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Immigration raids found to be unlawful in two thirds of cases


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In another highly critical report on immigration enforcement by the Home Office, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine has found that in nearly two thirds of cases (59%) immigration enforcement officers entering business premises lacked the legal authority to do so and in addition were regularly flouting their own internal guidance.

This report comes the same day as another on the mismanagement of the immigration removals process.

Home Office raid on butchers
Taken from Home Office Flickr account for Operation Mayapple. Who is breaking the law here?

The Chief Inspector was particularly concerned about misuse of section 28CA of the Immigration Act 1971, which can be used to enter a premises without a warrant but which is supposed to be used only where swift action was required. The average time between preparing the intelligence to support an enforcement operation and it actually taking place was 13 days, meaning there was in truth more than enough time to apply for a proper search warrant in most cases where the power was deployed.

The report also found that

  • the power was being authorised by staff too junior to do so or was not used within the statutory time limits
  • senior managers “had very limited knowledge about whether the power was being exercised lawfully and effectively”
  • some teams used the power far more than others: South London teams in 69% of illegal working operations (like those in the infamous Operation Mayapple?) but East London teams in only 3% of operations
  • in 22% of cases inadequate information was provided to suggest that offenders were really on the targeted business premises.

With a distinguished career in policing behind him, John Vine knows a thing or two about arrest warrants and law enforcement. He expresses his concern in no uncertain terms:

In almost two thirds of the cases I examined I disagreed with the decision made by an Assistant Director to authorise use of this power. In particular, I was very concerned to find six cases where the power appeared to have been used unlawfully.

Many of the issues I identified could have been detected through effective management oversight, but this had been completely lacking. It was also apparent that a significant number of staff and managers were either ignorant of the guidance or were choosing to ignore it.

It seems particularly inappropriate that those supposedly enforcing immigration laws are in fact systematically in breach of them.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.