HSMP Forum's Press Release

HARASSMENT OF LEGITIMATE MIGRANTS AT UK AIRPORTS

Dt – 22nd June 2009

Migrants from Non European Economic Area (EEA) countries are being treated like criminals by Immigration Officers at airports when re-entering Britain. HSMP Forum, a not-for-profit organisation which has a large base of members from non-European countries, has received several complaints about harassment, humiliation, unfair treatment and interrogation at Heathrow, Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow airports.

Individuals on their return to the UK are questioned at airports even though the Immigration Officers there have all the information concerned about the individual in their system. The interrogation usually consists of questions irrelevant to legitimate skilled migrants such as why did you book your holidays for 40 days? How did your employer allow it? Why are you working in this job? Why can’t you find a job in some other field? Are you married? Where was your child born? Who paid for your child’s delivery? If the Immigration officer is not convinced that what the migrant and his family says is true then they are detained at the airport, their passports are taken away and they are issued with a temporary admission letter which supersedes their original valid long term visa. They must appear for a second interview and during this time they lose their right to work and lose their jobs. The letter which has been issued to some legitimate non-European professionals and their families on their return to UK says “You have been detained under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act or arrested under paragraph 17 of Schedule 2 to that act”. The reason for this ordeal is just mere suspicion in the eyes of the Immigration Officer, who without any evidence or information can detain legitimate migrants and their families. Migrants and their families are made to suffer for weeks and months before they are permitted to continue their stay in the UK, if the UK Border Agency wishes then they can also be detained indefinitely as the Immigration Officers are given unlimited powers under the 1971 Immigration Act which does not enforce any time limit on such detentions.

Victor Abegunde, Executive Committee Member of HSMP Forum saidUK Border Agency last year gave a confirmation to HSMP Forum that these incidents of harassment won’t be repeated and necessary training will be given. In spite of apologies issued and promises made regarding appropriate training of its Immigration Officers, cases of harassment of legal immigrants from non-European countries are continued to be brought to HSMP Forum’s notice more often.”

Dr Amaresh Swaro, Executive Committee Member of HSMP Forum said “As much as it is important for the immigration officers to carry out checks properly, it is also important to make sure that legal migrants are not harassed unnecessarily. It is sad to see parents being humiliated in front of their children and children as young as 13-14 year olds having been finger printed without any valid reason. This is of grave concern and HSMP Forum is looking into the situation as a matter of urgency.”

A Doctor working in NHS for the past 9 years, Dr Sujit Nair reported on his experience when he recently returned from holiday in India, Dr Nair said “the immigration officer at Glasgow Airport bombarded me with questions which was subsequently followed up by a police officer, despite having an Indefinite leave to remain (permanent residency) in the UK. On both the occasions I felt very intimidated and unwelcome.”

The majority of the complaints received happen to be from Asians.  Even senior professionals who have been in UK for a substantial period of time are not spared. Professionals such as Doctors, engineers and their families, including children less than 15 years of age have been fingerprinted, photographed and issued with detention letters without any reason but mere suspicion in the eyes of the Immigration Officer.  In 2007, Ken Livingstone, then Mayor of London, raised the issue of rude and racist behaviour of immigration officers towards Indian and Chinese business travellers at the Heathrow airport.1 HSMP Forum has urged UKBA to disclose statistics of the individuals detained or held up who were then subsequently cleared, and the breakdown of the individuals in terms of their ethnicity and on how many of these individuals or their dependants were under 18 years of age. Furthermore, statistics on the ethnicity of the Immigration Officers who were involved in detaining or holding up of individuals, who were subsequently cleared.

HSMP Forum’s Executive Director Amit Kapadia recently had a meeting with UKBA Borders and Visas Head Andrew Jackson on the 16th of June 2009. Mr. Kapadia said “We have been receiving many complaints from non-EU migrants that they were interrogated at airports as if they are criminals. We are very concerned about these occurrences and have raised the matter with UK Border Agency. However, the explanations given are not satisfactory. Immigration Officers are being issued with absolute power to detain legitimate hard working immigrants based on suspicion alone and without any reasonable doubt. We are in the process of taking appropriate action to resolve this problem. Meanwhile, we would request those individuals who encounter any problem at airports without a valid reason to get in touch with us.”   

Web Reference:

1)      http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6590000/newsid_6597600/6597607.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1

2)      HSMP Forum website:  http://www.hsmpforumltd.com 

 
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