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A Magazine for Sheffield

Mount Pleasant Park FC: Sport and solidarity outside the Home Office

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Photo by Gwilym Lawrence

Every year in the UK, over 28,000 people are taken from their communities and locked up inside prison-like detention centres across the country. There is still no limit on the time they are held, with some remaining confined in traumatic conditions for over two years.

As well as the suffering caused inside the detention centres, many people are later deported to places posing serious dangers. In many cases, death is a very real risk.

On 16 May Mount Pleasant Park FC, together with a lively crowd, staged a demonstration and football match outside the doors of the Home Office's Vulcan House office in Sheffield. The action attracted over 50 supporters, including members of SYMAAG, STAR, ASSIST, These Walls Must Fall and Another Europe is Possible.

Our message was made clear for all passers-by and workers: we want to see an end to the underhanded detention and deportation of migrants living peacefully in the UK. The 'hostile environment' created by the government must be dismantled.

We formed Mount Pleasant Park FC in 2013 with the aim of creating a space for people of all backgrounds to play football in a supportive environment. This includes organising anti-racist football tournaments at Football Unites Racism Divides in Sheffield.

Many of the teams that have played in our tournaments are refugees and asylum seekers, including ASSIST Sheffield, where we first met Victor. He and several others were detained this year after being summoned to report to the Home Office at Vulcan House.

They were taken to Morton Hall Detention Centre in Lincolnshire and told they were to be deported to Zimbabwe within 72 hours. It was later discovered that the Zimbabwean government and the Home Office had colluded to deport thousands of settled people in the UK, despite legitimate concerns for their safety given the politically motivated dangers facing them in Zimbabwe. After they were detained, we decided it was time to take a stand and join the These Walls Must Fall campaign.

We will continue to take action until these policies end

It was through football that we met so many people experiencing the government's 'hostile environment'. We believe that, through playing football together, we can begin to resist the government's attempts to divide our communities.

As people who have the privilege of freedom inside and outside the doors of Vulcan House, we were briefly able to reclaim a space that so many associate with fear and violence.

This building is where many people within our communities must report, in the knowledge they can be detained at any time. We wanted to increase awareness to the staff inside, to let them know that they are complicit in deportation and detention, and that people from all walks of life oppose what they are doing.

We stand with all those who have endured the brutal practice of immigration detention and deportation. We will continue to take action until these policies end.

Joe, Mount Pleasant Park FC

Follow These Walls Must Fall on Twitter.

For more information on the action, follow Mount Pleasant Park FC on Twitter and on Facebook.

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