Just Stop Oil have vowed to continue its ‘resistance’ against the government’s migration policy as they announced another ‘No Prison Ships’ event days after blocking a coach transporting asylum seekers onto the Bibby Stockholm.
The eco zealots tried to stop the vehicle on Thursday as it took asylum seekers back to the barge for the first time since it was evacuated following the discovery of Legionella.
However, the bus forced its way through 23 demonstrators who had walked into the road and tried to sit down in front of it while holding a large orange banner reading ‘No Prison Ships’.
JSO has until now only taken part in environment-related demonstrations. But last night it declared its intention to continue protesting the government’s migration policy by announcing a ‘migrant solidarity panel’ event this Wednesday.
The statement read: ‘Fossil fuel extraction is an act of mass murder against people in the global south. But there can be no climate justice without migrant justice.
‘Responding to displaced people with cruel schemes like the Bibby Stockholm is no type of solution. We must prevent people from being forced out of their homelands by climate breakdown, while also protecting their right to move safely and with dignity.’
Since their attempted road block failed on Thursday the group released a hysterical statement accusing the coach driver of ‘intent to kill’ by slowly edging forward through the mob.
The protest group also shared an image of a man they accused of encouraging a member of the public to ‘drive straight through’ the demonstrators, and demanded an investigation into whether he worked for the Home Office.
JSO has until now only taken part in environment-related demonstrations. But last night it declared its intention to continue protesting the government’s migration policy by announcing a ‘migrant solidarity panel’ event this Wednesday
On Thursday, Just Stop Oil protesters attempted to stop a coach carrying migrants to the Bibby Stockholm barge
Dramatic footage shows a man urging a member of the public caught in the chaos to ‘drive straight through’ the group
Just Stop Oil has called for an investigation into whether the man, who was seen getting on and off the coach, worked for the Home Office
Targeting the Government’s immigration strategy represents a departure for Just Stop Oil, who usually focus solely on environmental issues.
JSO recently announced it would begin three more weeks of daily slow marches in London, beginning on October 30 – in a fresh blow for Londoners following months of disruptive protests.
On Thursday, the asylum seekers arriving in Portland were also met by at least 30 anti-barge protesters cheering them and waving banners reading ‘scrap the barge’ and ‘refugees welcome’.
Out of the 39 people removed from the vessel in August, 29 were expected to return on Thursday. The Home Office has said tests for Legionella, as well as improved fire safety protocols, had been completed ahead of their return.
Others have found accommodation with relatives, one had returned to their home country and others had mental health issues exempting them from staying on the barge.
Dramatic footage of the protest, which took place on Thursday morning, showed a group of people dressed in orange rush towards the coach.
The protesters, including one woman with crutches, push back against the moving vehicle and screamed at the driver to stop, as another group sits on the road in front.
The driver continues slowly edging forward and by the time the coach reaches the group sitting down they are forced to stand up.
Activists holding a banner reading ‘No prison ships’ then stand with their backs to the vehicle as it continues moving forward.
JSO later shared a statement admitting defeat and hysterically accusing the driver of ‘intent to kill’.
A spokesman said: ‘We are saddened to report that we were unable to halt transportation of refugees to the prison – the driver rammed through the block, risking killing those in front.’
They also released footage of a man they claim got off the bus and encouraged a member of the public who was caught in the chaos to move forward through the group.
The spokesman added: ‘Lots of questions. Number one – who is this man? He was filmed trying to hide his face after telling a member of the public to ‘drive straight through’ protesters, and later boarded the coach.
‘If he works for the Home Office there needs to be an immediate investigation.’
The Home Office has blasted the eco group for their actions and said it is liaising with police over the incident.
A spokesperson for the Government department said: ‘The disruption caused in Portland by a small group of people is totally unacceptable.
‘Moving asylum seekers into alternative accommodation sites, such like the Bibby Stockholm, is more affordable for taxpayers and more manageable for communities.
