Immigration Enforcement [Go Home Vans & Seats]
<>House of Commons: 31 Oct 2013 : Column 59WS
The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): The Home Office's immigration enforcement command ensures that the immigration rules are complied with and that those with no right to be in the UK are removed. It is better for both the UK taxpayer and offenders themselves if offenders leave the country voluntarily rather than in an enforced manner. Immigration compliance and enforcement teams are therefore working to identify how they can promote the visibility of enforcement operations to drive compliance and encourage more immigration offenders to leave the UK voluntarily.
A pilot operation, Operation Vaken, took place between 22 July and 22 August 2013 in six London boroughs to test whether different communications could encourage any increases in voluntary departures. It included a number of communications techniques, such as mobile billboards highlighting the risk of arrest, postcards in shop windows, adverts in newspapers and magazines, leaflets and posters advertising immigration surgeries in faith/charity group buildings.
The pilot period ceased on 22 October 2013 and a full evaluation report has now been produced, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House. As of 22 October, there have been 60 voluntary departures which can be directly attributed to this pilot. The report also identifies a further 65 cases that are currently being progressed towards departure.
The total cost of the pilot was £9,740. Data held by the Home Office indicate that the average cost of a voluntary removal is £1,000, and the average cost of an enforced removal is up to £15,000. The 60 voluntary removals connected to this pilot therefore represent a notional saving of approximately £830,000 compared to the costs of enforcing those removals.
The most cost-effective communications were the adverts, leaflets and posters that advertised immigration surgeries in faith and charity groups, rather than the advertising vans or other forms of advertising used in the operation. In addition, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told the House of Commons on 22 October, the advertising vans in particular were too much of a blunt instrument and will not be used again.
During this period, a separate pilot was conducted in two immigration reporting centres, in Hounslow and Glasgow. These centres are principally used to ensure that those suspected of immigration offences are kept in regular contact while their case is progressed to removal. This pilot used a variety of communication materials to encourage those reporting to inquire about leaving the UK voluntarily and ceased on 4 October. The activity is being evaluated separately but there are no plans to repeat it.
The Government will continue to enforce the immigration rules and promote voluntary departure schemes to those who have no right to be in the UK—backed up with arrest, detention and enforced removal where individuals refuse to comply with the immigration rules or present a danger to the UK public.
UNHCR Urges Against Forced Returns To Nigeria
Amid rising violence in north-east Nigeria, the UN refugee agency on Tuesday issued a new return advisory urging countries in the region against forced returns of people fleeing the affected area.
"We are also urging that borders be kept open for Nigerians fleeing the country and who may be in need of international protection," UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva, adding that the advisory seeks to ensure that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld in light of the worsening security situation in north-east Nigeria.
Conflict between the Nigerian army and insurgents in Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states has led to deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in the region, which has been under a state of emergency since May. The violence has displaced an estimated 5,000 people within the region, but humanitarian access is difficult and UNHCR believes the number affected could be much higher.
Some 10,000 Nigerians have also crossed into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger in recent months. More than 80 per cent have sought refuge in Cameroon, according to local authorities, who say that people continue to arrive.
McNorton also said UNHCR was "alarmed" at reports of the attempted refoulement (forced return) of 111 people from northern Cameroon to Nigeria on October 5. During the incident, 15 people were reportedly killed and seven injured. The remaining 89 fled back to Cameroon and were detained. "UNHCR is working with the government of Cameroon to assess whether there are people in the group in need of international protection," McNorton said.
In light of the security situation in north-eastern Nigeria, people fleeing are likely to meet the criteria for refugee status as outlined in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the OAU Convention. "UNHCR's return advisory will remain in effect until the security and human rights situation in north-eastern Nigeria has improved sufficiently to permit a safe and dignified return," the spokesman said.
Early Day Motion 658: Working Conditions In Qatar
That this House expresses its deep concern at reports of the ill treatment of migrant workers in Qatar on construction projects in preparation for the World Cup in 2022; calls on the government of Qatar to guarantee all International Labour Organisation conditions, including the right to join and be represented by an independent trade union for all migrant workers, and enable an independent investigation into reports of slave conditions, withholding of passports and due wages by employers; and further calls on the Government to make urgent representations to the government of Qatar.
