The European Court of Human Rights has found that the deportation of a Nigerian man from the United Kingdom violated his right to respect for private and family life guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant in Unuane v United Kingdom successfully argued that his removal from the UK was a disproportionate interference with family life because it separated him from his children. Though finding for the applicant, the Court rejected his attack on the compatibility of the Immigration Rules – an issue that as recently as 2016 the Supreme Court had authoritatively settled. The decision is of interest for the Court’s approach to the necessary balancing exercise to be carried out in the sensitive area of human rights challenges to the deportation of foreign criminals.
The applicant, Mr Unuane, is a Nigerian national who came to the UK in 1998. He has three children with his Nigerian partner, all of whom are (now) British citizens and one who has a rare congenital heart defect. In 2005 the applicant was convicted of obtaining a money transfer by deception and in November 2009 he and and his partner were convicted of offences relating to the falsification of thirty applications for leave to remain in the UK. He was sentenced to a period of five years and six months’ imprisonment, while his partner was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment. Since the applicant was sentenced to more than twelve months, he was deemed to be a ‘foreign criminal’ and as such the Secretary of State was required to make a deportation order against him (s32(5) UK Borders Act 2007). An order was made against the applicant’s partner for the same reason and against two of his children as dependent family members (only one was a British citizen at the time).
Demonstrators protest government deportation flights outside Downing Street. Credit: The Guardian.
The last week provided no shortage of legal controversy, and posed the author of this blog considerable difficulty when trying to identify which developments deserved the most prominence. In analysing this avalanche of legal news, however, certain key themes started to develop.
It is undeniable that the Human Rights Act has had a significant impact on the work of the Supreme Court. Just under a quarter (14 of 61) of cases decided during the Court’s 2018-19 term featured a determination on at least one issue relating to the Act or the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK Supreme Court is soon to begin Hilary Term 2020, and whilst the docket of cases it is set to hear this term seems to largely steer clear of controversial human rights issues we can nonetheless be confident that 2020 will feature its usual share of big human rights cases. What follows is a short preview of some of the more interesting and controversial of those cases, all of which the Court is due to hand down at some point this year.
It is well established that, under Article 3 ECHR, the United Kingdom cannot deport an individual to a country where, there is a “real risk” of them being subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. This has been extended to include situations where the deportee would be placed in circumstances which might occasion a significant deterioration of health, including where they lack access to life-saving treatment.
The question in this case is whether Article 3 prohibits deportation in AM’s situation. He is an HIV-positive individual, whose condition for many years was being managed by anti-retroviral drugs in the UK. If deported to Zimbabwe, he would be very unlikely to have access to the same treatment. Although some medical options would be available to him, they would likely be significantly less effective for the management of his condition.
Previous authorities had restricted the application of Article 3 to ‘deathbed’ cases only, where the deportee would likely die quickly following their removal from the country.
Ms Apata with her partner, Happiness Agboro. Photo credit: The Independent
Hannah Lynes brings us the latest edition of the Human Rights Round-up
In the news
A challenge brought against a Home Office decision to deport LGBT activist Aderonke Apata was this week rejected by the High Court. Ms Apata fears a return to Nigeria would mean “imprisonment and death because of her sexuality”, reports the Independent.
Ms Apata claimed to be engaged to a long-term partner and the paper reports that she was “so desperate to convince the Government she was gay that she submitted a private DVD and photographs of her sex life as evidence.”
Johnson, R (on the application of) the Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2386 (Admin) 17 July 2014 – read judgment
The proposed deportation to Jamaica of a man convicted of drug smuggling and manslaughter would breach his rights under Article 8 and Article 14 because he had not obtained British citizenship on grounds of illegitimacy, the High Court has ruled.
The claimant challenged his proposed deportation to Jamaica, following his conviction and imprisonment for a very serious criminal offence. He submitted that deportation would violate his right to private and family life under Article 8 combined with the prohibition on discrimination under Article 14. The discrimination was said to arise because the claimant did not become a British citizen when he was born in Jamaica as the illegitimate child of a British citizen, whereas he would have been a British citizen if he had been a legitimate child, and a British citizen cannot be deported.
