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Campaigners lose data protection challenge on behalf of 3.6 million EU citizens

By Sian Harrison, PA

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge brought on behalf of 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK over data protection rules.

The3million said a new "immigration exemption" introduced in the Data Protection Act (DPA), which came into force in May last year, denies people access to their personal records in immigration cases.

The campaign group, which describes itself as "giving a voice" to those from EU countries who live in the UK, argued at a hearing in July that the exemption is "unlawful" and will prevent people from challenging errors made by the Home Office.

But, in a ruling on Thursday, Mr Justice Supperstone concluded the exemption is not unlawful.

The judge said there was a "particular concern" among the campaigners because EU citizens will have to apply for settled status if they wish to continue living in the UK after Brexit and, as acknowledged by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, there is a 10% error rate in immigration status checks.

However, he found that there are safeguards within the DPA to provide people with effective remedies in the case of any error.

The case, against the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, was also brought by digital campaigners the Open Rights Group.

Law firm Leigh Day, which represented the campaign groups, said the exemption affects all 3.6 million EU citizens who will have to apply for a new immigration status after Brexit.

Both organisations urged the Government to reconsider the exemption before it became law and launched High Court proceedings after it refused to do so.

Human rights organisation Liberty intervened in the case, arguing the exemption is unlawful because it undermines an individual's right to privacy.