News & Views Monday 9th December to Sunday 15th January 2017  
HRW World Report 2017: Demagogues Threaten Human Rights

The rise of populist leaders in the United States and Europe poses a dangerous threat to basic rights protections while encouraging abuse by autocrats around the world, Human Rights Watch said today in launching its World Report 2017. Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk. Meanwhile, strongman leaders in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, and China have substituted their own authority, rather than accountable government and the rule of law, as a guarantor of prosperity and security. These converging trends, bolstered by propaganda operations that denigrate legal standards and disdain factual analysis, directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality.

In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will. The rise of populism poses a profound threat to human rights,” Roth said. “Trump and various politicians in Europe seek power through appeals to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism. They all claim that the public accepts violations of human rights as supposedly necessary to secure jobs, avoid cultural change, or prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, disregard for human rights offers the likeliest route to tyranny.”

Read more: Human Rights Watch,

Asylum Seekers: Right to Work

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP): I beg to move, that this House has considered asylum seekers and the right to work.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Bailey. I have taken an interest in the rights of asylum seekers for some years now. One of the very first events I attended as a councillor in Glasgow in 2007 was the opening of Refugee Week, the inspirational and ever-growing festival co-ordinated by the Scottish Refugee Council. That was the first time I heard directly the testimonies, experiences and views of those who had fled violence and persecution. They told their stories through music and dance as well as in words, because the trauma they were expressing was often beyond description.

The right to seek asylum is set out in the universal declaration on human rights, and it is one of the most important obligations in international law. However, it has become clear to me over the past few years that sadly in the UK we are not fulfilling our duties to asylum seekers. We often keep them in a situation of destitution and danger, with little acknowledgement of the difficulties that led them to flee. Worse still, we are devaluing these precious human beings. Asylum seekers have skills they could bring and talents they could share. These are people who have overcome everything and lost so much. The very least we should do as a nation is give them a means of living in dignity, and I believe, as I will lay out, that there are circumstances in which they should have the right to work. That is consistent with the position that the Scottish National party took, along with Labour Members, in proposing amendments to the Immigration Act 2016 to enable asylum seekers to work if they had been waiting more than six months for a decision. The UK Government sadly rejected the amendments.

With no permission to work, asylum seekers survive—it is barely survival in many cases—on £5 a day. That affects more than 8,000 asylum seekers in the UK. The right to work was withdrawn by the Labour Government in 2002. At present, asylum seekers can work only if they have been waiting for a decision for longer than one year and they have skills relevant to the occupations on the shortage occupation list, which covers only jobs that few or no UK nationals are able to perform. Those are often very specific jobs, such as various types of scientists and engineers, as well as trades such as professional dancer or musician, which require specific qualifications ?and experience, as well as an employer who is willing to take a person on when they do not know how long they may be in the UK.

Read the full debate: House of Commons,
10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017

The world is entering its most dangerous chapter in decades. The sharp uptick in war over recent years is outstripping our ability to cope with the consequences. From the global refugee crisis to the spread of terrorism, our collective failure to resolve conflict is giving birth to new threats and emergencies. Even in peaceful societies, the politics of fear is leading to dangerous polarization and demagoguery.
It is against this backdrop that Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States — unquestionably the most important event of last year and one with far-reaching geopolitical implications for the future. Much has been said about the unknowns of Trump’s foreign-policy agenda. But one thing we do know is that uncertainty itself can be profoundly destabilizing, especially when it involves the most powerful actor on the global stage. Already, jittery allies from Europe to East Asia are parsing Trump’s tweets and casual bluster. Will he cut a deal with Russia over the heads of Europeans? Will he try to undo the Iran nuclear accord? Is he seriously proposing a new arms race?

Who knows? And that is precisely the problem.

Read more: Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Crisis Watch,
Refusal on Failure to Meet the Good Character Requirement - Challenge Dismissed

In the matter of MB v SSHD SN/47/2015, an Algerian national, challenged the refusal of his naturalisation application. The case was heard before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ("SIAC") and two judgments were given, a public judgment and a closed judgment which is not public (the contents of which are not known to this firm).

The judgment recognises that the good character requirement is rather "nebulous" and that there is an obligation of fairness on the SSHD which in many cases will require applicants to be notified of areas of concern before an application is refused. The SSHD should identify the subject of concern to enable the applicant make such submissions as they can. However, the SSHD is relieved from disclosure where to put the queries to the applicant would involve disclosing matters which are not in the public interest to disclose. For example, where the disclosure would trigger national security concerns or for diplomatic reasons.

Read more: Gherson Immigration,

ARC Country of Information Update (COI) Vol. 139

This document provides an update of UK Country Guidance case law, UK Home Office publications between 16 December 2016 and 9 January 2017 and developments in refugee producing countries (focusing on those which generate the most asylum seekers in the UK) between 1 January and 9 January 2017.


Brexit Lays Bare the Brutal Reality for UK’s Immigrants

First they were anomalies: the reports of European citizens legally living in the UK, but caught in some dystopian drama with the Home Office after the Brexit vote. Perhaps they were just administrative mix-ups, we might have reasoned: straightforward cases that ran into misinformed, computer-says-no immigration officials. Now the stories are becoming regular. We hear tales of Europeans – some of whom were even born in the UK and have lived here all their lives, or are married to British citizens and have children born in Britain – being forced to regularise their status, appealing to the Home Office for some stability and reassurance via naturalisation.

