by LAUREN CODLING
POLITICIANS in Britain are set to establish pressure groups to urge the Home Office to stop deporting highly skilled migrants based on an immigration policy designed to tackle terrorism.
According to campaign and support group Highly Skilled Migrants, more than 1,000 professionals in the UK, including those from India and Pakistan, are at risk of deportation after they sought indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in Britain.
Individuals face being sent back to the country of their origin under section 322(5) of the Immigration Act, usually used against terrorists, as Eastern Eye reported earlier this month.
In an open letter published in The Guardian last Sunday (20), Liberal Democrats peer Lord Dick Taverne confirmed he would launch a campaign to persuade the Home Office to rethink their policies.
He said he would lobby the department “until it ceases to turn Mrs May’s muchvaunted
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.”
Steve Reed MP, who is setting up the politicians group to challenge the Home Office, said it was clear the government’s “hostile environment” immigration policies go further than Windrush.
“These people were encouraged to come to the UK because our economy needs them,” Reed, who currently has two constituents facing deportation under 322(5), said. “I worry about the unfair treatment of these individuals, but also about the message this sends to the world at a time when the government is trying to create a post-Brexit concept of global Britain.”
Fellow politician Alison Thewliss MP agreed with Reed, saying it was “imperative” that pressure continues to be placed on the government concerning its use of the 322(5) section of the Immigration Act.
“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.”
Incidents reported in the media include businessman Saleem Dadabhoy who is facing deportation to Pakistan under the act. He is the director of Connexion Electrical Ltd, an electrical supplies company which is worth £1.5 million and is thought to employ 20 British citizens.
A Channel 4 report highlighted the case of two Pakistani men Omer Khitab and Mustafa Ali Baig who have been targeted by the Home Office after they requested ILR.
In letters from the Home Office, the pair were told they had declared a lower income for tax purposes and a higher income on previous immigration applications to gain points. Both claimed they amended their tax returns voluntarily and legally some time ago.
“They are forcing us to leave, they are making our life miserable here,” Ali Baig said in the report.
“We have been put in the bracket as rapists, as terrorists.” Khitab said. “Do I deserve that?”
Many of the affected professionals refused ILR have appealed against the Home Office decision in the First Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal – the courts that hear immigration appeals.
Professional migrant workers from non-European Union countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria, were in the UK on a Tier 1 (General) visa.
They were entitled to apply for ILR or permanent residency status after a minimum of five years’ lawful stay in the UK.
While the visa category was discontinued in 2010, former applicants were eligible to apply for ILR until April this year if they met the necessary requirements.
However legal experts have noted a pattern of many applications being turned down on the basis of 322(5), a discretionary rule linked to an applicant’s “good character”.
The reason for refusal under this rule is often a discrepancy in the earnings declared to the Home Office and that to HMRC. While in some cases there may be a legal case of downplaying income for tax reasons or overstating for immigration purposes, experts believe the rule has been used unfairly as a blanket reason for turning down most applications under the Tier 1 (General) route.
Last week, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes was accused of “shambolic incompetence” surrounding the scandal. Speaking to Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, Nokes claimed she had not had time to flag up the issue as she was only made aware of the claims recently.
However, The Guardian obtained letters raising the cases of constituents facing deportation under the 322(5) section, contradicting what Nokes had said.
The Home Office, so far, has declined to comment.