MORE than 200 suspected war criminals have recently been identified by UK immigration officials with most continuing to live freely in the country, according to new figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post.
In the 18 months to the end of December last year, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) recommended action should be taken against 207 people suspected of involvement in war crimes or crimes against humanity.
The new figures, obtained following a Freedom of Information request, come after it was previously revealed that a further 495 suspected war criminals had been identified by the Home Office in the five years to June 2010.
Campaigners last night questioned the ability of UKBA and the police to tackle the issue, raising concerns the UK remains a safe haven for people suspected of involvement in crimes including systematic killing and rape.
Human rights pressure group Redress said: “A major concern is what is happening to those suspects. Does the UKBA refer them all to the Metropolitan Police for investigation with a view to seeing if they can be prosecuted here? Unless and until there are a significant number of prosecutions for these types of crimes suspects will continue treating the UK as a safe haven.”
Michael McCann MP, chairman of the All-Party Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, has criticised the UKBA for not acting quickly enough when suspicions came to light. He also expressed frustration at his inability to obtain answers from the UKBA about the full scale of the problem.
“We need a frank exchange between the UKBA and police and we need Ministers to provide straight answers to straight questions.”
The latest statistics show significant numbers of people at various points in the immigration system are suspected of involvement in war crimes or crimes against humanity but the UKBA remains largely unable to deport them.
Some have been cleared after further investigation, allowed to stay after appeal or are pending a final decision or going through the appeals process.
But in the 131 cases where a final decision has been reached and suspicion of involvement in war crimes remains, only 12 have been deported or barred from entry to the UK.
The UKBA’s failure to identify concerns at an early stage or to act on them is underlined by the significant numbers who have been refused citizenship because of their suspected involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Between June 2010 and December 2011, 66 of the 78 suspects identified at that late stage of the immigration process were refused citizenship.
In all, the UKBA identified 805 people worthy of initial investigation for potential involvement in war crimes over the 18-month period before recommending “adverse immigration action” against 207.
The leading six countries of origin were Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Almost half of the 207 cases identified for action involved applications for asylum, the first stage of the immigration process. Of the 103 cases, 13 were granted restricted or discretionary leave to remain which means that, although they were suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity, they could not be deported on human rights grounds over fears of retribution. Such cases are kept under close review, with restrictions placed on where the individual can live as well as restrictions on the right to work and study.
Two more were to be deported but won the right to stay on human rights grounds.
A further 31 are to be deported with enforcement action described as “ongoing”. Three have actually been removed from the UK.
Of the remainder, 14 were granted asylum, 25 are awaiting a final decision, 14 are going through an appeal and one has died.
Seventeen suspects were identified when leave to remain applications were being processed. Of those, three were granted restricted or discretionary leave to stay and a further two overturned a decision of refusal on appeal. Eight are either awaiting a final decision or going through an appeal, two were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and two were refused with enforcement action ongoing.
Nine suspects were refused entry to the UK, seven on the decision of UKBA officials and two as a result of exclusion orders by the Home Secretary.
A UKBA spokeswoman insisted: “We are determined to ensure the UK does not become a refuge for war criminals and have robust processes in place to identify and seek to remove anyone suspected of such a crime.
“If it is not possible to remove them immediately – for example, if we have been overruled by the courts – these individuals can now be subjected to stringent reporting and employment restrictions while we continue to seek their removal.”
UK ‘losing battle against war criminals’: Page 7.