What are your rights if stopped by Home Office officials in the street?

I don’t often swear online. It usually takes an immense act of stupidity from a Formula 1 driver to incite me to do so, and the last time I tried that, the Chief Whip told me off mere seconds later. So profanity, even mildly, in a blog post is very unusual, particularly when directed at our leader. Which is why I did my little rant about these burly Home Office types turning up at tube stations and conducting checks on people’s immigration status on my own blog.

This is the second Home Office show of  disproportionate force in the last two weeks. First there were the “Go home” poster vans, described as “stupid and offensive” by Vince Cable. Now we have teams of Home Office officials turning up at tube stations and questioning people’s immigration status. Thing is, no matter how shifty I looked in the presence of authority, and I have a very irritating deferential instinct that makes me very self conscious in that situation,  the evidence from the Independent suggests that I would be unlikely to be apprehended, because I’m white.

I wondered if there was any advice about what your rights were if you are stopped and, just as importantly, what you could do to help someone else in that situation. I found this by Ian Dunt on politics.co.uk which has useful links to the Home Office’s own guidelines. The basic premise is that they should only be stopping people they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they are immigration offenders. He says:

When you first see the UKBA presence do not do anything which raises suspicion. This is referred to as “having an adverse reaction to an immigration presence”. Doing so gives the officers reasonable suspicion.

Do not change the speed of your walking or suddenly change direction. Maintain a steady pace. Do not hang back from the barriers. Do not behave confrontationally or aggressively. Enter into the conversation willingly, and then state that you are aware of your rights and can walk away unless the officer can give a reason for having reasonable suspicion of your status.

Use your phone to film the entire encounter. Any officer who speaks to you must identify themselves verbally and by producing a warrant card. They must explain their reason for questioning you.

At this point ask them what gave them reasonable suspicion to have stopped you. They must tell you that you are not obliged to answer any questions. They must tell you that you are not under arrest and are free to leave at any time. If they fail to do any of these things, tell them.

Make sure you clearly record the identification number of the officer. Sometimes this will be covered up or not present – it’s a common tactic. Insist on knowing the number before you cooperate with the officer. If at any point you decide to leave they cannot pursue you unless they have sufficient basis to arrest you under paragraphs 17(1) & 16(2) of Schedule 2 or of the Immigration Act 1971, or if you satisfy section 28A of the Act.

If you are not being questioned – and if you are white and middle class that is very likely – you can still help. You can record everything. You can inform people of their rights when they are stopped by officers. You can take people’s contact details if they are stopped. If there is a case against them, a failure of protocol by the officer will be relevant. You can get a useful fact-sheet of your rights for printing out and handing to people here.

This is clearly quite useful information to have. I would suggest having a good read of Chapter 31 of the Home Office Enforcement Instructions and Guidance. 

Obviously it goes without saying that if you are dealing with these people, you need to be polite, calm and assertive, but it’s always useful to be aware of people’s rights in these situations and to know what action to take if you see them being breached. If I were to see someone being treated unfairly, my sense of injustice would easily trump my instinctive deference.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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45 Comments

  • Martin Caffrey 3rd Aug '13 - 12:44pm

    You talk about rights? Under this coalition government I think are rights are being eroded.

    Hahaha, I don’t suppose you’ll be putting the Home Office racist “Go Home” vans and this latest stunt in your new edition of “A Record of Delivery: What the Liberal Democrats have achieved in Government. ” will you?

  • “unlikely to be apprehended, because I’m white”

    In theory that’s what you’d expect but really, there are white illegal immigrants too. The other problem is that given the pressure to not to be seen “favouring” (targetting) certain ethnic groups, I would imagine that Home Office operatives will need to record a “reasonable” number of white folk; all in the name of diversity, naturally.

    Overall though, this will only serve to alienate a growing proportion of the population, with a resulting backlash. I hope our “leaders” realise that..

  • I’m very confused as to why this policy continues to be allowed if the Liberal Democrats object to it so strongly?

    Collective responsibility means that the Liberal Democrat ministers in Cabinet, including Vince Cable, own this policy. Yet Cable washes his hands of it but does nothing to stop it.

    Is he just paying lib service and he really supports it – in principle he is supporting it anyway by remaining in Cabinet?

    Does he want to stop it, but can’t?

