The European Court of Justice has ruled that war-criminals cannot be automatically refused residence in the UK. It's time we took back control of our laws, says Joshua King. 

British families are potentially at risk after a new ruling from the European Court of Justice that war-criminals cannot be automatically refused a right of residence to any EU Member State.

The judgement by last week came as a result of two cases. The first involved a Bosnian and Croatian joint-national who had been found guilty of war crimes committed while he was a member of the Bosnian army and was subsequently refused entry to the Netherlands because he had been declared an 'undesirable immigrant' by Dutch courts. The second case involved an Afghan citizen who was refused residency in Belgium after information in his file suggested he had been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The ECJ has ruled Member States must treat residency applications by war criminals on a "case-by-case assessment", where refusal must meet the criteria listed in the EU Citizens' Directive that the personal conduct of the individual "constitutes a genuine and sufficiently serious threat to a fundamental interest of society."

Member States are also forced to "take account of considerations such as how long the individual concerned has resided on its territory, his/her age, state of health, family and economic situation, social and cultural integration into the host Member State and the extent of his/her links with the country of origin."

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The number of conditions the EU court has placed upon member states before they can refuse residency or expel an individual is alarming. The application of the established 'genuine and sufficiently serious' rule in the case of those suspected of war crimes would be laughable were the matter not so dire.

The other listed conditions Member States are forced to apply, further demonstrates how unfit for purpose the EU's Citizens' Directive is at dealing with this issue. Clearly the EU legislation was drafted without consideration for this instance, yet unsurprisingly EU institutions have not hesitated to continue their perpetual competence creep – at any cost.

Despite consistent polling showing the public want tighter immigration laws, the issue still remains contentious amongst policymakers. With the EU Referendum and the General Election results, the public has twice voted to leave the EU, with one of the key motivations being the need to take back control of our immigration system from the EU in order to replace it with a fairer one, more suited to the requirements of the United Kingdom.

This case, however, is much more serious, with EU institutions placing the rights of war criminals above the safety of the public. Every nation should be free to automatically dismiss the application of any convicted or suspected war criminal.

This ECJ's ruling is a perfect reminder of why Britain must regain control of its own laws. A fair immigration system – which does not discriminate against people simply for not being born on the right continent – is more desirable. Let's be free to set an immigration policy which selects the most-skilled workers from around the world while keeping a tighter control of the numbers. Britain cannot do this, however, without leaving the single market – an issue the recent House of Lords' vote has once again put back on the table.

Joshua King is a Research Executive at grassroots, cross-party campaign Get Britain Out

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