Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Blair's think tank airbrushed link between crime and immigrants

Possible links between mass immigration and some crimes were censored from a keynote government report, the Standard can reveal.

The report originally contained passages highlighting the risk that organised criminals had exploited higher migration.

But they were taken out of the published version, a milestone study that shifted Labour policy towards encouraging economic migrants.

Published by the Home Office in 2001, the 80-page report - Migration, A Social and Economic Analysis - has been criticised for painting too a rosy picture of the impact of immigration. The draft shown to the Evening Standard reveals it went through several changes that removed paragraphs that could have been seized upon by critics.

The most striking was the removal of the section headed "Criminal behaviour", written as part of a chapter on the impact of migration.

It is understood that the passage on crime was removed because Downing Street was "nervous" that critics including extremists could seize on such candid remarks.

Another section cut proposed a cross-government "communications strategy on migration" to promote a more positive attitude among members of the public and to rebut media myths.

Moreover, in the draft it was asserted that Britain's record towards Jews fleeing Hitler's Nazi regime was "positively shameful in some respects". It also said racism towards black migrants in past years had come "not just from extremists or working class communities, but from politicians and policy-makers at the highest level".

Both comments were airbrushed from the published version. Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, said the disclosures showed a "disgraceful" attempt to massage the findings of the report.

"With every day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that the Government tried to deceive the British people about immigration policy," he said. "This is a disgraceful episode."

The report has already been at the centre of a row this week after claims that officials involved in the review of immigration policy seemed to be motivated by party political considerations. It was written by members the PIU think tank set up by Tony Blair under the lead of Jonathan Portes, 44, now the senior economic adviser at the Cabinet Office.

The missing section warned: "Migration has opened up new opportunities for organised crime." However, it said migrants were not more likely to be criminals, despite foreign nationals forming a higher proportion of the prison population than of the general population. The disparity, it stressed, was almost entirely caused by foreign visitors held for drugs smuggling at ports and airports, and nothing to do with settled migrants.

It reported: "There is emerging evidence that the circumstances in which asylum seekers are living is leading to criminal offences, including fights and begging."

A Cabinet Office spokesman denied that any political pressure was brought to bear on Mr Portes and his team.

"Objectivity and impartiality have always been core values of the civil service," he said.

Passages that were missing from the report

Criminal Behaviour

There are three ways in which migrant criminality may differ from that of the general population:

* The international criminal who travels across borders to pursue criminal activity, for whom screening at ports of entry is increasingly the focus of international cooperation between police forces to detect on entry.

* Organised crime identified with a particular migrant group, including commercial fraud and trafficking in drugs, in illegal migrants and in women — also the focus of attention by police and immigration staff.

* Crime associated with conditions of migration and reception, including recovery of debts by migrant-smugglers, marriage rackets, breaches of immigration control and crime associated with the migrant's circumstances (lack of work, hostel living conditions).

* Taken from Preliminary Report on Migration, 11 July 2000, written by officials in Tony Blair's Performance and Innovation Unit. This section was omitted from the public version of the report, Migration, A Social and Economic Analysis, published by the Cabinet Office in 2001.

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