Making newspapers is often surprising. Some good stories disappear into the abyss, barely remarked upon by readers or rivals; others that you don’t much care for suddenly take off. It was reassuring to see Doreen Lawrence, newly nominated for the House of Lords, on breakfast telly yesterday talking about i’s front page. “Why would you focus mainly on people of colour?” she asked of border guards’ immigration spot-checks on members of the public at train stations. “I think racial profiling is coming into it.”
I have no general beef with the minister for immigration Mark Harper – tough job – but his response yesterday was insulting to the public’s intelligence.
Mr Harper claims that when officers set up these street checkpoints, and started questioning commuters about their immigration status, they weren’t targeting black and Asian people but were merely “talking to people in the local area and, where there was a reason to do so, asking questions in relation to immigration status”. He added that the operations were “based on intelligence and reasonable suspicion” that each person had committed an immigration offence, and were not fishing expeditions – which are banned under the Home Office’s own rules.
Unfortunately for Mr Harper, the UK’s equality watchdog thinks there is a case to investigate whether unlawful discrimination has taken place.
Regardless of the result, hopefully the episode can prove salutary for the Home Office, and emphasise the importance of the word “intelligence” when it comes to the Border Agency’s next effort to tackle illegal immigration...