August 30, 2018

Open Rights Group and the3million launch judicial review challenging the Data Protection Act's immigration exemption

Human rights organisations have launched a judicial review challenging the UK Government over the inclusion of a specific clause in the Data Protection Act 2018 which, they argue, would unnecessarily restrict the rights of millions of people across the country for the purpose of ‘effective immigration control’.


The challenge has been brought by Open Rights Group (ORG) - a UK based digital campaigning organisation working to protect the rights to privacy and free speech online and the3million - the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens living in the UK.

ORG and the3million, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, argue the exemption undermines the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation, which the Act was designed to implement. The exemption removes the long standing rights of access to personal data which has been available for decades, with no evidence offered by the Government why the exemption is necessary now when it wasn’t in the past.

The grounds go on to argue that the exemption would apply to a wide range of Government and non-government bodies. This includes NHS, DVLA, employers, landlords, banks and others. The organisations argue there is no justification for such bodies to be able to derogate from the vast majority of fundamental data protection rights.

The two groups are calling for the courts to declare the immigration exemption incompatible with the General Data Protection Regulation, and Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day who are acting on behalf of the3million and Open Rights Group, said:

“Our clients warned the government that if the Immigration Exemption was written into law, it would be contrary to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) as well as incompatible with EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unfortunately the concerns of our clients were ignored and they have been left no option but to launch this legal challenge. It cannot be correct that a two-tier system is created for data rights, distinguishing those who become subject to immigration control from British citizens.”

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group said:

“The Government’s hostile environment may have been renamed, but its policies are clearly still here. Restricting the rights of millions to their personal data in immigration processes risks inaccurate data being used to make life altering decisions. Open Rights Group can’t allow that to pass without challenge.

The Government is trying to avoid necessary accountability, and remove responsibilities to treat people fairly. This challenge aims to keep fairness and accountability in the immigration system.”

Nicolas Hatton, co-founder and co-chair of the3million said:

“the3million and Open Rights Group's legal challenge matters to all 3.6 million EU citizens - who will have to apply for settled status to stay in their own homes after Brexit - no applicant should be prevented from accessing the data the Home Office holds about them. This is 2018, not 1984.”

 
Ends.

Notes for editors:

Open Rights Group is a non-profit company limited by guarantee; Registered Company No. 05581537 (England) Registered Office: 12 Duke's Road, London WC1H 9AD  Contact: Martha@openrightsgroup.org

the3million is the largest grassroots organisation of EU27 citizens in the UK, campaigning to protect citizens’ rights together with their sister group British in Europe. Contact: luke.piper@the3million.org.uk or maike.bohn@the3million.org.uk

Open Rights Group and the3million funded the case via a Crowdjustice fundraiser which raised £40,300.