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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 23 June, 2018

Cat flap: UK Home Secretary criticised over migrant cat story

Theresa May’s assertion in a speech today that an illegal immigrant could not be deported because of his pet cat has been proven wrong.

May speaking at her party's conference today.
May speaking at her party's conference today.
Image: JON SUPER/AP/Press Association Images

THE UK HOME Secretary has come under pressure over a speech she made at her party conference in which she wrongly cited an illegal immigrant’s ownership of a cat as the reason for him not being deported.

In her speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, Theresa May lambasted the Human Rights Act, which her party is seeking to abolish.

May said she was “not making this story up” when she revealed that the Act had been responsible for the immigrant not being deported because he had a pet cat.

In her speech to the party faithful she said: “We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act. The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here.

“The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend.

The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.

However The Guardian and various other news outlets report this afternoon that the judicial communications office, representing senior judges in the UK, has clarified matters by insisting the story is not true and that:

The cat had nothing to do with the decision.

The New Statesman goes on to quote from the full ruling in the case where a lawyer acting on behalf of the foreign national said:

This case was not decided on the basis of a cat. It was decided on the basis of a Home Office policy which the Home Office themselves had failed to apply.

“This was accepted by the Home Office before the Immigration Judge and the Home Office agreed the appeal should be allowed. The ownership of a cat was immaterial. Any press reports to the contrary are, unfortunately, not based on fact.”

BBC News reports that the cat has since been identified as Maya, owned by a Bolivian student who was fighting against his deportation in 2008 on the basis of a settled family life with his girlfriend of four years… and the pet cat which they had acquired together.

Now May’s cabinet colleague, justice secretary Ken Clarke has waded into the argument saying he would have a small bet with May that the cat was not the reason for the deportation being refused:

“I cannot believe anybody has ever had deportation refused on the basis of owning a cat,” he is quoted as saying in The Times (subscription required).

Read: Fine Gael TD calls for UK-Irish co-operation through recession >

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Hugh O'Connell

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