Police face first ‘super-complaint’ over immigration referrals

Handing over victims and witnesses to the Home Office undermines fight against crime, say Liberty and Southall Black Sisters.

Excerpt Source: The Guardian Website. Read full article here

Mark Townsend Last modified on Sat 15 Dec 2018 21.40 GMT

New national guidance says police should not take action against crime victims they suspect of being illegal immigrants. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

The first ever super-complaint to be lodged against the police will challenge the systemic and “potentially unlawful” practice of forces referring victims and witnesses of crime to the immigration authorities.

The complaint, to be formally issued by human rights groups Liberty and Southall Black Sisters, argues that handing over victims of crime to the Home Office for immigration enforcement undermines the fight against crime and erodes public safety. The “super-complaint” process became operational last month and allows designated organisations to “raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing”.

The complaint will now be reviewed by senior officials from the Independent Office for Police Complaints and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and could force changes to existing practices.

An investigation by Liberty exposed a secretive data-sharing arrangement whereby victims and witnesses of crime were frequently reported to immigration enforcement by police. Liberty and Southall Black Sisters say that this deters the reporting of offences and counters the police’s broader objectives, as well as obligation under human rights law to investigate serious crimes.

The two groups are presenting more than 50 pages of evidence and claim there needs to be guidance prohibiting data-sharing by all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

After learning that forces were likely to face a challenge over the issue, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) issued new guidance last week. The new measures, agreed by police chiefs in England and Wales, include a ban on officers checking the police national computer solely to learn if someone has leave to remain in the UK.

However, lawyers for Liberty claim the new guidance does not go far enough to protect victims and witnesses of crime.

Critics say the policy has allowed criminals to use their victim’s immigration status so they can be coerced into not reporting offences. It means individuals may stay in situations where they are repeatedly abused or forced to participate in crime.

Announcing its revised guidance, the NPCC admitted the practice had damaged police’s standing in communities and may have dissuaded victims of modern slavery and trafficking from coming forward.

Dasgupta said: “The only acceptable solution is a cast-iron promise that personal information collected about victims and witnesses by public services like the police will not be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters described the practice as a direct outcome of the “hostile environment” policy: “We have seen the police repeatedly prioritise immigration enforcement, ahead of the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable women who report domestic and sexual violence.

“Immigration enforcement is being conflated with safeguarding issues but let us be clear about this: reporting and detaining women or men as a ‘safeguarding’ measure is a violation of their civil and human rights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s