Bureaucratic Slow Violence Against Refugees - Aspen Card Scandal
The Home Office has privately admitted that thousands of asylum seekers continue to be left without working payment cards for more than ten days after their financial support was cut off during a Home Office contract changeover. The Home Office switched off asylum seekers’ debit cards on May 21. Families were told to expect to have their cards from Monday 24 May. But more than a week later, thousands are in a state of near destitution. Men, women and families with babies and children have been forced into a state of destitution after their Aspen cards (a form of debit card issued to asylum seekers so they can buy basic supplies) stopped working.
Last week the Home Office sought to minimise the scale of the problem and the suffering caused and in some of it’s statements appeared to suggest that asylum seekers themselves were to blame for the issues caused rather than the system itself. The problems have arisen after a Home Office decision to end its Aspen card contract with facilities management company Sodexo and begin a new contract with financial technology firm Prepaid Financial Services, which is currently mired in controversy to do with about money laundering concerns. It remains to be seen whether the new cards work properly. We have had multiple reports that cards either have no money on them, or they work once and then stop working a few days later.
Read more: Positive Action, https://is.gd/ZKXe3z
Government Plans to Restrict Judicial Review Will Weaken Rule of Law
Proposals to restrict judicial review are an affront to the principles of fairness and government accountability and should be dropped, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has said. In a letter to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, the signatories, including Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green party and Scottish National party MPs, say changes to the way legal challenges against the government can be brought are unjustified. After a four-week consultation, the government confirmed in the Queen’s speech that it would press ahead with a judicial review bill, legislating to “restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts”.
In their letter to Buckland, the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, Labour’s Clive Lewis, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC, the Green MP Caroline Lucas and 28 others say the proposals “would weaken both individuals and the courts, and effectively put government actions beyond the reach of the law. “Together, these changes would make it much harder for people to put things right when mistakes are made or governments overstep their bounds. They would undermine the rule of law and the crucial principles of fairness and accountability.” A judicial review is a court proceeding where a judge examines the lawfulness of an action or a decision of a public body. The review looks at the way a decision has been reached, rather than the rights and wrongs of that decision.
Read more: Haroon Siddique, Guardian, https://is.gd/j8KY0N
Migrants Win Improved Access to Personal Data Held by the Home Office
Giving migrants in the UK reduced data protection rights without proper safeguards is unlawful, the Court of Appeal held yesterday 26th May. The judgment overturns a 2019 High Court ruling and is a significant victory for the campaign groups involved, who have long campaigned against the so-called “immigration exemption”. The case is R (Open Rights Group & the3million) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor  EWCA Civ 800.
The Immigration Exemption - Data protection laws give people various rights over their personal information, including to request a copy of what an organisation has on file about them. Nick has described this particular right as “crucial” for people trying to get information about their immigration case out of the black box that is the Home Office.
But the Data Protection Act 2018, unlike its 1998 predecessor, contains an exemption. Paragraph 4, Schedule 2 says that the right of access to one’s data (among others) does not apply in the context of “immigration control”.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/6Vz5om
Podcast: How Not to Support Victims of Human Trafficking
Last year over 10,000 people were identified as possible victims of human trafficking or modern slavery, around two thirds of whom were foreign nationals from places like Albania, Sudan and Vietnam. That’s just a drop in the ocean, given that an estimated 100,000 victims are out there at any one time. Nevertheless, the existence of a support system for victims can provide exploited migrants with important rights — so naturally the government is keen to reduce the number of people helped by it.
In this podcast I talk to Maya Esslemont about her work with After Exploitation, which tries to dig out proper data on what happens to trafficking survivors, as well as the recent changes to policy on detention of potential victims and the widely criticised trafficking proposals in the government’s New Plan for Immigration.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/695kYc
Home Office Ordered To Move Torture Victim Out Of ‘Prison-Like’ Hotel
A judge in the high court has ordered the Home Office to move a torture and trafficking victim out of a “prison-like” hotel surrounded by an 8ft wall. Judge Coe QC heard an application for urgent action known as interim relief against the Home Office after officials failed to move the man, known as AA, from the Crowne Plaza hotel near Heathrow airport to more suitable accommodation. The order, made on Tuesday, is thought to be the first of its kind. It is hoped that it will help other trafficking victims accommodated in unsuitable hotels by the Home Office.
The man, who became a potential victim of trafficking in Turkey after escaping from torture in Kuwait, suffers from such severe pain in his back and other parts of his body that he is unable to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time and spends much of his time lying flat on the floor in his room. The Home Office said it had found him accommodation in Leicester but he said it was not physically possible for him to sit in a car for such a long journey. The court heard that the Crowne Plaza, with its intimidating high fences, bag searches and security guards, is not a suitable environment for a trafficking victim.
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, https://is.gd/IcT0PI
Illegal Working Checks Must Adapt to the Work-From-Home Age
All being well, the government’s advice to work from home looks likely to be lifted from 21 June 2021. With offices filling up, and city streets bustling, normal working life is starting to resume. But remote working patterns are clearly popular with workers and employers, and are likely to be around for some time to come.
The growth in remote working has implications for the obligations of employers under immigration law, particularly in relation to checking their employees’ right to work in the UK. This system has traditionally required the physical presence of the employee or their immigration documents at a place of work in order for the check to be validly carried out. Despite some recent developments, the prevention of illegal working system remains flawed and will need to be adapted if remote working, and digital immigration status, become the norm.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/W8CCfE
Corporate Watch - Know Your Enemy
Do you have a problem with a company or industry and want to know more about it? Do you feel frustrated not knowing how to find the info you need? Do you want to fight back more effectively but get overwhelmed trying to find things online? Do you wish you could get a step ahead and finally find contracts and government plans before they hit the headlines?
The Know Your Enemy online course is designed for you. Whether you are a single mum fighting a landlord, a worker challenging your boss, part of a grassroots movement or campaign, a student campaigner or a freelance writer – this course is designed to give you the practical skills you need to ‘Know Your Enemy’.
What will you learn?
This self-paced, online training, through a series of video tutorials, gives you practical skills to be able to:
1) Get clear and organised – know what you need to research and how
2) Research securely – learn simple tactics for online security
3) Use search engines effectively – prevent overwhelm and find the info you need faster
4) Build a company profile – mapping its ownership to the highest level
5) Find directors, board members and other key players – find out who pulls the strings
6) Find shareholders
7) Read company accounts – learn simple strategies for cutting through the jargon and finding the information you need quickly
8) Find government contracts
9) Connect the dots between lobbyists, companies and politicians – know how to find donations to political parties and more
10) Write and submit a Freedom of Information request
11) Map out company supply chains and get industry insight about risks and vulnerabilities
12) Undertake offline research – from speaking to workers to physical surveillance of factories
13) Write up and share your research with the world
Read more/Sign up; Corporate Watch, https://is.gd/8zsvOk