Home Office Faces Legal Challenge Over Asylum Seeker Payments During Covid
The Home Office is still failing to provide thousands of asylum seekers in emergency hotel accommodation with basic cash support and essentials more than a month after being instructed by the high court to fulfil their legal requirements to do so. In October, law firm Duncan Lewis challenged the government’s failure to provide adequate asylum support in the high court. The judge, Sir Duncan Ouseley, said asylum seekers in emergency accommodation should have been receiving financial support during the pandemic, and ordered the department to increase weekly cash assistance from £5 to £8 to cover essentials, such as soap, medicine, bus fares and phone credit.
Following the ruling, immigration minister Chris Philp said payments of £3 a week for clothing should be backdated to March, and payments of £4.70 a week for travel should be backdated to July. Yet Duncan Lewis says that so far the Home Office has failed to provide support in line with this concession, or to backdate payments, and are preparing to issue further urgent proceedings against the department this week. “It has been a month since the Home Office announced the decision, and none of our clients have received the increase in cash support and no arrangements have been put in place to obtain back payments,” said Primisha Chudasama, a solicitor for Duncan Lewis. “Many clients have faced a significant deterioration in their mental health and sense of self-worth, particularly as they are constantly worrying about how they are going to meet their essential living needs,” she said. “Often, clients have had to choose between phone credit and buying warm clothing for the winter months, or using public transport to attend important appointments.”
Duncan Lewis says one of their clients, an asylum seeker living in accommodation run by Serco, was subjected to verbal abuse when he asked for the full £8 support.
Read more: Nicloa Kelly, Guardian, https://is.gd/1JlEYO
Jamaicans Who Came to UK as Children Will be Left off Deportation Flight
A deal has been quietly agreed between the Home Office and Jamaica not to remove people who came to the UK as children on a controversial charter flight to the Caribbean island this week, its high commissioner has said. Seth Ramocan told the Guardian that following diplomatic overtures to the Home Office, officials agreed not to deport Jamaicans who came to Britain under the age of 12. The Home Office has declined to comment and there has been no public announcement. It comes after 82 black public figures – including the author Bernardine Evaristo, model Naomi Campbell and historian David Olusoga – urged airlines not to carry up to 50 Jamaicans on the Home Office deportation flight scheduled for Wednesday.
Home Office charter flights are a common way to remove those classed as having no right to remain, including due to certain serious criminal convictions. The last charter flight to Jamaica was in February; many others due to fly had their deportation halted at the 11th hour due to legal action. Charter flights to Jamaica are particularly controversial because of the Windrush scandal and because some earmarked for deportation came to the UK as children and had families there. In 2018 a Home Office-commissioned report from the former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw called for a new approach to the policy of detaining and removing people who had committed crimes but lived most of their lives in Britain. The Home Office has not implemented the recommendation.
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian. https://is.gd/TNYkdx
How to Make Complaints Against the Home Office
This article discusses how to make complaints to the Home Office about immigration issues. Bill Gates once said that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. If the same applies to the Home Office staff who have the unenviable job of fielding complaints about their colleagues from irate migrants and their lawyers, their enlightenment must rival that of any Renaissance polymath. Is a complaint the best way of proceeding? In an alternate universe where the Home Office had not taken every possible step to insulate its staff from the unspeakable trauma that is receiving a politely worded email from a legal representative, formal complaints would be much rarer. Our complete inability to reach Home Office caseworkers means that lodging a complaint is sometimes the only way to contact someone when a problem arises. Where the rarest of miracles does occur, and you have an open line of communication with the relevant caseworker, this is usually the best place to direct any queries. Similarly, if the complaint concerns a finalised immigration decision, this should generally be resolved by appealing the decision or challenging it by way of administrative review. When is a complaint helpful? Home Office guidance defines a complaint as “any expression of dissatisfaction that needs a response about the service we provide, or about the professional conduct of our staff and contractors”. It refers to the following “headings”, or categories, of complaints:
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/3t42Sh
When is a “False Document” Not a “False” Document?
Appeal judges clashed over false document rules. In LLD v Secretary of State for the Home Department  NICA 38, the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland held that a document cannot itself be dishonest. Dishonesty requires an assessment of the state of mind of the person submitting the document as part of their immigration application. That finding deliberately contradicts the line taken by the Court of Appeal in England and Wales: see Hameed v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1324. The NI Court of Appeal was referred to its counterpart’s decision on the issue, but — in a judgment written by former chief immigration judge Lord Justice McCloskey — politely declined to follow it. (The judgment was handed down over the summer but has only recently appeared on Bailii.)
