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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Government failures on civil liberties set to bite them again

One of the key principles of data protection legislation is that subjects should be able to know what information is held on them and be able to challenge its accuracy. That is the best way to ensure that data holders, often government agencies, make rational decisions based on the facts, rather than rely on innuendo and misinformation.

It is shocking therefore that the UK Government are seeking to introduce changes in its Data Protection Bill that aims to deny millions of people the right to access immigration data held on them by the Home Office.

Organisations representing up to 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and digital rights activists have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, giving notice that they will take legal action if a clause in the data protection bill is enacted. The threat is aimed at proposals in the bill to introduce an exemption for immigration information.

They believe that the clause would prevent those facing deportation from obtaining and challenging the accuracy of personal data held on them by the government:

The two groups – the3million, a grassroots organisation representing EU citizens living in the UK, and the Open Rights Group (ORG), which campaigns on privacy rights and free speech online – argue that the clause in the bill breaches the government’s obligations under the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR).

The bill will be debated in parliament on Monday. Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day, which 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 written to the government today to urge it to reconsider and to remove the immigration exemption from the bill without further delay.”

Jim Killock, the ORG executive director, said: “This is an attempt to disguise the Home Office’s mistakes by making sure that their errors are never found. When people are wrongly told to leave, they would find it very hard to challenge.

The Guardian say that immigration caseworkers have said that if clients can no longer access their Home Office files they will never discover why a residency application has been turned down and will be unable to challenge administrative mistakes. That is unacceptable.

Are the Government that desperate to meet their unrealistic immigration targets that they want to stack the law in their favour, against the principles of natural justice?
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