100 Asylum Seekers at Former Military Barracks Test Positive for Coronavirus'
A coronavirus outbreak at a former army barracks being used to house asylum seekers in Kent could now have grown to at least 100 positive cases, ITV News has been told. One asylum seeker at the Napier Barracks near Folkestone claimed that almost one-quarter of the 400 men living there tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday. Concerns were raised on Friday that cases could spiral out of control as the hundreds of men on the site were apparently still free to mix with each other and social distancing was “impossible.”
On Tuesday, Home Office minister for Immigration Chris Philp said that he was “incredibly disappointed” to learn that the actions of some residents had contributed to the outbreak. In a statement he said: “A number of individuals refused tests and have been either refusing to self-isolate or follow social distancing rules, despite repeated requests to do so and these being national guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.
Read more: ITV News, https://is.gd/lpp2BZ
Government Has No Idea if Hostile Environment Measures Work
A second report in the space of two days from the immigration inspector, this time on the Home Office’s use of sanctions and penalties. These are an integral part of the “hostile environment” policy of outsourcing immigration control to the private sector. Companies can be fined if, for example, they fly someone to the UK with no visa, employ someone with no right to work or fall down on their duties as an approved sponsor. Such sanctions, the inspection report says, are designed to “encourage and enforce compliance rather than simply to punish breaches of the Immigration Rules”. Are they succeeding? Who knows: a lack of “complete and accurate performance data” means that the Home Office is unable to provide inspectors with “compelling evidence that [sanctions] work”. This echoes several previous official reports on hostile environment measures.
A good example is civil penalties for hiring an “illegal worker”. Free Movement revealed a couple of years ago that about half the fines levied go unpaid for one reason or another. That picture seems, if anything, to have worsened since: £180 million in fines levied, £70 million collected up to the end of 2019, the new report concludes. Meanwhile, the number of unauthorised migrants leaving the UK voluntarily — which is the vague idea behind all these measures — has actually fallen. Even on its own terms, the hostile environment just doesn’t work.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/GMZMOy
CoA Rejects Lowering Threshold for Denying Refugee Status to Extremists
How serious must a person’s “extremism” be to justify exclusion from the Refugee Convention? Three years ago, the Court of Appeal in Youssef & N2 v Secretary of State for the Home Department lowered the bar for exclusion from the Convention’s protection by disqualifying an asylum seeker for “general” promotion of terrorism. This week, in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v NF  EWCA Civ 17, the same court rejected an attempt by the Home Office to lower that bar even further. The Court of Appeal confirmed that there is a high threshold for exclusion from the Convention, and made clear that a terrorism-related conviction alone may not be enough to justify it. Any exclusion assessment needs to consider how serious the “extremists” acts were.
NF, a Kenyan citizen, was denied refugee status for what the Court of Appeal called his “obsessive interest in Islamic extremism” and sympathies with the fundamentalist group Al Shabaab. In 2013, he was convicted for downloading material prohibited under the Terrorism Act 2000 and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment. At his criminal trial, the judge recommended him for deportation to Kenya. NF claimed asylum, but the Home Office excluded him from protection under Article 1F(c) of the Refugee Convention, asserting he had “done acts contrary to the purposes of the United Nations”. Officials referred to examples other than just his conviction which were said to demonstrate his “terrorist mindset”. Due to the media frenzy his terrorism conviction stirred up, however, the Home Office conceded that NF now had a public profile as a “terrorist” and so was at risk of ill-treatment in Kenya. As such he was (reluctantly) granted discretionary leave to remain on human rights grounds.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/PQlYgh
Suicidal Refugee Loses Date of Birth Appeal
A Palestinian refugee threatening to take his own life in a dispute over the age recorded on his residence permit has lost a judicial review at the Court of Appeal. The case (WA (Palestinian Territories)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 12. The facts are almost unbearably tragic. WA “suffered sustained torture” at the hands of Hamas for refusing to become a suicide bomber. His family arranged for his escape from Gaza, but in Italy he was “subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse”. That left him with considerable psychological damage, one aspect of which is a fixation with his claimed date of birth: 29 December 1994. WA said that his grandmother had given him documentation confirming this as his date of birth before he fled, but it was lost in flight. The date on WA’s biometric residence permit instead says 19 April 1989, making him 31 rather than 26. This was the product of no less than four different age assessments which ultimately concluded that he was probably born between 1986 and 1991. Of the specific dates of birth that WA provided at various stages of the asylum process, the one that seemed “most likely to be accurate” was 19/04/89. The social workers concluded that the 1994 date of birth fell well outside the plausible range.
