Equality watchdog to investigate immigration checks in Brent
PUBLISHED: 17:27 02 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:27 02 August 2013
Controversial immigration checks in Brent are to be investigated by the equality watchdog for unlawful discrimination.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to probe the spot checks conducted at Kensal Green train station and Chichele Road, Cricklewood, as well as other transport hubs up and down the country this week.
They will also investigate the Government’s controversial “go home” ad vans campaign in Brent and five other boroughs that ended last week.
An EHRC spokesman said: “The Commission is writing today to the Home Office about these reported operations, confirming that it will be examining the powers used and the justification for them, in order to assess whether unlawful discrimination took place.
“The letter will also ask questions about the extent to which the Home Office complied with its public sector equality duty when planning the recent advertising campaign targeted at illegal migration.”
Witnesses to the operation at Kensal Green station on Tuesday claimed immigration officers were specifically picking out non-white commuters.
Matthew Kelcher, who lives in All Souls Avenue, Kensal Green, said: “They seemed to be picking out foreign people in an intimidating situation.
“Kensal Green is a diverse community but a settled one and they are going about it on the wrong approach.
“This is more about publicity than dealing about the issue.”
Kensal Rise resident Phil O’Shea told the Times he was threatened with arrest when he asked what was going on.
He said: “I thought the behaviour of the immigration officers was heavy-handed and frightening. They appeared to be stopping and questioning every non-white person, many of whom were clearly ordinary Kensal Green residents going to work.
“When I queried what was going on I was threatened with arrest for obstruction and was told to ‘crack on’.
“I asked that officer for his name but he refused to give it and said I could read his number on his shoulder but I couldn’t see a number there.”
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, has written to the Home Secretary calling for an investigation into the checks which he said violated “fundamental freedoms” operations.
He said: “We do not yet live in a society where the police or any other officers of the law are entitled to detain people without reasonable justification and demand their papers.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We make no apology for enforcing our immigration laws and our officers carry out hundreds of operations like this every year around London. Where we find people who are in the UK illegally we will seek to remove them.”
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