According to a report published by The Guardian, immigrant rights’ groups have claimed that UK immigration agents are using coercive tactics to gain access to people’s homes. Campaigners allege that uniformed immigration officers are bypassing protocols, such as search warrants, and demanding entry to private premises.
Although UK law does allow the immigration officers entry to a property if the occupant gives ‘informed consent’, it’s claimed that many of the people targeted are ‘unlikely to know’ that they have the right to refuse UK immigration agents entry to their home.
The Migrant Rights’ Network (MRN) told The Guardian: “We have been extremely concerned with the number of cases in which immigration enforcement officers have failed to obtain fully informed consent.”
Information not given
The MRN’s London project manager, Mahlea Babjak, said: “Many people are not being given information regarding all the risks and alternatives to being questioned during an immigration raid.”
Babjak said that it’s not just residential properties that are being targeted, business premises are being subjected to coercive entry tactics. Ms Babjak said: “Every business owner and employee has the right to feel safe in their workplace.”
Details of the coercive tactics used by UK immigration officers emerged during a case against two anti-raids activists accused of obstructing immigration agents. District judge at Highbury Magistrates’ Court, Julia Newton, dismissed the charges against the anti-raids activists on 20 November.
The activists’ lawyer, Raj Chada, said: “Many people visited by immigration officers were not in a position to give genuinely informed consent. What the hell are they going to say? The occupier often does not know they can say no. They call it informed consent, I call it coercive consent.”
BAME groups target of immigration raids
The MRN accused UK immigration officers of making people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds the ‘principal target’ of raids, especially those running small businesses.
In a statement issued by the MRN, the group said: “These operations are rarely focused on intelligence and are consistently beyond a warrant’s scope.”
“We urge the Home Office to stop conducting immigration raids in the community, as they are extremely harmful to a business’s local reputation and financial earnings, and damaging to employees’ mental wellbeing,” the group added.
Meanwhile, activists from the Anti-Raids Network, which regularly documents immigration enforcement activities, accused authorities of pursuing them for political reasons after the case against two of its members was dismissed by district judge, Julia Newton.
Babjak said: “We are extremely concerned with the Home Office’s recent targeting of activists, as we believe the Home Office must be held to account for its actions that undermine domestic and international law and the rights of all migrants.”
Government fails to respect the law
Labour’s shadow UK immigration minister, Holly Lynch, accused the government of ‘repeatedly failing to respect the law.’ She said: “This government repeatedly fails to respect the law and legal protections for people, while deliberately undermining the role of lawyers on immigration matters.”
“These are serious issues and it’s vital that the law is adhered to at all times. Failure to do that puts at risk the possibility of sound and fair judgments being made,” Lynch added.
Home Office denies wrongdoing
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Immigration officers have a range of powers to tackle illegal working, which is a key driver of illegal migration and exploitative working conditions, including modern slavery.”
However, the spokesperson denied any wrongdoing by immigration officers, suggesting that they were not bypassing the need for a warrant and always asked for informed consent. “The law allows them to question people on the basis of informed consent,” the spokesperson said.
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