Update on Home Office pursuit guidance

The Home Office has published new guidance on ‘arrest and restraint’, which, unfortunately, changes their policy on pursuit for the worse. We publish this update with two caveats.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the specifics of the law around raids is mostly informed by Home Office guidance, and much of it has not been challenged or clarified in the courts. As such, some of it may not be lawful. For example, in 2014 the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) reviewed Immigration Enforcement’s policy of using internal authorisation letters for raids (‘AD letters’), and found it to be unlawful in nearly two thirds of cases, a finding that has led to the apparent abandonment of this power in the past year. In response, Immigration Enforcement have shifted away from AD letters to the use of “informed consent” to gain entry, a power which shopkeepers and the ICIBI suggest is also being frequently abused.

Secondly, it’s worth remembering that its very unlikely that a person without lawful immigration status has anything to gain by remaining on a site that is being raided: their odds are generally speaking likely to be higher if they can leave the site, especially without detection. Officers tend to block the exits and surround individuals to force them to engage with questioning, which means even the most polite and compliant person is going to have difficulty fighting their corner if they do not have legal status.

The policy

Previously, IE guidance said that where an individual was seen to leave the premises, officers could not to pursue them unless they were aware of their immigration status. Therefore, if someone had managed to escape before confirming their identity as the suspect, or disclosing information that confirmed they too were an immigration offender, then – according to IE’s own guidance – that person should not be chased.

However, IE changed this policy last month to allow leaving the premises itself to amount to reasonable suspicion that the person is an immigration offender, which could then potentially be used to justify arrest. The section is badly written and displays circular logic, as in the next section it clearly states that pursuit must not be given “where there are no reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is an immigration offender”. We assume that what they actually mean by that is that the person fleeing the premises is white.

Once again, we reiterate that their new guidance has not been challenged in court nor subject to the review of the watchdog. The idea that a person’s arrest could potentially be justified on the basis of leaving a building during a raid brings to mind obvious questions around how customers will be treated during raids on businesses, given that people often try to leave before being trapped by the mobs of antagonists in bullet-proof vests. Will they be arrested too?

In practice we suspect that this is going to give officers more confidence to chase people. Our message however, remains the same: leave if you can without engaging in conversation, ideally in ways that will not draw attention to yourself.

The guidance:

“Reasonable grounds to justify pursuit

An attempt to leave the premises is not in itself grounds to suspect that a person is an immigration offender. A person who is not under arrest is free to leave the premises if they wish. However, the circumstances of the encounter may give rise to a reasonable suspicion that they are an immigration offender. It is not possible to detail all circumstances that might provide a reasonable suspicion that a person is an offender. Reasonable grounds can only be provided by a general assessment of the known facts, the situation as it is known at the time and a reasonable conclusion drawn from the many possible circumstances that exist.

These might include:

• the nature of the premises and the purpose for which it is being used
• the circumstances of other people located on the premises, for instance, where they are known immigration offenders
• any apparent criminality detected on the premises including trafficking

There may also be reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is an immigration offender based on their behaviour on being confronted by immigration officers who are clearly identifiable.

On entering the premises the officer executing the warrant, or gaining informed consent, must identify themselves and other officers present, and explain their role and purpose to those present. If you see a person clearly attempting to evade contact with other officers you may reasonably suspect that the person was aware they were about to be questioned about their immigration status, and were trying to avoid questioning by leaving the premises immediately. You must take into account any other circumstances of the type listed above.

If you are a cover officer outside the premises you must consider that those you encounter leaving may not know that immigration officers are on the site or may misunderstand the nature of the visit and the enquiries being made. You must, immediately on detecting a person leaving the premises, identify yourself, your role and purpose. If the person then shows no signs of stopping, this may give you reasonable suspicion that the individual is an immigration offender who may be arrested.”

