Victory in ERRC
11 March 2005
On December 9, 2004, the UK House of Lords found the UK government to have discriminated on racial grounds against Czech Roma in preventing them from travelling to the UK in order to stop them from claiming asylum upon arrival, in a case brought by the ERRC and six Czech Roma. In July 2001, the Czech government allowed the UK government to station immigration officers at Prague's Ruzyne Airport to screen all passengers travelling to the UK. The aim was to detect people who wanted to claim asylum in the UK and prevent them from travelling. The overwhelming number of passengers who were refused permission to enter the UK under this operation were Romani, regardless of whether or not an individual Czech Romani citizen actually intended to claim asylum in the UK. Statistics showed that Roma were four hundred times more likely to be refused entry to the UK than non-Roma.
The Court of Appeal decided that the practice almost inevitably discriminated against Roma, but that that discrimination was effectively justified because Roma were more likely than non-Roma to seek asylum. The House of Lords described the practice as "inherently and systematically discriminatory" against Roma and decided that the practice was unlawful not only under UK's domestic race discrimination law, but also under international conventions, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Significantly, the decision highlighted that States in general do not enjoy unfettered discretion in terms their border policies, legislation and/or practices. The London-based organisation Liberty provided legal representation for the six Czech Roma and the ERRC.