The presence of the police at Pride is not only an antithesis of the origins of the early Pride marches for liberation, but is fundamentally unacceptable whilst the police participate in the ‘Hostile Environment’ where migrant, asylum seeking and new communities can be targeted for detention and deportation.
LGBTQ+ people being held in immigration detention in the UK are detained without courts or judges, in prison-like conditions, and for an unlimited amount of time. When LGBTQ+ people are targeted with detention then deportation, it could be to one of the approcimately 70 countries where same-sex acts are unlawful with execution for same-sex acts possible in 11 of those countries.
People who are detained in Larne House could end up subject to the ‘Rwanda Plan’ a Government sponsored people trafficking scheme where people fleeing persecution are sent to a country they have no connection with that is thousands of miles away. Rainbow Migration has documented the widespread abuse and ill-treatment of LGBTQ+ communities in Rwanda and describe the UK Government’s Rwanda Plan as ‘actively harmful and an abdication of the UK’s responsibilities under the Refugee Convention’.
Larne House immigration detention centre, situated within PSNI Larne is a key element in a pipeline of removing our wider LGBTQ+ family. Between 2011 and 2022, around 5000 people were detained here. The operators do not routinely record the sexual orientation or gender identities of detainees so LGBTQ+ people often remain invisible to LGBTQ+ organisations with detainees often struggling to get appropriate support, legal access and healthcare.
Northern Ireland is unique in the UK insofar as the police force provides both the barrack facilities and armed security forces guard to the external compound of the immigration detention facilities. In addition to this, under strategies such as Operation Nexus, the PSNI data share information on people living here with the UK Home Office, facilitating detention and deportation.
In August 2021, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons visted Larne house and found a transgender woman detained there, and we know there have been many, many more LGBTQ+ people incarcerated here before that and since then.
Immigration detention is state violence. To put it simply, we believe that a PSNI delegation, or indeed ANY police delegation that is involved in oppressive border regimes, should not be welcome at the Belfast Pride march.
Instead of showcasing the PSNI, Belfast Pride should be a place where the entire LGBTQ+ community can come together in safety, especially those marginalised by the state. Solidarity on Belfast Pride 2022, 2023 must be different, it must be the year where it can truly be said that ‘Pride Is A Protest’.