News & Views Monday 21st May to Sunday 28th May 2018  

Victims Faced With Risk Of Deportation After Reporting Crimes To Police

It has recently been revealed that more than half of UK police forces may be reporting victims of crime to the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Department. Allegedly, once police officers establish that the victim might be in the UK illegally, they pass the person’s information to the Home Office and in addition to the allegation of crime being investigated, the victim’s immigration status is then also scrutinised by immigration officers. 

Some victims claim to have been arrested and sent to detention centres shortly after reporting a crime and they would reportedly have faced deportation if it were not for the last minute involvement of their solicitors. It is also alleged that witnesses of crimes who have precarious immigration statuses are reported to the Home Office by police forces.

If true, the situation is alarming as these people are usually victims of domestic violence or trafficking, who often suffer from serious physical and psychological effects. Knowing that they will be interviewed and have their immigration status questioned, victims and witnesses with uncertain immigration statuses are often too scared to report crimes, fearing that they will be referred to the Home Office and deported. Many victims of crimes are not aware that as part of an investigation, police carry out background checks on the victim as well as the suspect.

Migrant rights activists have harshly criticised this practice, warning that it could “lead to a two-tier justice system” where “those with precarious status feel they cannot trust the police with their safety”. Following recent backlash at the controversial agreement under which the NHS shared patients’ data with the Home Office, the government was criticised and it was said that “the obsession with making the UK a hostile place for foreign people at any human cost has put border controls in our hospitals, our schools and our banks – but targeting victims of crime is a new low.” 

In response to the angry public reaction, the National Police Chiefs’ Council stated that: “the police priority is to protect victims and investigate crime” and that they “are considering whether further advice to police forces is required”.

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

Former Immigration Detainees Can Seek Public Inquiry Over Abuse Claims

A high court judge has granted two former immigration detainees permission to seek an independent public inquiry into claims of systemic abuse in an immigration removal centre (IRC). Both men were featured in an undercover BBC Panorama broadcast filmed last September at Brook House IRC near Gatwick airport. The first detainee was filmed being throttled by a member of G4S staff. Despite the findings, the Home Office recently awarded G4S a new contract to run Brook House for a further two years.

The programme revealed a culture of chaos with officials mocking, abusing and assaulting detainees, prompting G4S to order an independent review. Ten staff were suspended and one has been interviewed under police caution. Brook House’s director, Ben Saunders, resigned soon after the programme was aired. The Home Office’s professional standards unit (PSU) conducted an internal inquiry into the abuse revealed by the undercover filming. Court documents in the proceedings on Tuesday reveal for the first time the Home Office’s findings that G4S’s treatment of the man who was throttled “degraded” him and amounted to “inhuman treatment”. The report found that there was collusion by G4S staff not to record the events.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Proposed Changes to Data Rules Could Threaten Immigration Status of Thousands

A new data protection bill would prevent individuals from obtaining information from the Home Office relating to their immigration status, known as a ‘subject access request’ (SAR). The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals a right to access information that is held about them, however the new bill proposes that the Home Office be exempt, which would enable it to refuse these requests. MPs voted last week to allow the Home Office to refuse these requests. According to the Home Office, in 2016, the last year that figures were released, there were almost 30,000 SARs – a considerable increase from just over 22,000 in 2010. The large number of SARs made to the Home Office in 2016 suggests that they have become increasingly important to individuals who seek to challenge a Home Office decision on their immigration.

Particularly in the context of immigration, the right of individuals to obtain information on themselves is crucial as this can bring to light errors made by case workers and provide information that can overturn a falsely reached immigration decision. A briefing produced by the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association details numerous cases in which extremely serious consequences have been avoided owing to this right to access such information.

A spokesman from The Law Society has said: “when the government removed legal aid for most immigration cases, they made it harder for people to challenge Home Office decisions. Now they are seeking to remove the last avenue people have to understand and contest these decisions, which will put the immigration status of tens of thousands of people at risk”. In light of current reports of a ‘hostile environment policy’ at the Home Office, the recent Windrush scandal and increased reporting on Home Office failings, it is felt that this exemption would be in the interest of the Home Office, as it would allow it to prevent public knowledge of such mistakes. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office: “if the exemption is applied, individuals will not be able to access their personal data to identify any factual inaccuracies and it will mean that the system lacks transparency and is fundamentally unfair.”

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,

Germany to Roll Out Mass Holding Centres For Asylum Seekers

Mass holding centres that Germany’s interior ministry wants to roll out across the country will stoke social tension between locals and migrants and undermine the welcoming image the country has gained in the eyes of the world, aid organisations have said. So-called anchor centres – an acronym for arrival, decision, return – are designed to speed up deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers, by containing large groups of people and the authorities who rule on their claims inside the same holding facility.

