Along with most countries in the world, the UK reserves the right to deport migrants who have committed serious crimes whilst living in the country. The deportation of criminals is a political hotcake and is frequently commented on by UK media. The conservative papers consistently argue that too many foreign-born criminals are allowed to stay in the country, whilst the left-wing papers demand fairer treatment of migrants who have lived in the UK for many years but are facing being deported because of committing crimes.
Sometimes, the human rights of deportees can be put at risk. In February 2020, several migrants were removed from a government-funded flight chartered to take people deported from the UK for criminal acts, back to Jamaica. The Court of Appeal ruled that the government should not deport detainees from Colnbrooke and Harmondsworth detention centres after lawyers argued mobile phone signal problems meant some of the detainees could not get legal advice.
Campaigners argued that many of those being deported have lived most of their lives in the UK. Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, told the BBC News Channel:
"In these cases where people have been here for a long time and are to all intents and purposes British, by deporting individuals like that you are doubly punishing them.
"For many of these individuals deportation is a much harsher sentence than the time they've already served. Imagine being forever banished from the country you grew up in, unable to visit all of your close family and friends."
Shabana Mahmood MP said one of her constituents had also been taken off the flight.
"He actually served in the British Armed Forces," she said. "He did two tours of Afghanistan, when he came back he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that sort of began the deterioration of his mental health, after which he was convicted for GBH.
"His mental health has continued to deteriorate and his argument has always been: he's served this country, he hasn't had help for the PTSD he picked up as a serving soldier for our country.
"So it really goes to the heart of our notions of what it is to be a citizen."
The law around foreign deportation is complex and, as we will see, in need of reform. Below is a brief outline of the current law.
Deportation is a statutory power of the Home Secretary. Under section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971, a person who is not a British citizen is liable to deportation from the UK if the Home Secretary deems their removal to be conducive to the public good.
A person made the subject of a deportation order must leave the UK. The order authorises their imprisonment until they are deported. Furthermore, it bans them from re-entering the country for as long as it is in force and nullifies any leave to enter or remain approved prior to the order being made or while it is in force.
The UK Borders Act 2007 requires the Home Secretary to deport foreign criminals if they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 12 months or more. It is important to note that the period served in prison is irrelevant – it is the length of sentence handed down by the Court that matters.
Section 33 of the UK Borders Act 2007 sets out the exceptions to the requirement to issue a deportation order:
If you believe any of these exceptions apply to your case it is crucial to seek the advice of immigration solicitors. They can advise you on the best steps to take to challenge your deportation order and represent you in Tribunal proceedings.
Following the Windrush scandal, a draft report has recommended that criminal offenders who came to the UK as children should not be deported.
According to the BBC, the draft report stated:
"Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs [foreign national offenders], if necessary through primary legislation. It should consider ending all deportation of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say, before the age of 13).
"Alternatively, deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases."
However, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel has recently announced that the government plans to strengthen its ability to deport foreign criminals. From January 2021, EU/EEA nationals and those from outside the EU could be deported for minor offences such as shoplifting.
A Home Office document detailing the changes to criminal deportations states:
“Where the 12-month criminality deportation threshold is not met, a foreign criminal will still be considered for deportation where it is conducive to the public good, including where they have serious or persistent criminality.”
There is no denying that certain people who come to the UK and commit vile crimes such as murder, serious assaults, sexual offences etc. should be made to leave the country after they have finished their custodial sentence. But for those who have lived in the UK for most of their life, deporting them ‘home’ is not only a horrendous ordeal for them, leaving them vulnerable to poverty and loneliness, it is also simply forcing other nations to deal with the UK’s challenges.
The UK is not alone in this practice. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, heatedly told Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison in February, to stop deporting “your people and your problems” to New Zealand.
Countries cannot shift their responsibilities onto others. Rehabilitation for criminals who have lived their lives predominantly in Britain must be undertaken and paid for by the UK.
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