‘We are liaising closely with the police as they continue their investigations and to ensure appropriate security arrangements are in place.’
Dorset Police revealed it arrested three people during the protest.
A spokesperson said: ‘Dorset Police received a report at 12.43pm on Thursday 19 October 2023 of a protest on Portland Beach Road. It was reported that the group attempted to stop a coach and damage was caused to the vehicle.
‘Officers were at the scene facilitating a separate peaceful demonstration.
‘They responded to the report and, following enquiries, two people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. A further report was received of criminal damage to a police vehicle and a third person was also arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.
‘The coach was able to continue its journey after a minor delay.
‘Dorset Police respects people’s right to lawful protest and where possible we will work with organisers to facilitate people’s rights to demonstrate peacefully. However, we have a duty to ensure those involved act within the law, prevent any public disorder and ensure the local community can go about their lawful activities.
‘Our enquiries into the full circumstances of the incident are ongoing.’
Dramatic footage shows Just Stop Oil activists rushing a coach driving into the Port of Portland and trying to block its path
But the driver keeps driving slowly forward, thwarting their efforts
A banner held by the JSO protesters read ‘No prison ships’. It represents a departure for the group, which usually focuses on environmental issues
JSO later shared a statement admitting defeat and accusing the driver of ‘intent to kill’
Out of the 39 people removed from the Bibby Stockholm on August, 29 were expected to return on Thursday
Defending its decision to protest the coach, JSO said: ‘We know that our governments plan for new oil and gas is going to lead to more people being displaced from their homes.
‘Forced from where they have lived for generations due to the actions of our failing politicians.
‘People coming to the UK must be met with common humanity, and not housed in prison ships. Not on our watch.
‘We are taking action to show love and solidarity with all people coming to this country.’
Other protesters also gathered in Portland on Thursday to protest the use of the barge to house asylum seekers.
Annika, of Portland Global Friendship Group, had helped produce ‘welcome bags’ for the arrivals which included shampoo, toothpaste, notebooks and a map of the local area.
She said: ‘We just want to welcome the refugees and make a gesture to show there are people here who care.
‘I think the barge is a horrible idea, it feels very oppressive, it feels like a prison here with the amount of security that they have to go through.’
Candy Udwin, of Stand Up To Racism Dorset, said she had been in contact with some of those who had been staying on the Bibby Stockholm.
She said: ‘They hate it, they say it feels like a prison, some hate being on the sea, they find it very difficult to leave and they are completely separated from the community.’
Local councillor Carralyn Parkes, who is mayor of Portland, and recently lost a High Court fight against Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the lawfulness of housing asylum seekers on the barge also attended the protest.
She said that she was continuing subsequent legal action against Dorset Council as the planning authority responsible for the port.
‘The Bibby Stockholm is not the way humane society treats vulnerable human beings,’ she said.
The Home Office said it had been working with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to address safety concerns, including the creation of a fourth gangway.
All staff members involved in fire evacuation had received accredited fire warden training and would undergo regular drills, a spokeswoman said.
She added that those being brought to the Bibby Stockholm would be given five days’ notice, with each individual being assessed against a suitability criteria and screened against police and immigration databases.
They would also have their fingerprints and identities recorded.
She added that a full system cleanse of the water system had been carried out and tests had given the all-clear for the Legionella bacteria.
The spokeswoman said: ‘The Government is committed to ending the use of expensive hotels for asylum seekers.
‘Moving asylum seekers into alternative accommodation sites, like the Bibby Stockholm, is more affordable for taxpayers and more manageable for communities, with on-site healthcare and catering facilities.’
A group of asylum seekers carry their luggage onto the Bibby Stockholm on Thursday afternoon
The group were some of the first asylum seekers to return to the vessel since it had to be evacuated
The asylum seekers onboard the coach were also met by at least 30 anti-barge protesters cheering them and waving banners reading ‘scrap the barge’ and ‘refugees welcome’
Groups involved in the protest included Stand Up To Racism, while some attendees carried copies of the Socialist Worker
A woman addresses a group of anti-barge protesters at the Port of Portland on Thursday afternoon
Steve Smith, chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais, said it was assisting asylum seekers with legal challenges against the accommodation.
