It’s not only Conservatives who rail against the Human Rights Act - as these extracts from the private diary of former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas amply demonstrate...
A Labour former Immigration Minister last night said Theresa May was right to say human rights laws make a mockery of the way Britain deals with asylum seekers.
Phil Woolas also released extracts from an explosive diary revealing the ‘absurd’ degree to which the immigration service was hampered by court rulings on human rights.
Support: Phil Woolas says that Theresa May was right to criticise human rights laws
Mr Woolas, who was in charge of immigration policy at the time of a court ruling to let a Bolivian escape deportation partly because he had a cat, said he ‘strongly agreed’ with Home Secretary Mrs May.
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At the Tory conference last week, she used the case of Camilo Soria Avila and his cat Maya to justify her plans to rein in abuse of Labour’s Human Rights Act, sparking a row with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke who disputed her account.
But Mr Woolas said: ‘Some people, Ken Clarke included, assumed Theresa had made it up. But she didn’t need to. I should know.’
Cat fight: Maya, left, and his owner Camilo Soria Avila, right, were at the centre of a row between Ken Clarke and Theresa May over immigration
Mr Woolas, Immigration Minister from October 2008 until the 2010 election, was unaware of the cat ruling until he saw it in newspapers. But to back his case that the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were crippling the immigration system, he released extracts from his private diary as a minister.
Published below, they reveal his anger at learning:
Osama Bin Laden’s son could use British Freedom of Information rules to see Government files rejecting his visa application, even though he lived in the Middle East.
A suspected drug lord was freed because the French navy vessel which caught him took too long to bring him to port and charge him.
A convicted rapist due to be deported could still get British legal aid in India to fight for custody of his estranged son.
There was a challenge to the Lords against deporting someone to Greece because the Greek asylum system might breach the person’s human rights.
He added last night: ‘The root of the problem is that the original human rights rules gave protection against persecution to citizens of Europe.
‘Yet over the years, judges’ decisions have extended these rights to people who are simply in Europe. We cannot put right the wrongs of dysfunctional countries from the courtrooms of Britain. That’s why the Home Secretary is right to seek to amend the law to give power back to Parliament.’
He said that ultimately, the only solution was to negotiate changes to the ECHR.
January 7, 2009
The Red Box is full of the usual.
Lots of examples of how the courts frustrate the asylum and immigration system. Tonight I got an example of an immigration judge ruling that in the case of a failed asylum seeker we want to send back to Vietnam, the judge has said that he – as well as the Home Secretary – must be satisfied that the reception conditions in his home country are satisfactory!
How on earth does a judge sitting in an immigration court in Isleworth (Middlesex) know what is going on in Vietnam?
There’s a case in the paper about the son of Osama Bin Laden. Liam (Liam Byrne, Mr Woolas’s predecessor as Immigration Minister) had apparently refused him a visa.
Now I am being told by officials that I have to release his whole file to him even though he is not British and he’s in the Middle East.
They even want the advice note to Liam. I have flatly refused.
It gets surreal! I have been advised that we have ‘administratively implemented’ the Metock judgment (saying that if an EU citizen has married a non-EU citizen, that person is automatically entitled to live in the UK or anywhere in the EU even if they are an illegal immigrant!).
This ruling has nothing to do with me, the Home Office, the UK Government, the British Parliament or even the European Parliament – just the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Not only that, but I was advised (well, told actually) that I now had to formally show we were accepting the ruling by laying the rules before
When I asked ‘why?’, I was told that we would be fined by the EU if we didn’t. The bombshell came when I asked what would happen if Parliament voted to overturn the Metock judgment. The look on their faces would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. The thought had not occurred to them.
Understanding: Lin Homer
Now it’s depressing me and I think Lin Homer (then head of UK Border and Immigration Agency) understands my deep frustration.
I’m not in charge of asylum policy – just its tactical management.
Today, we got the update on the ‘Tekle’ judgment. It means that a judge has decided that if an asylum seeker’s case is not dealt with within four years, even if it is because they have absconded, they have the right to work.
The ruling is because the Human Rights Act (which implements the ECHR in the UK) leaves discretion to the judge. And that places Parliament and the judiciary in conflict.
PS: I am now told that Osama Bin Laden’s son can get the confidential papers he’s after by putting in a Freedom of Information request – even though he is not a British citizen and he’s overseas.
So someone in the Middle East who has no connection with the UK can force the taxpayer to pay for the release of papers so that someone overseas can take legal action against them!
January 20 (afternoon)
Went to visit Colnbrook removal centre, next to Heathrow. (The ‘last night unit’ for illegal immigrants about to be deported or ‘The Cooler’, as officials call it).
In the latest counter-productive nonsense from the judges, we cannot begin the process of getting removal papers from the foreign embassies unless the claimants’ appeal rights are exhausted.
