Traveling to the UK.
If you are an EU citizen:
Britain is not in the Schengen zone, so you will get stopped and asked to show your passport or ID at the border. The police have the power to search you and ask questions.
However, according to experienced legal activists (LDMG), it is very unlikely that you will be refused entry to the UK (unless you are very high profile). If they think that you are coming for an event such as the G8, it is quite possible that you will be searched and asked questions, but then let through the border.
In theory, the police do have the power to refuse entry to EU citizens in extreme cases, on “public policy” grounds. They can do this if you pose “a sufficiently serious threat to fundamental interests in society”. This can be because of serious criminal convictions, but it can also include your conduct or membership of a particular ‘undesirable’ group. For example, this power has been used against high profile public figures such as Dutch fascist MP Geert Wilders. But legal activists say that is unlikely to be used unless you are particularly high profile, if you have a particularly serious criminal record, or if there is a specific warning about you on a European police database.
If you are not an EU citizen:
Rules for visas for non-EU citizens depend a lot on different countries. You will need to check with the Home Office website to see what rules apply to your country. Be aware that it is easier, and fairly common, for the police / immigration officers to refuse entry if you are not a EU citizen. For example, they may ask you to show that you have money to stay in the UK, that you have a place to stay, etc.
The strongest border controls are usually at airports. You are probably more likely to be checked and questioned at an airport than on the channel tunnel or at a ferry port. Ferry ports usually have the easiest controls, at least if you are coming on foot, on a bike, or in a normal car. If you cross by car on the ferry, it is very common for a guard to just take a quick look at your passport and wave you through without asking questions.
HOWEVER be aware that at Calais and other ferry ports vans, camper vans, minibuses, and lorries are very often checked, as the police are looking for migrants hiding in larger vehicles. They sometimes use dogs, heat and C02 detectors and other sensing devices to check large vehicles. Also, the Eurolines coaches are very commonly stopped for immigration controls. At places such as Calais, passport checks are much more strict as well.
It is possible that before big events (such as the G8 summit) there will be extra tight checks at the border. If you do not want to be searched or questioned, it is a good idea to travel as inconspicuously as possible. Try to look “normal”, and travel in a car rather than in a large group of activists on a coach. Again, it is unlikely that coaches will be turned away, but it is likely that you will be searched and asked questions.
The other thing you should be aware of is the “Schedule 7″ anti-terrorist law. This gives the police the right to stop and question anyone at the border without giving you your normal rights under police questioning. This means that you DO have to answer their questions, and they do not have to wait for a lawyer to arrive before they question you. They can hold you for up to 9 hours even without suspecting you of any offence. They can also take cameras, computers, and mobile phones and keep them for up to 7 days to collect information. If you refuse to answer questions, they may arrest you and charge you with a criminal offence.
This law is highly controversial, and widely abused by the police – it is supposed to only be used to prevent terrorism, not to gather information on protesters. Some people have decided to refuse to answer questions, on the grounds that the law has not been applied properly because the questioning was not really connected to terrorism. So far the police have been reluctant to charge people who have done this, but if you decide to refuse to answer questions you need to be aware that you are taking a risk.
If you do get stuck at the border in France you can also contact our friends at Calais Migrant Solidarity, who can help arrange legal support in France if necessary. Their number is: +33 645 4659 86
In the UK
– you do not have to carry your I.D. in the UK
– police must have a good reason to believe that you are “illegal” in the UK in order to question you about this
– police have been known to use “g**gle translate” in order to work out if you speak the language of the country you claim to be from – one guy from Hungary was questioned as to which country he was from and, via g**gle translate, was asked his name, date of birth and various other questions. Officers were embarassed when he told them they had asked him those questions using the informal “you” instead of the polite version…