A review of the public meeting supporting Immigrants in London and what local groups can do

By Yasmin Begum, Project Development Intern of Voice4Change England (V4CE)

Yesterday the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (RAMFEL) and Migrant Rights Network joined forces to run a workshop in New Cross around the ‘Go Home’ van campaign and wider immigration-related issues. In addition, the Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) delivered a workshop on the legality of spot-checks, which has now become more highly profiled in light of the ‘Go Home’ van.

Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors opened the evening. The firm was the first to legally challenge the campaign van under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and explained the illegality behind the van. 
Estelle Du Boulay of NMP and Sophie Naftalian of Bharr Murphy solicitors, gave a briefing on spot-checks and their context, along with community responses that had emerged. NMP explained that if you are stopped by a UK Border Agency (UKBA) official, they must first introduce themselves as an immigration officer, tell you why you are being stopped and advise you that you are not legally required to respond. The NMP similarly spoke about the blurred distinctions between police and immigration officers, explaining that the powers of immigration officers are based on equivalent police powers, and have the ability to administratively detain on suspicion of immigration offences. NMP described how raids can sometimes have the presence of more than one officer from the police force as well as an immigration officer. Ms Du Boulay clarified that during a spot-check neither the police nor UKBA can arrest you because they believe there is “reasonable suspicion” that you are an immigration offender: they must have evidence. Immigration officers also cannot block exits or question everyone in any given area without a warrant. They also cannot spot-check based on racial profiling. 
Rita Chadha from RAMFEL gave a workshop on what organisations, groups and individuals are able to do on a local and national level. Chadha stressed the idea of strategic campaigning to blend into other forms of work, sharing the work load and forging migrant and non-migrant links alike to create the strongest possible information networks and alliances. Chadha continued by discussing plans for public messages from organisations and how to campaign locally, using the contacts that you may have.
The Anti Raids Network was also present at the meeting, They provided bust-cards, which details key advice on what to do if you’re arrested and the basics rules about the law. A number of the cards are freely available from their website in different languages.
Bhatt Murphy: www.bhattmurphy.co.uk
Deighton Pierce Glynn: www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk
Anti Raids Network: network23.org/antiraids
Newham Monitoring Project: www.nmp.org.uk