Human rights campaign group Liberty have launched a new report, which reveals the full extent of backroom data-sharing deals between key government departments and the Home Office, focussing on health, education and policing.
The report – drawn from year-long research, interviews and freedom of information requests – shows in unprecedented detail how, across the education, health and policing systems, secretive agreements were made to enable the sharing of people’s personal data.
This means private information belonging to thousands of people can be unknowingly used against them by immigration officials seeking to deport them or limit their access to important care as part of the Government’s “hostile environment” policy.
This data sharing includes:
- The Department for Education (DfE) sharing children’s school records with immigration officials;
- The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) sharing NHS patient records;
- The police passing on details of victims and witnesses of crime to Home Office immigration enforcement;
- Embedded immigration officials sitting in on local authority interviews with families applying for vital state support (as revealed by Project 17);
— Liberty (@libertyhq) December 4, 2018
Liberty are calling for an end to the sharing of essential public service data with the Home Office for immigration enforcement.
They are inviting individuals and organisations to join the campaign and pledge support for a firewall, a guarantee that personal data from essential public services will not be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. You can sign the pledge here.
The key recommendations of the Care Don’t Share report are:
- The DfE should commit to a firewall between its data and Home Office immigration enforcement. It should withdraw from the tracing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and make a public commitment not to re-enter any similar agreement in the future.
- The DfE should delete nationality and country of birth data collected 2016 – 2018, which was collected from children and families effectively under false pretences and not for an educational purpose.
- The Government should make provision for children with NRPF who are living in poverty or destitution to access free school meals.
- Police forces should prioritise the investigation and prevention of more serious crimes over immigration offences.
- Individual police forces should commit to, and rapidly implement, a firewall between their interactions with victims and witnesses of crime and the data they hold on them, and Home Office immigration enforcement. They should not refer victims or witnesses of crime to the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.
- The National Police Chiefs Council should issue standard guidance to all forces setting out what they should do when they encounter an undocumented victim or witness of crime, stipulating that they should not refer them to immigration enforcement.
- The Home Office and police should significantly reduce their collaboration for immigration enforcement purposes. Infrastructure in police stations that undermines safe reporting of crime by undocumented victims and witnesses, including immigration officers in custody suites, should be dismantled.
- The Government should approach undocumented immigration as a civil, rather than a criminal matter. The low-level immigration offences set out at Appendix A should be repealed.
- The Home Office and the DHSC should end the practice of charging migrants for healthcare, and associated data-sharing practices.
- The Home Office should destroy and not use for any purpose the information obtained from the Secretary of State for Health or NHS Digital under the terms of the now defunct MOU.
- NHS Digital and the DHSC should commit to a firewall between personal data that they hold on patients and Home Office immigration enforcement.
- The Government should amend the Data Protection Act 2018 to remove the ‘immigration control’ exemption set out at Schedule 2, Part 1, paragraph 4.
- The Government should amend the Data Protection Act 2018 to stipulate that decisions by public authorities based on automated processing that engage human rights should not be permitted without meaningful human oversight and appeal mechanisms for such decisions.
- The Government should consult publicly on any plans to introduce decisions based on automated processing into the immigration system.
- The Government should reinstate immigration legal aid and appeal rights, as well as introducing internal quality assurance mechanisms into the Home Office to improve the quality of initial decisions on immigration claims.
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