Ethnic discrimination enshrined in U.K. law
15 August 2001
As of April 24, 2001, U.K. immigration officers have special powers to discriminate against certain groups of non-U.K. citizens attempting to enter Britain. The measure is part of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which came into force in April 2001 and which outlaws racial discrimination by "public authorities, while making an exception for the immigration service." Further to the exception granted the immigration service, Home Office Minister Ms Barbara Roche signed a Ministerial Authorisation on April 23, 2001, entitled "Discrimination on Ground of Ethnic or National Origin". The Ministerial Authorisation requires that British officials specifically subject certain groups "to a more rigorous examination than other persons in the same circumstances" upon arrival at a U.K. border. Explicitly listed are: "1. A person who is of Chinese ethnic origin presenting a Malaysian or Japanese passport or any other travel document issued by Malaysia or Japan. 2. A person of one of the following ethnic or national origins: a) Kurd, b) Roma, c) Albanian, d) Tamil, e) Pontic Greek, f) Somali, g) Afghan." The Ministerial Authorisation also allows officials to detain members of the listed ethnic groups "pending examination", as well as to "impose a condition or restriction on the person's leave to enter [...]" In addition to the explicitly discriminatory nature of these rules, individuals from these groups - particularly Kurds, Roma, Tamils and Pontic Greeks - may not be in possession of documents readily identifying them as being of such ethnic origin. Immigration officers will therefore be forced to rely on personal appearance, means of arrival, country of departure and other arbitrary criteria as a guide to whom they are to be subjecting to these new regulations. The Ministerial Authorisation came into force on April 24, 2001. Such discrimination by a public authority is a flagrant violation of the U.K.'s commitments under international law, particularly the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In related news, on July 18, 2001, British immigration officials began subjecting passengers bound for London from Prague's Růzyně airport to additional immigration checks, according to the Prague-based radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The practice was halted on August 8, 2001, according to the same source. However, the pre-clearance procedure led to airlines operating direct flights to the U.K. refusing to board up to one hundred people as of July 24, 2001, most of whom were Czech Roma, according to a report by Radio Prague. These persons were, according to an article in Agence France-Presse, declared "undesirable" by the British officials stationed in Prague. The British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, David Broucher, denied in an interview on Czech television that the measures were designed to discriminate against Roma. The pre-clearance procedure was reportedly agreed upon with the Czech government in February 2001, but was halted following widespread condemnation by politicians, media and members of the public.
(Agence France-Presse, The Guardian, ERRC, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Prague)