Letter to the Border Agency

The EDL has nothing on these guys…

Mr Jeremy Oppenheim

Acting Head of Immigration

UK Border Agency

2 Marsham Street,

London, SW1P 4DF



Dear Mr Oppenheim

 Fishing Raid: complaint

I spoke to you briefly after you spoke at the Stratford meeting of the Refugee & Migrant Forum of East Londonon 13 December last year. You were kind enough to say that if the Friends of Queens Market had concerns about the conduct of the Border Agency in our local street market we could raise them with you. 

 We are most concerned by a raid which took place around mid-day on 21 June at Queens Market, (Queens Market, London E13 9BA).  This was a joint exercise between the Border Agency, the Police and officials from the London Borough of Newham: a Market Inspector and officials from Health and Safety and Trading Standards).

 I arrived in time to see one team of about fifteen leaving the market. I am told that there was at least one other team and possibly some forty officials in all.

 This was clearly a ‘fishing raid’.  There was no attempt on the part of the Border Agency staff to find named individuals whom they believed to be in breach of immigration laws.  Instead they picked randomly on shoppers and traders, in particular Africans and Asians.

 They actually gave chase to people which caused  a considerable risk to public safety in an enclosed area where frail pensioners and mothers with young children were shopping. Whilst we appreciate that the Enforcement Regulations allow Immigration Officers to question people who ‘attempt to leave hurriedly’ when they visit, this surely does not cover a situation where numbers of hefty officials, many in black ‘flak jackets’, suddenly converge without explanation on a public space.  They looked alarming and intimidating: their ‘riot gear’ suggested that trouble was imminent and getting out of the way a sensible precaution.

 Only ethnic minority members were interrogated by the Border Agency leading to a widespread perception of the raid as racist and as an attack on the market itself in view of the serious disruption to trade. Public and traders were left distressed and resentful.

 We think that the Border Agency officials involved might have compromised the need for their raid to be intelligence-led by joining forces with Council officials who  are not required to meet such restrictions on their enquiries, eg  Health and Safety officials, Market Inspectors.

 There have been similar raids in the past which appeared to have been conducted in a manner which breached the United Kingdom Border Agency Enforcement Regulations (I mentioned one to you at the meeting in December).

 Therefore on behalf of the shoppers and traders in our organisation I would like to respectfully request the following:

 An assurance that the Border Agency will not carry out any more ‘fishing raids’ and will act only on ‘intelligence received’.  It would be helpful if we could also be assured that future operations will be carried out discreetly, without such an intimidating presence, and showing the ‘sensitivity’ recommended by the  UKBA Enforcement Instructions and Guidance.

 An assurance that the Border Agency will not conduct any more ‘operations’ in Queens Market jointly with Council officials until there is clear guidance, available to the public, as to how the Border Agency will fulfil its obligations to act on ‘reasonable suspicion’  and in  a non-discriminatory manner  whilst working alongside officials whose remit apparently allows them to carry out inspections/interrogations at will.

 If you need more information from eyewitnesses (who in view of the events described above may well wish to withhold their names) regarding the events on Thursday 21 June I will be happy to supply it.

Yours sincerely

Pauline Rowe

(Secretary, Friends of Queens Market)

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