Chinatown goes on strike to protest UKBA raids

Restaurants across Chinatown are set to go on strike today, in a protest against what business-owners describe as "discriminatory" raids by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Organisers told they expected most restaurants to support the action, which will take place between 15:00 and 17:00 BST, and coincide with a rally in the famous London tourist destination.

"During the summer months Chinatown experienced raids on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week," an organiser said.

"We tried to get in touch with UKBA but we haven't had any formal replies yet. We agreed that if we don't get a reply by today then we'll just have to protest the issue further and see what the result is."

Over 13 businesses have experienced immigration raids over the summer, with organisers saying that there were signs the operations were not intelligence led.

Many raids did not end with an arrest and some business owners claimed the raids were not conducted in accordance with lawful procedures.

"The effect of this failure has led to a cycle of discriminatory raids and financial penalties against Chinese businesses coupled with the criminalisation of Chinese workers," organisers said.

Critics of the UKBA action say the government is cracking down on catering businesses despite not having any plans to deal with the labour shortage in the industry.

They also raise concerns about the £10,000 fine handed to businesses which employ people with no right to work, saying that the harsh penalties sometimes end up closing businesses whose owners have failed to understand complicated immigration rules.

The strike comes weeks after UKBA spot checks were started at key London Tube stations, in what critics said might involve racial stereotyping.

It also comes amid a continued controversy over the 'go home' vans, a pilot scheme by the Home Office which has now been cancelled in the face of widespread criticism.