Enforcement, resistance and knowing your rights


Enforcement, resistance and knowing your rights

Sharing experiences and knowledge builds resistance.

11 August 2022

Enforcement, resistance and knowing your rights

Blog by Michael Tarnoky

Prior to lockdown, the JRS legal project ran a series of information sessions alongside and for refugee friends about the powers of immigration and enforcement officers and how to respond. Much of the input for the sessions came from some of our regular volunteers: refugees and asylum seekers who have had the experience of being stopped, questioned, and even detained because of their immigration status.

Most of us take it for granted that we can walk down the street, go to work and go home without the authorities questioning our right to exist; if we get stopped at the tube or on a bus the interaction is quickly over, if a workplace or restaurant does get raided it’s a short inconvenience and if officers insisted on entering our homes, we would be rightly outraged.

For many, with precarious immigration status or with none, these encounters are something to be feared and avoided. In our sessions, we looked at immigration officer’s powers, the limits of these powers, and practical ways to protect yourself. Talking through scenarios and discussing options and experiences was lively in all the sessions. I hope people came away feeling a bit more confident, but what really came over was how destructive and isolating the constant risk of immigration stops or raids can be. So much is done to isolate and criminalise migrants and these controls are the sharp end of the hostile environment.

It has been heartening to hear of recent open expressions of public resistance and solidarity in the face of attacks on people who are very much part of our community. The physical obstruction of attempts to detain migrants in Glasgow and more recently in South London, as well as the disruption of a joint immigration/police operation against food delivery riders in Hackney showed how many of us are frankly sick of these attempts to divide our communities for no good reason.

There are growing numbers of “anti-raids” networks mobilising those who have the privilege of secure immigration status, and educating people that they don’t have to walk on by or look the other way. But I hope there is also a wider feeling of outrage and a willingness to turn this into spontaneous acts of solidarity.

For us at JRS legal project, we aim to start running information sessions again in autumn, about enforcement powers, how the legal system works and how it doesn’t. We want to rebuild a space for lively discussion and learning and arm our refugee friends with the knowledge to maintain the resilience they need.

The JRS UK Legal Project provides specialist legal advice, representation, support and training to destitute refugees. You can help support the vital work provided by the Legal Project.

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Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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