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Home Secretary Pledges New Deportation Law

Home Secretary Theresa May has claimed Britain's streets are being made more dangerous because immigration judges are failing to deport foreign criminals.

She criticised them for not following guidelines introduced last year which make clear that the "right to family life" - enshrined in law - is not an absolute right.

The Government's own figures show 177 foreign criminals avoided deportation in the year 2011/12, having convinced judges of their right to a family life in Britain.

Mrs May told The Sunday Telegraph that the actions of some immigration judges were "not acceptable" and that they were "subverting" British democracy.

A new immigration bill will reportedly be published later this year to give full legal weight to ministers' demands that foreign criminals should not routinely be able to dodge deportation by citing Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 8 permits the right to a family life which can be a barrier to removal, but ministers and MPs say it should be balanced with the need to protect the public.

The new law is expected to state that Article 8 allows deportations to prevent "disorder or crime", meaning judges will be forced to take that into account when considering appeals by criminals.

The Sunday Telegraph also reported that new restrictions could also be included in the new law on migrants coming to Britain from countries including Romania and Bulgaria.

Last summer the Home Secretary changed immigration rules to make clear that foreign criminals should be deported if they were serious or persistent offenders.

But while the rules were backed by the House of Commons, they do not carry the full weight of law and are often ignored by judges on the Immigration Tribunal.

Ms May told the Sunday Telegraph: "The European Convention on Human Rights is clear - there is a right to a family life, but that right should be balanced with the wider public interest in controlling immigration and protecting the public.

"That's why we introduced new immigration rules last year.

"Those rules were debated in full and passed unanimously by the House of Commons. So it is not acceptable that some immigration judges are denying the democratic and legal validity of them.

"I said at the time that if the courts did not heed the changes to the rules, I would introduce primary legislation to force them to do so. That is exactly what I now intend to do.

"I am determined that Article 8 must not stop us deporting dangerous foreign criminals."

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Ms May said: "The law in this country is made by the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. And our democracy is subverted when judges decide to take on that role for themselves."