STOP the SCANdal of Home Office mobile fingerprint scanning

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Police have recently undertaken a national roll-out of mobile fingerprint scanners linked to the 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.

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 process relies on police judgement of what constitutes an offence and the belief in a person's given identity, but 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, trans people and migrants. 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 not undergone sufficient ethical scrutiny. It will mean members of marginalised 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 Home Office 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.

For more information, see stopthescan.co.uk.

To send in your questions and concerns, or to get more involved with the campaign in your local area, contact us at stopthescan@racialjusticenetwork.co.uk.