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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Rise in police searches of Asians
Police stop-and-search a suspect
Stop-and-searches on Asian people have hugely increased
The number of people from Asian backgrounds stopped and searched by police has increased by 300% since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force.

Home Office figures for England and Wales show that in 2002/2003 nearly 3,000 Asians were stopped and searched.

The total number of stop and searches under terror laws more than doubled in 2002/2003 from 8,550 to 21,577.

Muslim groups have criticised the rise, saying it showed prejudice and "Islamophobia" were evident.

In total there were 869,164 stop and searches in 2002-03 in England and Wales, including the searches under the Terrorism Act.

This was a rise of 22% on the year before and the highest level since 1998-1999.

The percentage resulting in arrests remained at 13% for the second year.

Of last year's searches, 61% were carried out in the Metropolitan police area and 21% in the City of London.

The government is to set up a Stop-and-Search Action Team, including community representatives, which will look at how the powers are being used and produce a guidance manual for all police forces.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said the rise in searches of Asians had to be seen in the context of the rise in the total number of searches.

It seems a very clear message that certainly prejudice does play a part
Iqbal Sacranie
Muslim Council of Britain

"This is obviously the result of the heightened threat from terrorism since 2001 and also there are very many more police-led operations," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The increased threat is from international terrorism, mainly from al-Qaeda and from groups associated with al-Qaeda, so if these powers are being used properly to prevent terrorism and pre-empt terrorist activity, then inevitably that is going to be a target."

She refused to be drawn on whether prejudice played a part in the high number of Asian searches but acknowledged that the proportion of Asians being stopped was too high.

My safety is more important than a few people screaming racism
Ameet, London

In regard to the low level of arrests resulting from the searches, she said terrorism searches often involved preventative action.

"People accept that the threat from terrorism is heightened and it's absolutely right that police are trying to protect people in this country, but they've got to do it properly and therefore they've got to use their powers in specific operations."

Muslim Council of Britain secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie said the practice of stops and searches needed to be reviewed.

'Islamophobia'

He told Today: "It seems a very clear message that certainly prejudice does play a part, and the community can perceive that this can be part of Islamophobia."

Glen Smyth from the Metropolitan Police Federation said the actual rise was from two searches per day to eight.

"In terms of the number of people, it's a pretty small number bearing in mind the circumstances in which we are operating," he told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

It's absolutely right that police are trying to protect people in this country, but they've got to do it properly
Hazel Blears
Home Office minister
An independent member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Abdal Ullah, said young people felt they were being picked on by police "because of their appearance as a young Asian Muslim".

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve described the rise in the numbers of Asians being subjected to stop and search as "troubling".

However, he rejected suggestions that figures reflected prejudice among the police.

Of all stop and searches, there was a 17% increase in searches for whites, a 38% increase for black people and a 36% increase for Asians.

The majority of the searches were carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

The report said the most common reason for conducting a search for blacks, Asians and those of other ethnic appearance was drugs, while for whites it was stolen property.





WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Dominic Hughes
"The rise is due to the perceived increased threat from Islamic terrorists"



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