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YES, PRIME MINISTER, YOUR GOVERNMENT IS BREACHING HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

 

By Keith Best 

 

 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008.

 

The policy of deterrence in asylum has led to the UK Government being dragged through the courts and found to be in breach of its own human rights legislation – the depravation imposed by the 2002 Act, described as "Destitution by Design" by the previous Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

 

It was meant to denied all means of support to asylum seekers and was a prominent example in which the Government was found to be in breach of European Union human rights act against torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.

 

That ruined the name of Britain to the Government's eternal discredit, and to the embarrassment of those who want to be proud of their country and believed that human rights abuses were the preserve of tyrants and dictators.

 

To the great disadvantage of highly skilled migrants who had been encouraged by the Government to come to the UK, the Government had also decided to move the goalposts and change the requirements before they could apply for an extension.

 

Migrants Rights Network stated  that "under these rules a total of 49,188 people entered the UK between January 2002 and October 2006. In April 2006 the Home Office changed the immigration rules extending the qualifying for obtaining settlement from four to five years."

 

The influential Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that the effect of these changes breached rights to privacy and respect for home and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That opinion has now been endorsed by the High Court on April 8, 2008, in which the judge stated, among other things, that "Not to restrain the impact of the changes would, in my judgment, give rise to conspicuous unfairness and an abuse of power" and that "Good administration and straightforward dealing with the public require it.

 

There have been other examples of changing the goalposts against the legitimate expectations of those affected and, therefore, their human rights. My organisation, the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) has been involved in a number of these legal challenges.

 

From before the Human Rights Act came into force on  October 2, 2000, until  January 14, 2008 ,the Government had in place a policy that "enforcement action should not be taken against nationals who originate from countries which are currently active war zones" although, with conspicuous unfairness, it failed to reveal it. It was not a policy that resulted in the grant of leave to remain: it was one which demanded the suspension of removal and it did not only prevent removal: it prevented the commencement of removal action.

 

In a shameful move which endangered large numbers of people, but taken to try to head off a legal challenge, the Home Secretary reversed that policy that day. Yet legal action was taken by us and, in another recent reverse for the Government, it has been found in a case on  June 12, 2008, by the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal that the failure to take the policy into account made the decision to remove unlawful.

 

The Immigration Judges note that their ruling "may affect a substantial number of other cases" and I am trying to find out just how many have been sent back to Iraq unlawfully and who should be allowed to return to the UK.

 

It is a sad but inevitable conclusion, however, that the exercise of nationalism has been and continues to be the enemy of human rights which, consequently, are not safe in the hands of domestic national governments. That is why we are seeing the main moves in developing human rights law at the international level.

 

Keith Best is the head of Britain's Immigration Advisory Service.

 

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