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Human rights lawyers welcome ruling against deportation

The ruling likely to benefit those in UK since childhood


18th January 2010
: Less than a week after the Court in Strasbourg held that the move to deport 34-year-old Abdul Waheed Khan breached his rights to private and family life under the Human Rights Convention, human rights lawyers and migrant groups welcomed the outcome.

Referring to Khan case ruling on 12 January 2010, they have claimed that the new decade has started with a snub for British deportation policy from the European Court of Human Rights.

Living in the UK since the age of three, the Home Office wanted him to be deported for a previous drug offence. His appeals too were dismissed. While those deported or threatened with deportation have been taking the British government to the European Court of Human Rights, Khan’s is the first recent case to succeed.

Born in Pakistan in 1975, he and came to the UK in 1978 as a dependant of his father, and went to school here. According to the available information, Khan landed himself into trouble with the police twice for minor offences in the 1990s.

But in 2003 he was sentenced to seven years for allegedly helping to import 2.5kg of heroin. Released early for good behaviour in 2006, he has kept out of trouble since.

In May 2006 the Home Office, however, decided to deport him because of the drugs offence. Opposing the move, Khan pleaded he no longer had close relatives, or even social, cultural or family ties in Pakistan.

Otherwise also, he was the supporting his mother and siblings afflicted with health problems. But still his appeals were dismissed. After his application to the European Court, his British girlfriend gave birth to their first child.

Putting things in historical perspective, Frances Webber in an article `Deportation policy breaches human rights’ has asserted deportation of those in the UK since childhood has become increasingly common since the ‘foreign prisoners scandal’ resulted in the resignation of Charles Clarke as home secretary in May 2006.

Before 2006, the Home Office would not have initiated the move to deport someone like Khan in the UK for over thirty years. But soon after the scandal, immigration rules underwent a change in favour of deportation.

Legislation also made deportation of foreign offenders mandatory, where human rights were not breached. The idea supported by Council of Europe recommendations and by the European Court itself against the deportation of someone in the UK since infancy, having his education and important ties here, was pushed into the background in the hurry to rid the country of ‘foreign criminals’.

Webber has asserted that in the 1970s and ’80s, European Court judges ruled the deportation of ‘integrated aliens’ or ‘virtual nationals’ was unlawful, on the grounds inter alia that host states should take responsibility for the children of the migrant workers recruited to rebuild post-war Europe, and should seek to rehabilitate, not reject them.

But recent European deportation policies have moved away from these principles. As such, human rights lawyers and migrant groups welcomed the outcome of Khan’s case, and hope the judgment signifies a return to the Court’s first principles.

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