Human Rights May Block Deportations

Long-awaited new laws designed to make it easier to deport foreign criminals will allow them to delay the moves by lodging a human rights claim. New Home Office immigration proposals back-tracked on a view expressed by Prime Minister Tony Blair that offenders should be kicked out of Britain “irrespective” of human rights concerns in their home countries.

Under the moves, foreign prisoners will face automatic deportation if they have committed a serious offence and jailed for 12 months or more.

But the UK Borders Bill also set out a range of exceptions where the Home Secretary would not be able to make a deportation order against criminals. Included in these would be if their deportation would breach their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, or the Refugee Convention.

At the height of the foreign prison scandal that led to the sacking of former home secretary Charles Clarke, Mr Blair said there should be a presumption of automatic deportation in the “vast bulk” of foreign national prisoner cases.

He added at Prime Minister’s Questions last May: “Those people, in my view, should be deported irrespective of any claim that they have that the country to which they are going back may not be safe.”

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said foreign criminals who made human rights claims or appeals would be held in detention under immigration powers. “We will keep people in detention until we have worked through these obstacles,” he said.

The Bill also brings in a wide range of new powers for immigration officers in a bid to crack down on human trafficking and other organised crime, including wider, police-style powers of arrest. The Bill sets out how foreign nationals already living in the UK will be forced to apply for biometric immigration documents.

Failure to buy the ID could lead to a £1,000 fine or to them losing their right to stay in Britain. Mr Byrne confirmed he had looked at issuing an amnesty to illegal immigrants – but had rejected the idea. “I think it would attract more illegal immigrants to Britain,” he said.