Posted by Vicki 16 February 2011 : anti-terrorism ,
The government has announced the ethnic breakdown of those examined under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, revealing that Asian people are disproportionately affected. The power is specifically employed at transport hubs by counter-terrorism officials and whilst not being formally arrested, it requires examinees to comply with the examination which can last up to 9 hours and may involve questioning, strip-searching and DNA collection.
The ethnicity data was released by Policing Minister Nick Herbert following a question from Labour MP David Lammy in which he asked for the self-defined ethnicity of those detained since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force. Herbert provided data for the period April 2009-March 2010, which was collected on the basis of officer definition of ethnicity. The figures highlighted that of those examined under the power, 46 per cent were officer defined as white; 27 per cent Asian; 19 per cent Chinese or other; 7 per cent African/Caribbean and 2 per cent mixed race.
As argued by FOSIS, the above figures show that people perceived to be from Asian backgrounds are the most disproportionately targeted since they comprise of far less than 27 per cent of the UK population. In addition, it may be the case that the figures for the “white” and “other” ethnic categories are inflated by examinations of those from Arab or Kurdish backgrounds.
Herbert also clarified that ethnicity has been recorded on the basis of self-recognition since April 2010, and that data for the period April 2010 to March 2011 is expected to be published in autumn 2011.
This post was also published on Left Foot Forward
So we’re back to what is becoming an old chestnut; as the latest senior politician condemns multiculturalism. On Saturday, David Cameron took his place, behind Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Trevor Phillips, arguing that “state multiculturalism” has encouraged “different cultures to live separate lives” with a particular Cameron twist – that the UK needs a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to extremism. Surely, such a panoply of senior politicians should have been able to organize the end of so-called state multiculturalism by now – unless of course it never existed in the first place, they do not really mean it, or the alternatives are simply too unattractive to countenance.
A key problem in debates around multiculturalism is that the term means different things to different people. Some believe that multiculturalism actively promotes separate religious and ethnic identities at the expense of common values, whilst others believe that it simply means the existence and recognition of different identities in a shared political space within a framework of human rights. Runnymede’s understanding of the term has always been the latter.
Following announcements that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is about to face 60% budget cuts, Trevor Phillips yesterday gave a speech arguing that equality and human rights are essential to economic recovery. Making the speech at Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank, Phillips also argued that critics of the fairness agenda “are just plain wrong”, adding that the electorate want fairness “even in a time of austerity”.
In particular, he stated that he wants to tackle fear among some business people that equality legislation is a barrier to employing disadvantaged groups, saying that [the EHRC] want to make it a competitive advantage to be fair and inclusive." He also said that "equality is not a burden to the nation. It is part of what Britain expects. It is part of doing the right thing in our modern society”.
He also criticized those who approach equality policy from more extreme positions, stating that whilst those “fighting the phantom armies of Political Correctness” need to understand that they’ve lost the argument, those who believe “we are still in the days of Alf Garnett's imagination” need to realise that times have changed.
Phillips also waded into the increasingly polarising debate on multiculturalism triggered by David Cameron’s weekend speech on Islamic extremism, stating that he does not agree with those who believe the Prime Minister was wrong to speak on the issue. He also criticised Shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan’s statement that the speech was tantamount to “writing propaganda for the English Defence League”, saying that he “would not have used Sadiq's words and [doesn’t] agree with his sentiments”.
In the final wave of answers to parliamentary written answers from the government last week, home office minister Baroness Neville-Jones provided figures for the amount of funding paid through the Prevent scheme, and re-iterated the government’s commitment to review the scheme by January 2011.
Responding to a questions from Conservative peer Lord Sheikh, Neville-Jones said that funding specifically paid through the Prevent counterterrorism programme by the Home Office, Office for Security and Counter-terrorism (OSCT), in the financial year 2009-10 was approximately £30 million. She added that Prevent activity is also funded separately by other government departments.
Today's post was written by Runnymede's public affairs intern Farrah Sheikh
Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that Prevent - a scheme introduced by the last government to prevent violent extremism - is to be re-evaluated in the counter terrorism review later on this year.
