Section of Immigration Act to be reviewed after misuse of clause saw highly skilled migrants forced from UK
The government has agreed to stop deporting people under an immigration rule designed to tackle terrorism and those judged to be a threat to national security pending a review, after the Guardian highlighted numerous cases in which the power was being misused.
The news came as the home secretary, Sajid Javid, admitted on Tuesday that at least 19 highly skilled migrants had been forced to leave the country under the rule.
A review of the controversial section 322(5) of the Immigration Act was announced in a letter to the home affairs select committee.
Javid said one person had been issued with a visa to return to the UK as a result of ongoing inquiries. He also said that all applications for leave to remain that could potentially be refused under the section have been put on hold pending the findings of the review, which is due to be completed by the end the month.
Javid’s letter to the home affairs select committee also admitted that the Home Office’s use of the clause – condemned as “truly wicked” and “an abuse of power” by MPs and experts – could have spread to other applications, including that of any migrant applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) who might have been asked to submit evidence of earnings.
At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK are facing deportation under the section of the act.
The high-tax paying applicants – including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals – have been refused ILR after being accused of lying in their applications for making minor and legal amendments to their tax records.
The controversial paragraph comes with devastating conditions. Migrants, some who have lived here for a decade or more and have British-born children, immediately become ineligible for any other UK visa. Many are given just 14 days to leave the UK while others are allowed to stay and fight their cases but not to work.
In addition, those deported under the terrorism-associated paragraph will have that permanently marked on their passports, making it highly unlikely they will ever get a visa to visit or work anywhere else in the world.
In one case exposed by the Guardian the applicant’s tax returns were scrutinised by three different appeal courts who had found no evidence of any irregularities.
Other cases included a former Ministry of Defence mechanical engineer who is now destitute, a former NHS manager currently £30,000 in debt, thanks to Home Office costs and legal fees, who spends her nights fully dressed, sitting in her front room with a suitcase in case enforcement teams arrive to deport her, and a scientist working on the development of anti-cancer drugs who is now unable to work, rent or access the NHS.
The same figures were nevertheless used as the basis for a refusal because of basic tax errors allegedly made by the Home Office itself.
Commenting on the home secretary’s letter, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, said: “We’ve heard of a series of cases of highly skilled workers, employed in our -public services and senior jobs legally for many years, now being told to leave apparently due to minor tax errors.
“So it is welcome that the home secretary is now reviewing all those cases and putting decisions on hold.”
A group of about 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords have establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop deporting highly skilled migrants under the terms of the section.
The home affairs select committee highlighted the issue after questioning Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, about it in early May.
A few days later, they publicly accused the Home Office of being unfit for purpose and guilty of “shambolic incompetence” after the Guardian found letters written by Nokes that appeared to contradict her claim that she had only recently learned of the Home Office’s use of the section.