News & Views Monday 7th December to Sunday 13th December 2020


International Human Rights Day Thursday 10 December 2020

Human Rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world; The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable.

- End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.

- Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.

- Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.

- Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.

Read: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees - December 2020

Deteriorated Situations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Mozambique, Kashmir, Guatemala, Peru, Western Sahara

Conflict Risk Alerts: Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Yemen, Western Sahara

Resolution Opportunities: None

The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in November in nine countries and conflict areas. In Kashmir, tensions escalated sharply amid deadly incidents along the Line of Control dividing Pakistani- and Indian-administered Kashmir, resulting in India’s highest monthly military casualty toll since April. In Mozambique, Islamist militants staged a large-scale offensive in the far north, seizing their second district capital since August and killing scores. Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a Russian-brokered ceasefire to end six weeks of deadly hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Looking ahead to December, CrisisWatch warns of four conflict risks. In Yemen, Washington’s likely designation of the Huthis as a terrorist organisation could trigger retaliatory attacks and hamper humanitarian operations as the UN warns of looming famine. In Western Sahara, the 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front collapsed, sparking concerns that the long-frozen conflict could reignite. Tensions increased in the Central African Republic over former President Bozizé’s presidential candidacy, raising risks of violence around the vote scheduled for 27 December. A violent conflict that erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, killing thousands and prompting more than 43,000 refugees to flee into eastern Sudan, could continue. Although federal forces captured Tigray’s regional capital and announced an end to military operations, Tigray leaders vowed to continue fighting.

Source: International Crisis Group,

'Inhuman’ Conditions For Asylum Seekers In Former Barracks

Hundreds of asylum seekers are being unlawfully held in “inhuman” conditions at former military camps, according to legal claims filed against the Home Office. Legal challenges have been mounted over two ex-army sites – Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire and Napier barracks in Kent – that were repurposed in September to hold asylum seekers. Lawyers argue that the conditions in the camps are unlawful because they breach the government guidelines on Covid-19 precautions, as well as placing residents at risk of suffering from “degrading” treatment due to unhygienic conditions and a lack of access to medical care.

The Home Office has already faced a number of individual challenges from asylum seekers arguing that they should be moved from the sites because of the poor conditions – at least 10 of which the department conceded before the case went to court, resulting in the claimants being moved out. The Independent is aware of a number of wider legal challenges now being prepared in a bid to close down the makeshift asylum facilities, as concern mounts over the welfare of residents.

Read more: may Bulman, Indpendent,

UK’s Obligations Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

In EOG (Anonymity Order Made) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 3310 Mostyn J determined that the UK’s obligations under Article 10 of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings ("ECAT"), preventing the deportation of victims of modern slavery, extended to the granting of the usual rights afforded by discretionary leave to remain. Without discretionary leave, victims of trafficking and slavery could be left waiting for many months until they receive a conclusive decision on their status as a victim. During this time, they are unable to work, receive state accommodation or even access NHS services. This situation is incompatible with the state’s obligation not to remove persons who are reasonably suspected of being victims of slavery.

Read the full decision:


UK to Deny Asylum to refugees Passing Through 'Safe' Third Country

Ministers have quietly changed immigration rules to prevent people fleeing war or persecution from claiming asylum in the UK if they have passed through a “safe” third country, prompting accusations of a breach of international law. From 1 January, claims of asylum from a person who has travelled through or has a connection to a safe third country, including people coming from EU member states, will be treated as inadmissible. The changes will also prevent asylum seekers from being able to make a claim in the territorial waters of the UK.

The UK government will be able to remove refused asylum seekers not only to the third countries through which they have travelled, but to any safe third country that may agree to receive them, an explanatory memo states. A 10-page statement outlining the changes to the rules was published online without a press or public announcement.

However, the changes highlight a significant hurdle for the UK government: claims will only be treated as inadmissible if the asylum applicant is accepted for readmission by the third country through which they have travelled or another safe state agrees to take them. Immigration law experts have said this could render the new policy “pointless” and would most likely delay asylum applications and leave refugees in limbo in the UK.

Jamie Grierson, Guardian,

Online Petition: Stop The Secrecy: Save Our Freedom Of Information

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is one of our most important laws. It’s helped journalists break major stories on secret political lobbying, plans for NHS reform – and much more. Without it, the MPs’ expenses scandal would never have come to light, and our taxes would still be paying for duck houses and moat cleaning. But now, just when we need it to scrutinise the COVID response, it’s being fatally undermined. The UK government is running a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office that’s been accused of ‘blacklisting’ journalists and blocking the release of ‘sensitive’ information. Experts say they’re breaking the law – and it’s an assault on our right to know what our government is doing. We’re not going to let it stand. We’re launching a legal battle – but we also need a huge public outcry, showing that thousands back our call for transparency. Will you add your name?
To: Michael Gove, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office - Come clean about the Clearing House - Stop profiling journalists and blocking 'sensitive' requests- Empower, fund and make the FOI regulator independent.

You Can Sign the Petition here:

Home Office Discretionary Leave Policy For Victims Of Trafficking Unlawful

In a judgment handed down on 3 December 2020, Mr Justice Mostyn has declared that the Home Office policy on discretionary leave 1 as applied to victims of trafficking is unlawful, in that it fails to implement the UK’s obligation to protect victims of trafficking in the National Referral Mechanism during the identification process. The obligation not to remove individuals from the territory following their first stage identification (the ‘reasonable grounds’ decision) while they awaited the second stage of the identification process, (the ‘conclusive grounds’ decision) was not fulfilled if applicants receive no formal recognition of their leave to remain during the process. As per Mostyn J at paragraph 48, ‘Suffering such a person to remain as an overstayer, or as an illegal immigration, does not fulfil the obligation.’ He directed the Secretary of State to ‘formulate a policy that grants such persons interim discretionary leave on such terms and conditions as are appropriate both to their existing leave positions and to the likely delay that they will face.’

Read more: Duncan Lewis Solicitors,

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,