Friday, 2 August 2013

Illegal Immigrants Told to 'Go Home' by the Home Office

Home Secretary Theresa May
Over the past couple of days there has been widespread criticism regarding the Home Office's latest scheme to clamp down on illegal immigration after being accused of contempt of court, inappropriate use of the social networking site Twitter and racial profiling.

Immigration initially made headlines last week when a £10,000 campaign began an effort to clamp down on those living in the UK illegally by distributing leaflets and posters in six different London boroughs demanding those in question to 'go home or face arrest'. Many argued that the use of the phrase 'go home' - which was spray-painted on building by white racists back in the 1970s - was the cause of increasing tension between different cultures and ethnic groups. This phrase was also plastered on the side of two vans ordered to drive pointlessly around the boroughs in the hope of scaring immigrants into texting the word 'home' on the number advertised and hopping on the first plane out of the UK - something of which I couldn't realistically see happening. Then a few days later immigration enforcement officers were positioned around certain London railway stations to carry out spot checks, leading to many complaints saying such checks were based on the suspect's ethnicity. Such an act would be considered unlawful in the eyes of the courts as an officer must have reasonable suspicion to search a person and cannot do so based on the suspect's race. There was further criticism when the Home Office decided to post pictures of suspected illegal immigrants, who had not been found guilty of any charges, on their Twitter page.

Whilst I appreciate the fact that immigration is a very sensitive and controversial topic in this country and many want to see the rate of people entering our borders fall (or why else would UKIP be gaining so much support?) the way in which this is being handled is insensitive and dangerous in terms of race relations. Immigration Minister Mark Harper claimed that the stop and searching conducted at certain railway stations were not based on the race of the suspect but from intelligence gathered - whatever this 'intelligence' may be is unclear. He also said that officers were allowed to talk to local people in the area about their immigration status but this was only done when appropriate - however witnesses who have since described such searches to the press had a different version of events. They claimed that officers were only targeting those from Black or Asian ethnicity and White people were allowed to walk on by without any interrogation. I reiterate the comments made by Dave Garratt who warned the operation could 'incite racial tension', as it seems to many that only certain people are of interest.

Perhaps, due to criticism concerning the leniency on immigration in the last year, the Government have needed a scheme to make it appear that they are getting tougher on those living here illegally but in turn have concocted a complete mess. It also does not help when the Home Office appear to be mocking alleged suspects by posting their pixelated faces on Twitter with the hashtag #immigrationoffender. Whilst some may be living in this country when they shouldn't be, they are still human and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

As there has been no 'intelligence' provided which explains how police know who to stop, it's difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that there must be an element of racial profiling involved - added with the witness accounts of White people being ignored when Black and Asians' are being harassed. The big question that's being asked is 'do the ends justify the means?' because, speaking theoretically, for every 10 Black or Asian people questioned 1 turns out to be an illegal immigrant so that's 1 more person out of this country that shouldn't be here in the first case. Does this not justify the search? No. You now have those 9 other people who believe they have been questioned purely on their ethnicity and will be feeling a strong sense of injustice. By continuing this scheme, more citizens of an ethnic minority will experience such injustice and this is only perpetuating - if not increasing - already strained race relations. This is a dangerous tactic by the Home Office which could seriously damage the social cohesion of this country and, whilst there have been arrested as a result of stop and searches, it does not help the greater good of the country.


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