Monday, 9 August 2010

Immigration story slips into Express unchecked

On 4 August, the Express ran this box-ticking headline:

Immigration? Check. Illegal immigrants on the loose? Check. Open borders? Check. Police can't do their job because of political correctness? Check.

But that headline is misleading for two reasons.

Firstly, the report in question was not about 'illegal immigrants' slipping in 'unchecked' but about what happens in custody suites when the police arrest foreign nationals.

Secondly, racism is only mentioned once in the whole 33 page report.

What is immediately notable about Martyn Brown's article is that it doesn't include a single direct quote from the Home Office's Determining Identity and Nationality in Local Policing report and so nothing that backs up his opening assertion that:

Thousands of illegal immigrants are routinely freed instead of deported because police fear they will be branded racist if they question a suspect’s nationality.

It's also important to note that the report was based on evidence collected from 14 custody suites in 2006-7 and makes clear:

since then the police and the UK Border Agency have implemented a range of actions designed to improve the practices involved in checking the nationality and migrant status of arrestees.

The Express includes a quote to that effect as the last line of their article - online, it is separated from the rest of the story by a conveniently placed search bar - but the headline and opening paragraphs strongly suggest that this is the situation now.

The report also adds:

The introduction of enhanced checking processes led to a marked increase in both the level of checks undertaken in each pilot site, and in the number of IMs or SIMs identified.

The number of individuals who had their details checked by the UK Border Agency across the four pilot sites increased by over 400 per cent, from 129 checks in the three months prior to the pilots to 650 checks in total across the four sites during the pilots.

So does the 'racism' claim stand up? Well, it certainly is mentioned in the report as one of:

a number of circumstances that could result in officers failing to check an individual’s status effectively, either before or after arrest.

But the Express doesn't point out it is only one of seven reasons, and doesn't mention the other six. Here they are:

  • An arrestee being perceived as compliant or nonconfrontational.
  • An arrestee who was familiar to officers through repeated encounters over a period of years was (at times wrongly) assumed to have a legitimate immigration status.
  • An arrestee’s details had previously been taken and logged on the PNC. Generally, these details were accepted, unless there was substantive evidence to hand to cast doubt on the accuracy of the record.
  • Arrestees who looked like they belonged to a well established local ethnic minority or FN population could escape scrutiny.
  • In some sites there was a marked reluctance to challenge arrestees who claimed to be British, even though officers suspected that the claims might be false. This reluctance was commonly ascribed to the fear that any such challenge could result in an accusation of racism.
  • There was some confusion over which nations currently constituted the EEA or the EU. In the majority of sites, claims to EEA citizenship were not challenged.
  • Officers were often unable to form a sound judgement about the likely credibility of identity or travel documentation presented to them, and did not always initiate further checks when appropriate.

So there were many reasons why police checks on foreign nationals in custody were not always as comprehensive as they should have been.

But in some places, four years ago, some police were worried they might be accused of racism if they questioned an arrestee who claimed to be British.

Yet the Express turns that into 'Illegal immigrants slip in unchecked as police fear charges of racism' and 'politically correct regulations' (whatever they are) leading to 'thousands of illegal immigrants' strolling free.


  1. The wonderful juxtaposition of the two blue headline boxes shows us the priorities of the Express reader. Immigration and suntans.


  2. Tuesday's front page is just as funny. Top left have you got high blood pressure, prepare to be shocked. Top right family get £42,000 in benefits and a free home.

  3. The Mail and BNP websites also ran this story.

  4. 5CC - The comments on the Mail article begin at 7:10am on the 4th so that suggests the Express' article appeared first. Both articles are very similar though (for example, both mention 'politically correct regulations').

  5. Why don't the Mail and the BNP simply cut costs and run a combined web page?


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