Brick Lane raid seen off: it just takes a few neighbours …

Last week on Brick Lane we saw, once again, that sometimes all it takes to see off an immigration raid is a handful of people raising their voices.

Monday 26 July, early afternoon, a blue-and-yellow-striped Immigration Enforcement “racist van” is spotted parked up on Old Montague Street, off the Whitechapel end of Brick Lane. Two uniformed Home Office officers are sitting in the front. An alert goes round, a few people arrive on the scene and go looking for any signs of a raid in the shops nearby. A number of other UKBA bullies are seen, not in uniform but wearing stab-proof vests, in an unmarked grey van (VW transporter license number MX13AWZ) a little further up Brick Lane outside the police shopfront.

A couple of people go to challenge them, asking: “what do you think you’re doing?” “where are you raiding?” “do you have a warrant?” And just telling them plainly that racist bullies aren’t welcome in Brick Lane, that they should leave. Speaking calmly, but in loud clear voices so that other passers-by start to notice and gather round.

The wannabe cops react with typical sneering arrogance, but also look definitely flustered. A few more people start gathering round, people come out of the shops to look.

After five minutes or so of this, the officers get back in their van, shut the doors and do up the windows. A couple more minutes later, and the marked van has pulled up behind them. Then the two vans pull out and start driving in convoy slowly north up Brick Lane. A few people follow them, shouting. Someone in a car now stuck behind them starts honking the horn and shouting at them too, then is joined by a motorbike rider who does the same. After a little bit of this strange procession, they speed up and drive off. They weren’t seen again around Brick Lane that afternoon.

So what were they up to? We can’t know for sure, but it seems likely they were about to raid a restaurant or shop. The plainclothes officers would have gone in first. The more obvious marked van kept on a side street round the corner so as not to attract attention, and would have been used to cage the people they arrested.

We can guess this because we’ve seen the same pattern time and again. A routine operation, an everyday occurrence, “just doing their job”. There were 4,573 raids last year in London, with East and South East London areas hit particularly hard. Over 12 raids every day. Every day, people’s lives and dreams ruined, people thrown into detention centre hellholes, families and relationships broken up, people deported to poverty, torture or death, more human meat ground up in the mincing machine of the border regime, that starts with a bunch of cocky macho bullies in a van.

But we’ve also seen, many times now, that it only takes a few of us standing up to them to throw a spanner in the machine. On Monday, less than half a dozen people confronted this bunch, calmly but firmly made their presence known, and alerted others in the street. That was enough.

This is certainly not a one-off. In Deptford last month, again, it was only a handful of people who challenged a raid in progress, and Immigration Enforcement turned tail and left, even abandoning their marked vehicle. We’ve heard many other stories that haven’t been so widely reported. Such as one night raid in Kentish Town a few months ago when, again, a group of 5 or so people confronted a UKBA team about to kick down someone’s front door, and scared them off just by standing there with their faces covered.

For sure, it won’t be so easy every single time. But often it is. Why? We might speculate that Home Office teams have standing orders to avoid any attention or “disorder” (until someone leaks internal documents on this, we can’t know exactly what). We can remember that these officers have far less powers, less training, and less pay than police, and don’t even get a truncheon. One thing we do know is that actually most raids are of dubious legality, and so they may well be wary of getting challenged when they are themselves breaking the law.

Apart from all that, what they are scared of is that a handful of people challenging them will turn into a crowd which has the power to actively block their raid. We saw that, for example, in Peckham last year, when dozens of people united in the street and chased the vans away. Or in East Street on 21 June last year, when well over 100 people came out to see them off. And we remember that, after that day on East Street, which had been a regular target for Home Office raids, they didn’t come again for at least a year.

For sure, one day they will come back, or just hit somewhere else. But every time one operation is aborted, that means maybe someone isn’t in detention or on a deportation flight. That in itself is a big thing. And more than that, every time a raid is stopped like this, every time people stand up and say “No”, we put them on the back foot, meaning they will be a little less confident next time. And, maybe most of all, we encourage ourselves and each other, we see and we show that it is possible to fight back.

