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In perhaps the most multicultural metropolis in the world, boasting residents from almost every corner of the globe, speaking in excess of 150 languages what does an illegal immigrant look like in London?
The Home Office claim to have a good idea, so in the past week they have set up ‘stop checks’ outside tubes stations in Walthamstow and Ealing in the hunt for illegal immigrants. Speaking with me on Radio 4’s the PM programme, Conservative MP Peter Bowles told the reporter that a large focus would be on illegal immigrants from East Europe-supposedly from those countries not in the EU. However, witnesses to these ‘intelligence led’ spot checks state the overwhelming majority of those questioned by officials were ‘brown skinned’ individuals. One wonders therefore what intelligence Mr Bowles received that informed him and his officials that people from Eastern Europe were indeed Black?
For many people the targeting of ‘Brown skinned people’ at London stations has all the hallmarks of racial profiling. So worried about this latest development that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is now investigating whether or not the Government has contravened its own law which prohibits the blanket targeting by race or colour.
I hope the ERHC commission test the Governments action in court because it appears to many that immigration data is being manipulated to justify actions which seem to have more to do with winning over bigoted Ukip voters rather than tackling foreign over stayers, or those international gangs who trade in illiegal immigrants.
The ERHC should be asking a number of key questions, such as:
On what basis have the Home Office selected areas such as Walthamstow and Ealing?
If they answer that they have more convictions in these areas that would surprise no one because other areas, where for example, you might find a disproportionate number of Australians who have overstayed their visa’s are rarely targeted. Like the often pernicious ‘Stop and Search’ policy the process becomes a self fulling prophecy: Target an area and rates will rise. Thereafter, you can justify your actions because the data indicates so. But in the same way If certain affluent areas of central London were targeted, for example, the possession of for class A drugs, those areas, like many targeted Black areas would become crime hotspots, therefore warranting the type of random policing that innocent Black men are subject too.
Another question would be, how many people are questioned before an illegal immigrant is found? 10, 50, 100, 1000, ? If you are the 9 out 10, or 49 out 50, how do you feel being asked to prove your national identity, and your legal status? If you’re one of the thousands who witness these checks how do you feel towards the police, or if you’re white towards Black people?
There are very worrying elements to the Governments overall approach to immigration in the last few weeks. First the Ad vans with the crude slogan, ‘Go Home, or Get arrested’ . Again in the general public’s mind what colour do the suspects like look and who should be going home or get arrested?
Last week we reported on the Sidhu family in Yorkshire, born and bred in the area, but racist thugs had targeted the family shop throwing eggs, water bombs and threatening to burn the place down unless they ‘ Go home’.
Along with the Ad vans and the ‘spot checks’ the Home Office have also engaged in very public raids on work premisis they suspect of employing illegal immigrants. But this Government offensive includes officials live tweeting arrests with pictures and captions including ‘Offenders caught’, which ignores any sense of natural justice- they may be innocent-, and ‘another one bites the dust’ , which usually refers to someone being shot or ‘taken out’.
All of these very public incidents played out in the months when political news stories are at their lowest-because parliament is shut –speak to an agenda that may win a few grubby votes, but ultimately divides communities and helps engender the feeling that if you’re not white you’re really not welcome in the UK.
Whether by design or default- we must hope and pray it’s not by design - what a sad and depressing message to be conveying in our proud multicultural Britain