News & Views Monday 17th May to Sunday 23rd May 2021


Home Office Rush to Deport Asylum Seekers Before Brexit Was ‘Inhumane’

The Home Office’s rush to deport asylum seekers last year ahead of Brexit amounted to “inhumane treatment,” a watchdog has found. In its annual report for 2020, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) raised concerns around the impact of the government ramping up efforts to remove people arriving on small boats from the UK in the later months of 2020. While the monitoring board found men detained in Brook House were “generally treated humanely,” it said that the “concentrated nature” of removal flights ahead of Brexit — and in the midst of a pandemic — “amounted to inhumane treatment of the whole detained population”.

One of the impacts of this treatment was “unprecedented levels of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts,” the board added. “While we consider that men detained in Brook House are generally treated humanely, the impact of the Home Office’s unusually compressed charter flight programme on an especially vulnerable population led to unprecedented levels of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts in the last five months of 2020,” said Brook House IMB’s chair, Mary Molyneux, said in a statement.

Read more: Chantal Da Silva, Independent,

Sam Louis Unlawfully Detained over three Years Due to ‘Repeated Failures’ by Home Office

Sam Louis, who has lived in the UK since he was a child and is now 31, was held in immigration detention for four years until May 2015, during which time he developed chronic and severe mental illnesses. In a highly critical ruling, Judge Cotter QC concluded that 42 months of his time in detention was an unlawful breach of his human rights, citing Home Office failures going “very well beyond maladministration”.

Mr Louis fled the Democratic Republic of Congo at a young age and arrived in the UK from Belgium aged around 12. His travel and documentation is said to have been arranged by his aunt. He had been planning to stay with his older cousin in London but was unable to as his cousin lived in a single occupancy hostel. He is said to have been homeless for about a week before police referred him to Newham social services, where he remained until he became an adult.

During his time in care, no efforts appear to have been made to regularise his immigration status. Shortly before turning 18 he submitted an application for leave to remain, but did not receive a Home Office decision until years later.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Government Asylum Plans Attacked as ‘Cruel and Unfair’

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the plans “undermined” the UK’s “vital commitment” to providing protection to those in need by “unjustly differentiating” between refugees based on how they arrive. “This is a cruel and unfair approach that slams the door in the face of people who could be in urgent need of our protection,”

Government plans to overhaul the asylum system have been branded “cruel and unfair”, with campaigners arguing that they “slam the door in the face” of people who could be in urgent need of the UK’s protection. Immigration reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday include proposals to refuse any asylum seeker who has passed through a safe country before reaching the UK the right to refugee status in Britain. It confirms ministers’ intention to implement their New Plan for Immigration, unveiled in March, under which refugees which who arrive in the UK via unauthorised routes will be denied protection and instead regularly reassessed for removal to safe countries they passed through.

People who cannot immediately be removed would be stripped of benefits – placing them in the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) category – and have their family reunion rights limited.

Under the New Plan for Immigration legislation, measures would be “brought forward to establish a fairer immigration system that strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys”.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,




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 18th May, 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,

UK Court Clears Iranian Asylum Seeker of Smuggling

An Iranian asylum seeker jailed on smuggling charges for helping to direct a vessel carrying migrants across the English Channel has been cleared of all charges at a retrial after spending 17 months in jail. Fouad Kakaei, 31, was rescued by British border enforcement officials in July 2019 while crossing to the UK from France in a crowded dinghy with several others. He was then deported to Denmark before making his way back to the French coast and making a second crossing attempt in December that year.

He was sentenced to two years and two months in jail in January 2021 after admitting to British authorities that he had actively commandeered the vessel because he “didn’t want to die at sea.” The court of appeal overturned his verdict in March. Kakaei’s lawyers argued at his retrial 14th May, that it was wrong to have found him guilty of breaking immigration laws because he was hoping to claim asylum via being rescued at sea. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been challenged by charities over its decision to prosecute migrants guiding vessels from France to England, with campaigners arguing that the legal action could be linked to political pressure.

Read more: Arab News,

EU Countries Snub Priti Patel’s Plans to Return Asylum Seekers

Not a single European country has decided to support the UK government’s controversial asylum plans, with the UN on Saturday night criticising the proposals as so damaging they risked Britain’s “global credibility”. Six weeks after the home secretary, Priti Patel, unveiled a sweeping immigration overhaul that included deporting migrants who enter the UK illegally to safe countries such as “France and other EU countries”, sources have said the Home Office has been unable to persuade any European state to sign up to the scheme. The UN’s refugee agency will soon publish its detailed legal opinion into Patel’s asylum proposals that is likely to conclude her plans infringe international legislation and are unworkable. Despite this, Patel’s asylum proposals are to feature in the Queen’s speech on Tuesday, which lays out the government’s legislative agenda for the next year.

Yet the complete lack of any bilateral European agreements to return migrants from the UK, alongside a warning from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that the Home Office proposals risk undermining longstanding global agreements to offer protection to refugees, already casts doubt on its future. Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR representative to the UK, told the Observer that the UK’s plans threatened the integrity of the UN refugee convention – which the UK government helped write in 1951 – and which seeks to protect individuals fleeing persecution or catastrophe.

Read more: Amrk Townsend, Guardian,

What’s Behind the UK’s Harsh Post-Brexit Asylum Overhaul?

Last week, the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, released a rare and strongly worded commentary on the UK government’s proposed plan to overhaul the country’s asylum system. The agency expressed concern that “the plan, if implemented as it stands, will undermine the 1951 [Refugee] Convention and international protection system, not just in the UK, but globally.” “If states, like the UK, that receive a comparatively small fraction of the world’s asylum seekers and refugees appear poised to renege on their commitments, the system is weakened globally,” the policy note added. Over the past year, widely televised images of dinghies carrying asylum seekers arriving on English beaches have stoked a sense of crisis over irregular migration in the UK, setting the stage for Interior Minister Priti Patel at the end of March to introduce a significant overhaul of the country’s asylum rules – involving more than 40 suggested changes to the existing system.

The central principle of the new plan – which says it aims to “break the business model of smugglers” by privileging asylum seekers who arrive through legal channels while creating barriers to protection for those who arrive irregularly – is “fairness”, according to Patel. But rights groups and asylum advocates say the approach is more about leveraging the perception of a crisis to build a severely restrictive asylum system for the post-Brexit era, and that the emphasis on legal routes is just a smokescreen. They say it follows in the footsteps of countries like Denmark and Australia, which have implemented harsh policies to try to reduce to zero the number of asylum seekers irregularly entering their territory to claim protection.

Read more: Andrew Connelly, New Humanitarian,