The Guardian had originally reported that the scheme was to be scrapped altogether. However, May clarified the Home Office’s position on Prevent in a response to a parliamentary question from Alan Johnson MP, saying that she wanted to separate the community cohesion and integration elements of Prevent from the counter-terrorism strands. Stating that it was “right and proper” that the two elements be separated, she told the House that Prevent was being rejected by those it was supposed to help because it currently merged the integration aims of the Department of Communities & Local Government and the Home Office’s counter terrorism measures.
Elsewhere in the House, MP’s called for any change in the Prevent strategy to include all communities. Kris Hopkins and David Davis both said that many Muslims felt that Prevent was targeted specifically at them. They highlighted the importance of moving away from this position and ensuring that all communities were engaged in any new counter terrorism policy.
The Home Secretary Theresa May has today announced that a “rapid review” of counter-terrorism and security powers is currently underway.
Following May’s announcement last week that stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 will be immediately scrapped, the following areas will also be reviewed:
The review will be carried out by the Home Office, with oversight from Lord Ken Macdonald QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions. Lord Macdonald was made a Liberal Democrat life peer in May this year.
With the Queen’s Speech and official opening of Parliament taking place next week, all eyes will be on what legislation the new coalition government will introduce.
Bills are expected on education, immigration and crime – and of course, the economy. However, one of the most eye-catching prospects for the race equality sector will be what the coalition is calling a “Freedom or Great Repeal Bill”.
Outlined in the seven page coalition agreement, the new government highlights that it will scrap or roll-back initiatives introduced under the Labour government which have been perceived by some as infringing civil liberties. Up for the axe include the controversial ID card scheme, the National Identity register and the next generation of biometric passports. In addition, “safeguards” against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation are proposed.
For the race equality sector, proposals to reform the DNA database will be of particular interest. Research by the Ministry of Justice and Department for Work and Pensions previously found that 30% of all black men living in Britain are on the DNA database compared with 10% of white men, and that 57% of innocent DNA samples taken in London are from the black population. The coalition government is currently proposing to adopt similar measures to those used for the Scottish DNA database which will mean that people acquitted of less serious offences will have their profile removed from the database.
Following blog posts written by Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg for the Operation Black Vote blog outlining their parties’ race equality policies, Theresa May has today highlighted how the Tories plan to help BME communities.
May – who is the party’s equalities spokesperson – argues in the post that the Conservative Party is committed tacking discrimination and promoting equality. She states that there is clear evidence that race is a “key influence” on individual achievement, highlighting the disproportionate number of black children excluded from school and the low numbers of BME students attending Oxford University.
She states that the party supported the Equality Act in parliament and adds that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will have a continuing role in protecting the rights of individuals and groups.
Following Gordon Brown’s post on the Operation Black Vote blog yesterday, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has followed suit with a post on his party’s policies for BME communities.
Arguing that the Lib Dems will ensure that the statute book protects BME communities, Clegg states that his party will uphold the Human Rights Act and support the EHRC.
Highlighting the over-representation of black men in the criminal justice system, he argues that the Lib Dems will make stop and search intelligence led and will remove innocent people from the DNA database. He also labels CLG’s PREVENT programme as one which “alienates” Muslim communities.
The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee has today criticized the government’s controversial Prevent programme, stating that it has stigmatised and alienated those it is attempting to engage and that it has “tainted” many positive community cohesion projects. It also argues that the strategy sits poorly within a counter-terrorism strategy.
Launching 'Preventing Violent Extremism', a report of a recent select committee inquiry into the Prevent programme, CLG committee chair Dr Phyllis Starkey MP said, "We agree that a targeted strategy must address the contemporary al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist threat, but we do not believe a Government department charged with promoting cohesive communities should take a leading role in this counter-terrorism initiative”.
In the past few days in parliament questions have been answered on the impact of airport body scanners on community cohesion and housing benefit for Travellers. Click the link below to read full details in today's blog post. In addition, the Home Affairs Select Committee has called follow up sessions on its inquiries into gurkhas and domestic violence, forced marriage and honour-based violence.
Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr spoke in London at St Paul's Cathedral on his way to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Runnymede is delighted to have supported an anniversary lecture on 4 December on how we can end racism today and work towards Martin Luther King's dream.
St Paul's have written up the event here, with Runnymede's Director putting it in current context here.