Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

12.  Memorandum submitted by the Commission for Racial Equality


  1.  The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) would like to thank the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) for the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry into Immigration control.

  2.  The CRE is particularly concerned with race equality in IND. In the final report, we would hope to see a section on race equality and how it could be improved.

  3.  The CRE has a number of concerns that fall under "race equality issues". They include:

    —  Public attitudes.

    —  The Race Equality Impact Assessment (REIA) process.

    —  Decision-making on visas and asylum claims.

    —  Enforcement and surveillance: policy and practice.

  4.  The CRE also has concerns that fall under the scope of the "points-based system", namely:

    —  Aims of the New Managed Migration System.

  5.  The CRE also has concerns that fall under the scope of "customer satisfaction". They include:

    —  Technology.

    —  Volunteering.


Public attitudes

  6.  There is clear evidence that public attitudes are hostile and negative towards new immigrants and asylum seekers. The CRE commissioned or jointly commissioned several research reports into public attitudes that have contributed to a growing evidence base. [47]

  7.  A number of findings are important to race equality in IND. They include that hostility to asylum seekers quickly spills into broader racism debates; that the level of hostility and ignorance is high and at the same time there is a lack of independent public information. There is also a lack of confidence in policy and governance on asylum issues but evidence to suggest public belief in the general principle of asylum remains strong.

  8.  While causality is difficult to establish, it is clear that the media is not solely responsible, rather it is more likely that the media "frame" the issue. Our evidence indicates that leadership at national and local level and information is clearly a driver in debates.

  9.  As the Independent Race Monitor has pointed out, the general public attitude will affect IND staff, so in addition to its impact on external operations and customer service, this will also affect internal processes.

  10.  In terms of action, the evidence indicates political leadership is important. However, IND also has an important role in informing the debate. While IND is constrained by not having its own press office (there is one single Home Office press outlet) there is significant potential for producing information that may counter myths, rumours and stereotypes. Similarly, funding of local projects aimed at informing the debate is patchy and—more importantly—does not inform the general press and policy lines.

  11.  A clear strategy on informing the debate is crucial to many areas of IND and Home Office work, particularly in terms of community engagement, integration, and conflict resolution.

Race Equality Impact Assessment process

  12.  The CRE recommended in our submission on the parameters of this inquiry that the Home Affairs Select Committee examines the Race Equality Impact Assessment (REIA) process in IND.

  13.  REIAs must be carried out under section 71(1) of the Race Relations Act as amended. They offer an opportunity to improve strategic policymaking for the benefit of race relations.

  14.  In order to avoid compromising its enforcement powers, the Commission's policy is not to comment on individual REIAs prior to their completion. [48]However, the Commission has received a number of REIAs relating to policies recently developed by IND. There is clear room for improvement in rigor of such assessments. [49]

  15.  We have concerns with several areas of the REIA process in IND. They include:

    —  Numbers.

    —  Quality.

    —  Mitigating action or changes to policies.

    —  Publication.

  16.  In terms of numbers, IND has produced a number of REIAs, for example in relation to the IAN Bill. However, a large number of policies may not have been impact assessed, for example, the terrorism clauses in the IAN Bill. This also relates to the publication of REIAs as it is unclear whether REIA of policies is taking place internally, but is not being published, as required to do so by the Race Equality Duty.

  17.  Of more concern, however, is the quality of the REIAs produced. Generally they have been of a poor quality, for example indicating a fundamental misunderstanding of indirect discrimination. Similarly, they appear not to examine evidence. The published REIAs also appear not to follow the CRE/Home Office best practice guidance on conducting a REIA.

  18.  Finally, the point of a REIA is to ensure that race equality is central to policy development. Where an adverse race impact is identified, it must be justified and as far as possible mitigated. The REIAs available do not indicate mitigating action.

Decision-making on visas and asylum claims

  19.  There is evidence that the decision-making process on asylum claims and on visas is affected by racial prejudice.

  20.  The Independent Race Monitor has criticised asylum decision making in her annual reports, indicating that there are negative feedback loops, where particular nationality traits are stereotyped, leading to racially biased decisions. [50]

  21.  Part of the solution is likely to lie in addressing general attitudinal issues (see under Public Attitudes) and ensuring that race is central to all policy development (see under REIA). However, the CRE would suggest three additional points.

  22.  First, the more objective decision-making processes become, the less room there is for discrimination. The current managed migration reforms seek to introduce more objectivity and this should be emphasised above other aims. The CRE supports the recommendation of the Independent Race Monitor that there should be an independent element to decision making. [51]

  23.  Second, internal processes on promoting race equality are crucial. This includes training, leadership, adequate safeguards and complaints mechanisms, ensuring their effective measurement, monitoring and evaluation, communication, and cultural and behavioural change.

