News & Views Monday 26th November to Sunday 2nd December  

Women on Hunger Strike in Yarl's Wood IRC - Wednesday 28th November

"Release us and close this place down." Over 40 women in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre have gone on hunger strike protesting against a charter flight tonight that will take traumatised women back to Nigeria. Women from many different countries including, Bolivia, China, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Zambia, have come together to take this action. A case currently in court of people (known as the Stansted 15) who blocked a charter flight from taking off in 28 March 2017, has brought to light the terrible brutality of these pre-booked flights. People are scooped up, sometimes regardless of the status of their legal case, and forced onto planes to fill seats.

One of the women in the All African Women's Group, a self-help group of women asylum seekers and refugees, was on the flight that was stopped by the Stansted 15 last March. She says: "I've lived in Britain for almost 30 years and have indefinite leave to remain – yet I was taken from my home to Yarl's Wood and put on a flight within six days despite my lawyer's protests to the Home Office – I was so thankful to the young people for stopping this flight, they saved mine and other people's lives."

Women in Yarl's Wood are also protesting appalling conditions inside. A dossier by Black Women's Rape Action Project (BWRAP) and Women Against Rape documented a decade of rape and sexual abuse by guards, much of which was covered up by Serco, the multi-national company which was granted a £70 million contract to run the centre. Christine Case died there in 2014 due to lack of medical care.

Fidelia from Bolivia spoke to BWRAP, which is co-ordinating support for the hunger strikers, saying that she is severely distressed at being detained. "I came to the UK for safety as my life was threatened by drug gangs after I spoke out. I've been in the UK for over 11 years. I'm a cancer survivor and I need to see a specialist but all I've been given is paracetamol! I've been held here for seven months for no reason."

Another woman commented: "We haven't had the chance to have a proper legal process. The Home Office has been refusing evidence and documents and want to send us back without even looking at our cases. Being here is mentally disturbing – everyone is damaged, physically and emotionally." The chief inspector of prisons condemned Yarl's Wood as 'a place of national concern'.

Women inside Yarl's Wood are demanding: an end to charter flights, the closure of detention centres, the reinstatement of legal aid for immigration cases, an end to mothers being separated from their children by detention and for rape and sexual abuse to be recognised as torture and therefore grounds for asylum.

Source: Black Women's Rape Action Project

Immigration Detainee Killed Himself After Self-Harming

A Slovenian waiter killed himself while being held in an immigration detention centre, an inquest jury has found. Branko Zdravkovic, 43, had self-harmed while in detention and had problems with alcohol, Bournemouth coroner’s court was told. The jury returned a verdict of suicide. Although detention centre staff recognised his vulnerability and put him on self-harm watch, no report was sent to the Home Office flagging up suicidal intentions, as required under guidance known as rule 35 (2) . The assistant coroner, Stephen Nicholls, gave the Home Office 14 days to provide further evidence relating to concerns identified about non-compliance with rule 35 practices and other procedures around self-harm among immigration detainees.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Demonstration Turns Ugly at US Border

The day started peacefully. Hundreds of Central American men, women, and children walked with banners and baby strollers from the Benito Juarez stadium to the El Chaparral port of entry, on the US-Mexico border. They marched to ask for asylum and thank the Mexican authorities for their support.

But by day’s end, the fortified Tijuana-San Diego border crossing was temporarily shuttered as US border agents and police lobbed tear gas projectiles at migrants, including young children and women on the Mexican side of the border, sparking widespread panic. Under US and international law, an unauthorized crossing is not grounds to block someone from claiming asylum; neither does it change limits on the appropriate use of force.

So what happened? In the face of a mass of unarmed people, all the Mexican federal police officers I saw positioned themselves with helmets and shields, trying to direct and disperse the crowds, apparently without any unnecessary resort to force.

Read more: Human Rights wach,

PBS Dependant Children Cannot Attend Football Academies

Gherson is aware of a serious issue currently faced by Football Academies in the UK, which may include Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Fulham, Newcastle United and indeed all Premier League and Championship Clubs.

