The BBC has revealed that the UK's Home Office has identified 115 suspected war criminals who have been present in the UK in the last two years in various visa categories including indefinite leave to remain. 99 of these have lived in the UK for some time, sometimes for many years, and have applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK or for citizenship.
The Home Office began an investigation into possible war criminals living in the UK in 2012 after an allegation was made that there might be as many as 800 war criminals present in the country. Having carried out its investigation, the Home Office says that there are strong grounds to suspect that 99 of those it investigated are genuine war criminals.
Since then, a further 16 suspected war criminals have arrived in the UK and have applied for leave to remain. Only three of the original 99 have so far been deported.
UK should not become safe haven for war criminalsThe Home Office said in 2012 that it did not want the UK to be considered to be a safe haven for war criminals. It carried out investigations into 800 people who were in the UK who were suspected of war crimes in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, Serbia and Sri Lanka.
However, campaigners fear that the government and police are not putting sufficient effort into identifying and prosecuting suspected war criminals because of a lack of resources. The Metropolitan Police told the BBC that only 56 people are currently under investigation for war crimes and only nine of these were suggested to the police by the Home Office.
Five men from Rwanda were arrested in May on suspicion of crimes relating to the genocidal attacks by Hutus on Tutsis during the 1994 civil war. Three of them remain in custody. Four of the five were arrested in 2009. The Home Office attempted to deport them but the High Court ruled that it was illegal to send them back to Rwanda because of the risk that they would not get a fair trial there.
UK is de facto safe havenJames Smith off Aegis, a group which campaigns against human rights abuses, says that the government is not doing enough. He told BBC Radio 5 Live that there is evidence that the UK is becoming a de facto safe haven for international war criminals because the UK government, prosecuting authorities and police are not putting enough resources into the investigation and prosecution of such crimes, even though they are required to do so by international law.
Mr Smith told the BBC, 'There's a cost and it is difficult to investigate crimes which took place in another country a long time ago. But if we don't pursue those prosecutions, the UK could become known as a retirement home for war criminals'.
Kevin Laue of campaigning group Redress said that the Metropolitan Police does investigate war crimes but added that the officers in charge of these investigations are anti-terrorism officers who have other, often more pressing priorities. He said 'The police need more resources to investigate these crimes because it's difficult to investigate them. That in turn requires more political will and commitment at the higher level'.
UKBA was 'a basket case'Michael McCann, chairman of the parliamentary All Party Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, told the BBC that the UK Border Agency, which used to be in charge of the investigation of asylum, indefinite leave to remain and citizenship applications had been 'a basket case' and had been quite incapable of carrying out its functions efficiently.
Mr Smith said 'I have deep concerns that the Home Office isn't being as forthright as it could be and I think we should be drilling down into these cases in order to give the public of our country that security'.
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