UK cops’ sharing of data with the Home Office will be probed by oversight bodies following a super-complaint from civil rights groups, it was confirmed today.
At the heart of the issue is the way that victims’ and witnesses’ data collected by the police are shared with central government immigration teams.
Liberty and Southall Black Sisters last year lodged a super-complaint against the “systemic and potentially unlawful” practices, which allowed criminals to “weaponise” their victims” immigration status.
An investigation by the rights groups found that victims and witnesses were “frequently reported to immigration enforcement after reporting very serious crimes to the police”.
This, Liberty said, risked deterring people – even those who do not have uncertain immigration statuses – from reporting crime, especially as the victims or witnesses “can be coerced into not reporting” crimes.
“The only acceptable solution is the formal creation of a ‘firewall’ – a cast-iron promise that personal information collected about victims and witnesses by public services like the police will not be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.”
Liberty proposed this “firewall” idea in its December report into public sector data sharing, arguing that this was the only way to mitigate against the negative impacts of the government’s hostile-environment policies.
The group has repeatedly emphasised these impacts go beyond undocumented migrants, but also affect migrants with regular status “who live in a climate of uncertainty and fear” as well as frontline workers in affected professions.
This was exemplified in last year’s battle to scrap a deal that saw non-clinical patient records shared with the Home Office as GPs voiced concerns it would break the doctor-patient confidentiality and could stop migrants seeking medical treatment