And to fight back you don’t need to be some kind of heroic “activist”, or have any special skills or knowledge. You just need a few friends or neighbours, and yes a little bit of confidence. As people involved with the Anti Raids Network have often said, we are not “the group” or “the organisation” fighting raids in London. The aim of our network is just to share a few communication tools, a few information resources, and a few stories like this to show what is possible. By doing that, maybe we can help grow support networks in our neighbourhoods and help boost each other’s confidence. Then it’s down to all of us to take action in our streets, whoever and wherever we are.

Cops & immigration officers organise sting operation in Deptford with ‘bait immigration van’

On Thursday 28th July, the Anti Raids Network received and shared a verified alert that immigration officers were carrying out an operation on Deptford High Street.

Locals report that officers entered businesses but informed shopkeepers that they did not intend to arrest anyone, merely to ‘provide information about their legal responsibilities’.

A van marked ‘Immigration Enforcement’ was parked down a side street. As is often the case, there was no sign of any immigration officers in or near the van. Two people stopped to look at the sight of the ‘racist van’ that had returned yet again to the neighbourhood, before walking on. Seconds later, half a dozen cops dressed as builders – high viz jackets, muddy Timberland boots, paint-spattered clothes, pencil behind the ear – jumped the pair, shouting that they were under arrest for supposedly damaging or tampering with the van. One of the undercover officers had been standing in the street and the others had obviously been hiding behind the wall. There is no evidence of any damage to the van, nor were the people arrested in possession of anything that could cause damage to the vehicle. In fact, video footage clearly shows the van undamaged and being driven off by an officer after the arrests, and many witnesses are recorded as stating that there was simply nothing wrong with it. The arrestees were taken to Lewisham police station and released on bail without charge 10 hours later.

So it’s not just Byron’s Burgers and other big employers that are plotting sting operations with Immigration Enforcement. It is clear that this one was motivated by the desire to stem effective grassroots resistance to the raids, and actions against their arrest vans in particular. They had no doubt left the ‘bait van’ down a quiet Deptford street in a bid to induce people to attack it in a similar way as the previous month. Shops that had already been the target of their harassment were visited purely as a ruse to attract attention to their presence. They were presumably hoping to find both a damaged van and people in possession of items that could have been used to do this, however, they found neither.

Immigration Enforcement are clearly getting rattled. No doubt dissatisfied that they did not catch people ‘red handed’ on Thursday, it is important to note that they may well try this tactic again. If you see an immigration van left alone in a street, have a careful look around: is there anyone loitering nearby, or perhaps pretending to get on with some building work? Having said this, they do frequently leave their vans unattended, so it is more likely than not to be one of the numerous real immigration raids that happen on a daily basis. Far from deterring us from resisting these raids, this operation is proof of the effectiveness of that resistance: let’s keep it up!

Cop dressed as a builder
Sergeant overseeing the operation
Sergeant overseeing the operation
Tyre later removed by police and claimed to be flat
Cops desperately searching for/manufacturing damage
Saving face: police & Immigration Officers desperately searching for/manufacturing damage
van being driven away without problem
Van being driven away without problem

Breakdown of raids statistics by London boroughs

Up until now, it has been difficult to get a precise picture of the frequency of immigration raids across London. A previous FOI request found that an average of 33 enforcement ‘visits’ took place across London each week, but visits could also mean intelligence gathering trips as well as raids.

Now, journalist Philip Kleinfeld has obtained information via Freedom of Information Act requests that provides more detail on the frequency and location of raids in London. He found that:

  • There were 19,853 raids — almost 11 a day — from 2010 to 2015.
  • The number of raids has increased by 80% over the past five years.
  • Immigration raids in London peaked in 2014 with 4,703 raids, up from 2,531 in 2010. In 2015 the number dropped by around 3% to 4,573 .
  • The areas of London targeted the most are E15 (1,396 raids – Stratford, West Ham, Leyton, Hackney Wick), E6 (776 raids – East Ham, Upton Park, Barking, Beckton), E7 (637 raids – Forest Gate, Stratford, Leytonstone), SE1 (554 raids – parts of Lambeth and Southwark) and SE18 (540 raids – Woolwich & Plumstead).

