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EU citizens granted permission to access personal data held by Home Office

After a legal battle by campaigners, EU citizens have won full access to records about them held by the Home Office.

A previous high court decision that ruled their case had no legal merit has been unanimously overturned by three judges at the court of appeal.   

This ruling brings to a close a three year battle by campaign groups the 3million and the Open Rights Group. 

EU citizens who were previously denied settled status or future immigration visas will now be granted full access to Home Office databases, enabling them to  access records used against them including entry to the country records, criminal and civil offence records, or social benefits.

It was ruled by the lord justices Underhill, Singh and Warby that the exemption to immigration in the DPA was “non-compliant” with the General Data Protection Regulation and the charter of fundamental rights of the EU.

The Open Rights Group and the 3million failed to overturn the immigration exemption in the DPA in a judicial review in 2018. The campaigners argued that this had diminished their legal right to dispute the Home Office decisions.

It was argued by the Home Office that the exemption was necessary. The law proposed that an EU citizen wishing to testify a ruling to decline settled status or future leave to remain in the UK was handicapped, because access to the records used against them was not permitted.

The case consequently raised questions about the discreet decision-making processes in the Home Office, with a “prejudice test” being used by case workers for the “maintenance of effective immigration control”.

The Home Office’s consideration that immigration control policies “outweighed the benefits of the individual exercising their data subject rights” was rejected by the judgment. 

Open Rights Group’s immigration policy manager Sahdya Darr, stated that the judges had “recognised that the immigration exemption drives a huge hole through data protection law”.

In order to establish what solutions are required, the judges have ruled that further legal argument must follow.

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