A police raid is a raid by law enforcement officers often in the early morning or late at night, hoping to use the element of surprise to arrest targets that they believe may hide contraband or other evidence, resist arrest, be politically sensitive, or simply be elsewhere during the day.
Dawn raids were a common event in Auckland, New Zealand, during a crackdown on illegal overstayers from the Pacific Islands from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The raids were first introduced in 1973 by Norman Kirk's Labour government and were continued by Rob Muldoon's National government. These operations involved special police squads conducting raids on the homes and workplaces of overstayers throughout New Zealand usually at dawn. Overstayers and their families were often prosecuted and then deported back to their countries.
The Dawn Raids were a product of the New Zealand government's immigration policies to attract more Pacific Islanders. Since the 1950s, the New Zealand government had encouraged substantial emigration from several Pacific countries including Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji to fill a labour shortage caused by the post–war economic boom. Consequently, the Pacific Islander population in New Zealand had grown to 45,413 by 1971, with a substantial number overstaying their visas. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, New Zealand's economy had declined due to several international developments: a decline in international wool prices in 1966, Britain joining the European Economic Community in 1973 which deprived NZ of a major market for dairy products, and the 1973 oil crisis. This economic downturn led to increased crime, unemployment and other social ailments, which disproportionately affected the Pacific Islander community.
In response to these social problems, Prime Minister Kirk created a special police task force in Auckland in 1973 which was tasked with dealing with overstayers. Its powers also included the power to conduct random checks on suspected overstayers. Throughout 1974, the New Zealand Police conducted dawn raids against overstayers which sparked criticism from human rights groups and sections of the press. In response to public criticism, the Labour Immigration Minister Fraser Colman suspended the dawn raids until the government developed a "concerted plan." In April 1974, Kirk also introduced a two–month amnesty period for overstayers to register themselves with the authorities and be granted with a two–month visa extension. Kirk's change in policies were criticized by the mainstream press, which highlighted crimes and violence perpetrated by Māori and Pacific Islanders.
In July 1974, the opposition National Party leader Muldoon promised to reduce immigration and to "get tough" on law and order issues if his party was elected as government. He criticized the Labour government's immigration policies for contributing to the economic recession and a housing shortage. During the 1975 general elections, the National Party also played a controversial electoral advertisement that was later criticized for stoking negative racial sentiments about Polynesian migrants. Once in power, Muldoon's government accelerated the Kirk government's police raids against Pacific overstayers.
The Dawn Raids were condemned by different sections of New Zealand society including the Pacific Islander and Māori communities, church groups, employers and workers' unions, anti-racist groups, and the opposition Labour Party. One Pacific group known as the Polynesian Panthers combated the Dawn Raids by providing legal aid to detainees and staging retaliatory "dawn raids" on several National cabinet ministers including Bill Birch and Frank Gill, the Minister of Immigration. The raids were also criticized by elements of the police and the ruling National Party for damaging race relations with the Pacific Island community. Critics also alleged that the Dawn Raids unfairly targeted Pacific Islanders since Pacific Islanders only comprised one-third of the overstayers but made up 86% of those arrested and prosecuted for overstaying. The majority of overstayers were from Great Britain, Australia, and South Africa. The Muldoon government's treatment of overstayers also damaged relations with Pacific countries like Samoa and Tonga, and generated criticism from the South Pacific Forum. By 1979, the Muldoon government terminated the Dawn Raids since the deportation of illegal Pacific overstayers had failed to alleviate the ailing New Zealand economy.
In January 2007 Ruth Turner was arrested in a dawn raid as part of the investigation into the Cash for Peerages affair. Senior Labour politicians criticised the move, however their concern at this has been contrasted by their lack of concern at other dawn raids.
In September 2005, Manuelo Bravo took his own life following a dawn raid. He and his son (13) were detained in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre where he had been threatened with deportation to Angola, where he feared his life was in danger as other family members had been killed there.
Dawn raids have become a regular feature in the arrest of asylum seekers in Scotland. These have caused a great deal of controversy and pressure has been brought to bear on the Scottish Executive to end the practise. Several support groups have been set up to oppose the practice of dawn raids, including the Glasgow Girls, the UNITY centre in Ibrox and No Border Network which campaigns under the slogan of "No one is illegal".
There has been speculation that the practice may be coming to an end for asylum seekers following criticisms from a wide range of people. On 1 February 2007 the deputy First Minister, Nichol Stephen condemned the practise of dawn raids describing them as "unacceptable and unnecessary." Some have speculated that this is part of a wider change in tactics on the issue of asylum, moving away from dawn raiding asylum seekers, to detaining families at reporting centres, however dawn raids have continued.
In 2002, Yurdugal Ay and her children were suddenly removed from their home by immigration officials and taken to Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. They were all put together in one room where they lived for a year.
On 8 February 2006, Lutfu and Gultan Akyol and their two children, aged 10 and 6 were dawn raided after home office officials battered down their door. They were taken to Dungavel following the raid
In June 2006, Sakchai Makao, a 23-year-old man from Thailand was dawn raided in Lerwick. A third of the Shetland Island population signed a petition to have him released. He was eventually released two weeks later. The campaign to free him later won the Scottish politician of the year award.
In September 2006, Azzadine Benai escaped during a dawn raid on his home which saw his wife and two children (11 and 2) detained, by jumping out of a first floor window as he feared he would be killed if he was returned to Algeria. After public outcry, his wife and children, both of whom require ongoing medical treatment, were released.
On 2 October 2006, Caritas Sony and her two children Heaven (2) and Glad (4 months) were dawn raided with a metal battering ram. They were taken to Dungavel prior to intended deportation to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Caritas had been raped and tortured before fleeing to the UK. After a strong campaign, Caritas and her family were eventually released.
On 3 October 2006, the Uzun family managed to avoid being detained during a dawn raid, as they were absent at the time. They had gone to demonstrate solidarity with Caritas Sony
On 4 October 2006, Cem and Betsy Coban together with their two children aged 14 and 3 were dawn raided. Cem Cobain threatened to jump from the balcony of his 20th storey flat rather than be deported to an uncertain future in Turkey, however after 3 hours of negotiations with Strathclyde Police he was eventually led away by immigration officials. His wife Betsy was taken to hospital with complications related to a heart condition.
On 19 March 2007, Max and Onoya Waku and their three children aged 14, 11 and 4 were dawn raided by immigration officers and taken to Dungavel detention centre. They were later released.
Dawn raids are a tactic often used by law enforcement agencies in the United States. High-profile dawn raids include
During the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during World War II, the Nazis carried out numerous raids. The largest and most infamous is the Raid of Rotterdam on 10 and 11 November 1944, in which 52,000 men between the ages of 17 and 40 (some 80% of all men) from Rotterdam and the neighboring Schiedam were rounded up and put on transport to labor camps.
Morrissey's song "Friday Mourning" references a dawn-raid, "This dawn-raid soon put paid to all the things I'd whispered to you".