He said, ‘The Home Office failed to disclose how many raids have been disrupted since 2010 but a representative from the Immigration Services Union told BBC’s File on 4 last year “that immigration enforcement jobs are disrupted to a greater or lesser extent pretty much every week.”

Activist groups have consistently criticised the impact immigration raids have on migrant communities across the capital. In its Statement of Principles the Anti-Raids Network says: “Immigration checks and raids on our homes, streets, communities and workplaces are violent attacks on us by the racist state. They can have extreme consequences, including lengthy periods of detention, deportation and, in some cases, death. Raids and checks need to be opposed wherever and however we can.”

It is notable that the number of raids dropped in a year that saw an increase in acts of resistance, from Peckham to Walworth, to Shadwell to New Cross, to the countless unreported acts of individual defiance. From five raids on East Street in the week leading up to the mass resistance of 21st June, to none at all on that street for the rest of the year and since.

Direct action works. Keep up the fight!

Breakdown of visits by boroughs:


Building an anti-fascist culture post-Brexit


This text was written by some people involved in the Anti Raids Network – it doesn’t represent the position of the whole network.

A vast amount has already been said about ‘Brexit’ and the general  climate of nationalism and xenophobia in which the vote took place.  We want to concentrate on where we can go from here. Between rising  fascism on the one hand, and despair on the other, we think  it’s essential we build a culture of anti-fascism based on solidarity and autonomy. Solidarity here means taking action to  support each other against those who seek to impose their  authoritarian and racist ideal of a uniform society. Autonomy means unlearning our habit of looking to leaders for solutions, and taking the initiative to organise for ourselves.

For our anti-fascism to be meaningful and effective, we feel that it  should follow a few basic principles:

It should be decentralised & grassroots

Rather than searching for the next political party/saviour  figure/controlling coalition to dictate our direction and tactics,  now really is the time for each of us who identify with anti-fascist  position have the courage and commitment to take the initiative.  Seek out and get involved in local groups, or better still, start your own*. Our groups and actions should multiply, not  massify, and with this carry the crucial idea that anyone can be part of this struggle.

It should target all forms of nationalism & xenophobia – from the  street to the state

We need to think creatively about how to effectively counter  nationalist groups taking to the streets, but it is critical that we do not neglect the ‘respectable’ xenophobia of the suit-wearing demagogues in power and those who carry out their commands. Both these groups reinforce one another, with politicians normalising such practices as deadly border controls and the daily round-up of migrants from our neighbourhoods, while street groups and keyboard warriors garner citizen-support for these right wing agendas and demand that they be taken to more extreme levels.

It should be braver

Too often, we respond to the latest oppressive state action or  policy by seeking the validation of our friends and comfortable  social media ‘scene’, rather than taking action. Instead of seeking  solace from Twitter,  why not go out and put up some posters? We  also need to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones,  and not leave risky actions to some mythical ‘others’, who have no responsibilities or cause to fear repression. Of course, there are  some who face more severe reprisals due to issues such as their  immigration status, race or class – but anti-fascism wouldn’t be called a struggle if it didn’t carry any risk. When the time comes  to hold the line, we need to be there for each other.

It should be creative

At the same time, conflict cannot be sustained without a broader culture to nourish it. This struggle is not simply about the  defeat of an authoritarian ideology; we also have to show an  alternative form of power – the power of solidarity and real community. Our culture should carry the seeds of a new society,  another way of life, and not be purely orientated towards what we  oppose.

