https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/07/08/home-office-in-the-media-blog-monday-8-july/

Home Office in the media blog: Monday 8 July

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Today's leading stories include coverage of a sharp rise in stop-and-search, cannabis seizures figures, migrant boat incidents over the weekend and a report on the National Transfer Scheme.

Sharp rise in stop and search

Police attempts to tackle violent crime have brought about a sharp rise in the use of stop-and-search, the Guardian reports. The piece has also been followed up by The Times.

Citing its own analysis of eight forces, the report claims that the tactic was used 33,000 times in the month of March of 2019, compared with 15,500 times in March 2017.

The Metropolitan, Greater Manchester and West Midlands forces were the main drivers behind the increase, according to the data obtained from a Freedom of Information request.

The Times adds that in May, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said that stop and search had helped to drive down the murder rate in the capital by a quarter over the past year.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

Stop and search is an important tool in disrupting crime and taking weapons off our streets.

That’s why we’ve made it simpler for police to use the power in areas particularly affected by serious violence - and increased the number of officers who can authorise its use.

The fall in homicides reported by the Met is hugely encouraging and the police have been clear that when used in a lawful and proportionate way, stop and search can help cut crime.

We will continue to do everything in our power to tackle knife crime and give police the tools they need.

However, nobody should be stopped based on their race or ethnicity, and forces must ensure that officers use these intrusive powers in a way that is fair, lawful and effective.

Police cannabis seizures

Seizures of cannabis by police have halved over the last decade sparking fears the drug is being legalised by stealth, the Mail reports.

In total, police confiscated the drug 94,000 times in 2017/18, down from 175,000 in 2009/10, the report says, citing published Home Office data.

It goes on to say that 7.2 per cent of 16-59 year olds used the drug in 2017/18 and that despite mounting warnings of the harmful long-term effects of the drug, some police forces are not treating it as a priority.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

The Government is committed to tackling the illicit drug trade, protecting the most vulnerable and helping those with a drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.

We are working with law enforcement colleagues to restrict the supply of drugs, prevent drug trafficking and bring those responsible to justice.

The Home Secretary has announced a major review of drugs, which includes a focus on the illicit market.

Migrant boats

Further to online coverage, the Sun reports that at least 21 suspected illegal immigrants used the Channel to enter to UK over the weekend.

Border Force rescued 11 men in an inflatable boat off the Kent coast on Saturday, before they were taken to the Kent Intake Unit for screening.

Border Force and Kent Police also responded to reports of migrants in the Kingsdown area. Ten men, who presented themselves as Iranian, are being interviewed by immigration officials.

A Home Office spokesperson said

Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children.

Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais. In June, the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, agreed to continue to explore options to reinforce the efforts already being made.

It is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and since January more than 40 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

The Times reports that lone child asylum seekers are in danger of not getting the care they need due to a breakdown in government support.

The National Transfer Scheme was designed to share the burden of care across the country. However, pressure group London Council claim that if it is not working as planned and that this could increase pressure on the areas where children are most likely to show up – Dover, Heathrow, Gatwick and Croydon.

According to London Councils, no children were transferred through a Home Office scheme in the first quarter of the year. This is compared to 33 last year.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

Children’s social care is funded through the local government finance settlement and the Home Office provides an additional contribution to the costs of looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking children, which was recently increased following a review of the funding arrangements.

The Home Office is committed to supporting a more balanced distribution of children across the UK, which is why the National Transfer Scheme was introduced in 2016. Since then, nearly 900 children have been transferred to authorities with capacity to look after them.

We continue to work in partnership with the Department for Education and local government, including London Councils, to improve the scheme and call upon all authorities across the UK to step up and do their bit to support the care of these vulnerable children.

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