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Four members of child sex grooming gang face deportation

Abdul Aziz (left) and Qari Abdul Rauf
Abdul Aziz (left) and Qari Abdul Rauf

Four members of a child sex grooming gang are facing deportation after losing a legal challenge in their battle to remain in the UK.

Shabir Ahmed (top left), Adil Khan (top right), Abdul Aziz (bottom left) and Qari Abdul Rauf

The men had appealed against moves by the Government to strip them of their British citizenship, but their claims were dismissed on all grounds by the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

The ruling paves the way for the men, all of Pakistani nationality who acquired British citizenship by naturalisation, to be removed from the UK - but it is only the first stage in what could be a protracted process.

Among the group is Shabir Ahmed, the ringleader of a gang of men who preyed on teenage girls in Rochdale, plying them with drink and drugs before they were "passed around" for sex.

Ahmed is serving a 22-year jail sentence after being convicted of a string of offences including rape in 2012.

A previous hearing was told he had claimed his convictions were a conspiracy to "scapegoat" Muslims.

The other three claimants are Adil Khan, Qari Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz.

The case centres on decisions by then home secretary Theresa May proposing to deprive the men of their British citizenship on the grounds that it would be "conducive to the public good".

Handing down the judgment, Mr Justice McCloskey, president of the Upper Tribunal, said the cases were "of some notoriety", and described the crimes as "shocking, brutal and repulsive".

A summary of the ruling said: "The appellants were all many years older than their victims. In some cases girls were raped callously and viciously and in others they were forced to have sex with paying customers."

Judges dismissed five different grounds of appeal - including an argument by three of the men that the Government had failed in a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of their children.

The ruling also threw out a complaint of "disproportionate interference" with the men's rights as EU citizens and rejected claims concerning human rights laws.

The legal battle to deport the men could drag on for some time. There are further steps the Home Office must complete and the men will be able to appeal at later stages in the process.

After formal deprivation orders are made, there will follow a removal decision or deportation order.

If that stage is reached, Justice McCloskey pointed out that it will "involve all of the formalities, procedures, rights and protections which decisions of this kind entail".

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk called for the men to be deported to Pakistan "as soon as possible".

He said: "We welcome many people coming to the UK, to contribute, but if they break the law then they should lose their right to live here.

"Foreign-born criminals should not be able to hide behind human rights laws to avoid deportation."

The four can apply for permission to appeal against Thursday's decision. Applications can only be made on a question of law, and permission is granted in less than 10% of cases.

Ahmed remains in custody while the other three have been released on licence.

Khan, Rauf and Aziz were convicted of conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation charges. Aziz was not convicted of having sexual intercourse with any child himself.

Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill confirmed the Home Office would seek to deport the men.

He said: "This was an appalling case - which is why we took action to deprive these criminals of their UK citizenship. We welcome the court's finding and will now seek their deportation.

"Citizenship is a privilege not a right and it is right that the Home Secretary can deprive an individual of their citizenship where it is believed it is conducive to the public good to do so."