The effect? They stay longer in the immigration removal centre.
Visit: Mr Woolas dropped in on the Colnbrook Immigration Reception Centre, also known as 'The Cooler'
7.15am: On a train to Euston from Manchester – in the Red Box, a typical example of how judges’ power causes chaos in the immigration system.
Ms X (Jamaican) and her one-year-old son arrived in the UK on Christmas Day 2000. Her application for an extension to stay was refused in October 2001. Ms X was arrested in August 2002 on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to supply. Six months later, she was sentenced to 18 months.
In March 2003, she was again refused leave to stay in the UK. She entered immigration detention but was released (by a judge) in April 2003 due to ‘an outstanding appeal’. She failed to report and absconded.
In November 2006, she was arrested again on suspicion of intent to supply and money laundering. She was sentenced to nine months in prison and released in April 2007. She failed to report (to immigration officials) again.
In April 2008 she was visiting her brother in HMP Dartmoor, so we arrested her and detained her. Then she was released by an Tribunal Judge.
As of today she is pursuing a Judicial Review!! So, a convicted drug dealer can string the system out by using the ECHR and our naivety.
It’s 10.45pm. I am in a car on the Chiswick flyover, just back from the House of Commons. There’s a story in the papers about a convicted
rapist being given legal aid to fight for custody of his (estranged) eight-year-old son, despite the fact that we are trying to deport him. I groaned and suspected the usual exaggeration and asked for advice.
In fact, it’s worse. The Legal Services Commission has told me via my private secretary that even if he is deported to India, he will still get legal aid from Britain as the case is already in our system! The taxpayer is paying for a rapist to fight the Home Office so he can stay in Britain.
The House of Lords has kicked out a Certificate of Approval scheme for marriage (designed to prevent bogus marriage visa scams) as unlawful. The peers say it’s religious discrimination – the Church of England had refused to go along with it.
They also say that charging a fee for the certificate restricts the right to marry. You couldn’t make it up. The upshot is that the law is being used to block the issuing of certificates to prevent people-trafficking and bogus marriages.
I am at my lowest point. My private secretary has told me the original ‘Tekle’ ruling advice is redundant.
Not only do we have to treat further representations by failed asylum seekers as if they were new claims, but now we’re told that dealing with them must count towards the claimants’ qualification period for the right to work in the UK. And they wonder why there’s a backlog!
As bad, tonight someone is challenging the Dublin Accord (which allows an asylum case to be dealt with in the first EU country of entry – in other words, someone who entered the EU via Spain but is now in the UK can be sent back to Spain for their authorities to deal with). The Lords are to judge on whether we can deport someone to Greece!
The judges are considering whether the Greek asylum system breaches his human rights. The case argues that removing people to Greece is incompatible with Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment). What law protects human rights in Greece? The ECHR!
This one is priceless. The French Navy detained some drug smugglers in the middle of the Atlantic. It took 14 days to get back to France because the ship was on patrol. But the (alleged) gangster took the French government to court for unlawful detention under the ECHR, saying he should have been dealt with sooner!
The smugglers have been released.
I have now asked why we can’t change the law to stop this abuse but the MoD don’t want me to as they are using the same defence to protect six British soldiers, now back in the UK, who are being sued from Iraq after being accused of unlawfully detaining suspected insurgents in Basra.
So, we cannot detain suspected gangsters at sea and the Human Rights Act applies in Basra. Unbelievable.
Warning: Des Browne told Mr Woolas that the ECHR would cripple him
Spoke to Des Browne tonight (Labour former Immigration Minister). He warned me that the ECHR would cripple me – and it has.
Another defeat in the Court of Appeal. Two Sri Lankans have said they will commit suicide if they are sent back.
The court has ruled that to remove them would be a breach of Article 3 of the ECHR (that fear is enough to breach human rights. The court did not say that they would be in danger but that the claimants claimed they would be).
Back to Rwanda. We have four people wanted for genocide in Rwanda (there are 100 but the four are the test case).
The magistrates had agreed to extradite them but the High Court had disagreed on the grounds that they would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.
I am advised that I should grant six months leave to remain in the UK ‘in the hope that the legal system in Rwanda improves’.
I had asked why we couldn’t try them in The Hague and was told as they were not British, I couldn’t send them there!
So a person accused of committing genocide in an ‘unsafe country’ (which country that has genocide is safe!) simply has to get into an ECHR country and they will get away with it. The ECHR is providing cover for people who commit genocide. Madness.
I’ve just been told that the increase in marriage age (from 18 to 21) for a family visa (agreed by Parliament) is going to be turned over at judicial review. We have worked on this for years to protect vulnerable youngsters from abuse – now the judges are going to say we can’t.
Who elected them?
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046938/Madness-Secret-diary-Labour-Immigration-Minister-rails-Human-Rights-Act.html#ixzz1aGrk4X7d