Sponsors: Corbyn, Jeremy/ Wood, Mike / Lucas, Caroline / Llwyd, Elfyn / Williams, Hywel / McDonnell, John <> House of Commons: 30.10.2013
Report on an Unannounced Inspection of Yarl's Wood IRC
'Circumstances of those held at Yarl's Wood make it a sad place. At best it represents the failure of hopes and ambitions, at worst it is a place where some detainees look to the future with real fear and concern.'
Yarl's Wood still holds detainees in the middle of a distressing and difficult experience and more thought needs to be given to meeting their emotional and practical needs.
For the most vulnerable of the women held, the decision to detain itself appears much too casual. Nick Hardwick
Inspection by HMCIP, 17–28 June 2013 and 30 Sept – 1 Oct 2013, report compiled October 2013, published Tuesday 29th October 2013
Managed by Serco Group
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
- There were insufficient female staff for a predominantly women's establishment
- We were particularly concerned about how the cases of some very vulnerable women were handled
- women's histories of victimisation were not sufficiently acknowledged by the authorities
- he lack of progress of their immigration cases caused women most distress;
- a number of women had been detained for very long periods - one for almost four years;
- several obviously mentally ill women had been detained before being sectioned and released to a medical facility; it was difficult to understand why they had been detained in the first place
- pregnant women had been detained without evidence of the exceptional circumstances required to justify this; One of these women had been hospitalised twice because of pregnancy related complications
- detainees who had clear trafficking indicators had not been referred to the national trafficking referral mechanism as required;
- Rule 35 reports, which notified the Home Office if a detainee's health might be adversely affected by detention, in particular because the detainee alleged they had been tortured, were poorly completed.
- Use of force and segregation had decreased since the last inspection (although the latter was still sometimes inappropriately used as punishment).
- two staff had engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee, which can never be less than abusive given the vulnerability of the detained population, and these staff had been rightly dismissed;
- In the six months before the inspection 867 detainees had been removed, 1,188 released and 198 transferred to other detention establishments
- Inspectors made 86 recommendations
Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre is an immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire that, at the time of this inspection, held almost 300 detainees. Most of those held are single adult women but it also hold a number of adult families and there is a short-term holding facility for adult men on the site.
The circumstances of those held at Yarl's Wood make it a sad place. At best it represents the failure of hopes and ambitions, at worst it is a place where some detainees look to the future with real fear and concern. None of those held at Yarl's Wood were there because they had been charged with an offence or had been detained through normal judicial circumstances. Many may have experienced victimisation before they were detained, for example by traffickers or in abusive relationships.
In view of the inevitable distress and anxiety of many of those held, it is therefore very welcome that this inspection found Yarl's Wood continuing to improve, with managers and staff working hard to run a safe and respectful establishment - although some significant concerns remained.
Reception services and facilities were good. The men who were held in the short-term holding unit were treated well in the short time they were there. Many were 'lorry drops' and who had arrived at the centre after long, difficult and dangerous journeys, and they were grateful to be in a safe place.
Most detainees told us that the establishment was safe and there were very few violent incidents and little victimisation. However, we were concerned to find that two staff had engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee, something that can never be less than abusive given the vulnerability of the detained population, and these staff had rightly been dismissed. Following the emergence of new allegations of abuse, we returned to the Centre and conducted more than 50 confidential interviews about safety and treatment by staff with detainees we randomly selected, using interpreters where needed. Most detainees again told us that Yarl's Wood was a largely respectful and safe place. We found no evidence that a wider culture of victimisation or systematic abuse had developed. However, this exercise reinforced our view that women's histories of victimisation were not sufficiently acknowledged by the authorities. There were insufficient female staff for a predominantly women's establishment, and women detainees complained that male staff entered their rooms without waiting for a reply after knocking. They were also embarrassed by male officers carrying out searches of their rooms and personal property. Given the women's previous experiences and vulnerabilities, any insensitivity or impropriety amongst staff was likely to amplify their feelings of insecurity. We have recommended that more female staff must be recruited as a matter of urgency, and that men should not enter women's rooms unless explicitly invited to do so except in cases of emergency. Staff should also be properly trained in recognising and managing the particular vulnerability of the population at Yarl's Wood.
Use of force and segregation had decreased since the last inspection (although the latter was still sometimes inappropriately used as punishment). The high number of women subject to suicide and self-harm prevention procedures were generally well cared for. The daily 'individual needs' meeting focused attention on the most vulnerable, and was good practice. Constant supervision was carried out sensitively.
