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Police will no longer share immigration status of victims

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT: Campaigners have described the police's decision as a step in the right direction

POLICE WILL no longer pass on the details of victims of crime who are believed to be living in the UK illegally to immigration authorities, it has been revealed.

As part of the new policy, which police chiefs in England and Wales have agreed to, officers will be prohibited from using the police national computer for the sole purpose of identifying whether or not an individual has the right to remain in the UK, The Guardian has reported.

The practice of police passing on information about crime victims to the Home Office was one of the examples of the hostile environment that campaigners have sought to dismantle.

The blurring of lines contributed to the police’s decision to distance themselves from immigration enforcement.

Shaun Sawyer, Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable who leads for the National Police Chiefs Council on modern slavery and organised immigration crime, told The Guardian: “There were some who perceived we were becoming part of that hostile environment.

“It was imperative that we were clear with our staff that the role of the police and immigration enforcement are different. We had an inappropriate relationship with immigration enforcement whereby, by proxy, we were helping to kick people out of the country.

“There were a handful of cases that showed the relationship was too close and could not be tolerated. We are not a branch of immigration enforcement; we deal with crime and vulnerability.”

The new policy, which has been devised in the aftermath of this year's Windrush scandal, states: “In the circumstances where a person reporting a crime is also identified, potentially, as a person without leave to remain or to enter the UK, the fundamental principle must be for the police to first and foremost treat them as a victim."

It adds: “Where police are investigating a crime, and during that investigation, whether on the initial report or subsequently, it becomes apparent that the victim is also suspected of being an illegal immigrant, it is wholly appropriate that the officer in the case should contact immigration enforcement at the appropriate juncture, whilst ensuring they are also treated as a victim. The police will share that information with immigration enforcement, but will not take any enforcement action in relation to any suspected immigration breaches.”

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is among the organisations supporting the decision.

It said: “Definitely a step in the right direction and great to see police chiefs stressing that police must not do the work of immigration force. Great vigilance will be necessary to ensure victims of crime, slavery, trafficking are helped, not hunted.”

UK immigration law expert Jennifer Housen tweeted: “And about time! [Sajid Javid], it took the police chiefs to undo the nasty policy of [Theresa May’s] hostile environment. People without status have been unwilling to report incidents because questions of their status became more important than harm suffered!”

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