Understanding immigration raids

The following reports by Corporate Watch, which we contributed to, provided a detailed overview on how immigration raids work in London.

Snitches, Stings & Leaks: how Immigration Enforcement works

Summary from Corporate Watch:

‘In July 2016 restaurant chain Byron Hamburgers caused an outcry after setting up a “sting operation” with Home Office Immigration Enforcement to arrest its own workers. But, as this report shows, this was no one-off. Such operations are part of standard practice in the Home Office’s campaign of around 6,000 workplace raids a year, which is routinely based on “low grade” public informing, employers reporting on workers, and Immigration Officers acting without legal warrants.

This report draws on leaked Home Office intelligence documents from 2014’s “Operation Centurion”, analysed here for the first time, alongside other public and confidential sources. Key points include:

  • The bulk of initial intelligence comes from around 50,000 “allegations” per year from “members of the public”. Most tip-offs that actually lead to raids are classed as low grade “uncorroborated” information from “untested sources”.
  • 12 times more men than women are arrested in workplace raids; people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India make up 75% of those arrested. Restaurants and takeaways are the main types of businesses hit.
  • Immigration Officers seek to follow up tip-offs by contacting employers and asking them to collaborate ahead of raids. This collaboration may include: handing over staff lists; handing over personal details including home addresses, which are then raided; helping arrange “arrests by appointment”, as in Byron’s case and also mentioned in the leaked “Operation Centurion” files.
  • Besides Byron, high profile cases of employer-supported raids have included cleaning contractors Amey and ISS (working for SOAS university), and food delivery service Deliveroo in June 2016. In these three cases, raids occurred while companies were involved in disputes with workers and unions.
  • In general, employers are not legally obliged to co-operate in these ways: they can give or withhold “consent”. However, in practice, businesses complain that Immigration Officers often do not give the impression that co-operation is voluntary.
  • The main pressure for co-operation is not legal but financial. Businesses are liable for a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker found – although only if it was “readily apparent” that workers had no “right to work”, e.g., their documents were obviously fake. But this can be reduced by £5,000 for general “co-operation”, plus another £5,000 for “reporting” workers.
  • A December 2015 report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that officers had warrants in only 43% of raids. In most cases, they claim that business managers grant “informed consent” to enter – but there is no documentation to support this.
  • Officers also claim that they act with “consent” in routinely rounding up and questioning people who are not named suspects. But the Chief Inspector found: “in the 184 files we sampled there was no record of anyone being ‘invited’ to answer ‘consensual questions’”.

A PDF version of this report is available to download.’


The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops

Summary from Corporate Watch:

‘In 2012 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a new approach to immigration: to make Britain a “hostile environment” for people who have “no right to be here”.The introduction of compulsory ID checks in hospitals, due to start this month, is just one element. The plan is to make it ever tougher for people without the right immigration papers to get a job, rent a flat, use a bank, drive a car, get medical treatment, send kids to school, or otherwise live a normal life.

This report outlines 13 of the main hostile environment policies introduced so far, including:

  • NHS England will start compulsory ID checks in hospitals this month. “Overseas visitors” will be made to pay for non-emergency treatment; later in the year, the government wants to extend charging to A&E and GP surgeries too.
  • Meanwhile, patient details collected when people register with GPs are systematically passed on to Immigration Enforcement who use them to track down “illegals”. Around 6,000 people were traced this way in 2016.
  • Similarly, the Department of Education has agreed to hand over names and addresses of 1500 school pupils and their families each month, collected in the “School Census”.
  • At the moment, such information sharing requires specific legal agreements. This will change if the Digital Economy Bill passes unamended this year, allowing government departments and corporate contractors to automatically share people’s confidential data.
  • Other measures ban unwanted migrants from renting homes, opening bank accounts or getting driving licenses. Migrants are being criminalised with new offences of “working illegally”, “driving in the UK”, and employing or renting to “illegals”.
  • Migrants forced onto the streets are being targeted by immigration raids against rough sleepers, coordinated with local councils and homelessness charities.
  • Police and Immigration Enforcement are increasingly integrated, led by Operation Nexus in London which embeds immigration offficers in police stations and standardises ID checks. Met Police are also handing over details of victims and witnesses of crimes.
  • Local councils are being encouraged to launch immigration enforcement operations with money from a new “Controlling Migration Fund”.
  • The introduction highlights three basic themes across all these measures: mass information sharing, criminalisation of migrants, and widespread citizen collaboration.
  • The hostile environment relies on collaboration from bosses and workers in the public sector and in private companies, and also from many more of us as “members of the public”.
  • The conclusion looks in more depth at how the government is trying to foster a culture of collaboration – and at some possibilities for resistance.

Download a PDF version of this report here.’

The Round-Up: rough sleeper immigration raids and charity collaboration

Summary from Corporate Watch:

‘Several nights a week, immigration patrols are out targeting rough sleepers in London, now a prime focus for raids under Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy.

The arrests are carried out by Home Office “Immigration Compliance and Enforcement” (ICE) teams. But they rely on the active collaboration of the Mayor, local councils, and homelessness charities. Charity outreach workers set out to help homeless people. But through a creeping process of changes they are being turned into informers, while some of the city’s most vulnerable people are disappeared into the nightmare of indefinite detention and deportation.

This investigation shows how:

  • Outreach teams from charities St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and Change, Grow, Live (CGL) conduct regular joint “visits” with Immigration Enforcement officers, as often as fortnightly in central boroughs. Freedom of Information (FOI) responses show 141 such patrols organised by the GLA and 12 London boroughs last year. This figure does not include Westminster, the biggest concentration of London homelessness, where patrols are likely to be even more frequent.
  • Joint visits in just eight of these areas led to 133 rough sleepers being detained, while 127 people were deported in under a year in Westminster alone.
  • Charity bosses say their role is to persuade non-UK rough sleepers to leave “voluntarily”. But the FOI figures show that detention and enforced deportation is more common; in any case, so-called “voluntary” departures are carried out under the threat of force.
  • Outreach teams also routinely pass on locations of non-UK rough sleepers to ICE, including through the London-wide CHAIN database, and through local co-operation agreements.
  • The GLA has contracted St Mungo’s and Thames Reach under “payment by numbers” schemes where fees depend on the number of rough sleepers they get out of the country.
  • EU and other European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are the main targets, as they make up nearly half of London rough sleepers. Migrants from Romania, Poland, and other East European countries are particularly affected.
  • In May 2016, the Home Office toughened the rules so that European rough sleepers can be arrested for deportation if found sleeping rough on just one night.
  • Tough policy on migrant rough sleepers was “intensely lobbied” for by Westminster Council, and encouraged by the “Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Group”, which included senior charity managers from St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, Homeless Link, and also Crisis.1
  • Rough sleeper deportations are at the cutting edge of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” approach where immigration controls are spreading across schools, hospitals, and housing.
  • The “hostile environment” is based on collaboration. But it can be broken by solidarity and resistance. We are already seeing examples of refusal by some homelessness workers and campaigners; the conclusion gives some ideas for how it could spread.

Click here for a PDF version of the report.’