Fur flies over British minister's immigration claim

4th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Home Secretary Theresa May came under fire from judges and her own Conservative party on Tuesday after claiming an illegal immigrant avoided deportation due to his pet cat.

The interior minister said the case highlighted the failings of human rights laws, but the country's top judges and Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke immediately cast doubt on the story.

"We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act... about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, he had a pet cat," May told the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

Tory colleague Clarke said he "cannot believe anyone was refused deportation just because they owned a cat" and that the case "has nothing to do with the Human Rights Act."

A statement issued on behalf of senior judges later Tuesday said the cat had "had nothing to do with the decision to allow the man to stay."

May also told supporters that Britain's Human Rights Act, which incorporates rights enshrined in the European convention on human rights, "needs to go".

The minister promised to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to use Article 8 of the convention -- the right to family life -- to avoid deportation.

Rights group Amnesty International said May's comments reinforced "myths and misconceptions" about the act.

"That someone in Theresa May's position can be so misinformed as to parade out a story about someone being allowed to stay in Britain because of a cat is nothing short of alarming," the NGO said.

May said she would have "another look at the case" to clarify the facts surrounding the decision.

© 2011 AFP

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