The dispute over the Home Office’s controversial spot-check searches for illegal immigrants has escalated, as one of the government’s own migration advisers warned that Britain should not adopt the draconian tactics of countries such as Singapore in dealing with the issue.
Last week Home Office officials, accompanied by police officers wearing stab vests, conducted a series of checks, mainly at railway stations, as they sought to find immigrants illegally living in the country. It followed the rollout of a number of vans displaying signs encouraging illegal immigrants to “go home” in a pilot that has been widely criticised as heavy-handed.
Mark Harper, minister for immigration, defended the government against claims that its spot checks were random by pointing to the number of arrests of suspected illegal immigrants. Yet, speaking to the Observer about last week’s crackdown at railway stations, Dr Martin Ruhs, a longstanding member of the government’s migration advisory committee, said that he believed the issue was being oversimplified by policymakers. He said: “In liberal democracies generally we don’t want to do the kinds of things that are commonplace in Singapore or maybe the Middle East.