North West Migrants Forum

PSNI reporting of migrant victims and witnesses of crime to immigration authorities ‘extremely concerning’

THE Director of the North West Migrants Forum has described as “extremely concerning” revelations that tens of thousands of migrant victims and witnesses of crime were reported by the PSNI to the UK immigration authorities.

An investigation by journalists at The Detail has revealed how between October 2018 and March 2023 police reported an estimated 29 victims and witnesses of crime each day to the Home Office.

All immigrants who came in contact with police were routinely reported, even though the PSNI previously told several organisations, including migrant groups, that it did not pass on information in accordance with its own guidelines.

The PSNI said it stopped its policy of automatically sharing victims’ data with the Home Office in March last year following a review prompted by reporting by The Detail.

Before the change police were reporting around 40 people to the Home Office every day, including an estimated 29 victims and witnesses of crime and 11 suspects.

A letter from the PSNI to the Policing Board stated that since the policy change, police are now reporting around 11 suspects every day.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton wrote that police had previously reassured concerned groups that it did not share victims’ data with immigration authorities.

“On the basis of this guidance we had previously provided assurances to a number of local external stakeholders that we did not routinely share victim data with the Home Office,” he wrote.

However, he said that a series of articles in The Detail last year showed that “a significant level of data sharing with (the) Home Office was taking place”.

Lilian Seenoi Barr is the North West Migrants Forum’s Director of Programmes.

Mrs Barr said the news that the police routinely shared data on migrant victims had the potential to damage an already fragile trust in the force.

“This is extremely concerning and highlights why people hesitate to report hate crimes.

Director of the North West Migrants Forum, Lilian Seenoi Barr, said the revelations, unearthed by investigative journalists at The Detail, could potentially damage an already fragile relationship between some members of the public and the PSNI.

“The PSNI’s actions can be perceived as silently intimidating, instilling fear in crime victims, which is completely unacceptable.

“Trust in the PSNI was already fragile and this will only further damage that trust, affecting not just the victims of crime but the entire community.”

The North West Migrants Forum has vowed to write to the PSNI’s top table, calling for a detailed explanation on how the practice was allowed to happen and what the force intends to address the issue.

Eliza Browning is Policy Officer with the Committee of Administration of Justice (CAJ), a partner organisation of the North West Migrants Forum.

Ms Browning told The Detail’s Luke Butterly she was shocked by the number of people whose data was shared. She said CAJ welcomed that changes that have been put in place since and aid the organisation would continue to work with the police to ensure a “human rights compliant approach” is adopted.

“The scale of this data sharing is clearly far wider than we originally thought and it is extremely concerning that this was allowed to happen for so long without PSNI leadership being aware of it.

“This really vindicates the voices of individual victims and witnesses who have been concerned that the PSNI were questioning them about their immigration status or sharing their data when they reported a crime.

The PSNI have absolutely done the right thing in instigating this end-to-end review and putting a stop to this mass data transfer. We welcome the changes that they have made and will work with them to ensure that a human rights compliant approach is taken going forward, with the safety of victims and witnesses being top priority.”

“The PSNI have absolutely done the right thing in instigating this end-to-end review and putting a stop to this mass data transfer” – Eliza Browning, CAJ Policy Officer.


Last year, The Detail revealed that police forces across the UK, including the PSNI, had shared data on migrant victims of crime with the Home Office.

A PSNI review found that it was the force’s practice to share information on all non-UK nationals who encountered police, even if they were a victim or witness of crime.

In the letter to board, ACC Singleton said the practice was implemented in response to a UK-wide policy between police and the Home Office, known as ‘Operation Nexus’ which sought to “identify Foreign National Offenders who meet the criteria for deportation”.

He added: “The breadth of automated tasking for Operation Nexus in particular has undoubtedly led to unnecessary sharing of victim and witness data with the Home Office.”

When asked by The Detail, police said they have no information on whether victims whose information was shared were later arrested or deported.

“This lack of data was one of the major issues identified by the review,” a PSNI spokesman said.

Police said that they stopped automatically sharing data on victims of crime in March last year.

ACC Singleton told The Detail the force is treating the issue “extremely seriously”.

“We are aware that victims of crime with insecure or uncertain immigration status are fearful that, if they report crime to the police, their information will be shared with the Home Office,” he said.

“The issue is one that has raised concerns nationally for many years.”

He said police are developing a new policy on how to handle migrants’ data.

“Going forward there will be further major changes to how we use the data of foreign national victims and witnesses as well as to when, how and how often we engage with the Home Office,” he said.

You can read The Detail’s full investigative article here: PSNI reported tens of thousands of migrant victims and witnesses of crime to immigration authorities – Investigations & Analysis – Northern Ireland from The Detail