Home Office Spent £10,000 Per Deportee in Rush to Remove Asylum Seekers Before Brexit
New data obtained through freedom of information laws shows that £2.3m was spent on forcibly removing 225 people to European countries in July, August and September this year – double the amount spent on deportation flights in the previous quarter, when 285 people were removed. On average, the cost of removing each deportee – many of whom were asylum seekers – was just over £10,100, compared with £3,900 in the second quarter of the year. As a comparison, a commercial flight ticket from the UK to Australia costs just over £900. Some of the charter flights that have left the UK since July 2020 took off with a fraction of the plane’s capacity onboard, with flights to Finland and Sweden carrying six and five people respectively, and one to France carrying a single deportee. It comes amid concerns that the Home Office is “rushing” through deportations of asylum seekers under Dublin III – a regulation that allows the UK to send refugees back to EU countries they have passed through – which will cease to exist when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
A report by the Prison Inspectorate published earlier this month found that late cancellations of removal directions were “not unusual”, with numerous deportees having been taken off charter flights hours before they were due to take off in recent months. In one case cited in the report, a charter flight to France in October that was due to take 30 deportees – most or all of whom were asylum seekers – ended up deporting just one person, with nine people taken off on the same day as the flight. Charlie Taylor, HM chief inspector of prisons, said: “Such cancellations were commonplace and suggest that detainees’ vulnerabilities, which often lead to cancellations, are not identified early enough.”
Read more: May Bulman, Independent, https://is.gd/4jlHJm
Why the Migrants’ Rights Sector Should Care About Big Data
Last month, UN special rapporteur on racism Professor Tendayi Achiume raised concerns about the impact of digital technologies on human rights. Achiume’s comments come at a time when governments are relying more and more on digital tools to control migration. In the UK, we’ve already seen the government use data for the surveillance and control of migrants and refugees as part of its hostile environment measures to deter irregular migrants. This has had a detrimental effect on the migrant population, causing people to avoid using health care services and reporting crime for fear of arrest, detention or deportation. The use of new technologies in migration management raises a number of issues. As Petra Molnar of the University of Toronto has written: “The way that technology is used is a useful lens through which to highlight State practices and raise questions about democracy, power and accountability”. In this context, how can migrants’ rights organisations best protect the rights and interests of their clients?
Open Rights Group has been trying to identify ways in which we can work alongside the migrants’ rights sector to tackle digital rights and privacy issues. Earlier this year, we carried out a joint survey with Privacy International to gain a better understanding of the needs and capacities of the sector to deal with privacy, personal data, digital and technological changes. Survey respondents included frontline service providers, legal advisers and policy, advocacy and campaigning organisations. he results are detailed in our recently published report Immigration, Data and technology: Needs and Capacities of the Immigration Sector.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/8Imf2a
New Visa Rules on Invalidity Will Create More Overstayers
The Home Office recently introduced a set of new validity requirements for visa applications under the Points Based Immigration System, such as the Skilled Worker route. This is significant because an invalid application doesn’t extend your permission to be in the UK while it is being considered (what’s called “section 3C leave”). So if you dutifully apply to extend your visa just before it expires, and the application is later rejected as invalid because you failed to meet a validity requirement, it will be like you never made an application. You’re now an overstayer.
The new requirements are category-specific and import what used to be eligibility rules into the validity section. Many are things that cannot be rectified. So if you apply under UK Ancestry and you’re not a Commonwealth citizen, or you are applying in-country and do not already have permission in this category, your application is invalid. There is no way to rectify the failure to meet these two requirements.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/1zFdih
Home Office Criticised for Refusal to State Deportees' Nationalities
Campaign groups and Labour have accused the Home Office of lacking transparency even after the Windrush scandal because it refuses to say how many people of different nationalities have been deported from the UK after committing crimes in recent years. The Home Office has repeatedly declined to provide breakdowns of deportations by nationality, saying to do this risked harming relations with other countries, and could adversely affect immigration controls. The explanation prompted concern from campaign groups, who said the only reason the information could affect relations would be if it showed certain nationalities were being disproportionately targeted for removal. Deportations, particularly to Jamaica, have become an increasingly contentious issue in recent months, with some of those removed having lived in the UK since they were children, or for many years, with close family links.
Both the home secretary, Priti Patel, and Boris Johnson have accused “activist lawyers” of launching spurious, last-minute cases to thwart detention flights, prompting warnings from the legal profession that such rhetoric could endanger lawyers. The Guardian asked the Home Office under freedom of information laws to provide a breakdown by nationality of foreign nationals deported in the past five years under the 2007 UK Borders Act, which requires deportation for those jailed for 12 months or longer. In refusing the request, the Home Office confirmed it held the information, but would not, because to do so was “likely to prejudice diplomatic relations between the UK and a foreign government”, and could “prejudice the operation of immigration controls”. An internal review of the decision by the Home Office upheld the decision. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is now examining whether the data should be released.
Read more: Peter Walker, Guardian, https://is.gd/40qIZj
Asylum Seekers Protest in Napier Barracks in Folkestone
A group of asylum seekers housed in a Kent barracks have staged a protest against their conditions. The group have unveiled banners saying that the conditions at Napier Barracks in Folkestone are unsafe. The barracks are currently housing up to 400 people who are seeking refuge in the UK but authorities have come under fire after conditions were described as not Covid-safe. Slogans on the banners in the protests read "We are at risk of Covid" and "We are ignored".
They also hit out at the difficulty of social distancing, following reports of 25 people sharing a toilet and bedroom, while 13 people crowd around two tables at meal times. Tensions have hit new heights recently, with a video surfacing last month showing asylum seekers and police clashing during a disturbance at the camp. In September, the charity Detention Action, which supports people held under immigration powers, labelled the arrangement at the barracks 'inappropriate'.
Director Bella Sankey said: "Use of an army barracks to house traumatised asylum seekers is inappropriate enough, and now we hear Government is packing people in 20 to a room. "It is difficult to see how this can comply with Covid guidance, nor risk undermining public health.
Source: KentOnLine, https://is.gd/L6DOBW