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Race relations could be set back 30 years by greater powers for immigration officers

By Arj Singh

Race relations could be set back 30 years by flagship reforms which give immigration officers greater stop and search powers, a former senior police officer has said.

Lord Paddick said the extension of stop, search and seizure powers designed to improve enforcement of immigration rules could worsen the "hostile environment" faced by black and minority ethnic (BME) people in Britain.

The former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner told peers during the Immigration Bill's second reading that he was worried about the legislation's "unintended consequences".

The Liberal Democrat peer said the police moved away from such powers decades ago to improve community relations, as people from BME backgrounds were being detained in disproportionate numbers on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.

Lord Paddick said: "The Bill will do nothing to alleviate this (hostile environment) and the increased stop and search and seizure powers and the effect on existing discrimination against BME renters and job applicants are likely to be made worse.

"This takes me back to my days as a police constable over 30 years ago when a common reason for detaining somebody who was black was because they were a suspected over stayer.

"The police decided to move away from immigration enforcement on the grounds of improving community relations.

"As the Race and Equality Foundation briefing says, there is the potential in this Bill to set us back 30 years in terms of race relations."

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