Call for England's metro mayors to adopt sanctuary city policies

By agency reporter
October 1, 2020

Metro mayors should champion ‘safe reporting’ so victims of crime without immigration status can come forward without fear, says the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

In a new report, the progressive think tank has called on England’s metro mayors to adopt policies similar to US ‘sanctuary cities’ so victims and witnesses of crime with insecure immigration status can report to the police without fear of action against them by immigration officials.

The report warns that the government’s "excessive" hostile environment policies are preventing people with insecure immigration status from reporting crime. Data-sharing between the police and the Home Office means any interaction with the police force could result in action against them and even deportation, according to the IPPR.

The think tank argues that those with insecure immigration status are particularly vulnerable to crime too, including serious crime such as rape and assault, because they are often fearful of what the consequences of coming forward may hold for their future in the UK. For certain types of crime, such as domestic violence and modern slavery, there is a heightened risk because perpetrators may exploit victims’ immigration status, the IPPR warns.

The report calls on England’s metro mayors – including the mayor of London – to play a critical role in protecting people from crime, regardless of immigration status. They should aim to erect a "firewall" between victims and immigration enforcement, according to the report.

While the powers granted to metro mayors are relatively constrained – and do not allow for the ambitious approach taken by sanctuary cities in the US – there are nevertheless a number of areas where action is possible, according to the IPPR.

The Mayor of London and Mayor of Greater Manchester to some extent have oversight over their respective police forces. IPPR urges them to consider:

  • Safe reporting as a strategic priority – using their police and crime plans to emphasise that officers should prioritise protecting victims of serious crime, rather than pursing low-level immigration offences.
  • Multi-agency police work guarantees – only agreeing to cooperate with other forces or agencies if conditions are met on data-sharing with immigration enforcement.
  • Expanding police training – ensuring additional training for officers to help them to understand the fears about reporting crime for migrants with insecure status.

The IPPR also argues that these metro mayors should consider investing in more Independent Victims’ Advocates and specialist victim support services, as well as using their considerable platforms to lobby national government to legislate for safe reporting practices.

The think tank also proposes actions for other metro mayors with less oversight over policing to consider, including:

  • Ensuring that there is no direct cooperation between the authority and immigration enforcement unless there is a statutory obligation to do so.
  • Making funding to organisations conditional on limiting cooperation with immigration enforcement.
  • Introducing a migration and integration commissioner at the city region level.

This briefing paper follows a major IPPR report (Accesss Denie ) published earlier this month. Later this year, the IPPR will publish a final report with recomendations for the fundamental reform of the Home Office

Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director, said: “There is mounting evidence that victims with insecure immigration status are reluctant to report serious crimes to the police because they fear repercussions from immigration enforcement. This poses a risk to vulnerable migrants, especially those subject to domestic violence and exploitation.

“As leading figures with powerful platforms and – in some cases – responsibilities for their police forces, England’s metro mayors have an important role to play in responding to this challenge and promoting safety for their residents. Now is the time for metro mayors to press for ‘safe reporting’ mechanisms in their cities – which ensure that victims and witnesses of crime can come forward without their data being passed on to the Home Office.”

* Read Sanctuary cities? How regional mayors can protect victims of crime with insecure immigration status here

* Read the IPPR report Accesss Denied here

* Institute for Public Policy Research https://www.ippr.org/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.