News & Views Monday 22nd Feruary to Sunday 28th February 2016
UK Downgrading of Human Rights Sets Dangerous Precedent

Britain is setting a dangerous precedent by undermining human rights and contributing to a worldwide “culture of impunity”, Amnesty International has said in its annual report on the state of human rights. Plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, the UK’s absence from EU refugee resettlement schemes, proposed new spying laws and the alleged downgrading of human rights as a Foreign Office priority in favour of commercial deals are all cited by the group as evidence of a trend.

Amnesty’s UK director, Kate Allen, said: “The UK is setting a dangerous precedent to the world on human rights. There’s no doubt that the downgrading of human rights by this government is a gift to dictators the world over and fatally undermines our ability to call on other countries to uphold rights and laws.” Ministers plan to replace the Human Rights Act, which was brought in by Labour in 1998, with a British bill of rights. The government has been criticised for breaching privacy and allowing insufficiently accountable agencies to undertake mass surveillance.
Read more: Patrick Wintour, Guardian, 24/02/2016

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Volume 119

This document provides an update of UK Country Guidance case law, UK Home Office publications and developments in refugee producing countries (focusing on those which generate the most asylum seekers in the UK) between 9 February and 22 February 2016. Download Volume 119 here . . . .

Albania: TD and AD (Trafficked Women) (CG) [2016] UKUT 92

1. This decision to which we have both contributed is in two parts. The first considers the availability or otherwise of a safe internal flight for women who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This involves an assessment of the re-integration services offered by the Albanian State, NGO and civil society organisations to such an individual.

2. The second part is specific to the appellants who are two women from Albania who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. They have both been found to be at risk of persecution in their home areas. It is accepted by the Secretary of State that they are unable to re-join their families or look to them for support if returned. The dispute for them that arises is whether it would be unduly harsh for them to relocate in Albania and whether they would be vulnerable to re-exploitation taking account of our general conclusions and matters specific to the appellants.

174. The appeals of both appellants are allowed on asylum grounds.

175. Neither appellant is entitled to humanitarian protection because they are refugees.

176. The appeals of both appellants are allowed on human rights grounds.

Published on Bailii, 23/02/2016

Afghanistan Civilian Casualties Reaches Record High in 2015

UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in coordination with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the 2015 Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, documenting an increase in the numbers of civilian casualties compared with the previous year. UNAMA figures show the highest number of casualties on record since the Mission began reporting on the issue in 2009. It documented over 3,500 deaths - of which one quarter were children and over 7,000 injured persons.  

The majority of the casualties were caused by anti-government elements that have increasingly targeted civilians through either deliberate killings or through suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). However, the report also documented a rise in civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces, including during ground engagement and aerial operations.

The findings of this report further call into question the policy instated or called for by some EU Member States - such as Germany - to increase deportations to the country and to consider Afghans as ‘economic migrants’. Afghans constitute the second largest group seeking asylum in the EU, according to the latest Eurostat data.

EU Member StatesReception Decisions on Asylum Applications

The number of first time asylum applicants increased by more than 150 % in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same quarter of 2014 and almost doubled compared with the second quarter of 2015. Overall, the number of persons seeking asylum from non-EU countries in the EU-28 during the third quarter of 2015 reached 413 800. This was 250 400 more than in the same quarter of 2014. Out of the 430 600 total asylum applicants (i.e. including repeat applicants), 413 800 (96 %) were first time applicants.

135 200 first instance decisions[3]) were made by the national authorities of EU Member States during the third quarter of 2015. Among them, almost half were positive (i.e. granting a type of protection status) Germany, France, Italy and Sweden issued the most total first instance decisions during the third quarter of 2015 (54 300, 19 700, 19 600 and 11 400 respectively) Most decisions were issued to Syrians (33 100) and Albanians (17 300), followed by Eritreans (6 700), Iraqis (5 800), and Kosovans (5 200) Syrians have received by far the highest number of protection statuses in the EU Member States, including protection based on national legislations (32 400 positive first instance decisions, or 98% rate of recognition[5]), followed by Eritreans (5 900, or 87%), Iraqis (5 100, or 88%) and Afghanis (2 700, or 70%). Of the 17 300 first instance decisions issued to Albanians only 200 were positive (or 1% rate of recognition), while of the 5 200 issued to Kosovans only 200 were positive (or 4% respectively).
Source Eurostat, 20/02/2016


Sham Marriages v Sham Interviews: Which is the Greater Evil?

