The Gatwick No Border Camp forced to change location after police harassment

For immediate release 17th September 2007

The owner of the Surrey site where the Gatwick Area No Border Camp was supposed to take place this week has pulled out from renting his land after a lot of pressure and harassment from various police forces.

The farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, was visited, sometimes twice a day, by Gatwick Police (Sussex) and both Horley and Reigate Police (Surrey) in tandem during the course of the last two weeks. By September 13th, the pressure, both from police and neighbouring farmers, became too much for the farmer to bear, especially when a number of reporters started to ring him up, that he called the organisers to say he was pulling out of the agreement.

One of the camp organisers, Ian Bros, said: “Every time I phoned him, there would have been yet another police visit. They were consistently trying to paint a nasty picture of the potential camp participants but their priority seemed to be putting pressure on him to sign an agreement with the police to let them on his land during the camp, which he refused to do at our request.”

Police harassment had begun ever since the contract was signed three weeks ago to rent a field near the village of Salfords, Surrey. Soon, Horley Police started calling on farmers in the area trying to find the farmer who was renting land to the camp, only to find that the camp organisers had already ‘revealed’ the location to Reigate Police when sending them a Temporary Event Notice.

Since then, police seem to have changed tactics, calling on neighbouring farmers and asking them to complain directly to the landlord to pull out of the agreement. The landowner said: “It seems like they have really pulled all the dirty tricks in their book to stop this camp from happening. They have tried to turn my neighbours against me for letting this camp take place on my land.”

This wasn’t all. On September 13th, a phone call from Inspector Elaine Burtenshaw, the Tandridge District Police’s Neighbourhood Officer, asked the camp organisers to “cancel the camp because of a foot-and-mouth outbreak.” She claimed that “local farmers were concerned about 300 people turning up on their doorsteps” and said that campaigners better postpone the camp or consider even cancelling it now rather than wait until next week, when they “may be forced to cancel it anyway due to the restrictions.”

The camp organisers immediately contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environmental Health office at Tandridge District Council and both said there was “absolutely no reason” why they should not go ahead with the camp as far as the foot-and-mouth crisis is concerned. They were told they do not even need to have straw and disinfectant at the entrances/exits, which they had offered to do.

According to official sources, the latest outbreak is in Egham, west of London, between Woking and Windsor. That is about 50km away from the camp and the whole of central London is closer to the outbreak than the camp site.

In any case, the camp organisers have now managed to find a new site and another lease was signed a few days ago. The new land, owner by another local farmer, is near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex. Camp organisers said the location of the new site had been withheld until now “for fear of further police harassment and pressure on the new landlord.”

A spokeswoman from No Borders UK, the network organising the camp, said: “The various police forces have concentrated a lot of their energies on trying to stop the camp from happening. We have ensured that we’ve done everything we can to follow the rules and regulations when planning this camp.” Lisa Morgan added: “This dirty war they’re playing against us raises very serious questions about our civil and political rights. Obviously, it’s only because we’re critical of the government’s policy of incarcerating innocent and vulnerable people in special prisons that the authorities are behaving like this.”

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For further information, please contact: The No Border Camp press group Tel: 078 0750 3282 (monitored during office hours) E-mail: g-anbc2007_press@riseup.net

Notes for editors:

1. Foot-and-mouth is a contagious viral disease which affects cattle. The disease only crosses the species barrier from cattle to human with very great difficulty. The disease in humans is mild, short-lived and requires no medical treatment. Very few human cases of foot-and-mouth have ever been recorded. The last human case reported in the UK occurred in 1966.

2. At the start of the previous outbreak, the government said the countryside was still open and people should not avoid using it. To quote the official site of foot-and-mouth, “We have learnt the lessons of the experience of the 2001 outbreak and would not close down the countryside if it is not justified by the disease risk. Current veterinary advice is that, except within a Protection Zone (PZ) (an area of minimum 3km radius around an infected premises), the risk of rights of way users and other visitors to the countryside spreading disease is negligible.” “Thus, any decision to close land over which there is a public right of way, or where there is public open space or a right of access to open country, would only be taken only when it is clearly necessary to do so.”

3. The Gatwick Area No Border Camp will be held between 20 and 23 September, 2007, near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, to try and stop a new planned immigration detention centre at Gatwick airport, with planned demonstrations in Crawley, Croydon and Gatwick. The camp, the first of its kind in the UK, will also be an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, with numerous workshops, discussions and other activities. See http://www.noborders.org.uk for further details.

4. No Borders UK is a network of groups and activists across the country who stand against all visible and invisible borders and migration controls and struggle for the freedom of movement for all people. There are currently 8 such groups in Birmingham, Brighton, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wales. The first UK-wide No Borders gathering was held on 11-12 March, 2006, in London. The global No Border network had existed since 1999.

[Note] A new site for the camp has now been rented near the village of Balcombe, West Sussex

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