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The blockade of the raid made national news as a show of dissent to the ‘hostile environment’ immigration regime.

Photo: Thomas Katan

The man at the centre of the immigration raid that was blockaded for seven hours by 100 protestors in Easton on Thursday 25th has been released after “further checks” by the Home Office, the Cable can reveal.

Following the raid and the resistance to it, the Home Office initially stated that Javid Iqbal, a 49-year-old man from Pakistan was being held in detention pending removal from the UK due to staying beyond his visa time limit.

However, Akhtar Saleem, the shopkeeper of the Mini Market on Chelsea Road where the raid took place told the Cable that Mr Iqbal was in fact released on Saturday morning.

The Home Office have confirmed that Mr Iqbal had overstayed his visa, which was the reason for the nighttime raid on the shop. However, a Home Office spokesperson said that he had now been released as “further checks identified that there wasn’t a realistic prospect of removal from the UK within a reasonable timescale”. The spokesperson did not comment on why these checks were not conducted before the operation.

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While this may come as relief to those in the community who know Mr Iqbal, it calls into question the heavy-handed, and expensive, Home Office tactics and the earlier insistence that the raid was ‘intelligence led’.

Labour councillor for Easton Afzal Shah was there on the night. Responding to news of Mr Iqbal’s release Mr Shah said

“These methods are divisive, and a waste of resources. The tense stand-off, which lasted nearly seven hours, could have easily turned into unrest. There are serious concerns about the heavy handed approach taken by Immigration Enforcement, which are often fishing expeditions. In Mr Iqbal’s case a simple conversation and a few checks would have sufficed.”

As reported from the scene by the Cable, the raid provoked a non-violent mass blockade by protestors, chanting “Immigration is not a crime” and “deport Theresa May”.

As Mr Iqbal was detained in a van, a protestor clambered onto the roof to prevent it leaving. After a seven hour blockade he was eventually bundled away in a another vehicle at 4.30am under the cover of a heavy police presence.

“It’s terrible the way they have treated him. And for what?” said Mr Saleem. Mr Iqbal is understood to be consulting with his solicitor and recovering after the harrowing ordeal. He will have to present himself weekly to a Home Office official at Patchway police station pending a resolution to his case.

The blockade of the raid made national news as as a spontaneous show of dissent to Theresa May’s so-called ‘hostile environment’ of harsh immigration enforcement.

The approach introduced when May was Home Secretary has been blamed for the Windrush scandal that saw decades-long UK residents stripped of rights and even deported, and inhumane practises at detention facilities, among other alleged violations of human rights.

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