Moved by Baroness Hamwee
82A: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—“Family life(1) This section applies when a court or tribunal is required to determine whether a decision made under the Immigration Acts in respect of a relevant person—(a) breaches a person’s right to respect for private and family life under Article 8; and(b) as a result would be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.(2) In subsection (1) a “relevant person” is—(a) any person who, immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1, was—(i) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016;(ii) residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with a right conferred by or under any of the other enactments which is repealed by Schedule 1;(iii) otherwise residing in the United Kingdom in accordance with any right derived from European Union law which continues, or immediately before the commencement of Schedule 1 continued, by virtue of section 4 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to be recognised and available in the United Kingdom; and(b) any other person within the scope of regulations under sections 4(1) and (4).(3) In a case to which this section applies, section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 shall be read subject to the following modifications.(4) Section 117C(5) shall be read as if the words “and the effect of C’s deportation on the partner or child would be unduly harsh” were replaced with “and either—(a) the effect of C’s deportation on the partner would be unduly harsh; or(b) it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without C.”(5) Section 117C(6) shall be read as if—(a) the word “(“C”)” were inserted after “foreign criminal” and(b) the words “there are very compelling circumstances, over and above those described in Exceptions 1 and 2” were replaced with “either—(i) C has a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child and it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without C; or(ii) there are very compelling circumstances, over and above those described in exceptions 1 and 2””Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause modifies the threshold for deportation of EEA nationals and family members who are parents of “qualifying children” – children who are British or have lived in the UK for 7 years or more.
My Lords, EEA nationals and their family members will of course be made subject to the system of immigration control when free movement ends. That will affect those who face removal from the UK on the basis of their character or conduct, including any criminal record. The tests for the deportation of EEA nationals and their family members are currently more stringent than those for the deportation of third-country family members of British nationals and settled persons.
Those who have not raised protection claims and meet the deportation criteria, and who want to remain in the UK on family life or private life grounds, must satisfy one of two exceptions. Either they must prove that they have
“a genuine and subsisting relationship with a qualifying partner or a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child” who would experience the deportation as “unduly harsh”. Those sentenced to four years or more must show very compelling circumstances—a higher threshold than that.
The Home Office interprets “unduly harsh” as excessively cruel. In the case of KO, the Supreme Court found that, to meet the test, mothers and fathers facing deportation must demonstrate that separation from their children would involve
“a degree of harshness going beyond what would necessarily be involved for any child faced with the deportation of a parent.”
In the subsequent cases of PG and KF, the courts held that most children who have a parent facing deportation would be likely to suffer significant psychological trauma, so that to succeed in their appeal the parent would have to show a risk of harm beyond what would normally be expected. The court in the case of PG expressed great sympathy for the children but said that distress to innocent children is insufficient to prevent deportation.
That means, in effect, that the courts are obliged to accept that harshness or cruelty caused to a child is acceptable—or, at any rate, has to be accepted—even where the long-term harm and trauma caused to the child, their family and the community may be detrimental to society at large and therefore not in the public interest.
Unlike a criminal sentence when a parent is sentenced to imprisonment, deportation can effectively end a child’s family life with a parent for the whole of their childhood. The permanent ending of family life can have a long-term negative impact. I do not need to describe that in detail to noble Lords. The partner left in the UK effectively becomes a single parent with all the struggles that involves. Perhaps it is a rhetorical question, but how can this be reconciled with the duty under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to have
“regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom”?
Despite the Home Office’s statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and have children’s best interests as a primary consideration, the Home Office does not record the number of families it separates through deportation. We have had plenty of debates in this House about the importance of data. In 2018, Stephen Shaw, whose reviews have been so powerful, said:
“I find the policy of removing individuals brought up here from infancy to be deeply troubling. For low risk offenders it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”
For those who have committed serious crimes, there is a further question of whether it is right to send high-risk offenders to another country when their offending follows an upbringing in the UK. As I have said, judges have expressed sympathy with appellants in deportation appeals and have expressed surprise at the effect of the legislation. As Lord Justice Baker remarked in the case of KF:
“For those lawyers, like my Lord and myself, who have spent many years practising in the family jurisdiction, this is not a comfortable interpretation to apply. But that is what Parliament has decided.”
My Lords, I intervene to support Amendment 82A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She has set out a very clear case, so I will be brief.
I have lost count of how many times we have heard Ministers say, “We want to treat everyone the same way; we want a global system.” As the noble Baroness set out, this amendment seeks to correct a discrimination in how the law was being applied. Many times, when I have risen to speak in this Committee, it has been because of concern about family life, the impacts of decisions on children and the separation of families. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, just set out, that is what we are looking at here, as well as a situation in which people who are clearly a product of British society—and should be our responsibility—being dumped on other nations, which may have far fewer resources than we have to deal with them. To expect other nations to pick up the results of our choices and decisions is utterly unreasonable.
It is chiefly those innocent children, spouses and partners I am concerned about—lives being torn apart. I refer the Minister to the Children’s Commissioner’s quotes I referred to in the Skype family amendment. This has massive impacts on well-being, health, mental health and educational attainment.
The last time I spoke, I talked about the judgment of Solomon. It is a question of applying the judgment of Solomon or applying his wisdom to make a choice that is best for individuals or society. I therefore commend Amendment 82A to the House.
