Confronting the raids: Story #3

This is the third in our series of first-hand accounts by individuals who’ve taken action after spotting an immigration arrest van, also sometimes known as a #racistvan. See here for stories 1 and 2. We think that it’s important that people anonymously share their accounts to inspire & give others courage to challenge immigration raids when they see them happening.

Submitted by anon. on 6/2/17.

I was already running late for a meeting. But then I saw the van: ‘Immigration Enforcement.’ Parked on a residential side street, unaccompanied, I had heard enough about raids to know that one was probably in progress, and that if I waited, a human may be bundled out into that van without ever having known some fundamental rights that could allow them to continue living their life in this country.

So I began waiting. I called to say I’d be late for the meeting, I sent some texts and Tweets out to see if others could join me and I brushed up on the bust card info on the Anti Raids Network site, to make sure I knew what to say and do. The info was relatively simple: film the officers, not those being detained; make sure those being detained know that they have no legal requirement to answer questions and can walk away; pass support phone numbers on to the individual if possible, should they be taken into custody.

A friend arrived after about an hour. There’d still been no action, beyond a few conversations with folks who had clearly also clocked the van with suspicion. One wanted to be able to support and lived nearby. We added each other on Facebook. Once it was two of us, another conversation kicked-off. Another person who said they wanted to help stop these things from happening. We traded numbers.
Shortly after, two Home Office officers came down the street, unaccompanied. They made a comment about us standing there, to see if we were taking a selfie with their van and then got in.

We were both on bikes and decided to follow them. They clearly hadn’t managed to nab anyone in this stop, but we thought they might be heading off to try elsewhere. So we stayed as close as we could. They initially did a loop around on a bunch of side streets, gaging whether we were indeed following them. We made clear that we were, sticking close, making regular eye contact at red lights.


London traffic on a weekday morning worked to our advantage. We nearly lost them a couple of times, but there were enough red lights and gridlock for us to stay close. When they got to Liverpool Street, traffic was at a standstill. I spent an hour tweeting and messaging people and photographing the officers in the vehicle, to at least make sure they knew they were still being watched. Eventually, they peeled off the main road and pulled into the parking lot of Home Office, Beckett House, alongside a dozen other racist vans. I took one last close-up of them as they pulled in, and then headed off.

Were they going to hit up another raid spot but decided to head back to base because they didn’t like the idea of having their dirty work observed? Maybe. Were they simply heading back to the office for their next assignment and we provided an unexpected escort along the way between N15 and SE1? Quite possibly. It is impossible to know if we directly affected their plans in any way that morning.
At the very least though, we removed a bit of their sense of impunity. Too often raids happen because there is no one around to hold the officials to account. The more they feel they are under the microscope when they go out to ruin people’s lives, the more they will have to think about doing so. A few words at the right moment informing someone of their rights, might prevent abuses of the law and might scupper an arrest. The absence of those words too often means someone left sitting in a detention centre, en route back to a country they have tried their best to leave behind.

When the law is unaccountable, it is up to all of us to create accountability ourselves where we can. Any moment when you see a racist van, is a moment you can be a part of that. It might make a fundamental difference in someone’s life, but at the very least it will make those carrying out these forms of state violence a little more aware that they are not free to destroy people’s lives without consequence.

Imagine what would happen if these bullies weren’t able to go out on a raid without being swarmed by observers and those willing to directly intervene in their violence? We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we can make their work impossible, wherever we come across them and that in fact, doing so is all of our responsibility.

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 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

Countering Cameron’s call on Immigration

According to information released this month via a Freedom of Information request  and shared with us (refused by the Home Office but subsequently released on request for review), Enforcement Teams in London conducted 12,026 ‘visits’ to homes, businesses and other sites in 2014. Visits include both raids to arrest and detain migrants, but also information and intelligence gathering of the kind we saw in last year’s Operation Skybreaker.

This works out to an average of 33 per day – or 231 per week – across London. The now thankfully defunct TV show UK Border Force last year bragged that  “London and South East Enforcement Teams carry out over 100 raids a week”.

Today the Prime Minister of the new Tory government promised to continue this war against ‘unwanted’ migrants in Britain – black & brown, and above all working class and poor – with promises to criminalise migrants working without permission, roll out landlord checks on prospective tenants, prevent people from opening bank accounts, and end immigration appeals.

