Gentrification & immigration raids: report of raids on Deptford High Street

 

Submitted by a witness to the raid

On Monday 19 April the police and officers from Immigration Enforcement conducted raids on shops on Deptford High Street. The raid started with Agege bread, an Afro-Caribbean bakery, and then proceeded to a number of other black or asian owned businesses at the south end of the High Street. As far as I can tell, nobody was arrested or cautioned in connection with any crime. The immigration officers also failed to find anybody without documentation.

The officers gave a number of different reasons for their actions. At one shop they told staff that they wanted to check that the gas on the premises was safe, at another shop they claimed to be checking the lighting, at another they said they wanted to check whether the shop was obeying fire safety regulations. After each of these claims proved unsubstantiated, immigration officers proceeded to check the immigration status of people they found inside the shop.

Officers were reported as being rude and often refused to offer any clear answer when asked about the reasons for their actions. At one shop in particular, they completely closed it down for around 4 hours, and refused to allow the shopkeeper to leave, even though he was neither under arrest nor being held according to any other powers. When he asked to leave, they threatened him with a caution. There were also reports of officers asking at a number of shops whether the shopkeepers could give them access to the flats above. They had no warrants to search any flats on the High Street, and were very unclear about why they would want to enter the premises anyway.

After the raid I handed out information from the Anti Raids Network and spoke to shopkeepers. A common complaint was that raids on the market had been stepped up in recent years. One shop has already been raided five or six times in 2015; another shop three or four times since January. This is spoiling their business: as well as having goods seized, the presence of police and immigration officers on the market completely undermines business, and encourages customers to stay away. One shop had three employees taken away by Immigration Enforcement earlier this year. When I asked employees at a shop whether they thought immigration officers were focusing on any types of people in particular, they told me clearly that the officers only targeted black and asian people, and generally ignore white people.

In February the local Labour Party, apparently in cooperation with Lewisham Council, organised a meeting for market traders to discuss issues facing them. In attendance were the local labour councillors and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford Vicky Foxcroft. First among the issues was the problem of speculative raids, which the councillors claimed were unauthorised. Traders were worried that their business was being destroyed by the actions of the police and Immigration Enforcement. Traders came away from the meeting feeling like something would be done about this by the councillors. However, nothing has changed since then, and many feel like their business will not survive if they and their customers continue to undergo harassment.

Another feeling on the market was that one reason for the increase in immigration raids over the last few months was the coming election. Traders felt that they and their customers were being punished for the racist rhetoric around immigration and refugees that has characterised public debate over the last few months.

Finally, another potential reason behind the raids is the imminent opening of a new £47 million development on the High Street this summer, the Deptford Project. The Project is planned to include “132 new homes, 14 artisan arch space workshops, 7 commercial units, 2 restaurants and a new market square.” This new build, one of a large number over the previous decade, will dramatically reconfigure the racial and class make-up of the area, and is a potential drive for the new businesses opening on the High Street (a skate shop, a bike shop/cafe, a coffee shop, the Job Centre pub, an art shop, &c). It is noticeable that none of these new businesses have been subjected to raids or check-ups on their gas, electric, or flats above their shops. It is also noticeable that their clientele is more likely to be white and middle-class. One interpretation of these raids could be that they are a purposeful attempt to undermine the economic base of minority stallholders on the market, to make it appear an even more attractive investment to real estate speculators.

At this point shopowners, traders, customers, employees and just about everyone else on the market subjected to these raids are feeling helpless. People consistently told me that they aren’t sure what they can do, or who they can talk to, to stop this happening. Many have already tried to raise complaints with official channels, and either been lied to or ignored in response. One person told me that the thing they liked most about working and living in Deptford was that people supported each other, regardless of where they were from or what the colour of their skin was. They also told me that it felt like this sense of community and openness to others was being destroyed by the raids, and that they worried about the future of the market if they are allowed to carry on.

image

Tagalog ‘know your rights’ information

Ano ang gagawin mo kapag hininto o sinita ka ng opisyal ng imigrasyon (ukba)
Kung ang opisyal ng UK Border Agency o Ahensya ay sinita ka at nagtanong
kung anong status o papel mo dito:

-hindi mo kailangan sagutin ang tanong
-hindi mo kailangan sabihin ang pangalan at adres ng tirahan mo.
-sabihin mo na ayaw mong makipag-usap sa kanila
-manatiling magalang at kampante
-pwede kang lumakad palayo

Wala silang karapatan na sitahin ka dahil sa iyong lahi. Maari ka lang
nilang sitahin kung meron silang maayos na rason. Kung sitahin ka nila
dahil sa hitsura mo o sa pananalita mo, sabihin mo sa kanila, ‘ ito ay
isang discriminasyon’, ‘ito ay ilegal’, ‘magsusmite ako ng reklamo’.