    Why have no other Lib Dem ministers protested?

    Why have so few Lib Dem MPs, not bound by collective responsibility, opposed it?

    Frankly, it stinks.

  • Mark Senior 3rd Aug '13 - 1:14pm

    The van poster escapade was crass and a waste of public money . The UKBA tube station actions are much more serious and racist .
    I realise it is the holiday season and one of the reasons for it being done now in early August is because there is no PMQ’s on Wednesday for Cameron to be quizzed on this . Surely though all the LD Ministers and MP’s are not away on holiday and there is someone who can speak up against this .

  • Far from avoiding these people, everyone should go up to them and question them, especially if you are obviously white! See how long they can deal with that – make it clear to them their presence on the street will not be tolerated.

  • “When you first see the UKBA presence do not do anything which raises suspicion. This is referred to as “having an adverse reaction to an immigration presence”. Doing so gives the officers reasonable suspicion.”

    Ah – so “looking at me in a funny way” is actually an offence. Constable Savage will be pleased to know he was right. Course he never noticed that Mr Kodogo was a “coloured gentleman”

  • “Hahaha, I don’t suppose you’ll be putting the Home Office racist “Go Home” vans and this latest stunt in your new edition of “A Record of Delivery: What the Liberal Democrats have achieved in Government. ” will you?”

    I’m not so sure. There is a prominent item among the list of “Lib Dem” achievements advertising the fact that immigration has been cut by a third. The Lib Dems themselves are trying to play the anti-immigration card.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 3rd Aug '13 - 1:58pm

    Martin has asked the pertinent questions “Who in the Libdems is allowing this? David Ward?”

    I would like to know how the current ‘attack’ on immigration fits in with our supposed belief in the need for developing “A fair, free and open society”?

  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Aug '13 - 2:14pm

    Hang on, from reading that rule book, it is quite clear that that Home Office is not allowed to conduct fishing expeditions, and must have clear intelligence to suspect that named individuals, of which there is reasonable suspicion are immigration offenders, will be present at the location at the time when they are conducting street operations. They are allowed to question others they encounter while there, but the idea that they have evidence to go and stand around at tube stations is a bit implausible. This needs to be called in and scrutinised carefully. They are required to record their reasons for doing these things in detail and parliament can examine those records.

  • Lee_Thacker 3rd Aug '13 - 3:35pm

    Are they really going to railway stations, targeting people who look foreign and asking them to prove their immigration status. That is what the media reports are implying. I can’t believe they would be so stupid.

  • LDProfessor 3rd Aug '13 - 4:01pm

    Calling on Mr Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee to look into this and question senior members of the United Kingdom Border Agency.

    I note that Dr Julian Huppert MP for Cambridge is a member of said Select Committee.

  • Simon Bamonte 3rd Aug '13 - 4:21pm

    Well, this party now has no right to have a go at Labour for their nastiness and authoritarianism. Vans going round intimidating people? Stormtroopers at train stations asking people for their papers? What is this country becoming? And why are LibDems in government doing nothing about this? From the start this government has attacked the weakest in society: the unemployed, the disabled/sick, the poor, etc. Sorry, but this is the nastiest government in my lifetime and I say that as someone who vehemently opposed both Thatcher and Blair’s governments. I am utterly disgusted. And, of course, LibDems will simply continue to support the Tories and wring their hands about the nastiness but not actually DO anything. What courage.

    And, slightly off-topic, yes, but here’s some more nastiness from our Wonderful Coalition. The DWP is planning on bringing back work camps “Residential Training Centres” for disabled and mentally ill people. The New Workhouse, if you will:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/225491/residential-training-provision-independent-report.pdf

    But I’m sure some careerist will be around soon to tell us how all these measure are actually “liberal” and go on to blame Labour. This government makes me feel sick and broken-hearted.

  • Defenestrate Clegg 3rd Aug '13 - 5:06pm

    The Indie report that women reporting domestic violence may be being asked about their immigration status when they seek help. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/home-office-may-have-broken-the-law-in-racist-spot-checks-on-suspected-illegal-immigrants–and-may-have-questioned-domestic-violence-victims-8744381.html

    Like Caron, I too don’t like to swear – but when is she going to wake up to the fact that her party is in government ?

