In justifying the proposal, May used the example of a Bolivian man who avoided deportation based on the fact that he had a pet cat in the country. The Home Secretary cited the case of an “illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had pet cat”.
Kenneth Clarke later expressed his scepticism about the claim, commenting: “I’ll have a small bet with her that nobody has ever been refused deportation on the grounds of the ownership as a cat”. Clarke was proved right when the judiciary revealed the cat had no bearing on the man’s case, and was only mentioned to show evidence of a long-term relationship with his girlfriend.
Despite the gaffe, Theresa May will push ahead with her proposals to make it easier for the UK to deport migrants by changing the interpretation of the ECHR. The proposals would see the law disregard any family connections in the UK if the migrant has been in the country illegally, thus making it far more difficult for people to remain in Britain based on the ECHR’s guarantee of a right to ‘private and family life’.
Last month the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he would block any move by the UK to bypass the ECHR. “Let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact, I will do it in words of one syllable – it is here to stay.”
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