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FIVE activists were arrested outside a detention centre in County Durham after attempting to thwart the removal of vulnerable women to Ghana and Nigeria.
Dozens of protesters blocked the entrances to Derwentside removal centre, near Consett, from 11am to 7pm on Wednesday, in a bid to prevent coaches picking up and transporting women facing deportation to west Africa.
Thirteen people held at the women-only detention site had been due to be removed on the flight on Wednesday evening, according to campaigners. But it is thought just three were deported following legal challenges.
The charter flight took off from Birmingham airport at around 11.30pm, with at least 21 people from Nigeria and Ghana on board, according to reports.
Among those targeted for deportation were grandmothers and mothers with young children in Britain, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Campaigners said that one of the people on board the flight was a gay Nigerian man who had been subjected to a homophobic attack in Nigeria and had received threats that he would be killed if returned to the country.
Around 30 people joined the protest outside Derwentside removal centre. One of the protesters, Cal Shaw, who is a member of North East Against Racism, told the Morning Star that the demonstrators successfully forced a coach due to pick up the women to turn around earlier that afternoon.
But later on “heavy police numbers” forced protesters out of the road, he said, clearing the way for two coaches to enter the site. Officers arrested five activists who refused to move.
The vehicles were seen leaving the centre before 7pm.
But Mr Shaw said that he believed the action stalled the removal of women from the site, giving some detainees more time to win appeals challenging their deportation.
The five were charged with suspicion of obstruction of the highway and released later on Wednesday evening, Durham Constabulary said.
Mr Shaw said that the protest was aimed at “showing a message of solidarity to the women inside and our resistance to state oppression.
“Regardless of where the flights are going or when they’re going, we’re going to be outside that detention centre,” he vowed.
It follows a similar action earlier this month which saw activists attempt to halt the removal of asylum-seekers to Rwanda by blocking the coaches they were being carried in en route to the airport.
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