11:05, May 20 68 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-20 11:05:31
Home Office faces pressure over deportation of highly skilled migrants

A group of about 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords are to establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop deporting highly skilled migrants using a paragraph of the immigration rules designed to tackle terrorism and people judged to be a threat to national security.

Lord Dick Taverne, QC, in a letter to the Guardian, says he will launch a campaign to lobby the Home Office until it ceases turning Theresa May’s “much-vaunted vision of an open Britain into a closed Britain through the heavy-handed and unconscionable use of this controversial paragraph of the immigration rules, which is denuding Britain of those with the special skills our industries need – and doing so in the cruellest of ways”.

At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing deportation for making minor amendments to their tax records under paragraph 322(5), according to the support group Highly Skilled Migrants.

The group, which has raised about £40,000 to challenge the Home Office in the courts, has helped 10 migrants challenge the government over their use of 322(5) in the last six months. Nine won their cases, with the appeal judges ruling the government’s use of paragraph 322(5) was wrong.

Calling the use of 322(5) “draconian”, Taverne states that “there is no justification and no humanity” in the Home Office’s use of the paragraph, which gives families, many of whom have been here for a decade and have British-born children, 14 days to leave the country. Those who are allowed to appeal are barred from working, renting property or accessing the NHS.

Steve Reed MP, who is setting up the group of MPs, all of whom have multiple constituents threatened by deportation under 322(5), said: “It’s now clear the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy goes far wider than the Windrush scandal. We are seeing highly skilled migrants facing deportation for the most trivial reasons.

“These people were encouraged to come to the UK because our economy needs them,” he said. “I worry about the unfair treatment of these individuals, but also about the message this sends to the world at a time the government is trying to create a post-Brexit concept of global Britain.”

Reed has two constituents facing deportation under 322(5) for having made minor amendments to their tax returns, even though HMRC has not fined or pursued criminal cases against either. “It’s clear the Home Office has embraced a political culture that aims to drive immigrants out of the country on any pretext, however flimsy, however unfair, and however discriminatory its effect,” he said. “This new group of MPs will fight to make sure this does not stand.”

Another member of the group, Alison Thewliss MP, said: “It is imperative that we continue to pressure the government on its repugnant use of the 322(5) Immigration Rules.

“In many cases this paragraph is wrongly – and it seems tactically – being used to portray individuals as a threat to national security, and as a veil to pursue individuals for removal,” she said. “Indeed, today at my surgery more constituents attended to explain that they had recently received 322(5) notices from the Home Office. The people being targeted by these measures are professionals; they are accountants, lawyers, doctors and academics, to name but a few. Many of them have been here for over 10 years, and have put down roots and contributed vastly to their communities.

“That the government appears so desperate to remove these highly skilled individuals, plainly shows that the UK is not as open for business as the prime minister would have us believe,” she added. “The Home Office must get a grip of this situation and fast, before more lives are thrown into turmoil.”

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