Kung ikaw ay nahuli at kinulong, tumawag sa Immigration Detainees 020 7247 3590

Brook House detainee beaten by guards during deportation attempt

Tahar Khalifa beaten by guards in an attempted deportation on Tuesday 31st March.

On Tuesday, 31st March, Tahar Khalifa, detained at Brook House detention centre, was forcibly removed from the centre in an attempted deportation to Tunisia, on flight TU791 at 1745hrs. As he was going up the stairs to the plane he was physically assaulted and beaten by the guards.

In a statement Tahar says that there were multiple officers trying to get him up the stairs; one was choking him, another was twisting his upper body. Tahar was handcuffed at the front and one officer was holding him by the wrist and pulling very hard.

The attempted deportation has left Tahar with multiple physical injuries. The handcuffs left him with deep cuts on his wrist; two of his fingers on his left hand are swollen very badly and he can’t move them and he has an injury to his leg.

Tahar has indefinite leave to remain in Greece and has lived there for 21 years. UKBA was trying to remove him to Tunisia against his wishes. Tahar has said he will go back to Greece, as he should by law under the Dublin convention, but does not want to go to Tunisia.

When Tahar arrived back at Brook House, one detainee was witness to his injuries when he was brought back to the centre called 999. He was put through to 101, which he called several times. As soon as the local police force heard he was calling from Brook House, they ‘didn’t want to know’ and said it was nothing to do with them.

The witness spoke to three people in the local force, they all said the same thing. He called 999 a second time, who also said that Brook House was not their responsibility. The police called Brook House and informed the officers of the name of the caller. The officers came and questioned the caller threateningly about why he had called the police.

Tahar described that the officers were “really worried” after the incident and took him to hospital, where he stayed for about 5 hours. That night he was feeling very paranoid because he didn’t feel safe in the cell and had to have people around him all the time. The next day he saw the doctor inside Brook House, together with a witness who helped with translation and tried to explain about the paranoia and flashbacks that had followed the attack. The witness saw the paper the doctor was writing on, and he was signed off as without serious problem.

There was a nurse present with a camera but she did not take pictures of the injuries. When the witness mentioned the police, the nurse’s “face changed and she was really angry”.

One witness said:

“they know what they are doing. They pull the fingers from the joints so they don’t break them but it causes so much pain and damage. If it had been an officer who was beaten up the police would have come right away. We don’t feel safe to be in the care of the state because they have left our care in the hands of agency workers. We don’t have access to any legal information or anything like that. We don’t have access to the internet. We have computers in there but just screens not internet. Access is denied to all websites. It’s just a facade. He’s a humble guy, he’s not a trouble maker. He’s not a violent man, he can’t even speak English”

This incident is not an isolated case but part of a systematically violent immigration detention regime. Several reports released last month document the abuse and racism detainees suffer in detention centres in the UK:

*Recent report on Harmondsworth by Corporate Watch: ‘Its gonna break: life in the UK’s biggest detention centre’

* Channel 4 on Yarlswood.

Over 20 people have been killed in the UK detention system alone, and this figure does not include all the people killed in prisons or by the police.

In 2009 Jimmy Mubenga was killed during an attempted removal to Angola by plane.

Shut down all detention centres.
No deportations. No Borders. No Eurodac.

fingerwristPhotos of some of his injuries.

Ongoing resistance at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres

Today noise demonstrations inside and outside the detention centres.det2

This morning, a small group of supporters of the ongoing resistance inside Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, went again to make noise outside the two centres.

People in both centres were heard shouting ‘freedom’ and ‘we want justice’ from the central courtyards. Some people held signs up to the windows saying ‘no more detention’, others were banging on the walls and windows. One group managed to open a window and were shouting to the supporters outside ‘we want freedom’.

Detainees inside said they were not eating again today and people were refusing to go to the kitchens. They said that the Home Office had given no response to their demands and so they would CONTINUE to RESIST. Some people involved in the resistance have reportedly been moved to the isolation unit. They have been threatened with removal to other centres and with removal directions out of the UK.

The security levels were high, 8 security from the centre came outside and 8 – 10 police arrived shortly after. One security officer was trying to intimidate the supporters group, making up false stories about protesters to the police, encouraging them to make arrests. The police with help from the security forcibly removed the people making noise outside, pushing and pulling them away. No arrests were possible.

People inside the detention prisons of Harmondsworth and Colnbrook ask for more support outside. They ask that people spread their messages far and continue to come to make noise outside.

Resistance continues inside and out.

Solidarity.

No Borders. No detention prisons. No Eurodac.

