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02 May 2024

Protesters block coach in bid to stop migrants being moved to Bibby Stockholm

02 May 2024

Police made several arrests after protesters blocked a coach set to take asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Witnesses told the PA news agency they saw at least 10 people detained by officers outside the Best Western Hotel in Peckham, south-east London, on Thursday.

Police said they were called at around 8.40am to reports of people obstructing a coach, which was parked outside the hotel.

The Metropolitan Police said: “A number of people have been arrested for offences including obstruction of the highway, and one for a racially aggravated public order offence. They have all been taken into custody.”

It comes as the Home Office abandoned plans to move a group of asylum seekers to the Bibby barge in the wake of protests in Margate last week.

A large group of people, many with their faces covered, surrounded the dark-coloured coach – which had a flat tyre – and were seen linking arms and sitting in Peckham Road. Pictures showed lines of police officers attending the scene, while footage captured some jostling with protesters at one point.

Protesters could be heard chanting “no borders, no nations, stop deportations”, “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”, and “When refugees are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.”

Laurence Smith, founder of the charity Lewisham Donation Hub, said two of his organisation’s volunteers, who are asylum seekers, had been threatened with being sent to the Bibby barge.

He told PA: “I came down today to make sure our volunteers left that hotel and went to the private accommodation that we found, because we are now refusing section 95 housing support from the Home Office.”

He added that he had spoken to Superintendent Matt Cox, from the Metropolitan Police, at 10am to try to defuse the situation.

Jennie, 34, who did not want to give her surname, is a member of one of the anti-raid groups who were involved in the protest.

She told PA: “We’re now trying to support the asylum seekers who weren’t removed.”

Jennie, who had visible cuts and bruises on her arms and hands, said police were “pushing and shoving” people and that she needed medical attention.

One protester, who gave his name as Kojo Kyerewaa and covered his face with a black balaclava, told PA the Government’s migration policy was “desperate” and “probably unlawful”, adding that asylum seekers had come to the UK “seeking safety” and were being used as “scapegoats”.

People joined the protest to “support our friends”, “because they care about their friends who are being relocated against their will to the rancid barge that is the Bibby Stockholm”, he said.

In social media posts, welfare group SOAS Detainee Support called for more people to help stop the coach leaving and said protesters were “determined” it would not. They believe it was set to take asylum seekers to the floating accommodation in Portland, Dorset.

A post on X said: “Comrades have stopped our friends being taken to the Bibby barge – but more numbers needed!

“We’ve also learned the coach is meant to be taking people from three other hotels en route.

“Resistance may be needed at these three hotels if the coach eventually leaves Peckham – but the comrades are determined it won’t!”

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Housing migrants in hotels costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds every day.

“We will not allow this small group of students, posing for social media, to deter us from doing what is right for the British public.”

Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: “My officers were quickly on scene and have engaged with the protesters at length. My officers had warned the group that obstructing the highway, and obstructing police, are criminal offences and that they could be arrested.

“We will always respect the right to peaceful protest but we have been clear that where there is serious disruption and criminality then we will take decisive action. The situation is ongoing and we will provide more information when we can.”

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