top of page
  • Writer's pictureLondon Catholic Worker

Lunar House Dispatch

The most significant thing was the heat. There’s no shade outside Lunar House beside one straggly tree some distance from the entrance, so the sun – on one of the first of what will be many uncomfortably hot days this year – was shining directly both on those of us vigilling, and on the dozen or so people waiting outside for a friend or relative to come out. It is good to have someone waiting for you, because then you can be sure that someone will know if you’ve been detained and are not allowed to walk out again. Those whom the Government does not regard as having a right to be present in the UK, and who are known to the Home Office but are not in detention, are often obliged to report to Lunar House or another building monthly, biweekly, or weekly. At any of these regular visits, they could be detained, and since a couple of weeks ago – timed handily for the recent local elections in the hope that at least a few Tory councillors might keep their seats – the Home Office has begun a new wave of detentions in preparation to deport refugees, against their will, to Rwanda. While we were there, only those who had arrived irregularly since January 2022 were eligible. At the time of writing, all those with previous failed asylum applications are eligible as well, so thousands of people living in this country are now under the continuous threat of being forcibly detained for an indeterminate period in order to be sent to an impoverished, authoritarian country they may know nothing about, thousands of miles from Britain and, probably, from the country they were born in. So, when you report to Lunar House, it is good to take someone with you. It is not a building designed to make you feel comfortable.


Lunar House, Croydon

We had come from the European Catholic Worker gathering, and were a mix of nationalities, but mostly resident in the UK. Some of us held signs and placards we’d made the previous day, which were overwhelmingly positively received – several people asked to take photos of or with them. Meanwhile, others distributed leaflets at the door informing people about the Rwanda plan, mitigating the danger of people being caught entirely by surprise and pressured into agreeing to things without the presence of lawyers, which seems to be the Home Office's favoured tactic. The leaflets, produced by Action Against Detentions and Deportations, carry this information and phone numbers for law firms and activist groups in the hope that detainees will then be able to contact people who can support them. Perhaps half of those going in accepted a leaflet, and fewer stopped to chat; some will have known they were not at risk, some will have assumed we were Home Office employees, and others will simply have wanted to get a stressful experience over with as soon as possible. Those we did talk to were unanimously happy to meet friendly faces outside the building.


About four policemen were stationed outside the front of Lunar House all day, presumably in case our leafleting should inexplicably turn violent. Two stayed in the car, and two – clearly very bored – spent a long time talking to us. They were very insistent on asking exactly how we were organised and by whom, which they insisted was just by way of making friendly conversation. Whether this reflects a lack of talent for intel-gathering or merely a lack of talent for conversation, I’ll leave for you to judge. Their tendency to stand between us and those we were giving leaflets to could similarly be put down to a lack of spatial awareness sadly common in the force. Certainly, when questioned, neither of them had the first idea what the Rwanda plan, which they were there to help implement, actually was. Still, their presence was no more futile than any other project of our border system, the purpose of which is precisely to create needless difficulties for particular people in order to clearly define who our country is for. Certainly, the continuous police presence, the two or three security staff at every entrance and exit, and the gigantic tower block itself cannot be cheap, but hostility is important enough to the Home Office to justify the expense. If we provided anyone with useful information our presence was worthwhile, but it was worthwhile too if all we did was counteract that hostility with our solidarity. I always come away from anything involving the Home Office feeling deflated – faced directly with the whole monstrous infrastructure of hate our country has created for itself, you ask yourself what use you could possibly be in resisting it. But, of course, that’s what they want you to think. If nothing else, we can choose to be there and wait – vigil – with those who are forced to wait there, and make ourselves part of a slightly better place.


[If you would like to wait there yourself, a continuous presence is needed outside Lunar House to carry on the leafleting – get in touch if you can help.]


Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page