The Home Office have rebuffed freedom of information requests relating to the ‘racist van’ and a controversial Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ImmigrationOffenders — claiming that disclosure of data would compromise immigration enforcement. Two such requests from Political Scrapbook have been rejected, with another outstanding.
In the wake of the vile advertising campaign — which was accused of “borrowing the language of the 1970s National Front” by Yvette Cooper yesterday — a number of high-profile operations were conducted at rail and underground stations in London. An image of searches being conducted at Kensal Green station went viral online (VIEW HERE), with witnesses describing the activity as “intimidating” and claiming that non-white people were being targeted.
At this point Scrapbook asked the Home Office whether the searches were timed to coincide with the ‘racist van’ and were told:
“This was a routine operation and visits such as these have not increased to coincide with the recent ad van advertising campaign.”
So we submitted FOI requests to test the veracity of this claim — along with another request on the #ImmigrationOffenders campaign, in which the Home Office tweeted pictures of people being arrested. The requests were:
- Statistics relating to immigration operations at underground stations (rejected)
- Breakdown of number of immigration arrests by timeframe (two weeks overdue)
- Plans and internal comms relating to #ImmigrationOffenders (rejected)
The requests for which responses have been received were rejected on the basis that they would prejudice “the apprehension or prosecution of offenders” and “the operation of the immigration controls”:
“I can confirm that the Home Office holds the information that you requested. However, after careful consideration we have decided that the information is exempt from disclosure under sections 31(1)(b) and 31(1)(e) of the Freedom of Information Act. These provide that information can be withheld where disclosure would, or would be likely to; be prejudicial in the apprehension or prosecution of offenders and prejudicial to the operation of immigration control.”
Scrapbook is not put off that easily, however, and will be requesting “internal reviews” of these decisions.