  24.  Third, any solution must be cognisant of a rapidly changing policy environment. In terms of asylum claims this includes the introduction of the New Asylum Model (NAM) and in terms of the quality of entry clearance decision making, particular care should be paid to how the integrity of the system will be improved given the IAN Bill proposals to remove appeal rights and to reform the system.

Enforcement and surveillance: policy and practice

  25.  IND is carrying out increasing enforcement and surveillance work. The Home Affairs Select Committee might consider a more robust accountability and monitoring framework for the increased work in this sphere. The CRE has concerns around

    —  Detention and surveillance.

    —  Deportation.

    —  Crime reporting.

    —  Joint police and IND operations.

  26.  The CRE has a number of race equality concerns around detention and surveillance. Asylum seekers in the UK are increasingly likely to be subject to reporting and surveillance restrictions. [52]The reporting restrictions are increasingly enmeshed within the criminal justice framework, but without the concomitant safeguards.

  27.  This is particularly clear in respect to the detention of asylum seekers. The number of detention places in the UK has increased significantly. In 1998, 741 asylum seekers were detained. As of December 2004, there were 1,950 people in detention of which 78% were asylum seekers. Furthermore, Tony Blair personally announced in an article for The Times newspaper in September 2004 that the Government would fund an additional 1,000 detention spaces. The current target capacity is therefore 4,000.

  28. There is growing evidence that widespread racial abuse may be taking place in detention facilities. Two undercover media stories found evidence of racism at Oakington (2005) and Yarl's Wood detention centre (2003). These stories prompted a number of investigations by HM Prison Inspectors and the Prison Ombudsman. There have also been a number of critical reports from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO). The findings of these reports have major implications for racial equality. [53]

  29.  Some of the reports[54] focus specifically on racist incidents. However, the other reports, while covering a range of issues, have clear findings that indicate safeguards against racial bias are not in place. For example, HM Inspectorate reports into eight centres found no evidence of a system of recording complaints of racism in any of the centres.

  30.  The CRE submitted evidence to the recent Stephen Shaw enquiry into Oakington. [55]A key point made in the enquiry was that victims were unlikely to complain because, amongst other things, they (typically asylum seekers) did not know racist and possibly violent behaviour was unacceptable, nor did they understand the complaints system or have sufficient trust in authority.

  31.  There is also an issue around procurement. The Race Relations Act as amended and the Race Equality Duty (RED) applies to procurement functions and therefore to privately-run detention facilities. Race equality safeguards and monitoring must therefore be written into contracts. This will also apply to detention by private security firms as proposed in the current IAN Bill.

  32.  The CRE has a number of race equality concerns around deportation. Deportations are usually known by the euphemism of "removals". Aspects of the removal process may harm good race relations. These aspects cover the entire gamut of removals including timing of removal (cases where families are removed from communities with no notice to collect belongings); where children are involved (include removing children from school who are in the classroom) and how detainees are then treated in the transit process. It also includes the consequences—how communities react and perceive IND following removals.

  33.  There are anecdotal reports of mistreatment and racism during deportation but little concrete evidence. However, Refugee Community Organisations (RCO) indicate that the problem may lie less with the high level policy than with the implementation of that policy and the accountability mechanisms in place.

  34.  The CRE has a number of race equality concerns around crime reporting. Currently, a member of the community who may be guilty of an immigration offence has no safeguards that if they report a crime (as a victim or witness) then their immigration offence will not be pursued.

  35.  Community organisations have reported to the CRE that the risks of immigration offences being investigated by police may be responsible for under-reporting of crime among communities. Community organisations have suggested that these crimes include race hate crimes.

  36.  The CRE has a number of race equality concerns around the joint operations between the Police and IND. There is particular concern over joint Police and IND operations that involve taking migrants into custody. There were a series of such operations on the London Underground in 2004-05, jointly organised by the British Transport Police and IND. We are aware of one case where an EEA national was deported as a result.

  37.  The CRE accepts that PACE guidelines must be followed in these operations, but external monitoring of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) is limited. For example, there are two monitors who provide annual parliamentary reports but their remit is strictly controlled and they are funded for only 40 days per year. Furthermore, there is little information on how and why asylum seekers are taken into custody as the discretion of immigration officers plays a large role.

  38.  There is no equivalent of Independent Police Authorities and no equivalent duty to consult with voluntary or community organisations. Nonetheless, the criminal framework is an increasing aspect of immigration control.

  39.  The CRE suggests that monitoring, accountability and scrutiny measures should be enhanced.


Aims of the New Managed Migration System

  40.   Selective Admission: Making Migration Work for Britain, the Government's proposals for managing migration, sets out principles and aims for the new system but neither equality nor race receives a mention as objectives.