The only way to answer this is widespread refusal to collaborate with the rich parasites who run this country and to show maximum solidarity with our ‘illegal’ brothers and sisters. We can share information on people’s rights, such as the multilingual information on this site. This is empowering, creates cultures of solidarity, and can protect individuals during checks and raids. However, as the government promises to enforce its policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’ (i.e., not at all), and erode more and more of our freedoms, it is not enough to focus solely on rights. Information-sharing is one tool, but not our only one.

We have a vision. A city – a country, a world – with zero tolerance for attacks and harassment by cops, home office ‘enforcers’, or private security. Where if the uniformed bullies turn up to smash someone’s door in, barge their way into a workplace, or stop people in the street, they get surrounded by neighbours and passers-by who know the score and won’t take their bullshit.

We’ve seen this happen, we’ve been part of this happening, and it’s a beautiful thing. The moments where we say: ‘No’, these are our streets, here we fight for each other. This is what we want to help grow and spread: a culture where we stand up for ourselves and for each other, a culture of defiance and solidarity. As the government ‘socially cleanses’ vast swathes of this country, let’s make this our response.

Home Office immigration raids spiked

Details of post-election crackdown on undocumented workers leaked to migrant rights campaigners

Activists across Britain are alerting hundreds of workplaces that appear on a Home Office hit list to prepare for an imminent immigration raid.

‘Operation Centurion’ involves a fortnight of high-profile arrests of undocumented workers, similar to the Go Home Van débâcle in July 2013.

The leaked document refers to raids on car-washes in the East Midlands being “prepped for Centurion fortnight”.

The Home Office may now have to abandon this plan because the majority of workers on the target list are being tipped off, as revealed on Channel 4 News tonight.

The Anti Raids Network has seen 225 items of operational intelligence, in what is possibly the largest Home Office leak in recent years.

The document reveals stereotyping and racial profiling by Immigration Officers behind the raids.

One target is to “locate NGA [Nigerian] immigration offenders working as security guards in Sussex.”

Another involves a “multi agency operation aimed at Vietnamese nail bars in the Manchester area”.

Phone stalls in Northern Ireland “appear to have foreign nationals working on them – some of which don’t speak fantastic English”, according to the ‘intelligence’ reports.

Although the Home Office has denied claims that it conducts ‘fishing’ operations, the document refers to “speculative intel visits” to farms in the North East

The Home Office’s own intelligence even undermines the argument that illegal working is a significant problem.

For instance, the Home Office says it has checked over 900 staff files from betting shops across South London, “and it is conservatively anticipated there will be at least 5 offenders across the sites”.

The rate of illegal working in that case is less than 1% of the workforce.

The Karamsar Gurdwara on Ilford High Street is also listed as a target. The Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London said on twitter that Immigration Officers arrested 6 people on Ilford High Street at 8.30 this morning in “random checks targeting anyone with a turban”.

A spokesperson from the Anti Raids Network said:

“Are Ukip already controlling the UK Border Agency? Questions need to be asked about the timing of this operation just after the elections. This document exposes the cynical and racist agenda behind Home Office immigration raids.”

The Anti Raids Network has been distributing information about workers rights during immigration raid and directly challenging raids.

Home office racist van raiders empty handed in West London restaurant raid

On Tuesday (29th April), friends of the Anti Raids Network disrupted a Home Office immigration raid on a Middle Eastern restaurant in London SW1, near Hyde Park, shortly after 2pm. Two ‘Immigration Enforcement’ vans were parked up in a back street off Lowndes Square shortly after 2pm, and about 10 immigration officers with one Met police officer in tow barged into the nearby restaurant. Here is a report from friends who were there:

“We were hot on their heels, some 8 of us getting through the door just behind them. As in previous raids, we shouted out to everyone in the building to let them know that: you can walk away and leave at any time during the raid; you don’t have to answer any questions; immigration officers are not allowed to block people from leaving or chase anyone out of the building. We also filmed and photographed the raid and handed out information leaflets in both English and Arabic.

