Border checks 'may discriminate'
March 4, 2009
Checks on people crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic may lead to discrimination, the Human Rights Commission has warned.
A law which would end the passport-free zone between the UK and the Irish Republic on air and sea routes is to be debated in the House of Lords.
It would not mean British and Irish citizens routinely having to carry documents to cross the border.
The commission warned it may make life difficult for ethnic minorities.
The proposal is part of the Home Office's Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, which is currently passing through the House of Lords.
It would overhaul entry checks and replace a decades-old system of nationality based on time spent in the UK with a series of hurdles and tests.
The government has said the need to produce some proof of identity for travellers is aimed at foreign nationals rather than those living in the Common Travel Area, which has operated since 1925.
The Human Rights Commission's Monica McWilliams said: “The commission is extremely concerned that the proposed land border checks could lead to racial profiling and as a result impact significantly on minority ethnic persons, crossing or just living or working near the land border.
“These measures could lead to ethnic minorities having constantly to carry identity papers or face frequent questioning regarding their status and, potentially detention.”
Ms McWilliams said the UK Border Agency was saying that on the one hand British and Irish citizens would not have to carry passports or ID cards to cross the land border, but that anyone stopped would have to “satisfy” an immigration officer they were British or Irish citizens.
“How this will work in practice is unclear,” she said.
“The commission questions how those policing the land border are going to be able to tell who is a British or Irish citizen and who is not.
“What is clear, however, is that any practice of singling out persons visibly from a minority ethnic background is simply not acceptable.”