Some of the most recent statements from inside:

NO ONE CARES

‘’We eat or no eat, release or no release no one cares. It’s very bad here.’’

THE PROTEST IS STILL ON

‘’The protest is still on, we are outside. There are 150 people still out there and we have agreed not to eat until the demands are met. There is the possibility that they will stay outside in the courtyard tonight

We don’t have any access to social media but if you can post this it would be great.’’

I’M TALKING ABOUT THE 600 PEOPLE WHO ARE WITH ME IN THIS DETENTION

I’m talking about the six hundred people who are with me in this detention. This thing is not fair. If this place was in another country all you would see is BBC and every media…but because it’s a place in the UK they defend…so when I say to the Home Office “This place is prison”, they say to me “No- is not prison”.

THEY IMMIGRATION OFFICERS NOW HERE

‘’They immigration officers now here and they took the papers [with messages] from guys and trying to stop protest. They wrote the names of they guys who are protesting and had papers.’’

See https://detainedvoices.wordpress.com/ for more testimonies and information.

det3Other reports:

*Recent report on Harmondsworth by Corporate Watch: ‘Its gonna break: life in the UK’s biggest detention centre’

http://www.corporatewatch.org/news/2015/mar/04/harmondsworth-immigration-detention-centre-secret-filming-mitie

 

 

Coach blockade to stop mass deportation to Afghanistan

10.3.15

At around 5pm today, a coach leaving Brook House ‘Immigration Removal Centre’ was stopped in the road by people holding a banner saying ‘This Deportation is Illegal’.  As the coach came to a stop one person ran past the police car to the front of the coach and superglued her hands to the windscreen wipers. The coach was stuck in the road outside the detention centre for over two hours. All protesters have now been removed from the scene with 3 potential arrests.

The coach contained people who were on the way to the airport to be forcibly removed from the UK. Today charter flights are due to take place to Albania, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mike said he came to Gatwick today ‘to protest the Home Office policy of forced expulsion and to stop the charter flights which are due to take place this evening’.

This protest is not happening in isolation. Migrants are on hunger strike in detention centres across the country with protesters also outside Harmondsworth IRC in solidarity with those facing removal to Afghanistan at 10.30pm this evening. Recent news reports by Channel 4 have also highlighted appalling treatment of migrants within the UK’s detention estate.

Solidarity to all involved.

Statement from mass protest inside Harmondsworth immigration detention centre

8 March 2015, 7.25pm

e-mail address: detaineesriseup@riseup.net

More than 200 people detained in Harmondsworth immigration detention centre are mobilising a hunger strike from 8.00am tomorrow, following a noise demonstration inside the centre today.

They are protesting for an end to:

•        indefinite deprivation of liberty and human rights
•        the use of “Detained Fast Track” [1]
•        bias and incompetence in case-handling by the Home Office
•        unlawful forced removals
•        stressful and degrading conditions which they describe as “mental torture” and which lead many to self-harm
•        overcrowded accommodation “comparable to animal cages”
•        refusals to return those who want to go back to their countries of origin

Similar protests have taken place this week by women inside Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre. The resistance follows this week’s release of undercover film footage of Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth by Channel 4 [2], and a parliamentary inquiry report into detention [3].

One protester said of the treatment by Harmondsworth staff: “It’s like we are animals. They are not giving us help or proper food. if anyone came inside and see conditions here they would see and release us.” Another said detention was “mentally torturing” them.

Protesters say staff are threatening them with prison if they do not stop protesting.

Note to editors:

1. The Detained Fast-Track system is an accelerated programme of detention in which cases are supposed to be resolved within 14 days. In July 2014 a High Court judgement ruled it had been operating illegally.

2. http://www.channel4.com/news/yarls-wood-immigration-removal-detention-centre-investigation ;
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/harmondsworth-immigrants-kept-in-cells-for-two-hours-longer-secret-filming-reveals-10086170.html?origin=internalSearch

3. https://detentioninquiry.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/immigration-detention-inquiry-report.pdf

Resisting Immigration Raids – Brainstorm of Ideas

Up to 65 people attended our public meeting on Thursday. Great to meet people already working on the same stuff and newer people alike. After a brief overview of raids and our rights, we broke up into groups and shared ideas of how we can fight them collectively. Here’s a snapshot of people’s thoughts:

Protest in the streets

Tower block alerts when raids happen, whistles blown – like in Glasgow where there were lots of raids in single blocks.

School protest when students are taken – e.g. Glasgow Girls, Save Yashika, Leonarda Dibrani case in France

Union support for workers

Twitter alerts for raids

Phone alert system for raids

Phone alert systems for local areas – markets etc. – need resistance to be local to be sustainable.

Working with more community groups, places of worship – getting messages out in different languages.

