Oppose Warehouse K Immigration Enforcement Centre
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The Home Office has announced its intention to move an Immigration Reporting Centre from Beckett House in central London to Warehouse K at the Royal Victoria Docks in the London borough of Newham in East London, one of the most multicultural boroughs in the UK.
This centre would be a place where those whose immigration status is being assessed by the Home Office, including those threatened with deportation, would be required to report to (sign in) with the Home Office.
I am the National Chair and co-founder of BARAC UK. Over the past few years of campaigning against mass deportations by charter flight to Jamaica and other countries, we are aware of numerous cases of individuals complying with requirements to sign in with the Home Office on a regular (weekly/ fortnightly/monthly) basis, who were seized with no advance notice whilst attending a reporting centre, sometimes torn away from loved ones, including children (with one report of a toddler being handed over to Social Services rather than allowing her father to contact a family member to collect the child) and taken to immigration detention centres and booked onto deportation 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 many 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 racism in the UK.
The people most impacted by Home Office 'hostile environment' policies have been those from the African, Caribbean, and Asian regions. Approximately 70% of the population of Newham are from African, Caribbean, and Asian ethnic groups.
Establishing such a centre in Newham creates a hostile environment in Newham for the multi-ethnic population living here.
It is of great concerns that the Home Office when applying for planning permission in October 2019 failed to mention to Newham Council they intended to use Warehouse K as an immigration enforcement centre, stating instead that it was to be used for offices only, therefore misleading the Council.
The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, in a recent statement, dated 1st of October 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 have had numerous and repeated concerns about the conditions within detention centres and the lack of humanity afforded those held.
We are launching this petition on 12th October, the tenth anniversary of the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died when being deported on a British Airways flight, restrained by three G4S security guards. We remember Jimmy Mubenga and our thoughts are with his loved ones.
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.
No rationale for moving the reporting centre from Central London to Newham to a location with only Docklands Light Railway as a transport link and no parking facilities.
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 whatsoever to learn lessons. Furthermore, the vast majority of Windrush generation 'victims' have not received compensation for the injustice, trauma, and losses they have endured.
The Home Office are currently conducting a consultation which is only open until 20th October. We encourage you to respond stating your concerns, by email or online, using this link:
The Home Office say they will then submit a new planning application to use Warehouse K as an immigration enforcement centre following the consultation.
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 whose immigration status is being assessed. . Its presence would create an unwelcoming, frightening and unsafe environment for local people.
We support the position of the local council in opposing Warehouse K being used as an immigration centre and oppose any type of immigration reporting centre being located in Newham
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