February 2nd: UKBA raid West African Restaurant, Old Kent Road, near Elephant and Castle.
On Saturday night, approximately 6-7 UKBA officers and around 4 police officers rushed into a West African restaurant at 8.55pm. The raiding party arrived in one white van and one silver van, licence plate BP55DCU. But this time the operation wasn’t going to take place in silence.
About 20 people from the Anti Raids network entered the restaurant hot on their heels and informed everyone present of their rights in the face of immigration checks: you do not have to answer any questions, and you are free to leave at any time. Many people immediately got up and left – presumably not wanting to spend their night out being interrogated by UKBA thugs.
Unfortunately, UKBA had managed to surround three people before supporters could get to them. One group of immigration officers questioned the three women, while others physically blocked supporters from getting near them to inform them of their legal rights. Some police officers assisting the operation refused to show their badge numbers and tried to intimidate supporters into turning off their cameras. UKBA officers held their victims in the restaurant for approximately half an hour before leaving, supported by extra police back-up.
Sadly, they managed to arrest one Nigerian woman and took her with them to their base at Beckett House, near London Bridge (60-68 St Thomas Street London SE1 3QU). Arrested people are often imprisoned at the “short term holding facility” at Beckett House before being moved on to detention centres. Still, they had probably expected a much bigger catch. People from Anti Raids were there to show solidarity with the restaurant workers, customers, and the many people who are regularly subject to these racist immigration controls in London. While the UKBA were still in the restaurant, activists also went to visit other restaurants and businesses on the street to inform everyone of what was happening.
This raid was not in isolation
Racist migration raids take place every day in London, but are rarely reported on. At 2am on the same night, UKBA also attacked a house in the Peckham/Dulwich area, arresting 4 people from Bolivia and 2 from Pakistan. They were held in Beckett House for the night and have now been moved to detention centres in Dover and Bedford. Raids were also reported in the Elephant and Castle area every day last week. In one operation UKBA blocked off the entrances and exits to the main shopping centre, catching people as they left. Several people were detained and one person has already been deported.
Building the resistance
Following the wave of UKBA activity over the past couple of weeks, members of the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS), Precarious Workers Brigade, No Borders London, and other individuals working together under the banner of the Anti Raids network have been active in the Elephant and Castle area. On Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the raid, about 40 people held a demonstration on Old Kent Road to show solidarity with communities being attacked and harassed on a daily basis. We spoke to local shop keepers and passers-by about our rights in the face of a raid or a stop, and distributed hundreds of ‘Know your rights’ cards in Spanish, Arabic, English and other languages.
By creating networks of resistance and mutual aid, we can fight racist controls and checks. Solidarity with all migrant communities. No one is illegal.
If you are interested in getting involved in Anti Raids, send us an email at antiraids [at/] riseup.net (replace the [at/] with @).