On Monday (13 June) people chased off an immigration raid targeting shopworkers on Deptford High Street, and refurbished a van left behind by Immigration Enforcement cops as they fled the scene. The next night, posters went up all along Deptford High Street to spread word of what had happened. It’s important to stay vigilant. It’s possible the resistance has warned off the raiders for a while: after last summer’s resistance on East Street market there were no more visits for at least a year. But this certainly can’t be taken for granted, they may be back any day for revenge.
The poster reads:
“Immigration Enforcement” (UKBA) bullies have been spotted all last week around Deptford High Street, harassing locals. On Monday they came to raid workers and were chased away.
Migrants welcome in our neighbourhood. Cops, bailiffs, UKBA, property developers not welcome at all! We will fight back!
On Monday afternoon the neighbourhood of Deptford, South East London, chased away a Home Office “Immigration Enforcement” raid team. The Home Office bullyboys had reportedly been spotted several times in the previous week doing so-called “intelligence gathering”. I.e., trying to harass shopkeepers into giving them permission to carry out “operations” in their premises so they don’t have to go to the hassle of getting a court warrant. On Monday they came back in greater force, but people gathered and sent them away empty handed. They drove off in several unmarked cars but abandoned their marked “racist van” in a back street, which was then refurbished with the windows smashed and messages written in spray paint (see pictures).
Night #2: Fighting immigration raids on the streets of London
Sunday 15 May, 6 -11 PM @ The Field, New Cross. 385 Queens Road SE14 5HD.
The war against the borders is not just at the frontiers of Brenner, Idomeni or Calais, but also in our own neighbourhoods. Home Office “Immigration Enforcement Teams” attack our homes, shops and streets every day (an average of 33 ‘visits’ per day across London), often working hand in hand with police, local authorities and property developers as part of the Social Cleansing of London. But their attacks are not going unopposed. In East Street (Elephant & Castle), Peckham, Shadwell, and many more areas, people have stopped arrests, chased away Home Office bullies, blocked and sabotaged the “racist vans”. Local groups and the London-wide Anti Raids Network are helping spread ideas about how to fight.
In this second South London Night Against Borders, we will hear accounts from the fight against raids, and discuss how we can grow our resistance. Once again, there will also be (vegan) food and refreshments, music, and spaces to talk and meet each other.
On Thursday 21st April, 3 Immigration Enforcement vans (one unmarked) arrived in Deptford around 9am. They raided numerous shops, handcuffing and arresting 6 people from three of these businesses. The raids continued until around midday. Raids frequently occur on the High Street, but they often strike very early in the morning and rarely are they so protracted as they were on Thursday.
The immigration officers wore plain clothes to avoid alerting people to their presence. They were also supported by police community support officers (PCSOs), who had clearly been gathering intelligence to help immigration officers identify people who were working in the shops. PCSOs attempt to present the ‘friendly face’ of policing, using this persona to engage people in conversation and gather intelligence for officers to act on at a later date.
A handful of locals gathered and shouted at the officers, rightly accusing them of racism, while others tried to physically block the vans, delaying their departure for some time, but more people need to show solidarity if we are to kick the ‘racist vans’ out of Deptford for good!
People from Deptford Anti Raids – who run a stall every weekend on the market – have since been out on the High Street, leafleting from shop to shop and inviting shopkeepers and residents to a public meeting on the square.
Click on the slides above or here to link to a slideshow on raids & how we can resist them. For notes accompanying the slideshow, get in touch at antiraids [at] riseup.net. Share widely and use freely for workshops.
‘How the Home Office Tackles Illegal Working’ was published on 17th December by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), David Bolt. ICIBI reports generally provide useful insight into the murky world of immigration enforcement.
Here are some of the report’s main findings and criticisms:
Criticism was leveled at the disproportionate number of raids targeting takeaways and restaurants, due to the fact that most of the ‘intelligence’ consisted of ‘low-level allegations made by members of the public, which were lacking in detail and the reliability of which was difficult to assess.’ It said that ‘other business sectors and possibly other nationalities had been neglected by comparison.’ The Home Office responded that it was trying to ‘diversify’ its range of targets through its current project, ‘Operation Magnify’. They list care, cleaning and construction as possible sites of increased immigration enforcement in the near future.
