News & Views Monday 5th March to Sunday 11th March 2018  

Migrant Children: Police Are Sharing Biometric Data

Carolyn Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for what reasons the police are sharing biometric data of migrant children with Immigration Enforcement; and whether such sharing is for purposes other than safeguarding.

Caroline Nokes: The Police, as first responders and on behalf of the Home Office, use powers afforded them by Sections 20 and 141 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, to capture photographs and fingerprints of migrant children which are then forwarded for storage on Home Office IT systems.

These systems then act as a central database to which other agencies may seek access. This process further protects migrant children, deters traffickers and assists with future identification should the migrant children go missing or be found in other distressing circumstances. These biometric details are not retained on police systems.

Hansard, 07/03/2018,

Act Now to Keep Refugee Families Together

Refugee families in the UK are being forced apart by restrictive government rules, leaving them isolated, traumatised and alone. On 16th March, MPs will get to vote on a bill that will introduce fairer new rules and help refugees build their lives.

Where would you be without your family? We know that for refugees who have been through so much, rebuilding their lives and integrating in new, unfamiliar communities is much more likely if their families are with them. But restrictive government rules are leaving them isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries.

Families Together is a coalition of organisations, including Amnesty International, British Red Cross, UNHCR and Oxfam, who helped Angus MacNeil MP to secure the Bill. The Refugee Council, as part of the coalition, is urging MPs across parties to vote to amend the UK’s restrictive rules keeping refugees apart from their loved ones.

By voting on 16th March to reunite refugee families, our MPs can show true leadership and help refugees rebuild their lives in the UK. These fairer new rules would stop children having to grow up alone, without their family in the UK, young women being stranded in war zones and elderly parents left to fend for themselves.

Make sure your MP knows that you want them to attend. This is a simple action they can take that will transform the lives of those who have been torn apart from the people they love. It is the right thing to do, and a practical way to help people rebuild their lives so they can have safe, happy futures together.

To find your MP go here:

Home Office Tells Women They Will Be Deported More Quickly For Hunger Striking

The Home Office has been accused of “shocking and inhumane abuse of process” after it told vulnerable women on hunger strike about conditions at a controversial detention centre they faced “accelerated” deportation if they continued to protest. Last night the Home Office confirmed the letter, sent to all those on strike, told them their cases would not be halted or delayed by the protest. The documented added it “may, in fact, lead to your case being accelerated and your removal from the UK taking place sooner”.

More than 100 detainees in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre have been refusing to eat food in protest at the conditions, and have asked for the European Convention on Human Rights to be respected and due process to be followed. The women began their protest more than 10 days ago, and urged the Home Office to end “offensive” practices which they said left people “breaking down psychologically”.

David Lammy MP, a former justice minister, said the Home Office must answer urgent questions about “how these threats of accelerated deportation relate to due process, equal treatment under the law, and protections afforded to asylum seekers and refugees in immigration and human rights law”.

Read more: Eleanor Busby, Shehab Khan, Independent,

 Number of Asylum Decisions Surpasses Number of Applications in EU+ Countries

Despite the issuing of a high number of asylum decisions by national asylum systems in the EU+ and a resulting decrease in backlog, nearly half a million cases remain pending. In January 2018, some 54,000 applications for international protection were lodged in the 28 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland (EU+). Despite issuing close to 60,000 decisions in the first instance, approximately 450,000 cases were still awaiting a decision. Even though these numbers are lower than for most of 2017, the figures indicate that the asylum situation in Europe is still not completely clear from the effects of the spike in applications in 2015-2016.  

Together, EU+ countries are issuing more first-instance decisions on asylum cases than the number of new applications that are being submitted, which reflects the success of the investment that Member States are making into backlog management and the continued focus on decision-making capacity in some countries.  Consequently, there was a decrease in the number of pending cases, down from approximately a million in late 2016 to less than half a million at the end of January 2018. A third of all applications for international protection in the EU+ were submitted by citizens of just five countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. The number of Syrian applicants reached the lowest monthly number since February 2014, while some other nationalities increased.

Of significance in the figures for January 2018, data shows that Georgians became the sixth most common citizenship among all applications in the first instance.  The figures indicate that Georgians have been applying for asylum in increasing numbers since a Visa-Liberalisation agreement for travel in the Schengen Area took effect in March 2017. Reflecting this increase, in January 2018 applications more than doubled (an increase of 113%) the number registered four months earlier (from 874 in September 2017 to 1,859 in January 2018). Despite the increased numbers of applications and resulting pressure exerted on national systems, just 3% of Georgians who applied for asylum in the EU+ were granted either refugee status or subsidiary protection in 2017.

European Asylum Support Office,

Home Office Warned Over Plans to Block Immigration Data Access For EU Citizens

Plans to deny millions of people the right to access immigration data held on them by the Home Office are illegal and will be challenged in court, the government has been told. Organisations representing up to 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and digital rights activists have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, giving notice that they will take legal action if a clause in the data protection bill is enacted.

