News & Views Monday 21st September to Sunday 27th September 2020


Pointless and Dangerous’: Asylum Seekers Forced to Sign on Again With Home Office

Asylum seekers and other migrants are being told to report to the Home Office in person again following a suspension of the measures during lockdown, prompting fears that vulnerable people are being placed at risk as coronavirus cases rise across the country. 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 their local reporting location.

This requirement was temporarily suspended in March because of the pandemic, but over the last two months the Home Office has been sending texts to people stating that they must start reporting in person again “due to the easing of Covid lockdown measures”. Campaigners said the decision was placing some vulnerable and disabled people at risk, and that doing so at a time when coronavirus infections were rising suggested that the government was placing “more importance on looking tough on immigration than keeping people safe”.

A Home Office spokesperson said those who had been told they must start reporting again mainly comprised a “small number of vulnerable people for whom reporting is beneficial”, as well as foreign national offenders and recent small-boat arrivals. However, lawyers said people who had been formally identified as modern slavery victims were among those being asked to report in person, as well as asylum seekers who were not receiving any financial support to enable them to pay to get to the reporting centres.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Home Office Starts Evicting Asylum Seekers Despite Warning of Second Wave of Covid

Reckless and Irresponsible’: Thousands of asylum seekers are at risk of becoming homeless after the Home Office announced it was lifting a ban on asylum evictions “with immediate effect”. Individuals who have claimed asylum and had their cases refused will begin receiving notices to leave within 21 days from this week. It comes despite Boris Johnson announcing on Friday that the UK is “now seeing a second wave” of coronavirus and that it was “inevitable” that the pandemic would hit the country again. Charities and MPs said it was a “reckless and irresponsible” move that would put both asylum seekers and the public at risk, and accused the government of making already cash-strapped local authorities and third sector groups responsible for its actions. The Home Office announced at the end of March that asylum seekers would not be asked to leave their accommodation once their claim or appeal had been decided, as a protective measure in response to the pandemic.

In a letter to charities on Tuesday, the director general of UK Visas and Immigration said asylum seekers with negative decisions would be served eviction notices “with immediate effect” in England. Officials in the devolved administrations in the rest of the UK will be consulted before evictions. Prior to the pandemic, failed asylum seekers who had been evicted would often become homeless and rely on third sector groups to provide support – but charities said much of this provision had been forced to cease due to the pandemic and so was no longer available. People who have been refused asylum are usually not eligible for public funds, meaning it is questionable whether cash-strapped local councils will be able to provide them with support.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

EU Settlement Scheme “Still Unknown to Many Migrants”

Many eastern European migrant workers don’t know that the EU Settlement Scheme exists, new research suggests. A survey of EU citizens in Cambridgeshire by the Social Market Foundation think tank found that barely half were aware of the Settlement Scheme. Even among those intending to stay in the UK long term — which, to be legal, will require a Settlement Scheme application — over 40% were unaware of it. The report concludes that “the EU Settlement Scheme is still unknown to many migrants, and poorly understood by users”. The findings come from interviews in early 2020 with 90 migrant workers in the Cambridgeshire fens. Most were Lithuanian, Romanian or Bulgarian. Almost all worked in jobs considered “lower-skilled”. The resulting report, Best intentions: EU migrant workers in Fenland, looks at how these migrants have responded to recent political and immigration policy developments. It finds that there is “no evidence of a Brexodus of lower-skilled EU migrants”, with interviewees continuing to view the UK as an attractive place to find a good job, earn decent money and generally “build a better life”. Almost 40% planned to stay for longer than they originally planned and hardly any said that immigration status problems would affect that decision.

Read more: Freemovement,

When Can Refugee Children be Returned to Their Home Country Under the Hague Convention?

In the case of G (A Child : Child Abduction) [2020] EWCA Civ 1185, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that, where a child has been granted refugee status in their own right, or has their own pending asylum claim, they cannot be returned under the Hague Convention. When a child is a dependant on an asylum claim, however, they can be returned. Either way, the Family Court can make a decision on an application for a return order, or indeed make a return order, but the implementation of said order may need to be stayed. The case makes an interesting read for anyone interested in the interplay between child law and refugee law. Specifically, in the words of the Court of Appeal, it considers “the apparent tension between the objective of the former expeditiously to return a wrongfully removed or retained child to his home jurisdiction and the principle of the latter that refugees should not be refouled (i.e. expelled or returned to a country where they may be persecuted)” [paragraph 2].

G is about eight years old and grew up in South Africa. Her parents divorced in 2018 but continued to share parental responsibility. In March 2020, G’s mother took her to the UK, and claimed asylum, adding G as a dependant on her claim. G’s father made an application to the South African authorities for the return of G under the 1980 Hague Convention on child abduction. When considering G’s father’s application for the return of G, Mrs Justice Lieven of the Family Division of the High Court found that a decision could not be made until the Secretary of State had determined G’s asylum claim. Significantly, at the time Lieven J was under the impression that G had made her own asylum claim, rather than being a dependant on her mother’s claim. G’s father appealed against the Family Division’s order.

