2 Aug 2013

Activist backlash against immigration enforcement tactics

A crackdown on immigrants by the Home Office provokes a backlash from activists as one group of immigrants actively seek out and disrupt immigration checks.

The Anti-Raids Network (ARN)

A London-based activist group, the Anti-Raids Network (ARN) has been working to thwart what they see as “repressive tactics” from Immigration Enforcement officials.

Their members gather during raids to disrupt the work of immigration officers as well as providing information to immigrants advising them not to speak to officials.

Spokesperson Anais Bell exclusively told Channel 4 News that the immigration actions being highlighted this week are nothing new to supporters of the ARN.

“The current wave of immigration checks is merely the visible manifestation of an everyday reality for undocumented migrants in the UK,” she said.

“In some migrant communities we are being told that raids and checks are now occurring on a daily basis.”

If a raid is happening, news gets out through our network and activists in the area go along to monitor what is happening. Anais Bell

The group hopes that the issue being widely discussed on social media will change the way immigrants are treated.

“We hope that it will, and that we will see more people having the courage and to step forward and question repressive state activity when it is happening rather than simply walking on.”

The Anti-Raids Network was launched by a group of Latin American immigrants last year following a raid on queue for a concert by a Puerto Rican musician that saw 90 people arrested.

They say they provide information on rights to immigrants during street-based checks and raids on homes.

An account posted on their website explains how the send out alerts when immigration enforcement officers are seen carrying out stops, activists will then gather to disrupt the immigration checks.

Pictures posted online have shown members intervening in a raid on a shop in Whitechapel, east London, alongside reports of several disrupted raids around Elephant and Castle in south London.

“If a raid is happening, news gets out through our network and activists in the area go along to monitor what is happening.

“Officers will be challenged on behaviour we consider racist or otherwise unacceptable.”

“People in the vicinity are informed of their rights, namely that they do not have to answer questions and can leave at any time, and multilingual rights cards are distributed.

Posters and videos have been circulated by the group in a number of languages warning immigrants not to panic when dealing with immigration officers and stating “you are free to leave anytime.”

Footage posted online shows members of another group, the Southall Black Sisters, protesting “heavy-handed” raids in west London. Crowds gathered around officials chanting “UKBA go away”.

Legal challenges to the use of a billboard van, dubbed the “racist van” by Twitter users, have been launched by trade union Unite as well as Ramfel, a refugee charity.

Channel 4 News has approached the Home Office to ask how it responds to this characterisation of immigration enforcement and for its response to the activities of the ARN. We await their reply.