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ICO responds to Home Office’s draft regulations to the immigration exemption

The Information Commissioner’s Office has welcomed proposed government changes to provide clearer safeguards around how people in a potentially vulnerable position within the immigration system are able to access the information held about them.

The draft regulations will amend the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act, and follows December’s Court of Appeal ruling that required the government to make the exemption clearer.

The ruling followed a case brought by the3million and the Open Rights Group, in which the ICO was an interested party, where concerns were raised that the exemption was not clear enough and did not contain sufficient built-in safeguards to prevent abuse and protect people’s rights, particularly given its use in a significant number of cases.

The Home Office consulted with us about the new regulations and, after careful examination, we have determined that they satisfy the requirements of the judgment.

Emily Keaney, Deputy Commissioner for Regulatory Policy, said:

“The details that have been added to the legislation will, in our view, help to ensure that the right issues are considered when making decisions about giving people access to information used to inform life-changing decisions about where they have the right to live. 

“We particularly welcome that the legislation now sets out that use of exemption must be necessary and proportionate, and applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the potential vulnerability of the person concerned, and the impact on their rights and freedoms.

“While these regulations will be a welcome step forward, we have emphasised that staff working in immigration must be made aware of these changes and trained appropriately.”

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