    Acting as if ‘it ain’t me guv it’s those nasty Tories wot done it ‘ won’t work.
    Why are you not demanding action of your leadership ?

    I will refrain from expeletives but repeat it –

    You are in government – this is happening under the Lib Dems’ watch. No use attacking New Labour this time.

  • Mark Senior 3rd Aug '13 - 5:07pm

    Simon , the reason why both senior Lib Dems and senior Labour people are saying and doing little about this scandal is simple . They are all off on holiday . This is clearly the reason for the timing of these 2 particular campaign .
    If there had been a PMQ last week or this week , I would lay money that neither of these actions would have been carried out , certainly not the train/tube station campaign .

  • Defenestrate Clegg 3rd Aug '13 - 5:11pm

    @Tim13

    Nice idea, but there have been reports that ‘white’ people have been threatened with arrest for obstruction if they ask what’s going on.

    Again – if this is true – it is happening under a Lib Dem government.

    Lib Dems cannot brag about a few paltry achievements and seek to show how much influence they’ve had and then shy away from responsibility for things like this.

  • Defenestrate Clegg 3rd Aug '13 - 5:13pm

    @mark senior

    No use lumping senior Lib Dems and senior Labour people together.

    Labour are in opposition. Lib Dems are in government.

  • Mark Senior, isn’t Nick Clegg standing in for David Cameron just now and running the country?

    He’s the most senior lib dem, and currently, the most senior politician in the UK.

    Either he is powerless to prevent this, which really questions the continued presence of lib dems in the coalition, or he endorses it.

    I wonder what it is?

  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Aug '13 - 6:58pm

    Either he is powerless to prevent this, which really questions the continued presence of lib dems in the coalition, or he endorses it.

    That’s just not true at all. The third – very obvious – option is that it takes more than a few days to intervene in the affairs of a department that is operating within its remit and in a policy area that is not controlled by an LD minister.

  • The UKBA website states (in respect of EEA citizens):
    “You do not need to obtain documents confirming your right of residence in the UK if you are a family member of an EEA national.”

    So I’m not sure what these checks are even asking for.

  • Surely Andrew Suffield, if NC is genuinely standing in for DC, then he should call in a duty Home Office minister to explain precisely what is going on, and on what basis. He will then know whether to contact DC, or Theresa May as Sec of State, or take managerial direct action (if this was initiated down the civil service chain somewhere.) In any case, he could make his feelings known fairly quickly – as he does on some issues anyway.

    Df NC If these Home Office staff harass anyone who asks questions, surely they are acting in an unapproved manner. The next stage is ask for ID, report to Police, local MP etc. I remain to be convinced we are yet that far down the Police State road. There are, of course, numerous violations of human and civil rights going on, which we as Lib Dems should be moving away from, not endorsing. In the current case, what is the evidence we need to change our immigration practices in this massively illiberal (many would say fas*ist) way?

  • A possible positive effect of this may be that the immigration units, who have been (to put it at mildest) “suspected” of r*cist behaviour for many years, have finally come out in public, which may give campaigners the edge in proving institutional r*cism.

  • Have the UKBA been given any new powers, that they didn’t have under New Labour?

  • “Simon , the reason why both senior Lib Dems and senior Labour people are saying and doing little about this scandal is simple . They are all off on holiday .”

    Well, senior Labour people have commented. Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, is quoted in this BBC report (from 7:50 this morning) as saying he had written to the Home Secretary about it:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23552088

    There is also quite a strong comment from Nigel Farage, saying that if they are simply stopping everyone from ethnic minorities it is “totally unacceptable”.

    From the Lib Dems – silence, apparently.

  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Aug '13 - 9:35pm

    Surely Andrew Suffield, if NC is genuinely standing in for DC, then he should call in a duty Home Office minister to explain precisely what is going on, and on what basis. He will then know whether to contact DC, or Theresa May as Sec of State, or take managerial direct action (if this was initiated down the civil service chain somewhere.)

    And precisely what evidence do you have to support your implication that none of those things have been done?

    Any follow up would take much longer – days at least – and there has not been time for you to see any results that may occur.

    If these Home Office staff harass anyone who asks questions, surely they are acting in an unapproved manner.

    That statement is trivially true, but the critical word is the first one. We’ve heard reports that it’s happening. That does not mean that an investigation has been started, concluded, reported back, and acted upon. These things take time.

