Priti Patels’ Immigration Reforms Mere Banal Rhetoric
Waving Immigration Flags and ‘Perfidious Albion’ - Fairness is apparently the value driving the Home Office’s reforms of the UK’s immigration and asylum laws. In her statement before the House of Commons on Wednesday, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, set out how the reforms seek to ‘increase the fairness of our system so we can protect and support those in genuine need of asylum’. Such banal rhetoric disguises how Johnson’s government, hot on the heels of slashing the international aid budget, is undermining the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in the world and further resiling from Britain’s international obligations.
The difficulties with the proposals begin with how the government has decided to assess if someone is in genuine need of refuge. Rather than focussing on why an asylum-seeker has fled their country, Patel has shifted the focus to how they fled. Seemingly, if you are able to stroll up to an airport ticket desk in the country you are fleeing from, go through security checks manned by immigration officials employed by the government persecuting you, and board a flight to Heathrow, your claim will be enhanced. If, on the other hand, you creep out of your house in the dead of night and trek across miles of perilous terrain, before – if you are lucky – squashing into a rickety dinghy and setting off across the Channel, your claim will be degraded. Perfidious Albion indeed.
Read more: Nicholas Reed Langen, Justice Gap, https://is.gd/u327zr
Rhetoric: language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
When is a Month Not a Month?
Time is definitely a relative concept, a new Upper Tribunal decision suggests, examining the issue of what constitutes a “month” for the purposes of the Immigration Rules on long residence. The case of Chang (paragraph 276A(a)(v); 18 months?)  UKUT 65 (IAC) involved an application under the ten-year lawful residence rule contained in paragraph 276B of the Rules, read in conjunction with paragraph 276A. People qualify for indefinite leave to remain under this provision after ten years’ residence in the UK, provided they’ve not been outside the country for more than 18 months cumulatively over the total period. So how long is 18 months exactly? I’ve always advised that the Home Office defines a month as 30 days – this is what the Long Residence guidance has said for many years. As such, a period of 18 months would constitute 540 days, making that the upper limit on absences from the UK. But it turns out there is no statutory source for this 30-day “rule” and the judge in this case was having none of it.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/sd3jJZ
Legal Challenge Seeks to Stop Ministers Sending Disappearing Messages
Ministers could be stopped from using self-destructing messages to conduct government business, following a legal challenge supported by an alliance of transparency campaigners and university archivists. WhatsApp recently introduced the option for users to make messages permanently disappear for both the sender and the recipient after seven days. Its privacy-focussed rival, Signal, used by many Conservative MPs, has had a similar function for some time. There are growing concerns that politicians and special advisers could be using such features to avoid accountability. Lawyers are now gearing up to bring a judicial review against the use of automatically disappearing messages, on the basis that using such functions makes it impossible to carry out the required legal checks about whether a message should be archived for posterity.
Cori Crider, a director of the campaigning law group Foxglove, said: “It’s not appropriate to conduct government business on disappearing-message platforms. “The basic point is that privacy is for the citizen and transparency is for the government. This government is amassing more and more data on all of us and we have less and less information on them. That has the democratic bargain exactly backwards.”
Read more: Jim Waterson, Guardain, https://is.gd/XABCZb
Latest Asylum Plan Won’t Have the Impact its Supporters or Opponents Think!
There is a lot that is familiar in the New Plan for Immigration. The government argues that its proposals are “firm but fair”, language eerily reminiscent of a 1998 Blair-era white paper entitled Fairer, Faster and Firmer. One thing that is new is the proposal that many of those who enter the UK without authorisation will be treated differently from other asylum seekers. They will not be entitled to the status of refugee, only being eligible some other lesser form of humanitarian temporary protection under which they may be (i) permanently liable for removal, (ii) have fewer rights to family reunion and (iii) are not entitled to access public funds unless destitute. Debate about this largely centres about whether this is legal and whether it is fair. But perhaps the bigger question is whether it will be effective in its stated aim of reducing the number of people who enter the UK without authorisation and then claim asylum.
The New Plan proposal is for penalties for those who enter illegally (in the sense of lower potential rewards). Whether the proposals violate Article 31 probably can and will be contested in the courts. The document does stipulate that the lesser temporary protection status will be imposed only on unauthorised arrivals who “did not come to the UK directly, did not claim without delay, or did not show good cause for their illegal presence” — language clearly designed to echo the caveats in Article 31.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/T3cCK6
Let More Refugees in if They’re Good for the Economy
The government should consider introducing visas for people both in need of humanitarian assistance and who can make an economic contribution to the UK, a new report suggests. The Social Market Foundation argues there should be a way for migrants to enter the UK on “combined economic integration and humanitarian grounds”, rather than maintaining the rigid distinction between economic migrants and refugees. The researchers point to a “hole” in UK immigration policy. People with both skills and humanitarian needs, but who don’t tick all the boxes for either a work visa or refugee status, end up “stuck in the middle”. “Many of these people are in only marginally better circumstances of humanitarian need than the most vulnerable refugees whom the UK is resettling”, the researchers point out, but “would on average have significantly better economic integration prospects in the UK”.
The report says that the government should explore programmes where people would be selected for UK visas “according to their humanitarian need, but also their propensity to integrate socially and contribute economically”. This could be done by adapting existing refugee resettlement schemes and/or the work visa system. On the former, the report suggests that “a rebooted and reformed Mandate Scheme could… allow initially hundreds, potentially thousands, of refugees with existing connections and better economic integration prospects, to enter the UK”. While the Points Based Immigration System could also offer extra points towards a work visa for migrants in “humanitarian distress”, on top of points earned for skills and qualifications.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/7xAIJt