The appellant, LLD, had applied to join her mother in the UK. The mother had submitted a birth certificate for her daughter which, after checks with the Philippine authorities, turned out to be bogus. The visa application was turned down under paragraph 320(7A) of the Immigration Rules, which requires a refusal: … where false representations have been made or false documents (or information) have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge), or material facts have not been disclosed, in relation to the application, or in order to obtain documents from the Secretary of State or a third party required in support of the application. Lawyers for LLD said that submitting a false document was not enough to trigger paragraph 320(7A): there had to be a “dishonest promotion” of that document. The Home Office said that a dishonest document was, by itself, sufficient to refuse, arguing there was no need to look at the intention of the applicant.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/Yzvfp3
55 MPS Back Calls to Stop Deportation of Severely Autistic Man
Dozens of MPs have backed calls to halt the deportation of a severely autistic man who was jailed as a teenager after being found guilty of stealing a mobile phone. The cross-party group of 55 MPs have signed an early day motion calling for the Home Office to suspend plan to report 21-year-old Osime Brown to Jamaica, a country which he has not set foot in since he was four. The motion, sponsored by six Liberal Democrat, SNP, and Labour politicians, “notes Osime's mother's words that if they deport him, he'll die” and raises concern about his conviction and about self-harm inflicted while behind bars. Brown, a Jamaican-born UK resident, was served with a removal notice by the government in August 2018 on the basis of a series of criminal offences he committed as a teenager. The most serious was the theft of a mobile phone, but lawyers have expressed concern over the role of the controversial joint enterprise law in the case and a friend of Brown has testified that he was not directly involved the crime. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition to calling for Brown’s deportation to be stopped and some supporters have staged a protest outside the Home Office.
Read more: Bethany Dawson, Indpendent, https://is.gd/Ge4NRV
Settled Status: Can I Apply if I am Not European?
If you are in the UK and you are a non-European family member of an EEA national, you may be wondering whether the EU Settlement Scheme introduced on 29 March 2019 is applicable to you. The answer is yes. The EU Settlement Scheme was created to formalise the immigration status of EEA nationals and their family members in the UK in advance of Brexit. The scheme allows both EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members to apply. Many non-European applicants may already have some type of residence permit issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, also known as the 2016 Regulations. If that is the case, then applications must be made to bring that status under the EU Settlement Scheme. For those without a residence permit issued under the 2016 Regulations, it is still possible to “switch” from other visa types such as student or working visas to pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, provided the criteria are met.
Given the many types of family member within the context of the 2016 Regulations, the scheme places each type into two categories: Close family members & Extended family members. The crucial difference between these two categories is whether an applicant needs to have a pre-existing EEA immigration document. Close family members may apply using their passport and documents evidencing their relationship to the EEA national and residence in the UK. Meanwhile, extended family members will also need to have an EEA document such as a family permit, residence card, or a document certifying permanent residence.
Read more: McGilll & Co, https://is.gd/IcLHxv
Alarming Rise in Asylum Backlog Despite Fall in Applications
The backlog of asylum cases has reached alarming new heights, with over 46,000 people now waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their asylum application. The figures as of 30 September 2020, which were released today, show a 19% increase from three months earlier and a 76% rise since September 2019. he Home Office has used the backlog as a pretext to accommodate asylum seekers in converted military barracks in Wales and Kent. But the backlog is not an unforeseeable pandemic-induced crisis: it had been rising for several years, at a faster rate than the increase in asylum applications over the same period. Applications did rise by around a third between 2017 and 2019, but the backlog doubled.
The pandemic has made a bad situation worse. Asylum applications have fallen 8% in the past 12 months, but social distancing and other constraints on Home Office activity have reduced the rate at which it processes asylum claims. The number of asylum decisions (grants plus refusals) has crashed in the past six months, from over 8,000 a quarter to around 3,500. The department is turning to commercial contractors to pitch in with interviews. Medical professionals have been sounding the alarm about conditions at the Penally and Napier asylum camps. What these figures show is that, if the camps are not closed and more suitable accommodation found, inmates residents can expect to languish there for months or even years on end. Today’s statistics also confirm that no refugees have been resettled in the UK since March.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/Zoaqo1