The United Kingdom has defended its decision to deny hundreds of highly-skilled professionals the right to work and live in the country over objections such as discrepancies in their tax documents. The UK Home Office had cited a controversial anti-terrorism rule to reject the applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) filed by several immigrant professionals, including many Indians, igniting protests from migrant rights activists.
“I am confident that the overall handling of these cases, including the application of paragraph 322 (5) has been correct,” Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes wrote in a letter to the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC), the Hindu reported. Nokes’ report came at the end of the first phase of the review launched by the Home Office to examine the use of the clause to deny permanent residency status to over 1,000 non-European Union (EU) Tier 1 (General) visa holders, including doctors, lawyers, and engineers.
The letter dated June 21, addressed to HASC chair Yvette Cooper, also stated that 38 cases in which Home Office refusals were overturned and allowed on appeal came to light during the review.
“Although the earnings issues were considered on appeal, the majority were overturned solely on human rights grounds rather than because of decision-making errors relating to earnings,” Nokes said, PTI reported.
The Highly Skilled Migrants Group, an organization campaigning against the UK government’s move, expressed disappointment with Nokes’ response. “These are the same arguments that she has been giving before and we have addressed these in the past,” Aditi Bhardwaj, a coordinator of the group, was quoted as saying by the Hindu.
Bhardwaj pointed out that the figure cited by Nokes, in which 38 applicants won their appeals, is likely to increase once the review into the remaining 1,671 cases is completed over the coming weeks, the PTI report added.
“It just proves our point about Paragraph 322(5) being used disproportionately. The very fact that these appeals are being allowed on human rights grounds should hopefully prevent the future disproportionate use of this clause and prevent applicants having to challenge Home Office decisions in court,” Bhardwaj added, according to the news agency. “It does show they (Home Office) were making mistakes. This should tell them that at the very least not to refuse people where there are serious human rights grounds, such as family ties in the UK and young children involved.”
The UK Home Office said that 281 visa applications made by post have been reviewed so far, and it was concluded that applicants in 249 cases had amended their tax record by over £10,000, and that in several of the remaining cases, the differences were “substantial,” the report said.
“Applications were not refused on the grounds that the applicants made errors in their tax returns. They were refused on the grounds that applicants had, most likely, exaggerated their earnings to the Home Office to claim enough points to obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK or, alternatively, substantially under-reported their earnings to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) to evade tax,” Nokes said in her letter. “In either scenario, their character and conduct is such that their applications should not be granted,” she added, according to PTI.