Someone to hack Home Office sites…

Posters at bus stops

‘Know your rights’ stickers

Map immigration raids

Shopkeepers – put up withdrawal of consent forms in in windows

Spread success stories

Be one step ahead of home office – where they go & try and snatch people, we need to already have been there – talked to people

Help people develop CONFIDENCE in the face of raids – as/more important than legal knowledge (law frequently abused by Immigration Enforcement anyway)

Posters saying Immigration Enforcement not welcome

Clapton FC ‘know your rights’ outreach

By The No

ultras

As you might know, Clapton Football Club, eight leagues below Premier League neighbours, West Ham United, has recently become the adopted home to a fast-growing group of fans who are disillusioned with the professional game and want to put their antiracist, anticapitalist, community-centric politics into action.

Clapton play their home games in Forest Gate, and one Saturday a few weeks ago a handful of us sought to demonstrate our support for people who live and work near our ground who are increasingly being targeted by the government’s racist anti-immigrant agenda.

The Home Office’s Operation Skybreaker – a name as naff as its aims are sinister – has already seen gangs of immigration officers engaging withbusinesses in Newham (amongst other boroughs) whose employees or customers might be undocumented.

And by engaging with we should be clear we mean harassing, intimidating, misinforming, entering without express permission, and rinsing information from people by whatever snide means they can.

These visits are basically pre-raids, and are principally about enabling the immigration enforcement to mess up more and more people’s lives.

In response to Skybreaker invasions, the ever-awesome London Black Revs already staged a well-received action at Queen Street market in nearby Upton Park, offering local people Anti Raids Network cards with information about their rights. Our plan was to try and do a our bit on our home patch.

We met at a local café for a bit of training from a Clapton-supporting member of Newham Monitoring Project before heading out in pairs with cards in English, Bengali, Punjabi, Arabic and a few other languages.

We had prepared ourselves for the possibility of shop and café owners being too busy to entertain us or unsure what to make of a bunch of (albeit friendly) football fans. After all, most of us were wearing our Clapton scarves ahead of our local derby with Barking later that day (0-0, in case you wondered).

However the response we received was not only welcoming, but in some cases revelatory.

We spoke to the owners of two adjoining convenience shops at the bottom of Upton Lane one of whom we had heard had already given Home Office Robocops their marching orders when they’d tried their charm offensive (stress on the offensive) recently.

The shopkeepers clearly knew they were allowed to ask these thugs to leave their premises if they didn’t have a warrant, but they were receptive to the idea of handing out our cards so their customers know their rights as well.

Others, though, were less aware of their rights. Another shopkeeper told us about the form the police and immigration officials made him sign, saying he gave permission for them to be in his shop (something we’d touched on in the training, and which no one is under any obligation to sign).

Another reported police demanding access to the rented-out flat upstairs in relation to an unspecified incident 15 years ago. Why? Checking for who might be living there? As the man said, God knows what they were looking for.”

There was the white shop owner who was emphatic in his view that he was treated with infinitely more respect by the uniformed bullies than most of the neighbouring businesses.

And the café owner who said he’d not only take cards, but he’d happily put a poster in his window.

And the NHS health centre staff who accepted the cards without hesitation as necessary information for local patients.

And the travel agency who invited us to sit down before telling us in detail about when their tiny shop was visited by seven or eight tooled-up immigration officers demanding to see who they employed (without warrants), advising them they risked arrest if they did not share their ID (untrue) or answer their questions (ditto).

I had to leave this visit early: the combination of the abuse they depicted and the calm, resigned way these men spoke about their treatment just floored me.

I am pretty sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say the couple of hours we spent talking to these good people made a massive impression on me. This is happening now, and it only promises to intensify as the route to political power becomes more about how the government is seen to crush those who it deems are not welcome in our communities.

As Clapton fans and, for the most part, new members of this community, we intend to offer our neighbours our solidarity.

We’ll be back doing the rounds before our Saturday home games in November, and it would be great if others came and joined us. More details on the Anti Raids blog here.

13th November: Public Meeting

Did you know…?

  • You don’t have to sign papers letting immigration officers into your home or shop.
  • During a raid, you don’t have to answer any questions about your immigration status when immigration officers or the police ask you.
  • You are legally entitled to leave if you haven’t been arrested.

Tower Hamlets is one of the London boroughs currently being targeted by ‘Operation Skybreaker’, a 5-month plan by the Home Office to stop illegal working. We believe immigration raids are racist & we can fight them if we work together.

To find out more about your legal rights & talk about what we can do to defend our communities against immigration raids and arrests, come to our public meeting on November 13th, 6-8pm at the Praxis Centre, Pott St, Bethnal Green E2 0EF.

Organised by the Anti Raids Network & Right to Remain.