Refugees in Napier and Penally Camps Feel Vindicated After Damning Report
Refugees trapped in camps across Britain felt “depressed and hopeless at their circumstances”, according to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICBI). Inspectors from the ICBI and the Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) this week released the key findings of their initial investigation into temporary accommodation for asylum seekers. It showed that refugees and anti-racists were right to protest about the dire conditions at the Penally camp in West Wales and Napier Barracks in Kent.
One refugee who was taken to Napier told Socialist Worker, “It was great hearing the same things from inspectors that we were raising. “We finally felt our voices are heard. “This means the only people who are defending the camps are the Home Office and Priti Patel herself.” Inspectors found that the Home Office gave contractors “less than two weeks to make each site operational” despite opening the sites during a pandemic.
Cramped conditions at Napier meant “once one person was infected, large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable”. During an outbreak where 178 refugees tested positive, all 400 residents were unable to leave their bunks for four weeks.
Read more: Isabel Ringrose, Socialist Worker, https://is.gd/GGYDaS
Barracks for UK Asylum Seekers Slammed as ‘Filthy and Unfit for Habitation’
Napier Barracks in Kent housed people at high risk of self-harm in a ‘decrepit’ so-called isolation block that was ‘unfit for habitation’, according to findings by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published on Monday. New pictures show what inspectors branded an ‘impoverished’ and ‘cramped’ facility – but on Monday evening, the Home Office repeated its assertion that ‘it is wrong to say it is not adequate for asylum seekers’. The department has faced repeated criticism over its use of the ‘unsuitable’ facility in Folkestone, which was also the scene of a mass outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year. Despite repeated warnings and protests, some 28 people were sleeping in the same dormitory before the ‘inevitable’ outbreak.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and immigration minister Chris Philp have both previously defended the use of the building, with Ms Patel also appeared to blame ‘mingling’ migrants for the cases, which saw almost half of those house there test positive. The findings were published on the same day 115 people, including women and children, were brought ashore in Dover after crossing the Channel – the most of any day this year. Inspectors said: ‘The environment at both sites, especially Napier, was impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.’
Read more: Harrison Jones, Metro News, https://is.gd/QzEABg
Home Office Inspection Report - Remains Siloed/Disjointed/Clueless!
The report makes three recommendations which stress the importance of creating a clearer, more coherent set of roles, responsibilities and objectives for the Home Office Border, Immigration and Citizenship System’s response to modern slavery and human trafficking.
The inspection found that while operational activity overall had increased since the Modern Slavery Strategy was launched in 2014, the work of the Home Office’s three Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) operational directorates, and that of the wider Home Office, remained siloed and disjointed, with little evidence of a plan to address this.
BICS had had some success in focusing frontline staff on the identification and safeguarding of victims through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which was reflected in increased numbers of NRM referrals. It needed to build on this, particularly at the border, where the numbers were still low. But, it was not doing enough to combat the criminals who perpetrate, enable and exploit MSHT, and opportunities to do so were being missed.
The report was sent to the Home Secretary on 16 September 2020 and published on 4 March 2021 (24 weeks). It contained three recommendations, which together looked to reset the BICS response to MSHT. They stressed the importance of creating a clearer, more coherent set of roles, responsibilities and objectives for BICS, and also of ensuring that the Home Office Serious Organised Crime Group (SOCG), which held the departmental lead for MSHT, was more closely engaged with BICS regarding the latter’s efforts to tackle MSHT. Two of the recommendations were accepted and the third “partially accepted”.
In addition, the report repeated a recommendation from ‘An inspection of the Home Office’s response to in-country clandestine arrivals (‘lorry drops’)’ regarding a fundamental review of the criminal investigation and prosecution capabilities and capacity of BICS.
In November 2020, the Home Office “partially accepted” this recommendation, but declined to carry out a fundamental review. Instead, it would take ICIBI’s findings fully into account alongside the findings of the independent review of Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) led by Sir Craig Mackey QPM, which had reported to the Home Secretary in February 2020, and about which it would provide details “in due course”.
The Home Office’s latest response simply quotes its previous statement. It is unclear what progress it has made in the intervening four months. While the necessary improvements in capabilities and capacity will take time to implement, it would have been more encouraging to see reference to some specific actions and deadlines.
Source: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration
Lengthy Absences From the UK Can Put EU Settled Status at Risk
For most people, the EU Settlement Scheme has largely lived up to its government billing as generous and straightforward, but confusion over permitted absences is likely to cause some European residents trouble down the line. People with pre-settled status, in particular, need to be aware of the absence rules. If they have been outside the UK for more than six months in any 12-month period, they will now only be able to upgrade to settled status if they returned to the UK before 31 December 2020.
People who already have settled status, or have clocked up the necessary five years and intend to apply before 30 June 2021, are not affected by this issue. Settled status only lapses if the person has been out of the UK for five years. What we’re talking about in this article is the risks for people who only have pre-settled status (or will be applying for pre-settled status by 30 June 2021).
Absences and the EU Settlement Scheme
The starting point is that EU citizens and their family members will qualify for settled status after completing “a continuous qualifying period of five years of residence” in the UK. Those living in the UK for less than five years qualify for pre-settled status instead, and can upgrade to settled status once they reach five years.
Read more: Karma Hickman, Freemovement, https://is.gd/TmpdSI
Multiple Violations of Deportation Detainee's Rights - Breach of Articles 3-5 and 34
In Chamber judgment1 in the case of Feilazoo v. Malta (application no. 6865/19) handed down 11th March 2021, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security), and a violation of Article 34 (right of individual application).
