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UK slammed for plan forcing people to prove nationality

The British government has been criticized for a recent “discriminatory” bill that would make people show proof of their nationality or face prosecution.

The government is proposing the bill to provide police and immigration officers across the UK with an authority to order arrested people to prove their nationality and the foreign nationals to show their nationality documents like passports.

If they fail to prove their nationality within 72 hours, they would face a criminal offence and prosecution.

The Conservative government claims the move will lead to easier removal of foreign offenders while a number of experts warn that this would enable the police to target people because of their looks, color and accent.

Sara Ogilvie, from civil rights organization Liberty, said the basis of the policy is discrimination as appearance and accent are the only grounds on which police could decide who is not a British citizen.

“Requiring police to make clumsy assumptions and ask provocative questions about a person’s nationality is a toxic recipe for race relations in our towns and cities. This policy should have no place in the criminal justice system and risks leading to unfair trials,” she noted.

The policy would disproportionately challenge people with minority backgrounds, said Adrian Berry, head of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association.

Armed British police officers patrol the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras railway station on January 8, 2015 in London. ©AFP

“Making it a criminal offence for a person arrested to fail to produce a passport on demand or state a nationality is unnecessary, heavy handed and carries its own risks. A police officer need only suspect a person is not a British citizen to demand a passport,” he also said.

Berry further stressed that the move would also affect British citizens and force them as well as others to “carry identity documents or passports when at liberty in the UK.”

Lord Paddick, a Liberal Democrat spokesman in the House of Lords, described the policy as another measure to undermine police and community relations.

“This measure puts the police right back at the centre of enforcing immigration law,” said Paddick, also a former police chief, stressing that this is what police do not want to see.

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