Back in December it was revealed that sections of the upcoming Data Protection Bill would strip the three million EU citizens living in the UK of their digital rights. More specifically anyone going through the immigration process wouldn't be allowed to how much of their data has been collected and held onto by private companies and public authorities - something that would prevent these people from challenging errors made by the home office (which apparently happen to 1 in 10 cases).
When this was revealed the Open Rights Group took issue with the fact the government would deny people the right to access their data when they need it the most. With the expectation that the bill will pass through the House of Commons later today, the Open Rights Group and the3million, the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens in the UK, are bringing this issue to the courts.
Both groups note that the clumsy wording of the bill will end up affecting everyone involved in an immigration case, be they asylum seekers, caught up in the Windrush scandal, or EU citizens updating their immigration status ready for when the UK withdraws from the EU.
Jim Killock Executive Director of Open Rights Group said
“People will need their personal records to prove that they are entitled to live in the UK. This is a matter of natural justice. Using medical and educational records to trawl for potential suspects is equally worrying, as the government seeks to surveil the population in every way it finds convenient. Mistakes will be made, and lives disrupted or worse.”
Co-founder of the3million Nicolas Hatton said:
"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data, but it contains an exemption for immigration cases that does exactly the opposite. Everyone should be entitled to know how the Home Office and other government agencies are using their records, and that is why the3million support removing this shocking exemption."
Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day who are acting on behalf of the3million and ORG, said:
“The immigration exemption creates a discriminatory two-tier system for data protection rights. The clause is incompatible with GDPR, as well as EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights. If the exemption is made law, our clients will apply for judicial review. They have spent months trying to persuade the government to remove the exemption from the bill. If they continue to refuse, our clients will have no option but to request the court’s intervention in this matter.”
Open Rights Group is asking for public support in the matter, and is currently crowdfunding donations to help support the legal costs.