Friday, 9 October 2020
BARAC UK Statement on Proposed Home Office Immigration Enforcement Centre at Royal Dock, Newham, London: Oppose Warehouse K
We are concerned that in one of the most multicultural boroughs in the UK, the Home Office is planning to relocate an Immigration Enforcement Centre based in Central London currently, to Newham.
This centre would be a place where those threatened with deportation would be required to sign in with the Home Office. We have reported over several years, numerous cases of individuals complying with requirements to sign in with the Home Office on a regular (weekly/ fortnightly/monthly) basis and who were seized with no notice, sometimes torn away from loved ones, including children and taken to immigration detention centres and booked onto flights, often charter flights, for mass deportations causing trauma, distress and illness for the individuals concerned and their loved ones. This has included the Windrush Generation and their descendants and also people who have fled persecution and death threats in their own countries.
During the lockdown period we became aware that a large number of families in Newham were experiencing extreme poverty and denial of basic human rights due to having no recourse to public funds.
These are people who have sought asylum in the UK and who can legally work but who have lost jobs due to the pandemic and are not allowed to claim benefits or access government coronavirus measures.
We responded by directing some of our humanitarian aid funds for refugees to purchase food and baby essentials for families impacted, at least two of whom had babies born during lockdown.
We also wrote to the UN Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty asking him to investigate urgently, having previously given evidence about poverty and recism in the UK.
The people most impacted by Home Office 'hostile environment' policies have been those from the African, Caribbean and Asian regions.
Establishing such a centre in Newham creates a hostile environment in Newham for the multi ethnic population living here.
The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, in a recent statement, said that;
"Newham Council have been made aware that the Home Office intend to use the Grade II listed Warehouse K building, next to the ExCeL exhibition centre, for immigration enforcement purposes, something which was not referred to in an application put forward last October."
"Although planning permission was granted in October 2019 for alterations and listed building consent for the continued use of the building for offices and employment uses, the application did not refer to a range of enforcement uses which are not appropriate at the Royal Docks leisure and residential area, and is contrary to Newham’s Local Plan policies, and its policy position against the hostile environment."
We are concerned about the lack of transparency in making the application for planning permission and that when making it, the government communicated that it would only be used for offices for employees with no mention of the true intentions.
We have also seen reports that the government plan to include a holding centre on the same premises which could "accommodate" 35 people. This means it would not just be a reporting centre where people may be taken and transferred to a detention centre but that people may be detained within it.
In our work supporting people who have been detained, we know that for those held, conditions are worse than prison, with vermin and cold temperatures reported and the uncertainty of not knowing if you will ever be released and see loved ones again or be taken at extremely short notice and deported humanely. We remember Jimmy Mubenga. 12th October is the ten year anniversary of his death on a British Airways flight whilst being deported.
We are further concerned about the very close proximity of the planned centre to London City Airport and how the airport might be used to facilitate such deportations.
Mayor Fiaz went on to say in her statement;
“Newham Council stands in solidarity with the Windrush generation, whose experiences laid bare the scandal of the hostile environment. We celebrated their contributions as a nation in June; and we are now marking their significance during Black History Month which starts today. The proposed change of use of Warehouse K in Newham would be wholly at odds with our approach to stand with our communities in that same spirit of solidarity."
In the middle of lockdown, the long awaited Windrush Lessons Learned report was published, which concluded that the Home Office was guilty of being institutionally ignorant of racism and made a number of recommendations, yet to be implemented, which included training for Home Office staff, on the history of black people, race and migration in relation to the UK. The establishment of such a centre in Newham not only creates a hostile environment but demonstrates no attempt what so ever to learn lessons. Furthermore the vast majority of Windrush generation 'victims' have not received compensation for the injustice, trauma and losses they have endured.
Tomorrow, 10th of October, as part of Newham's Black History Month programme, BARAC UK will be hosting a panel debate and film screening about the Windrush Scandal and hostile environment where attendees will hear first hand from those impacted and those campaigning for justice: https://www.
newhamblackhistory.org/events/ barac-uk-presents-is-britain- racist/
The Home Office are currently conducting a consultation which is only open until 20th October. You can respond by email or online, using this link:
The Home Office state that they estimate almost 20% of all of those reporting to the centre will be Newham residents, given the number of London boroughs, this is a huge proportion of Newham residents being targeted and threatened with deportation. It's presence creates a racist, frightening and unsafe environment for local people and must be opposed.
Please respond registering your opposition and concerns by the deadline.