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ANTI-DEPORTATION activists shut down a Home Office depot near Heathrow airport today by staging a lock-on blockade that caused staff to be sent home.
Four protesters chained themselves to the gates of Eaton House in Hounslow, from where immigration vans leave throughout the day to try to locate people wanted for deportation.
Snatch squads of immigration enforcement officers target homes and workplaces, where they make arrests without warning.
Hundreds of asylum-seekers are also required to report to the centre each day. The authorities can hold people for up to 72 hours at Eaton House, where there is a custody room run by Capita subsidiary Tascor.
There are four other depots – at London Bridge, Croydon, Stansted and Gatwick.
The protest was organised by members of the Anti Raids Network who wished to remain anonymous. They hung banners from gates that read: “Fight for a world without borders” and “Stop racist vans.”
Police attended the incident and called in firefighters to cut away the protesters.
Anti Raids Network complained to the Fire Brigades Union about the involvement of firefighters in removing protesters.
In a statement, an activist said: “Immigration raids are another part of the everyday violence of the UK's hostile environment today.
“Places like Eaton House are where the destitution, detention and deportation process begins.”
Another member of the group said: “This is a direct action against the Home Office in order to try to disrupt their day-to-day immigration raids … Immigration is not a crime.”
The Home Office conducts thousands of raids each year, according to research by Corporate Watch.
Officers who catch the most people are rewarded with cake and sweets – a practice that was criticised last year by head of PCS union Mark Serwotka.
Conditions for people held at Eaton House were criticised in 2017 by inspectors, who said “parts of the facility were in a poor state of repair” and the holding room was “shabby.”
The Home Office rejected a recommendation that men and women should not be held in the same small room.
The inspectors also observed officers trying to deport a woman who “became distressed and said she would rather kill herself than return to her country of origin.”
The Metropolitan Police were approached for comment.
In a separate development, the High Court ordered the Home Office on Thursday to stop carry out “no warning” deportations following a challenge by charity Medical Justice.
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