It was the progress, or lack of it, of their immigration cases that caused women most distress. We were particularly concerned about how the cases of some very vulnerable women were handled. We identified a number of women who had been detained for very long periods - one for almost four years. Several obviously mentally ill women had been detained before being sectioned and released to a more appropriate medical facility; it was difficult to understand why they had been detained in the first place. Pregnant women had been detained without evidence of the exceptional circumstances required to justify this. One of these women had been hospitalised twice because of pregnancy related complications. Although the medical care of pregnant women was good, too little thought was given to their wider emotional and practical support needs.
Detainees who had clear trafficking indicators - such as one woman who had been picked up in a brothel - had not been referred to the national trafficking referral mechanism as required. Young people whose age was disputed were generally well cared for until an age assessment could be carried out. Three young people had been determined to be children in the six months before the inspection. Rule 35 reports, which notified the Home Office if a detainee's health might be adversely affected by detention, in particular because the detainee alleged they had been tortured, were poorly completed and did not provide any diagnostic judgements concerning the claim.
In these circumstances, the good environment and the usually good relationships between staff and detainees were critical to the safe and calm running of the centre. The number of formal complaints had reduced since the last inspection and we were satisfied that this was because minor issues were quickly and appropriately sorted out informally. There was little tension between different national groups. Detainees said their faiths were respected and the chaplains played a positive role in the life of the centre. More needed to be done to support detainees with other protected characteristics, such as those with disabilities. Health care was good. The food was reasonable and women appreciated the opportunities to cook for themselves and their friends in the cultural kitchens.
There was a good range of activities available run by enthusiastic activities staff and most detainees said there was enough to do to fill their time. However, education provision was at too low a level and there were not enough paid work opportunities available, particularly for long-stay detainees.
In the six months before the inspection 867 detainees had been removed, 1,188 released and 198 transferred to other detention establishments. Good support was provided by the welfare officer but he was overstretched. The voluntary organisation, Hibiscus, provided valuable support to detainees with complex resettlement needs. Visit arrangements were good and detainees had good access to phones and the internet to maintain contact with the outside world. Internet access was closely supervised but women were unnecessarily barred from using Skype or social networking sites, which would have been particularly valued by those separated from their children and families.
Yarl's Wood has had a troubled past, punctuated by serious disturbances and controversy surrounding the detention of children. This inspection found that the improvements we have noted since the detention of children ended have continued. Nevertheless, despite the good progress made, improvement continues to be necessary. Yarl's Wood still holds detainees in the middle of a distressing and difficult experience and more thought needs to be given to meeting their emotional and practical needs. For the most vulnerable of the women held, the decision to detain itself appears much too casual.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Prisoners: Foreign Nationals [979 immigration detainees in prison]
Michael Dugher: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many foreign national prisoners who have completed their sentences are resident in prisons in the UK. 
Mr Harper: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Home Department.
For the week commencing 9 September 2013, there were 979 immigration detainees in prisons.
Please note that the data includes a small number of individuals who have never served a custodial sentence. These individuals present specific risk factors that indicate they pose a serious risk of harm to the public or to the good order of an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), including the safety of staff and other detainees, which cannot be managed within the regime applied in IRCs.
In-order to extract the small number of cases who have not served a custodial sentence would incur a disproportionate cost as this would involve looking at individual records.
<> House of Commons: 31 Oct 2013 : Column 546W
Atayeva and Burman v. Sweden (no. 17471/11)
The applicants, Myahri Atayeva, a Turkmen national born in 1974, and Mats Burman, a Swedish national born in 1954, live in Luleå (Sweden). The case concerned the possible deportation of Ms Atayeva. She arrived in Sweden with her son in March 2006 and married Mr Burman in April 2006. The couple had a son together in January 2010, and in September 2010 Mr Burman adopted Ms Atayeva's first son. Beginning in September 2006, Ms Atayeva made numerous applications and appeals to the Swedish authorities for asylum and a residence permit. Other than an application made in July 2013, which is still outstanding, all of these were rejected and Ms Atayeva alleged that her most recent application for residence had no prospect of success. The applicants complained that Ms Atayeva's expulsion from Sweden would violate their rights under Article 8 (right to respect for family life).