  41.  More importantly, the aims and objectives set out in the proposed reform the managed migration system may potentially conflict. For example, flexibility and objectivity in terms of the entry clearance operation may be impossible to achieve together as the aim of "flexibility" implies few criteria and elements of subjectivity in choices by entry clearance officers and immigration officers, whereas "objectivity" implies the reverse.

  42.  The CRE recommends this is examined, in the context of a proposed overhaul of the whole system, and that objectivity is stressed over other aims, and equality is considered as a fundamental objective.



  43.  The IND website is, simply, poor. The website is difficult to navigate and is not updated regularly. It is also—according to our stakeholders—significantly slower than other Government websites.

  44.  The IND website differs from the majority of Government websites in one particular respect: it holds a large amount of documentation. This documentation contains necessary (rather than helpful) information, such as Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDI), Asylum Policy Instructions, the Nationality Instructions, Operational Enforcement Manual, and the Work Permits (UK) Internal Caseworker Instructions, as well as country specific information.

  45.  It is therefore crucial that the IND website operates to a high standard and can be used easily by stakeholders.


  46.  The CRE is concerned with promoting integration. We are convinced that volunteering provides great potential for interaction and participation. However an anomaly in defining unpaid work and volunteering in the immigration rules makes volunteering either difficult or impossible for certain visa categories.

  47.  For example, visitors are not permitted to volunteer, but may usefully contribute to local community events. Students are allowed to volunteer but face conflicting advice, especially if they also undertake 20 hours of paid work.

  48.  This undermines the potential for volunteering and social interaction and goes against the Compact Volunteering Code of Good Practice in which the government commits itself to removing barriers to volunteering and valuing the voluntary contribution of all. The rules are also very difficult to enforce.

  49.  Asylum seekers are allowed to volunteer and may offer good practice guidelines for people coming to the UK under other visas.


  50.  It is essential that race equality is considered central to operations and to the culture of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and to Immigration control.

Will Somerville

Senior Policy Officer, Asylum and Immigration

2 December 2005

47   The three pieces commissioned by the CRE were: ICAR (2005) Attitudes toward asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants, by Nissa Finney and Esme Peach; Coe, J et al. (2005) Public Attitudes Campaigning and ippr (2005) Asylum: Understanding public attitudes by Miranda Lewis. Other research includes: Cohen, S (2002) Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Third Edition; Halman (2001) The European Values Study: A Third Wave Source Book of the 1999-2000, European Values Study Surveys; Kaye, R (1998) "Redefining the Refugee: The UK Media Portrayal of Asylum Seekers", in Koser, K & Lutz, H (eds.) The New Migration in Europe: Social Constructions and Social Realities, Basingstoke: MacMillan; McLaren, L & Johnson, M (2005) Understanding the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, British Social Attitudes 21st Report, pp169-200. Back

48   The Commission will take a view on an individual REIA once completed. Back

49   See also Annual Report of the Independent Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, 2004-05, Page 5. Back

50   Annual Report of the Independent Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, 2003-04, Page 3; Annual Report of the Independent Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, 2004-05, Page 4. The evidence for visa decisions is less clear but there is strong historical evidence that racially prejudiced decision-making existed (see for example, the CRE Formal Investigation (FI) into entry clearance operations, 1985). Back

51   Annual Report of the Independent Race Monitor, Mary Coussey, 2003-04, Page 5. Back

52   For example, asylum seekers may be required to undertake reporting restrictions (typically weekly but possibly daily). The types of reporting restrictions currently taking place include voice recognition (by phone), fingerprinting, electronic tagging or a combination of these three. Asylum seekers may be required to check in at police stations. Finally, all asylum seekers are required to have an ARC card (Asylum Registration Card) that contains biometric information. Back

53   Key reports include Report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales (2005) Inquiry into allegations of racism and mistreatment of detainees at Oakington immigration reception centre and while under escort; Report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales (2004) Investigation into Allegations of Racism, Abuse and Violence at Yarl's Wood Removal Centre; HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (2004) Report on the unannounced inspections of four short-term holding facilities: Communications House, London; Lunar House, Croydon; Electric House, Croydon; Dallas Court, Manchester; HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (2005) Report on the unannounced inspections of four short-term non-residential holding facilities: Gatwick Airport, North Terminal; Gatwick Airport, South Terminal; London City Airport; Dover Asylum Screening CentreBack

54   For example, Report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales (2005) Inquiry into allegations of racism and mistreatment of detainees at Oakington immigration reception centre and while under escortBack

55   Report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales (2005) Inquiry into allegations of racism and mistreatment of detainees at Oakington immigration reception centre and while under escortBack

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