It should be multiform

…postering, organising cultural events, blocking immigration vans,  leafletting, graffiti, running DIY martial arts clubs, neutralising nazis on the streets, sabotaging deportation attempts, giving  workshops and skillshares, supporting resistance in detention,  running regular stalls, making anti-fascist art and music,  mobilising against evictions, taking direct action against the peddlers of nationalism and bigotry…… building an anti-fascist culture takes these forms and many more. We should recognise the value of all these actions and encourage & support different  people’s contributions according to their interest and skills.

These are just a few possible guidelines for what we hope will be a  fiery, emancipatory, and truly grassroots resistance that can be our  only response to the shackles of nationalism, borders, and state control.

*If you would like to act against immigration raids in London, check out our statement of principles and feel free to visit your nearest anti raids stall (times correct at the time of writing):

See here for more ideas for what you can do to fight the raids.

New Anti Raids Group in Whitechapel

Following the weekly Saturday stalls in Peckham and Deptford, a group in Whitechapel has started a similar initiative

The border regime manifests itself in our everyday lives. Home Office “Immigration Enforcement” teams – working hand-in-hand with the police and local authorities – attack us on our streets, in our homes and workplaces.

Whitechapel – and Tower Hamlets more generally – is one of London’s most racially diverse areas, with large Bangladeshi and Somali communities. This working-class neighbourhood has not escaped the growing wave of racist state repression and fascist activity. Over the past few years, Whitechapel High Street has counted among the growing list of places  systematically targeted by UKBA and police operations – as well as recent “flash-mobs” by far-right bully-boys Britain First.

At the same time, Whitechapel is on the front-lines of social cleansing in London. Property developers and landlords are fast making the area into another yuppified wasteland. Immigration raids have served in parallel to gentrifying forces, damaging and undermining the local economic base of Black and Asian working-class communities.

Against this backdrop, we have come together to form Whitechapel Anti-Raids. Over the past few weeks we have been busy leafleting the shops and market stalls in Whitechapel. The first of weekly Saturday stalls was set-up last weekend at Whitechapel market –  with multilingual bust cards and information about immigration raids, worker’s and housing rights. The response has been overwhelmingly positive; many individuals, workers and small business owners have welcomed the initiative. In conversation, many expressed their frustration and anger at the racist targeting of their shops and community.

We aim to promote a culture of neighbourhood self-organisation, solidarity and collective self-defence against all forms of state repression and racism. We don’t want to reform immigration enforcement, but to resist and eventually end it. For every raid and fascist “flash-mob”, we need a response.

To get involved contact us at whitechapelantiraids@riseup.net or pop down to our weekly Saturday stall (2-4pm) in Whitechapel Market.

Racist vans Go Home!

Whitechapel Anti-Raids

Britain First

Raids per day


Anti Raids Network


Raids in whitechapel



“We will fight back!” Posters up in Deptford after raid resistance

deptford-posterFrom Rabble LDN website.

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!


Immigration raid chased off on Deptford High St, “racist van” trashed



From Rabble LDN website.

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).

Deptford market is a regular target for Home Office raids, often working in conjunction with police, the local council and other agencies. The most recent major raid was in April. As with other London street markets (such as East Street), there are clear links between these attacks targeting migrants and wider attacks on the neighbourhood, as property developers and state authorities combine to “socially cleanse” the area, and clearing out those they consider undesirable. But resistance is growing. In Deptford, there is now a regular “Deptford Anti Raids” information stall every Saturday in the market, and Monday shows that people are ready to fight back.

Check the AntiRaids twitter account for raid alerts and other live updates.

Immigration Raids in Deptford

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.

Plainclothes immigration officers with migrants in handcuffs
Plainclothes immigration officers with migrants in handcuffs
This immigration officer spent a lot of time scratching his chin
This immigration officer spent a lot of time scratching his chin
Unmarked vehicle used to take people away
Unmarked vehicle used to take people away