Shopkeepers meeting against raids on Deptford High Street

 

Written by some people active in the Anti Raids stall in Deptford

Despite regular resistance to Immigration Enforcement on Deptford High Street over the past couple of years, the raids have continued. Inevitably, officers have changed their tactics – acting more quickly, coming in plain clothes, or using unmarked vehicles so as not to attract attention – yet the raids went on. It seems that although opposition is having an impact, there would need to be a larger response on the scale seen in Peckham or on East Street Market to make the message crystal clear – that Immigration Enforcement are not welcome in our area.

Fed up with continued assaults on the community, 25 shopkeepers from the High St and several people active in the local Anti Raids group recently met up to discuss greater coordination and communication.

After some introductions, people shared their experiences of being raided. What was most common was the brutality, harassment and blatant abuse of power exercised by Immigration Officers. Two testimonies by British citizens of Asian origin explain how they had been working on the high street for decades and yet still get targeted.

Yet despite this, people have clearly fought back. Anecdotes were shared, with one local describing how they once shouted down the High Street to alert people of their presence, forcing the officers to leave Deptford furious that they hadn’t managed to snatch anyone.

Anti Raids provided some legal information and practical tips on what could be done when officers eek entry to shops. Unless they have the person’s consent to enter, come with a warrant, or have a letter from a Home Office assistant director, they cannot legally enter business for a standard immigration raid. During the most recent raids, the Home Office entered premises only to make the people they arrested sign retrospective consent for entry. In short, they should not be allowed entry without the paperwork.

We offered to link people up with solicitors. The abuse of power exercised by Immigration Officers, such as getting consent under duress, is also of interest to barristers committed to bringing claims against Immigration Officers. This will require witness statements and benefit from video recordings.

However, we all agreed on the limitations of simply knowing your rights, given the common disregard for procedures and the law in general exercised by officers. We also emphasised that it was ultimately the shopkeepers and workers – those being directly hit by these raids – who could defend themselves, and advised against looking to local politicians or groups like us to lead on this.

Other solidarity strategies were discussed, but these are only possible if people gain confidence, which will only happen when they support one another. We agreed to continue building our relationships and improve our communication. In the words of local worker, “No-one wants to be the first voice, but we all need to be out there and be the first voice!”.

This meeting didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s taken 2 years of local outreach, of weekly stalls on Deptford High Street, of frequent shop-to-shop leafleting and chats to start building relationships and getting to know people. Everyone left on a high. It was a beautiful feeling to meet on the street with people from such diverse backgrounds, in an open discussion with no leaders, and leaving with a commitment to stand up for each other when a place gets attacked.

No Pasaran! Until the last Immigration Enforcement goons are kicked out of Deptford!

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