anybody else to ensure that there is justice, there is truth, that there is accountability for what happened.’
* Lara Pawson (journalist): ‘Many people said to me that there wouldn’t be many Angolans who would come out today because they’d be too afraid, because demonstrating in Angola is a very difficult and courageous thing to do. And in this country people quite often take it for granted, but the fact is many Angolans and people in the Congolese community have come out to support the demonstration and come together.’
* Emma Ginn (Medical Justice): ‘How is it that a man dies after restraint during deportation? Many feel that an underlying factor is that detainees seem to be treated as sub-human. If you remember when they built Yarl’s Wood detention centre for families and children, Jack Straw the then home secretary, decided not to fit a sprinkler system. Was it because what was inside was deemed to be less than human and not worth protecting? There was a fire and half the building burnt to the ground. The morning after the fire, David Blunkett, the home secretary at that time, said that Group 4 had acquitted themselves with dedication and courage even though detainees had been locked into the building. When we talk to the Home Office about alternatives to detaining children they have referred to families as “stock”. Can you imagine, that’s “stock” as in inventory in the warehouse. You don’t refer to human beings as “stock”. This dehumanises detainees. When we did the dossier Outsourcing Abuse report we found that in many of the cases, deportees had had their breathing restricted and we highlighted that to the Home Office and we warned them. They said our motivation for publishing the report was to damage the reputation of the UK Border Agency’s contractors, like G4S. The UKBA said that it would investigate all the cases highlighted in the report, but it did not. It said it would come up with an action plan, and that was in March and it still hasn’t come up with one. We will continue to fight against the inappropriate use of force and highlight poor decision making on immigration and asylum claims which lead to people being sent back to countries where they face persecution or a split from their family and children.’
Download a copy of the letter to the home secretary (pdf file, 132kb)
Download a copy of the letter to the Guardian with a full list of signatories (word doc, 36kb)
Watch some video from the demonstration on YouTube
Speech by Adalberto Miranda: ‘Jimmy Mubenga: indefinite leave to remain’
Blog by Lara Pawson: ‘twelve eleven ten’
Foreigners in the UK: ‘March demands justice for Mubenga who died during deportation’
Demotix picture story: ‘RIP Jimmy Mubenga – Killed at Heathrow’