Home Office “marriage interviews”, and related procedures, frequently present as conducted in an unfair manner, and require well prepared legal representation to safeguard the couple's interests. Recently, I had the good fortune to receive instructions in three European cases involving marriages between EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals. My involvement and my findings in these cases left me astonished. I wish to share my experience with other immigration practitioners and advisers so that this may aid them in their investigations and advice in the future. Persistent work and perseverance has paid off in what looked like hopeless cases. The shortcomings and the injustices of the Home Office “marriage interview” became apparent very quickly.

The European Commission Handbook (2014) and its predecessor the Communication from the Commission (2009) provide some very useful guidance to member states which aids them in conducting surveillance and investigating sham marriages (marriages of convenience). The EC Handbook makes reference to various trigger factors which can assist in investigations by the member states. It also identifies that there are certain factors which can be triggered by genuine married couples. For practitioners (including the judiciary), the EC Handbook has to be a starting point.
Read more: Mohammed Sabir, The Journal

UKHO Charter Flights Q4 October/November/December 2015

1. Number of males returned - 340
2. Number of females returned - 15
3. Number of escorts - 690
4. Number of flights - 7
5. Number of flights and returns to each country
Albania 4 flights carrying 201persons
Nigeria/Ghana 1 flight carrying 56 persons
Pakistan 2 flights carrying  98
6. No children were removed by Charter Flight Q4 2015
Source for this data: Freedom of Information Request

Refugee Claims Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) latest practitioners’ guide describes both in general and specific terms each element of the refugee definition under the Refugee Convention that is critical to understanding and doing justice to claims based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI).

First, persecution of individuals motivated in whole or in part by ignorance of, prejudice and hatred against their real or imputed sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is rife in all regions of the world, with serious and widespread human rights abuses being perpetrated too often with complete impunity. Therefore, claims to refugee status under the Refugee Convention for reasons of real or imputed SOGI are unfortunately likely to increase in all regions, given that around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals continue to be targeted for egregious human rights abuses, paradoxically, in part, because they have become more visible by asserting their existence, rights and agency outside the relative safety of “the closet”.
International Commission of Jurists, 19/02/2016

Challenge to Minimum Income Visa Rules

The families of UK citizens denied the right to live in Britain because of the minimum income visa requirement for non-EU partners are to challenge the rules in the supreme court. They argue that they have been denied the right to a family life by the rules condemned by migrant rights groups and family campaigners, including the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, who has said rules are creating “Skype families”.
British citizens must earn more than £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship, and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child. Critics argue that the law, introduced in July 2012, penalises 43% of the UK population and means British citizens in full-time employment on the minimum wage cannot enjoy the right to live with their families in the UK.

Read more: Jessica Elgot, Guardin, 21/02/2016

EU Asks Tech Firms to Pitch Refugee-Tracking Systems

European governments keen to bring the refugee crisis under control are considering using apps, biometrics and smart cards to attempt to manage refugees before they leave countries with border crossings into the EU. EU states in partnership with Frontex, the EU external border agency, have asked tech companies to pitch ways to track and control people trying to reach the continent before they get here. For those who do reach Europe, a smartcard ID system could be used to control access to food and accommodation, under one proposal.. Another suggestion is to tempt refugees to download tracking apps on their smartphones by offering helpful information about sea crossings and conditions in different EU countries.
Read more: Diane Taylor and Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian

UK and France Must Share Responsibility for the Global Refugee Crisis

Amnesty International has issued a statement calling on the governments of the UK and France to cooperate to allow refugees and migrants currently living in squalid conditions in camps in northern France, who have family links to the UK, to be swiftly identified and transferred there.

Following a three-day visit by Amnesty International to Calais and Dunkirk earlier this month, it was found that many vulnerable individuals had solid legal claims to be reunited with their families in the UK. However, as there is very limited access to information on the asylum procedures in France, or possibilities for family reunion in the UK, people are unaware of their rights and options. This leads many to resort to paying smugglers, or to risk their lives in dangerous attempts to cross the channel irregularly.

Amnesty International calls on the UK and France to implement measures to protect the principle of family unity and swiftly agree on the criteria to be used to assess claims for extended family reunification. In addition, quality information and legal assistance should be made available and proof of family links should not be subject to unnecessary administrative burdens. Furthermore, family reunification claims submitted by children should be assessed with regard to the primary principle of the best interests of the child. Other vulnerable applicants should also receive special treatment.

It urges both states to take seriously the moral, political and legal imperative to share responsibility for the global refugee crisis.
Read the full text here . . . .

Last updated 26 February, 2016