Network of 'safe houses' aims to foil deportations: Black activists defy law to keep families together

BLACK ACTIVISTS are setting up an underground network of 'safe houses' for families seeking to avoid deportation.

They say it is a last resort: the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill does not provide a legal avenue for appeal against deportation orders.

A spokesman from the Home Office said he was aware of the safe-house network but warned: 'Anyone who unlawfully harbours an illegal immigrant is guilty of a criminal offence.'

But Lee Jasper, spokesman for the National Black Caucus, says supporters are willing to defy the law to keep families together. 'The Bill contravenes the European Convention - guaranteeing people the right to a family life. Until it is amended we reserve the right to do what is necessary to protect families threatened with deportation,' he said.

Fears of forced deportations without warning have been fuelled by the recent death of Joy Gardner. Mrs Gardner died of hypoxia - the cutting of oxygen to the brain - after being restrained by police in her north London flat.

The Home Office insisted that Mrs Gardner was an illegal immigrant; her family and supporters argued that she had every right to stay in Britain.

'Joy Gardner is just one member of the black community who has fallen victim to an immigration policy which is racist,' said Mr Jasper.

'For every white person refused entry to this country, 37 blacks are refused entry. When the law leaves no room for legal challenge . . . ethnic minorities are entitled to engage in acts of civil disobedience.'

One Ghanaian family currently being hidden by the group has been threatened with deportation because an officially acknowledged postal error prevented them from renewing their visas in time.

Justice Anim, 49, the head of the family, said: 'I do not want to settle here. I am appealing to stay here on behalf of my son. I am paying for him to have medical treatment which would not be easily available at home. If they can do it for Bosnians, why can't they do it for us?'

Four years ago a similar network of safe houses was set up in protest at the deportation of Viraj Mendis, a Sri Lankan communist and supporter of the Tamil separatists.

Mr Mendis was offered sanctuary in a church in Manchester for more than two years, after claiming that he would face persecution if he returned to his home country. The Home Office eventually rejected his claims and deported him amid protests from support groups, church leaders and members of the Government.

In the aftermath an 'underground railway' sprang up. In defiance of the 1988 Immigration Act, supporters offered their homes as safe houses to families threatened with deportation, according to the pressure group Refugee Forum. Twelve churches in Newham, east London, voted to offer themselves to the cause, and a mosque offered refuge to Amir Abdul Khan, 29, a Birmingham man threatened with deportation.

But church leaders were criticised by the Government for their intervention. The then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd reminded MPs that the Church had not enjoyed the right to offer sanctuary since 1623.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions