Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 17:09 UK

Police want more details on migrants

By Danny Shaw
Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

An immigration officer checking a passport at Heathrow Airport
Police are calling for sharing of information across all EU states

Eastern European countries should provide more details about suspected criminals living in Britain, a report for the Association of Chief Police Officers has said.

The report was prepared by two chief constables in response to concerns from some forces about the problems associated with the sudden influx of east European migrants.

Since 2004, about 800,000 people have registered for work in Britain from countries including Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Last year, Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence said the sudden influx in east European workers in her area had led to community tensions and increases in certain types of crime. Several other forces said they were having similar problems.

'Strategic intelligence'

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) canvassed the views of detectives and community officers across the UK.

Their study suggests that community tensions have been kept to a minimum - but says police are hampered because of a "lack of strategic intelligence" from eastern Europe.

We have got... a fairly significant reduction in crime across the whole country.
Peter Fahy
Acpo head of race and diversity

"At a neighbourhood, Basic Command Unit and force level, access to accession state intelligence is poor," the report says.

"The Polish national police service, for example, will allow UK law enforcement access to antecedent history only.

"A lack of strategic intelligence means that Basic Command Unit commanders are 'blind' to the communities they are policing."

It adds that foreign organised crime groups could even infiltrate the police because applicants cannot be properly vetted.

The report says the arrival of so many migrant workers over a four-year period has created a "not inconsiderable" strain on smaller police forces.

In some parts it has led to resentment, misunderstanding and community tensions - and an increase in crimes such as extortion, human trafficking and pick pocketing, it says.

'Huge influx accommodated'

The paper also criticised the government for not communicating with officers its plans for immigration.

"Research needs to be undertaken to determine the effect migration will have on UK policing during the next five, 10 and 15 years to ensure that the appropriate policing strategies and funding streams are identified to meet future demands," it said.

We have seen an increase in specific offences such as motoring offences, sex trafficking, and worker exploitation - a form of modern-day slavery.
Julie Spence
Cambridgeshire Chief Constable

The report does not dismiss claims that the influx of east European migration had caused a crime wave - as some media organisations, including the BBC, had understood it would - neither does it support the theory.

It says that overall the UK has "accommodated this huge influx with little rise in community tensions".

However, it goes on to say that "EU migration has brought with it a huge surge in the exploitation of migrants and organised crime" - which suggests many migrants are victims of crime.

But the report's co-author, Chief Constable Peter Fahy says this must be put into perspective: figures from police and the British Crime Survey both show overall crime falling.

He said east European migrants are no more likely to commit crimes than other groups.

Tensions

Mr Fahy, Acpo's head of race and diversity, said: "We have got... a fairly significant reduction in crime across the whole country.

"So it wouldn't really make sense that given we've brought in something like 800,000 to 1,000,000 from eastern Europe, during that period crime has actually fallen significantly."

Mr Fahy said immigrants were not criminals, although there had been tensions in some parts of the country, and sought to qualify the comments made last year by Ms Spence.

"We have had huge increases in the interpreters' budget, but that's not really just about eastern Europeans being offenders, it's also about them being victims and witnesses of crime," he said.

"Our report is very clear: it has led to an increase in some tensions.

When new people come into any community, it can bring pressures - those changes need to be responded to
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

"Particularly, say, those areas which have had higher concentrations - you get misunderstandings, you get rumours, you've got big pressure on things like housing. You get rumours that wages are being held down," Mr Fahy said.

"What is different about this wave of immigration is that it's so sudden.

"This has created a different dynamic which has created tensions and people like Julie Spence have pointed out that we have had huge increases in the interpreters' budget, but that's not really just about eastern Europeans being offenders, it's also about them being victims and witnesses of crime."

'Significant challenges'

He said the nationality of offenders should be recorded to make it easier to monitor crime trends.

Mrs Spence stood by her comments, saying that immigrants were not responsible for a "crime wave" but recent population growth had given police "significant challenges", particularly with non-English speakers, as the force deals with people from 93 cultures, speaking 100 languages.

"Looking after victims and witnesses and managing community tensions is substantially more complex now than three years ago," she said.

"We have seen an increase in specific offences such as motoring offences, sex trafficking, and worker exploitation - a form of modern-day slavery. Our workload and its complexity is increasing.

"Some parts of the country are no doubt unaffected by this. However, Cambridgeshire certainly is."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she would examine the report in detail.

"[The report] is very helpful for getting the issues into proportion," she said

"When new people come into any community, it can bring pressures - those changes need to be responded to - and I wanted to work with chief police officers to find the best way of doing that."


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