|Texas Set to Pass Bill to Detain Migrant Families in One-Time Prisons
Texas is close to passing a law that will help preserve the federal government’s policy of detaining immigrant families by licensing detention centres as childcare facilities. The move would allow the government to sidestep a 2015 federal court order that immigrant children must not be held in unlicensed detention centres for more than a few days. Critics fear it will pave the way for asylum-seeking mothers and children to be kept in traumatising, prison-like conditions for weeks and months while their claims are assessed.
Read more: Tom Dart, Guardian, http://tiny.cc/c2s3ky
Asylum Seekers May Have Been Wrongly Deported to Albania
Hundreds of lesbian and gay asylum seekers, victims of trafficking and survivors of domestic violence may have been wrongly deported to Albania after courts and the Home Office relied on incorrect guidance, it has emerged. In October 2011, the court of appeal ruled that the courts and the Home Office could no longer rely on expert evidence they had previously used, which stated it was safe to send these groups back to Albania. However, the Home Office and the courts continued to use this evidence for the next five years.
It is not clear why the Home Office or the courts ignored the court of appeal order made in 2011. The lawyers who brought the case said they had never before come across this situation, where the Home Office has in effect ignored a court of appeal ruling for five years. A spokesman for the charity Asylum Aid said: “It is alarming that the Home Office has been making crucial decisions about the lives of asylum seekers based on incorrect information – a wrong decision means potentially returning vulnerable people to dangerous situations and it is vital the Home Office applies the law correctly and gets these things right the first time.”
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, http://tiny.cc/ihi3ky
Will the UK Government Keep its Promise to Reduce Detention of the Vulnerable?‘
The most soul destroying thing about being in detention is the unlimited nature of it – not knowing when or whether you will be released; the most soul destroying thing for campaigners, many of whom have been in detention or are still at risk of detention, is not knowing when the Government will do as they promised.’
We are now in challenging times: detention reform has been promised, but has not materialised. The recent debate, in which MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their concerns about the ongoing harm faced by the most vulnerable in detention, underscored this lack of progress.
Detention of vulnerable people is not a new concern. NGOs have been raising this for years along with a growing number of medical experts, specialist organisations and experts by experience. Recently, a cross party panel of parliamentarians joined the chorus, which was followed by an independent review (the Shaw Review) commissioned by the Home Office, and, finally – critically – by the Government itself.
Read more: Ali McGinley and Eiri Ohtani, Justice Gap
Two and a Half Years - Not an Unreasonable Amount of Time in Immigration Detention
The case of Ahmed v The United Kingdom concerns the applicant’s complaint to the ECtHR that the UK violated his rights under articles 5 and 34 of the ECHR. As to the background of the case, Ahmed left Somalia for the Netherlands in 1992 when he was 15 years old. There he claimed asylum with his family and was granted a period of leave to remain. During this period he married and had a son. Ahmed’s family travelled to the UK in 1998, shortly followed by Ahmed in 1999. On arrival in the UK Ahmed claimed asylum, using a false name and immigration history. Asylum was refused, however he was granted exceptional leave to remain until 2004. Ahmed received ten criminal convictions over the period from 16 November 2001 to 4 August 2005. In December 2007 he was convicted of a public order offence and of failing to surrender. He was sentenced to four and half months’ imprisonment.
Read more: Gherson Immigration, http://tiny.cc/haq0ky
Drop Cultural Niceties About Female Genital Mutilation
The New York Times recently announced an editorial policy to replace the word "mutilation" with "cutting" in articles concerning female genital mutilation (FGM). The newspaper's editors take the view that using "mutilation" is "culturally loaded". The same day, on this side of the Atlantic, Ukip wheeled out its "integration agenda" in which the party proposed that "at risk" children should be subject to checks for evidence of FGM following overseas trips. The next day, the London Assembly called for mayor Sadiq Khan to act on figures showing that of an estimated 170,000 women and girls who have undergone FGM in the UK, half reside in London.
I struggle with the New York Times's decision as it seriously minimises this gross human rights abuse that is used to assert control over an estimated 200 million women and girls. According to the World Health Organisation and Unicef definition, FGM comprises all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Simply put, this is a grave assault on women, and when it is performed on girls it is also child abuse. Although it may be that FGM is prevalent in some cultures, the human rights of women and girls to be afforded protection from such practices significantly outweighs any need for cultural sensitivity. In 1985 a specific criminal offence relating to FGM was introduced in the UK. The law was amended in 2003 to criminalise performing FGM on a British national or permanent resident in any territory.
But there has never been a successful prosecution. In 2015 an amendment to the law introduced FGM protection orders for those at risk on application to the courts by the police, local authority or others. The courts have several powers in their arsenal, such confiscating passports and it is a criminal offence to breach a FGMPO. The 2015 law also introduced the offence for those with parental responsibility of failing to protect a girl from FGM. To ensure the efficacy of the legal remedies, it is necessary for communities that practise FGM to be educated and engaged so that victims, those at risk of and those that perform FGM can be identified. The proposed Ukip policy of performing invasive examinations on children's genitals will not facilitate an environment in which the authorities can tackle the problem. Unwarranted medical examination is also child abuse and a strange way to deal with this devastating human rights violation. It is vital that Sadiq Khan heeds the call for effective action to end FGM in London and that there should be pressure on the government to step up efforts to tackle this practice in the UK. We have a legal framework. Improved training is needed for professionals who lack confidence about how to respond, as is better co-ordination between front line services. But ultimately a problem of this magnitude needs supranational co-operation and collective condemnation.
