Anti-racist activists stand in solidarity with asylum seekers in Walthamstow (Picture: @e17stbarnabas on Twitter)

Around 100 anti-racists protested outside a hotel in Walthamstow, east London on Thursday where the Home Office is set to evict hundreds of asylum seekers. 

The Home Office has called a mass eviction at only a few days’ notice as part of the Tories’ continued war on migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. 

Refugee campaigners fear they could be moved to the dangerous Bibby Stockholm prison barge in Dorset. 

The protest, called by Citizens UK and other groups, stood in solidarity with asylum seekers. An asylum seeker living in the hotel, who wished to remain anonymous, told Socialist Worker, “We are gathered here to stand against injustice.

“Asylum seekers being moved is just shifting the problem. The Home Office is delaying our cases with many cases going on for over two years.

“They said they cleared the backlog but the issues are still there. We need our voices heard. Inside we are overcrowded and depressed.”

Solidarity protests matter as “we want to know that citizens in the UK support us,” they said.

The eviction is happening because the hotel does not meet the Home Office regulatory standards.

The government’s asylum seekers’ housing contractor, Clearsprings Ready Homes, sent a letter last Thursday to the asylum seekers. It said that the hotel rooms would “no longer be available” from Friday of this week.

Pablo, an NEU education union member who joined the protest, said, “It is part of the hostile environment. It shows how refugees are treated with contempt. 

It is a disgrace. It’s part of the racism of the Tories. With an election coming up the Tories will play politics with refugee’s lives.”

Pablo thought it was “encouraging to see the protest organised in 48 hours and you can see the turnout”.

He also called on people to join the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration on 16 March outside the Home Office. “We need to build for March 16th, an international day of anti-racist action”, Pablo argued. “What matters is mass mobilisation on the streets.”

The Home Office informed an asylum seeker that they will be moved to a hotel 191 miles away in Bridgwater, Somerset. The hotel resident cried when they looked up the hotel, saying, “It’s too far away. I’m really disappointed and upset.”

A coalition of Waltham Forest community groups have written to Clearsprings, slamming the move as part of a “long term failure to put in place humane housing for asylum seekers”.

“This failure has been compounded for residents by the incompetent and callous actions of Clearsprings Ready Homes,” it said. The Home Office contractor “is treating asylum seekers as objects to be moved around at whim,” it added. 

Those set to be evicted include families with children in local schools, young people preparing for exams and people recovering from surgery. Pregnant women and people receiving specialist NHS treatment are among the group to be moved. 

A young Iranian woman is staying at the hotel with her two-year-old daughter and husband.“All the time I’m thinking about my child and what will happen to her. My daughter has health issues,” she said. “I’m full of tension and stress.”

The mother has lived in the hotel since January 2023 and is enrolled in GCSE courses at a local college.

“I must be in Waltham Forest for my exams,” she said. “Even if they send me to another city, I will try to collect money to travel back here for my exam but staying here would be difficult because we have no family.”

“Where would I stay? But if I don’t come, one year of my [studies] would be wasted.”

Another asylum seeker said that their children are all settled in local schools and don’t want to leave their friends behind. 

“We are used to this place,” they said. “I have permission to work and I got a promotion at my work ten days ago. If we move, I will lose my job. If we move to a new hotel we have to start everything from scratch.”

Clearsprings Ready Homes doubled their profits last year to £62.5 million—treating people like cattle to be herded is a profitable business.

The case shows how people are crushed between homelessness, profit-making corporations offering awful housing and a racist Tory government. 

Anti-racists have to build solidarity with refugees—and mobilise on the streets against the Tories. 

Solidarity vigil, 5-6pm, The old Ibis hotel, Lea Bridge Road E10 7AQ. Called by Stand Up To Racism
Join the Stand Up To Racism demonstration outside the Home Office in London and Glasgow on 16 March. Join the SUTR Wales march on 17 March. Details at https://standuptoracism.org.uk/ 

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