News & Views Monday 2 nd November to Sunday 8th November2020


Asylum-Seekers' 3p-a-Week Increase an Insult, Say Campaigners 

The support payment for asylum seekers is to be increased from the current weekly rate of £39.60 to £39.63 after a review by the Home Office, charities have been informed. This equates to about £5.66 a day. The 3p increase was met with significant criticism from charities, who have been pushing the UK government to increase asylum support rates in line with the £20 weekly boost to universal credit. Emma Birks, campaigns manager at Asylum Matters, said: “This review was an opportunity for the Home Office to put this right, and ensure people seeking refugee status in the UK are safe and supported, during the pandemic and beyond. Instead, they’ve blown it - 3p a week is an insult, not an increase.” 

UK government rules bar people seeking asylum from working while they wait for a decision on their claim, which can often take several years. The most recent immigration figures released in August revealed more than 70% of people seeking asylum in the UK wait more than six months for a decision on their claim. Stephen Hale, the chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “This cold-hearted increase to asylum support is just the latest act by a government that shows little compassion towards people seeking asylum.” Sabir Zazai, the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We’ve been calling for an increase in asylum support rates in line with the £20 uplift in universal credit since the start of the pandemic. “We know there is public support for this. The pandemic has taught us that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. The UK government urgently needs to remember this.”

 Read more: Jamie Grierson, Guardian,  

Home Office Decision to Evict Asylum Seekers in Tier 3 Areas ‘Unreasonable', says Judge

The Home Office’s decision to evict refused asylum seekers from emergency accommodation in areas under tier 3 coronavirus restrictions is “unreasonable” and could place communities at harm in breach of the law, a judge has ruled. People who have been refused asylum in the UK started receiving notice to leave their state-funded housing last month, after ministers announced that a ban on evictions introduced in March would be lifted. Asylum seekers in tier 3 areas are among those who have been served eviction notice, despite criteria set out by the Home Office stating that people should not be evicted if they are in local authorities subject to regional lockdowns. Local council leaders in areas with tier 3 restrictions in place have called on the Home Office to halt these evictions, warning that they would lead to an increase in destitution and homelessness in their communities and pose a risk to the wider public health. Ruling on two appeals lodged by asylum seekers on 16 October, an immigration judge said that evicting asylum seekers in tier 3 areas was “unreasonable” and “may place them and others in their communities at greater risk of harm" and breach of their human rights.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

“Compassionate” Home Office Targets Rough Sleepers, Again

Following the failings identified by the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, Priti Patel promised a “compassionate… people first” Home Office. But over the past few months the Home Office seems to have entertained only the most inhumane immigration policies, such as offshore “asylum processing centres” mirroring Australia’s notorious Nauru detention centre, and using nets to clog the propellers of refugee boats crossing the Channel. Now added to this list is a renewed focus on migrant rough sleepers. Buried in the 514-page statement of changes to the Immigration Rules that dropped last week is the revelation that the Home Office will again be targeting migrants who suffer the misfortune of sleeping on the streets.

The new rough sleeping rules: From 1 December 2020 Home Office caseworkers will, under Part 9 of the Rules (“Grounds for Refusal”), be able to refuse permission to stay or cancel any permission held by a person who has been rough sleeping: 9.21.1. Permission to stay may be refused where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK. 9.21.2. Where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK any permission held by the person may be cancelled. Rough sleeping is defined elsewhere in the Rules as “sleeping, or bedding down, in the open air” or in “other places not designed for habitation”. It seems historic rough sleeping (“has been”) may fall under these provisions as well.

Fortunately these rules will not apply to very many people. Paragraph 9.1.1 excludes, for instance, asylum seekers and those who fall under the private life categories of the Rules (paragraphs 276ADE to 276DH) from the scope of Part 9. But however limited its scope, these changes make some very vulnerable people liable to enforcement action for circumstances they cannot help.

Read more: Freemevement,

?What the New Points-Based Immigration System has in Store for UK Work Visas

For work-based immigration, last week’s statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was in many ways rather anticlimactic. The last two years have seen a series of reports and policy statements setting out the government’s plans for a ‘new’ Points-Based Immigration System. The major changes therefore come as no great surprise. Despite this, the new system, which will go live from 1 December 2020, represents one of the biggest overhauls of sponsored migration since the current Points Based System was created over 12 years ago. With the ending of free movement for EEA nationals on 31 December 2020, the Points-Based Immigration System will be the only option for foreign nationals wanting to work in the UK. The visa requirements will therefore have a massive impact in shaping the UK’s labour market for years to come. So long Tier 2 (General), hello Skilled Worker

Read more: Freemevement,

UK Covid Policy for Children in Detention 'Cruel and Inhumane

The UK government’s policy of allowing children in detention to be locked alone in their cells for up to 23 hours a day under emergency Covid-19 measures is “extreme and inhumane” and could lead to lifelong mental health damage, according to the UN special rapporteur on torture and leading child health experts. Since March, facilities have been able to keep children as young as 12 confined alone in their cells for all but around 40 minutes a day. The measures, which were put in place to stop potential Covid-19 outbreaks, affect around 500 under 18-year-olds in youth detention and another 4,000 18-21-year-olds held in adult prisons.