Source: Times ‘The Brief” - Author, Gemma Lindfield barrister at 5 St Andrew's Hill chambers
12 Ways the Media Turned Brexit Into an Attack on Immigration
Respectable Leave voters claim Brexit wasn’t just about immigration. The media coverage suggests it was.
“Leave campaigners and partisan news outlets strongly protested against accusations that their focus on immigration was prejudiced or intolerant. Yet, based on most definitions, it is hard not to find their claims and coverage discriminatory.” So reports a study by King’s College London into media coverage of the EU referendum released today, which confirms what many people have long suspected. Leave-supporting newspapers used the deathly spectre of unlimited immigration as their best ploy to ensure victory. It worked, and here’s how.
Read more: Katherine Fidler, New Statesman, http://tiny.cc/7ls3ky
Net Migration Figure Based on Unreliable Data from Tourism Survey
It is common knowledge that immigration is the key issue in every general election. Every party participating must have a clear policy on this sensitive subject. In 2010, as part of the election manifesto, it was announced by then leader of the Conservative party David Cameron that his party was seeking to reduce net migration to ‘tens of thousands’. The announcement was made following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, also known as the A2 countries, to the EU in 2007, and despite the fact that at the time there were restrictions in place imposed by the government that prevented nationals of these countries from fully accessing the UK labour market, and that the figure referred to did not include migration from the EU, tensions in relation to the ever-increasing number of migrants coming into this country were running high. Looking back, there is no doubt that reducing the number of migrants was never expected to take effect to the dramatic extent promised, but rather the pledge itself was a political move designed to woo the voters and thus help the Conservative party to take office. In 2015, the part of the manifesto relating to net migration figures stayed the same, although it had been obvious over the years that the reality was that the number previously announced and relied on in the previous election campaign was not even close to the target, and that the trend in migration was the opposite.
Read more: Ghearson, http://tiny.cc/xpz2ky
Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees - April 2017
Deteriorated Situations: India (non-Kashmir), Kashmir, Macedonia, Venezuela, Syria, Egypt
Conflict Risk Alerts: Syria, Egypt - Improved Situations: Paraguay – Resolution Opportunities: NoneGlobal Overview: Syria’s conflict intensified further, and could take another violent turn as the offensive on Raqqa, the stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), becomes imminent. In Egypt, ISIS stepped up attacks, particularly against Coptic Christians, and May could see both jihadists and security forces increasingly resort to violence. In South Asia, the Taliban claimed deadly attacks against the military and civilians throughout Afghanistan, killing at least 140 soldiers in reportedly the deadliest Taliban attack on armed forces since 2001, while violence escalated in Kashmir. In Venezuela and Macedonia political tensions continued to mount, while in Paraguay, popular anger sparked by a move to lift a one-term limit on the presidency was defused after President Cartes announced he would no longer seek re-election.
Read more: International Crisis Watch, http://tiny.cc/efq0ky
US: Detention Hazardous to Immigrants’ Health
New evidence has emerged of dangerously subpar medical care in United States immigration detention at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to increase its use, Human Rights Watch and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group seeking to end immigration detention, said in a report released today.
The 104-page report, “Systemic Indifference: Dangerous & Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention,” reveals systemic failures, such as unreasonable delays in care and unqualified medical staff, that are likely to expose a record number of people to dangerous conditions under President Donald Trump’s ramped-up deportation and detention plans.
“The data reveals that people in immigration detention died needlessly under the Obama administration, even with its attempts at reform,” said Grace Meng, senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration has already announced its intent to roll back key reforms while detaining even more immigrants, which would likely mean more people will die needless and preventable deaths.”
Read more: Human Rights Watch, http://tiny.cc/vtp0ky
Criminal Cases Review Commission Refers Travel Documents Conviction of Hazifa Chikhmous to Crown Court
Mr Chikhmous is a Syrian national who arrived by air at Gatwick Airport in 2012 and claimed asylum. He did not have a passport when he arrived. He was arrested and charged with failing to produce an immigration document contrary section 2(1) of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of claimants) Act 2004).
His solicitors advised him that he had no defence to the charge despite being aware that he could not have obtained a Syrian passport and was at risk of persecution there because of close family connections with prominent opponents of the Syrian regime. On the day after his arrival in the UK Chikhmous followed the legal advice he was offered and pleaded guilty at Crawley Magistrates Court. He was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment. He was granted asylum by the Home Office while still serving his prison sentence. Because he pleaded guilty in a magistrates court, Chikhmous was not entitled to appeal against his conviction. He approached the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2015.
Having considered the case in detail, the Commission has decided to refer the case for appeal. The referral is made on the basis that Mr Chikhmous could not have made an informed choice as to plea because the legal advice he received was incorrect and that he should have been entitled to rely on the statutory defence available under section 2(4)(c) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) etc. Act 2004); namely that he had a reasonable excuse for not having a travel document. The Commission therefore considers there is a real possibility that the Crown Court will conclude that, in all the circumstances, it should allow Mr Chikhmous to vacate his guilty plea on the basis that he was deprived of a defence that was likely to have succeeded.
In reaching its decision the Commission has considered the case of R v Mehmet Ordu  EWCA Crim 4 because it is possible that the appeal court may find that the defence advice was wrong only because of a subsequent change of law. In any event the Commission has taken the view that, even if the appeal court finds the defence advice was wrong at the time, substantial injustice may still be considered. This is because, while this may be considered a relatively minor conviction with an application made almost three years later, its longer term implications for Mr Chikhmous are arguably significant. Mr C was not legally represented in his application to the Commission.
This case is one of a number involving asylum seekers and refugees that the Commission has referred to the appeal courts in recent months. Several other cases raising similar issues are currently being investigated by the Commission.CCRC, 8th May 2017 http://tiny.cc/95r1ky