Human rights charity crowdfunds judicial review against Operation Nexus
AIRE Centre claims the government is targeting EU nationals for deportation
The Home Office is to face a judicial review against an initiative that allows for the deportation of foreign nationals without a fair trial.
A legal charity, the AIRE Centre, is to bring the challenge after an investigation into Operation Nexus, a controversial joint initiative between the Home Office and the Metropolitan police force.
Launched in 2012, the stated policy of operation is to target serious or prolific offenders. Members of the Operation Nexus team are tasked with checking backgrounds of foreign nationals arrested in London to establish if they are wanted abroad, have previous convictions, or are in the UK illegally.
Individuals found to be wanted abroad or illegally resident can then be referred to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for deportation. In the first five week after launching the operation, Nexus teams identified 6,988 foreign nationals among 25,968 people arrested in London.
According to the Met, 155 of these were immediately detained by the UKBA for immigration matters.
The AIRE Centre says the results of its investigation into the operation are 'highly disturbing'. It claims that anyone who comes into contact with the police can have their immigration information passed on to the Home Office, simply because they are foreign.
According to the human rights charity, this means individuals with no previous convictions, or those who may have committed an offence decades ago but have since been living in the UK as law-abiding citizens, may now be liable for deportation because of Operation Nexus.
The charity also notes that, because rules of evidence in immigration tribunals adhere to a lower standard than in criminal trials, people can be forced to leave their children and sent back to a country they may have absolutely no connection to - all on hearsay evidence.
Audrey Cherryl Mogan, the AIRE Centre's legal project manager, said: 'This is about fairness and justice. Just because someone isn't a British national, doesn't mean we can ignore their human right to a fair trial.
'It is increasingly obvious that in order to create a hostile climate for migrants authorities are ignoring their responsibilities under European law.
'Operation Nexus is being implemented unfairly, targeting specific groups for deportation, and ignoring the rule of law and breaking up families in its wake.'
The charity needs £3,000 to take the case forward and has launched a CrowdJustice campaign to appeal to the public for funds.
CrowdJustice's CEO, Julia Salasky, said: 'This is an important case for anyone who cares about the rule of law and the right to a fair trial.
'Crowdfunding such a critical piece of litigation gives anyone who is passionate about those rights the opportunity to play a part in a case that could create real change.'
Writing in 2013, Harry Mitchell QC, honorary legal adviser to Migration Watch UK, said the object of the operation was to use deportation as a sanction against foreign unconvicted criminals.
'Deporting convicted criminals is not usually a problem, subject to the operation of article 8 (right to family life) of the [European Convention on Human Rights], which has frequently in recent years been invoked as a means of preventing deportation,' he wrote.
'It may result in the deportation of unconvicted criminals whose crimes are not political or connected with terrorism and secondly that it is a large scale operation which is likely to grow in size and importance.'
News of the legal challenge comes after the home secretary, Theresa May, called on Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights as it had previously delayed and prevented the deportation of 'dangerous foreign nationals'.
Last week, the Ministry of Justice announced that it aims to raise £37m a year via a six-fold increase in hearing fees for immigration and asylum tribunals.