Why is the Home Office treating skilled migrants like terrorists? | Letter from Dick Taverne

Liberal Democrat peer Dick Taverne on the case of Owais Raja and hundreds of others threatened with deportation under legislation designed to deal with terrorists and criminals

Amelia Hill’s article of 8 May drew attention to the plight of Owais Raja, a teacher of MoD engineers in Plymouth, who has been wrongfully deprived of his indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules, a draconian piece of law designed in part to deport terrorists and criminals from this country.

Inspired by her article, I met Mr Raja and found that his case is even stronger and more urgent than I realised. The reason for the refusal of his ILR under 322(5) in 2016 was due to a mistake in his tax return made by his accountant. Mr Raja paid the tax due and HMRC accepted that it was an honest mistake, imposing no fine and charging no interest.

Mr Raja has lived in this country for 11 years. He is a teacher of engineers, which Britain desperately needs, but he is now threatened with deportation with the dreaded 322(5) stamp in his visa that will prevent him from ever again travelling to or working in any other country.

His position is desperate. Barred from earning a living, he is destitute. Barred from access to the NHS, his seriously ill eldest son and wife cannot get potentially life-saving treatment. He has had to sell all his possessions, including his wife’s jewellery and son’s cot bed. He lives on gifts of £10 and £20 from his former students and on food discarded by a local Tesco.

HMRC fines deliberate tax cheats and charges interest. They did neither to Mr Raja because they rightly regarded his mistake as innocent. Why, then, has the Home Office served him with the 322(5), which puts him in the same bracket as terrorists and those judged to be a threat to national security? There is no justification and no humanity to this decision.

Mr Raja is not alone: there are at least 1,000 other highly skilled migrants in the same dire situation. All contribute greatly to the wealth and success of this country. The Home Office’s increasing use of 322(5) to deport these migrants is devastating, not just for the victims but also for the UK, which desperately needs to attract highly skilled migrants.

I am determined to launch a campaign, to lobby the Home Office until it ceases to turn Mrs May’s much-vaunted vision of an open Britain into a closed Britain through the heavy-handed and unconscionable use of this controversial paragraph of the immigration rules, which is denuding Britain of those with the special skills our industries need – and doing so in the cruellest of ways.

I have asked the Home Office urgently to issue Mr Raja with his ILR. But surely it is high time to change the whole anti-immigrant culture of the Home Office, as both Sajid Javid and the immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, have suggested.
Dick Taverne
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords

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