News & Views Monday 29th May to Sunday 3rd June 2018  

£5.48 to Email UKVI From Outside The UK

In its latest attempt to stifle any kind of enquiries from customers, UK Visas and Immigration yesterday announced a change, with effect from 1st June 2017, in the way that customers can contact them from outside of the UK.  Having outsourced customer enquiries to a third party, UKVI will now begin charging customers £5.48 for the privilege of sending them an e-mail.  That’s right, £5.48 for an email enquiry.  

As anyone who has previously attempted to navigate UKVI’s awful customer service enquiry line will know, this is unlikely to be £5.48 well-spent.  The continued push to make UKVI as customer-unfriendly as possible is frustrating for those who frequently use their services and even more so for those who are new to the experience.  
Source: McGill & Co,

Rodents, Bedbugs, Mould: UK Asylum Housing Still a Hostile Environment

Mothers with babies in a Manchester hostel run by Serco have shown us their dirty and dangerous living conditions. Shadow immigration minister and local MP Afzal Khan has told us: “Nobody, let alone families with children, should be forced to live with cockroaches, bed bugs, damp, leaks and mice. Unfortunately, we know that this is not an isolated case. Our asylum accommodation system is not fit for purpose.” Last week I visited the ground floor and basement of the hostel that is home to three mothers and three children. One mother, Carole, showed me the damp basement where she lived with Nathan, her 11-month-old son. She showed me water gathered by the dehumidifier that she had bought.  She said Nathan is asthmatic and showed me bedbug bites on his arms. “I have them too, Serco said they could not find them, but they did not change the mattress — just put plastic on it.” That looked to me unsafe, and a suffocation risk.

Last week I sent a detailed report and photographs to Serco company spokesman Marcus De Ville. He replied: “We are confident that in the vast majority of cases we are providing appropriate housing for asylum seekers but we are not complacent and we always want to look into any issues or concerns that are raised. We are now doing this with this property and I will get back to you in the near future.”

I sent the same evidence to local MP and shadow immigration minister Afzal Khan. He replied: “The description of conditions in this house is shocking. Nobody, let alone families with children, should be forced to live with cockroaches, bed bugs, damp, leaks and mice. Unfortunately, we know that this is not an isolated case. Our asylum accommodation system is not fit for purpose. It is unacceptable that in 21st century Britain, people fleeing war and persecution are routinely housed in appalling and at times unsafe conditions.”

Read more: John Grayson, Open Democracy,

Europe’s Duty to Internally Displaced Persons

People are forced to leave their homes for different reasons, ranging from war and violence to natural disasters and climate change. However, this does not always entail the crossing of an internationally recognised border. Even if they do not leave their country, people who flee their homes are still very much in need of protection. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, a comprehensive set of international standards addressing the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The anniversary should prompt states to give serious attention to their needs.

At the time of the launch of the UN Guiding Principles, the number of IDPs worldwide stood at 25 million; by the end of 2017, it had increased to about 40 million people. While some progress has been achieved in recognising the magnitude of the issue and in developing appropriate solutions and response mechanisms, many internally displaced persons live in precarious conditions and are among the most vulnerable people, including in our own continent of Europe.

The population of IDPs worldwide is nearly double the population of refugees. However, the situation of IDPs has somewhat slipped off international agendas as attention was mainly focused on the situation of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees who have left their countries. In order to address this, on 17 April 2018, a multi-stakeholder Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced People was launched, following a collaborative process involving the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs, UNHCR, OCHA, governments and NGOs. The Plan focuses on the following four priority areas for the next three years: participation of IDPs; national laws and policies on internal displacement; data and analysis on internal displacement; and addressing protracted displacement and supporting durable solutions.

Read more: European Commissioner for Human Rights,

Immigration Statistics, Year Ending March 2018

How Many People were Detained or Returned?

In year ending March 2018, 26,541 individuals entered the detention estate (down 8% compared with the previous year) and 27,429 left the detention estate (down 5%).

At the end of March 2018, there were 2,400 persons held in the detention estate (excluding HM Prisons), a fall of 18% compared with 12 months earlier. Additionally, 358 individuals were held in immigration detention in HM Prisons.
The total number of enforced returns from the UK, including those not directly from detention, decreased by 9% to 11,621 in year ending March 2018 compared with 12,766 in the previous year.