Following his conviction for manslaughter the claimant was sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment. The length of his sentence meant that he was subject to automatic deportation as a foreign criminal pursuant to Section 32 of the UK Borders Act 2007. On his appeal against the respondent’s notice, the issue of discrimination arose because of the fact that the claimant would not have been a foreign national had his British father been married to his Jamaican mother when he was born (in Jamaica). Continue reading →
AB, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3453 (Admin) – read judgment
Here unfolds a story of sophisticated abuse of the asylum system in this country by an individual skilfully shamming persecution. Nor did the security agents who escorted the claimant on his departure come up smelling of roses: it emerged during the course of these proceedings that they had falsified a room clearance certificate to boost the defence case.
The judgment also points up the potentially far-reaching effect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and how this might render all the handwringing about the European Convention on Human Rights irrelevant, and a home grown Bill of Rights otiose.
The claimant, whom Mostyn J describes as “a highly intelligent, manipulative, unscrupulous and deceitful person”, arrived in this country in 2005, was refused asylum and was deported in 2010. He sought judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision to refuse his claim and return him to his state of embarkation, “Country A” (so designated because there was a reporting restriction order made in the original proceedings anonymising both the claimant, his country of origin, and the political organisation of which he claimed to be a member. Mostyn J “reluctantly” went along with that order in this proceedings, since neither of the parties applied to have it reviewed.)
MF (Nigeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1192 – read judgment
In what circumstances can a foreign criminal resist deportation on the basis of his right to family life under Article 8 of the Convention? Until 2012 this question was governed entirely by judge-made case law. Then rules 398, 399 and 399A were introduced into the Immigration Rules HC 395. I have posted previously on the interpretation of these rules here and here.
The rules introduced for the first time a set of criteria by reference to which the impact of Article 8 in criminal deportation cases was to be assessed. The intention of the legislature in introducing these rules was to state how the balance should be struck between the public interest and the individual right to family life:
Othman (aka Abu Qatada) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 277 – read judgment
The Home Office last night assured its 70,000 Twitter followers that “it is not the end of the road”. Yet by the time she had reached page 17 of the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of her latest attempt to deport Abu Qatada, it might well have seemed that way to Theresa May.
In November, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled that Qatada could not be deported to face a retrial for alleged terrorism offences due to the real risk of “a flagrant denial of justice”. Read my post on that decision here. Yesterday, Lord Dyson – the Masters of the Rolls and second most senior judge in England and Wales – together with Lord Justices Richards and Elias, rejected the Home Secretary’s appeal.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is no stranger to ill-founded outbursts concerning the evils of human rights. Against that background, her recent article in the Mail on Sunday(to which Adam Wager has already drawn attention) does not disappoint. May’s ire is drawn by certain recent judicial decisions in which the deportation of foreign criminals has been ruled unlawful on the ground that it would breach their right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Some of these judgments, May contends, flout instructions issued to judges by Parliament about how such cases should be decided.
Those instructions consist of new provisions inserted last year into the Immigration Rules, the intended effect of which was to make it much harder for foreign criminals to resist deportation on Article 8 grounds. The Rules – made by the executive and endorsed by Parliament, but not contained in primary legislation – provide that, where certain criteria are met, “it will only be in exceptional circumstances that the public interest in deportation will be outweighed by other factors”. The assumption appeared to be that this would prevent judges – absent exceptional circumstances – from performing their normal function of determining whether deportation would be a disproportionate interference with the Article 8 right.
But he will probably best be remembered, certainly by this blog, for an interview he gave following a speech by Home Secretary Theresa May at the Conservative Party Conference. You may remember it. It was about a cat. Which was apparently (but not really) responsible for a court’s failure to deport a man from the UK. Immediately following the speech, Ken Clarke told the Nottingham Post what he thought about May’s comments:
Mohammed Othman v Secretary of State for the Home Department, 28 May 2012 – read judgment
This was a further application for bail to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) after the appellant had failed in his application to the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court earlier this month, but had launched an appeal to be heard by SIAC, against the Home Secretary’s refusal to revoke his deportation order.
