High Court rules against Priti Patel over data extraction from migrant cellphones | Science and technology news


The High Court has found the Home Office to have acted unlawfully in a scheme known as Project Sunshine, which extracted data from mobile phones confiscated from migrants arriving on small boats.

Immigration officials practiced a “secret and blanket policy” of confiscating the phones, which was unlawfully carried out with immigration powers, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The verdict follows Sky News revealingly the cases of about 850 people are being investigated to see if the department has broken data protection laws, which could result in a £17million fine.

It comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel faces mounting pressure over small boat crossings in the English Channel, which have grown exponentially despite her pledge to halve them.

More than 4,000 people made the perilous journey across the English Channel aboard small boats so far 2022around four times as many as this time last year.

More than 28,000 migrants were spotted making the perilous journey from France to Britain last year – 37 of whom drowned, according to the International Organization for Migration – and a forecast suggests they will nearly doubling to nearly 60,000 in 2022.

The court’s findings included that immigration officials had lied to migrants, claiming that they could be prosecuted for not giving out their cell phone passwords, when in fact no such offense had been committed.

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Clare Jennings of Gold Jennings, one of the attorneys who brought the case, said: “I am pleased that the Supreme Court today affirmed the rights of the applicants and thousands of other asylum seekers like her.”

These individuals “did not commit a crime, yet were subject to this blanket and secret policy of surrendering their cell phones and PIN numbers as soon as they arrived, which caused them significant emotional and practical difficulties,” Ms. Jennings said.

The “systematic extraction of personal data from vulnerable asylum seekers who were not suspected of crime was an astounding and unprecedented assault on fundamental data protection rights,” Ms Jennings added.

“Today’s ruling provided much-needed clarification on the scope of immigration officers’ search and seizure powers and confirmed beyond doubt that the Home Secretary’s policy of confiscating all mobile phones upon small boat arrivals was unlawful.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Channel crossings are a blatant abuse of our immigration laws, but they also impact UK taxpayers, risking lives and our ability to help refugees arriving in the UK through safe and legal routes.

“It is paramount that we continue to pursue those who facilitate dangerous crossings.

“We are reviewing the verdict and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” they added.

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