Prof Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, told the Guardian that solitary confinement is so damaging to children that it should never have been seen as a reasonable response to the threat of Covid-19 infections. “[Solitary confinement] is a more extreme measure with children than it is with adults. If it exceeds two weeks it would amount to cruel and inhuman treatment,” he said. “Its use should be exceptional and in most cases there should be different measures to stop the spread of Covid. These kinds of stress factors are likely to affect this young generation for decades to come. If they spend a year like this it could affect their whole life.”

In response, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said that children in custody are now spending on average four hours each day out of their cells, with plans for that to increase. But lawyers have told the Guardian that some children and young people are still being regularly locked up for 22 hours a day. The situation worsens when staff are sick or have to isolate, they said.

Read more: Harriet Grant, Guardian,

Mercy Baguma's Son and his Father Granted UK Asylum

The son of Mercy Baguma, who was found in a distressed state next to his mother after she died in her Glasgow flat in August, has been granted asylum along with his father, who is now the boy’s sole carer. Baguma’s death caused a national outcry as it emerged that the Ugandan, who had applied for asylum in the UK and was not able to work at the time of her death, had struggled to provide for herself and her baby during lockdown. The charity Positive Action in Housing, which has supported one-year-old Adriel and his father, Eric Nnanna, in recent months, released a statement on Friday afternoon confirming that the pair had now been granted asylum in the UK. The statement said: “Thank you to PM Boris Johnson for agreeing to intervene in the family’s case. Also to David Linden MP, Fraser Latta and Hannah Cosgrove of Latta & Co who raised the family’s case following the tragic death of Adriel’s mother, Mercy Baguma.” Last month Johnson agreed to intervene in the case after he was pressed by the Scottish National party MP David Linden at prime minister’s questions to arrange an urgent meeting with the home secretary to resolve Nnanna’s pending asylum application.

Read more: Libby Brooks, Guardian,

Belgium: Deportation of Applicant to Sudan: Violations of Article 3 & 13

M A. entered Belgium unlawfully on an unknown date, having passed through Italy and with the intention of going on to the United Kingdom. He slept in Parc Maximilien in Brussels with about 100 other Sudanese migrants. While trying to reach the UK, he was stopped by the Belgian police on 18 August 2017. He was issued with an order to leave the country and to be held pending removal. On the same day, the Belgian authorities transferred him to a migrant detention centre near Brussels Airport

In Chamber judgment in the case of M.A. v. Belgium (application no. 19656/18) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 3 of the Convention.
The case concerned the applicant’s removal to Sudan by the Belgian authorities in spite of a court decision ordering the suspension of the measure. The Court found in particular that on account of procedural defects attributable to the Belgian authorities prior to the applicant’s removal to Sudan, he had been prevented from pursuing the asylum application that he had lodged in Belgium and the Belgian authorities had not sufficiently assessed the real risks that he faced in Sudan. In addition, by deporting the applicant in spite of the court order to suspend the measure, the authorities had rendered ineffective the applicant’s successful appeal.

What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a fee levied on the majority of UK visa applications. The IHS is on top of other Home Office immigration fees and is designed to land in a different government pocket. Also known as the NHS surcharge, it essentially adds £624 per year per person to the cost of a UK visa, or £470 a year for children, students and Youth Mobility visas.

The Immigration Health Surcharge must be paid by most applicants and their dependants seeking permission to enter under the UK’s domestic Immigration Rules (i.e. those applying from outside the UK), unless it is for six months or less. Short-term visitors and fiancé(e) visa applicants are therefore not required to pay. The majority of applicants for limited leave to remain (i.e. those applying from inside the UK) also need to pay, even if less than six months of leave is sought. Applicants for indefinite leave to remain do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Who doesn’t have to pay it? EU citizens and their family members who are exercising free movement rights, or making applications under the EEA Regulations or the EU Settlement Scheme, are exempt. This will change for those coming to the UK from the start of 2021, when Brexit kicks in following a transition period.

Read more: Freemevement,