Stop Deportation Action – Stonebridge

On Tuesday 21st May the Resistance Kitchen joined a stop deportation action at Stonebridge Lodge in Thornton Heath, just a few streets from our kitchen.

Following a tip off that the Home Office was going to forcefully remove some asylum seekers from their accommodation at Stonebridge and deport them to the “prison barge” Bibby Stockholm in Dover, activists gathered from the early hours outside Stonebridge to try and prevent any abductions.


Stonebridge Lodge, a dilapidated former hotel, now housing asylum seekers, is part of the community we serve. Like other Home Office accommodation the conditions are very poor. For example with no cooking facilities and “uneatable” Home Office food provision has meant residents regularly seek meals from local soup kitchens and food banks. But never the less, it being an integral part of the community, it offers advantages and freedoms a crowded barge described as a ‘prison’ doesn’t offer. No one at Stonebridge has taken their own lives due to the conditions, as has happened on the Bibby Stockholm. The Bibby Stockholm is part of the governments ramping up of its “hostile environment” policy. The dilapidated former hotel, where no one else was willing to stay, is now considered too good for [ in the words of government minister David Cameron ] this “swarm” that has invaded Britain. The aim is that asylum seekers will rather leave the country than live on a prison barge.

Deportation Buses Arrive
Parking on a Zebra Crossing... Isn't that illegal?

Around 11.50am a school minibus passed Stonebridge, and a few minutes later we saw the same bus again, passing in the opposite direction. We understood this was no coincidence. In the meantime several police vans packed with police officers were heading our way. 

When the school bus came around for the third time, this time stopping a little before reaching Stonebridge, I approached the window which the driver obligingly lowered. I asked him where he was going, he replied Stonebridge, was this the right place? He said he had driven around a few times looking for the entrance. I replied yes, and asked in return how many people he had come to pick up. He said 21 people divided between 2 buses, his was the first bus, the second one would be here in a couple of minutes. There was no police presence yet so I asked him what time the scheduled pick up was for, he replied 12 noon. I could see the manager of Stonebridge approaching so I quickly tried explaining to the driver why we where here, that the people he was asked to take were being sent to a cramped prison barge for no crime other than being asylum seekers. That people had taken their lives due to the poor conditions on the barge.

Barricades Go Up

At this stage we had about a dozen activists, call outs were quickly made for more support.

The two buses were allowed to enter Stonebridge unhindered, but then a barricade, consisting of wheelie  bins, wooden pallets, and other recycling items, was quickly erected across the entrance to prevent the buses from taking our friends away.

Activists stood across the barricade, arms locked to greet the arriving police, with a banner unfurled to reveal the message “refugees welcome, deport the rich!”. Upon seeing the banner several cars hooted in support.

Two police vans full of officers had arrived, later a third van joined them. Out numbered, the activists were never the less undeterred and chanted:

“When refugees are under attack what do we do?
Stand up fight back!”

“Show me what community looks like.
This is what community looks like.”

“Say it loud, say it clear.
Refugees are welcome here.”

“No borders, no nations
Stop deportations”

Vans Loaded

From behind the electric gates we could see heartbroken asylum seekers with their meagre belongings being loaded on to the vans. Saying goodbyes to their friends, who looked equally sad, knowing it could be them tomorrow.

Police Kettling

The police formed a line across the street preventing us from going beyond the barricaded entrance. When ever the police try to kettle you in a space it’s usually a good idea to break out of the kettle as nothing good every comes from being kettled. I tried to walk out of the kettle, only to be pushed back by an officer. I turned my mobile camera on and tried again, this time asking the officer why he was preventing me from walking down the street:

“Under what law are you stopping me from walking down the street? “

He replied “Section 3 of the criminal act”

Surprised, I asked again “Stopping me from walking down the street? “

He explained “It’s not about stopping you walking down the street, it’s preventive power using reasonable force to stop you going because we think offences might be committed.”

That didn’t seen reasonable, I asked for clarification “What offence am I committing? “

His reply got even more unreasonable “Breach of the peace, aggravated trespass, we believe…

I interjected “What walking down the street?”

He replied “Preventive order, so prevention of all offences”

This was ridiculous, he was stopping me from waking down the street in case I commit ANY possible offence. There was no point in further discussion, I walked to the other side of the road to see if I would break the kettle from there. Unfortunately he followed me. There was a bus stop there, whilst I wasn’t going anywhere with that office shadowing me, another activist cleverly broke the kettle by boarding a bus which drove through the police line.

Our Friends Taken

We soon discovered the purpose of the kettling. The police opened another exit through an adjacent property to by-pass our barricade. We had seen that exit but we hardly had enough people to secure one barricade let alone attempt to create another.

As the two vans with abducted asylum seekers made there way out of the second exit we tried to run through the police lines to help our friends. The police did get a bit violent, pushing us back. We didn’t have sufficient numbers to succeed.

Sadly 18 asylum seekers were taken to the prison barge Bibby Stockholm, another 3 were spared as they had family in Stonebridge.

For a chance to succeed in preventing asylum seekers being taken we need huge numbers of people supporting the action, like we saw in Peckham – hundreds of people filling the street. After hours of stand off the police gave up and till today those asylum seekers have been left in peace to live in their accommodation.

Who Stands With The Community?

These deportations are an attack on our community, so you would expect our community representatives to lead these actions. Sadly only two local politicians were present –  Croydon councillor Ria Patel (Green Party) and Marley King who is the Green Party candidate for MP for Croydon West. To their credit both have taken an active role in many deportation actions including those outside Lunar House when the home office abducted vulnerable asylum seekers for deportation to Rwanda.

It’s something for the community to consider at the next elections – do we want leaders who will defend our community or do we want people who will abuse the position of privilege that we provide them to advance their own agendas?

Point Of Resisting

Some may ask what’s the point of resisting the deportations when you know you don’t have sufficient numbers to stop it? The point is that if we don’t oppose it, it becomes normalised, accepted. There is nothing normal about abducting members of our community. We must resist.

Sometimes the act of resisting is in it self a victory, even if the results don’t achieve what we desire.

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