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Data Security

Rights groups to take Government to court over immigration exemption

Two campaign groups are threatening legal action to force the Government to remove an immigration exemption within a Data Protection Bill which they say denies people access to their data exactly when they need it the most.

Posted on 09 May 2018

Two campaign groups, The Open Rights Group and the3million, are threatening legal action to force the Government to remove an immigration exemption within a Data Protection Bill, which is likely to pass in the House of Commons today.
The exemption will affect anyone who has dealing with the Home Office and other state bodies and companies  who are concerned with “immigration control” - for example, those seeking refuge in the UK, those affected by the Windrush scandal, the three million EU citizens who will have to submit their applications for a new immigration status after Brexit.
According to campaigners, if this Bill becomes law, people won’t have the right to access their personal data, despite the fact the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has acknowledged the Home Office has a ten percent error rate in immigration status checks. They argue the exemption would allow these mistakes to go unchallenged and the errors could lead to an application being refused or even deportation.
Jim Killock Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:
“People will need their personal records to prove that they are entitled to live in the UK. This is a matter of natural justice. Using medical and educational records to trawl for potential suspects is equally worrying, as the government seeks to surveil the population in every way it finds convenient. Mistakes will be made, and lives disrupted or worse.”
Co-founder of the3million Nicolas Hatton said:
"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data, but it contains an exemption for immigration cases that does exactly the opposite. Everyone should be entitled to know how the Home Office and other government agencies are using their records, and that is why the3million support removing this shocking exemption."
Rosa Curling, a lawyer in the human rights team at Leigh Day who is acting on behalf of the3million and ORG, said:
“The immigration exemption creates a discriminatory two-tier system for data protection rights. The clause is incompatible with GDPR, as well as EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights. If the exemption is made law, our clients will apply for judicial review. They have spent months trying to persuade the government to remove the exemption from the bill. If they continue to refuse, our clients will have no option but to request the court’s intervention in this matter.”