Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:17 pm on 9th June 2020.

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Bella Sankey:

Thanks very much for the question. The Bill will mean that, for the first time, EU citizens will have the deportation laws that currently apply to non-EU citizens applied to them. Those rules are blunt, they are harsh and they are dehumanising. In 2007, the last Labour Government brought in a power of mandatory deportation for anybody who receives a sentence of 12 months or longer. In 2014, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, the coalition Government introduced additional legislation that meant that if somebody was seeking to resist deportation on the grounds that they had a loving parental relationship with a child in the UK, or a child who was a British citizen, they would only be able to do so if the effect of their deportation would have an unduly harsh impact on that child.

The Home Office defines “unduly harsh” as “excessively cruel”, so at present it is insufficient, if you are a non-EEA national, to show that the impact on your child would be cruel; you need to show excessive cruelty. The effect of that provision means that child cruelty is legislated into our primary legislation. It means that the courts, when they are making these decisions, are forced to allow a deportation to go ahead even though they may find on the evidence that serious psychological harm will be done to a child. The courts are clearly very uncomfortable about that and have said explicitly, in terms, that immigration law can no longer be reconciled with family law principles, because family law principles require the best interests of a child to be taken into account in all public decision making.

That is the situation as it stands. The impact of these laws over the past decade or more has been to cause untold trauma and pain, particularly to Britain’s black community, who are disproportionately impacted because, as is well-known, they are a community that is over-represented in the criminal justice system and subject to social and economic deprivation.

The issue from earlier this year that you mention was, of course, a charter flight to Jamaica. The majority of the people booked on to that flight by the Home Office had drugs convictions—a lot of them when they were teenagers or a long time ago. The law as it stands did not allow any of that to be taken into account, because of the automatic and mandatory power to seek deportation of those individuals.

A number of our clients were victims of modern-day slavery, grooming and trafficking, but again, they found themselves in detention without an opportunity to raise the fact that they had been subjected to that, and of course the large majority of them had been in the UK since they were two or three years old and had been in primary school here and secondary school here. I see the Minister does not seem to be agreeing with this account.