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2 Dec, 2011 06:30

Parental passport: foreign criminals have kids to stay in UK

In the UK, which is often called a haven for foreign criminals, ministers are under growing pressure to take measures to close a loophole in the law that allows to offenders to stay in the country even after committing serious crimes.

In mid-November, the Home Office officially recognized for the first that foreign criminals facing deportation from Britain are creating “a network of children,” starting families in order to stay in the country. The official recognition of the growing problem has strengthened calls to reform the Human Rights Act in order to ensure that the UK can deport those considered to pose a threat to the public.“The right to a family life is not an absolute right, and must not be used to drive a coach and horses though our immigration system,” Home Secretary Theresa May argues. Home Office rules state that any such individual who is jailed for more than a year should be deported, but many judges are appealing to the Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. An innocuous-sounding element in the HRA means that having children can stop illegal immigrants being kicked out of Britain – no matter what they have done. Paul Houston knows what it is like to have your family destroyed. His 12-year-old daughter Amy was killed in a hit-and-run driver – it was an Iraqi man who had been banned from driving.“As she was crossing the road, Mr. Ibrahim, the driver of the car that ran her over, hit her and carried her on the bonnet of the car, and she became trapped under the wheels of the car, and he basically fled the scene and left her to die trapped under the wheels of a motor car,” the victim Paul Houston says.Amy’s killer, Aso Mohammed Ibrahim already had a string of minor convictions even before he mowed her down and fled. But because he subsequently fathered two children by a British woman, he still lives in the UK. It is Article 8 that keeps him there.In May this year, it was revealed that nearly 4,000 foreign criminals were set free from detention centers because it was decided they could not be deported within a reasonable timeframe. Among them were dozens of rapists, murderers and pedophiles. Separately, last year nearly 600 people used the Human Rights Act to avoid deportation, the vast majority citing the right to a private and family life.In the case of Amy’s killer, a series of bungles and delays by the authorities meant that, by the time Ibrahim came up for deportation, he appeared to have established a family. Despite flimsy evidence about his parenting intentions, he was allowed to stay.Yet human rights campaigners argue Britain’s status as a haven for the persecuted is sacred. “These are rights that hark back hundreds of years. They’re embedded in international law, adopted after the Second World War to make sure we always grounded our own society on those principles we hold dear,” says Angela Patrick, director of Human Rights Policy.But for a grieving father like Paul, that stance is missing the point.“What we have, especially with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, is criminals, terrorists, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, all using the Human Rights Act as a shield to hide behind, and to allow them to stay in the country. I don’t have a problem with genuine asylum seekers – I don’t think anyone has – but we have people abusing it, and that’s what needs to be addressed,” says Paul Houston.Amy was Paul’s only child. He now lives alone, spending his time campaigning against Article 8, and wondering why the rights of his daughter’s immigrant killer outweigh his own.Oddly enough, but even a cat and its criminal owner have catapulted the issue into the headlines.The Home Secretary has seized on claims that an illegal Bolivian was allowed to stay in the UK country because of the emotional trauma of separating him from his pet. Not quite true, but it got people talking, and noticing much more serious cases, including a rapist who successfully argued asylum over his social life, and a killer who lived with his parents.