News & Views Monday 15th July to Sunday 21st July 2019


Protecting Rights of Migrant, Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Women and Girls

The Gender Equality Division of the Council of Europe has produced a new Factsheet on protecting the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls. This is part of the implementation of the 2018-2023 Gender Equality Strategy which includes a new strategic objective on ensuring that migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women have access to their human and social rights notably in relation to asylum, protection, employment, health, housing, education, legal aid and support structures.

The publication aims at providing an analysis of the situation and discrimination and violence that migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls are confronted with. It tackles the need for gender-responsive policies and measures in countries of origin and destination. In line with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, State parties must in particular ensure that the grounds for asylum are interpreted in a gender-sensitive way and that reception and asylum procedure are also gender-sensitive. Indeed, the outcome of migration for a woman, whether positive or negative, depends on their personal circumstances, but also on existing laws and policies which determine levels of protection and integration.

Download the Factsheet:

Draft Domestic Abuse Bill Fails Migrant Victims

Over 2 million people endure domestic abuse in the UK each year (1.3m women, 695,000 men). Costing the UK £66bn each year, the private ‘behind closed doors’ nature of domestic abuse means that such numbers are merely a reflection of the vast scale of the problem.

Efforts to address the reality faced by survivors has led to the development of the Domestic Abuse (DA) Bill 2019. Alarmingly, the draft Bill offers very little safety and support for migrant survivors.

The DA Bill fails to acknowledge the obstacles faced by migrant victims of abuse. The realities faced by migrant victims mean they’re likely to have a lack of confidence in their English-speaking ability.

They may have very few close family members and friends in the country (if any). Furthermore, they are likely to feel culturally and socially isolated. Olivia Bridge, political correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service, has highlighted how a combination of these factors along with a diminished understanding of UK law all ‘work as a vehicle to push migrant victims into total silence’.

Many migrant women in abusive relationships are further trapped by their immigration status. They are unable to trust that the law will prioritise them and their safety over their status. To be just, the Bill must ensure that all women can access support.

Read more: Julia Babiarz, Law Gazette,

Home Office Lied to EU States so it Could Deport Slavery Victims

The Home Office lied to EU member states to remove victims of human trafficking and modern slavery in breach of European law, according to whistleblowers. Legal experts have said the practice is “unthinkable” and “a disgraceful and illegal manipulation of the system”. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has urged the sources to contact Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee. “These are clearly serious allegations which must be properly investigated,” said Khan’s spokesperson.

Whistleblowers allege that, while operating as the third country unit, the now renamed Dublin cessation unit (DCU) regularly lied to other member states and manipulated the system by sending them “extra time” letters, falsely claiming asylum applicants had launched appeals. These letters remove the deadline – usually six months – after which someone seeking asylum can no longer be removed from the UK and sent to the EU country determined to be responsible for assessing their claim. The practice, which started in 2013, apparently continued until at least December last year, the sources say.
Read more: Amelia Hill, Guardian,

Home Office Outsourcing Immigration Operations ‘On The Cheap’

The Home Office has been outsourcing immigration operations “on the cheap” because of funding shortages and a lack of interest from ministers, the government’s own chief inspector of borders has admitted.
David Bolt, who provides independent scrutiny of the UK’s border and immigration management, told The Independent that in order to “manage its capacity”, the Home Office had made subcontracting part of its “modus operandi” – and as a consequence had reduced control over its own operations.

He questioned whether there was “sufficient visibility” around the way the department had increasingly placed the onus on external agencies, such as landlords and doctors, to carry out immigration checks, and around the manner in which immigration detention, visa processing and other provisions had been outsourced to private firms.

The department has come under fire over the past year for wrongly treating those with a right to live in the UK as illegal immigrants under its hostile environment policies – an issue encapsulated by the Windrush scandal – and has been accused of creating barriers to applying for UK status through its decision to privatise the visa system.
The chief inspector said that while Home Office processes that had adequate funding and “enthusiasm” from ministers were working well, such as the EU settlement scheme, other operations were not being so effectively executed.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

EU Migrants' £4.3bn Contribution to UK 'Should be Spent on Poor'

The £4.3bn contributed by EU migrants to the UK economy should be earmarked in a special fund for disadvantaged communities, an influential thinktank has suggested, a plan which could form part of a “remain and reform” offer in a future referendum. The report by Global Future, backed by Labour MPs including Yvette Cooper and Lisa Nandy, suggests the fund could be paid for by the Treasury by reversing planned cuts to corporation tax. The multi-billion pound fund could then be used to address poor infrastructure, skills training and connectivity in areas that often have the greatest concerns about EU migration – which may have prompted significant leave votes.

Its director, Peter Starkings, said the fund would address the problems of inequality that had prompted the Brexit vote but which leaving the EU would not solve. “Leavers voted for Brexit because they felt that Britain wasn’t working for them,” he said. “Remainers need to take that seriously and produce a plan for real reform if they are going to change any minds. We believe the migration dividend fund could be central to that agenda – and our proposals are backed by the public, including two thirds of leavers and 70% of remainers.” The report suggests the cash should be locally managed and administered, with the government’s role being limited to coordinating and evaluating the scheme, and that funding should be guaranteed for at least 10 years, meaning at least £120m per area over a decade.

