News & Views Monday 11th February to Sunday 17th February 2019


Asylum Requests in Europe Back to Pre-Crisis Levels

Requests for asylum in Europe have gone back to their levels before the 2015 migrant crisis, while applicants’ chances of success have also gone down, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) says in its latest annual review, published on Thursday. In 2018, 634,700 persons filed applications for asylum in European countries (the EU, Switzerland and Norway). This was 10% lower than in 2017 and the third annual decline after the unprecedented influx linked to the 2015 migrant crisis. Last year’s tally was comparable to the 641,000 applications recorded in 2014. Syrians were the largest group of applicants, making up 74,800 of the cases registered, followed by Afghans (45,300) and Iraqis (42,100). The three nationalities represented a quarter of last year’s total caseload.

However, there was a significant increase in the number of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Europe from the severe political crisis in their country. Asylum requests from Venezuelans doubled to 22,000, making them the 8th largest group.  Iranians (5th) submitted 25,000 requests, with a huge increase in the second half of the year due largely to the suspension of the visa obligation between September 2017 and October 2018 by Serbia, a gateway to an EU country.

EASO said 593,000 first-instance decisions were issued last year, 40% fewer than in 2017. Asylum was granted to 34% of first-instance applicants, who were awarded either refugee status or subsidiary protection. This rate was 6% lower than in 2017. Approval rates vary widely according to applicants’ nationalities, ranging from 87% for Syrians and Yemenis and 82% for Eritreans, to 4% for Gambians and 5% for Senegalese. Asylum chances also depended on the countries where the applications were filed, ranging from 6% to 98% for Afghans, from 8% to 98% for Iraqis, from 27% to 100% for Syrians and from 1% to 10% for Albanians.

Source: Andy Sanchez, The Brussels Times,

Detained Migrants Swindled Out Of £27 Million In Wages 

Detained migrants have been swindled out of more than £27 million worth of work they are paid just £1 an hour to do, the Morning Star can reveal. The Home Office pays asylum-seekers and other migrants the measly sum, a fraction of the minimum wage, for work inside detention centres.

However, the Star calculates that if they were paid the minimum wage they would have earned £27.7m more over the last decade. Detainees carry out the jobs while they are locked up waiting for a decision on their citizenship applications. They are exempt from minimum wage protections, despite not serving criminal sentences. Under detention centre rules, they can work up to 30 hours a week on jobs that include cleaning toilets and removing body fat from shower drains.

Detainees have clocked up approximately five million hours since 2009, and earned around £5m from the Home Office, according to freedom of information requests by the Star.

We calculate that if they had received the minimum wage, which rose steadily over the last decade, they would have earned nearly £33.5m.
We will keep demanding the data to put pressure on the Home Office as part of a new Morning Star campaign — No More Sweated Labour — launched today for detainees to earn the minimum wage.
Reacting to our investigation, Labour’s shadow Home Office minister Lord Rosser condemned the scheme as exploitative and hypocritical.

Read more: Morning Star,

Free Victor Mujakachi – Appeal for Your Support from Assist Sheffield

No Deportations to Zimbabwe.

Release our friends from detention.

Zimbabwe is Not Safe

Tuesday 19th February 9am Vulcan House, Sheffield Home Office S3 8NU

We are deeply concerned about the safety of our friend. Victor was detained when reporting at Vulcan House, Sheffield on the 11 February. We fear for his safety should he be forcibly returned to Zimbabwe. Victor is an outspoken critic of successive Zimbabwean governments and has expressed worries for his safety, should he be returned, especially given the recent brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in the country.

Our friend and fellow volunteer Victor Mujakachi was detained when reporting at Vulcan House this morning (11 February) along with another Zimbabwean asylum seeker known to ASSIST.  We understand that they have been taken to the immigration removals centre at Morton Hall and that the Home Office is in the process of preparing for their imminent deportation.

We know many of you will be saddened by the news as we all are at ASSIST Sheffield. Please do follow us on social media for updates.
We are calling on all ASSIST volunteers and supporters to contact the Home Secretary to demand the immediate release of Victor and other Zimbabwean asylum seekers from immigration detention and to put a stop to all plans for deportations to Zimbabwe.

Take Action Now!

Sign our petition

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC) COI Update Vol. 187

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 January and 4 February 2019.