Provisional data show that 5,630 Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) were returned in year ending March 2018, down 11% compared to 6,346 in the previous year; of these:

  • 66% were EU nationals (3,694)
  • 34% were non-EU nationals (1,936)
How Many People Did the UK Grant Asylum or Protection to?

In the year ending March 2018, there were 14,166 grants of asylum, alternative forms of protection and resettlement, down 11% compared with 15,973 in the previous year. This comprised:
  • 6,865 grants of asylum to main applicants and dependants (down 17%)
  • 1,541 grants of alternative form of protection to main applicants and their dependants (up 16%)
  • 5,760 people provided with protection under a resettlement scheme (down 9%)

Of the 14,166 people granted asylum, protection and resettlement, 5,953 (42%) were children (under 18 years old).

Additionally, 5,874 Family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK, a 2% increase since last year. Of these, 2,883 (49%) were issued to children.

The number of asylum applications in the UK from main applicants decreased by 8% to 26,547 in the year ending March 2018. The fall in asylum applications reflects a return to levels seen before the European migration crisis in 2015. The falls are consistent with what has been seen more widely across Europe, with a decrease of around 41% in applications to EU countries in the last year.

There were 774 grants of asylum or alternative forms of protection to Syrian nationals (including dependants) at initial decision in the year ending March 2018 (down 49%).

A total of 5,760 people were resettled in the UK in the year ending March 2018 under various schemes. This included 4,342 Syrian nationals who were provided protection under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), bringing the total number of Syrians provided protection to 11,649 since the scheme began in 2014.

How Many People Were Allowed to Continue Their Stay In The UK?

There were 163,817 main applicants granted an extension to their stay in 2017 (the latest available data by previous reason for stay).
  • 79% allowed the individual to stay within their previous broad reason for stay (129,608)
  • 21% switched categories (34,209)

There were 71,676 people granted permission to stay permanently in the UK in the year ending March 2018, 23% more than in the previous year. The number of grants is low relative to the peak in the year ending September 2010 (241,586).

In the year ending March 2018, 141,883 documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards were issued to EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members. The majority of these (88%) were issued to EU nationals. This is fewer than the highest recorded figure for the year ending December 2017 (168,413) reflecting quarter-on-quarter falls in decisions from a peak of 51,466 in the first quarter of 2017 to 24,886 in the last quarter.

Total applications for British citizenship rose by 6% to 140,073 in the year ending March 2018 compared to the previous year. This was 40% lower than the peak in 2013 (232,262). Within the total, applications made by non-EU nationals fell by 10,195 to 99,617, and applications by EU nationals almost doubled, up 18,302 to 40,456.

Source: UK Home Office,

Government U-Turn Over Anti-Terror Law Used to Deport Migrants

At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK are facing deportation under the section of the act.

The government has agreed to stop deporting people under an immigration rule designed to tackle terrorism and those judged to be a threat to national security pending a review, after the Guardian highlighted numerous cases in which the power was being misused. The news came as the home secretary, Sajid Javid, admitted on Tuesday that at least 19 highly skilled migrants had been forced to leave the country under the rule. A review of the controversial section 322(5) of the Immigration Act was announced in a letter to the home affairs select committee.

Javid said one person had been issued with a visa to return to the UK as a result of ongoing inquiries. He also said that all applications for leave to remain that could potentially be refused under the section have been put on hold pending the findings of the review, which is due to be completed by the end the month. Javid’s letter to the home affairs select committee also admitted that the Home Office’s use of the clause – condemned as “truly wicked” and “an abuse of power” by MPs and experts – could have spread to other applications, including that of any migrant applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) who might have been asked to submit evidence of earnings.

Read more: Amelia Hill, Guardian,

NHS No Longer Required to Share Immigration Data With Home Office

The government has reversed a key element of its ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy. During a parliamentary debate on the data protection bill it was announced that the government has decided to suspend with immediate effect the memorandum of understating (MOU) between the NHS and the Home Office, which saw 3,000 patients’ details shared with the Home Office last year. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 allowed for patients’ details, which had been provided confidentially to the NHS, to be used to help trace immigration offenders. It led to the signing of the MOU between the Home Office, NHS Digital and the Department of Health.

The decision comes after MPs, doctors and health charities warned the practice was preventing some patients from seeking care for medical problems out of fear of detention or deportation. Critics warned that passing patients’ details on to the Home Office risked turning the NHS into de facto immigration officers and damaged patients’ trust in the NHS. The British Medical Association had warned that the MOU fell “short of the well-established ethical, professional and legal standards for confidentiality”. In the future, Home Office immigration staff will only be able to use the data-sharing mechanism to trace people who are being considered for deportation due to having committed a serious crime or who are deemed to present a risk to the public. 