Why is the age issue so important? As WA now has refugee status, nothing turns on his age in terms of his treatment by the asylum system. But he has always found the imposed 1989 date of birth to be “dehumanising and corrosive of his sense of identity”. Things came to a head last year, when he volunteered to work in a Nightingale hospital but was rejected because the date of birth he put down was not the one on his residence permit. This “triggered a severe relapse in his mental state” and a hunger strike.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/YYENWQ
Foreign National Offenders - No Entry to the UK
New Immigration Rules which came into force on 1 December 2020provide for the mandatory refusal or cancellation of entry clearance or permission to enter or stay in the UK where a person has been convicted of a criminal offence, in the UK or overseas, for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months ormore.
How to Apply for a Frontier Worker Permit
The end of free movement has, for better or worse, given rise to a number of new visa routes catering for workers looking to establish themselves in the UK. Joining their ranks is the frontier worker permit which opened to new applicants on 10 December 2020. Although only open to people who had previously commuted into the UK for work before Brexit kicked in, the criteria are generous enough that a range of people may be eligible to apply.
What is a frontier worker? Frontier workers, as I wrote in 2019, are people who work in one country but live primarily in another. Free movement enabled this working pattern to develop and flourish within the EU, helped along by cheap travel and remote working. Frontier working comes in all different shapes and sizes. A worker could be a French employee of a multinational company sharing their time between offices in Paris and London. Or, more likely in the UK context, a non-Irish EEA national living in the Republic of Ireland, working on a regular basis over the border in Northern Ireland.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/wruji6
Coronavirus and the UK Immigration System
This is where we keep tabs on changes to UK immigration laws, rules and procedures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been trying to keep this post continually up to date rather than covering new coronavirus developments as separate blog posts that may become rapidly out of date. Material that has been added or updated from one version of this post to the next is labelled NEW or UPDATED. Use the page contents to jump quickly to a particular section. For a while there, we were updating this page every couple of days, but things are starting to settle down and updates are accordingly less frequent. In between updates, you can keep an eye on the now weighty collections of coronavirus guidance from the Home Office and the Judicial Office. For avoidance of doubt, any developments since the date of publication shown on the top right will not be reflected in the article.
Some people who were in the UK when the pandemic hit were unable to leave before the expiry of their visa because of travel restrictions. The government had been allowing people in this situation to easily extend their visas through a simplified online application process, but that concession has now been replaced with “exceptional assurance”, a promise of extra time to stay that falls short of proper leave to remain.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/dqxqVM
UK’s Hostile Environment: Deputising Immigration Control
Dr Melanie Griffiths and I have spent four years working on an academic article mapping, explaining, analysing and evaluating the hostile environment policy. It is finally done and dusted and is open access, so you can take a look over at Critical Social Policy. I approached Melanie to co-author something with me in mid 2016, well before the whole Windrush scandal broke, because I felt the policy was poorly understood but very, very important. We’ve had to amend it quite a few times since then! The abstract:
In 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May told a newspaper that she wanted to create a ‘really hostile environment’ for irregular migrants in the UK. Although the phrase has since mutated to refer to generalised state-led marginalisation of immigrants, this article argues that the hostile environment is a specific policy approach, and one with profound significance for the UK’s border practices. We trace the ‘hostile environment’ phrase, exposing its origins in other policy realms, charting its evolution into immigration, identifying the key components and critically reviewing the corresponding legislation. The article analyses the impact and consequences of the hostile environment, appraising the costs to public health and safety, the public purse, individual vulnerability and marginalisation, and wider social relations. We conclude by identifying the fundamental flaws of the policy approach, arguing that they led to the 2018 Windrush scandal and risk creating similar problems for European Economic Area nationals after Brexit.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/6UDDhr