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Banning immigrants from accessing their data “violates GDPR”

Civil liberties campaigners have threatened to take the UK government to court over an attempt to ban immigrants from accessing the data the Home Office holds on them.

Lawyers representing the Open Rights Group and the3million have written to the government to warn that an immigration exemption in the Data Protection Bill contravenes the EU regulation it seeks to implement.

Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day, which is acting on behalf half of the3million and ORG, said the clause creates a “discriminatory two‐tier system for data protection rights”.

“It is incompatible with GDPR, as well as EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights,” Curling added. “If the exemption is made law, our clients will apply for judicial review.”

The current version of the Data Protection Bill, which is due to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday evening, would exempt – for the first time – migrants from UK data protection laws.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, added that the clause in question is “an attempt to disguise the Home Office’s mistakes”: “When people are wrongly told to leave, they would find it very hard to challenge.”

Writing for NS Tech about the legislation in January, Jenny Jones said: “A second exception in the Bill applies when data is processed for ‘the investigation or detection of activities that would interfere with effective immigration control’.

“This creates a virtually endless exception which could apply equally to the infringement of data protection for British nationals as much as migrants.”

A government spokesperson told the Guardian: “The bill carefully balances protecting people’s data rights and the wider interests of society including making sure day-to-day operations relating to immigration controls are not obstructed. There are no blanket exemptions: any restrictions will need to be justified on a case-by-case basis with oversight from the Information Commissioner’s Office and the courts.”