British citizens are most stopped by immigration officers

British citizens are the people stopped most often by immigration officers in Sheffield – despite past complaints that people were being targeted because of their skin colour.

Friday, 10th May 2019, 1:53 pm
Immigration forces

Sheffield had the highest proportion of Britons halted by immigration officers out of 11 major cities in the UK over the past six years, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Bristol Cable.

This figure had dropped by 14 per cent between January 2017 and October 2018 but is still higher than the national average.

People can be stopped at any time, in any place, including at home, work, on the street and on public transport, but should only be checked when intelligence or behaviour gives police “reasonable suspicion” someone committed an immigration offence.

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In total there were 854 stop-and-search instances during the time frame in question, but only 23 per cent led to arrests. 

After British citizens, the top five most-stopped nationalities were from China (17 per cent), Vietnam (6.7 per cent), Pakistan (6.5 per cent), Romania (6.5 per cent) and Slovakia (4.7 per cent).

Sheffield’s Lord Mayor Magid Magid said: “Clearly they are getting something wrong, I would’ve thought their intelligence would’ve been better.

“There’s a lot of inherent racism which all feeds into the narrative of the government’s hostile environment which they are pushing forwards and this is a by-product of that.”

Councillor Jim Steinke, the council’s (until recently) cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said checks varied but often lasted hours and sometimes completely innocent people were detained just for being in the area when a check on another individual was taking place.

He added that in one case a mother was unfairly held, making her miss her child’s pickup time from school, after their home was raided. However, one of her relatives should have been checked instead, he said.

“It’s completely out of order. It’s very bad that nothing has seemed to change. These can be frightening things for people.”

Stuart Crosthwaite, of South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, said many people are in fear of checks and it ‘sits uncomfortably’ with Sheffield’s status as a City of Sanctuary.

“We know from our refugee members that they are aware of and fear such encounters. Apart from the obvious discriminatory nature of people being stopped based on their appearance some of our members are in the process of making an asylum claim, so that while they don't have right to remain they are pursuing it - a distinction which the Home Office/immigration enforcement can wilfully disregard.

“Given that refugees are - by definition - fleeing from persecution often from state actors such encounters can be extremely distressing and make it less likely that they will seek help when they need it from police. People are also aware that the hostile environment policy means that their data is shared amongst other agencies and government departments.

“I'm guessing that some of the 157 people with British citizenship stopped in Sheffield were refugees whose asylum claim was accepted by the Home Office. If that's the case, that fact sits uncomfortably next to Sheffield's status as a City of Sanctuary.”

Nationally British citizens were stopped ten times a day on average. The new data comes after previous calls for the Home Office to review its procedures.

Colin Yeo, a leading immigration barrister, said: “It is hard to imagine that there can be a good intelligence basis for thinking a British citizen is an immigration offender. This raises the worry that such encounters are driven by racial profiling.”

Dawn Butler MP,  shadow minister for women and equalities said: “These statistics are appalling but sadly not surprising, as I recognise this evidence from my own lived experience.

“Immigration enforcement should not discriminate against any individual as it results in huge structural barriers against black and minority ethnic people in the UK. The Home Office should reflect seriously on these figures and start collecting data on ethnicity to ensure that its approach moving forward is both proportionate and efficient.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Enforcement operations by Immigration Enforcement officers are intelligence-led and are carried out only where there is a reasonable prospect of encountering immigration offenders.

“Immigration Enforcement officers do not carry out random visits and nor do they stop individuals at random.

“Officers interact with people for a range of reasons during the course of their operations, and it is not unusual for Immigration Enforcement officers to encounter British citizens during the course of their operations. Individuals may be arrested only where their actions provide reasonable grounds to suspect that they may be in breach of immigration law.”

Full breakdown of the figures for 2017/18: 

Sheffield: Encounters: 845, not arrested: 650 (77 per cent), arrested: 195 (23 per cent)

Number of British citizens stopped: 157 (19 per cent), arrested: 0 

Other nationalities: 

China: 141 encounters (17 per cent), 58 arrested, 83 not arrested

Vietnam: 57 encounters (6.7 per cent), 16 arrested, 41 not arrested

Pakistan: 55 encounters (6.5 per cent), 22 arrested, 33 not arrested

Romania: 55 encounters (6.5 per cent), nine arrested, 46 not arrested

Slovakia: 40 encounters (4.7 per cent), five arrested, 35 not arrested