Anti-racists outside Driscoll House oppose Home Office raids

The Home Office snatched five refugees from Driscoll House, south London, on Friday morning to send them to the Bibby Stockholm prison barge in Dorset. Anti-racists gathered to stop them—but the police overwhelmed them.

The week before, protesters readied to stop vans from arriving at the accommodation and the authorities couldn’t take any refugees.

But this week the cops were more aggressive and better prepared and numbers of anti-racists were lower.

Protester Sam had been outside Driscoll House since 6.30am, and others had been there since 5am. She told Socialist Worker that eight cop vans turned up from both directions of the main road.

“The cops then marched towards the protest in big numbers from both sides,” she said.

Police also arrested ten activists. “We blocked the gate and the police started arresting people. That’s when the van got through the gate,” Sam explained.

“When I came back out more people were arrested. People were linking arms—they stood firm.

“But it’s very upsetting to see them snatched. We know some of the people in here, you have a laugh, talk to them and then they get taken.

“We heard that some in the accommodation were freaking out, with staff trying to get them to sign things to say they’d go to the barge—even if they didn’t have a letter of intent. Now they don’t know what will happen to them next.”

One refugee from the accommodation said, “We had to come out and help. People are here to help us and we’re grateful.”

Sam said that some of the refugees came to join the protest, while others watched from the main road. “They were angry and filming the cops,” she explained. “The police were dragging and pushing people. They broke down the ring and created chaos on purpose.

“An ambulance even had to be called because of the injuries to one of the protesters. It was horrible and chaotic—the police knew what they were doing. But I will 100 percent be here again. And we need many more people to hold the police back.”

The owners of Driscoll House—an early hostel in derelict condition—are basking in misery. Graham King is the owner of Clearsprings Ready Homes that runs the accommodation.

He has a ten-year Home Office contract for housing people seeking asylum. King will be added to the Sunday Times rich list of the richest 350 people in Britain for the first time. King has amassed a fortune of £750 million from misery.

Clearsprings made £62.5 million in profits after tax in January 2023 because it doesn’t invest in proper, decent or safe accommodation. Clearsprings is known to provide disgraceful accommodation for refugees.

Sub-par meals, leaking ceilings and bad treatment by staff is standard. Clearsprings also ran the rancid Napier Barracks in Kent that spread disease due its dirty conditions.

King has pocketed his money off keeping vulnerable refugees in inhuman conditions. Anti-racists have to keep fighting against the treatment of refugees in Britain’s asylum system.

And they have to keep making it difficult for the Home Office to round up refugees to move them—or to detain them for deportation to Rwanda.

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