The BBC reports (22 April 2009) that nine Pakistani nationals arrested over a suspected bomb plot in the UK have been released without charge by police, but still face being deported.
Two more men are being questioned under the Terrorism Act, while a 12th has already been handed over to the UK Border Agency for possible deportation.
Police raided several properties in Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire on 8 April.
A lawyer for three of the men said no wrongdoing had been discovered, and they were in Britain legally.
A Home Office spokesman said:
“We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security.
“The government’s highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate.”
Of the 12 arrested, 11 are Pakistani nationals, 10 held student visas and one was from Britain.
Of the two men still being questioned by police, one is a Pakistani national and the other is British.
The lawyer, Mohammed Ayub, defended his clients:
“After 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they [his three clients] have now been released without charge.
“Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists.”
Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the government had been “dishonourable” over the way it had dealt with the men.
Mr Bunglawala told the BBC that when the arrests “took place in very dramatic circumstances of students being arrested at university and thrown to the floor” the public had been assured the men posed a serious threat.
He said it was unacceptable for the government to make these sorts of prejudicial remarks from the outset, find insufficient evidence to bring charges, and then deport the men anyway.
“Politics should not be interfering with what is primarily a legal process,” he said.
“What we don’t want is people becoming cynical as a result of politician’s premature remarks and thinking: ‘well, that’s what they said last time’.”
BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said:
“Counter-terrorism officers have told me they still think it was the right thing to do to move to arrest them.”
A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said searches were continuing at a property in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.
“These arrests were carried out after a number of UK agencies gathered information that indicated a potential risk to public safety,” she said.
“Officers are continuing to review a large amount of information gathered as part of this investigation.
“Investigations of this nature are extremely complex. We remain grateful to the support and co-operation of the communities affected.”
The raids had to be brought forward following a gaffe by the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer.
Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick resigned following the raids – after he had accidentally revealed operational details to photographers from a document he was carrying.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told MPs on Monday the error had not damaged the operation and the only impact had been that the raids had been brought forward “by a matter of hours”.
Source: BBC News
The fact that 10 of the men arrested were on student visas has brought cries from the tabloid press and anti immigration pressure groups that the student visa route was seen as an easy way for terrorists to enter the UK.
During an interview on BBC Radio Five Live on Good Friday, I was questioned by one of the panellists, Professor Glebe of Buckingham University, about how easy it was for students to come to the UK.
Professor Glebe also made wild and unfounded accusations that “40% of overseas students do not attend classes”.
I also pointed out that if a terrorist really wanted to get into the UK there are far simpler ways of doing so than applying for a student visa, for instance as one of the thirty million tourists who visit these shores each year.
Whilst the authorities will continue to be vigilant against the threat of terrorism, Britain is a service based trading nation and cannot shut its doors to the outside world. China tried that and it didn’t work.
International students contribute over £8 billion to the UK economy, which cannot be ignored at a time when the Government needs every penny of overseas earnings it can get its hands on.
If you need any immigration advice or an appeal against a refusal please email: