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Write for your rights: Oppose the new immigration law that affects you

What’s the issue? 

Imagine that your bank account is closed by mistake and no one will listen to you. What if your driving license was taken away for no reason at all, and you could do nothing to object. Or if you were told you are to leave the country, and you can’t find out where the information has come from that needs to be corrected to tell the government they’ve made a mistake and get it fixed.
This is the nightmare knocking on your door this Hallowe’en. You need to take action to scare it off.
The Government has added a completely new immigration control exemption to the Data Protection Bill (“DPBill”). This exemption does not appear in the Data Protection Act 1984 or in the Data Protection Act 1998 so why on earth is an immigration exemption is now suddenly needed? And it’s giving itself a broad new power in Clause 15 for future changes. The draft law is passing through Parliament right now.
It will remove the information rights of you and me, and everyone in the UK, regardless of where you come from.
If your confidential data are used for immigration investigation or enforcement purposes even by mistake, you won’t be able to ask for confirmation how your records were used, to work out where information was wrong and its source, or where it was shared with (in subject access requests). Safeguards for transferring information abroad without adequate protections will not be necessary.
Lord Lucas asked a key question, in the Second Reading debate“Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2, on immigration, takes away rights immigrants have at the moment under the Data Protection Act. Why? What is going on?”
Indeed. What *is* going on?
The error rate is already frighteningly high.
Horror stories include British Shane Ridge, from Colne in Lancashire, who received a letter from the Home Office informing him his driving licence would be revoked as he had “no lawful basis to be in the UK” and that he faced a £5,000 fine or imprisonment if he didn’t leave within 10 working days.
Hundreds of people have been wrongly refused bank accounts or had their driving licences revoked under the former home secretary Theresa May’s measures to “create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants”.
On October 5, the Department for Education confirmed in the press to Sky that that school children’s information is being obtained from the National Pupil Database and used to contact families to “regularise their stay or remove them”. The clause must be removed, not more children in secret, without oversight or transparency.
David Bolt, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said the Home Office had failed to appreciate the potential impact of such wrong decisions on those affected.
Without your rights, the impact will be much harder to fix.

What can you do? Write for your rights

Ask Lords and MPs to oppose the *new* blanket Data Protection Bill (DP Bill) immigration exemption Schedule 2 Part 1 (4). And Clause 15 must be amended so that any future changes, are safer too.
We want the exemption removed, not to enable the government to remove more children in secret, and remove their rights to understand why. Write to MPs and councillors here and ask for their support and voice.
1. Choose an MP or councillors and write to them.
2. Tell them why this matters to you. You can use, or use this letter template, but it’s even better to use your own words. [.pdf] [.docx]
3. Ask them politely for support, and to oppose Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 in the Data protection draft bill, the immigration exemption. Remove the clause, not our rights.

4. And don’t forget! Clause 15 must be amended so that any future changes, are safer too.
5. Tell your friends and family and ask them to take action too. Share your action and your support for the campaign on social media. See our Facebook post and share on Twitter. Encourage your contacts to write to their MP, and raise awareness of the campaign to remove the immigration exemption, not our rights.

Summary of what it will mean

  1. It will remove today’s data protection rights from us all, everyone; not only those directly or potentially affected in immigration issues, as long as it is framed as “the following purposes— (a) the maintenance of effective immigration control, or (b) the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control.”
  2. These include Data Protection rights to find out if our data are being used confirmation of processing and subject access rights, to question accuracy or seek redress for mistakes or harm (which we can today under the DPA 1998).
  3. Policy will be more opaque with the people if affects, and permit secret goings on with no rights to understand, correct error, or question use of personal data and its source, for example in an Immigration Appeal
  4. This exemption will disempower people and give more powers to the State, at a time when immigration enforcement is notably and publicly packed with errors, and direct interventions are causing harm and distress. This is nothing to do with GDPR and is a UK only, new addition in the DP Bill
  5. It seeks exemptions from data protection when transferred abroad, which could further jeopardise any adequacy decision, a disaster for business and others using data.


  1. What is a blanket exemption needed for? Anything done today should already be legal, and supported by existing immigration, crime, investigatory and data protection laws.
  2. Why are Data Protection rights seen as a barrier to meeting the State’s responsibilities and human rights obligations, and a barrier to what, that needs to be removed?
  3. What justifies such a new and sweeping power, undermining fundamental rights and freedoms and is it necessary, fair and proportionate?
  4. The UK Immigration bodies should be able to justify the inclusion of this exemption on the basis of hard evidence (i.e. the Home Office should be able to provide examples of actual Subject Access Requests where personal data were released to the detriment to the public interest). Can they?


  • Only last week, the Department for Education confirmed this week in the press to Sky  that that school children’s information is being obtained from the National Pupil Database and used to contact families to “regularise their stay or remove them”. The clause must be removed, not more children in secret, without oversight.
  • The volume of current Home Office error letters already, even ahead of Brexit and not knowing what will happen to EU and British citizens’ rights, and their negative effects, means we need to be strengthening, not removing our rights and protections.
  • The Immigration exemption is a get-out-of-jail-free-card for government to do anything it likes, taking away each of our protections today under Data Protection law, and being snuck into a bill which is supposed to be bringing in new rights, not taking them away.
  • Anything done today for these purposes should already be legal, and the government should not need a new law to do anything it likes at all, with any use of our data hidden under the secrecy of an “for immigration” blanket. It would mean we’d never find out if they’re using nationality data collected in the school census to find family members and make mistakes, for example, in the monthly transfers of school children’s data to the Home Office. They may have promised they are not, but there’s nothing to stop it in future.  And nothing to stop new projects starting in secret, just like this one did.

Background facts