How to... set up a local anti-raids group

Following the successful mass resistance to deportation in Peckham, a local group share tips and resources to help you build your own networks of solidarity and resistance.

15 min read

On Saturday in Peckham, huge crowds turned out in solidarity and succeeding in preventing an immigration raid. This came just over a year after the Kenmure Street resistance in Glasgow, and a few days before Migrants Organise have called for a week of action against the hostile environment. In this context,we imagine that many readers will be interested to know what they can do to resist deportations. We are very happy to republish this piece from Deptford Anti-Raids, which offers tips and resources to help plan for future actions. After Kenmure Street, Chris H argued in New Socialist that

the genuine spontaneity of those who came out to defend their neighbours rested on long, often inconspicuous, organising work.

Deptford Anti-Raids take a similar view:

in many cases, resistance is spontaneous. However, spontaneity can be enabled by knowing (and rehearsing) what can be done in advance.

We hope that, in republishing this guide, we can encourage more of you to join in resisting border violence in your community.
the New Socialist editors


This text was originally written around 2016 as a guide for people wanting to start their own local anti-raids groups. It was written by several members of Deptford Anti-Raids, a local direct action group that challenged the targetting of undocumented market workers by the police and Immigration Enforcement Officers. It informed the tactics used in Deptford, as well as a number of other areas in London where groups were set up. Hopefully it can still be of use to other people interested in building resistance to the state and its oppression of migrants, both documented and undocumented. It is obvious that this is needed now more than ever.

Deptford Anti-Raids

DAR was set up in the summer of 2015 by people who lived or worked in and around Deptford. A few of us noticed that there had been a substantial increase in raids by Home Office Immigration Enforcement officers on workplaces and homes in the area. Immigration Enforcement particularly targeted traders on Deptford High Street, many of whom reported being raided dozens of times in the course of a year. Often these raids were ‘multi-agency’, including the police, Environmental Health officers, and Trading Standards officers from the local council. Immigration officers would gain admission to shops on the pretext of checking hygiene standards or the state of the gas metre. Once inside, they would demand that customers and employees proved their immigration status.

Deptford is, like much of London, incredibly culturally diverse, including large African, South Asian and Vietnamese communities. The raids always happened at shops run or frequented by people of colour coming from these communities, and rarely, if ever, at those with predominantly white customers or employees. We knew we wanted to try to oppose the raids, but we didn’t yet know how to do it.

Setting up a stall

The first thing we did was get together as a group and talk about the problem of raids in the area, and what we could do to oppose them. It was a warm summer day, so we made a picnic and shared ideas over lunch. We all had different experiences and ideas about the immigration system. Some of us were British citizens, some of us were EU or non-EU migrants. Some of us worked in the area, and others lived in the area. Some of us had been involved in migrant support and anti-raids activism before, while others were completely new to it.

It’s important to find out what that problem is, who it affects, and how it affects them. Otherwise you end up imposing yourself on other people’s struggles.

We decided that the first step was to build awareness of the raids in the local community, sharing knowledge of the law around the raids, and building links with people who were facing raids on a daily basis. We went to all the shops on the High Street and talked to the shopkeepers and employees. We wanted to establish links with them, to hear what they were already doing about the raids, and to give them information (in English and other languages) that explained both their rights and what they can do when they see a raid happening. These conversations were also important in understanding the impact of the raids: which places were being raided most frequently, what the schedule of the raids was, and how Immigration Enforcement generally operated.

Information like this is vital if you’re going to make your stall as effective as possible in terms of location, timing and how you go about reaching out to the people living and working around you. Rather than just assuming there is a problem, it’s important to find out what that problem is, who it affects, and how it affects them. Otherwise you end up imposing yourself on other people’s struggles without taking care to understand what that struggle actually looks like.

After this, we set up a stall on the High Street on market days. From the stall, we were able to hand out information, build links with people on the market, and try to get a better idea of when and how the raids were happening. We try to do the stalls every week, so that people see us as a regular presence and know they can talk to us when there’s a problem. The stall has been really helpful in breaking the ice, and in building up ‘regulars’ who are up for talking to us and interested in finding out about immigration raids.

