Today, The Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists are launching the campaign STOP the SCANdal, calling on Police forces to halt the national rollout of mobile fingerprint scanners linked to the Home Office immigration database.
Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists are calling on the police and the Home Office:
  • 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.
The use of the scanners, which have been first piloted in West Yorkshire, will allow Police officers to take someone’s fingerprints, on the street, any time they suspect an offence has been committed and they doubt the person’s identity. On top of confirming a person’s identity, the new technology will enable officers to run both a criminal and immigration check.
Any form of history with the immigration database, including holding a valid VISA, will bring up a positive match. The decision to deploy Immigration Enforcement teams will then be left to the officer’s discretion based on data provided by the Home Office, whose “systemic failure to keep accurate records” has been condemned by Parliament’s Public Account Committee (PAC) in a report published earlier this year. As the Windrush scandal has shown, this will potentially lead to hundreds of innocent people being detained and deported.
Mirroring racist Stop and Search, this new practice will disproportionately target Black and Brown people and migrants. The Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists believe that the initiative, which is funded by the Home Office, is also a clear attempt to re-purpose the police into border control.
A number of machines has been in use in West Yorkshire since February 2018, but plans are underway to release hundreds to the majority of police forces in the country.
Penny Wangari-Jones from the Racial Justice Network said:
“This is another way of snatching people from our communities right off the streets and putting them in detention centres before the alarm  can be raised. It’s disappointing to see, because at a time when marginalised communities are feeling targeted, vulnerable and in need of protection, this move will further deter people from going to the police rather than seek their help.”
Consultation with the communities, which should be a key part of the ethical approval process, was never carried out. This has created a lot of concern, and most people see it as yet another part of the Hostile Environment. It is clear that no lesson has been learned from the Windrush Scandal and that we are looking at another scandal in the making.
Sharon Panepinto from Yorkshire Resists added:
“The role of the police should be to safeguard our communities, not act as border guards. This initiative is yet another attempt by the Home Office to increasingly link frontline services with immigration enforcement, despite similar initiatives having already been found to be discriminatory and unsafe”
If there is one thing the Windrush scandal has taught us, it is that at the moment the Home Office systems are unfit for purpose and contain an unacceptable number of inaccuracies. To have every constable in the country make decisions on a person’s liberty based on data that we know is unreliable is irresponsible at best, morally unjustifiable at worst.
Throughout the pilot, we have raised concerns with the  West Yorkshire police numerous times about the potential of this technology to lead to unlawful detentions and deportations, but to no avail. Do we really have to wait until the next Windrush to realise the danger and injustice the use of this technology represents?
The Racial Justice Network, a network of individuals, communities and organisations working together to address legacies of colonialism and end racial injustice.
Yorkshire Resists ‘the hostile environment’ is a collective of activist groups and individuals based in Yorkshire who are invested and organising to resist the hostile environment and unjust migration policies whilst supporting vulnerable groups.

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