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Immigration Solicitors

  News & Views Monday 9th October to Sunday 15th October 2017  
Early Day Motion 369: Cuts to Legal Aid Since 2013

[Sponsors: So far 68 MPs have signed this early day motion, has yours?]

That this House is deeply concerned by growing evidence, including reports by Amnesty International and the Law Society, that cuts to legal aid since April 2013, under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), have left thousands of the most disadvantaged in society, including children and people with learning disabilities, without the legal advice and support essential to access justice and equality before the law; notes that, in the first year after LASPO came into force, the number of cases in which legal aid was granted fell by 46 per cent from 925,000 to 497,000; further notes that the number of legal aid providers has fallen by 20 per cent from 2,991 to 2,393, leading to the emergence of advice deserts across England and Wales where the provision of free legal advice is disappearing, especially in housing law; shares the view of the Law Society, as expressed in its June 2017 report, Access denied? LASPO four years on, that LASPO has severely undermined access to justice and that this is resulting in the escalation of legal problems and knock-on costs elsewhere in the public sector; welcomes the Government's commitment to undertake a wholsesale review of the impact of LASPO by April 2018; and calls on the Government both to ensure that the review assesses the wider impact of LASPO on public services and to commence and conclude the review as a matter of urgency.

House of Commons: 11/10/2017

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Early Day Motion 372: Re-Legalising Medicinal Cannabis

That this House believes that it is the duty of the good citizen to challenge laws that oppress the sick and the powerless and deny them their medicine of choice; congratulates the United Patients Alliance for the act of mass civil disobedience in challenging the discredited, cruel and unenforceable law that criminalises thousands of seriously ill patients for using natural cannabis to relieve symptoms of severe pain and spasm; and thanks the police for its wise restraint and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, two police and crime commissioners and hon. Members for their support for a new compassionate and practical reform of medicinal cannabis use to replace the present irresponsible black market with a legal market that can be regulated, removing the threat of prosecution from those already suffering disproportionately the burdens of life's misfortunes.

House of Commons: 11/10/2017,

Put Your MP to Work – Demand They Sign EDM 372    
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Home Office Wrongly Imprisoned Torture Victims

Hundreds of victims of torture have been wrongly locked up in immigration detention centres, a high court judge has ruled, following a challenge by seven survivors of serious abuse. Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that aspects of a Home Office policy introduced in September 2016 known as “Adults At Risk” wrongly allowed many who had been tortured overseas to be imprisoned. The policy redefined torture to refer to violence carried out by official state agents only. As a result, those tortured by traffickers, terrorists or other non-government forces could be held in detention even if expert medical evidence found the scars on their bodies to be consistent with their accounts of torture.

Ouseley found that the narrowing of the definition of torture by the Home Office in its flagship policy lacked “rational or evidence base”. Tuesday’s 10/10/2017 judgment states: “The chief problem with the narrowed definition is that it excludes certain individuals whose experiences of the infliction of severe pain and suffering may indeed make them particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.” The judge added that the definition of torture intended for use in the policy would require medical practitioners to “reach conclusions on political issues which they cannot rationally be asked to reach”.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Read the full judgment:

Home Office Plans GPS Tracking for Immigrant Offenders

The Home Office has begun testing the water for the use of satellite tracking technology in keeping tabs on foreign offenders on immigration bail. It has published a prior information notice with a declaration that it is looking for service providers for secure tags, the supporting software, a monitoring capability, the ability to produce management reports and a field service to respond to alerts. The move is part of the implementation of the Immigration Act of 2016, which includes a clause for electronically monitoring people subject to a deportation order or proceedings, including those granted immigration bail.

This includes the imposition of curfews and exclusion zones, requiring the use of a monitoring device akin to the tags fitted to offenders’ ankles – although the information notice says the deal should include less intrusive devices for the lower risk cases. The Home Office wants satellite technology to monitor the movements of people fitted with a device, with an alert capability for if they try to remove it. It said the solution could involve a mix of location technology including radio frequency. It also indicated that any resultant contract may be split into lots, with a decision to be made later in the procurement process.