Most importantly, we realised that if resistance to raids was going to be successful, it had to be done by more than the few of us who were already involved in the Anti-Raids Network, and it had to include the local communities, businesses, and formal or informal social networks that already existed in Deptford. Resistance couldn’t be a service provided by a group of masked-up anarchists. Instead, it had to be the work of establishing a solid relationship between people being raided, and people who wanted to help them find new ways to oppose the raids.

Resistance couldn’t be a service provided by a group of masked-up anarchists. Instead, it had to be the work of establishing a solid relationship between people being raided, and people who wanted to help them.

If you are still trying to work out where to set up your stall, a useful thing to do would be to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Home Office asking them to detail where raids are happening in the local area by postcode. This will then tell you where your local hotspots are, and which areas are in particular need of an anti-raids group. An example of what this request could look like can be found on the website What Do They Know. This information has also previously been gathered for London between 2010 and 2015. More recently, the Anti Raids Network have released a fantastic interactive guide to the distribution of raids in London up to 2021.


There are a number of resources that we have found very useful in sharing information and helping people who are the targets of raids. We’ve taken many of these resources directly from the wider Anti-Raids Network, while others we’ve made or bought ourselves.

  • A trestle table. Without a table it’s difficult to run a stall. Over time we’ve made ours look nicer, with a tablecloth (bought from Deptford Market), clips to hold it in place, and weights to keep materials from flying away when it’s windy. A bag of elastic bands is also totally essential for keeping all the cards and leaflets together and prevent them from flying away. Finally, remember to bring something to cover the stall if it starts to rain!
  • Rights cards. These cards have information on them about how to resist raids, what your rights are when you’re being stopped by immigration enforcement, and how to avoid engaging with them. We have them in around 20 languages, helpfully translated and provided by ARN. You can contact [email protected] for a selection of languages, or you can contact the printers Footprint Workers’ Coop with a link to the cards you want from the site to ask for another print run.
  • Leaflets about local raids. These leaflets explain the links between immigration enforcement, police, and gentrification in the local area, and are a good way of starting up a conversation.
  • NO CONSENT notices. These are signs that shopkeepers can put in their shop, withdrawing consent for immigration officers or police to enter the premises without a warrant.
  • Bust cards. These cards include the telephone number for trusted local immigration lawyers, as well as contact information for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). BID only help people get bail from detention, which is usually not applicable to people when they are first detained. However, they can also advise people on how to access a solicitor in detention, and inform people of other rights.
  • Anti-Raids emergency cards. These are little cards with an anti raids phone number to call in the event of a raid. These cards are given out carefully to strategically placed and sympathetic people, as giving the numbers out widely could result in it falling into the hands of the police or far right.
  • Posters. There are various posters available for download on the Anti-Raids website, which have been printed and posted up around Deptford.
  • Information for other services. People will regularly come to your stall with problems that you cannot directly help them with, but you will still want to support them. This could be anything from the need for an immigration lawyer or advice on their immigration status, to an issue with housing or the police. Try to have information to hand that you can provide in cases such as this. There are many organisations, charities, and law firms well-equipped to help with this: find out who they are and have their information ready.

If you’re serious about making your group work, you need to be thinking ahead in terms of years, not weeks.

