News & Views Monday 16th December to Sunday 22nd January 2017  
Donald Trump's Immigrant Crimes List Labelled 'Shocking in the Extreme'

Human rights groups have expressed alarm over Donald Trump’s decision to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in the US, saying the “shocking” and “xenophobic” move will “terrorise communities across the US”. The US President issued an executive order on Wednesday titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” which signed into law many of his most extreme immigration policies,.  It included an instruction that the Secretary for Homeland Security should “on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in the US.

The list will also name so-called “sanctuary cities” that are refusing to hand over immigrant residents for deportation. Mr Trump’s instructions do not specify that only crimes by illegal immigrants should be included – meaning even offences committed by immigrants living in the US legally could be published.  Human rights charities reacted with alarm, saying the policy was discriminatory and amounted to publishing a “weekly hate list” of immigrants.   Human Rights Watch said the move was a sign of Mr Trump’s “xenophobia” and was “shocking in the extreme”.

Read more: Ben Kentish, Independent,
NHS Hands Over Patient Records to Home Office For Immigration Crackdown

The confidential patient records of more than 8,000 people have been handed over by the NHS to the Home Office in the past year as part of its drive to track down immigration offenders. A memorandum of understanding, published for the first time on Tuesday, makes clear that NHS digital is required by law to hand over non-clinical patient details including last known addresses, dates of birth, GP’s details and date registered with doctor. The latest figures show that the number of Home Office requests have risen threefold since 2014 as the government has stepped up Theresa May’s drive to “create a hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in Britain. Patients and migrants’ rights groups have expressed serious concerns in the past over the use of NHS records to track down immigration offenders and warned there is a real danger it could deter some from seeking medical help for themselves or their children.

Read more: Alan Travis, Guardian,
Iran: Human Rights

Lord Clarke of Hampstead (Lab): The appalling human rights situation in Iran continues to deteriorate, with the authorities there increasing the pressure on political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and activists, and at the same time increasing the number of executions and public hangings. Reports during this last month include mention of continuing barbaric punishments, as has been the case for so many decades. The punishments include amputation of limbs, public hangings and public floggings. It is clear that the condemnatory resolution of the United Nations General Assembly adopted on 19 December is being ignored by the despotic rulers in Tehran. We should not be surprised by the mullahs adopting the position that they always have; they have been doing it all these years. There have been 60 or more resolutions in various United Nations committees and councils, but every one of them is ignored by those people in Tehran.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Ms Asma Jahangir, stated her alarm over the health of several prisoners of ?conscience in Iran who have been on a prolonged hunger strike contesting the legality of their detention. She also expressed deep concern over the continuous detention of human rights defenders in the country, who she said have been tried on the basis of vaguely defined offences and who were heavily sentenced following trials marred by due process violations. Ms Jahangir urged the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those who had been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted for exercising their rights.

Read the full debate: House of Lords,

High Court Rules More Than 10,000 Asylum Seekers Treated Unfairly

More than 10,000 asylum seekers can ask to have their cases heard again after a high court ruling that they were treated unfairly, but many have already been forcibly removed from the UK and may never get to hear about the decision.  Mr Justice Ouseley declared on Friday that rules on asylum appeals in place until 2014 were unlawful and ultra vires – beyond the power of the Home Office. Some of those affected may have been tortured or even killed after being forcibly returned to conflict zones. The judgment relates to asylum seekers in immigration detention from 2005 to the end of 2014. Some, considered by the Home Office to have particularly weak cases, were placed in ”detained fast track (DFT), meaning they had just seven days to prepare appeals after their initial asylum claims had been refused. Others had much longer to gather evidence for appeals, get expert reports and obtain legal representation.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,
Home Office Eritrea Guidance Softened To Reduce Asylum Seeker Numbers

The government downplayed the risk of human rights abuses in one of the world’s most repressive regimes in an attempt to reduce asylum seeker numbers despite doubts from its own experts, internal documents have revealed. Home Office documents obtained by the Public Law Project detail efforts by British officials to seek more favourable descriptions of human rights conditions in Eritrea, an east African country that indefinitely detains and tortures some of its citizens as well as carrying out extrajudicial executions and operating a shoot-to-kill policy on those caught trying to flee the country. The notes relate to a high-level meeting that took place in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in December 2014, between senior Eritrean government officials and a UK delegation led by James Sharp, the Foreign Office’s director of migration, and Rob Jones, the Home Office’s head of asylum and family policy. A diplomatic telegram written by the then UK ambassador to Eritrea, David Ward, says the meeting was held to “discuss reducing Eritrean migration” and sought to find evidence on human rights “to evaluate whether we [the UK] should amend our country guidance”. The discussions focused on how to reduce the number of Eritrean asylum seekers granted refugee status in the UK and how to deter more Eritreans coming to the UK to claim asylum. UK officials were concerned that the UK’s high grant rate to Eritrean asylum seekers of about 85% would attract more Eritreans to the UK.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,
Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 140 

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 10 and 23 January 2017.
Early Day Motion 884: UN Inquiry Into Rohingya Crisis In Burma

That this House expresses deep concern at ongoing human rights violations being committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese Army and security forces, including rape, executions, torture, mass arrests and the burning of villages; further expresses concern that lifesaving aid is being blocked to more than 100,000 displaced Rohingya; notes that the government and military are denying human rights violations are taking place; agrees with the conclusion of the Government that the interim report of the investigation commission established by the Government of Burma is not credible; calls therefore on the Government to support a genuinely independent UN Commission of Inquiry into the totality of the situation in Rakhine State; and further requests that the Government asks the UN Secretary General to personally go to Burma to lead negotiations to allow unfettered humanitarian aid access.

