An Albanian drug offender who was twice ordered to leave the UK tried for a third time to stay, arguing that having a family life and a child gives him the right to remain under human rights laws.
Blerim Ismalaj, 30, was deported from Britain in January 2013 after being sentenced to 16 months in a Young Offenders Institute for a drug offence.
He twice returned to the UK, the last time in 2019 when he had a child with his British partner.
Relying on his new change of circumstances he used the Human Rights Act to try to stay, mounting a costly legal battle in which he claimed his three-year-old child’s life would be adversely affected if he was deported for a second time.
But the judge presiding over his appeal has now branded Ismalaj’s case as “entirely misconceived” and upheld the decision to deport him for a third time.
Merry-go-round of deportations
The case has exposed the porous nature of Britain’s border controls, with 12,000 Albanians crossing the Channel in small boats this year alone, according to Home Office figures, as well as the merry-go-round of deportations and repeated attempts by some to re-enter the country.
The Telegraph revealed earlier this year that Albanian criminals deported from the UK for drugs and violence are sneaking back into Britain in the face of a government crackdown on gangsters from the Balkan country.
It came after the then Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a new deportation agreement with Albania in July 2021 to make it easier for the UK to return criminals and unsuccessful asylum seekers.
Ismalaj was first made the subject of a deportation order in December 2012, after being convicted at the age of 20 for “producing a controlled substance”.
He was deported to Albania in January 2013, but documents show he returned to the UK in breach of that order in October 2016, remaining in the country long enough to embark on a relationship with a British woman, named in the court only as P.
Ismalaj left for Albania in July 2018, but in January 2019 returned once again to the UK, a few months before the birth of his British son in August that year.
Ismalaj pursued his relationship with P, who he married at a church service followed by a packed reception in August last year.
His wife, 32, runs a luxury events business in Nottinghamshire. When Ismalaj, who holds a significant stake in the firm, registered his interest with Companies House, in December last year, he wrongly described his nationality as British.
Leave to remain on human rights grounds
In November 2019 he made an application to the Home Office for leave to remain on human rights grounds, claiming deportation would be in breach of his right to a family life with his P, his son and his two stepchildren, a boy and a girl.
Speaking to The Telegraph, P who travelled to Albania with her three children earlier this month to show them Ismalaj’s homeland, said she had built a stable family life with him. She said: “Blerim is my husband. I’m his wife. We have a child together, a three-year-old son. He has not got a visa to stay here so he cannot work. It was in process, but has been refused. A deportation is news to us.”
Court documents show that the Home Office “accepted that the appellant has a genuine and subsisting family life with his British family”, but it refused to revoke the deportation order.
The immigration courts have now ruled against Ismalaj’s appeals, following a protracted legal battle costing tens of thousands of pounds in combined legal costs.
‘Blatant disregard for immigration control’
Judge Gaenor Bruce, of the Upper Tribunal, sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, ruled: “This appeal is entirely misconceived. It was not unduly harsh for any of the appellant’s children that he be deported, and there were obviously very weighty factors going the other way, which quite legitimately included the fact that the appellant has shown a blatant disregard for immigration control.”
In her ruling Judge Bruce agreed with the lower tier immigration tribunal that there were no “very compelling circumstances” which outweighed the “strong public interest in the deportation of foreign criminals” and that the “harshness which the deportation will cause for the children” was not of “a sufficiently elevated degree to outweigh that public interest”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Those with no right to be in the UK, including dangerous foreign national offenders who flout our laws, should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them. Since January 2019 we have removed over 12,200 foreign national offenders from the UK.”