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Hunting immigrants in United Kingdom

With operations which appear to involve military scale numbers of personnel such as Operation Skybreaker and Centurion as well as other measures, the Government has gone to extraordinary lengths to remove immigrants. It has even ventured into the social networks in its quest.

1473. Hunting immigrants in United Kingdom

According to the latest figures for this year 2,991 foreign nationals were held in various detention centres in the UK awaiting news of their fate.

And according to Office for National Statistics, the number of immigrants up to March of this year rose to 243,000 – a rise of 68,000 with respect to the previous twelve months.

Despite the continued growth of the figures the Government is making a determined effort to end immigration in the UK.

Go Home, Operation Centurion, warnings on social networks and the recentOperation Skybreaker, are all initiatives which have been implemented over the course of recent years and are an attempt to intimidate immigrants and remove them from the country.

Moreover, the heavy-handedness of the raids has led pro-immigrant organisations to question whether and to what extent the human rights of those individuals who are being targeted and finally deported are being violated.

The operations also represent an added cost each time they are deployed. The pilot scheme Go Home alone cost £10,000 without taking into account the later media coverage they planned to give to it.

However, this is not the only issue, since many of the destination countries of the deportees are dangerous and take reprisals against those who decided to leave their country. One of these cases is Somalia, where the terrorist group Al-Shabaab has said ‘any Somali national who decides to return from a western country will be treated as someone who renounced their religion.’ And there are other countries just like this one.

Creating fear with advertising

In July 2013 the Government’s new campaign against illegal immigrants Go Home or ‘Operation Vaken’ as it is known by officials, was made public. It was an official advertising campaign launched by former minister Mark Harper which was aimed at the areas most heavily populated and frequented by immigrants.

“Go Home”, sin duda1

And to make the campaign more visible they used mobile hoardings with signs which paraded round the streets issuing the clear message: ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.Text HOE to 78070 for free advice and help with travel documents.


We can help you return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or deportation.’ The mobile hoardings alone cost £10,000 and they were hoping to roll out the initiative across the whole of the UK.’ But in fact, a spokesman from the Home Office confirmed: ‘voluntary repatriations are the most cost-effective way to get illegal immigrants out of the country and to save the taxpayer money.’

In answer to this initiative, various organisations and individuals started to protest when the vans began appearing on the streets. And the Home Office received calls from people asking to be brought home to their address in London, and text messages complaining about the campaign. Also on Twitter #RacistVan broadcast against the hoardings.

A spokesman from the Home Office defended the tactics saying: ‘we don’t apologise for enforcing our immigration laws: our public servants carry out hundreds of operations like this every year around London. If we come across people who are illegally in the UK we’ll detain and remove them.’

Social Networks

However it seems that these harsh tactics do not go far enough for the authorities. For this reason in August last year the Home Office’s Twitter page published several messages aimed at immigrants.

On this popular social network the Home Office broadcast comments such as ‘There will be no hiding place for illegal immigrants with the new #ImmigrationBill.’

Accompanying these sorts of statements were photographs of people detained by officials.

Mark Harper

Mark Harper

However, reaction to these Home Office remarks was speedy both from individuals on Twitter as well as from the various media organisations.

Indeed the issue is that these kinds of threat are becoming a constant reality whether on Twitter, on mobile hoardings (ordering immigrants home) or from the very mouth of Prime Minister David Cameron as in July: ‘We’ll find you and send you home.’

Operation Centurion

Though the name appears lifted from a comic or science fiction film this was one of the big raids to hit the news. It was launched on June 2nd of this year, lasted two weeks, and carried out by Immigration officials.

It was focused on the kinds of businesses where it was believed illegal immigrants were working: guest houses, hotels, restaurants, construction sites, employment agencies and small businesses.

Inmigrantes latinos 14

And the operation was very significant for three other reasons. First, the documents from the raid were leaked to pro-immigrant sympathisers, activists and organisations such as Anti-Raids Networkand Socialist Worker.

Second, these documents showed that their targets were not chosen as a result of ‘intelligence’ but focused on specific nationalities and industries. And third, the raids took place just after elections to the European Parliament where immigration was high on the agenda.


Nonetheless, a spokesman from the Home Office denied all these allegations and said: ‘Our activity, which is carried out in conjunction with other government agencies is based on intelligence and is aimed at sectors of the economy where illegal work practices are suspected.

We don’t do ‘fishing expeditions’ and so far as the current operation is concerned we’ve been working carefully with employers who share the public’s concerns about illegal work.’

Operation Skybreaker

This new initiative – and what it entails – which surfaced in July of this year was made public by the organisation Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL).

It will last for five months and focuses on the five London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Writers call UK’s point based 1

On this occasion it is targeting businesses employing illegal workers and investigating the records of registry offices and providers of housing services for information. In addition, the operation has been split into four separate stages.

The stages include liaising* with the different community groups and religious organisations in the community, inspecting businesses’ books and verifying individuals’ entitlements to state benefits, among other things.

‘Voluntary’ or forced repatriation

These operations have generated, as was expected, a large number of immigrants waiting around in detention centres or being put on planes destined for their homeland.


The Immigration Observatory of the University of Oxford publishes figures periodically and some of its comparative figures for 2013 show that around 50,741 individuals were removed from the UK or deported voluntarily.

Despite this and the continuous efforts of the immigration authorities the latest figures of the Office for National Statistics show that immigration to the UK increased by 68,000 until March 2014 compared with the previous twelve months.


As a result of these ‘continuous efforts’ organisations such as RAMFEL dedicate their energy and are fighting to support deportation cases and victims of the raids. Besides this, campaigns and protests for special cases and those in the detention centres are being organised, as well as the publication of a large number of documents on the subject.


Author: Virginia Moreno Molina




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