This is my last contribution on the Bill in Committee, so I pay tribute to the relatively small number of Members of your Lordships’ House who have done an enormous amount of work and clearly have a massive amount of expertise in all these areas. I have learned a great deal from listening to that. I appreciate that, and I hope the Government will listen to nearly all the amendments presented here, which have been trying to make the Bill more humane, fair and respectful of human rights.
The mover of the resolution, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has explained the background to this amendment and what has prompted it. As has been said, Section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 provides an exemption against deportation where it would be “unduly harsh” on that person’s partner or child. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, explained, the amendment seeks to give what I would interpret as more specific and relevant weight to the impact on a child of the deportation of somebody who may be a foreign criminal with a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with that British child, or other qualifying child, when considering an exemption.
I await with interest the Government’s response, during which I hope it may be possible for the Government to provide information on the number of such exemptions against deportation given under Section 117C of the 2002 Act in each of the last three years for which figures are available. Also, what estimate, if any, have the Government made of the increase, if any, in the number of such exemptions per year that would result from the change provided for in this amendment becoming applicable—a change which, frankly, in the light of some of the legal cases to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred, would seem quite reasonable?
My Lords, next time I stand here, I will bring a series of numbers because the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others have foxed me on numbers this afternoon. However, but I will get for him, if I can, the number of exemptions under Article 8. I thank the noble Baronesses for bringing forward Amendment 82A on family life.
The Article 8 ECHR
“right to respect for family and private life” is a qualified right, which can be circumscribed where lawful, necessary and proportionate in the interest of a number of factors, including national security, public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Section 117C of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 provides that when assessing whether deportation breaches Article 8 of the ECHR, the deportation of a foreign national offender is in the public interest, unless certain exceptions apply. These amendments seek to alter these exceptions and diminish the importance placed on the public interest in deporting the most serious offenders.
The proposed new clause amends the exception at Section 117C(5) for foreign national offenders—or FNOs—who have been sentenced to less than four years of imprisonment and have a genuine and subsisting relationship with a qualifying partner or child so that their deportation would not be in the public interest if it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without the foreign national offender. That would be in addition to the existing exception which applies where the effect of the deportation on the partner or child would be unduly harsh.
This clause also amends the exception, at Section 117C(6), for FNOs who have been sentenced to more than four years of imprisonment, so that their deportation would not be in the public interest where they have a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child and it would be unreasonable for the child to leave the UK or to remain in the UK without the FNO. This would be in addition to the current exception which requires that there are very compelling circumstances over and above the exceptions for FNOs sentenced to less than four years.
When considering whether the effect on a child of deporting a foreign criminal is unduly harsh, consideration may already be given to whether it is reasonable to expect the child to leave the UK, taking account of the child’s nationality and length of residence in the UK, or whether it is reasonable to expect the child to remain in the UK, separated from one parent. It is obviously a higher threshold than in non-criminal cases because of the greater public interest in deporting serious or persistent foreign criminals. Parliament has expressly required a particularly high threshold when assessing whether the deportation of those sentenced to at least four years’ imprisonment is in the public interest. That reflects Parliament’s—and I would say the wider public’s—view that the more serious the offence committed by a foreign criminal, the greater the public interest in their deportation as explicitly set out in the 2002 Act.
The best interests of any child affected by the foreign criminal’s deportation, the nationalities and immigration status of family members and the nature and strength of the foreign criminal’s family relationships are all factors relevant to the Article 8 proportionality assessment when determining whether there are very compelling circumstances. Section 117C already strikes a good balance between protecting affected partners and children and the public interest in removing FNOs. The courts have upheld the lawfulness of the family life considerations to be taken into account in relation to deportation, agreeing that they are consistent with the requirements of Article 8.
This clause would not apply to all FNOs but only to those residing under EU free movement rights immediately before they were revoked. This would mean applying Section 117C differently to EEA and non-EEA citizens. It is right that, as far as possible, we create parity for all foreign nationals in the UK. Where conduct is committed after the end of the transition period, an EEA citizen protected by the withdrawal agreements or by the UK’s domestic implementation of those agreements will be considered for deportation according to the same rules as non-EEA citizens. I hope that with that explanation, the noble Baroness will be happy to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, who has certainly done her fair share of work on the Bill, is quite right in saying that this is about correcting discrimination, and I do not think the Minister addressed that point. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is also quite right that this is about the impact on children. This is not a hearts and flowers amendment about all criminals.
The Minister said that she would bring the numbers with her for the next debate on these issues. I understand that the Home Office has no numbers on this; I shall be glad if she writes to correct me if I am wrong, but I was told that it had no data.
The amendment comes from the organisation Bail for Immigration Detainees. It sees how Section 117C operates. Frankly, I would not like to have to apply it—and that has been the view of certain courts, which I have quoted. I am not arguing that it is unlawful, but I am saying that Parliament should take this opportunity to reflect on how thinking about our society develops and changes. The courts may say that it is lawful, but some judges have also said that, in their view, it is not necessarily right as judged by other criteria. The Minister said that this would diminish the weight placed on the public interest, but I think that there is a public interest in the impact of laws on children.
This amendment was about—or is about; I have not withdrawn it yet—treating EEA and non-EEA citizens equally. We have heard about the importance of this throughout the four days of this Committee. I am sorry that the Government have now prayed in aid the fact that the clause can be only about EEA and Swiss citizens, rather than accepting that this would level things up and end a discrimination. However, I think I have no alternative at this moment other than to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 82A withdrawn.
Clause 5: Power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security coordination
Amendment 83 not moved.