UKREN blog

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Operation Nexus: Is it illegally forcing EU nationals out of the UK?

A lot has been said, for and against, free movement within the EU. Most people think it means that any EU national can travel to another EU country and live there, work there or look for work. That’s true for the first three months. But after that it becomes murkier. One has to ‘access one’s freedom of movement rights’ which means being in employment, being self-employed, being a student with finance for the duration of the course, or having funds to sustain oneself and family. Freedom of movement is one of the founding principles of the EU, designed to support the economies of EU countries by providing a mobile work force. However, did you know that the UK government is forcibly deporting hundreds of EU nationals, many of them illegally?

Suspicion enough to deport

Some of those forcibly removed are people who after working here for a number of years are made redundant. They are deported. Some have minor criminal records (driving offences in the Czech Republic are criminal acts, for example). They are deported. Some are perceived to be a future drain on benefits. Deported. Some are plain mistaken identity. Again deported. Some are just suspected of criminal activity. Deported.

There are a number of government initiatives to do this. One such is called Operation Nexus, a joint campaign by the Police and the Border Force to deport more people from London (later extended to the cities of the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Scotland, Merseyside, Cleveland, Kent, West Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Wales; and more recently Avon and Somerset and the East Midlands and Lancashire). It is a growing initiative.

In 2012 -14 the Home Office admitted in a Freedom of Information request that Operation Nexus had deported 93 Romanians, 57 Poles, 40 Lithuanians and 12 Latvians from London. If you take a wider geography of Europe than the EU, add on 229 Albanians and 53 Ukrainians.

Legal Challenge

The AIRE Centre is taking legal action, by bringing a judicial review on the lawfulness (or not) of this operation. As they say, “In most deportation cases individuals are deported based on proven conduct, usually demonstrated by the presence of a criminal conviction. However, in Nexus cases, the Home Office is provided with police intelligence regarding individuals who may only be suspected of some form of criminality, or who may have had a criminal conviction many years ago or in some cases may not have been convicted of a criminal offence ever. This intelligence information is then presented to the immigration tribunal considering any deportation appeal, often without any external scrutiny or challenge.

This is about fairness and justice. Under the law, the UK Government and authorities cannot simply ignore the human rights of EU nationals. This policy also breaks apart families. It threatens the rule of law. It undermines trust in the police. It ignores the right to a fair trial.”

The AIRE Centre, a charity, is trying to raise £3000 in case costs are awarded against them, which is possible under the new Criminal Courts and Justice Act. They have raised a third of that so far. I chipped in a tenner. Can you do the same? Here’s a link.

Media Attention

The Guardian newspaper also published an article on how Romanian sex workers are legally challenging Operation Nexus as they are self-employed, and therefore using their EU free movement rights.

A group of NGOs is collecting data and case studies of examples where forced removal has been carried out illegally, particularly focusing on those from the Roma ethnic group and other eastern European nationals. They aim to bring this to the attention of parliamentarians and the media.

The law on the deportation of EU nationals is such that they have to be high harm offenders who pose a danger to society or as the government refer to it, ‘the public good’. Yet this is being used as a cover for deporting as many non high-earning individuals as possible. Let’s together put a stop to this. Don’t forget to donate that tenner to the judicial review costs.

Alan Anstead, Coordinator UKREN

This blog first appeared on Migrants' Rights Network

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