Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Nine held after deportation demo

Tinsley House
The group said it wanted to stop deportation of innocent people

Nine people have been arrested after protesters chained and glued themselves to the gates of an immigration centre near Gatwick Airport.

The group, who attached themselves to the entrance of Tinsley House, were protesting about a flight due to take Kurdish Iraqis back to Iraq on Tuesday.

The demonstrators said the deportees were being treated like criminals.

Sussex Police said the nine people arrested were currently in custody and Tinsley House was operating as normal.

Police said officers were called to the protest, involving about 15 people, at 0715 GMT.

I've made a life for myself here, living as everyone else does in this country, but I'm now being treated like I'm a criminal

The demonstrators said a charter flight was due to fly from Stansted Airport to Northern Iraq on Tuesday.

Brian Arcola, who was taking part in the protest, said: "Charter flights like this are the latest step in the government's macabre immigration policy."

He added: "Aside from the ethical implications of handcuffing and deporting innocent people under the threat of the baton, by not telling them when they're going to be deported, they deprive many people from adequate legal representation.

"If there's to be any truth in the claim that Britain is a tolerant, fair country, this has got to be stopped."

'Foster friendly atmosphere'

One person who was awaiting deportation said: " I've been in the UK for nine years. I have a partner and an 18-month-old son. If I am deported, all this will be gone.

"I've made a life for myself here, living as everyone else does in this country, but I'm now being treated like I'm a criminal, imprisoned then deported."

Up to 116 males, five females and four families can be held at Tinsley House detention centre.

Staff at the centre say the facility is similar to student accommodation and they try to foster a family atmosphere to make the detainees' stay as pleasant as possible.

A UK Border Agency spokeswoman said it was aware of the protest but that it was a matter for police.

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