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Police fail on data checking foreign offenders

17/10/16

Report from chief inspector of borders and immigration says immigration status is checked for only a third of crime suspects from overseas

Police are failing to carry out data checks on arrested foreign nationals to find out if they should be deported, an inspection has found.

Male head silhuoette profileOutside London, the immigration status of just 30% suspects was tested over a 12-month period, according to David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration.

In the case of one force – West Yorkshire – highlighted in his report, that referral rate was a mere 15%. Yet in the capital, the Metropolitan Police checked most foreign nationals it arrested, after adapting its police custody database to make it difficult not to refer the case.

Failure to check immigration status means crime suspects who have committed serious offences in their own countries can avoid being deported out of the UK.

Meanwhile, some of the foreign crime suspects fool police into not asking the Home Office to carry out checks by insisting they are British citizens.

In a report commissioned by Theresa May in January, when she was still home secretary, Bolt revealed that almost 193,000 foreign nationals were arrested in 2014-15 in England and Wales.

But he said: “Not all foreign nationals arrested in the UK were referred to the Home Office for an immigration status check. It was not possible to say how many arrested foreign nationals went unchecked.

“Identification of these immigration offenders may assist the Home Office in its objective of maintaining immigration control.”

If foreign suspects have overstayed their visas, entered Britain illegally or committed crimes abroad, the department's immigration enforcement teams can take steps to deport them. Under Operation Nexus, which was rolled out in 2012, they can refer all arrested foreign nationals to the Home Office’s Command and Control Unit (CCU), which conducts an immigration status check.

But the chief inspector’s report points out that some officers still prefer to deal with local immigration officers (IOs), and access to data was found to be “inconsistent”. In some areas, the embedded IOs “are wasting time returning to their local offices to consult or update the Case Information Database (CID)”.

The report adds: “Some IOs do not have access to local police custody databases, while access to the Data Validation Application (DVA) to check self-identified UK citizens against passport records is generally via CCU.

“Meanwhile, restrictions on sharing Acro Criminal Records Office (run by the Association of Chief Police Officers) data reduce the effectiveness of joint efforts by the Home Office and the police to target ‘high harm’ individuals who should be prioritised for removal from the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are identifying and removing more foreign criminals from the UK than ever before. As the home secretary recently announced, we are also introducing stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them returning to the UK.”

Image: Simon Waldherr, Creative Commons through Wikimedia

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