An SDV visitor blogs about a frightening encounter with immigration enforcement
Lovely random encounters today. I played with an adorable baby met in a waiting room. Later, on the train a three year old charmed a chocolate bar from one of the other passengers and we all admired a very fancy poodle. Everyday life at its best.
And all the time my stomach was churning in the background. It’s a few days now since I was inadvertently present at a dawn raid. The horror still lingers.
This is what happened.
Early morning and we were awoken by knocking on the door. Six uniformed Home Office officials entered. Was the big one chosen for her size? How can that young man be so tall? Why was that one wearing immaculate make up at this hour of the morning? Thoughts ricocheted around my head but I couldn’t talk, I was hyperventilating. This was frightening.
It wasn’t me they were looking for, I have a UK passport. It was a mother and her child to enforce their removal from Scotland to a foreign place of danger. No child was present on this occasion, only the mother and me, her friend.
Two police officers joined the scene. Now the place was really crowded. The mother was being interrogated in one room guarded at the door by the big official. Me, I was pacing round and round the coffee table, up and down the hall and back again. Everyone was talking, into their mouthpieces, into their phones, to each other, to us. There were hours of relentless questioning. “Where’s the child? Where is the child?” I think: “Don’t patronise me. It’s not in anyone’s best interests to disclose the child’s location.”
Meanwhile the mother is getting progressively more and more distressed. I’m allowed in the same room to try and calm her. She thinks her life is in danger or maybe her child’s life is in danger. She’s worried there’s poison in the water. She’s disintegrating, breaking up, becoming inconsolable.
Stress does strange things to my mind, the ordeal is simultaneously imprinted and jumbled in my head. Did the Home Office personnel disappear before the police? Probably. Did two other uniformed police officers briefly appear towards the end? Maybe. And the doctor who appeared at one point, what was he doing in the room with my friend? He didn’t look very benign.
Did the police officers spend ages trying to determine what to do with a completely distraught woman before they suddenly left without coming to a decision? I think so. I do know that I’ve never, ever been so relieved to be finally left in peace and quiet.
Of course, this is not the end of the story. It’s too soon to know that.
Dawn raids are part of the Home Office’s enforcement of immigration rules. Like detention, they are something that anyone subject to immigration control fears. The fear is corrosive, the toll on mental health is enormous and the stress is constant.