News & Views Monday 26th July to Sunday 1st August 2021


More Than 50 Died in Home Office Asylum Seeker Accommodation in Past Five Years

More than 50 people have died in Home Office asylum seeker accommodation in the last five years, with the number increasing steeply over the past 18 months, the Guardian has learned. Three babies are recorded to have died, as well as three people who died as a result of Covid and four who killed themselves. Some of the deaths were because of health conditions such as heart problems, cancer or stroke. The 51 deaths, recorded in Home Office data and provided through a freedom of information request, date back to April 2016 with the most recent documented in June 2021. The causes of 31 of the 51 deaths, however, remain unconfirmed. There are about 60,000 people in Home Office accommodation, where the average age is considerably younger than the general population.

The information, provided in two responses to the Scottish Refugee Council and passed to the Guardian, marks some of the deaths as non-suspicious but offers no explanation for others. The Home Office says this is because a note explaining the cause of death was not recorded on their incident database. There has been a sharp increase in deaths in the last 18 months. The Home Office does not provide a year-on-year breakdown of the deaths in the FoI response, but does state that between February and June 2021 there were seven deaths. A separate FoI request by the Guardian revealed that there were 29 deaths in 2020. This suggests there were 15 deaths between 2016 and 2019.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Judicial Review Bill to Abolish Most Migrant Appeals

he Judicial Review and Courts Bill 2021, published yesterday, will mostly abolish the right of migrants to apply to the High Court to have an appeal reopened if rejected by both chambers of the immigration tribunal. This is the process, well known to lawyers, known as a Cart or Eba judicial review. Clause 2(2) of the Bill says that a decision of the Upper Tribunal to refuse to hear an appeal from the First-tier Tribunal is “final, and not liable to be questioned or set aside in any other court”.

I say “mostly abolish” because, as Alasdair MacKenzie points out, that is not quite the end of the matter. Clause 2(4) goes on to say that the above does not apply (i.e. a Cart/Eba judicial review will still be possible) in certain, limited circumstances: the permission application was invalid: the tribunal was not “properly constituted”: the tribunal acted in “bad faith” or “in fundamental breach of the principles of natural justice”

Read more: Freemovement,

Home Office Refuses to Explain Secret Sham Marriage Algorithm

The Home Office has rebuffed Public Law Project’s (PLP) latest attempt to find out more about the secret algorithmic criteria used to decide whether a proposed marriage should be investigated as a “sham”. Sham marriage investigations can be invasive and unpleasant and it appears that they are targeted at some nationalities more than others. PLP is concerned about the lack of transparency and possible discrimination involved in the automated triage system, and we would like to make contact with people who may be affected, as well as organisations that support them. If you know anyone either being investigated or at risk of investigation please get in touch.

The Sham Marriage Algorithm: Documents previously obtained by PLP under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 indicate that a triage system comes into play if one or both of a couple who have given notice to the registrar come from outside the European Economic Area, are not settled in the UK, or lack a valid visa. If one of these conditions is met, the couple is referred to the triage system.

Read more: Freemovement,



Asylum Camp Staff Were Working Illegally, Inspectors Say

It’s not the most damning part of yesterday’s inspection report on the asylum seeker camp at Napier barracks, but it’s certainly the most ironic. Some of the staff charged with running the camp were themselves migrants working in breach of their visa conditions, according to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

In a letter to the Home Office appended to the report, the inspector says that, when the [inspection] team visited Napier on 17-18 February they found that some employees were living onsite in squalid and unsafe accommodation and were seemingly working in breach of their student visa conditions. When I visited on 4 March, I was told that these individuals were no longer working for the sub-contractor as they were not willing to reduce their hours. The Home Office did not respond to this allegation when contacted by Free Movement.

Read more: Freemovement,

How the NHS Charging System is Failing Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Regulation 9 of The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 provides that the NHS in England cannot charge overseas visitors for treating a condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence or sexual violence. This is provided the overseas visitor did not travel to the UK for the purposes of seeking the treatment. (The regulations describe anyone who is chargeable for their care as “overseas visitors”, but this includes undocumented migrants and their children who have lived in England for many years, and who do not consider themselves visitors or temporary residents.)

NHS trusts do not have the systems in place to proactively identify victims of such violence and do not notify patients that exemptions exist. The workability of these exemptions depends on survivors knowing about the process, as well as feeling safe enough to disclose the violence to hospital staff.

While the exemptions can be relied upon by different types of victims, they can be particularly important for migrant women who are pregnant or new mothers — an increasing area of our work at Maternity Action.

Read more: Freemovement,

Displaced Talent Visa: Helping Refugees Apply For UK Work Permits

I am announcing that those displaced by conflict and violence will now also be able to benefit from access to our global points-based immigration system. To enable skilled displaced people who have had to flee their homes to come to the UK safely and legally through established routes. We will work with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries and other partners on this pilot project. [Priti Patel, 19 July 2021]

The announcement of the UK’s displaced talent mobility pilot is understandably generating interest in the immigration sector. The idea isn’t new but is unfamiliar in the UK, blending as it does humanitarian protection with more standard work permit policy. Having been involved in the project for a while, I’m delighted that it is happening and thought it might be useful to reflect on what the pilot is — and, just as importantly, what it is not.

What is the displaced talent mobility pilot? The scheme is designed to facilitate UK work permit applications by skilled refugees and displaced people from Jordan and Lebanon. The policy connection is clear: ministers had promised safe and legal routes for people in need, and this is a safe and legal way for those people to come to the UK.

Read more: Freemovement,