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British MPs accuse govt of ‘cruel’ tactics in treatment of highly-skilled workers

Vidya Ram London | Updated on June 14, 2018

The British government has been accused of “cruel,” “inappropriate” and “heavy handed” tactics over its use of legislation designed to be used against criminals and terrorists to prevent over 1,000 highly skilled migrants, including doctors, lawyers, IT technicians and engineers — many from India — from settling in the UK and threatening them with deportation. It has been urged to consider compensation.

The issue was raised in a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons — where MPs are able to raise issues of concern to them and press the government for a response — by Alison Thewliss, the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Central, who pointed to the use of the controversial clause 322(5) of Britain’s immigration system to deny those who had made amendments to their tax returns and income statements the right to remain in Britain. The migrants were treated as a “threat to national security,” despite many of the cases involving nothing but an “honest mistake” and the tax authorities viewing the matter as closed. She pointed to a number of cases where the Home Office decisions had been overruled in courts, with the judge finding the decisions “entirely disproportionate.”

Minor tax errors

One MP highlighted an instance where two individuals who had only made errors of £1.20 (₹108) and £1.60 (₹145) had faced refusals using this legislation.

Thewliss highlighted the situation of her constituent, Sanjeev Pande, whose refusal (and temporary detention at Heathrow in 2017) was rejected by a judge who said he had been “unfairly treated” by the Home Office.

“Will the Minister tell me whether compensation is to be offered to those wrongly caught up in this mess, just like Windrush?,” she said referring to the recent scandal over the British government’s wrongful treatment of thousands of Commonwealth citizens who arrived in Britain before 1973 as illegal migrants.

“Let us be honest: it is just another issue of low-hanging fruit. It is the Government saying, in a target-driven culture, “Who are the people we can get rid of quickest?,” said MP Jess Philips.

MPs recounted the experiences of their constituents, including one woman who had had medical services withdrawn despite being 8 months pregnant. MP Ruth Cadbury pointed to a group of “highly-qualified, well paid and highly respected IT professionals” from India in her constituency who had been impacted. “They came to answer this country’s skill shortage — a shortage that has not gone away.”

Rupa Huq warned that having a refusal on this basis could tarnish a person’s life for ever, making it virtually impossible for someone to get a visa or job anywhere worldwide after that.

“We do not have a policy of refusing people for making minor tax errors,” Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes insisted during the debate, adding that the rule was long standing and that each cases had to be treated on its individual merits. “We have taken a very thorough approach with this, determined to find out whether there are any genuinely wrong refusals and to put them right.”

Published on June 14, 2018

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