Equatorial Guinea Deports Cameroonian Citizens Citing Security Concerns

The Home Office has been threatening asylum seekers with deportation for alleged crimes they did not commit, it has emerged.

The ‘notices of liability to detention’ were handed to migrants arriving on small boats  - Getty Images © Getty Images

The ‘notices of liability to detention’ were handed to migrants arriving on small boats

- Getty Images

A Court of Appeal judgment revealed the existence of “notices of liability to detention”, which were handed to migrants crossing the English Channel on small boats.

The documents claimed they were “illegal entrants” and “may be liable to removal or deportation from the United Kingdom”.

“You are specifically considered an illegal entrant to the UK as you were encountered in a private vehicle, namely a RHIB [rigid-hulled inflatable boat], which had recently arrived in the UK from France,” the notices read.

“You could not produce any travel document or provide any evidence of your lawful basis to be in the UK and have therefore entered the UK in breach of S.3(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971.”

But judges said the Home Office had misinterpreted the law and that crossing the Channel by dinghy to seek asylum did not amount to illegal entry.

Evidence revealed during a successful appeal by asylum seekers who were wrongly jailed for steering small boats said “a number of the official documents” had been issued, and caused immigration interviews to “proceed on an erroneous basis”.

Judges found that a “heresy about the law” had originated among Home Office officials and been passed on to prosecutors, defence lawyers and the courts – sparking several unlawful prosecutions.

“As the law presently stands, an asylum seeker who merely attempts to arrive at the frontiers of the United Kingdom in order to make a claim is not entering or attempting to enter the country unlawfully,” said the Court of Appeal judgment.

“Even though an asylum seeker has no valid passport or identity document or prior permission to enter the United Kingdom, this does not make his arrival at the port a breach of an immigration law.”

The Home Office refused to say whether it had scrapped or changed the notices since the judgment was given on 21 December in response to questions from The Independent, citing operational reasons.

The government is planning to make prosecutions easier with the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would make it illegal to “arrive” in British waters, even if people are intercepted before technically entering the country.

Bella Sankey, the director of Detention Action, accused the government of misleading the public with a “campaign of misinformation” suggesting that all Channel crossings are illegal.


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