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Mythbust

EU doesn’t prevent UK deporting terrorists

by Jack Schickler | 06.04.2016

Myth: EU prevents UK deporting terrorists

InFact: UK courts can still deport those deemed a serious threat to public security.

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Eurosceptics claim that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is “preventing” the UK from deporting someone with a terrorist criminal conviction. They refer to a recent case concerning attempts to deport a Moroccan woman from the UK. The woman is a convicted criminal – but also the mother of a young child.  The case has not yet been decided, but ECJ advocate general Maciej Szpunar has given his opinion.

It is one sentence of the opinion that been most seized upon: in paragraph 179, where he says that deportation of a parent would “in principle” be against EU law, on the basis that her child is a British citizen, and she is the sole carer. But QC Alper Riza argues that this is nothing new: “The protection of children forms part of UK law independently of EU law and this sometimes means allowing a parent to remain.”

In any case, the advocate general – whose opinion the ECJ doesn’t have to accept – does not stop there. In the next sentence of his opinion, he states that, even if there is such a child, the parent’s deportation could still go ahead if there is a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat… based on an imperative reason relating to public security”.

Crucially, the advocate general leaves it for the British courts to decide that. But he does acknowledge, in paragraph 164, that her crime was a “serious” one.

Although the court’s opinion did not identify the defendant, Philip Davies MP has stated in Parliament that she was the daughter-in-law of convicted terrorist Abu Hamza – who attempted to smuggle a SIM card to Hamza while he was in prison.

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Assuming the ECJ upholds the advocate general’s opinion, the UK court needs to figure out if there is a risk to public security in this case. But if so, the options are clear. “If someone is dangerous, then that’s the end of it; deportation can still proceed”, says Riza – unless of course there is some reasonable likelihood of torture or inhuman treatment in Morocco, which has not been referred to in this case.

It is now over three years since the defendant was released from prison, and the process is even now not yet over, but it seems as if the UK is able to deport convicted terrorists after all.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

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