A SCOTTISH MP has accused the UK Home Office of trying to duck the problems caused by a controversial section of the immigration rules under which they tried to force at least 300 highly skilled migrants to leave Britain.

Paragraph 322(5) of the rules – which is used to tackle terrorists and people who are seen as a threat to national security – has been condemned by MPs and experts in the field as “truly wicked” and “an abuse of power”.

It forces migrants to leave the country over “the undesirability of permitting the person concerned to remain in the United Kingdom in the light of his conduct (including convictions which do not fall within paragraph 322(1C), character or associations or the fact that he represents a threat to national security”.

A Government review of the use of 322(5) found the Home Office tried to deport 300 highly skilled migrants under it – including doctors, teachers, lawyers and IT professionals.

A further 87 highly skilled migrants have been wrongly forced to leave the UK and a further 400 people may have been affected.

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss tabled a parliamentary question asking if the cases being given the “benefit of the doubt” by the Home Office were those which had been highlighted in the media.

She said: “It’s disappointing that the Home Office have ducked the problems caused by 322(5) and doubled down on this unfair policy.

“Even given the opportunity to mark their own homework, their systems and processes are still found to be wanting.

“It’s clear from the revised guidance that has been issued to staff that Home Office decision-makers were not adequately qualified to make decisions on complex tax matters.

“The 322(5) rules specifically make reference to criminality and threats to national security.

“It’s a lazy and cynical misapplication of their own rules for the Home Office to lump people who have made errors on their tax returns into this category.”

Thewliss added: “This sweeping interpretation of the rules is symptomatic of the UK Government’s self-proclaimed ‘hostile environment’, where immigrants are made to feel as unwelcome and unsupported as possible.

“Several of my constituents have been unfairly targeted under 322 (5). These are people who’ve come here to live their lives, run businesses, raise families, create jobs and positively contribute to Scotland’s economy and culture.

“Instead of being welcomed, they’ve been treated like criminals.

“This report includes the shocking statistic that since the Conservatives formed a majority government in 2015, the refusal rates of settlement applications from Tier 1 (General) migrants increased from around 5% to 52%. There is no economic or moral argument for treating people in this way, and this report has done nothing to appease the situation.

“Hundreds of people, including many of my constituents, are still waiting for justice.”

Most of those involved are people who have lived in the UK for a decade or more and have British-born children.

Many were given just two weeks to leave and were no longer eligible for a visitor’s visa to the UK or any other country.

Although the Home Office identified 56 cases where a formal reconsideration of its decision to force people to leave was needed, it included 37 where they concluded “it is appropriate to give the applicant the benefit of any remaining doubt and grant indefinite leave to remain”.

However, it also showed 143 cases where people won on appeal in the first-tier tribunal and 101 cases won in the upper tribunal, at judicial review.

The review only considered cases from January 2015 to May 2018, which could mean the number who were wrongly asked to leave is substantially higher.

On top of that, the first-tier tribunal has 372 cases outstanding and 242 that could be allowed, suggesting that around a further 400 people could have been wrongly affected.

As they go through the appeals process, victims are denied the right to work, use the NHS or rent property and many have chosen to leave rather than be forced into destitution, considerable debt and mental health issues, including some who considered suicide.

Parents also feared that the severe trauma their children suffered would have a life-long impact on them.

Publishing the review, Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, said: “Skilled migrants make an important contribution to our economic wellbeing and our society.

“The Government recognises the need to attract and retain them, and our immigration system will continue to do so. However, it is important that people play by the rules to preserve the integrity of the immigration system.”