    Of course anybody can show up on the news right away and say it’s all terrible and must be stopped. But that person has then prejudiced themselves and cannot be involved in the process which actually matters – the one where claims are investigated and decisions are made. If you want to actually accomplish something then you have to withhold judgement – and comment – until you have followed the processes.

  • “Of course anybody can show up on the news right away and say it’s all terrible and must be stopped. But that person has then prejudiced themselves and cannot be involved in the process which actually matters …”

    If there is really no one in the party with the wit to string together a comment on this without saying something they’ll regret next week, then maybe it’s just as well they’re keeping quiet!

    Meanwhile the relevant sections of the electorate will be noting who is expressing concern and who is saying absolutely nothing. At this rate UKIP is going to be more trusted to stand up for ethnic minorities than the Lib Dems …

  • Andrew – no need to tell me these things – I have spent half a career doing them! I would have thought something as critical as this would NOT take time. If an authority (any authority) suspects that things are being done against regulations, against instructions, or even more importantly, against the whole raison d’etre of Government, the activity (and possibly those carrying it out also) would be suspended while such investigation occurs.

    The importance, or triviality of the case would also play a role, of course. There could be few things more corrosive of public trust than yet another organisation being r*cist – remember the crisis caused in the Met Police!

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 3rd Aug '13 - 10:45pm

    Can it be only three years ago that the Liberal Democrats were advocating that half a million illegal immigrants should be given citizenship rights? An honourable and humane policy, in my view. Now their government that has absolutely no mandate whatsoever is turning London into 1930s Berlin.

  • Or 1970s Johannesburg.

  • Martin Caffrey 4th Aug '13 - 12:45am

    First they came for the unemployed,
    and I didn’t speak out
    because I wasn’t unemployed.

    Then they came for the disabled,
    and I didn’t speak out
    because I wasn’t disabled.

    Then they came for the immigrants,
    And I didn’t speak out
    because I wasn’t an immigrant

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • John Carlisle 4th Aug '13 - 10:31am

    Martin
    Your hyperbole is sickening. To caricature Martin Niemoller’s poem in this fashion is way over the top and must be as offensive to LibDemmers as it must be genuine victims of the Nazis.
    Get things in proportion will you!

  • Strangely enough in nearly every country of the world you must have a proper visa in order to stay there.
    I got stopped once in the Middle East by the police. I just got out my residence ID card and the policeman read out my name on it and gave the card back to me and I went on my way.

  • I hope that most of us as Liberals would look forward to a world of free movement. I accept, Manfarang, your comment on visas – topically, I lived in (then) North Yemen for a while. I certainly wouldn’t welcome their approach to citizens’ rights here!

  • Andrew Suffield 4th Aug '13 - 5:44pm

    If an authority (any authority) suspects that things are being done against regulations, against instructions, or even more importantly, against the whole raison d’etre of Government, the activity (and possibly those carrying it out also) would be suspended while such investigation occurs.

    Quite possibly, but we don’t have one of these here. We have a ministry apparently operating within the law, certainly within its remit, and within the policies of the minister in charge (which is Mark Harper). Its actions happen to be unacceptable to us, and possibly in violation of its own internal rules and agreements with parliament, but that means going through political channels to get something done about it.

    Meanwhile the relevant sections of the electorate will be noting who is expressing concern and who is saying absolutely nothing

    Yet another example of why we desperately need civics classes in schools. Too many people have no idea how our government functions.

  • I am very concerned that the Lib Dem leadership is not being clear that these recent actions ( ‘go home’ vans, tube station actions) are straight forwardly unacceptable. I have not felt so angry for a long time. How can I go out campaigning and look someone in the eye and say that the Liberal Democrats offer an open, fair and tolerant society, one that would not countenance cheap sordid actions such as these. I feel ashamed that we have a Government that will do this

  • “We have a ministry apparently operating within the law, certainly within its remit …”

    I have already linked to this BBC report, which states that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is investigating the legality of these checks:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23552088

    Perhaps you think you know better than they do? But I’m inclined to think it would be better if you spent a bit less time finding excuses for the silence of the party leadership on this issue, and a bit more time acquainting yourself with the facts of the matter.