What they face is not a machinery that seeks to understand their plight or has regard to the sensitivities. Instead, they are confronted by a dysfunctional instrument made blunt and crude by historically inconsistent government policy on immigration – and that, since the EU referendum, has been rendered even more incomprehensible and inhumane by the lack of any coherent government plan for Brexit.

Not only is the Home Office understaffed and under-resourced as the result of public sector cuts, it is also under pressure to deliver whatever results the government needs to stand any chance of meeting its immigration targets. The result is that, for up to 3 million EU nationals worried by the political hiatus, seeking reassurance from the Home Office is like running towards a cliff to flee a predator.

Read more: Nesrine Malik, Guardian,

ILPA Info Service - Recent Immigration Updates and Information Sheets

The Immigration Update (no.71) covers:

  • The Immigration Act 2016 - commencement of new provisions
  • Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules, 03 November 2016
  • Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016
  • Appeal fees for the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), update of 25 November 2016
  • Supreme Court decision in Mirza and others on '3C leave' and invalid applications, 14 December 2016

It is published together with new information sheets on:

  • 3C leave
  • Overstayers - New Immigration Rules
  • Family migration - new English language requirements for partners and parents applying for further leave under Appendix FM (5-year route)
  • Statelessness and applications for leave to remain

Now published on ILPA's website,

Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees – December 2016

Deteriorated Situations: Burkina Faso, Gambia, Korean Peninsula, Macedonia, Russia/North Caucasus, Turkey, Libya

Improved Situations None

Outlook for January 2017- Conflict Risk Alerts Libya

Resolution Opportunities None

December saw fighting worsen between rival forces in Libya, including over oil facilities, which could escalate in January and upset the precarious political and economic balance. Turkey’s security deteriorated further following a series of violent attacks on civilians and security forces, including a twin bombing in Istanbul, claimed by an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara responded by intensifying its crackdown on alleged PKK supporters. In Russia’s North Caucasus, Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants and police were killed in clashes in the Chechen capital, while in Burkina Faso a deadly attack on security forces reflected worsening insecurity in the north. In Macedonia and Gambia, elections led to heightened political tensions. In East Asia, Pyongyang’s announcement that preparations are at an advanced stage for an inter-continental ballistic missile test-launch deepened international concern over North Korea’s weapons and nuclear programs.

In Libya, fighting between Misratan-led forces, nominally loyal to the internationally recognised Presidency Council (PC), and forces loyal to eastern strongman General Haftar escalated throughout December, risking worse clashes around Sirte, Jufra or Tripoli in January. In early December Misratan-led forces took full control of Sirte from IS, but rifts over governance of the city quickly emerged between the PC-supported city council, Misratan militias and the east-based government. Moving west towards Tripoli, factions loyal to Haftar took control of a military base from Misratan forces in Brak Shati, 200km south of Sirte and anti-Haftar forces launched unsuccessful offensives to retake control of oil export terminals. As we warned mid-December, new fighting over oil facilities threatens “a dangerous economic meltdown”. Beyond security assistance, international actors must urgently prevent any further escalation in the Gulf of Sirte, and help stabilise the economy.

In Turkey, the conflict between the state and PKK militants deepened further. PKK affiliate Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility for twin bomb attacks in central Istanbul on 10 December, which killed 36 police and eight civilians. After the attack counter-terrorism police detained more than 900 people on charges of PKK membership and terrorist propaganda, some for posts on social media, and the government intensified its crackdown on Kurdish political representatives. TAK also claimed a suicide attack on a bus carrying off-duty soldiers in Central Anatolia on 17 December, killing fourteen. In another incident in Istanbul, an IS-claimed attack left at least 39 dead, including 24 foreign nationals, during New Year celebrations.

In Russia’s North Caucasus, the Chechen capital Grozny also faced deadly IS-claimed attacks which left the city virtually paralysed on 17-18 December. Crisis Group has previously warned of the threat of IS in the North Caucasus and the need for Russia to develop a de-radicalisation strategy and address unresolved grievances. In Burkina Faso, some 40 unidentified gunmen attacked a military and gendarmerie post close to the Malian border, killing twelve. The assault is the deadliest against security forces since suspected jihadist and criminal networks thought to be based in Mali began making incursions in the north in the last year.

Political tensions spiked in Gambia and Macedonia following elections. President Jammeh of Gambia initially conceded defeat after losing the 1 December presidential poll to Adama Barrow, but later refused to step down and called for a new vote. The ECOWAS regional bloc said it could deploy forces to the country if he does not leave office by 19 January when his mandate ends. A close result in Macedonia’s snap elections on 11 December, which were meant to help bring an end to the country’s two-year political crisis, saw neither of the two main parties win an outright majority of seats in parliament, leading to increasingly harsh rhetoric amid uncertainty over who will form the new government.

Concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and weapons capabilities mounted after Kim Jong-un in his New Year’s address announced that preparations were in their “last stage” to test-launch an inter-continental ballistic missile. This comes as the region has seen a creeping escalation in recent months over the East China Sea between China and Japan, with both taking steps to project their assertiveness, and the emergence of new tensions between China and the U.S. over apparent moves by U.S. President-elect Trump to challenge the decades-old One China policy, including by talking to Taiwan’s political leadership.

International Crisis Group,