Home Office challenged in court for deporting highly skilled migrants

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LONDON: The Home Office is to be challenged in court over its decision to strip hundreds of highly skilled migrants of their UK status under a section of immigration law designed to remove people who pose a threat to national security.

According to an Independent report, ministers admitted in November that at least 300 highly skilled workers – including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals – have been wrongly told to leave Britain for making minor and legal amendments to their tax records.

Now campaigners are going to argue in the Court of Appeal that the Home Office has been misusing a law, known as Section 322(5), which forces migrants to leave the country due to their “conduct, character or associations or the fact that [they] represent a threat to national security”.

A government review of the 322(5) provision, published in November, suggested up to 87 highly skilled migrants have been wrongly forced to leave the UK under terrorism-related legislation. The test case is being brought by Migrant Rights Network. A petition demanding home secretary Sajid Javid stops “abusing the national security clause to deport highly skilled migrants”, has garnered almost 100,000 signatures.

One Pakistani man, who asked not to be named, said his life had been “turned upside down” since he was refused leave to remain in 2017 under the clause. He has since appealed the refusal and was granted UK status in August 2018, but while waiting for his hearing he was prevented from working, pushing him into debt.

The 38-year-old, who has been in Britain for 12 years and is a single parent to a severely autistic eight-year-old child, had been working for the civil service as an IT trainer for seven years, but when his application was rejected he lost his right to work.

He said he has had to pay around £35,000 in application fees and legal fees to fight the refusal. He has not been allowed to work for more than a year, and when he was granted leave to remain he was told his vacancy had been filled so is still looking for work.

Mushtaque Shah and his wife Sehar, both Pakistani nationals who have lived in the UK for 12 years and have two British-born daughters, one of whom was born recently, were unable to visit terminally ill relatives before they died because the Home Office is still holding their passports after two and a half years.

The couple, who live in Newcastle, say the uncertainty surrounding their right to be in the UK has made it a difficult time.

Afzal Khan, Labour’s shadow immigration minister and MP for Manchester Gorton, said: “The awful hostile environment, which led to the Windrush crisis, is now hitting highly skilled migrants. “I have met doctors, teachers and engineers who have done nothing wrong, but are caught up in the government’s hostile approach to migrants. Our economy and public services rely on highly skilled migrants. We should be welcoming them, not subjecting them to such injustices.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As legal proceedings are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment.”