Download the full report:

G4S Faces Prosecution Over Smoking At Immigration Detention Centre

The security company G4S is facing prosecution for allegedly failing to implement a smoking ban at an immigration removal centre, in the first case of its kind. Crawley council is bringing the highly unusual prosecution, and a court summons ordering G4S to appear at Crawley magistrates court next month has been issued. The council is bringing the case against both G4S Plc and G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd for alleged breaches of health and safety legislation on various dates last year at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport. The first hearing will take place on 6 March.

To circumvent the ban the Guardian has learned that detainees are using various creative but highly dangerous methods of lighting cigarettes indoors – dismantling kettle plugs and using live wires, placing pins dipped in shower gel in plug sockets to get a spark or placing foil in microwaves and using the flame when it caught fire to light a cigarette.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

'Frail' Edinburgh Couple Granted Leave to Stay In UK

An elderly Iranian couple, threatened with deportation to Iran, have been granted leave to stay in the UK. Mozaffar Saberi, 83, and Rezvan Habibimarand, 73, have lived in Edinburgh since the 1970s. Despite buying a flat in the city more than 40 years ago, they had never sought UK citizenship.
The Home Office has informed the couple - grandparents of Scotland rugby international Damien Hoyland - that they will be issued with visas within days. The couple's lawyer, John Vassiliou from McGill & Co Solicitors, revealed on Tuesday that a letter had been sent by the Home Office to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) requesting the court's permission for the pending appeal to be withdrawn. He said this should be actioned by the court in the next few days and then the Home Office can proceed to issue visas to the couple. Mr Saberi and Mrs Habibimarand's leave will be valid for a period of 30 months and will be renewable every 30 months until they have been in the UK for a total of 120 months. This means that in around 10 years' time they will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain and one year after that, if they wish to do so, they may apply for British citizenship.

BBC News,

Just 6% O of Vulnerable Detainees Released From UK Immigration Centres

Only 6% of detainees classified as “vulnerable and at risk” after abuse including torture, sexual violence or trafficking were subsequently released from UK immigration centres, according to new data. Annual government figures reveal that just 364 of 6,300 individuals who were identified by doctors and social workers as at particular risk of harm were subsequently allowed out of detention.
The cases were identified as part of a scheme introduced in 2016 that was designed to keep vulnerable adults out of detention. Campaigners said the figures were totally “unacceptable,” particularly after the Windrush scandal.

Earlier this week the joint committee on human rights (JCHR) called for immigration detention powers to be stripped from the Home Office and passed to independent judges. Sonya Sceats, the chief executive of the charity Freedom from Torture, said: “These figures are a shocking indictment of the home secretary [Sajid Javid]’s high-profile but floundering agenda to make the immigration system more humane in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal.

Read more: Mark Townsend, Guardian,

Asylum: Zimbabwe: Written question - 216944   12 February 2019

Asked by Kate Hoey

Asylum: Zimbabwe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on what date his Department began the practice of using Zimbabwean embassy officials to interview Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers; what assessment his Department has made of the effect on the safety of those individuals of engaging with the Zimbabwean Embassy; what discussions he has had with the Zimbabwean diaspora on this practice; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by: Caroline Nokes

In the second half of 2018, the Government, with officials from the Embassy of Zimbabwe, started co-operating on redocumenting Zimbabwean nationals without a right to remain in the UK, including Foreign National Offenders;

Re-documentation interviews with officials from countries of return are a standard part of Home Office process where an interview is required by the receiving country to enable the confirmation of nationality and identity, in order for a travel document to be produced.

In conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Home Office officials routinely meet with the representatives from the Zimbabwe Diaspora Focus Group (ZDFG). The most recent meeting was in October 2018, at which immigration returns to Zimbabwe was discussed.

Rules Toughen For People Seeking Citizenship With New English Language Requirements

The government has toughened rules for people seeking UK citizenship with new English language requirements. The Life in the UK citizenship test aims to encourage better integration places greater emphasis on promoting British values and the English language. In schools, teachers will be supported to promote British values across the curriculum and there will be a new national strategy for the English language. “We cannot ignore the fact that too many places across the country have divides,” Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said. The Tory MP said divisions stop people making the most of the opportunities available. The plan sets out a series of steps the government will take in England – supported by £50m in funding – to create “stronger, more confident and integrated communities”.

Read more: Independent,