Police have undertaken a national roll-out of mobile fingerprint scanners linked to Home Office immigration databases, after a pilot in West Yorkshire. Even though the police have used fingerprinting technology for years, the direct link between scanners and the immigration database is brand new.
The Home Office-funded initiative will allow fingerprints to be scanned in the streets by any officer. Simply having a visa or any form of history with the immigration database will bring up a positive match and may result in Immigration Enforcement teams being deployed. As the Windrush scandal has shown, the Home Office records are full of inaccuracies that could lead to hundreds of innocent people being detained or deported.
The police says fingerprints can only be taken when an officer suspects that someone is committing an offence and is lying about their identity. This relies completely on an officer’s judgement and there are no checks in place to mediate police bias against who is stopped. Mirroring racist Stop and Search powers, use of mobile biometrics technology will disproportionately target Black and Brown people as well as migrants.
At a time when the UK’s Hostile Environment sees citizens who have lived in the UK for decades being detained indefinitely or deported for acts as minor as tax errors, this move effectively re-purposes the police force from carrying out the police’s stated principle of protecting and safeguarding our communities and turns them into Home Office immigration enforcement squads. Is an unsympathetic environment for migrants and victims of crime something our community should accept?
Despite prolonged requests by the Racial Justice Network, this new mobile surveillance and its unprecedented increased access by police officers to Home Office data has undergone insufficient ethical scrutiny. It will mean members of marginalized groups must consider their citizenship status before seeking police help. We are gravely concerned about its impact on our community.
We are inviting groups and individuals who share our concerns to help spread the word and join us in our demands to the police:
- To end the racist stop and scan initiative immediately, before it irreparably damages relations between police and communities;
- To sever all connections between police activity and immigration databases, to prevent the police becoming an extension of border forces;
- To keep fingerprint scanning a step that only happens in police stations following arrest in order to protect citizen privacy rights and
- To publicly release the data captured in the West Yorkshire pilot, including its impact on axes of race, age and gender.
To send in your questions and concerns, or to find out how you can resist mobile fingerprinting in your area, contact us.
#STOPtheSCANdal #CareDontShare #EndStopAndScan