On Saturday 11th June, hundreds of locals in Lewisham, south London, came together to stop yet another immigration raid. Neighbours and members of the Lewisham Anti-Raids Network – a group of south Londoners resisting immigration raids – arrived on the scene when news broke that a Nigerian man had been placed in an immigration van, detained on the grounds that he’d overstayed his visa. By locking arms and blocking the van from leaving the scene, the community members managed to prevent his deportation. But there is no guarantee that every asylum seeker will find themselves in the same position.
Similarly, just this Tuesday, asylum seekers from Albania, Iran, Iraq and Vietnam were almost removed from their homes and sent to Rwanda, a country they know nothing of, as part of Priti Patel’s new refugee policy. After every attempt to stop the flight by campaigners and activists had failed and it seemed like there was no hope, an application to the European Court of Human Rights from an Iraqi passenger’s lawyers led to the cancellation of the flight. The ECHR ruled that he couldn’t be deported before the policy had been fully scrutinised in the UK’s high courts. One by one, lawyers for other detainees followed suit and the aeroplane never left the runway.
The Tory government is trying their hardest to justify these cruel policies, claiming that their plans are simply tackling human traffickers – they’ve even likened activists dedicated to the cause to criminals.
But the people that will suffer the consequences of these brutal policies are not criminals. They are integral to our communities and they need our help. Want to do your bit but don’t know where to start? Here’s everything you need to know about how to help resist immigration raids.
Where do the raids take place?
While there is almost no way to accurately guess when and where an immigration raid will take place, we can make predictions based on the pattern of raids we’ve seen in the past. The Anti-Raids Network found that communities densely populated by Black and POC people are most likely to be targeted, with Indian and Pakistani migrants making up a high percentage of people deported. Independent corner shops are often targeted in such raids and immigration officers have also made the news for frequently targeting fast-food delivery drivers.
The best place to find out where raids are happening in real-time is social media. Make sure you’re following a local anti-raids account to keep up to date.
The role of the community
As we saw in Peckham on Saturday, communities have a huge part to play in preventing deportations. Stopping immigration vans from leaving or blocking access to the potential detainee’s home or workplace have proven to be successful methods of resistance in the past, but it doesn’t always need to get that extreme.
Blocking a raid as it is happening is usually the last resort. To help before it gets to that point, we need to work with our communities. Multiple organisations spend their days and nights working to help asylum seekers at risk of deportation. Find out who’s organising in your area, go to their meetings and ask how you can help. You can also go to areas where there are frequent raids and talk to undocumented migrants, making sure that they’re aware of their rights and know what they need to do if a van pulls up outside their house one day.
Throughout all of this, it’s important to remember that while social media coverage can help raise awareness, you must never film the detainee. Maintaining their anonymity is vital to help protect them from potential attacks or issues at work or places of education.
Organisations to look out for
These organisations are doing an incredible job at fighting the UK’s cruel immigration policies. Join them in their fight.
Active since 2012, this is a loose network of groups and individuals who are working against immigration raids by sharing information and materials in different languages across the country. They have multiple groups working all over the UK. Find the full list of their bases here.
SOAS Detainee Support
Run by students from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the organisation’s main line of operations involves visiting detainees who are held in detention centres and prisons. Find out how to get involved here.
Bail for Immigration Detainees
This charity challenges immigration detention by providing free legal advice, information and representation to the thousands of people held in detention across the UK.
The JCWI works hard to challenge the UK’s harmful laws and practices, and supports vulnerable people with legal advice.
By delivering accessible resources and community training on navigating the UK asylum and immigration system, Right to Remain is another charity working hard to undo damage caused by the government. Find out how you can support them here.