The decision to exempt the Home Office from data access rules will inevitably lead to miscarriages of justice, the Law Society of England and Wales warned today.
Law Society president Joe Egan said the passage of the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Bill yesterday stripped accountability from Home Office decision making.
“Since legal aid was removed for most immigration cases in 2012, it has become increasingly difficult to challenge immigration decisions - decisions which evidence shows are often incorrect,” he said.
“Subject access requests are the final recourse for people trying to deal with a complex, opaque and unaccountable immigration system.
“New Home Office figures show tens of thousands of people every year are forced to submit requests simply to access information held about them.
“Now this last avenue has been removed, the large number of people who relied on this right will potentially be denied justice under this new law.”
Joe Egan added: “The lack of transparency in Home Office decision making has already led to the Windrush scandal. Instead of learning from those mistakes, the potential for another scandal has become even greater.
“The GDPR is about increasing the rights of people to access and control their own personal data. It is incredibly disappointing that instead of protecting these rights, they are being thrown out.
“Decisions which have a huge impact on people’s lives can now be made behind closed doors with no justification or accountability.
“There is real risk of harm coming to those the immigration system is supposed to be serving.”
The Law Society has also called on the government to reinstate legal aid for immigration.
Notes to editors
The number of subject access requests (SARs) received by the Home Office on immigration matters each year since 2010 is listed below. Under the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Bill, these can be ignored if they could interfere with “the maintenance of effective immigration control”.
No of SARs
Source: Home Office
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