European criminals including sex offenders, people traffickers and drug dealers could be deported from the UK and banned from the country for 10 years, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.
She told delegates that the UK government does not need to wait until Britain leaves the EU to introduce such measures, during a speech in which she tapped into a groundswell of anti-immigrant sentiment that has been rising across the UK since the referendum on the country’s membership of the 28-nation bloc back in June.
Under current rules, criminals from EU countries who offend in Britain are given preferential treatment over convicts from the rest of the world. Non-EU offenders can be deported from the UK if they are sentenced to more than one year in prison, a rule that does not apply to EU nationals.
Additionally, the EU’s 2004 Citizenship Directive states that “previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds for [denied entry and the right to live in an EU country]”, a rule Brexiteers have suggested allows serious criminals to enter and remain in the UK.
During the referendum campaign, the official Vote Leave camp published a dossier of serious offences, including murder and rape, committed by 50 EU nationals. Judge Lady Justice Hallett was quoted in the document as asking: “Do we have to take in anybody, even if they have a conviction for raping a child?”
Ms Rudd said she would draft legalisation aligning the fortunes of EU criminals more closely with those from outside the EU, giving British judges the power to expel individuals who pose a threat to the country, even if that threat is not deemed imminent.
The rules would apply to repeat minor offenders as well as those convicted of more serious crimes, she said, and outlined plans to deport people smugglers and human traffickers for three years. Ms Rudd said Britain will point out that Germany has introduced a similar regime if Brussels objects to the new rules being introduced before Britain leaves the EU.
“We are going to overhaul our legislation to toughen our approach to deporting EU criminals and those who abuse our laws,” Rudd told conference delegates. “We will make clear what our courts must take into account when considering the deportation of EU criminals.”
While the Home Secretary spoke passionately about her plans to remove criminals from Britain’s streets after they have offended, she failed to address concerns over how EU criminals are able to enter the UK undetected by the authorities. It has been suggested that the sharing of information on criminal convictions across EU countries is so poor that serious offenders are able to slip across borders unnoticed.