Locals in London’s Chinatown have been holding demonstrations against disruptive immigration raids carried out by the Home Office.
The protesters, many of whom are restaurant employees, described the disturbances as “fishing raids” in posters they put on display.
A scene of a raid filmed on July 5 shows an elderly woman lay on the ground in front of a moving immigration enforcement van. She reportedly begged officers to release a worker from her village.
It is unclear whether or not the van actually struck the woman, but she was brought to the hospital as a “precautionary measure.”
The raid reportedly occurred just two days after the Home Office met with locals to discuss immigration issues. Joseph Wu, a spokesman for the London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA), organized a strike.
“There is a way to do this in London, you don’t just shove an elderly lady out the way,” the South China Morning Post quoted him as saying.
Wu said that five men were handcuffed and forced into the van “like terrorists.” Two remain in detention.
“By the time the Chinese complain about something it’s already a huge problem. We are proud of our record of being one of the few communities in London who have hardly any conflict with the authorities. This was the first ever confrontation between the community and enforcement authorities,” he said.
Nia Lieu, a waitress at Joy Luck Restaurant, said that police “told everyone not to move” when they stormed the establishment.
The LCCA wants to hear from the Home Office why it conducted the raid just after a meeting that supposedly boosted goodwill and trust. It expects that future raids, when necessary, will be carried out properly in the presence of a civilian immigration officer.
The association also seeks an apology to the woman “hit” by the van, whose video has since gone viral on social media.
“The incident could have escalated to a disproportionate level if it was not handled properly eventually. I was very upset about the whole thing,” said LCCA President Chu Ting Tang.
The Home Office defended its actions and justified its raids as lawful. This includes a warrant and the approval of an immigration enforcement assistant director.
“Immigration enforcement visits are all intelligence-led and conducted using lawful powers. Officers do not conduct ‘fishing exercises,’” a spokesperson said.
But in response to the July 5 raid and more, chefs, waiters and shop workers will carry out another protest on July 24, according to the Guardian.
Business owners believe that such activities have already affected their operations.
“These raids affect business because the vans block the road and stop people coming into the area. The worst part of it is that you lose your regular customers,” said Jerry Ho, owner of the Royal China restaurant chain.
The exact figures of illegal immigrants in London’s Chinatown are unknown. However, those coming from China have reportedly dropped in recent years thanks to Beijing’s booming economy.
Nonetheless, the Home Office has tough consequences in its agenda of creating a “hostile environment” for undocumented labor. In 2015, fines up to £500,000 ($655,398) were imposed on Chinese establishments employing illegal aliens.