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Community prevents immigration officers from arresting Nigerian man in Peckham

IMMIGRATION officers were forced to release a man they had arrested after their van was surrounded by an angry crowd demanding they let him go.

About 200 people mobilised in Peckham in south-east London on Saturday as word spread that a Nigerian man was being arrested to face potential deportation for allegedly overstaying his visa.

Chanting “Let him go!” and “People power!” the crowd prevented the van from being driven off.

Police were called but failed to break up the crowd.

The action by the community is a repeat of a local mobilisation in Glasgow in May 2021, when hundreds of residents prevented immigration officers from taking away a man they had arrested.

In Saturday’s incident, the van was blockaded for more than three hours before the man was released.

It is understood that a call for support for the arrested man was made on social media.

Eleanor Janega, from south-east London, said: “We were alerted that there was an immigration raid in process so locals came down to block it.

“We had been sitting here blocking the van and having ice lollies. They brought more police in and tried to break through the crowd by pushing us. We all sat down.”

Labour councillor Reginald Popoola said that people had “encircled the van peacefully.”

When the man was released, Mr Popoola said: “He’s being released, peaceful protest is powerful.”

A woman from Stand Up to Racism named Nicola said: “Police tried to arrest a number of activists at the front, but they were held onto by others who were also sitting down and the police gave up.

“And finally, after a lot of protest, the police announced that they were going to release him and it took, I don’t know, about half an hour for them to actually open the doors so we all stayed and called for this to happen quickly.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Officers attended and found a van was being prevented from leaving the location.

“One man has been arrested by immigration enforcement officers for immigration offences.”

Saturday’s incident comes as the government faces criticism for its proposed deportation of refugees and asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

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