Migrants, Multiculture

Bust Card: the pocket guide for immigrants

“If you encounter border control, you don’t have to answer any of their questions”. This and other advice is covered in this very handy ‘pocket guide’.


“The flame we are lighting today won’t stop the rivers flowing and no one will drown…”

This was the hopeful phrase of José Luis Sánchez, from the Latin American Workers’ Association, LAWAS, referring to the “Campaign against raids”, whose ‘official and public launch’ happened a few days ago.

The campaign has emerged after more than a year of looking for a way to help those who lack proper documents, a cause that became even more urgent after the recent raids being carried out by border police.

Raids are carried out in several different places: at concerts, schools, bus stops… whatever location is good for detaining an immigrant without a visa.

The question is, if this is what’s happening, is there any solution? Are detainees condemned to be deported? Is there any hope?

Various things that people need to know, from their own rights to the obligations of the police, have featured on the Bust Card, which was recently released for the campaign launch.

It says, for example, that someone who is taken to a detention centre in the UK needs to know that mobile phones with a camera and an internet connection will be confiscated, but that you can keep the SIM card and a phone without a camera.

Also, the card informs you that you will receive documents with reference numbers that are important to have to hand, as they will be required for lawyers and immigration agents.

Another point that came to light the other day is that there are two ways to get out of the detention centre: bail (which can be requested from the first day and which requires two guarantors) and temporary admission (you have the right to request this once you have been locked up for more than 7 days and you need to present a valid motive for leaving, such as biological dependents).

These guidelines, contained in the ‘pocket guide’ presented on launch day, may be incomplete, but for the time being it covers ‘the essentials’. However, in order to gather all the relevant information pertinent to the subject, Sánchez has invited anyone to contribute any important missing information, so that the guide can be improved.

Sánchez also commented that in the UK, human rights are a hot topic only when, for example, a Chinese dissident is jailed, but when it comes to the human rights of someone arrested for crossing a border, it isn’t mentioned.

Gabriella, a representative of the Precarious Workers Brigade, an organization that also helped to make the ‘Campaign against raids’ possible, gave assurances that the raids are not accidental: “We are in a recession and stopping short of getting people out of the country, they are looking to make the immigrant population more vulnerable”.

“The ‘Bust Card’ exists so that people know their rights, for those who have their documents and for those who don’t,” Gabriella stresses.

After the presentation, simulations were performed to instruct people about what attitude to take and how to react if they were to have an encounter with immigration control.

Also, it’s important to know that it isn’t legal for border control to detain someone because of the colour of their skin, appearance or the language they speak, since the code of conduct requires officers to identify themselves, give a valid reason for questioning and to inform whoever has been arrested that they are not obliged to answer any questions.

Finally, although someone may be detained and even issued a deportation order, they need not lose hope.

This was demonstrated by a video made by “Stop Deportations!” The video shows a bus that was leaving from a detention centre towards the airport to deport various people.

A few metres away from the detention centre, friends and relatives of those on the bus stood in road and delayed the bus for 30 minutes, until the police arrived and the crowd dispersed.

This delay was of tremendous value for some of those who were already on board preparing to take off, when the news arrived that a lawyer had secured a suspension of the orders for 40 people.

After that day and that action, those 40 people are still in the UK.

From these experiences and immigrants’ rights, some of which were spoken of at the launch of the Bust Card, it is certain that today, finally, immigrants have a tool with which they can defend themselves.

(Translated by Daniela Fetta)

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