Saturday, April 21, 2012

Immigration Fishing Expeditions

Last week in New Cross Road, there was a combined police and Borders Agency operation. A witness from South London Solfed describes
'On my way to work this morning I found the bus stops around New Cross bus garage swarming with police and UKBA immigration officers. I saw a man being questioned by immigration officials and surrounded by several police under the bus shelter... a bus stopped and people started piling out. I spotted a plain clothes officer (see hoody in pic) eyeing someone up and start moving so I shouted at him. I asked if he’d seen someone he didn’t like the look of and made everyone aware that he was an immigration officer (probably police in hindsight)... The most interesting part of our discussion was when I asked him on what basis he was stopping people. He told me that they were stopping men from African countries such as Ghana as there is a “big problem with them around here”. 

'According to UKBA enforcement guidance and instructions Chapter 31.19 pg 21. “an Immigration Officer (IO)may not stop an individual based upon their racial appearance and race or colour can never be the basis of the IOs “reasonable suspicion” that someone has committed an immigration offence”... So the hooded man was probably police, picking up people based on race to hand over to the Immigration Officers with clipboards. This is known as a Crime Reduction Operation (aka a CROP) and seems, unfortunately, to be legal'. 
I have seen similar operations in New Cross before, as well as in Peckham and at the Elephant and Castle. They are essentially fishing expeditions which rather than responding to crime are focusing on people going about their daily business. People who left their kids at school and set off to work can find themselves suddenly detained because they don't have the correct documents. Of course they are self-justifying in that if you trawl through a group of people you are bound to be able to find some minor ticket offences, drug possession and immigration paper irregularities so that a press release can trumpet that 'X arrests were made', but these do nothing to address the real problems of burglary, rape, robbery and other violent crime that most people would view as priorities.

Another fishing expedition was carried out at the Coronet at Elephant on February 25th, when Latin American people waiting to see Puerto Rican singer Don Omar were targeted. According to a report in community newspaper The Prisma 'a short while before the concert room’s doors opened people were already queuing to go in. Suddenly, they saw how the police began to arrive and walk along the queue line, and all of a sudden they started to ask for ID... they started to separate those who did not have ID and put them into vans'. Around 90 people were detained, and an unknown number were deported (further discussion of this at People's Republic of Southwark). Since when have people in the UK had to carry proof of ID?

There is clearly at the very least an element of racial profiling which determines 
where these operations take place and who gets viewed as 'suspicious'. No doubt rounding up Australians going to a rugby match would find a fair few overstaying on their visas, but I can't really imagine it happening.


Becs said...

There is a lot of criticism leveled at the US (where I'm from), sometimes rightfully so. But I've never heard of something like this happening.

In fact, out in the suburbs, people know where the folks hang out, waiting for day work and no one ever mentions Immagracion.

I just started watching "The Last Enemy" and it sounds as if the situation has already devolved into that. Is there any truth in that?

Deptford Pudding said...

Somehow this sort of thing is just wrong, but its the way we're heading as a nation, anybody can be stopped anywhere. And those of us who pass by (which I'm glad you didn't) might feel reassured by the police actions feel threatened by this sort of display.
I'm reading Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" this weekend, a very good and simple account of the 'vice' of government.

. said...

@ Becs - yes, when Arizona was passing Bill 1070 to give police power to arrest somebody on suspicion of being an undocumented migrant there was an international outcry. In London, stuff like this happens every day and it doesn't even make the papers.

@ Deptford Pudding - agree there is a basic human issue which goes beyond what people may feel about immigration policy. It is shocking that people just queuing up for a gig, or travelling on public transport, should be compelled to account for themselves in this way when they are not doing any harm to anyone. Yes bring on Citizen Paine! In the UK there is very little real debate about the boundaries of where the state should be able to go.