Angus McCullough QC appeared for Abu Qatada as his Special Advocate in these proceedings before SIAC. He is not the author of this post.
A full hearing will take place in October. Until then, bail has been refused and Abu Qatada will remain in detention.
Given the evidence before him, Mitting J had to base his judgment on the assumption that the Secretary of State would not have maintained the deportation order unless convinced that she was in possession of material which could support her resistance to the appellant’s appeal and which could satisfy “the cogently expressed reservations of the Strasbourg Court about the fairness of the retrial”which the appellant would face in Jordan.
Two consequences flowed from these developments, according to the judge. One is that SIAC’s final decision in October is likely to put an end to this litigation. The second is that the risk of Qatada absconding has increased, if he assumes, in the light of the expressed determination of the Secretary of State, that he would not avoid deportation to Jordan by litigation in and from the United Kingdom. Continue reading →
It has been a week of victories for the UK government in deportation cases in the European Court of Human Rights. On the same day as the ECtHR found that Abu Hamza and four others could be extradited to the US on terrorism charges, it also rejected a case of a man facing deportation despite having lived in the UK since the age of three.
The applicant, born in 1986, had a number of criminal convictions. The Court accepted that he had been in the UK since the age of three, although he had only acquired indefinite leave to remain in December 2003. In 2007 he pleaded guilty to possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply. He was jailed for three years and later in 2007, he was given notice that the Secretary of State intended to have him deported to Nigeria, as he is a Nigerian national.
W (Algeria) (FC) and BB (Algeria) (FC) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 8 – read judgment
As we reported in our summary of the decision earlier, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) has the power to order that certain witness evidence may be produced in conditions of absolute and irreversible secrecy.
A brief recapitulation: the appellants were resisting return to Algeria, a a country where torture has been systematically practised by the relevant authorities. The respondent secretary of state had obtained assurances from the Algerian Government that the appellants’ rights would be respected upon return, but, in appeals to the Commission, the appellants wished to adduce evidence from witnesses with inside knowledge of the position in Algeria that those assertions would not be honoured, and that torture and ill-treatment of the returnees was likely. The witnesses were not prepared to give evidence in the appeals unless their identity and evidence would remain forever confidential to the Commission and the parties to the appeal. The Court of Appeal held that despite the breadth of the Commission’s powers under Rule 39(1) of the SIAC (Procedure) Rules 2003, it was not open to it to give such guarantees. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling, declaring that SIAC could give an absolute and irrevocable guarantee of total confidentiality to a witness who was prepared to testify that the deportee was likely to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment upon return despite contrary assurances from the authorities in the country of return.
Raed Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department IA/21/21631/2011 – Read Judgment
1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.
The First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum and Immigration Chamber), has upheld the decision of the Home Secretary to deport Raed Mahajna, who had come to the UK to attend a number of meetings and speaking engagements.
Mr. Mahajna (also known as Raed Saleh) was born in Israel in 1968. He is however of Palestinian origin and has been a vocal critic of the Government of Israel. Aware of his intention to travel to the UK, the Home Secretary issued an exclusion order against him on the basis that he had publicly expressed views that fostered hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. However, this order was never served upon him, and he entered the UK on 25th June 2011. He was subsequently arrested on 27th June and detained until released on bail on 18th July.
Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2481 (Admin) (30 September 2011). Read judgment.
1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.
The High Court has ruled that detention of a Palestinian activist, whilst he was challenging the decision to deport him on public policy grounds, was lawful in principle. However, the failure to explain to Raed Salah Mahajna the reasons for his detention in a language he could understand rendered the first 35 hours of detention unlawful.
The treatment of foreign nationals pending deportation has provoked a good deal of controversy, as reported recently. These cases are primarily ones where deportation is considered to be conducive to the public good because of serious criminal offences committed by the individual. In this case however, no crime was committed, but a history of activism perceived as anti-semitic preaching was considered a threat to security in the UK.
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