Read more: Freemovement,


People Seeking Refuge in UK Face ‘Serious Risk’ of Injustice as Home Office Plans More Asylum Outsourcing

People seeking refuge in the UK face a “serious risk” of injustice as the Home Office plans to outsource another element of its immigration services, lawyers warn. The department says it has plans to bring in contractors to carry out asylum interviews and gather evidence for claims, which are used to determine whether applicants should be granted refugee status. In a letter to groups and charities working with asylum seekers on Tuesday, the acting head of asylum operations Dave Draper said the department was “scoping out and testing” the concept of using a third-party supplier to conduct asylum interviews and gather evidence, in a bid to “get the system moving again” following a suspension of the process during coronavirus.

But many of the firms in the running for this new contract – including G4S, Serco, and Sopra Steria – have been embroiled in previous scandals over handling of immigration services. Sopra Steria, which was contracted to run the UK’s visa processing system in 2018, was accused last year of overseeing a “substandard” operation that risked unlawful decisions and excluding people from the system because of “inflated prices and inaccessible services”. In 2017, nine G4S guards were suspended after they were filmed mocking and abusing detainees at Brook House removal centre, while Serco prompted outrage when it introduced lock changes in asylum accommodation in Glasgow in 2018.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Glasgow MPs Call For Inquiry Into Deaths of Three Asylum Seekers

A group of Glasgow MPs have called for a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths of three asylum seekers. Adnan Walid Elbi, Badreddin Abedlla Adam and Mercy Baguma all died this year while in the care of the UK asylum system. While each death happened separately, in a letter to the Lord Advocate MPs said they were linked to "broader social and situational factors". It follows criticism of the city's asylum seeker "accommodation crisis". In May, Mr Elbi was found dead in his room in temporary accommodation at MacLays Guest House - the 30-year-old had fled his home in Syria. The cause of death was marked as "unascertained". The following month, Mr Adam from Sudan was shot dead by police after stabbing six people, including an officer, at the Park Inn hotel. Asylum seekers had been moved there in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which the Home Office called a "temporary measure".

Refugee charity Positive Action in Housing held a press conference following the incident, which heard some of the asylum seekers in the Park Inn were "desperate and vulnerable". The asylum seekers said many of them had no windows or fresh air in their rooms. They also said they had been in a dire mental health situation. Then on 22 August Ms Baguma, originally from Uganda, was discovered dead in a flat after her toddler son's crying was heard. Positive Action in Housing said Ms Baguma had claimed asylum, but lived in "extreme poverty" and lost her job after her right to work in the UK expired. The cause of her death is still being investigated.

Read more: BBC News,

Solicitor Fined £60,000 Over “Hopeless” Immigration Cases

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has fined an immigration solicitor £60,000 after he admitted lodging “hopeless” judicial review claims and several other regulatory breaches. The Upper Tribunal referred Syed Wasif Ali of Harrow Solicitors to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in June 2018. The judges had grown concerned about his judicial review record, which had seen 11 dismissed as totally without merit and nine inadmissible for being out of time, out of 36 lodged between January 2017 and March 2018. The SRA investigated and brought multiple misconduct allegations against Mr Ali. They included lodging claims which were an abuse of process, failing to adequately advise clients about the poor merits of their case and being party to applications “which bore the hallmarks of being an abuse of the immigration system”. Mr Ali told the tribunal that he “wished to make a clean breast of matters” and admitted all the allegations against him, including charges of “manifest incompetence”. Where recklessness was alleged, he denied it, but the tribunal found against him. Weighing up the appropriate sanction, the panel noted that the Respondent knew that these were hopeless cases. He knew or ought to have known that he was in material breach of his obligations.

Read more: Freemovement,

Iraqi Military Doctor Wins Refugee Exclusion Appeal

The extremely long-running case of AB (preserved FtT findings; Wisniewski principles) Iraq [2020] UKUT 268 (IAC) has finally been allowed outright, subject to any further appeal from the Secretary of State. The appellant, an Iraqi doctor employed to work at a notorious torture facility who entered the UK as long ago as 2000, was found not to have “committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes”. The same case has already been heard twice in the First-tier Tribunal and this is the third time it has been heard in the Upper Tribunal. The case previously made its way to the Court of Appeal as MAB (Iraq) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 1253 (our write-up: Tribunal told to think again on exclusion from refugee status of Iraqi military doctor).

It is easy to see why the case was considered by the Home Office under the Refugee Convention exclusion clauses. These clauses, at Article 1F, deny the benefits of refugee status to those who have committed very serious offences, war crimes and similar. Given that the appellant had been employed by the Iraqi regime to work at a torture facility and that the UK’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal had previously suspended his licence to practice by reason of his having been an accessory to torture in Iraq, one can understand why officials considered that the exclusion clauses might be engaged. It is harder to see why the appellant was actually excluded or how the First-tier Tribunal upheld this finding. The appellant was a military doctor who did not himself torture anyone. The weakness of the Home Office case is starkly exposed in the earlier Court of Appeal judgment and in this latest tribunal determination. The tribunal has concluded there was not even a prima facie case that the appellant was excluded from the Convention:

Read more: Freemovement,