Operation Skybreaker is an attempt at engagement within local communities to force people who are here without permission to go back. Operation Skybreaker, a pilot project, will run for about another five months and target five London boroughs, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. It will focus on businesses that employ people illegally, registry offices, and housing services. In Brent it will focus on Wembley Central ward.
Here Brent Anti Racism Campaign explore the issue.
Operation Skybreaker the latest government crackdown on illegal immigrants has been painted in a misleadingly positive light (Home Office to target bosses who employ illegal immigrants in Wembley, kilburntimes.co.uk, 22 August). Operation Skybreaker will be rolled out across five London boroughs, of which Brent is one. It will target businesses, registry offices and housing services. But in Brent it seems that the focus will mainly be on business premises in Wembley Central.
The Home Office has delivered reassurances that the objective of Operation Skybreaker is to enforce compliance, but given the number of different types of legal paperwork relating to one’s immigration status, this is really difficult. Although it is true that undocumented workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, let’s not pretend that the latest government endeavour is part of some sort of compassion led agenda to end exploitative labour practices.
If this government cared about exploitation, the minimum wage would have been raised significantly, there would have been no bedroom tax and public sector employees would not have been subject to pay freezes. One of the evident motivating factors behind Operation Skybreaker is to develop marketing propaganda for the Conservative party against the UKIP threat. The three major UK political parties are in a race to create an image of being tough on immigrants, whether they are here legally or not. Anti migrant sentiment is rampant across the UK and Europe, and this is exactly what the government is pandering to ahead of the General Election.
Additionally, as we saw with Operation Centurion, people working here legally who may not “look right” are very likely to be targets. There was a significant element of racial profiling in this last operation. The Home Office has stressed that there will not be a heavy handed approach, but the department has a far from rosy track record. Following the “go home” vans, the racial profiling by UKBA officials in Brent last year and the deaths and poor treatment of asylum seekers in custody, there is a real lack of trust. This will be further weakened in the very diverse but cohesive London communities which will be subject to raids in the coming months.
A vital question to ask is how effective are these actions? Are the results really worth the community tension caused by racial profiling and wrongful arrests? Also let’s not forget that “weeding out” rogue employers also means low paid workers will lose the little income and security they and their families have. There is a risk they will be deported into some potentially quite dangerous circumstances. These are not nameless, faceless people we are talking about. These are people living in our communities. The term “illegal immigrant” is toxic, and incredibly dehumanising. We simply do not hear enough of the human side of the story in the media that would contextualises a person’s life choices. It is highly unlikely you choose to enter a country illegally and take on quite a difficult existence, unless there are some dire circumstances driving you to take such decisions. We really need a more open and compassionate discussion at a national and international level on how we treat undocumented workers.
As it stands the Skybreaker operation is likely to create suspicion, fear and division in our community and should be opposed.
Brent Anti Racism is organising opposition to Operation Skybreaker and ensuring people affected have access to independent advice. If you want to get involved in this or any of our other activities please contact firstname.lastname@example.org