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Lawyers warn of immigration laws human rights risk

Overhauling immigration laws could lead to Westminster falling foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. Picture: Jane Barlow

Overhauling immigration laws could lead to Westminster falling foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. Picture: Jane Barlow

  • by GARETH ROSE
 

Lawyers have warned the UK government will face human rights challenges over its plans to overhaul immigration laws.

The Law Society of Scotland fears the plans “will limit judicial independence and threaten human rights application”.

Human rights lawyer John Scott QC called the Immigration Bill “typical Tory stupidity and intransigence” and said it will face challenges for contravening the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The coalition government is keen to downgrade the importance of ECHR Article 8 – the right to a family life – in deciding whether people should be allowed to remain in the UK.

It believes people wrongly hide behind Article 8 when they should leave and all other avenues have been exhausted.

However, Scottish lawyers warn the government cannot pick and choose which parts of ECHR laws it follows.

The Immigration Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday, will remove judicial discretion in cases which engage Article 8.

The bill proposes that “little weight should be given” to a private life or relationship when a person’s immigration status is “precarious”.

It has already been criticised by Westminster’s joint committee on human rights.

Michael Clancy, director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We do not agree with proposals to take away from judges the ability to make just decisions in immigration cases which involve the right to respect for private and family life.

“These proposals will limit judicial independence and threaten human rights application.”

Mr Scott believes the coalition government may be seeking to pick a fight with ECHR, as it builds a case for rewriting the UK’s relationship with the EC.

“There will be challenges, starting in domestic courts and going on to the Supreme Court,” he said.

“Anything they do to tinker with the meaning of Article 8 will give rise to court cases.

“It’s typical Tory stupidity or intransigence.”

He denied that Article 8 was frequently used to save people from being removed from the country.

“The balance almost always comes down against the individual,” Mr Scott said.

“Article 8 rights are outweighed by previous criminal acts or that the individual is not entitled to be here. It is not as easy as people think to establish Article 8 rights.”

The Home Office says the bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by this spring.

A notice on the Home Office website states: “The bill will reform the removals and appeals system, making it easier and quicker to remove those with no right to be here.

“It will prevent illegal migrants accessing and abusing public services and the labour market.”

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