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Racist assumptions, stereotypes influence UK Home Office raids on 'immigrants'

By Aaron Gates-Lincoln* 

It is no secret that the UK government’s current attitude towards issues in immigration are harsh and punitive based. Recently, Priti Patel has faced much criticism as Home Secretary for implementing a large range of policy that many argue is regressive and unnecessarily ruthless as she attempts to deter migrants from wishing to enter the UK. One method that has faced heavy criticism as of late is that of frequent immigration raids within local communities.
The Home Office is estimated to undertake dozens of raids every week. In 2018, they performed on average 43 raids every week, however once the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, such raids were mostly suspended for public health and safety reasons. As we are now edging towards the removal of all Covid-restrictions, the use of immigration raids has once again returned to its place as a core method of controlling immigration within the UK.
Over half of all raids take place in people’s workplaces, in the attempt to find and detain migrants that the UK Home Office suspect to be illegally living and working in the UK. The raids can also take place in people’s homes and in places of worship. Over the past 5 years there has also been a rise in immigration raids in care homes, with 190 being raided since 2016.
Such frequent raids are not cheap for the UK government. The Immigration Enforcement arm of the Home Office employs around 5,000 people and has a budget of about £392 million a year. This is a very large sum of money and can only be justifiable if it serves its purpose and serves it well.
However, this is certainly not the case. In 2019, not even 1 in 10 immigration raids resulted in someone being deported or removed from the UK -- despite that being their primary aim. In the same year, the Home Office raided 18 care homes in which none of them resulted in a deportation. These numbers are damning in regard to the worth and value of immigration raids. When comparing costs and benefits, it is hard to argue why raids have become such a primary method of immigration control.
In many communities, it has been argued by the public that they cause immense disruption, especially in workplaces and places of worship. Furthermore, migrant communities are forced to live in constant fear that their doors could be forcibly knocked down and themselves or family members removed from the country without so much of a warning.
This fear is exacerbated by the ‘intelligence-led’ methods used by the Home Office in determining where and who should be raided. The UK government has promoted a negative societal view of migrants, which has influenced many members of the public to feel like it is their duty to ‘tip off’ the Home Office if they feel someone is living in their community illegally. 
It has estimated that the Home Office receives around 50,000 ‘tip offs’ a year. Combined with the fact that doctors, landlords and employers are all legally required to check the immigration status of people they encounter, or face penalisation, much of the Home Office’s job is done for them.
This atmosphere is unhealthy for communities and can also be exacerbated by racial tensions within society. Although no official statistics of race and immigration raids exist, it could be expected that near to zero ‘tip offs’ lead to the raid of a white person’s home or workplace.
The Home Office fails to record race or ethnicity of those caught up in raids, but data does show that one in five people questioned about their immigration status are not migrants at all, and are British citizens. This raises the debate whether existing stereotypes and racist assumptions influence tip offs to be based off of race rather than actual fears of immigration violations.
Many communities fall for the anti-migrant rhetoric projected by the Home Office and forget that fundamentally the UK is multicultural
In addition to this, it has actually also been found that 1 in 5 people quizzed by the Home Office after a raid are indeed British citizens. This simply showcases the danger that racial stereotypes can play in ‘intelligence-led’ immigration methods.
It is important to understand that this environment fostered by the Home Office is not necessarily for what they could argue as ‘the good of the country’ but is actually for-profit reasons. Instead of having to hire their own intelligence officials, this role is outsourced to members of the public who believe it is their duty to perform such actions to protect their community.
With this in mind, it is clear that many communities fall for the anti-migrant rhetoric projected by the Home Office and forget that fundamentally the UK is multicultural and is built on diverse communities. Nearly all communities will have undocumented migrants living within them, and most of these migrants have been in the UK for over 5 years. 
They may have children and whole families that live here and help the communities that they reside within. A large degree of undocumented migrants also will have previously had legal status but lost it due to systemic barriers within the Home Office.
It is because of this that people must turn their criticisms towards the Home Office, and away from blaming migrants for situations that they are not in control of. Even if one is in favour of strong immigration enforcement, it is becoming hard to argue for the value and worth of immigration raids in the modern day.
First and foremost, it is essential that the UK immigration system is reformed, to allow undocumented migrants access to support to gain legal status’ such as indefinite leave to remain and even citizenship. Furthermore, it is necessary that the British public work to undo the critical view of migrants that the government has promoted for decades, in order to promote quality and diversity in our communities. Lastly, it is essential, for the safety of migrants and the wellbeing of communities that immigration raids are ceased and new methods of enforcement are explored.
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*Writer for Immigration News and Immigration Advice Service, UK

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