PBS dependant children (the children of skilled migrants and investors living and contributing to the UK economy) are being barred from registering with top sports academies due to a condition attached to their immigration approval which states: “no employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach)”.

The Home Office have taken the view that academy members (even minors aged 9 –12 for example) seek, in the future, to derive a living from playing as a sportsperson. It is unclear if these children can play for County teams or indeed 5-a-side clubs at this time.

There is a strong argument that this is a complete misinterpretation of the Rules. Moreover, if membership of an academy is considered to be “employment” then surely all academies are breaking child employment laws in respect of British children too!

This is yet another clear example of the Home Office policy makers’ determination not to encourage excellence in the UK.

Dependant children of PBS migrants are likely to obtain British Citizenship by the time they reach 18, so all the current policy does is frustrate their ambitions and development at a young age.

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

Violence Against Women a ‘Mark of Shame’ On Our Societies, Says UN Chief

In a message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Mr. Guterres also underscored that such violence and abuse is a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.
Violence against women and girls is not only a fundamental human rights issue but also a “moral affront” against them and a “mark of shame” on all societies, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, calling greater action by everyone around the world to root out the scourge. “Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world,” said the Secretary-General.

The UN chief also noted that at its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women – and that it is tied to the broader issues of power and control in societies. “We live in a male-dominated society,” he said, adding that women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which they are kept unequal, harming the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society. The violence, he said, can take many forms: domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

UN News:

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 183

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 13 and 26 November 2018.

Download the full report:

Civil Rights 'Under Serious Attack' Across The Globe

Nearly six in 10 countries are seriously restricting people’s freedoms, according to a new report that warns of a growing repression around the world. According to the study, there is little or no space for activism in countries such as Eritrea and Syria, and also worrying signs in countries where democracy is considered well established, such as France, the US, Hungary and India. The report by Civicus Monitor, an alliance of civil society groups, found that fundamental rights – such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – were under attack in 111 of 196 countries. Countries were also found to be passing repressive laws and using new technologies to control public debate. In China, censorship using new technologies had reached unprecedented levels since President Xi Jinping took power, the report warned.

Read more: Rebecca Ratcliffe, Guardian,

Former Child Migrants Begin High Court Legal Action Against UK Government

Lawyers representing British citizens sent overseas as children, as part of the UK’s child migration programmes, have launched a legal challenge against the Government’s lack of action in setting up a redress scheme for the former child migrants, many of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse as a result of the policy.

Law firm Leigh Day, on behalf of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families has today sent a Letter Before Claim to the Department of Health and the Home Office over the UK Government’s failure to respond to the recommendations in a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The report published in March this year by the IICSA recommended that the UK government establish a Redress Scheme for all surviving former child migrants. The IICSA, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, was damning of successive UK governments over their central role in the child migration policy which it concluded had not ensured sufficient measures were in place to protect children from abuse when sent overseas.

The UK’s child migration policy involved the deportation overseas of thousands of children, many of whom were in care or from impoverished background, often without parental consent.

Read more: Leigh Day Solicitors,

Trial of the Stansted 15 - Day 37: Prosecution Closing Speech

Once the judge had instructed the jury as to their responsibilities, and explained in detail how to interpret the paper indictment they had been issued, the prosecution QC, Tony Badenoch took the floor.

He reassured the jury that he would not be taking them through the video or the CCTV anymore, because “you are now in charge of the cursor.” The prosecution submits that each one of these defendants is guilty, and will give good reason.
The Prosecution case concerns 15 individuals, some of whom had only met a day or two before. They met on the Sunday, and couldn’t possibly claim to know each other, despite needing to have a relationship of absolute trust. Why did they need to trust? Because they were going to break into the country’s 4th busiest international airport, to stop a chartered airliner. Some of them barely knew each other, yet this was what they planned.   Read more […]

Trial of the Stansted 15 – Defence Have Closed, Legal Arguments to Dominate

We are now in week 8 of 'The Trial'. This relates to the joint action in March 2017 by Plane Stupid, Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants and End Deportations. The trial has already far exceeded the 6 week trial window. 7 of the 15 defendants have given evidence in the witness stand. The defendants gave evidence about the people they were concerned about on the flight who had given their stories to Detained Voices. Detained Voices are a collective who speak to people in detention and publish their stories online. This is to try and give the voiceless a voice. Detained Voices support people in detention. Defendants believed the people who gave their stories to Detained Voices were at risk of serious harm if put on that deportation plane on 28 March 2017 and this formed part of their motivation to take action that night.

