Data suggests racial profiling across all Kent postcodes.
Home Office data uncovered by a Shepwayvox Team investigation suggests that immigration officers have used racial profiling techniques to stop and question 2,275 British citizens over the past three years across all Kent Postcodes.
One in four of the 8,754 spot-checks by immigration officers across all Kent Postcodes (BR, CT, DA, ME and TN) were British citizens, making British citizens the national group most stopped by far between 2016 and April 2019.
This is despite the fact that British citizens cannot be immigration offenders, and that Home Office Guidance states operations are meant to be carried out on an ‘intelligence-led basis’.
Barristers specialising in human rights from Garden Court Chambers said the data suggests “that rather than immigration officials carrying out checks on an intelligence-led basis, as required, the checks are led by racial profiling”.
They went further to say that “by reason of those individuals being British, by definition, any intelligence relied on to spot-check them must have been wholly flawed”.
The data obtained by the Shepwayvox Team, breaks down the number of nationals stopped by immigration officers across all postcodes in Kent.
The figures provide the first public evidence to challenge the strength of the ‘intelligence’ used by immigration officers and the basis on which British citizens are stopped and checked for crimes they cannot commit.
The figures were not publicly available when the issue was brought to light four years ago, when the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to the Home Office concerning possible racial bias of immigration officers. At the time, claims of racial profiling at transport hubs were dismissed by Mark Harper, the then minister of state for immigration, who insisted that the operations were evidence-based.
The data clearly points to racial profiling practices by the Home Office. It continues the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy that former Home Secretary Theresa May and now Prime Minister introduced and the current government is intent on pursuing, no matter what the impact on communities and individuals.
The graph below is sufficient evidence that racial profiling continues and we the Shepwayvox Team are increasingly concerned about the intelligence used by the Home Office to stop and check people here in Kent.
The data has also brought to light the weak stop-to-arrest ratio of these ‘intelligence-led’ operations. Of the Brits stopped and checked, only six of them went onto be arrested which is equivalent to 0.25% of the 2,275 stopped and checked.
The Home Office’s guidance states that immigration enforcement must be in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, citing that officers “must be able to demonstrate and record their ‘reasonable suspicion’, supported by their clear rationale, in all cases”.
“Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal characteristics. It must rely on intelligence or information about, or some specific behaviour by, the person concerned.”
It is 100% clear to the Shepwayvox Team and to any reasonable person the intelligence, to the extent it existed, has to be flawed.
The data more than suggests that spot-checks are more driven by a scattergun approach than intelligence-led and strongly influenced by speculation and, as a result, creating a real risk of being informed, whether on a conscious or sub-conscious level, by racial and ethnic bias on the part of the immigration officers carrying out the checks.
In May 2012, Theresa May (pictured), then home secretary, gave an interview to the Telegraph explaining how she would reduce illegal migration. “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration,” she said.
As part of this policy stance, the public have been empowered to provide reports of suspected illegal immigrants. But the result can be weaknesses in the quality of intelligence used by the Home Office.
Gracie Bradley, advocacy and policy officer for human rights organisation Liberty, said, “[The] so-called ‘intelligence-led’ immigration enforcement is rarely anything of the sort – in practice these are often fishing expeditions based on ‘intelligence’ as paltry as a call from a disgruntled neighbour.”
According to a 2016 Report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), over two-thirds of enforcement intelligence relies on allegations made by the general public. Commenting on the reliance of tip-offs from the general public, an official audit recognised that this is “not the most efficient way for Immigration Enforcement to direct its activity”. Another report by the ICIBI found that 68% of all workplace raids in the five years to 2014 failed to find any illegal migrants.
The Brexit debate has created renewed scrutiny of immigration enforcement following recent reports from the leaked Home Office document that indicate the government’s intention to extend elements of the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy to EU citizens. Policies have been introduced that require public sector workers, employers and landlords to determine an individual’s immigration status, along with encouraging members of the public to provide information to Immigration Enforcement. In September, politics.co.uk revealed that the Home Office had received 482 tip-offs from MPs between 2014 and 2016.
Unlike with police stop-and-search powers, the Home Office is not required to collect the ethnicity of those spot-checked. This makes positive identification of racial profiling difficult.
“[Even if] the statistics give rise to a reasonable suspicion of racial profiling on the part of officials, with no breakdown by ethnic minority no firm conclusions can be drawn,” said Frances Webber, a former barrister and vice-chair of the Institute for Race Relations.
Asked whether the data indicated racial profiling, a Home Office spokesperson said that “all Immigration Enforcement activity is intelligence-led and fully compliant with the Equality Act 2010”.
Responding to the latest data, an Equality and Human Rights Commission spokesperson said that it would be “deeply worrying” if immigration officials and the Home Office were not following the law and their own guidance regarding immigration spot-checks, because “there must be reasonable evidence for carrying out inspections”.
The spokesperson added, “If British people are recorded as being encountered by immigration enforcement, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were victims of racial profiling. We would need more information to determine that.”
We call upon the Home Office to provide explanations for the flawed intelligence process, the failure to collect ethnicity data and to introduce safeguards to prevent and monitor possible racial profiling.
On analysis of our data for Kent, provided by the home office, what appears clear to us, is that if spot-checks are intelligence-led, the intelligence is not working. We go even further and ask the question as to what the intelligence comprises – whether it is limited to a tip-off from a member of the public, who may not like the look of his or her neighbour, or extends to more. Without disclosure of the basis for the spot-checks, there is no safeguarding against racial profiling and we believe this must change especially given that one in four Brits are stopped for immigration crimes they cannot commit in Kent.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful