EU citizens lose court challenge over access to Home Office data

Judge rules Data Protection Act clause denying them right to obtain records is not unlawful

Campaigners have lost a high court challenge over new laws that prevent EU citizens living in Britain from finding out what data the Home Office holds on them.

The3million group had challenged an exemption clause in the Data Protection Act that came into force last year, which denies them the right to access their personal records in immigration cases.

But in a ruling on Thursday, Mr Justice Supperstone concluded the exemption was not unlawful.

The judge said there was a “particular concern” among the campaigners because EU citizens would have to apply for settled status if they wished to continue living in the UK after Brexit.

He also recognised the chief inspector of borders and immigration had said there was a 10% error rate in immigration status checks.

However, Supperstone found there were safeguards within the act to provide people with effective remedies in the case of any error.

The case against the home secretary and the culture secretary was brought in conjunction with the Open Rights Group, a digital campaigning organisation.

In a joint statement with the3million, they said they were disappointed with the ruling and had applied for permission to appeal.

They said the act remained a “blunt” instrument that could prevent justice in immigration cases involving EU citizens.

“We still believe that the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018 as it stands breaches fundamental rights,” the statement said.

“It is a blunt instrument, poorly defined and ripe for abuse. Access to data is key for an accountable system that corrects errors in an immigration system that occur at an alarming rate.

“The importance of this can’t be underestimated. Millions of EU citizens must navigate the Home Office application process to stay in the UK.

“This exemption removes that ability to correct errors, which could prove decisive in immigration decisions whether to allow a person to remain in the United Kingdom.”

The law firm Leigh Day, which represented the campaign groups, said the exemption affected all 3.6 million EU citizens who will have to apply for a new immigration status after Brexit.

They had argued the exemption unlawfully excluded EU citizens from rights they would otherwise have to the disclosure of data held by the government.

They said 60% of the requests for disclosure had been denied since the beginning of 2019 using this exemption, leaving migrant workers and others unable to appeal against Home Office decisions.

Rosa Curling, a lawyer at Leigh Day, said “Millions of people are already feeling uncertain and anxious about their immigration status as we approach Brexit, and our clients feel that the immigration exemption adds a further layer of uncertainty by removing transparency and the opportunity to correct mistakes in the immigration system.”


Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
EU citizens win right to access personal data held by Home Office
Appeal court ruling means people denied settled status or immigration visas can see records used in the case

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

26, May, 2021 @11:24 AM

Article image
Home Office suspected of prioritising help for high-profile EU citizens
TV star Fred Sirieix says he got settled status within hours after tweeting his frustration

Amelia Gentleman

03, Sep, 2019 @3:41 PM

Article image
UK decision to deny EU citizens access to data challenged in court
Lawyers say blocking right to records could lead to Home Office errors going unchecked

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

23, Jul, 2019 @3:28 PM

Article image
Home Office apologises for sharing EU citizens' email addresses
Victims of ‘administrative error’ say they are being treated as second-class citizens

Jedidajah Otte

11, Apr, 2019 @9:32 AM

Article image
UK citizens to get more rights over personal data under new laws
New legislation will give people right to force online traders and social media to delete personal data and will comply with EU data protection

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

06, Aug, 2017 @11:01 PM

Article image
Home Office plans to deny immigrants access to data 'are illegal'
Digital rights campaigners threaten legal action if data protection bill clause is enacted

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

05, Mar, 2018 @11:58 AM

Article image
Data laws could harm EU citizens' attempts to stay in UK, court told
Judge grants hearing of judicial review request after being told millions cannot access records

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

17, Jan, 2019 @5:26 PM

Article image
Over 50,000 EU citizens apply for settled status in a day to beat deadline
Exclusive: Home Office receives fivefold daily rise in applications as people tell of fear and anger

Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

01, Jul, 2021 @3:12 PM

Article image
Home Office to release information about detainees' access to lawyers
Home Office challenged over failure to ensure all people threatened with removal from UK had access to phones

Diane Taylor

18, Feb, 2020 @5:30 PM

Article image
Home Office advert for residency banned for misleading EU citizens
Watchdog says radio ad stating only passport or ID card needed for form not sufficiently clear

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

27, Aug, 2019 @4:10 PM