Application struck out of the Court's list of cases, under Article 37 § 1 (striking out aplications) –the validity of the deportation order against Ms Atayeva having expired, she may institute a new asylum request
Harmful Practices Against Women/Girls Never Justified by Religion
– Harmful practices inflicted on women and girls can never be justified in the name of freedom of religion or belief, an independent United Nations human rights expert told a General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues today.
"Countless women are exposed to complex forms of human rights violations based on both religion or belief and their sex," said Heiner Bielefeldt, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The expert's latest report, which he presented to the Third Committee, focused on two human rights, namely freedom of religion or belief and gender equality. "My main message is that there is much more room for synergies between those two rights than people generally assume," he told reporters after his presentation.
"Often you find the assumption that, you go either for religion or for gender emancipation and you can't really combine the two, which I would find not only wrong but dangerous."
The expert urged Governments and civil society to look for these synergies, noting that in virtually all traditions, there are persons or groups who use their freedom of religion or belief to promote equality between men and women, often in conjunction with innovative interpretations of religious sources and traditions.
In his presentation, Mr. Bielefeldt also called on States to identify and close human rights protection gaps in personal status laws, including denominational family laws, which disproportionately affect women from religious or belief minorities.
"The purpose must be to create family law systems that fully respect equality between men and women while at the same time doing justice to the broad reality of religious or belief diversity, including persuasions that go beyond the realm of traditionally recognized religions," he stated.
One particularly grave abuse when freedom of religion or belief clashes with gender equality is forced conversion in combination with forced marriage, said Mr. Bielefeldt.
"In a number of countries, women or girls from religious minorities run the risk of being abducted with the purpose of forcing them to convert to mainstream religion – often in connection with an unwanted marriage."
The expert's report offers recommendations to, among other things, integrate a gender perspective into programmes designed to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. They also make annual presentations to the General Assembly's Third Committee.
<>UN News Centre, 29 October 2013
Christians in the Middle East
Baroness Berridge to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the Joint Resolution of the European Parliament (2013/2872(RSP)) of 10 October 2013 concerning religious persecution, particularly of Christians, in Syria, Pakistan and Iran; and what representations they will make to those respective governments on the situations outlined in the resolution.[HL2578]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): Freedom of religion or belief is a human rights priority for this Government and a personal priority for me. We are deeply concerned by the Iranian regime's ongoing persecution of its religious minorities - including Christians. The draft resolution raised the sentencing and continuing imprisonment of Pastor Abedini. We have urged the Iranian government to release him and to cease the persecution of individuals based on their faith. We will continue to do so.
We are shocked and saddened by the continuing harassment and persecution of minorities in Pakistan, and in particular by the terrorist attacks against the Christian community in Peshawar on 22 September. As I said at the time, these attacks were cowardly and sickening – all the more so as they targeted people leaving their place of worship. I will continue to discuss minority rights' issues with the Pakistan government.
During my meeting with Syrian Patriarch Gregorios III on 16 October we discussed the growing number of reports of Christians, and other minority groups, being targeted in Syria. I explained my readiness to speak up on behalf of all who are targeted for their religion or belief. We believe that President Assad's actions include a deliberate attempt to stir up tensions in his effort to hold on to power. We are continuing to encourage the moderate opposition to build on their appeal and effectiveness over the extremists and are helping through project work focused on reconciliation work between Syria's different sects.
<>House of Lords / 28 Oct 2013 : Column WA210
Home Office Accused of 'Fixing' Asylum Figures
Asylum seekers with strong cases are being pushed to the back of the Home Office queue so that officials can reject at least 60% of applications, according to lawyers. Those with clients at the appeal stage say that it has become common Home Office practice to withdraw powerful cases at the last minute to protect the 60% target, described internally as the "win rate". They say the alleged tactic is adding to a backlog of half a million unresolved cases and causing suffering to those who have a right to be here but who are stranded in limbo, sometimes for years.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that officers were expected to meet targets of having at least 60% of cases refused at court, adding that when decisions at tribunal were withdrawn a senior officer's approval was needed. The spokesman added: "The success of our officers in upholding asylum decisions is only one of a range of criteria we use to monitor staff performance. All our staff are expected to meet appropriate professional standards."
Read more: Diane Taylor, The Observer, <> Saturday 26 October 2013
Human Rights at Risk When Secret Surveillance Spreads
The fear of terrorism, technology that is developing at the speed of light, private companies and state security agencies compiling personal information – this topical mix has become a severe threat to the right to privacy. Despite the intentions, secret surveillance to counter terrorism can destroy democracy, rather than defend it.
