Januiary 20, 2008: Security Guards Hired To Spy On Illegal Immigrants

Security guards hired to spy on illegal migrants

David Leppard
From The Sunday Times
January 20, 2008

PRIVATE security guards have been secretly hired to spy on illegal immigrants in an apparent breach of the law, a leaked Home Office document has revealed.

The security guards will take part in reconnaissance missions to find suspected foreign criminals, illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers, targeted for arrest and deportation.

They will be given access to sensitive police intelligence on suspected illegal immigrants, and help to draw up intelligence reports and risk assessments, according to the document prepared by the Border and Immigration Agency.

Only authorised government law enforcement officers, such as immigration officers or police, are warranted to carry out surveillance and make arrests. Employees of private firms do not have the legal authority to carry out such tasks.

This weekend the Home Office was accused by MPs and civil liberties groups of trying to privatise the criminal justice system.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: Privatising law enforcement is a grave step in any democracy that believes in accountability for state power. If the Home Office gets away with delegating immigration control to big business without parliamentary approval, ordinary policing will be sure to follow.

John Tincey, of the Immigration Service Union, which represents border agency staff responsible for deporting illegal migrants, said the Home Office was bending the law by giving private security guards the role of government law enforcement officers.

Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, defended the move. We will not hesitate to use every means possible to track down illegal migrants, he said. The Home Office denied that contractors were being asked to carry out police-style activity.

A pilot contract to allow a private firm to conduct reconnaissance on the homes of suspected illegal immigrants was signed last month with Serco, a security company.


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