Deportation bid an overreaction’

The Home Office has been slammed by a top judge for its “colossal overreaction” in trying to deport a skilled chef and his wife after they were accused of a trivial breach of immigration rules.

The Home Office has been slammed by a top judge for its “colossal overreaction” in trying to deport a skilled chef and his wife after they were accused of a trivial breach of immigration rules.

Yee Kong Lim, 37, and his wife Yet Kiow Siew, 29, came to Norfolk legally, but they were on the receiving end of a Home Office push to have them thrown out of the country and flown back to Malaysia at a cost of thousands of pounds to the public purse.

Mr Lim was granted a permit allowing him to work at Norwich's Lucky Star Chinese restaurant, but was found by immigration officers with his wife at the nearby Riverbank Restaurant in September 2005.

Despite his protestations that he was only there to pick up food for the Lucky Star, which has the same owner, immigration officials began deportation proceedings just days later.

Mr Lim successfully challenged the Home Office's stance at the High Court last year, but yesterday that was overturned by three top judges in a Court of Appeal decision.

However, Lord Justice Sedley, sitting with Sir Mark Potter and Lord Justice Wilson, attacked the Home Office's handling of the case. He said the “remarkable burst of urgency in a system celebrated for dilatoriness” meant that a massive and costly effort had to be deployed in the effort to kick the couple out of the country.

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The judge overturned the previous High Court ruling on grounds that the couple's judicial review challenge - a remedy of last resort - should have been ruled out, as they had the right to challenge the deportation decision from Malaysia after their removal.

But Lord Justice Sedley blamed the Home Office's heavy-handed treatment of the couple for the original High Court decision in the couple's favour.

He added that the home secretary's success in the appeal should not “result in any resumption of the removal of Mr Lim and Mrs Siew”.

“It seems to me inescapable that the judge was influenced - as anyone of common sense and humanity would be - by the colossal overreaction to what, even if proved, was a venial breach of condition,” he said.

“By at least keeping the issue in-country, he was doing something to mitigate it.

“But, while I am in entire sympathy with his motive, I cannot find anything in his reasons sufficient to support his conclusion.”

Lord Justice Sedley added: “Nothing obliges the home secretary to remove every non-British citizen who commits an infraction, however inconsequential, of his or her conditions of leave to remain, especially where the occurrence of the infraction is itself in

issue.

“We have heard that there is nothing to stop Mr Lim asking for and being granted a modest enlargement of the establishments in which he is permitted to work.

“There was no reason why such an enlargement should not have been granted in the first place, had it been applied for by his prospective employer prior to his entry.

“To remove him and his wife - who is alleged to have done nothing wrong at all - at public expense to Malaysia, from where he must try to establish his innocence as best he can,

and from where they will

almost certainly have to

return, if at all, at their own cost, is both an expenditure of resources and a source of hardship which it seems impossible to justify.”

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