Read more: Jessica Elgot, Guardian,

Immigration Detention: Victims of Modern Slavery

Minister for Immigration (Caroline Nokes)
Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime, and the Government are determined to stamp it out. In my role as Immigration Minister, I am especially aware of the shocking exploitation of vulnerable individuals from overseas who are duped by the promise of a better life in the UK, only to be trafficked and sold into modern slavery. Identifying and protecting victims of such crimes is a priority. In October 2017, we announced an ambitious package of reforms to the national referral mechanism. As well as improving the support on offer, these reforms are intended to provide quicker and more certain decision making, in which victims can have confidence.
I must make it clear, however, that being recognised as a victim of modern slavery does not automatically result in being granted immigration status in the UK. There may be victims of modern slavery who have no lawful basis to remain and for whom support is available to leave the UK voluntarily. It is important that we recognise the important role of our immigration policies. Although we are committed to supporting individuals to leave voluntarily, including with reintegration support, there may be occasions when they have exhausted all options and are refusing to leave, and we are faced with the difficult decision of detaining people to secure their return.

I want to reassure the House that we do not take these decisions lightly, but it may be necessary to detain individuals, even if they are vulnerable, to effect their removal. When that is the case, we seek to keep the period of detention as short as possible and place their welfare and safeguarding at the heart of what we do. The Home Secretary made clear his commitment to going further and faster with reforms to immigration detention, including by reducing the number of people we detain, increasing the number of voluntary returns and working with partners on alternatives to detention. We have made real progress in delivering these commitments. A number of women who would otherwise have been detained are now being managed in the community. Other pilots will begin later this year.

As we approach the first anniversary of Stephen Shaw’s second independent review of immigration detention, it is important to take stock of how far we have come, while acknowledging that there is much more to do to ensure that our approach to immigration detention is fair and humane.

House of Commons, Hansard, 17-07-2019,

Climate Displacement - Empty Villages, Relocation Policies, Peace Committees

Vulnerable communities around the world have long known what the aid sector is just beginning to articulate: climate change is a humanitarian issue, and its fingerprints are all over today’s emergencies.

What’s new: Climate shocks and disasters continued to fuel displacement around the globe through the first half of the year, from tropical cyclones to slow-burning droughts. Pacific Island nations were on high alert early in the year as storm after storm swept through the region in quick succession. Conflict is as dangerous as ever in Afghanistan, yet the number of people displaced by drought and floods in recent months is on par with the numbers fleeing war. Drought has left 45 million in need in eastern, southern, and the Horn of Africa. This, along with conflict, has spurred new displacement in countries like Somalia, where at least 49,000 people have fled their homes so far this year, according to UNHCR. The UN’s refugee agency warns of “growing climate-related displacement” – a sign of the continuing shift in the aid sector as humanitarian-focused agencies increasingly underline the links between climate change and crises.

Why we’re watching: Disaster displacement is nothing new, of course, but what’s rapidly evolving is the ability to trace the roots of these crises to a changing climate. One example: research released late last year found that climate change doubled the likelihood of extreme pre-monsoon rains that struck northeastern Bangladesh in 2017. In March, two years after the resulting floods, our reporting from the epicentre found half-empty villages and rice farmers abandoning their failing crops to move to Dhaka, the congested capital, for good. The World Bank estimates there could be 140 million internal climate migrants by 2050. There are complex economic reasons why people pack up and leave, and quantifying the sheer scale of climate displacement is an inexact science because of this. But Bangladesh’s northeast rice bowl offers a real-time glimpse of how these staggering displacement warnings unfold: one depleted village at a time.

Read more: Shafiqul Alam, IRIN,

What Does It Mean To Hold Indefinite Leave In The UK?

Indefinite Leave to Remain (“ILR”) or Indefinite Leave to Enter (“ILE”), also referred to as settlement or permanent residence, are types of immigration status in the UK which mean there is no longer a time limit on a person’s ability to stay in the UK.

Some examples of the benefits of holding ILR or ILE include:

being free to work in the UK in a business, employment (including self-employment) or profession;

being free to study in the UK;

generally being able to access healthcare under the National Health Service (although there may be some exceptions).

If you hold ILR or ILE, your Biometric Residence Permit (“BRP”) will state either ‘indefinite leave to remain’, ‘indefinite leave to enter’ or ‘no time limit’. It may also state ‘settlement’. It is important to note that your BRP will be valid for up to 10 years and you will need to apply for a replacement. Home Office guidance suggests this is done no later than 3 months before the expiry of the BRP to ensure your replacement document is obtained before the current BRP expires. When travelling outside the UK, you should always take your BRP card with you in order to re-enter at the border.

There are various routes to obtaining ILR, the most common being an application after having been resident in the UK for 5 years. However, this is not the only requirement and migrants must be mindful of their absences from the UK over the 5 year period should they wish to obtain ILR. There are strict rules regarding the time they need to spend in the UK before being eligible to apply. It is also vital to consider your absences from the UK should you intend to later apply for British nationality, because the rules governing absences for nationality applications are different and are more restrictive. Usually, a migrant must have been living in the UK for at least 12 months after obtaining indefinite leave before they can apply for citizenship. Migrants married to British citizens may be able to apply for citizenship immediately after obtaining ILR.

There are also other routes where ILR may be obtained in less than 5 years.

If you believe you hold ILR but do not have a document to evidence your leave, you may be able to make an application to obtain a BRP in order to evidence your status in the UK. These applications are known as ‘No Time Limit’ (NTL) applications.

Further, if your BRP card is lost or stolen you must report this to the police and the Home Office as soon as possible in order for the card to be cancelled. You can then make an application for a replacement BRP.

Unlike citizenship, ILR can be lost if you cease to reside in the UK (this will be dealt with in a later blog). However, the common ways in which ILR can be lost are ceasing to reside in the UK or if you remain outside the UK for a continuous period of 2 years or more (or 5 years for those who were granted settled status under the EU settlement scheme).

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,