  • Martin Caffrey 5th Aug '13 - 2:00am

    But why WOULD the Libdem leadership say these latest measures are unacceptable? These two latest measures have obviously been allowed to go ahead by them. It would plainly be a lie to say the Libdems had no knowledge or had no way of preventing these racist attacks.

    And don’t worry about going out campaigning for a bit. Put your feet up, because I doubt anybody would really listen to anything you were saying now? Or they’d take it with a bloody large pinch of salt!

  • Martin
    Actually most people in Britain are against ILLEGAL immigration. I think that is the message you will get on the doorstep.To suggest that no overstayer should be removed is in any event to go against established practice.
    Yes the immigration system should be fair and free of the nonsensical tests.At the moment many British people who are married to non-EU nationals cannot bring their spouse and families to Britain.That is a greater injustice than helping rule breakers.

  • “Actually most people in Britain are against ILLEGAL immigration. I think that is the message you will get on the doorstep.To suggest that no overstayer should be removed is in any event to go against established practice.”

    I never cease to be amazed at the ludicrous straw-man arguments people deploy here.

    Martin has clearly not suggested anything remotely like “no overstayer should be removed”. He has said nothing that supports illegal immigration. That bears no relation to what is being discussed here – which is the allegations that people are being stopped and questioned simply because of the colour of their skin.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 5th Aug '13 - 1:14pm

    As is usual on the issue of immigration those people who are supportive of the current policies, procedures and practices see anyone challenging these as ‘open door anarchists’.

    Believing that even ‘illegal’ migrants should be afforded the same rights of dignity, respect and fairness as everyone else is very liberal, and worthy of being promotion.

    The reality and fear for many of us who are either 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation migrants is that those enforcing these draconian tactics will not only abuse those whom some feel should be targeted, but ourselves as well, hence the use of Pastor Neumoller’s poem is rather apt and not at all inappropriate given the circumstances. If we do not learn from history, then we are sure to repeat it.

    The current tactics being used by the immigration service are reliant on racial profiling, which is flawed at the best of times, and the hope that the majority populace are not overly offended by their fellow citizens being harassed and intimated, and treated as 3rd rate citizens.

    These particular tactics will be the source of future disdain from certain quarters in society towards our Party if we do not swiftly denounce them. Along with other members, I am working with grassroots community groups to engender confidence in our Party as a genuine alternative to Labour or the Tories. Support for such ill thought out initiatives as those proposed and supported by the Home Secretary make this task exceptionally difficult.

  • Martin Caffrey 5th Aug '13 - 8:42pm

    Who ISN’T against illegal immigration? It ‘spoils it’ for legitimate seekers, expecially when it transpires that some of the illegal immigrants turn out to be dangerous criminals! What about the Afghan interpreters who’ll be left behind when UK forces pull out? They’re the oned who should be granted asylum as a matter of our country’s honour, but this government is making them into figures of hate.

    I think it’s time to make it law that an item of identification must be carried at all times. A passport, UK driving licence or even an ID card should do the job!

  • Chris,
    The vans are about getting the attention of the white voters not about someone who has become destitute because he thought he could come to the UK and find work ( having been tricked into believing there was such work)
    I don’t need your lectures on race relations thanks. I have plenty of first hand experience. When I was stopped and questioned at a UK airport a few years ago I knew the most important thing was to keep calm. There was nothing I had done wrong and the security officials knew it. What they were hoping for was that I would get angry and start shouting and then they could have arrested me.
    It was Labour that introduced therestriction on Britons who wanted to marry a Thai woman of having to get Home Office permission first. Something that got thrown out by the courts.
    Maybe you should get on the factory floor more . It seems things haven’t changed much. I always remember the Ugandan Asian factory worker who would joking say ,”Foreigners, foreigners!”
    P. Uduwerage-Perera
    I think a large number of “ethnics” in the UK do in fact have British citizenship.Those born before 1981 in the UK for sure.
    Pre-WW2 Germany didn’t have many overseas migrants. They came after the war to help create the economic miracle.

  • “I don’t need your lectures on race relations thanks.”

    ?

    I gave you a one-sentence explanation of what people are objecting to here. And you certainly appeared to need that, judging from your previous comments. (You still seem to need it, judging from the comment you’ve just made, but I’ve done my best.)

  • Chris
    These are operations that have been going on for years under different governments so I doubt whether your objections have much basis.

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