Until now, Germany’s policy has been to embed new arrivals in communities across the country. But Angela Merkel’s government is seeking to reverse its strategy, as a populist backlash builds against the chancellor’s handling of the refugee crisis. “We all know how difficult it is to deport people without protected status after they have been spread out across the country and put down roots in our cities and communities,” the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, told the German parliament last week. In the future the end of an asylum application will coincide with the start of the deportation procedure,” said the leader of the CSU and former Bavarian state premier, adding that he wanted to see states set up the new centres this autumn.

Read more: Philip Oltermann, Guardian,

Early Day Motion 1294: Gaza UNHRC Commission of Inquiry Into Violations of International Law          

That this House welcomes the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on 18 May 2018 to establish an independent, international Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of large-scale civilian protests in the occupied Palestinian territory; regrets the failure of the Government to join 29 partner countries on the HRC in condemning the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians; believes the reasons given by the Government for its abstention from the vote do not bear scrutiny as the HRC resolution calls on all parties to ensure that future demonstrations remain peaceful and to abstain from actions that could endanger the lives of civilians; calls, as the remit of the Inquiry is to investigate all human rights violations and as the resolution, both on Israel and the occupying power and on all relevant parties to co-operate with the commission of inquiry and facilitate its access; and further calls on the Government to make good on the statements by the Minister for the Middle East to hon. Members during the Urgent Question on events in Gaza answered in the House on 15 May 2018 by giving its active support to the HRC Commission of Inquiry and upholding in practice the principle of accountability for violations of international law.

House of Commons, 21/05/2018,

Put Your MP to Work – Ask Them to Sign EDM 1294
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Applying for British Citizenship: Common and Avoidable Reasons for Refusal

If you have been settled in the United Kingdom now for some time, you may be preparing to apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen.  This is an area of immigration fraught with obstacles, which are surmountable if one knows what the Home Office are looking for. This article is written with the intention of setting out the most common reasons for, and how to avoid, refusal.

1. Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirement
This requirement applies to any applicant over ten years of age and, frustratingly, there is no definition for good character within the British Nationality Act 1981. The absence of statutory clarity may be part of the reason why many applicants find themselves faced with a refusal on the grounds of not satisfying the “good character” requirement.

There is however guidance in Annex D to Chapter 18 of the Nationality Guidance, which delineates upon why a decision maker will consider an applicant to not be of good character, these are:
• Criminal convictions, non-custodial sentences, and other out of court disposals;
• War crimes, crimes against humanity, or terrorism;
• Inappropriate financial affairs, notably a failure to pay taxes
• Notoriety, chiefly a persistence of bad behaviour in a local or wider community
• Dishonesty or deception when submitting an application to the UK Government;
• Evasion of immigration control; and
• They have previously been deprived of citizenship

2. Not meeting the English Language requirement

If you are a national of a country not listed by the Home Office as English speaking, you may have to sit and pass an English language test, which will expire after two years. It is worth remarking that an applicant may use their degree certificate as evidence, if their subject was taught to them in English.

This requirement may appear not appear burdensome if you are well versed with the language, nonetheless it should be dealt with due care as it is not uncommon for an applicant to provide an invalid English language certificate. It is practical to ensure you have booked the right test, otherwise you may be looking at a refusal.

3. Not meeting the residence requirement

To meet the residence requirements set out in section 6(1) of The British Nationality Act 1981 an applicant must be resident in the United Kingdom for a period of five years ending with the date of application. During this time the applicant must have had no more than 450 days outside of the United Kingdom, with a maximum of 90 days in the final 12 months prior to application.

Exceeding your allowed absences is very common, however it is not terminal to your application provided you are able to provide an explanation supported by evidence. The Home Office are permitted a modicum of discretion in cases where an applicant has spent more than 450 days outside of the UK, but only if the applicant meets the remaining requirements and the period of days is not excessive.

Source: McGill & Co,

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 171

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 8 May and 21 May 2018.

Download the full document:

Home Office Faces Pressure Over Deportation of Highly Skilled Migrants

A group of about 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords are to establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop deporting highly skilled migrants using a paragraph of the immigration rules designed to tackle terrorism and people judged to be a threat to national security. Lord Dick Taverne, QC, in a letter to the Guardian, says he will launch a campaign to lobby the Home Office until it ceases turning Theresa May’s “much-vaunted vision of an open Britain into a closed Britain through the heavy-handed and unconscionable use of this controversial paragraph of the immigration rules, which is denuding Britain of those with the special skills our industries need – and doing so in the cruellest of ways”. At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing deportation for making minor amendments to their tax records under paragraph 322(5), according to the support group Highly Skilled Migrants.

Read more: Amelia Hill, Guardian,