News & Views Monday 16th November to Sunday 22nd November2020


Points-Based Immigration: Will the New System Cope?

Why is this new system controversial? Many applicants will not be covered by the new rules and this will have a disproportionate impact on jobs that are considered to be ‘low-skilled’. There is no single definition of what a low-skilled job or low-skilled worker actually is, although it has been said that low-skilled workers would be those without A-Levels or a Scottish Higher-equivalent education. This definition is problematic because many jobs which could fall into this bracket do not require formal education qualifications but are nonetheless very important for a healthy economy.

The Government’s proposed changes have therefore attracted a significant amount of criticism because such ‘low-skilled’ jobs are frequently undertaken by migrant workers, particularly in the health and social care sectors. This last fact has taken on a particular relevance in 2020, as those who have been working in these ‘low-skilled’ sectors have been designated as key workers during the Coronavirus lockdowns. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important these sectors and those who work in them are to the economy and to the country as a whole, and yet many of these sectors now anticipate that they will be left with a reduced workforce following the introduction of the new immigration system.

However, the Government is yet to address the underlying issues with occupations that it deems are ‘low-skilled.’ It seems that the UK could well be left with a critical lack of social care workers, fruit pickers, supermarket workers and cleaners among other professions that will be adversely impacted by the new system.

Read more: Gherson Immigration,

Serious Self-Harm Incidents Surge 2,000% in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre

Self-harm incidents have surged twentyfold in a year at a detention centre holding asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel on small boats, with incidents occurring more than daily despite the number of detainees having reduced significantly, The Independent can reveal. Campaigners have warned of a “crisis of self-harm in immigration detention” after new figures revealed there were 80 incidents requiring medical treatment in Brook House, a removal centre near Gatwick Airport, in August and September of this year, compared with five in the same period in 2019. This is despite the fact that over the same period, the number of detainees in the facility have reduced to around a third of its normal capacity – from 294 to around 100 - as the Home Office released large numbers of people at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It comes after a High Court judge ruled that the Home Office was failing to adequately screen asylum seekers to identify whether they are victims of trafficking before placing them in detention, in a potential breach of the law.

The data, obtained through a freedom of information request by campaign group No Deportations, also reveals there were 161 hunger strikes recorded in Brook house in August and September, compared to just nine during the same period in 2019. While the facility previously held people with a range of immigration backgrounds, since March it has been used mainly to detain asylum seekers who arrived on small boats, as part of Priti Patel’s pledge to make crossings “unviable” by deporting migrants soon after they arrive. Charites and lawyers said the “dramatic surge” in self-harm incidents and meal refusals was largely the result of the Home Office prioritising speedy removals over their responsibility to ensure they do not detain vulnerable people who have experienced trafficking or torture.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Swiss Authorities Failed to Assess Risks for Gay Man’s Return to Gambia Violation of Article 3

The case B and C v. Switzerland (applications nos. 43987/16 and 889/19) concerned a homosexual couple, one of whom risked being returned to the Gambia following the rejection of his partner’s application for family reunification. He alleged he was at risk of ill-treatment if returned.

In Chamber judgment in the case the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there would be: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if the first applicant were deported to the Gambia on the basis of the domestic decisions in his case.

The Court considered that criminalisation of homosexual acts was not sufficient to render return contrary to the Convention. The Court found, however, that the Swiss authorities had failed to adequately assess the risk of ill-treatment for the first applicant as a homosexual person in the Gambia and the availability of State protection against ill-treatment from non-State actors. Several independent authorities noted that the Gambian authorities were unwilling to provide protection for LGBTI people.

The Court furthermore considered that the indication made to the Government under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court must remain in force until the present judgment became final.

Asylum Seekers Forced to Travel to Sign on With Home Office During Lockdown

Asylum seekers and trafficking victims are being forced to travel miles on public transport despite lockdown restrictions because the Home Office has said they must continue to report to officials in person. People who are awaiting a decision on their application to remain in the UK – including modern slavery victims and torture survivors – are required to regularly sign on at a Home Office reporting location. This requirement was temporarily suspended in March because of the pandemic, but in August and September the Home Office sent texts to people stating that they must start reporting in person again “due to the easing of Covid lockdown measures”.

Since 5 November, when the government announced a second lockdown – telling people to “stay at home” where possible – migrants with reporting conditions have been informed that they must continue to sign on with the Home Office in person. Charities said this was “neither legitimate nor proportionate” and that it indicated the Home Office was prioritising its “hostile environment” agenda over the health and safety of communities.

Asylum seekers told The Independent they were shocked that they were still being required to travel to sign on, and fearful that it could lead to them contracting the virus. Bernadette Ajyei, 61, had to take a journey of more than an hour from Leighton to the Home Office reporting centre in London Bridge last week in order to comply with her reporting conditions. The Cameroonian national, who has been in the UK for 23 years and was previously on a spouse visa through her late husband, and is now fighting an asylum claim, said: “I thought they’d do what they did last time. If they’re asking for social distancing, isn’t that what they should do?"

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

 Judge Rules, Priti Patel Not Following Her Own Anti-Trafficking Policy

The deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on small boats could be halted after a judge ruled that the home secretary was departing from her own policy on identifying victims of trafficking. The high court case was brought by three potential victims of trafficking – one from Eritrea and two from Sudan – who recently arrived in the UK on small boats. Trafficking in Libya is well-documented, and there is a particular risk that asylum seekers who have passed through the country have been trafficked. Since the start of the pandemic, Priti Patel has departed from her own published policy to ask asylum seekers questions about their journeys to the UK.

The judge, Mr Justice Fordham, said: “It is strongly arguable that the home secretary is acting unlawfully in curtailing asylum screening interviews by asking a narrower set of questions than those that are identified in the published policy guidance.” The Home Office said that abridged questions were asked in asylum seekers’ interviews due to the pandemic. Jack Holborn, counsel for the home secretary, told the court: “Our position is, it’s a justified departure from the published policy and it doesn’t really matter.” But Fordham said he believed it was a departure “without good reason”. He added: “There is, in my judgment, a serious risk of injustice and irreversible harm from this question continuing to be unasked and unanswered.”

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,