JustCitizens reveals the findings from the survey “Migrant Experiences with Police Scotland”

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We have some updates on our work on Migrant Experiences with Police Scotland!

In a concerted effort to amplify the voices of migrants and ensure their rights are upheld, we conducted a comprehensive survey in collaboration with the migrant community, shedding light on their lived experiences and interactions with Police Scotland. This initiative aimed to understand the challenges faced by migrants when interacting with law enforcement.


Empowering Migrants: Knowledge and Contact with Police Scotland

Out of 52 respondents, an encouraging 46 displayed awareness of Police Scotland’s presence as a law enforcement agency, a testament to the collective effort of spreading crucial information. However, only 30 were familiar with the correct contact number, indicating a need for enhanced accessibility. Additionally, 27 respondents were unsure about the location of their nearest police station, highlighting the fact that there is a need to provide accessible information concerning the Police to all members of our community.


Taking Action: Reporting and Trusting Police Scotland

It is worth noting that 28 respondents proactively sought assistance from Police Scotland, either by visiting a police station or making a call to report a situation.


Perceptions and Challenges from a Migrant’s Perspective

The survey also provided a platform for respondents to share their experiences. For 45 respondents, Police Scotland represents, to an extent, a beacon of safety, a reassuring sign for community integration. Nonetheless, it is vital to acknowledge the 19 people who expressed feeling ‘stressful’ in their interactions, underscoring the need for empathetic and supportive engagements.

Alarmingly, 11 respondents revealed instances of perceived bias in their interactions with Police Scotland. Similarly, 10 respondents expressed their experiences as narrow-minded and prejudiced. 7 individuals considered feeling unsafe while interacting with police agents and 2 felt the interactions were disrespectful and discriminatory. These responses raise an alarm highlighting the need for continued education and training of officers to foster an inclusive and unbiased environment.


Personal Narratives of their interactions with Police Scotland

The qualitative responses offered profound insights into the nuanced experiences of migrants. Some spoke of professionalism and supportiveness exhibited by police officers, while others shared the challenges they faced, including language barriers, questions unrelated to the incident they intended to report, and questions regarding the length of their stay as well as their country of origin. For example, among the respondents expressed that:


“Nice people, however as its police of course it will be very stressful”


“It was scary, I felt unprotected and sad. The police treatment was unfair. I tried to report a case of domestic violence.”


“I have had to call Police Scotland once to report a situation. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me, as English is no’ my first language, but I managed to explain the situation as best I could. There was a disturbance happenin’ outside my flat late at night, and I felt unsafe. So, I dialed 999 and told them what was goin’ on. The dispatcher was patient and understanding, even though I struggled a wee bit with my English. They asked some questions tae get more information about the situation and where I was. The police arrived in a fair amount o’ time and handled the matter professionally.”


“Awkward and negative. I was taken to police station after I reported some suspicious behaviour of my neighbour. I was asked many questions not related to the topic, how long I have lived in Scotland and also my country of origin.”


“I have been questioned by the police because of witnessing a crime. The police officers were kind, calm, and supportive. They didn’t take a long time and they gave enough time to me to think of my answers.”


“It was not easy, they asked me things not linked to the situation I wanted to report, for example, where I am from, how many years I have lived in Scotland, how many family members live with me.”


Furthermore, the respondents reported that the predominant adjectives to describe the treatment received by the police were: discriminatory (9 out of 52 respondents), negative and biassed (8 out of 52 respondents), disappointing, although some expressed their interactions were respectful and positive (7 out of 52 respondents).

This mosaic of perceptions highlights the intricate nature of these interactions. While some respondents viewed their experiences through a lens of negativity, perceiving them as discriminatory and biassed, others expressed a range of sentiments, including satisfaction and a notable level of reassurance. These findings underline the need for ongoing dialogue and education to bridge the gaps in perception and reality, as we collectively strive for an environment of trust, respect, and inclusivity.


Human Rights and Protecting Personal Data

The survey also delved into critical issues surrounding data protection. Regrettably, only 3 respondents were aware of their personal information being shared by Police Scotland with immigration authorities. The lack of information that the respondents possess concerning this issue is discouraging and disconcerting. This calls for increased transparency, robust safeguarding of the right to privacy and a better  understanding of the precarious position faced by the migrant community in Scotland.

Similarly, it is concerning that only 10 out of 52 respondents express that Police Scotland has a Human Rights approach. This finding is disconcerting and emphasises the need to take the necessary steps so Police Scotland is regarded as a public institution that enforces and defends human rights of the migrant community. It raises crucial questions about the alignment of current police practices with the human rights framework applicable to Scotland.

As an organisation committed to the protection of human rights, these findings spur us to redouble our efforts. We aim to shape an inclusive society where every member, regardless of their background or origin, feels safe, heard, and respected. The dialogue between civil society, migrants and law enforcement agencies should continue and offer more answers in the future. Together, we can forge a community where everyone thrives and nobody is left behind.