There has been a lot of talk in Parliament recently about how difficult it is to deport Foreign National prisoners. Just last week Tory MP Dominic Raab tabled an amendment to the pending Immigration Bill which would have allowed the Government to strip foreign born British citizens of their citizenship if they are found guilty of a serious crime. In the event, this amendment fell after the Conservatives abstained and Labour and Lib Dems voted against it. But the Prime Minister continues to declare that foreign criminals should not be able to use human rights claims such as the right to a family life in order to escape deportation and remain in the UK.
What David Cameron, UKIP, and all other supporters of this view seem to have missed is that human rights are universal. The European Convention on Human Rights was put together following the second world war with the explicit intention of protecting the rights of all people, and especially those people who find themselves in a minority and therefore do not always have the support of the majority or even of states themselves. Most people in this country might not feel that foreign born prisoners should be allowed to stay, and many politicians may agree with them, but that doesn’t necessarily make them right. We consistently witness how our society can get it seriously wrong. Economically. Militarily. Criminologically. In every department we could possibly look at, we witness vast mistakes resulting in everything from record breaking recessions to disastrous wars and the highest prison population in Europe. The fact is, the majority do not always get it right and human rights legislation is there to protect those who may be affected when we get it wrong.
However, there is a more important factor which also needs to be taken into account in this situation. Even if we were to decide that Foreign National prisoners gave up their human rights when they committed a crime, and that therefore they are unable to use the right to a family life as a way to stay in Britain, deportation still isn’t appropriate. For example, if a man born in France moves to Britain, marries a British woman, has a child with her, and then commits a crime, it could be argued that the French man has given up his own rights, but it could never be argued that he has also given up the rights of his wife and child on their behalf. You may want to deport him, but you cannot do this without breaching the rights of two entirely innocent British citizens. The wife and child have done no wrong and yet they would either have to be separated from their husband and father (breaching their right to a family life) or to leave with him, effectively meaning that the entire family is deported (again, breaching their right to face no punishment without trial). This is especially important in cases involving children since our courts, at least in theory, are supposed to protect the rights of the child above the rights of the parent. Indeed a parent fighting for access to their child needs to prove not that it is in their own interests, but that it is in the child’s interests.
If we want to call this a country of justice and fairness then we need to stop focussing on ways of hurting those who have done us wrong regardless of how this affects the innocent, and start thinking about how we can make life better for everyone.