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

Immigration - Windrush Generation Statement by Sajid Javid

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sajid Javid)

I have been very clear that the Government deeply regret what has happened to some of the Windrush generation and about our determination to put it right. Both my predecessor as Home Secretary and I have set out to Parliament the immediate steps that we took to assist those in the Windrush generation but were clear that this was simply a precursor for a more formal arrangement.

I have today laid a statutory instrument which will bring into force the “Windrush scheme” which will ensure that members of the Windrush generation, their children born in the UK and who arrived in the UK as minors, and others who have been in the United Kingdom for a long period of time, will be able to obtain the documents to confirm their status and, in appropriate cases, be able to obtain British citizenship free of charge.

The Windrush scheme, which will be a distinct scheme, will make it easier for those concerned to receive the support they need and to understand what is on offer. Those applying under the scheme will benefit from the services of the taskforce which will help people to navigate the immigration system and continue to take a sympathetic and proactive approach when assisting people in confirming their status.

The new scheme will come into operation next Wednesday, 30 May. Breaching the normal 21 day rule between laying a Statutory Instrument and its commencement is not something I have done lightly and I am very mindful of the need to observe normal parliamentary protocols. However, my judgment is that the imperative to get the new scheme up and running as swiftly as possible requires this course of action. The Immigration Minister has written to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to explain further our reasoning.

The new scheme will ensure that members of the Windrush generation—Commonwealth citizens who were settled in the UK before 1973—will be able to apply to become British citizens more easily. They will be deemed to have met the normal requirement for knowledge of language and life in the UK and will not be required to attend a citizenship ceremony, unless they want to. There will be no fees to pay.

Commonwealth citizens who were settled before 1973 but who do not wish to become British citizens, those who are not eligible, and citizens of other nationalities who were settled before 1973 will be provided with documents which confirm their right to remain permanently in the UK and to access services. Again, there will be no fees payable.

Children of the Windrush generation who were born in the UK will themselves be British, though in some cases they may want a document to confirm that status. Others will have the right to register as British. We will facilitate that through the taskforce and waive any application fees involved.

We are providing that a child of a member of the Windrush generation who was born abroad and who came to live in the UK before they were 18 and is still here is eligible for a free application for a document confirming their status or, if they wish, a free application for citizenship.

My predecessor undertook to consider the position of those who came to the UK between 1973 and 1988, when immigration and nationality law changed. Unlike the earlier generation, these people should have had documentary evidence of their entitlement to be in the UK but may no longer be able to prove it. Where they are lawfully in the UK, they can apply for the necessary documentation confirming that free of charge.

There is already provision in the immigration system for people whose permanent residence status has lapsed, through a prolonged absence from the UK, to resume their residence here, by obtaining a returning resident visa. It is limited to people who have spent most of their lives in the UK. I am adjusting the visa rules to ensure they are interpreted generously in respect of the Windrush generation, who spent a considerable time in the UK and who may have been unaware that they were forfeiting residence here when they left, for example because they considered themselves British. Again, that application will be made available free of charge.

Equally, there are those of the Windrush generation who retired to another country but want to return to the UK temporarily as visitors to see friends and family. I believe we should make a generous offer to them, recognising their special position and relationship with this country and those who qualify can apply for a visit visa free of charge, valid for 10 years.

In my written statement of 10 May, I announced the opening of the call for evidence on compensation. I am pleased to say that there has been a good response with almost 100 responses received to date. In addition, the Home Office has started an active programme of outreach to understand better the experiences of individuals and help inform the design of the compensation scheme. My officials have made contact with a number of community organisations and their representatives, and have attended events in a number of hon Members’ constituencies. This programme will continue and expand in the weeks ahead, working with Martin Forde QC, the independent person that is overseeing the design of the scheme.

All of this is about swiftly putting wrong the injustices that have been done to the Windrush generation. However, it is also fundamentally important that the lessons from this episode are learned for the future, so that this never happens again.

As I made clear to the House on 2 May, I will therefore ensure that a thorough review is conducted of what happened and why, looking particularly at:

how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants;

why that was not spotted sooner; and

whether the right corrective measures are now in place.

I will also be taking steps to ensure that the review is subject to robust independent oversight and challenge.