Clause 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as amended on Report at the House of Lords relates to the “Continuation of North-South co-operation and the prevention of new border arrangements” on the island of Ireland. This clause was inserted in the Lords further to a cross-party amendment.
The UK Northern Ireland and Ireland BREXIT Position paper is limited to ruling out ‘routine’ passport controls within the Common Travel Area (CTA). Government has regularly expressed its desire not to have infrastructure on the land border and also given frequent assurances that there will be ‘no border in the Irish Sea’;
There has been a lack of clarity however as to what ‘non routine’ controls in the CTA will look like with concerns that there will be a resultant increase in selective checks that target persons on the basis of skin colour or other ethnic indicators – the form of discrimination known as racial profiling;
In response to an amendment tabled by Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws the Lord Duncan of Springbank at Report Stage clarified government’s policy objective making clear statements that there “can be no racial profiling at a border” and that “There will be no checks whatever for journeys across the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, nor between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.”
Whilst not doubting the Minister’s sincerity, there is a gulf between these assurances and even present pre-exit day experiences. One recent case in the public domain and further detailed in this submission relates to a lawyer making a return trip on the ferry from Belfast to Scotland. On all four of the occasions he embarked and disembarked at the respective ports in Belfast and Cairnryan he was singled out by immigration or police officers and asked for a passport or ID, and questioned as to movements despite showing his British passport. In so far as he could see on each occasion he was the only black person in the queue and the only person singled out;
In addition to ‘non regular’ CTA checks governments intention is also to regulate post-BREXIT migration in Northern Ireland through ‘intensification’ of hostile environment measures, though the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has urged that NI checks be no more onerous than elsewhere in the UK;
In her recent official mission to the UK the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Ms Tendayi Achiume, in relation to the above concerns, has recommended the UK adopt immigration policies that shield migrants from such racial discrimination;
CAJ would urge MPs in ‘ping pong’ debate on clause 13, that may otherwise largely focus on customs matters, to raise the issues relating to free movement of persons and press for safeguards that would prevent non ‘routine’ checks on the basis of racial profiling.