A number of people did manage to walk out and leave the restaurant without being hassled. On this occasion the staff of the restaurant all had legal papers and chose to show them to the immigration officers. The border thugs also used a mobile fingerprint scanner on one man. Failing to find any ‘illegals’, the squad told everyone to ‘go back to work’. They were followed back to their vans by chants of ‘Racist Scum, Off Our Streets’, and then we watched them drive off empty-handed.

Video hereRaid on 29th April

We learnt a few interesting things today. The border thugs had no legal paperwork to enter the building, but it seems got so-called ‘consent’ from the manager on the door. This is typical: they push their way in, then intimidate people into ‘agreeing’, with the implied threat of bigger trouble if you don’t cooperate. Recently released official reports have condemned the London Bridge UKBA gang behind this raid for routinely using dodgy paperwork to enter buildings. Another question is what led them to target this restaurant. Most Home Office ‘intelligence’ comes from tip-offs from grasses and informers*, so maybe there was a call from someone with a grudge. Or perhaps it was just a ‘fishing expedition’ picking randomly on a business with migrant workers.

We noticed that, unlike many other raids, this time the racists were oddly well behaved and didn’t try to muscle us out of the way. it could be that after recent bad publicity they’ve had some kind of ‘good cop’ training day on how not to let the mask slip when there’s several cameras pointed at you. Also, we got the feeling that they may be getting increasingly resigned to meeting this kind of opposition and disgust wherever they go.

That’s just as it should be. Immigration officers are bullies who rely on our fear and compliance. As they routinely break their own rules, knowing that they may get caught out for acting illegally is one reason why they may retreat when confronted by a few people. Another simpler one is that, like most predators, their basic strategy is to pick off easy targets, but back off when they meet resistance.

Of course this kind of shit is going on everywhere, every day. And many people are fighting it, every day. Anti Raids is just one network involved in sharing ideas, information and examples of resistance. What we need is a widespread culture of zero tolerance for raids and bullying attacks by immigration officers, police, or any other fascists. In the streets, in our neighbourhoods, wherever we are, don’t stand by, take action.”


Anti Raids will be out on the street next week in Peckham. Join us to distribute ‘know your rights’ leaflets on Tuesday 6th May. Meet at Peckham Rye station at 9am. See the previous blog post for further details.


*There were 100,000 tip offs in 2010 for example.

2/05/12: an immigration raid in Haringey

Witnesses report that at least 4 men were arrested by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) during night raids on houses in Haringey, North London.

Over a dozen Immigration Officers wore stab-proof vests and used unmarked vehicles to operate in residential areas after 10pm on Wednesday 2nd May 2012. When angry residents confronted the Officers about their actions, they claimed to have warrants from a judge which authorised their raids. The Officers said they were part of a north central London ‘local immigration team’ based out of Islington, and that the arrested men would be taken to Beckett House, a UKBA reporting centre near London Bridge. All the Officers were equipped with walkie-talkie radios and handcuffs. They drove 3 silver Ford Galaxy cars and a white Mercedes van with a cage inside (Registration number: LX56 DKV).

The Immigration Officers were uncomfortable when residents began to film them. They followed the arrest van back out onto the main road to make sure no more homes were being targeted. Afterwards, an upset resident commented: “How can the Border Agency claim that this country is full? There’s a property on the street they raided that’s been empty for the last 6 months – covered in metal sheets to prevent anyone from living inside”.

These raids are particularly provocative in a borough where immigration police have a legacy of brutality. On 28th July 1993, immigration officers and police dawn raided a flat in Crouch End to deport a Jamaican woman, Joy Gardner. Her mother described the incident: She was in her bed in her flat with a five- year-old kid. They put her on the floor, put tape on her mouth and on her feet. They sat on her stomach and damaged her kidneys and her brain”. Joy later died in hospital from her injuries. The officers were never bought to justice.

 Immigration raids like this happen frequently in London, but are rarely reported on. The UKBA sometimes publish their version of events online. Thankfully, some community activists have spoken out about recent raids in South London. In February, dozens of Latin Americans were caught in a trap by Immigration Officers at a music concert in Elephant & Castle. In April, UKBA agents targeted Ghanaians at a bus stop in New Cross. In Haringey, UKBA arrest teams have been seen in Tottenham Hale, Wood Green and Seven Sisters.