Yesterday (Monday 21st March 2016), at around 20:30, Police Scotland violently broke up a peaceful blockade in solidarity with Beverley Vaanda Kanjii and her 14 year old son. Beverley and her son were awoken yesterday by a dawn raid, carried out by 4 immigration officers, 2 social workers and 2 cops from police Scotland. Previous press release is here.
Police Scotland had previously maintained in response to a FOI request that they did not routinely assist the Home Office in dawn raids. MSP’s also maintain that “refugees are welcome here”. Yet yesterday’s events were harrowing.
Public bodies, including the Home Office and Police Scotland are legally obliged to safeguard children, but they showed yesterday they are doing the contrary. Beverley’s 14 year old son awoke to watch his mother being taken by force, struggling and desperate. They were taken directly to the airport, with a view to being detained and forcibly removed, but Beverley’s son refused to get on the plane. They were then taken to the Home Office’s Brand Street premises, where the blockade began around 14:00.
Cops waded in with over 30 officers and dogs to clear the blockade. They pushed a woman almost 9 months pregnant, as well as a person using a wheelchair. Friends were superglued together, but cops simply ripped their hands apart. Skin was broken and people terrified. Friends chanted “Beverley, we’re here for you”, despite the police violence.
Police told protesters that Beverley had broken her ankle – this injury can only have been sustained in their care, and suggests extreme force was used. Friends let an ambulance pass, to enter the Home Office compound, but the last words heard from Beverley were that she would rather die than be forced back to Namibia – she gave strict instructions that the blockade continue. Both police and paramedics said that people should move, so the ambulance could leave and Beverley could have the medical attention she needed. Friends agreed, but only if someone could hear from Beverley directly that this was the case. Beverley’s own partner was denied access to her. Once the blockade had been brutalised by Police Scotland, an ambulance drove out, followed by a black coach with tinted windows. Beverley has since told us that she was in the ambulance but that she was separated from her son. He was on the bus, bound for forced removal.
Beverley and her son are now held at Cedars – a detention centre for families run by G4S and Barnardos. There has not been an end to child detention, it just has a different name. Cedars goes by ’Pre-departure Accommodation’.
The Home Office accept that Beverley is a lesbian, this is notable, given the culture of disbelief surrounding sexuality claimants. Even so, the Home Office maintain she can go and hide elsewhere in Namibia. They say this though Beverley and her teen son faced assault, sexual violence and death threats. Furthermore, there are precedents set maintaining LGBT people should not have to live discreetly and in fear. Beverley and her son’s lives are at risk if returned.
Yesterday’s events have caused immeasurable trauma both to Beverley and her young son. The ordeal lasted over 24 hours and is ongoing. The Home Office and Police Scotland’s actions are unforgiveable. We must stand up, for Beverley, and against this merciless system.