More than 60% of EU citizens detained and questioned at ports by British border officials after Brexit are from Romania, figures show, prompting questions from lawyers about possible racial profiling.
Data released by the government shows that in the first six months of the year 7,249 people were detained at ferry ports or on Eurotunnel and Eurostar vehicle and train services.
The figures represent a five-fold increase over the same period in 2020, when free movement between EU member states was maintained for all legitimately seeking work in another country.
The strikes fall into two categories: those in UK ports, including those of Portsmouth, Dover, Harwich and Holyhead, and those known as “juxtaposed checks” carried out at French sites where British officials operate, including the Gare du Nord for Eurostar, Coquelles. for Eurotunnel and the ferry ports of Calais and Dunkerque.
Of those arrested in the first six months of 2021, 4,482 were from Romania, dwarfing the numbers for neighboring Bulgaria, of which 600 nationals were detained and 400 questioned from Poland.
Citizens of northern European countries were hardly affected by the new immigration controls, with only five Danes detained, 59 from Belgium and 144 from France challenged by border officials.
The Bates Wells law firm, which analyzed the figures, said that while the data could reflect a disproportionately higher number of Romanians who tried to enter the country after free movement ended, they raised questions about possible racial discrimination at the border.
“It is legitimate to do blanket checks with a view to controlling illegal immigration, but these latest figures raise the question of where there is an underlying agenda.
“These types of arrests can be traumatic and there is a risk that immigration officials are targeting innocent people. Racial profiling is discriminatory and must be nipped in the bud if it is happening, ”said Chetal Patel, immigration attorney and partner at Bates Wells.
The data, published on Gov.uk, does not provide a breakdown of nationalities returning or arriving in the UK for the first time in 2021, nor does it provide arrival numbers through airports.
The explanatory notes say that “not all people will have been detained in a break room” and “some of the people who were subsequently denied entry will be allowed entry to the UK, others will be granted entry. entry with immigration bond conditions, while others will be denied entry. “
One explanation could be lack of knowledge or confusion about the January 1 rule change. Another possible reason why large numbers of Romanians are detained could be that people who had previously settled or settled to stay in the UK returned after Christmas, Easter or absences from the confinement.
As of June 30, data from the Ministry of the Interior show that Romanians were the second largest category of applicants with 1,067 million from the country. Although 1.09 million Polish citizens applied for the liquidation plan, the data shows much lower stoppage figures.
While visas are not required for visits of up to 90 days, or for those already living in the country with a pre-established or settled status, border officials were accused of being clumsy earlier this year after it became known. that they were detaining EU citizens. take short trips to visit friends, family or partners.
The Guardian reported in May that EU citizens were sent to immigration removal centers and held in airport detention rooms.
“Clearly there is work to be done to educate people on what to expect, so they don’t get caught,” Patel said.
The Interior Ministry has been contacted for comment.