UK suspends anti-terror rule used to deport migrants who made tax errors

Pressing pause.
Pressing pause.
Image: Reuters/Richard Pohle
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The British government will pause its controversial use of an immigration rule designed to tackle terrorism to deport migrants.

In a letter (pdf) addressed to the home affairs select committee, home secretory Sajid Javid announced a review of a group of highly skilled migrants who were refused the right to permanently settle in the UK due to minor tax errors. As Quartz has reported, these migrants had their applications for settlement refused under paragraph 322(5) (pdf) of UK Immigration Rules, which denies people the right to remain in the UK because of questions about their character or if they are deemed a threat to national security.

All applications that could potentially be refused under the section “have been put on hold pending the findings of the current review,” Javid notes in the letter. The home secretory expects the review to be completed by the end of May.

Doctors, engineers, and scientists blocked

Around 1,000 migrants—including doctors, engineers, and scientists—are being denied settled status for simple mistakes such as errors in tax returns, according to the support group Highly Skilled Migrants. The group had long argued that the UK’s “hostile environment policy” and its dogged pursuit to cut immigration numbers were harming legal residents.

“This is quite a big victory for us,” says Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the organizers of Highly Skilled Migrants. She describes the announcement as a welcome move but adds there’s more that must be done until the government stops refusing genuine settlement applications under these grounds.

The policy had a devastating impact on many migrants across the country. Quartz reported on the case of Nisha Mohite, a pharmaceutical specialist who was denied settlement after a simple tax error and lost her job, her right to rent, and access the National Health Service. After losing her appeals, Mohite applied for a judicial review. While Mohite’s has yet to get an update on her case, she tells Quartz: “We really appreciate that Home Office have decided to review our cases and we are eagerly waiting for a positive outcome.”

No work while appealing a denial

Others who have been refused settlement with this controversial paragraph are given just 14 days to leave the UK. While some are allowed to remain and fight their case, they do so without the right to work in the UK.

From January 2015 to December 2017, 238 migrants who had the now-defunct Tier One General Visa, which was given to highly skilled migrants, have challenged their settlement refusal through a judicial review, according to the home secretory. Of these, 189 were refused under paragraph 322(5).

The home secretory believes at least 19 highly skilled migrants had been forced to leave the country under this rule. One person had been issued with a visa to return to the UK.