The threat is aimed at proposals in the bill to introduce an exemption for immigration information. It is claimed that the clause would prevent those facing deportation from obtaining and challenging the accuracy of personal data held on them by the government. The two groups – ‘the3million’, a grassroots organisation representing EU citizens living in the UK, and the Open Rights Group (ORG), which campaigns on privacy rights and free speech online – argue that the clause in the bill breaches the government’s obligations under the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR).

Read more: Owen Bowcott, Guardian,

Ensuring Equal Access to the NHS (Free Workshops)

Background: This is the first in a series of workshops that aims to unpack the consequences of imposing upfront charges in hospitals for perceived “overseas visitors”. The NHS Charging Regulations require most secondary care provided by the NHS, now including secondary care provided by non-NHS bodies and community health services, to identify individuals who are not eligible for treatment free at the point of use and to charge them up-front for their treatment.

Who is this course for? This course is designed to support frontline advisors and advocacy groups to understand the risk of discrimination and human rights violations as a result of the NHS Charging Regulations.

The course is available to community groups, NGO’s, legal professionals, academics, MP case workers, local authorities, unions, human rights organisations and service deliverers over the Spring and Summer of 2018.

Spaces to this workshop and all future workshops under this project are completely free of charge.

Course content: Over the 90 minute workshop we will:

  • Introduce the legal framework surrounding the NHS Charging Regulations
  • Provide details of right of access to secondary healthcare
  • Understand which services are exempt from charging
  • Identify individuals who are exempt from charging
  • Clarify the terminology around necessary or immediately urgent care
  • Explore the process for identifying chargeable patients and associated problems
  • Identify groups who may be negatively affected by the charging regulations and how they can be assisted
  • Share further resources and expertise, and provide room for groups to discuss these issues 

For more information, venues, dates etc.

Please get in touch with if you would like us to deliver a workshop in your area.

Children in Migration Need Information on Reality, Not Just on Rights

Children in migration at all the stages of their journey to Europe should receive child-friendly and understandable information, which nevertheless must reflect the realities and difficulties they may face in the new environment, says the Council of Europe in a new report published 05/04/2018. The most effective way of providing the information is through personal verbal communication with professionally trained people the child trusts; leaflets and print material in clear language should be used as a complementary means; accurate peer-to-peer information should also be promoted. The report prepared by the Children Rights Division of the Council of Europe, as well as the accompanying video based on feedback from children in migration in Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece and Hungary, reflect the views of the children themselves, NGOs and child-protection authorities, and provide recommendations for further action.

Before leaving their home, the children said they had not received information about the difficulties they would face on the journey and integration in the host country. During the journey, they had only received incomplete information from smugglers, but had no information about who the authorities were, whom they could trust, where to find help or how to access their rights; this made them feel stressed and abandoned. Receiving information immediately upon arrival was considered important, but they were often overwhelmed and could not absorb and remember everything. Peer-to-peer communication via social media was seen by children as useful for learning from those with similar experiences and should be supported by professionals to ensure the accuracy of information.

Read more: Council of Europe,

Homeless Charity Helped Target Rough Sleepers to Deport

A leading homelessness charity has worked with Home Office patrols as they go out on the streets in search of rough sleepers deemed to be in the UK illegally to arrest and deport, the Guardian has learned. St Mungo’s is one of the largest providers of homelessness outreach services in the UK, with 17 outreach teams across the south and south-west. Its website says it is “here for every step of the journey away from homelessness” and its outreach teams work to “gradually build up trusting relationships” with people who are sleeping rough. But St Mungo’s has admitted to the Guardian that it has cooperated with Home Office immigration, compliance and enforcement (Ice) teams when they go looking for rough sleepers who are in the UK illegally. The Home Office’s approach has been deemed unlawful in some cases. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has suspended cooperation with the Ice patrols.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees - March 2018

Deteriorated Situations: Afghanistan, Colombia, Kosovo, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somaliland.

Conflict Risk Alerts for February: Afghanistan, Somaliland, Syria, Korean Peninsula

Resolution Opportunities: None

 January saw violence rise in Afghanistan, likely to continue in February as conflict parties compete to gain the upper hand ahead of spring offensives. Clashes look set to escalate in north-west Syria, with the regime ramping up its push against rebels and Turkey launching an assault on Kurdish-held Afrin.

In Yemen, southern separatists fought government forces, their erstwhile allies, to take control of Aden city in the south.

In West Africa, both Mali and Niger experienced a rise in jihadist violence, in Nigeria deadly attacks between herders and farmers spiralled, and Equatorial Guinea said it had thwarted an attempted coup.

In the Horn of Africa, Somaliland troops clashed with neighbouring Puntland’s forces and both sides looked to be preparing for more hostilities.

In Colombia, peace talks between the government and the National Liberation Army were suspended following a spate of guerrilla attacks.

The Venezuelan government’s announcement of early elec­tions sparked a crisis of confidence in talks with the opposition.

Meanwhile, peace talks between North and South Korea provide an opportunity for de-escalation, however the threat of war on the peninsula is higher now than at any time in recent history.

Source: International Crisis Group,

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 166

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 22 February and 6 March 2018.