Bolt and his team show themselves to be big fans of the softly-softly tactics employed in ‘Operation Skybreaker’, mostly on grounds of cost effectiveness. Skybreaker was a six-month operation running from July-Dec 2014, which saw immigration officers visit businesses ‘consensually’ with a view to gathering intelligence, getting employers involved in the web of immigration control and reporting, and trying to persuade people to leave ‘voluntarily’ (ie, with financial incentives). Obvious benefits of Skybreaker lay in its friendly veneer and the fact that these visits essentially acted as reccies, allowing officers to gather information necessary to conduct full blown raids later on. Our suspicion about this was confirmed by the report. Bolt calls for the extension of Skybreaker tactics, so we can expect more of this in the year to come.
The report details various unlawful practices by Immigration Enforcement. None of these come as any surprise given the experiences we hear from people affected by raids. The allegations of unlawful conduct include:
– coercive tactics used to question whole groups people (who are meant to be questioned ‘consensually’, and where specific individuals are suspected of being immigration offenders);
– unlawful pursuits off the premises, which the Home Office acknowledged it had done, but said it was ‘reviewing’ its pursuit policy anyway. Yep, when you’re accused of acting illegally, just change the law;
– ‘consent’ to enter a property obtained by the occupier through ‘verbal authority’ rather than written agreement. In its response, the Home Office also said that it was completely reviewing its enforcement guidance, and expected to complete this task by March 2016.
Other interesting info revealed in the report
So-called AD letters (Home Office Assistant Director internal authorisation) now appear to be a much less common means of obtaining entry to businesses. This comes after a telling-off by ICIBI in a previous report. Officers are currently relying primarily on the ‘consent’ of the occupier to gain entry (in well over 50% of cases), or on magistrates’ warrants. Consent is required in writing but evidence showed IE were relying on ‘verbal authority’.
The report found that from 2009-2014, on average, 68% of raids for illegal working result in no illegal workers being found. In these same raids, 50% of arrestees ended up being deported.
We do not want to see a reformed system of immigration enforcement; we want to see its end. This can only be achieved by building a culture of refusal to collaborate and cooperate with Immigration Enforcement, and of active solidarity with those being arrested when raids are taking place.
On 27th September, BBC’s File on 4 produced an episode on illegal working called ‘Working in the Shadows’. The programme also discussed enforcement operations and the resistance they have been met with. Simon Cox interviews a representative from the Immigration Services Union to find out more about the scale of opposition to these raids. Her response suggests there are acts of unreported rebellion, solidarity and protest now occurring on a regular basis across the capital and possibly beyond. What follows is taken from the programme’s transcript.
COX: [… ]The Home Office say only a handful of operations have been disrupted, but Lucy Moreton from the Immigration Services Union says it’s happening a lot more often than that.
MORETON: Missiles have been thrown – eggs most predominantly, but rocks. Vans get blocked in; we’ve had vans with the tyres slashed. We’ve had instances where officers have had to retreat, as I said, inside commercial premises and wait to be rescued.
COX: Those anti raids groups that you talk about, how effective are they at disrupting action by immigration enforcement?
MORETON: That depends on who you talk to. Senior managers within immigration enforcement will tell us that only a very small number of high profile operations have been successfully disrupted. What my members are telling me is that immigration enforcement jobs are disrupted to a greater or lesser extent pretty much every week.
In response to a spate of multiagency raids on or near Deptford High street, some of us locals decided to form a Deptford anti raids group to build awareness and resistance in the area. We have been out on the High Street twice a week over the past month, running a stall with multilingual ‘know your rights’ info and handing out leaflets & info to passersby, shopkeepers and stall holders. We also have info on stop & search and gentrification, as these issues are all closely interlinked.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, including some fruitful conversations with a few people who were initially less supportive, often due to issues with people working illegally and not paying tax. Their anger generally turned away from undocumented migrants and towards government and big corporations when it was pointed out that as much as £12bn a year is thought to be owed in corporation tax each year. In this incredibly hostile climate, we need to not be afraid to have these conversations and to challenge people’s assumptions around migration – in fact, it’s vital that we do.
We will continue to go out on the High Street twice a week for the foreseeable future and encourage others to start similar initiatives in their area.