More than 60% of EU citizens stopped and interrogated at ports by British border officials after Brexit come from Romania, figures have shown and raise questions from lawyers about possible racial profiling.
Data from the government show that 7,249 people during the first six months of the year were stopped either at ferry ports or on Eurotunnel and Eurostar vehicles and train services.
The figures represent a fivefold increase compared to the same period in 2020, when free movement between EU member states remained in place for all those who legitimately sought work in another country.
The stops are divided into two categories: those at British ports including Portsmouth, Dover, Harwich and Holyhead, and the so-called “side-by-side checks” carried out at French locations where British officials operate, including Gare du Nord for Eurostar, Coquelles for Eurotunnel and the ferry ports of Calais and Dunkirk.
Of those stopped in the first six months of 2021, 4,482 were from Romania, which ruined the figures for neighboring Bulgaria, of which 600 citizens were stopped, and the 400 questioned from Poland.
Citizens of northern European countries were barely affected by the new immigration controls, with only five Danes staying, 59 from Belgium and 144 from France challenged by border officials.
The law firm Bates Wells, which analyzed the figures, said that although the data may reflect a disproportionate number of Romanians trying to enter the country after free movement had ceased, they asked questions about possible racial profiling at the border.
“It is legitimate to carry out general checks to control illegal immigration, but the latest figures raise the question of where there is an underlying agenda.
“This type of stop can be traumatic, and there is a risk that immigration officers could target innocent people. Racial profiling is discriminatory and it must be pinched if it happens, says Chetal Patel, immigration lawyer and partner at Bates Wells.
The government denied any racial prejudice at the border. “The claim that we have racial profiling is false and unjustified,” said a Interior Ministry spokesman.
“If someone arrives at our border, intends to work here without the right to do so, the public rightly expects us to prevent them from entering – regardless of nationality. These rules are applied fairly and solely on the basis of the individual’s circumstances. ”
They added that the data referred to a time of “restrictive Covid-19 measures, which meant that all foreign arrivals were given greater scrutiny on arrival to protect against imported coronavirus cases”.
The data, published on Gov.uk., does not offer a breakdown of nationalities returning or coming to the UK for the first time in 2021 or entering numbers for arrivals via airports.
Explanatory notes state that “not all individuals will be detained in a detention center” and “some of those denied will then have access to the UK, others will be granted entry with conditions of immigration, while others will be denied entry.”
One explanation may be a lack of awareness or confusion over the change in the rules on 1 January. Another possible reason why the large number of Romanians was stopped could be people who had settled or pre-determined status to stay in the UK who return after Christmas, Easter or closure.
As of June 30, data from the home office 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 decommissioning program, the figures show much lower stop numbers.
Although visas are not required for visits of up to 90 days, or for those already living in the country with a predetermined or resident status, border officials were accused of being heavy earlier this year after it was found that they detained EU citizens. short trips to visit friends, family or partners.
The Guardian reported in May that EU citizens sent to immigration centers and is held in the airports’ detention rooms.
“There is clearly work to be done to educate people about what to expect, so that they do not get caught,” says Patel.
The home office has been contacted for comment.