Problems you might encounter

  • Distrust. Remember: they don’t know you from Adam. They live in a country where immigration is endlessly under attack in the media. Why should they trust you? The best thing you can do when you encounter this problem is to be honest about your agenda, and keep at it. It may be that for the first few months you will encounter general distrust, but the longer you work at it, the more likely it is that they will begin to see that you’re not just a chancer or a cop, but are there for the long-run, are interested in fighting the same things as them, and can be of help. In Deptford we’ve been going for more than a year, and we’re only just beginning to gain the trust of the High Street. If you’re serious about making your group work, you need to be thinking ahead in terms of years, not weeks.
  • Hassle. In Deptford we had hassle from police, market officials, and PCSOs on numerous occasions. Their reasons ranged from lack of insurance and the need for a licence, to the use of a ‘receptacle’ (i.e. a table), etc. One thing worth noting is that you are not selling anything, merely giving out political materials, which is theoretically protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to freedom of expression). They are just trying it on, and it’s unlikely they’ll escalate. The worst thing the cops might do is take your table away, but you have to fight this, so just be confident and don’t let them distract you from why you are there. You can read legal advice on this to make sure you’re prepared.
  • Disagreement. This is not a problem—it’s important to have proper discussions with people about borders, xenophobia, capitalism and so on. But be prepared for it. It might be worth thinking about common arguments in favour borders (‘limits’, the need to abide by the law etc.), and consider discussing these common arguments within your group first, so that you can be better prepared to discuss these issues when you’re on the street.
  • Pessimists. Beware of suggesting that the law is some magical formula that will protect us if only we know it well enough. People are well aware that knowledge of the law, on its own, will be no help. The multilingual ‘know your rights’ cards can be useful (particularly when combined with workshops), and are a good way of reaching out to people, but we should always be emphasising the importance of direct action, solidarity and community resistance. Point to successful examples of these.
  • Cancellations. A spreadsheet, simple email list, and exchanging numbers with people from your group are good communication tools to ensure that a couple of people are down to cover the stall each week, and that you can cancel at the last minute in the event of bad weather.
  • Complaints. Some people will be very happy to moan at you about ‘illegals’ coming over here, taking our jobs, our benefits etc. The first thing to remember here is that while many people in Britain are undocumented, this doesn’t mean they are not entitled to documentation. The line between legal/illegal is much less clear than the government would have you believe (the Windrush scandal is a clear example of this). Another argument to put forth is that the government are continuously moving the goalposts, so one day you might be ‘legal’, and the next you might not be. Solidarity and resistance are the only way to counter that. Finally, for all the ‘good citizens’ out there, the government breaks its own law all the time. Charities working with migrants have to constantly appeal unlawful decisions taken by local authorities, the Home Office, etc.


Another thing we did was to offer workshops on raids for local community groups. It is worth taking a bit of time to find out what migrant community groups aleady exist in your area. We have found that we have made very good links with a few, while the relationship has been more fleeting with others. The relationships that have tended to be more lasting are those with self-organised migrant groups who have strong political consciousness. Nevertheless, there may be other groups and NGOs with members or users who could benefit from a meeting or skillshare. Local groups might include community centres, migrant centres, churches, mosques, temples—anywhere or anything that has a built-in group of users who might be impacted by raids.

While many people in Britain are undocumented, this doesn’t mean they are not entitled to documentation.

The best workshops tend to be those that begin with a more collective phase where people can share their experiences and emotions arising from raids; this can then evolve into a short (and we mean short! There is only so much legal information that people can retain, especially in a crowded room of 40 people while working through an interpreter) explanation of key principles around the law and people’s rights, and, most importantly, role play. Role play is critical to allow people a forum to practice both their English and their confidence.

Workshops take a bit of thought, as we have to teach ourselves about it first, and we also need to make sure there is an interpreter where necessary. But it can be a good way of building links, sharing knowledge about people’s rights, and helping people recognise opportunities to resist raids. This has been made even easier since the creation of a publicly-accessible slideshow, complete with notes. The important thing to note is that the law is not very developed in this field, and there are a lot of grey areas. Some people may be looking for easy answers about the law, but there aren’t many. Another thing to emphasise is that it is not enough just to know the law, as immigration officers frequently abuse their powers. The only way we can reduce the prevalence of raids is to come out in force and show solidarity with people when they are being harassed by immigration officers.

It is not enough just to know the law, as immigration officers frequently abuse their powers. The only way we can reduce the prevalence of raids is to come out in force and show solidarity.

