Calls to sort out immigration force

MPs and councillors have called on the Home Office to review its procedures for immigration checks after new data suggested racial profiling.

Friday, 10th May 2019, 2:44 pm
Paul Blomfield MP. Pic Steve Ellis

It comes after data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Bristol Cable revealed British citizens were the most stopped by immigration officers, almost a fifth of all people stopped.

Sheffield had the highest proportion of Britons stopped by immigration officers of 11 major cities in the UK over the past six years.

Immigration forces

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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 after intelligence or behaviour that gives them “reasonable suspicion” someone committed an immigration offence.

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said it was ‘damaging our reputation as a welcoming city’.

He said: “The numbers suggest a worrying use of immigration powers, both in relation to UK citizens and to those who are legitimately in the city from other countries.

“It’s no way to treat local people and it’s no way to treat others who have every right to be here, damaging our reputation as a welcoming city.

“It appears to be another manifestation of the Home Office’s hostile environment and suggests that instead of using proper evidence, as they should, the encounters are based on racial profiling. I’ll be taking it up with the Home Secretary.”

In total there were 854 encounters between 2017/18, but only 23 per cent of that figure resulted in 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).

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the Home Office was ‘not fit for purpose’ and needed to review its procedures.

He said: “It’s always worrying when people are just being stopped for who they are and when there’s little intelligence behind it that’s when people feel discriminated against.

“I’m not saying checks shouldn’t happen because every city has the right to have secure borders but it’s about how we go about that. The Home Office has come under a lot of criticism and it’s proven that it’s not fit for purpose.

“Yes, the figures have gone down a bit but it’s still too high and clearly, based on the few number of arrests, hitting innocent people.”

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 operation.

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.”

A Home Office spokesperson 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.”