A new data protection bill would prevent individuals from obtaining information from the Home Office relating to their immigration status, known as a ‘subject access request’ (SAR). The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals a right to access information that is held about them, however the new bill proposes that the Home Office be exempt, which would enable it to refuse these requests. MPs voted last week to allow the Home Office to refuse these requests.
According to the Home Office, in 2016, the last year that figures were released, there were almost 30,000 SARs – a considerable increase from just over 22,000 in 2010. The large number of SARs made to the Home Office in 2016 suggests that they have become increasingly important to individuals who seek to challenge a Home Office decision on their immigration.
Particularly in the context of immigration, the right of individuals to obtain information on themselves is crucial as this can bring to light errors made by case workers and provide information that can overturn a falsely reached immigration decision.
A briefing produced by the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association details numerous cases in which extremely serious consequences have been avoided owing to this right to access such information.
A spokesman from The Law Society has said: “when the government removed legal aid for most immigration cases, they made it harder for people to challenge Home Office decisions. Now they are seeking to remove the last avenue people have to understand and contest these decisions, which will put the immigration status of tens of thousands of people at risk”.
In light of current reports of a ‘hostile environment policy’ at the Home Office, the recent Windrush scandal and increased reporting on Home Office failings, it is felt that this exemption would be in the interest of the Home Office, as it would allow it to prevent public knowledge of such mistakes.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office: “if the exemption is applied, individuals will not be able to access their personal data to identify any factual inaccuracies and it will mean that the system lacks transparency and is fundamentally unfair.”
Gherson are experts in assisting with various immigration matters. If you need assistance or wish to receive some more information regarding your immigration matters, please contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.