Recent revelations, many of them based on files from the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, have showed the stunning scale and sophistication of the surveillance to which we can all be subjected. The US intelligence agency, the NSA, and its British counterpart, GCHQ, target encryption techniques that are used by Internet services such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, making them vulnerable to surveillance. There is extensive co-operation between different security agencies – but also between such agencies and private companies. All this leaves us open to abuse of our fundamental human right to privacy.
In an Op-ed published in the Guardian in late June I mentioned Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who sees no risk for people sharing information with Google and argues that if you've nothing to hide, you shouldn't worry.
At this point it has become obvious that this is not advice to live by.
Co-operation between the NSA and European countries
Surveillance is not an unknown phenomenon in the UK; security cameras are mounted on virtually every street corner. But the extent of the co-operation between GCHQ and the NSA came as a shock. After the Guardian published a large number of revealing articles, the matter took yet another unexpected turn when the newspaper, after strong pressure from GCHQ, destroyed hard drives containing Edward Snowden´s leaked NSA files. The decision was, according to the Guardian's editors, taken following the threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped further reporting on these matters.
The documents from Edward Snowden also show that the NSA has been spying on the EU in New York and that GCHQ was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a Belgian telecom company whose major customers include institutions like the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.
In Germany, the documents revealed that "the intelligence service, BND, sends massive amounts of intercepted data to the NSA". And investigative journalist Duncan Campbell said while testifying before an EU parliamentary committee charged with investigating electronic surveillance, that the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment, FRA, has shared access to communication cables in the Baltic Sea with the NSA. This has allowed both agencies to circumvent legislation banning domestic surveillance – despite the fact that European states are obliged to protect individuals from unlawful surveillance carried out by any other state and should not actively support, participate or collude in such surveillance.
In France the authorities' reaction to the Snowden files was quite different to those in Britain or Sweden. First, the chief of staff of the Prime Minister's private office sent a letter to government ministers warning them that they and their staff should only use approved smartphones to discuss sensitive matters and dedicated secured means to convey classified information. Then, following new revelations published by Le Monde reporting extensive electronic surveillance carried out by the NSA and massive collection of data concerning not only suspected terrorists but also stakeholders of economic and political circles as well as civil servants, the French president called these practices totally unacceptable and spoke with his American counterpart to obtain explanations.
Effective guarantees against abuse needed
The European Convention on Human Rights, by which all 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound, spells out the right to respect for private life, and access to an effective remedy to challenge intrusions into our private lives.
States, of course, have a duty to ensure security within their borders and in doing so they can undertake secret surveillance of individuals who can pose a threat. But adequate and effective guarantees against abuse are needed. This can be achieved through legislation that strictly abides by the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Court has delivered many rulings concerning the protection of privacy and personal data. In order for surveillance to be in line with the Convention, as a minimum, three main safeguards should be provided.
First of all, the law must be precise and clear as to the offences, activities and people subjected to surveillance, and must set out strict limits on its duration, as well as rules on the disclosure and destruction of surveillance data.
Secondly, rigorous procedures should be in place to order the examination, use and storage of the data obtained, and those subjected to surveillance should be given a chance to exercise their right to an effective remedy.
Thirdly, the bodies supervising the use of surveillance should be independent, and appointed by and accountable to parliament, rather than the executive.
Indiscriminate mining of data must stop
Private companies and states alike must be more cautious in using data relating to our private life and must avoid any abuses that could arise from indiscriminate mining. For this they must develop surveillance and data collection policies that respect human rights. Necessary & Proportionate is the name of a set of international principles, put together by a large number of civil society groups, industry and international experts, which can be helpful in this regard. Also, the Global Network Initiative, GNI, has set out practical steps to protect human rights online in the report Digital Freedoms in International Law. In this regard, the adoption, on 21 October, by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, of a text strictly regulating the transfer of personal data from Europe to third countries and providing very heavy financial penalties for companies that do not comply with the rules is an encouraging signal.
As the Strasbourg Court has clearly stated, secret surveillance activities cannot be allowed to undermine democracy under the cloak of defending it. Privacy is a fundamental human right and is essential if we wish to live in dignity and security.
Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, <http://humanrightscomment.org/2013/10/24/human-rights-at-risk-when-secret-surveillance-spreads/>24/10/13