Protesters thwart asylum seekers’ coach transfer

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Police remove a protester after demonstrators formed a blockade
By Jess Warren & Chris Slegg, in Peckham
BBC News

Protesters and police have clashed during a protest in south London over the planned transfer of asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset.

The police were called at about 08:40 BST to a hotel in Peckham where activists had surrounded a coach.

They were trying stop the asylum seekers’ removal to the barge.

Some activists were seen being dragged away from the coach. At about 15:00 it was driven away from the hotel, seemingly without any passengers.

The Met Police said “a number of people” were arrested for offences “including obstruction of the highway and one for a racially aggravated public order offence”.

A Home Office spokesperson described the protesters’ behaviour as “intimidatory and aggressive”.

They said: “As part of our commitment to significantly reducing the use of hotels, asylum seekers are being moved into alternative accommodation to reduce costs on the taxpayer. Accommodation is allocated to asylum seekers on a no-choice basis.”

The spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers can make representations if they believe they are unsuitable to be moved to the Bibby Stockholm. These are considered in full before any decision is made.”

Protesters surrounded a bus that was due to transport asylum seekers from a hotel in Peckham

Many of the protesters were sitting in the road, chanting.

They said that Bibby Stockholm was not a suitable place to house asylum seekers, and those due to be taken there had built relations in the community in Peckham and did not want to be moved.

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.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said in a post on X: “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.”

A protester was dragged from the scene by officers
A female protester was seen being led into a police van
More than 20 people sat in front of a police van containing protesters

At about 14:00, a crowd of some 150 people remained at the scene, with chants of “We shall not be moved” ringing out.

“This is what community looks like,” and “No borders, no nations, stop deportations,” were among other chants made by those gathered.

At one point, eight police vehicles were parked at the scene, as well as three riots vans.

The road is closed to traffic in both directions.

Those gathered were warned they faced arrest

Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said in the social media post: “My officers were quickly on scene and have engaged with the protesters at length.”

He added: “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.”

Officers were seen surrounding the coach
The vehicle was pictured with a flat tyre

The Home Office said it was planning to close 150 asylum seeker hotels by the beginning of May.

A spokesperson said they were working “closely with accommodation providers to manage the exit process in a way which limits the impact on local authorities and asylum seekers alike”.

The Home Office described the protesters’ behaviour as “aggressive”
Bicycles were used by protesters to immobilise the coach
Police were called to the scene at about 08:40 BST

Listen to the best of BBC Radio London on Sounds and follow BBC London on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to hello.bbclondon@bbc.co.uk

25 January

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