He said: ‘That includes supporting the survivors of torture and modern slavery to legally challenge their accommodation on these sites, which is contrary to the Government’s own suitability criteria.
‘Already, we are seeing some of these transfers being delayed or cancelled altogether because of these challenges.’
Caroline O’Connor, chief executive of charity Migrant Help, said: ‘It’s important that people on the barge are able to maintain their independence and are able to come and go, to enter towns, to experience the local culture, to learn about life here.
‘It doesn’t help a traumatised person to be isolated from the culture that they’re trying to join.’
Nicola David, of the One Life To Live campaign, said that a letter signed by the 39 men who previously stayed on the barge described how they had found the Bibby Stockholm to be a ‘terrifying residence’ like a prison and had left them feeling ‘stress and anxiety’, with one of the asylum seekers having attempted suicide.
She said: ‘Nothing about the Bibby Stockholm has gone well – it wasn’t even the Home Office’s first or second choice of barge, so they had to settle for something 50 years old, rotten, and unfit for use.
‘The barge had endless delays for repairs, Legionella, failed plumbing, and fire safety failure.
‘I discovered that it costs more per head than hotels, not less, so the Government’s strategy doesn’t add up. And there are claims going through the High Court.’
Last week, Portland mayor Carralyn Parkes lost a High Court fight against Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the lawfulness of housing asylum seekers on the barge.
The Home Office has said tests for Legionella, as well as improved fire safety protocols, had been completed ahead of the asylum seekers’ return
On Tuesday, a van was seen delivering food, including fresh vegetables
Mrs Parkes wanted to argue that housing migrants on the barge in Portland Harbour was illegal because it breaches planning and equality laws.
But Mr Justice Holgate ruled that Mrs Parkes, a member of Portland Town Council and the mayor of Portland, did not have an arguable case.
Lawyers for the Home Office argued Mrs Parkes’s claim was ‘out of time’, ‘without merit’ and said the judge should refuse to give permission for the challenge to proceed to a trial.
Government lawyers said the local planning authority did not think planning permission was required.
They also argued there was no ‘general principle’ that housing ‘non-British asylum seekers’ together on a vessel was ‘unlawful’ under a public sector equality duty.
There has been a major backlash against the barge, with residents fearful over the impact the new arrivals will have on their community.
They fear that already overstretched services such as GP surgeries will not be able to cope with the influx of 506 men, who will be able to come and go as they wish.
People have also raised fears of an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, risk to their personal safety and the impact on tourism.
Opposition has also come from organisations including the Fire Brigades Union, which has warned of ‘serious fire risks’.
Carralyn Parkes last week lost a legal bid to challenge the lawfulness of using the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland Harbour, Dorset
In response, Ms Braverman pointed out that the barge has been used as accommodation numerous times before.
‘I believe the barge is safe,’ Ms Braverman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in August.
‘This barge has accommodated people in the past – asylum seekers, oil rig workers and barges of this kind have been used to accommodate asylum seekers, for example in Scotland, so I’m very confident that this barge is safe for human habitation.
‘We followed all of the advice and protocols in anticipation of embarkation.’
A Home Office spokesman said previously: ‘The Home Office has started to send letters to asylum seekers to confirm the re-embarkation of the Bibby Stockholm and notify them that they will be accommodated on board, following the vessel completing all necessary tests.
‘The letters confirm the next steps for asylum seekers and reiterate that all asylum accommodation continues to be offered on a no-choice basis.
‘Delivering alternative accommodation sites, such as the vessel, is more affordable for taxpayers and more manageable for communities, due to healthcare and catering facilities on site, 24/7 security and the purpose-built safe accommodation they provide.’
