Who will be deported and who decides?
Andrew S. Fischer | August 6, 2005
New database of those who display 'unacceptable behaviours' and mosques which 'foment terrorism' to be shut.
Who is likely to be deported as a result of the new measures?
"New grounds [for deportation and exclusion] will include fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs or justifying or validating such violence ... Let no-one be in any doubt. The rules of the game are changing" - Tony Blair yesterday
Mr Blair said yesterday the new rules on deportation would be applied retrospectively and and indicated that the numbers involved would be more than just a "handful".
The prime candidate for deportation is Abu Qatada, a Jordanian. He has lived in Britain since fleeing Jordan in 1993 after being convicted of inciting terrorism there. He was arrested in 2002 and after his release from Belmarsh high-security prison in March is now subject to a control order - effective house arrest.
Others who could be deported include Omar Bakri Mohammad, who has joint Syrian-Lebanese nationality. He says he has no fear of deportation. He will return to his wife's home country of Lebanon if he is deported.
Egypt has requested the extradition of Hany Youssef, a defence lawyer who fled to Britain in 1994. Mr Blair has expressed sympathy with the request.
Mr Blair specifically mentioned the case of Rashid Ramda, an Algerian suspected terrorist held in custody for 10 years. He is accused of financing the 1995 Paris underground bombings. Charles Clarke, the home secretary, authorised his extradition in June.
Mohammad al-Masari, is a Saudi who runs a website on which he places extreme and often violent Islamist propaganda. However, the Guardian understands that Saudi Arabia is not on the list of countries from which the government is seeking assurances.
What is the significance of Mr Blair's attempts to seek assurances from foreign governments?
"We believe we can get the necessary assurances from countries to which we will return the deportees"
Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights outlaws torture and inhumane treatment. But for years foreign governments have pressed Britain to hand over suspects nevertheless.
Last May, Lord Bassam, a home office minister, told peers: "We would not remove a person to a country if there was a real or probable risk of any sort, of them being tortured or otherwise ill-treated there."
The government has already considered, in the context of asylum cases, withdrawing from article 3 on torture by withdrawing from the ECHR altogether and then rejoining the ECHR stripped of Article 3.
But Liberty has legal advice that suggests the government cannot withdraw from, or in technical terms denounce, the ECHR, with the express purpose of rejoining it with a reservation that could not otherwise be validly made.
This year Lady Symons, a former Foreign Office minister, visited Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco seeking "watertight" assurances but returned empty-handed. Court documents show how Mr Blair repeatedly intervened in an attempt to deport four asylum seekers, including Hany Youssef, to Egypt despite being told by Foreign and Home Office officials that they might be tortured and sentenced to death.
In March 1999, the British embassy in Cairo asked for assurances that if the men were deported they would get a fair trial, and that if found guilty of links to Egyptian Islamic Jihad they would not be executed. The Egyptian interior minister rejected the request. When he was told about the failure to get the assurances, Mr Blair wrote: "This is a bit much. Why do we need all these things?"
Yesterday, Mr Blair said Britain had concluded a memorandum of understanding with Jordan over the treatment of those deported from Britain; he had had "very constructive conversations with the leaders of Algeria and Lebanon". There were "around 10 such countries" with whom Britain was seeking similar assurances. They are understood to include Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Which groups are to be banned?
"We will proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir and the successor organisation of Al Mujahiroun"
Britain is acting to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir, a 50-year-old Islamic political movement which wants a return to the caliphate and the imposition of sharia law in Muslim countries. The non-violent group has existed in Britain since 1986 and recruits from university campuses and mosques.
Al Mujahiroun, formed by the Syrian Omar Bakri Mohammed in 1996, was disbanded by him 16 months ago. The two main successor groups are Al Ghurabaa and The Saviour Sect. Being a member of a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 can be punished by a 10 year jail term.
Among other things, the act also makes it an offence to wear an item of clothing that gives rise to reasonable suspicion indicating membership of a proscribed group.
Will any other groups be affected?
"As has been stated, there will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the Autumn. This will include an offence of glorifying terrorism"
The clampdown on words or actions likely to be seen as glorifying terrorism could affect groups that have nothing to do with Islamic extremism - animal rights activists, for example, who may have to change much of what they write on websites if they are not to fall foul of the legislation.
Mr Blair also said the system of control orders would be extended to apply to British nationals who display "unacceptable behaviours".
What new offences are being created?
"Over the past two weeks, intensive meetings across government have taken place to set a comprehensive framework for action in dealing with the terrorist threat in Britain"
The government will take immediate action in areas where new legislation is not needed; for example creating new grounds for deportation and exclusion. But there will also be new laws.
The prime minister said there would be an offence created of glorifying terrorism both in the UK and abroad in the anti-terrorism legislation in the Autumn. The Metropolitan police chief, Ian Blair, has also called for a law against "acts preparatory to terrorism".
Will the government now be able to close institutions such as mosques?
"We will consult on a new power to order closure of a place of worship which is used ... for fomenting extremism"
Mr Blair says he will consult with Muslim leaders to draw up a list of any foreign imams to ensure that they are suitable to preach in the UK. Those not suitable will be excluded from Britain.
He wants to work with the Muslim community to ensure better integration.
What actions or words could result in someone being deported or barred from entering the UK?
"The home secretary today publishes new grounds for deportation and exclusion"
Charles Clarke's list of "unacceptable behaviour" speech or action in or outside Britain. It includes the use of writing, preaching, public speaking, a website or a position of responsibility to foment terrorism, justify or glorify terrorism, foment other serious criminal activity, foster hatred and advocate violence in support of particular beliefs. Mr Blair said a database would be created of individuals who had demonstrated "unacceptable behaviour".
The government has also given itself power to decide which beliefs or actions make someone eligible for deportation; the list of unacceptable behaviour says anyone who promotes "extreme views that are in conflict with the UK's culture of tolerance" could be deported.
Who decides whether individuals should be deported, imprisoned, or placed under control orders?
"This is the beginning of a lot of battles in the months ahead ... I am prepared for those battles in the months ahead but I am also absolutely and completely determined that this happens."
Mr Blair said a list would be drawn up of extremist websites, bookshops and centres, involvement with which would prompt the home secretary to consider deportation of any foreign national.
The biggest legal battles are likely to be over Article 3 of the European Human Rights Convention banning torture and inhumane treatment. The battles will start in British courts but could end up in Strasbourg. Britain could renounce parts of the European convention, the prime minister said yesterday.
However, many lawyers say no British court would accept a diplomatic assurance from a country that tortures its own citizens, so Mr Blair could be faced with several lengthy legal challenges.
How will the measures affect asylum seekers and those applying for British citizenship?
"Anyone who has anything to do with terrorism would automatically be refused asylum."
The prime minister said asylum seekers could appeal against a refusal but only abroad, not in British courts. Existing powers to strip people of their British nationality if they act against the interests of this country could be extended to apply to naturalised citizens involved.