THE new Labour peer Doreen Lawrence has pledged to speak out in the House of Lords over allegedly racist stop-and-check operations being carried out by the Home Office.
It emerged yesterday that officials had conducted a series of “racist and intimidatory” spot checks in London to search for illegal immigrants in the wake of the Government’s “go home or face arrest” campaign.
Officers wearing stab vests conducted random stop-and-check operations near rail stations in the suburbs of Cricklewood, Kensal Green, Stratford and Walthamstow over the past three days.
Across the country around 140 alleged “immigration offenders” have been arrested including in Durham, Manchester and Somerset. Arrests were also made during raids in Yorkshire as part of what the Home Office described as “intelligence-led operations”.
Speaking about the arrests in London, Mrs Lawrence, the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, said: “Why would you focus mainly on people of colour? I’m sure there’s illegal immigrants from all countries, but why would you focus that on people of colour, and I think racial profiling is coming into it.”
Asked if the spot checks were a cause for her to take up in her new role in the House of Lords, she replied: “Definitely so.”
She spoke as Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, wrote to Theresa May demanding that she investigate the tactic. 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. The actions of your department would, however, appear to be hastening us in that direction.”
Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant called on the Home Secretary to give reassurances that people were not being stopped by immigration officials on the grounds of their ethnicity.
“Theresa May said that someone from an ethnic background was seven times more likely to be stopped than a white person,” he said, “and she said that this was wrong and we supported her.
“We must now have immediate reassurance from the Home Secretary that this is the case for immigration enforcement too. Intelligence-led operations to remove illegal immigrants are to be welcomed. Racial profiling is not.”
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, said she had received reports from constituents who had been stopped at around 7am on Thursday outside the train station by a team of around a dozen Home Office officials. Witnesses who saw the operations in London claimed officers stopped only non-white individuals.
The Home Office denied that its raids were connected to its new controversial poster van warning immigrants of the risk of staying in Britain illegally.
A report last month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that police in England and Wales failed to record the “reasonable” reasons for stopping and searching people in a quarter of cases.
The police watchdog, in its first review, examined 8,783 cases. It found that in 27 per cent, no grounds had been recorded or the officer had entered a reason which would not justify a search, such as speeding. According to the report, the proportion of searches which resulted in an arrest for officers in the region’s four forces was below the national average. Humberside Police’s rate of five per cent was the fourth lowest in the country.