By Paul Goodman
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Theresa May will today go head-to-head with Nick Clegg over the human rights act by announcing that she wants to the immigration rules to end the abuse of "the right to a family life" – often referred to as "Article 8". She will examine how to make clear in the immigration rules that a foreign national can be deported when he or she has been convicted of a criminal offence, has breached immigration rules and has established a family life while in the UK illegally. A conference announcement alone won't satisfy many party activsts – but it is a start.
The "right to a family life" is set out in Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law in the Human Rights Act. It often prevents the removal of foreign nationals who have been convicted of a criminal offence or breached immigration law. Every year, more than 3,200 foreign criminals, failed asylum seekers and EU "benefit tourists" use the Act to thwart Home Office attempts to remove migrants – or stop them arriving in the first place. The majority of cases use Article 8.
A Nepalese killer, Rocky Gurung, a Nepalese killer, was allowed to remain under Article 8 even although he was a single adult with no children. A Sri Lankan robber was allowed to stay as he has a girlfriend in Britain. And a Bolivian was permitted to remain to care for his pet cat. A Home Office source said that: "The Government is committed to ensuring a better balance between an individual’s right to a family life, expressed in Article Eight of the ECHR, and the wider public interest in controlling immigration."
"We will therefore amend the immigration rules to achieve this objective. Everyone has a right under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to respect for their private and family life, but it is not an absolute right. It is legitimate to interfere with the exercise of that right where it is in the public interest to do so, and in particular where it is necessary for public protection or for the economic well-being of the UK, which includes maintaining our immigration controls."
The Home Office disclosed in a letter to Dominic Raab, the campaigning Conservative MP, that the equivalent of almost 600 economic migrants who had been denied a visa under the point-based system were using Article 8 to make successful appeals. Clegg said at the Liberal Democrat conference: "Let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact I’ll do it in words of one syllable: It is here to stay." However, the Home Secretary said last weekend that in her "personal view" the Act should be scrapped.