Emergency Raid Alerts

The best way to resist immigration checks/raids is by mobilising people who are closest to where it is happening. In many cases, resistance is spontaneous, as happened in Peckham, Walworth, and Shadwell in 2015. However, spontaneity can be enabled by knowing (and rehearsing) what can be done in advance. Developing an early alarm system amongst shopkeepers and other local area regulars is a way to do this and can be discussed during workshops, as a complement to ‘knowing your rights’. This could be done a number of different ways: either with an alert number, a phone tree, or a WhatsApp/Signal group.

In addition to spontaneous resistance, there have been raids reported to ARN through Twitter. Any documentation of these raids and/or interference with them will be helpful to resist them better (but be careful you don’t take photos or videos that might be used as evidence against people trying to resist the raid!). Alongside alarms being raised on Twitter, some groups have set up local phone trees by using a raids emergency number (as described above).

Opposing raids when they happen

Opposition to raids can take a number of different forms. These forms are dependant on lots of variables, including:

  1. the kind of raid happening
  2. who is being raided
  3. how many people want to oppose the raid
  4. how confident they are in opposing the raid
  5. consideration of issues such as safety, legality, comfort, etc.

There is no pre-set formula for how to resist a raid, or for the outcome that resistance will produce. It is therefore important to use discretion and forethought when opposing raids, weighing up the likely consequences of your actions. Here are a few potential actions you could think about taking:

  • Offer information to the person being questioned. Most people do not know or understand their rights when confronted with an Immigration Enforcement officer. Officers generally have very few powers to question or detain, and so offering the person being interrupted this information (usefully explained on the Anti-Raids rights cards) can potentially make a massive difference. It can give them the confidence to refuse to answer questions, or to simply walk away.
  • Film the Immigration Enforcement officers. Filming officers puts extra pressure on them to do their jobs according to the law, and not overstep their powers. It also means you have a useful record of what happened in case the legality of the raid is challenged at a later stage. When doing this, it is best to explain to the person being interrupted that you are not going to film them, and that you are on their side.
  • Interrupt the Immigration Enforcement officers. Let them know what you think of what they’re doing, of their job, of their complicity in state racism and the oppression of people of colour. Questioning like this makes their job harder, and also can let other people know what is going on, and give them the confidence to intervene as well. In the past, raids in Deptford have been interrupted by one or two people using this tactic, which then led to more people getting involved and sharing what they thought of the raid.
  • Encourage other people to intervene as well. The more people willing to stand up to the Immigration Enforcement officers, the harder it will be for them to do what they set out to do, meaning that fewer people are likely to be detained or deported. The knock-on effect is also important. If a raid that was expected to take half an hour takes two hours, then that means fewer hours in the day for those officers to harass more immigrants: that’s a success.
  • Stage a Protest. Maybe you want to call an impromptu protest at the raid, while it’s happening? If you have enough people around you, this is perfectly possible. Don’t be afraid to stand in the streets, make noise, talk to people you haven’t met before, call your friends. All these things can make a raid that much harder, and make an intervention that much more successful.
  • After the raid. This is often the best time to go and talk to local residents, shoppers, and shopkeepers. Inform them that a raid has happened (if they didn’t know already), hand out information cards on people’s rights during an immigration stop, and encourage them to use the emergency raid alert system.

If you or your group would like to talk more about potential tactics to use in opposing immigration raids, you can get in contact with the Anti-Raids Network and we can arrange an intervention training day for you and your friends.

If a raid that was expected to take half an hour takes two hours, then that means fewer hours in the day for those officers to harass more immigrants.


  1. Set up a regular stall in a busy location so that people begin to recognise you.
  2. Get yourself leaflets and rights cards that you can hand out to people who want to learn more or become more involved.
  3. Make connections with local traders, shoppers, community organisations, churches, mosques, and temples.
  4. Develop a workshop you can deliver to community organisations and people who want to resist immigration raids, if you want to do this as well.
  5. Build a phone tree or other alert system, so people in the local area can be quickly notified when a raid is happening, and respond to it.
  6. Have an email address or phone number that people can contact you on if they need help, advice, want to get involved, or alert you about a raid.


Deptford Anti Raids (@Deptford_AR)

Deptford Anti Raids is a group of local people who came together to build resistance to immigration raids in Deptford.