During the cross-examination by the prosecution defendants had to endure hypocritical questioning along the lines of 'you sought to substitute your judgement for that of the Home Office in a functioning democratic State - that is not permissible'.  One of the defendants, Lyndsay, countered this well when she said confidently and without hesitation 'the Home Office breaks the law all the time'.

The defence case is now closed. There is legal argument this week about whether the defence of necessity should be left to the jury, and legal argument about the meaning of the wording in the legislation we are charged under. Defendants have been charged under terrorism-related legislation (s 1 (2) (b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990), the maximum penalty for which is life imprisonment. There will be chilling implications for civil society and non-violent protest if the Stansted 15 are convicted of this offence.

Next week there will be closing speeches and we expect the jury to be released to consider their verdicts on 3 or 4th December 2018.

Peers Criticise Growing Use of ‘Henry Viii’ Powers by Successive Governments      

In a report the House of Lords Constitution Committee criticised the seeking of broad delegated powers that permit the determination as well as the implementation of policy, and in particular the use of such powers to create criminal offences and establish public bodies.

The report concludes that: Delegated powers are necessary: “they allow Parliament to focus on the important policy frameworks and decisions and leave the detail of implementation to secondary legislation”. Broad or vague powers, sought by the Government for convenience or flexibility, are unacceptable: “The Government must provide a full and compelling justification for all delegated powers and it is for Parliament to decide whether that justification is acceptable.” Henry VIII powers, which permit changes to primary legislation to be made through secondary legislation, "are a departure from constitutional principle”.

Secondary legislation has been used inappropriately to give effect to significant policy decisions. Scrutiny of statutory instruments is an essential part of Parliament’s work, and the Government must take more account of parliamentarians’ concerns when deficiencies are identified. “If it does not do so, in exceptional circumstances Parliament should use its powers to block such instruments and require the Government to think again.”

Chair of the Committee Baroness Taylor of Bolton said: “We are very concerned about the increasing use of broad delegated powers by successive Governments. Delegated powers should not be sought purely for the convenience of the Government, especially where it is hard for Parliament to assess how they might be used. “Parliament has rarely rejected secondary legislation, and this remains the right approach. However, such restraint may not be sustained if the Government persists in the inappropriate use of delegated powers. We remind the Government that defeat on a statutory instrument need not be considered momentous or fatal. The Government can always lay a revised instrument the following day to respond to Parliament’s scrutiny and correct deficiencies.”

Local Government Lawyer,

Home Office 'Wrongly Tried to Deport 300 Skilled Migrants'

The Home Office has wrongly tried to force at least 300 highly skilled migrants to leave Britain under an immigration rule used in part to tackle terrorists and those judged to be a threat to national security, government figures show. The figures, revealed in a governmental review of its use of the controversial 322(5) provision, also suggest that up to 87 highly skilled migrants – including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals – have actually been wrongly forced to leave the UK under the terrorism-related legislation. A further 400 people may have been affected. They are largely people who have lived in the UK for a decade or more and have British-born children. Many were given just 14 days to leave and were no longer eligible for a visa to visit the UK or any other country.

The Home Office directly identified 56 cases where a formal reconsideration of its decision to make people leave was required. This included 37 cases where “we concluded … that it is appropriate to give the applicant the benefit of any remaining doubt and grant indefinite leave to remain”. But the review also shows 143 cases where people won on appeal in the first-tier tribunal and 101 cases that were won in the upper tribunal, at judicial review. The number of those wrongly affected is likely to be substantially higher as the review only considered cases between January 2015 and May 2018. In addition, the first-tier tribunal has 372 cases outstanding and another 242 cases that could be allowed, which suggests that about a further 400 people could have been wrongly affected.

Read more: Amelia Hill, Guardian,