A range of meals will be served from the barge’s canteen
A photo of a TV room onboard the barge, which was previously used to house offshore workers
The presence of Just Stop Oil at the barge protest will raise eyebrows among observers of the group, which usually concerns itself only with environmental issues.
Last week, its founders Roger Hallam and Indigo Rumbelow were arrested in a Met Police operation aimed at ‘preventing serious disruption’ by the group.
Footage shared by Just Stop Oil on X showed the moment police raided Mr Hallam’s home. Being led away by one officer, the eco-zealot gives a thumbs up and says ‘all good’ after being asked about the raid by the cameraman.
Police are seen searching through the property, using torches to check drawers, before being quizzed by a Just Stop Oil supporter about the items they are seizing.
The arrest came after Just Stop Oil announced it would carry out three more weeks of daily slow marches in London, beginning on October 30 – in a fresh blow for Londoners following months of disruptive protests.
Following the raids, a defiant Just Stop Oil insisted it would ‘not be intimidated’ and that it would continue with its planned slow-march protests in London.
‘We will not be intimidated by our criminal government. Not content with cheering on war crimes in Gaza, by maxing out our oil and gas reserves they are complicit in the greatest crime in human history,’ the group said in a statement.
‘New oil and gas will result in unimaginable suffering and destroy the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. No one has ever voted for this, there has never been a democratic mandate to destroy the habitable world.
Indigo Rumbelow and Roger Hallam were arrested in separate raid by the Met Police last week
Mr Hallam being arrested by police during the dawn raid on his house
‘Just Stop Oil supporters are deeply committed to stopping all new oil and gas. If our government refuses to do what is right to protect humanity, then people will step up to do what needs to be done.
‘The painful truth right now is that our politicians and corporations have no intention of acting in accordance with the fundamental interests of either our young people or the country as a whole.
‘Whether those in charge realise that they are commiting the crime of genocide, is not the question.
‘For this is how it will be seen by the next generation and all future generations. Our friends in police custody and languishing in prison understand this very well as do we.’
The Met Police confirmed a man, 57, and woman, 29, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. They both remain in custody.
A Met spokesman told : ‘Officers have arrested two people as part of an operation aimed at preventing serious disruption by Just Stop Oil ahead of more protests expected in London later this month.
‘The group has publicly stated that it wants to cause maximum disruption.’
News of the pair’s arrest comes after the force charged eco-activist Greta Thunberg with a public order offence after a protest outside a central London hotel.
The 20-year-old was one of 26 people charged following Tuesday’s rally outside the InterContinental Hotel in Park Lane which was hosting a major meeting of oil executives.
Scotland Yard said protesters were asked to move from the road onto the pavement to avoid breaching the conditions.
News of the pair’s arrest comes after the force charged eco-activist Greta Thunberg with a public order offence after a protest outside a central London hotel
The 20-year-old was one of 26 people charged following Tuesday’s rally outside the InterContinental Hotel in Park Lane which was hosting a major meeting of oil executives
Scotland Yard said protesters were asked to move from the road onto the pavement to avoid breaching the conditions
Thunberg – whose address was given by police as ‘Dorset’ – was charged with failing to comply with a condition on public assemblies.
The Swedish activist could be seen smiling as she was detained by officers and led to a waiting police van after joining a protest outside the Energy Intelligence Forum (EIF) – formerly the Oil and Money conference.
In footage shared on social media, officers could be seen frogmarching the campaigner to the van as other protesters were told to stand back.
She had earlier spoken outside the hotel as part of a protest organised by Fossil Free London against the EIF event, urging eco-activists to ‘reclaim the power’ and hitting out at ‘spineless’ politicians for failing to act on global warming.
Thunberg has been charged with failing to comply with a condition imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
Officers said they asked the protesters to move from the road onto the pavement which would have allowed them to continue protesting legally.
They said they had imposed conditions to ‘prevent disruption to the public’.
She was bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on November 15.