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UK immigration accused of illegal racial profiling

The Home Office, the government department responsible for policing immigration in the UK, has been accused of racism after immigration officers at several train and underground stations in London were seen 'stopping and questioning every non-white person' about their right to remain in the country.

The operations occurred on Thursday 1st August 2013 at Kensal Green and Cricklewood tube stations in north-west London and at Walthamstow and Stratford tube stations in east London.

The Labour Party's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant warned that, if the officers had been stopping people purely because of their skin colour, then this would be illegal.

Racial profiling is forbidden

Mr Bryant said that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, must 'establish straight away whether the rules preventing racial profiling are being enforced. Intelligence-led operations to tackle illegal immigration are right. Racial profiling is not'.

According to witnesses, it did seem that the officers were stopping people of colour but ignoring white passengers. One white passenger at Kensal Green, Phil O'Shea, observed officers 'stopping and questioning every non-white person'. He claims that he asked the officers what they were doing and was threatened with arrest.

Muhammed Butt, the leader of the local council in Brent, a borough in north-west London, said that the raids left 'a nasty taste in the mouth' and said that they were 'intimidating' as well as 'racist and divisive'. 'What about white Australians and New Zealanders who may have overstayed their visas?' he asked.

Raids were 'politically motivated'

Writing in the Independent, commentator Alex Wheatle, a black Briton, says that the raids are politically motivated and are designed to win support among right wing Conservatives who might otherwise desert the Conservative Party, of which Mrs May is a member, and vote for the more extreme UK Independence Party.

He says that the raids are 'a blatant infringement on the human rights [of those stopped]' and calls on Mrs May to explain 'why only black or Asian people were targeted'.

He adds that he thinks it likely that Mrs May is seeking to appeal to certain anti-immigration sections of the Conservative Party including some right wing Conservative MPs before challenging the Prime Minister, David Cameron, for the leadership of the party.

Home Office may be guilty of contempt of court

The Home Office also faces a criticism that it has prejudged the guilt of people arrested after immigration raids around the country and may be guilty of contempt of court.

The Home Office Twitter feed has been used pixelated photos of raids in London, Wales, the north of England and Somerset. The text accompanying these photographs has referred to those arrested as 'immigration offenders'.

Legal commentators believe that this may be a contempt of court because those arrested are entitled to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Calling them offenders presupposes their guilt.

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