Residents, academics and lawyers have spoken out against a series of immigration raids carried out in Brixton this week, according to the Brixton Blog.
They have accused the UK Border Agency (UKBA) of heavy-handedness during the arrests, and say that they have been posting pictures of the detentions to social media to “score political points”.
The UKBA has been carrying out the raids as part of Operation ‘Mayapple’, and say they have “forcibly removed” 700 people in London who had overstayed their visa.
Sita Bilani, 24, was walking through Brixton market today when she saw a van pull up and seven UKBA officers going into a fruit and vegetable shop.
She claims that when she tried to speak to a man of south Asian appearance being detained the officials became rude and aggressive towards her.
She told the Brixton Blog: “I just wanted to speak to him about the law and his rights. The officers got aggressive and moved me out of the shop, they were being rude and obnoxious and they tried to threaten me with arrest for obstruction.”
According to Ms Balani they led the man in handcuffs through the market to a van parked in Coldharbour Lane.
She added: “The Border Agency needs to know that if they are going to conduct these kind of arrests in the community then the community will be watching.”
The Home Office says 400 overstayers had been persuaded to leave the country, 800 had left of their own accord and 700 had been “forcibly removed” after raids on homes and businesses in London.
Immigration minister Damian Green visited the team carrying out the raids in Lambeth and Southwark this week. He said: “We are working to ensure we identify anybody who has overstayed their visa and encourage them to leave the country voluntarily.
“Those tempted to overstay should be aware of the serious consequences. If you choose not to go you will be arrested, detained and removed.”
The UKBA has also attracted criticism for posting pictures on social media sites like Twitter, Flickr and Youtube.
Pictures and videos on the sites show a raid on a butcher’s shop in Atlantic Road, Brixton where a number of people were detained on Tuesday.
Dr Nando Sigona is a senior researcher working on immigration at Oxford University. He told the Blog: “Operation Mayapple is mainly a PR exercise that the Home Office and the UKBA have carried out in the hope to recover some credibility after a number of migration and border management fiascoes of the last few months.
“But it may turn up not to be the media success that they hoped for and even more it may backfire. In fact, I think that the way the operation has been conducted can potentially exacerbate tensions in local communities that rightly feel to have been targeted and criminalised by the UKBA.”
Dr Sigona said the media campaign only shows photos of poor, non-white males in places like Brixton, adding that “is a very partial (and convenient) representation of the population of undocumented migrants in London.”
A blog post by immigration lawyers at Renaissance Chambers said: “The latest social media campaign shows that politicians and civil servants are going considerably beyond the dirty business of quiet and competent enforcement of immigration laws.”
Ms Balani added: “These raids are being made to score political points and not for economic or safety reasons. The fact they are posting pictures to Twitter and Flickr just proves this point.
“It’s just going to stir up racial tension within the community.”
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said they make “no apology” for enforcing immigration laws. He added: “Businesses which employ illegal workers undermine law-abiding firms. The message is clear – those that do not want to be subject to an enforcement visits should not employ illegal workers.
“We take any allegations of inappropriate behaviour from our officers very seriously and operate a comprehensive complaints and investigation process for where detainees or members of the public believe they have been mistreated.
“Employers unsure of the steps they need to take to avoid employing illegal workers can visit here or they can call the UK Border Agency’s Employers Helpline on 0300 123 4699.”
He confirmed that officers arrested a 19-year-old Pakistani man in Brixton yesterday. He admitted overstaying his visa and is now in detention pending removal from the UK. No formal complaint has been made about the incident. Source: Brixton Blog.
This week Immigration Matters reported that the UKBA is setting up a privately run immigration database to track down the 150,000 people who are overstaying or remaining in UK illegally. The project will be launched next month to help deal with the huge backlog of foreign nationals who have overstayed their student or temporary work visas.
There are between 500,000 to 700,000 people living in the UK illegally, which the think tank ippr estimated would take 20 years at a cost of £5 billion to remove.
If you are here on a student, working or tourist visa it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not overstay on an expired visa. If you break the rules you could face a 10 year ban from returning to the UK.
The UK Border Agency advises applicants with limited leave to remain to ensure they apply to extend visa in time – before the visa expires.
However, there are circumstances where migrants have little choice but to overstay – a relationship with an EEA or UK National, a child or simply because they have run out of money
What should you do if you have overstayed your visa or leave to remain and need advice?
The UK Border Agency recently announced important changes to the way applications from visa overstayers will be treated.
Starting 1 October 2012, if you have overstayed your leave or permission to stay in the UK by more than 28 days any application for further leave will be automatically refused.
Immigration Advisers Bison Management has dealt with many cases of migrants who have overstayed their visa period. Bison Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker said:
‘Overstaying applicants are normally automatically refused unless there is a strong case for a human rights appeal or where they are in a relationship or have a child with British or EEA national.
‘Many of the cases are dealt with on an ‘outside the rules’ basis or go to a full appeal at the First Tier Tribunal.
‘The changes to the immigration rules will set out more clearly when a refusal will be issued.
‘The important thing is for a good immigration adviser to ‘think outside the box’ and look beyond the cold facts.’
Employers who employ migrant workers on working or students visas should have a system in place to monitor visa expiry dates.
Overseas students should also be monitored to ensure they are actually studying as well as working for the correct number of hours.
Bulgarian and Romanian citizens are subject to restrictions on working in the UK and cannot be employed in the same way as other EEA nationals. UK work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, were extended until the end of 2013 by the government last November.
This week Tesco, the UK’s largest private employer, was caught illegally employing foreign students at one of its warehouses and could be fined £200,000. Tesco can easily afford a large fine, but could your business afford a £10,000 for each illegal worker?
Employers who fail to carry out the proper checks on migrant workers, including Bulgarians and Romanians, risk a fine of up to £10,000.
If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an Appeal against a refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email:
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students and access to fully funded courses with NO UPFRONT FEES. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email email@example.com