Hostile environment

Operation Nexus is dangerous and discriminatory. It needs to go

Posted on 01 Jun 2018

Operation Nexus is an initiative allowing deportations from the UK when no crime has been committed. We need to bring it down now.

The AIRE Centre is bringing a legal challenge against Operation Nexus, a joint police and Home Office initiative which allows deportations of people who haven’t committed any crimes. AIRE Centre Director Matthew Evans blogs for Liberty on the dangers posed by Nexus and the urgency of the case.

Home Office policy and practice regarding the detention and expulsion of EU citizens ignores EU Citizenship and free movement rights, making both casualties of an overdetermined system of immigration control which is often contrary to EU law.

So it’s no surprise the Windrush scandal has re-ignited EU citizens’ fears of how they might be dealt with post Brexit.

Operation Nexus

The AIRE centre is challenging one of the most invidious of these policies – Operation Nexus – in the Court of Appeal in July.

Operation Nexus is a little publicised joint Police and Home Office initiative allowing deportations from the UK when no crime has been committed.

Initially framed as targeting ‘high harm’ foreign national offenders (FNOs), Nexus has evolved, now classifying people as FNOs based on ancient, spent and petty convictions – and even ‘non-convictions’ such as police encounters, acquittals and withdrawn charges.

In 2014 the Government admitted it’s up to individual police forces to define ‘high harm’.

How it works

Launched in London in 2012, Operation Nexus is now a central plank of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’. . It gathers information, not for the purpose of any criminal investigation, but to identify people the UK authorities would simply like to remove from the country.

It involves the systematic checking of foreign nationals’ immigration status,  and police questioning  for non-crime purposes and without any of the normal procedural protections the police usually have to abide by.

European nationals encountered by the police are often asked how they are supported financially, if they are working, how much they earn, whether they are in a relationship, and who pays for their accommodation.

Urgent action must be taken

Since 2012, over 3,000 people have been removed from the UK under Operation Nexus. Many of those targeted are vulnerable, either economically or otherwise – including women trafficked here for sexual exploitation.

Christina (not her real name) came to the UK following her sentence in Portugal for being a drug mule – something she says she was forced into by traffickers. She came to start a new life, but found things very difficult, and contemplated suicide. She was seen by passer-by on a London bridge who, concerned about her welfare, called the police.

However, when the police arrived, she was taken to a police station, and questioned around what she was doing in the UK as an EU national. The Home Office then discovered her earlier conviction and detained her at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre awaiting deportation.

Even after being granted immigration bail, the Home Office banned her from working, so she had no income and could not pay her rent. She was threatened with eviction and forced to rely on food banks. Many months later, she won her appeal, being recognised as a victim of trafficking, and as someone who did not represent a risk in the UK.

Despite concerns about the legality of Operation Nexus, and the lack of transparency in how any police intelligence is used, Nexus has now been rolled out across the country, including the Midlands, Manchester, Avon and Somerset, and Sussex.

And there are wider human rights implications. Previously, when we were at the High Court, the judgment said the police may lawfully ask any question they choose for whatever purpose they wish provided it would not be “[un]lawful … [for] a member of the public” to ask the questions.  This unjustified extension of police powers should alarm us all.

Operation Nexus is discriminatory and dangerous. We need to bring it down now.

The AIRE Centre is currently crowdfunding this important challenge. Unless we raise the £10,000 necessary to get us to court, Operation Nexus will continue to ruin lives.

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