Immigration checks on Oxford Street

Immigration checks and violent arrest – a testimony, 4th January

On Saturday 4th January 2014, whilst walking along Oxford Street, central London at around 1am, two people spotted a UKBA van parked in front of hoardings for building work. Both witnesses went to see what was happening. On the pavement behind the vans, there appeared to be 3 people sleeping in a shop front. Gathered around them were various ‘official looking’ people. Several uniformed UKBA officers were clearly identifiable, plus several uniformed police, and other ‘officials’ in plain clothes with various utility belts and body armour protruding through their clothing.

A UKBA officer was looming over one of the people sitting on the floor. The witnesses approached this person, and informed him that he did not have to speak to the border agent, answer any questions or show her any identification. The border agent insisted this was not true, and that the witnesses should go away. One of the people getting questioned began to get very agitated as he was wondering why there was so much attention. Witnesses explained that they were solely there to observe the UKBA and the police.

The officers asked the witnesses ‘what are you doing here’ to which the male witness replied ‘we were just walking along the street’. The officer then said ‘why don’t you carry on walking then’? The witness replied ‘well, I’m standing here at the moment’ and then asked the officer ‘what are you doing here’. This seemed to provoke a fit of rage from the officer. The officer – PC CW 3206 from Central Westminster – exclaimed ‘I’ve had enough of you people’ and grabbed the neck of the male witness, violently forcing him back against a wooden pillar that was supporting the building site hoarding. The witness did nothing to retaliate, believing the officer was just trying to briefly scare him, or maybe arrest him. However the officer then proceeded to crush the throat of the witness and making it harder to breathe.

The officer threw the witness to the ground, violently twisting his arms. The witness shouted to passers by to film what was happening. The officer then asserted more force, twisting the handcuffs causing severe and ongoing pain to the witness. As the force on his upper body increased, the wind pipe of the witness began to close up, and he struggled to breathe – this is recognised as a dangerous position of ‘restraint’ by the Metropolitan Police themselves, causing what they describe as ‘positional asphyxiation’. The witness tried to tell the officer he was an asthmatic and couldn’t breathe, but got no response.

The torture or ‘pain compliance’ that the officer was carrying out continued for at least a minute or more. Eventually, the officer then dragged the witness up using the handcuffs, further cutting into the witness wrists, whilst still twisting them, and slammed him against another pillar. The witness was arrested, held for 4 hours in the police station and later bailed for a public order offence of ‘using threatening words / behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress’.

The UKBA inspectors managed to get the bankcard of one of the people being checked. They asked him to stand up to be photographed against a pillar, and then two officers went into the van. One of them came back about 20 or 30 minutes later, and served some documents to the man and explained to him in English that he had to present himself on three occasions to the UKBA and then would be deported to Poland sometime in February because he failed to show willingness to remain in the UK, because he had failed to sign on at the Job Centre on a number of occasions. The man had been in the UK for 9 years and was extremely shocked, so was his friend who was awake.

People living and sleeping around Oxford Street and Marble Arch told the Anti Raids Network that they are harassed by Police and UKBA on a daily basis. Some people report being repeatedly arrested and having documents/money taken away from them at the police station.