Read more: UK Authority,

Tribunal Criticises Government Lawyers for “Trench Warfare” Mentality and “Inappropriate” Conduct

In one of his final judgments as outgoing President, Mr Justice McCloskey launched a bitter broadside at the conduct of government lawyers in long-running litigation over the entry of refugee children.

While the criticism of the solicitors at the Government Legal Department and of previous barristers instructed for the Home Office is robust and unambiguous, the background is hard to discern from the judgment itself, which arises essentially as satellite litigation around the failure of the Home Office to comply with previous orders made by the tribunal. The case is R (on the application of AM and others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (liberty to apply – scope – discharging mandatory orders) [2017] UKUT 372 (IAC).

Read more: Freemovement,

Citizenship for Sale – At A Cost Stateless People Can Ill Afford 

Stateless people in the UK face enormous hurdles in the road to becoming British citizens. One of those barriers is the extraordinarily high cost of acquiring British citizenship, writes Asylum Aid’s Cynthia Orchard. The UK government has taken some steps to ensure its approach to statelessness complies with international law. In many respects, British nationality law complies with the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Further, the UK introduced a statelessness determination procedure in 2013, which was an important step towards achieving compliance with the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. There is, however, considerable room for improvement in the UK’s treatment of stateless persons. This article focuses on one key issue: the cost of acquiring British citizenship. A colleague and I met recently with several stateless people from Kuwait, all of whom have permission to stay in the UK, who told us that the high price of British citizenship made it seem an impossibility for them and their families. They are people who faced discrimination and/or persecution for much of their lives outside the UK, which they are still struggling to overcome. Now, they continue to face an overwhelming problem: they cannot afford to become citizens of the UK.

Read more: Cynthia Orchard, Freemovement,

Grenfell Tower Fire – Non-British Survivors to be Granted Permanent Residence

The Minister for Immigration (Brandon Lewis): I wish to inform the House that I am today introducing a change to the dedicated immigration policy for residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk. The Government have been clear that their priority is to ensure that survivors of this tragedy get the access they need to vital services, irrespective of immigration status. On 5 July, we announced that those individuals directly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire who contact the Home Office via a specified process will be given a period of limited leave for 12 months to remain in the UK with full access to relevant support and assistance. Our initial response to this terrible tragedy was rightly focused on survivors’ immediate needs in the aftermath of the fire and ensuring they could access the services they need to start to rebuild their lives.

However, since the Grenfell Tower immigration policy was announced, we have been planning for the future of those residents affected by these unprecedented events and listening to their feedback, as well as the views of Sir Martin Moore-Bick. The Government believe it is right to provide the specific group of survivors who are eligible for limited leave to remain under the dedicated immigration policy greater certainty over their long-term future in the UK, subject to their continued eligibility and the necessary security and criminality and fraud checks being met.

That is why I am announcing today Wednesday 11th October 2017 that those who qualify for leave to remain under the Grenfell immigration policy for survivors will now be provided with a route to permanent settlement in the UK. Eligible individuals, who have already come forward or do so by 30 November 2017, will be granted an initial 12 months’ limited leave which will be extendable and lead to permanent residence after a total period of five years’ leave granted under the policy, subject to meeting security, criminality and fraud checks.

I also wish to inform the House of additional support for relatives of survivors or relatives of victims of the tragedy who have already been granted entry to the UK for reasons relating to the Grenfell tragedy. The changes I am announcing today will enable relatives to stay in the UK for up to six months from their date of entry. This new dedicated immigration policy allows relatives who have come to the UK and who were initially granted less than six months’ leave in order to provide a short period of support a survivor or to arrange the funeral of a family member to extend their stay to six months in total.

Anyone who believes they are eligible for either scheme can speak face-to-face to a specialist Home Office team at the Community Assistance Centre, 10 Bard Road, Nottingdale, West London, W10 6TP. There are existing immigration policies which allow us to consider compassionate circumstances where someone is not covered by the bespoke policies for survivors and relatives and any such applications would be considered on a case by case basis.

