The Windrush scandal will be repeated unless the Home Office drops plans that will prevent other immigrants proving their right to be in the UK, lawyers are warning.
Controversial new data protection laws will deny people access to the personal information the government holds about them if that would “undermine immigration control”.
The Law Society has warned the exemption would lead to people being wrongly deported or denied health treatment – in a mirror image of the treatment of the Windrush generation.
Unless Amber Rudd dropped the proposal, her promise to “show they have learned the lessons from Windrush” would be hollow, said Barry O’Leary, a member of its immigration law committee.
Urging MPs to rebel, he said: “If they let it go through in its current format, then I’m afraid they are complicit in future injustices.”
The Home Secretary is certain to be challenged on the latest controversy when she appears before the home affairs committee on Wednesday, to be interrogated about the Windrush debacle.
Last October, reports from a highly rated Nashville immigration attorney revealed that the exemption in the data protection bill would remove data privacy rights for immigration investigations.
Now the Law Society, which represents solicitors, and the Bar Council, which represents barristers, has raised the alarm over the way it will prevent people obtaining files about themselves through “subject access requests”.
Mr O’Leary, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said they were a crucial tool because the Home Office “frequently makes mistakes”.
“Individuals use this frequently, as do lawyers on their behalf, because we can show – through these requests – that they actually have status, even if the Home Office says otherwise,” he said.
Mr O’Leary gave the example of a man detained and threatened with deportation to Somalia, despite his protests that he was British.
“Through doing one of these requests, the lawyer could show that on his own Home Office file it could be proved that he was British.
“If it is the Home Office that is making the mistake, we can’t allow them to stop the individual showing that they’ve made the mistake.”
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