Glasgow protest: how often do the Home Office conduct immigration raids - and how has Covid affected refugees?

While Home Office immigration raids have continued during the pandemic, thousands of asylum seekers have been left in limbo waiting for their applications to be processed.
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Locals in Glasgow’s southside secured a community victory yesterday when a protest on Kenmure street prevented two men from being detained by the Home Office

A crowd gathered in protest yesterday (May 13) after a raid resulted in the detainment of two Indian men living on the street.

Local people surrounded the police van where the men were being held and chanted slogans demanding their release.

Protesters shouted slogans including "these are our neighbours, let them go", and "say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here".Protesters shouted slogans including "these are our neighbours, let them go", and "say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here".
Protesters shouted slogans including "these are our neighbours, let them go", and "say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here".

Following an eight-hour standoff, the men were released, with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later saying she disagreed fundamentally with the actions of the Home Office.

She said: "This action was unacceptable. To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a Covid outbreak was a health and safety risk."

How often do the Home Office conduct immigration raids?

According to data obtained by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants via Freedom of Information Request (FOI), the Home Office conducted 44,225 raids on private homes between the years 2015 and 2019.

Out of these raids, just 7,578 people were deported as a result, representing fewer than one in six raids ending in deportation.

During the same time period, there were 190 raids carried out on care homes, resulting in 37 deportations.

There are 19 immigration enforcement teams operating within the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department of the Home Office who raid premises where they believe individuals may be living in the UK illegally.

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How has the pandemic impacted refugees?

In the UK, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the processing of asylum applications, leaving refugees in limbo for far longer than usual.

In 2019, the Home Office scrapped their target for processing the majority of asylum claims in six months or fewer.

Prior to this, however, the percentage of applications completed within six months had already fallen dramatically, from 87.1 per cent completed within six months in quarter two of 2014, to 25.7 per cent in quarter one of 2019, around the time the target was dropped.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the situation worsened further, with the percentage of asylum applications completed within six months tumbling to 12.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020.

Because asylum seekers are not able to work while their claims are being processed, this left thousands of people living in hotels and B&Bs with little money to survive on.

A recent report from the Refugee Council outlined how asylum seekers in these situations have:

“Routinely lacked basic essentials such as shoes and coats, have been confined to their rooms for days on end while waiting for their one set of clothing to be cleaned, and have been left unable to access even basic healthcare despite many having complex health needs.”

While the Home Office announced a project earlier this year - ‘Operation Oak’ - to accelerate the movement of asylum seekers from temporary accommodation into permanent ‘dispersal’ accommodation, the Refugee Council says progress has been slow.

“Accommodation providers are struggling to find alternatives meaning that thousands of people are still living in hotels and people are still being moved into them.

“At the end of February 2021, approximately 8,700 people were living in over 90 hotels across the UK”, said the report.