Immigration Officers Told ‘Don’t Chase Suspects Who Run Away’

Immigration officers told 'don't chase suspects who run away'

A “ludicrous” rule which prevents immigration officers from chasing illegal immigrants who run away is to be reviewed.

By Rebecca Lefort
Published: 9:00PM BST 17 Jul 2010

Senior officials at the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which is charged with removing the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, are re-examining the operating guidance issued to its officers.

A rule book which governs how raids are carried out also instructs officers not to “patronise” suspects, to give them “body space”, to maintain eye contact with them, and to adopt a “relaxed” and “non-aggressive stance”.

The UKBA said it was reviewing the rules in an effort to make procedures more professional and modern.

The ban on pursuits was introduced amid fears that a chase could lead to either an immigration officer or a suspect being hurt.

It emerged when The Sunday Telegraph spent two half-days accompanying teams conducting raids in Staffordshire and London, during which time only one suspect was arrested.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “It's absolutely ludicrous. No wonder we're not able to get rid of anyone if the people supposed to be kicking them out can't do their job.”

The news comes as the Government announces a summer crackdown on illegal workers, people trafficking and sham marriages.

Photographs were released demonstrating the lengths to which some illegal immigrants will go to enter Britain, including one of a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl found, at Dover, hidden behind the dashboard of a car, surrounded by electrical wiring and clutching a cuddly bunny for comfort.

In another case, two Vietnamese immigrants were found in a lorry at Calais, sealed in airtight plastic bags by smugglers, in a bid to avoid detection by probes which measure carbon dioxide levels.

They were already unconscious and would almost certainly have died had they not been discovered.

The rules governing how UKBA staff go about their work are set out in a 725-page manual, Enforcement Instructions and Guidance.

Immigration officers have powers of arrest and go out on raids in teams, equipped with handcuffs, batons and stab vests. Sometimes they are accompanied by police officers.

Nevertheless, chapter 43 of the manual, entitled “Personal safety in enforcement work”, states: “Do not pursue anyone who leaves the premises.

“In the event a person does leave the premises, notify the police officers present who will assess the situation.”

The manual says that a chase could lead to an immigration officer being placed in an “uncontrolled situation”. It also includes an acknowledgement that “it is not unusual for persons present to attempt to leave the building”.

Police officers joining immigration raids are informed in advance of the no-pursuit policy.

They are told that even if they directly ask for help, immigration officers are not obliged to go to their aid, but instead should conduct a “dynamic risk assessment” of the situation before deciding what action to take.

A spokesman for the Immigration Service Union said: “The department advise us not to chase people. If the public knew about that they probably wouldn't be too happy but that is what the policy has been.

“We are dealing with people who in the main aren't actually criminals, and there are concerns about complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if they are hurt during a chase.”

Immigration officers in Staffordshire highlighted the rule as they prepared to raid a garage in the county last week, accompanied by The Sunday Telegraph.

“We cover the rear access to make sure no one gets out, but part of our policy says that we're not allowed to chase after them if they run,” said one experienced officer.

In the event, the targeted suspect, a 42-year-old Sri Lankan who was single-handedly running the garage shop and forecourt, did not attempt to escape.

Even though the father-of-two was found to be working illegally, he may ultimately be allowed to remain in Britain because he is now expected to claim asylum.

He was the only person caught during two half-day operations, totalling seven hours, carried out by teams of officials ranging in size from six to 16.

On the second day, officers raided a window factory near Heathrow, whose owners had been fined 80,000 after a previous raid, in 2008, found illegal workers. This time, all the employees were able to prove their right to work.

Before the raid began, an assessment was carried out of the targets' human rights, and a health and safety analysis was conducted which included consideration of the risks posed by forklift trucks.

“It can be frustrating [when there are no arrests],” said Sean Flaherty, the chief immigration officer for Staffordshire.

“We work on intelligence, and sometimes that's wrong.

“Sometimes it's a type of success even if we don't find someone. It means our messages about not employing people illegally are getting out there.”

Not all raids are so uneventful. Earlier this month 11 immigration offenders were found in Dorset during a week of investigations, while last week officers arrested three people during a sham marriage operation in East Ham, east London. The UKBA removed 63,000 people from the UK in 2009/10.


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