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Northern Ireland news

Lawyer alleges he is victim of 'racial profiling'

Jules Gnezekora, who originally from the Ivory Coast, believes he was singled out for checks while travelling from Belfast to Scotland. Picture by Mal McCann
Connla Young

A lawyer living in Co Down has claimed he was the victim of ‘racial profiling' during a recent trip to Scotland.

Jules Gnezekora, who is originally from the Ivory Coast, said he was singled out four times during a round trip from Belfast Port to Cairnryan in Scotland last month.

The insurance lawyer based in Newcastle said he was left feeling “humiliated” by his treatment.

The Home Office has said immigration officers do not discriminate against any individual in their work.

Mr Gnezekora (48) has lived in Britain since 1994 and moved to Co Down three months ago.

He is a British passport holder.

He said he was the only black person in a queue when he was pulled aside at Belfast Port on April 17 as he tried to board a boat to Cairnryan.

Asked for ID, he showed his passport.

Hours later when he arrived in Scotland he was again stopped and asked to show ID.

Eight days later, on April 25, as he made his way back through Cairnryan, he said he was again pulled out of a queue and asked to produce his passport.

He claims he was also questioned about his place of birth.

On this occasion he became frustrated and raised concerns about ‘racial profiling', he said.

Mr Gnezekora said he does not know how other black people who were travelling on the same boat were treated.

On arrival in Belfast he was once again singled out by officials.

On this occasion he said he was asked to produce his boarding pass even though he was leaving the boat.

He said he was “very annoyed” and showed his passport.

The father-of-one last night said he found the experience of being singled out as “embarrassing” and was upset that he was asked for a passport and ID in a common travel area without being given a reason why.

He said he was also annoyed at being asked questions even after producing ID.

“I was shocked, frustrated, humiliated and upset because I was discriminated against on each leg of my journey,” he said.

“I was not treated equally to the white people who were travelling on the boats with me."

Mr Gnezekora said that on no occasion was he “told either the legal basis for being stopped and questioned in this way, or my rights.”

Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, said the incident happened "at roughly the same time a government minister was giving assurances at a Westminster debate on the Brexit bill that there would be no checks and no racial profiling either on the land border or on journeys from here to Britain”.

“There appears to be a gulf between these assurances and the reality - if government is serious about ‘no border in the Irish Sea' it should commit to ceasing these types of operations immediately.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Immigration Enforcement does not discriminate against any individual.

"Part of our work focuses on domestic travel routes where intelligence has shown they can be used by immigration offenders.

“Immigration Officers speak to members of the travelling public using these routes, regardless of appearance, and a consensual request for photographic ID can form part of that conversation.”

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