Just over a year ago we were convicted for our part in the Heathrow 13 action. We occupied the Northern runway at Heathrow, cancelling 25 flights, saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted and protesting against the construction of the proposed third runway. For this we nearly went to prison.
So, why this move? Why is a well known environmental group now taking action against mass deportations?
Well, as Audre Lourde says, ‘there’s no such thing as a single issue campaign, because we do not live single issue lives.’ We do not see ourselves as ‘environmentalists’, nor do we see the fight against airport expansion or the fight against climate change as isolated from any other issue. Airport expansion is a form of violence and a form of oppression, one that a minority of people will benefit from the profits, whilst countless people will suffer from loss of community and health, both locally and globally.
As Black Lives Matter clearly stated back in September, the climate crisis is a racist crisis as it is Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies feel the worst effects of this violence. Oppressions are connected and the different forms it takes often share common roots. These roots include capitalism, racism, hetero-patriarchy and colonialism.
Migration and borders cannot be seen as separate to any of this. As Harsha Walia so eloquently outlines in Undoing Border Imperialism, borders are not mere things, they are part of a process of exploitation and displacement. This is very clear when we consider how different the rules are for corporations. Businesses are free to cross the globe at will, extracting resources, using cheap, or even slave labour, leaving behind environmental disaster, making profit and dodging tax and responsibility along the way. People who happen to have the wrong documents, the wrong nationality or skin tone are violently attacked for trying to cross these borders.
Mass deportations closely link to the ongoing process of colonialism. But so does airport expansion. Just as Heathrow is given a green light to build a new runway and drive climate chaos, corporations like Shell have been free to exploit the oil fields of the Niger Delta for decades. Through this they have caused as much oil spills each year as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, caused a health crisis from water contamination, murdered activists such as Ken Saro Wiwa and also been a major driver of climate chaos.
Yet, when people from this region seek a better life here in the UK, a country that benefits from the cheap oil that Shell provides, they are distrusted about their eligibility if seeking asylum and violently deported on mass. Profit for corporations, environmental destruction, and racist migration and asylum processes are all tied together in a insidious web. As Wretched of the Earth succinctly put it ‘Your Climate Profits Kill’ and they do so in a myriad of ways.
With such intertwined roots, we cannot stop the climate crisis without stopping the processes of colonialism that corporations are engaged in or without stopping the racist deportations that the UK government carries out to facilitate this process. To attempt to do otherwise is blind optimism at best or whitewashed environmentalism at worst.
Of course, there are even more direct links between these issues. There are companies like Tascor and Capita that are directly involved in this violence and direct profit from it. These companies are getting rich, charging vast amounts of money to facilitate this violence. This is a violence that sees people getting their arm broken on transit, a violence that kills people like Jimmy Mubenga. These companies get away with this because they do their work in the shadows. We aimed to shine a light on this process, making them face up to their actions and take responsibility for it.
Above all, however, the main reason we did this was because we were asked to. We have direct contact with people affected by this particular charter flight, who feared for their lives if they were sent to Nigeria and Ghana last night. Acting in solidarity and as allies to these people, we took their lead, as they are the ones most directly affected by this violence. We hope that our action prevented these cases from happening, but also that it acts as a catalyst in the campaign to end charter flights once and for all.
Whilst the world may be turning it’s attention to the racist misogynist in the White House, let’s not forget that our own house is far from in order, that the legacy of colonialism and racism is long lasting and that we need to take action here and now. You can start by signing this petition asking UK Prime Minister Theresa May to stop charter flights and end deportations.