The Home Office Twitter account has been gloating of late, after having rounded up a lot of “immigration offenders”, who it looks increasingly likely were racially profiled. The raids have, unsurprisingly, not been received well in local areas. This is in conjunction with the Home Office’s other immigration project, where it looks like they believed they were blowing a dogwhistle, but actually ended up reaching for a bassoon and playing a jaunty, racist melody.
The raids are nothing new. I urge you all to read and share this story from SandiaElectrica from three years ago, where the same causes for concern have been happening. It happened to her family again, only a few days ago.
This is Britain now, and it is a Britain which many white people will remain unaware of. A Britain steeped in racism, a fascist Britain where state bullies harass and intimidate people of colour, dragging them away to rot in detention centres if they are considered “illegal”. No human being is illegal, and yet the state considers some people’s mere existence to be illegal, and so do the dribbling racists who hang off their every word. They claim their concerns about immigration do not make them racist, except they are completely and utterly wrong. The state has played off of their racism, and amplified it and tickled them with glee.
We mustn’t look away from these horrors that are happening, feeling that it is a hopeless battle we are fighting. Instead, we must address what is happening head-on. First of all, if we see these raids and stops in progress, it is important that people know their rights. As this article points out, immigration officers actually have fairly little power and have basically been pushing it and abusing it. While it’s worth reading the whole thing, here are some important things you can do if you witness or are victim of any of these spot checks:
Do not change the speed of your walking or suddenly change direction. Maintain a steady pace. Do not hang back from the barriers. Do not behave confrontationally or aggressively. Enter into the conversation willingly, and then state that you are aware of your rights and can walk away unless the officer can give a reason for having reasonable suspicion of your status.
Use your phone to film the entire encounter. Any officer who speaks to you must identify themselves verbally and by producing a warrant card. They must explain their reason for questioning you.
At this point ask them what gave them reasonable suspicion to have stopped you. They must tell you that you are not obliged to answer any questions. They must tell you that you are not under arrest and are free to leave at any time. If they fail to do any of these things, tell them.
Make sure you clearly record the identification number of the officer. Sometimes this will be covered up or not present – it’s a common tactic. Insist on knowing the number before you cooperate with the officer. If at any point you decide to leave they cannot pursue you unless they have sufficient basis to arrest you under paragraphs 17(1) & 16(2) of Schedule 2 or of the Immigration Act 1971, or if you satisfy section 28A of the Act.
If you are not being questioned – and if you are white and middle class that is very likely – you can still help. You can record everything. You can inform people of their rights when they are stopped by officers. You can take people’s contact details if they are stopped. If there is a case against them, a failure of protocol by the officer will be relevant. You can get a useful fact-sheet of your rights for printing out and handing to people here.
Tell your story. Bear witness, and tell other people’s stories, while maintaining their privacy by not giving out any of their details. Amplify and signal boost the stories of others who have suffered through this. Join a local anti-fascist group and discuss coordinating responses–maybe you might like to follow the example of Southall Black Sisters, or maybe distribute information?.
We need to create an environment where it is impossible for people to look away from what is happening, the repeated harassments and attacks on people for the colour of their skin. This needs to be absolutely fucking everywhere, these stories, this information for how to cope. We need to challenge the state repeatedly, every day, through any action we see fit to take.
If you have your own story, please leave it here, and I will signal boost it. It is so important that people hear about what is going on beneath their radars. I firmly believe that most people are decent, and that most will be horrified when they realise what is happening. Of course, there’s the dribbling racists, but they were beyond help in the first place.
Don’t look away from what is happening in Britain. It is silence that allows abuse to thrive.
Projects people are working on:
Anti-raids network Providing information and support for victims of raids.
Listen to our story A theatre project, telling the stories of asylum seekers