House of Commons: 11 October 2017, Volume 629,

Poor Physical Conditions in Immigration Court Custody Across North and West London

Inspectors Found:

  • Arrangements for detainees held in the custody suites for tribunals in Immigration and Asylum Centres at Hatton Cross and Harmondsworth “were not good enough.” There were no formal arrangements to ensure that detainees were released safely from Hatton Cross, though Harmondsworth was better.
  • Too many detainees stayed in court custody for too long.
  • Release arrangements did not adequately focus on ensuring detainees always got home safely. 
  • Handcuffs were applied to detainees routinely even in secure and controlled custody areas without an individual risk assessment, which was disproportionate.

The physical condition of custody suites in criminal courts and immigration and asylum tribunals in north and west London was “overwhelmingly poor”, according to an inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. In a report on a set of unannounced inspection visits, published today, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that despite the conditions, staff were trying to improve the treatment of people detained in court and tribunal cells.

Inspectors found that numerous cells were out of use because of defects including broken lighting and faulty cell call bells. Serco staff ‘escalated’ problems to HMCTS.  “However,” the report noted, “we were advised and saw that staff had become desensitised to low standards and that escalation processes were not always followed. The environment across the court custody estate was overwhelmingly poor.”
Delays in resolving these problems were causing frustration among staff and, in some cases, affecting the safety of the custody environment. Reduced cell capacity delayed the transfer of some detainees from police custody suites and meant more detainees shared cells, potentially increasing risks.

Inspectors found that numerous cells were out of use because of defects including broken lighting and faulty cell call bells. Serco staff ‘escalated’ problems to HMCTS.  “However,” the report noted, “we were advised and saw that staff had become desensitised to low standards and that escalation processes were not always followed. The environment across the court custody estate was overwhelmingly poor.”

Delays in resolving these problems were causing frustration among staff and, in some cases, affecting the safety of the custody environment. Reduced cell capacity delayed the transfer of some detainees from police custody suites and meant more detainees shared cells, potentially increasing risks.

Mr Clarke said: “Overall, this was a disappointing inspection. This report provides a number of recommendations for improvement that in particular address issues such as the deployment of staffing resource, the management of risk, the length of time detainees are held, and improvements to the conditions in which people are held.”

Download the press release:   Download the full report:

Early Day Motion 347: Civil Society In Pakistan

That this House notes that the Government of Pakistan has implemented policies severely restricting the operating space for local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs); further notes that this action will undermine Pakistan's ability to reach its development goals; urges the Government to recognise the essential role NGOs play in countering violent extremism and promoting development and human rights; highlights that both the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Council have urged a transparent and streamlined system for registration of NGOs in Pakistan; and further urges the Government of Pakistan to ease the negative effects of the over-regulation of NGOs, including the policy of regulation of international NGOs and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

Sponsors: Jim Shannon, Gavin Robinson, Emma Little Pengelly, Nigel Dodds,

House of Commons, 10/10/2017

 Early Day Motion 346: Rohingya Muslims

That this House expresses deep concern at the ongoing widespread horrific violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which has resulted in more than 500,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh since August 2017, making it the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency; notes that survivors in Bangladesh have recounted horrific stories of rape, mass murder and infanticide; further notes that the attacks on the Rohingya, at the hands of the Myanmar police and military, have been systematic and widespread, leading to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, to describe them as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing; notes that the Rohingya people have faced years of mistreatment at the hands of the Burmese Government and need urgent action; notes that most are living in refugee camps, denied citizenship, basic health care and employment; calls on Myanmar's state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, to speak out against these shocking human rights violations and allow access into the region immediately; and urges the Government to put sustained pressure on the Myanmar Government to end the violence and to allow unhindered access for humanitarian aid to all of the Rakhine State.

Sponsors: Chris Law, Brendan O'Hara,
House of Commons 0910/2017

EDM 346    Put Your MP to Work – Demand They Sign EDM     
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