The case concerned the conditions of the applicant’s immigration detention and its lawfulness. It also concerned complaints in relation to the proceedings before this Court, mainly related to interference with correspondence and domestic legal-aid representation.
The Court took issue with many aspects of the applicant’s detention, including time spent detained in de facto isolation without exercise, and a subsequent period where he had been detained with people under Covid-19 quarantine unnecessarily. Overall it found the conditions inadequate.
The Court also found that the authorities had not been diligent enough in processing his deportation, and that the reasons for the applicant’s detention had ceased to be valid. It also found that the authorities had not guaranteed the applicant’s right to petition before the Court, as they had tampered with his correspondence and had not guaranteed to him adequate legal representation.
Read more: ECtHR, https://is.gd/m99rRu
Fee Waivers: Home Office Defeated Again
Alasdair Mackenzie has successfully acted for three people challenging the Home Office’s practice of charging large fees for visa applications. Each of the three applied for entry clearance to travel to the UK on human rights grounds. Two are men seeking to join a British partner and child here and the third is a victim of transnational marriage abandonment seeking to return to the UK. Each was unable to make their application at all because they could not afford the fee, which was then over £2,500 (including the associated immigration health surcharge).
In response to the challenge, the Home Office has agreed to withdraw its policy on fee waivers for visa applications, on the grounds that the very high threshold set out in it is unlawful. It has agreed to re-issue the policy so as to make clear that the correct criterion for being granted a fee waiver is affordability: whether the applicant can afford to pay the fee. It has also withdrawn the individual decisions in each case and agreed to reconsider them.
This is a significant advance for people applying to come to the UK on human rights grounds – in particular to join family members in this country – who are unable to afford fees which have now increased to over £3,000 each. It follows last year’s successful challenge to fees for people applying from within the UK, in which Alasdair also acted.
Source: Doughty Street Chanbers, https://is.gd/lovkoq
Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees - March 2021
Deteriorated Situations: Niger, Chad, Somalia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Ukraine, Haiti, Yemen
Resolution Opportunities: None
Conflict Risk Alerts for March: Central African Republic, Somalia, Yemen
A deadlocked electoral process in Somalia could fuel more violence after deadly clashes erupted between security forces and opposition supporters in February.
Following heavy fighting in the Central African Republic between the army and a rebel coalition, runoff and re-run elections on 14 March could prove to be a dramatic flashpoint.
The Huthisí intensified offensive in Yemenís Marib governorate could trigger further mass displacement, aggravating the humanitarian crisis, and spark renewed armed conflict in the south and along the Red Sea coast.
Looking back to February, our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in eight countries and conflict areas. In Myanmar, following the 1 February military coup which set off the biggest political crisis in a generation, police crackdowns on pro-democracy mass protests killed dozens. Haitiís constitutional crisis took a deadly turn after security forces violently suppressed opposition protests calling on President MoÔse to step down. In Nigeria, armed groups abducted hundreds in the north west, while intercommunal tensions ran high in the south as the farmer-herder conflict continued to rage.
Read more: https://is.gd/JVNDCr
What is like to be a Lawyer Working For Stateless People in the UK
When I first stepped into the field of statelessness as a practitioner, I expected it to be complex. With a background in asylum and anti-trafficking casework, I was familiar with nationality disputes and the challenges facing those affected. But I did not expect that the legal and human complexity of statelessness could result in me spending up to a year or more investigating, collecting and collating evidence and waiting, on average, a further 12 to 18 months for a decision. Nor did I expect the debilitating effects of such a process on applicants.
Statelessness determination procedures (SDPs) are still relatively new to the legal world, despite the fact that the international law on which they are based was developed in the interwar period. The UK is making strides in the recognition and protection of stateless people on its territory. It is one of only twelve countries in Europe that have a dedicated SDP leading to a form of stateless status.
Identifying stateless people: By the time many of my clients come to seek protection through a statelessness application, they have made several unsuccessful immigration applications and many have been present in the UK for over a decade. Some were made stateless through procedural error on the part of the authorities of their country of origin or the UK authorities, whilst others have been stateless all their lives due to conflict, discriminatory nationality laws and/or lack of birth registration in their countries of origin.
Read more: Claire Splawn, Freemovement, https://is.gd/uaXxE9
Immigration Measures in the 2021 Budget
Among the key points highlighted by the Treasury from today’s Budget is “reforms to the immigration system [to] help ambitious UK businesses attract the brightest and best international talent”. As a policy prescription, this is up there with motherhood and apple pie; even the most ardent restrictionists are in favour of letting in “the brightest and best”, and even that specific phrase is wearily familiar. Nevertheless, with the grumbling out of our system, we can turn to the Budget’s supporting documents to check what the government means by “reforms”.
What does it all mean? Special treatment for fast-growing “scale-up” companies — the evolved form of a “start-up” — was trailed ahead of the Budget and seems to be aimed at financial technology companies specifically. The Kalifa Review of the UK’s offer to fintech firms, published last week and strongly endorsed by the Treasury, recommended.
It sounds as though the government has plumped for making the “scale-up stream” a subset of a new unsponsored route rather than Global Talent. The broader “elite points-based visa” that it would sit within sounds like a reference to the proposed revival of an unsponsored work route, similar to the old Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, that was mooted but kicked into the long grass last year.
Read more: CJ Mckinney, Freemovement, https://is.gd/ZkSCiQ