Paposhvili V Belgium: ECHR Sheds Welcome Light On Article 3 In Medical Treatment Cases

In a Grand Chamber judgment last month, the European Court of Human Rights provided a positive recalibration of the circumstances in which an individual suffering from a serious illness can resist removal under article 3 of the ECHR. Paposhvili v Belgium originated in an application (no. 41738/10) by a Georgian national, Mr Georgie Paposhvili in 2010.  Mr Paposhvili had been living in Belgium since November 1998, when he claimed - but was subsequently refused - asylum. Between 1998 and 2015, he committed a number of dishonesty-related offences, including theft and robbery. In November 2005, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.

In 2006, while he was in prison, Mr Paposhvili was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. In February 2008, a report prepared by Antwerp University Hospital stated that his condition was life-threatening and that his life expectancy was between three to five years. Mr Paposhvili was also diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2006 and he had previously been diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, which became active again during 2008. An imaging scan carried out in March 2015 showed that Mr Paposhvili had suffered a stroke, resulting in permanent paralysis of the left arm.

Mr Paposhvilli made a number of requests for leave to remain on exceptional grounds between 2000 and 2007. On 7 July 2010, however, the Belgian Aliens Office issued an order for him to leave the country, together with an order for his detention. On 23 July 2010 he applied to the Court for an interim measures under Rule 39, on the basis of Articles 2, 3 and 8 of the Convention. He alleged that if he were removed to Georgia he would no longer have access to the health care he required and that, in view of his very short life expectancy, he would die even sooner, far away from his family.

Read more: Gherson Immigration,

Why the European Union Shouldn’t Deport Afghans

Putting Lives at Risk in Kabul: This week, the German government deported to Kabul another 26 rejected Afghan asylum seekers – the second such wave of deportations in as many months. They come home to a city that is both divided and insecure. There is the Kabul of the embassies: barricaded fortresses where diplomats hold meetings via Skype with their counterparts in other local embassies and commute to Afghan ministries via helicopter.

Then, there is the other Kabul, home to a growing population of some 4 million, where explosions and suicide bombings take a daily, terrible toll on civilians. It is a city struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees that Pakistan has driven out and displaced persons fleeing the widening conflict in the rest of the country. In this Kabul, economic opportunity has plummeted, civil society is struggling, and fear has replaced many of the hopes the post-2001 transition had brought.

In October 2016, the European Union arm-twisted the Afghan government into potentially accepting back tens of thousands of deportees. And while Germany is not alone in its efforts to speed up deportations of rejected asylum seekers, it has moved swiftly, turning a blind eye to the dangers by declaring Kabul safe – or safe enough for Afghans. This week, German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere displayed a willful ignorance about the skyrocketing civilian toll and justified recent deportations by arguing that Taliban attacks have been aimed at “representatives of the international community” in Afghanistan and not the Afghan population. Statistics compiled by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan prove that is wrong: attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents in 2016 targeting civilian demonstrators, educational and religious facilities, and the media were the deadliest since 2001.

Read more: Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch,
No Signs Of Improvement For UK Immigration Detention And Mental Health

Immigration detention hardly has a glowing reputation in the UK, with the practices, in particular, of the notorious Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) under frequent scrutiny.  But despite a plethora of reviews, internal investigations and reports by NGO's, things do not seem to be improving regarding the welfare of immigration detainees. In fact, they are getting worse.  Last week saw the death of a third immigration detainee since the start of December, and the second at Morton Hall IRC in a month. The coverage in the Guardian was chilling: "Investigation after death of second immigrant in UK detention in a week" read the headline on 7 December 2016. A month later, an almost identical headline appeared, merely changing the number to "third."

29 people have now lost their lives in immigration detention since 2000.  The latest, on Wednesday last week, concerned a 27-year old unnamed Polish detainee, who reportedly killed himself, and was found hanged in his room. A spokesperson for the Unity Centre in Glasgow, which supports asylum seekers and other migrants including those in detention, claims the man was refused bail on 23 December because his heavily pregnant partner was unable to travel to a bail hearing to act as his surety. A statement from the Centre said: "[The deceased's] baby was born on the day of the suicide. It is believed he was aware of the birth before he took his life, and that he had expressed enormous grief at not being allowed to see the birth of his child."

Read more: Gherson Immigration,

G4S Filmed Asylum Seekers in Their Own Homes Without Consent

Campaigners are threatening to sue the private security giant G4S over alleged privacy and data protection breaches after it began filming asylum seekers in their own homes without their consent. Last month, more than 60 G4S housing and welfare officers working on a government contract to house 30,000 asylum seekers were issued with body-worn cameras in a measure designed to tackle violence and threats against staff. G4S confirmed that the cameras were operated on a “constant recording mode”, including when officers are dealing with asylum seekers and their children in their own homes. G4S claims the initiative has the support of the Home Office, but it has alarmed both the information and surveillance commissioners. The Information Commissioner’s Office has raised concerns with G4S after being alerted by the Guardian.

Asirt, a Birmingham-based advocacy group for asylum seekers, is considering taking legal action against G4S on the grounds that use of the cameras flouts the right to private life in the home under article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

Read more Matthew Weaver, Guardian,