Leyton News Walthamstow

Local areas raided most by Home Office in lockdown

Between March 2020 and June this year, there were 67 “enforcement visits” in E17 and 53 in E10
By Victoria Munro

A Home Office enforcement van in Finchley (credit: Philafrenzy/Wikimedia)
A Home Office enforcement van in Finchley (credit: Philafrenzy/Wikimedia)

More immigration raids were carried out in Walthamstow and Leyton during the pandemic than anywhere else in London, new data reveals.

Between March 2020 and June this year, there were 67 “enforcement visits” in E17 and 53 in E10, during a period when the average number of visits per London postcode was just 12.

The Waltham Forest branch of the Anti-Raids Network told the Echo pre-pandemic figures show the borough’s Romanian and Bulgarian residents were most likely to be affected by deportation.

The data, obtained by the network via Freedom of Information request, does not even represent the full scale of Home Office enforcement as it does not include, for example, the “street operation” outside Walthamstow Central Station that saw eight arrested last October.

The Home Office has repeatedly refused to respond to Transport for London’s insistence that this operation on its property was “unauthorised” or to confirm if any of the eight people were ever charged.

Speaking anonymously, a spokesperson from Waltham Forest Anti-Raids Network said raids may be more frequent locally due to a “culture of collaboration” between the Home Office and employers, landlords and other organisations.

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They said: “Shops and takeaways are raided a lot and these businesses are asked to hand over lists of their staff, including addresses.

“Employers in general are not legally obliged to cooperate but they’re liable for a £20,000 fine per illegal worker found, which can be reduced for cooperating or even reporting workers.

“Landlords and councils are also given financial incentives to not just cooperate with the Home Office but actively report people to them.”

Leaked emails from November last year, seen by the Echo, show Waltham Forest Council workers arranging a joint visit to a chicken shop in Leyton with the Home Office.

The Anti-Raids Network spokesperson added: “Immigration law is increasingly murky territory and subject to delays, which means people might be legal one day and not the next.

“But the law is not impartial or necessarily just, it belongs to powerful people and we all only have certain rights because people fought for them.

“People already want to keep their communities intact – they don’t want their neighbours to get arrested or for children to live without their dad because he was taken away – so we are just here to provide information and resources.”

The enforcement outside Walthamstow Central Station on 13th October last year attracted widespread condemnation from the community, with local MP Stella Creasy calling it “a waste of resources” and “deeply divisive”.

While it remains unclear whether any of the people arrested had broken the law, WF Anti-Raids was keen to emphasise that their “solidarity is not conditional”.

The spokesperson said: “We believe that people should be free to live where they want, no matter their financial status or where they were born.

“People do not uproot their whole lives just because they feel like it, often people coming here are fleeing conflict, climate change or are trying to find a better economic future for their families.”

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