On 21st June 2015, people from Walworth, south London, resisted an immigration raid by the UKBA in our neighbourhood. People blocked the UKBA van in a street just off East street in which a local shop worker was being detained. As the crowd grew in support, riot police officers suddenly violently attacked the crowd using dogs and helped the UKBA van to drive away with the person inside. This person was later deported – forcibly and violently removed from his neighbourhood and community.
3 people were arrested for their presence at this resistance. This month, these three people are on trial at Blackfriars Crown Court. Their charges could potentially see them receive 1-3 year prison sentences if found guilty.
HASL shows our support for those now on trial. A number of our members were also at that resistance of the immigration raid last year as many of us live in the area and call it our home. We know that the only violence on that day came from the riot police and the UKBA. We believe that we should all feel safe and secure in our homes and neighbourhoods and should be able to live free from the threat of detention and deportation. We know that fighting for good quality homes that we all need and deserve, means also fighting for our right to decide where we make our home.
In the days following the raid, people visited the shops and stalls on East street market handing out information on people’s rights if there are immigration checks and raids. As on the day itself, there was lots of vocal support from stallholders, other workers, and people passing through the market for the resistance that had occurred.
This immigration raid was not an isolated racist attack on our communities but one action amongst many orchestrated by local and national government and their developer friends to displace and impoverish working class people, particularly working class people of colour.
East Street lies in between the former Heygate estate and the Aylesbury estate. When they were both there, the Heygate and Aylesbury estates were homes for thousands of households – until Southwark council decided to sell them off and demolish them. The Heygate estate was once made up of 1,000 council homes but has been replaced with private, ‘luxury’ flats. The Aylesbury estate is still standing, but hundreds of households have been forced out and so many homes now stand empty. Following the Heygate, these quality homes will be demolished and private flats will replace them. These estate demolitions have caused the social and ethnic cleansing of their former residents on a large scale and the huge loss of what was good quality council housing in the area.
Whilst the council and developers are forcibly removing people from their homes and communities, others face the UKBA breaking into their homes and workplaces and being thrown into a van as we witnessed on East street last year. These events are happening side by side, on a daily basis, in the same neighbourhoods, targeting the same people.
In HASL, many of our members have experienced forced evictions from their homes, displacement from their communities and deep poverty as they attempt to remain in the area they call home. A lot of our members have also fled the poverty they faced in other countries, trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Here, they face harassment from the Home Office, poor quality housing and homelessness, and restricted or no access to benefits and council housing. We support each other and take action collectively against the root causes of our exploitation and oppression. This is what happened on East street over a year ago, and this is why we support everyone who was acting in defence of their neighbourhood that day.
Read the East Street Solidarity Statement and blog
Find out more information on your rights during immigration checks and raids from Anti-Raids Network