News & Views Monday 19th April to Sunday 25th  April 2021


Asylum Seekers Treated ‘In Dehumanising Way’ by UK Host Hotels

Thousands of asylum seekers accommodated in hotels in England have been subjected to “dehumanising treatment” during the pandemic, the Refugee Council has warned. The council revealed that one 14-year-old boy was sent to hospital after losing 3kg in body weight (just under 7lb) due to the poor quality of the food provided. A report by the council highlights the “unacceptable and unsustainable” conditions in hotels, including the negative impact on mental health, the lack of clothing and footwear, poor quality of food and exposure to racist abuse, with some stays lasting more than a year.

In March 2020 the Home Office, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, paused evictions from accommodation for those who had received decisions about their asylum claims. It led to more people entering the asylum support system than exiting it. At the end of February roughly 8,700 asylum seekers were living in more than 90 hotels across the UK. Asylum accommodation is provided through three contractors, each responsible for specific geographical regions of the UK. It’s not the first time that an ‘independent’ report has reflected the ideology and mood music of a government

Read more: Jamie Grierson, Guardian,

MPs and Peers Call on Home Office to Close Down Napier Barracks With ‘Immediate Effect’

A cross-party group of MPs and peers has called on Priti Patel to immediately close down a former army barracks in Kent being used to house asylum seekers despite being called ‘unsuitable from long-term accommodation’ by prison inspectors. Whilst the Home Office announced last week that is going to be closing Penally Camp in Wales, it confirmed that it would continue to run the controversial Napier barracks and earlier this month there were reports of new residents being sent to the site having received notification they will be held there for at least 60 to 90 days.

Earlier in the month 14 members of the APPG met with David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), and Hindpal Singh Bhul, inspection team leader at HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) to discuss their recent report into the two camps. ‘During our meeting, Mr Bolt told the APPG that he thought it had been a “serious error of judgement to think that the barracks could ever be made suitable for asylum accommodation”.

Read more: Jon Robins,

Black Deportation Staff Called ‘Cotton Pickers’ by Colleagues

Home Office contractors who deport people from the UK have used the racist term “cotton pickers” to describe their black colleagues, a court has heard. The Home Office uses the contractor Mitie to deport people to destinations including Jamaica, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Ghana along with European countries and other locations. The escorts are only allowed to do this work if they have received accreditation from the Home Office.

Muqaddas Zaib, a Mitie escort of Pakistani heritage, has brought a claim to an employment tribunal in south London based on race and disability discrimination, saying that he was treated less favourably than colleagues when it came to the distribution of removal jobs. Some jobs, such as those where a detainee might be violent or where the case has a high media profile, are deemed complex and can merit bonus payments. Zaib alleges discrimination claiming he was not given as many of these jobs as other colleagues. His disability discrimination claim is based on a medical condition which he said sometimes causes him physical problems. Mitie denies discrimination. In his evidence to the tribunal, Zaib said: “There is a culture of racism in the workforce.” He added that initially he was “too scared to make a complaint due to the culture and environment in the workplace”.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,



UK Home Office First Ever Deportation Flight To Vietnam

Charities and human rights campaigners have expressed alarm at a decision by the Home Office to charter its first ever deportation flight to Vietnam. The Guardian has learned that the flight is due to take place today Wednesday 21st April, though it is unclear why the government has decided to remove the Vietnamese nationals at a time when deportations are at a historically low level due to the pandemic. Migrant rights organisations are concerned that those due to be removed have not had full access to legal and other advice due to the pandemic. It is understood that at least one of those due to fly tomorrow has lodged last-minute legal submissions based on being a potential victim of trafficking.

A ticket issued by the Home Office to one Vietnamese national booked on this flight states: “You are the subject of a deportation order … Directions have now been given for your removal from the United Kingdom on a direct flight to Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi, Vietnam on 21 April, 2021.” While the individual circumstances of each of those due to fly today are not known, human rights groups warned that many Vietnamese migrants are subjected to various forms of exploitation in the UK such as forced cultivation of cannabis plants in illegal indoor farms, sex work or work in nail bars. Vietnam is one of the top source countries for trafficking to the UK.

Source: Diane Taylor, Guardian

Witnesses to Deaths in Detention ‘Deliberately’ Deported From the UK

Scores of people who could be key witnesses to deaths in detention may have been “deliberately” deported before they could give evidence, it has been claimed. It has also emerged that the home secretary, Priti Patel, failed to address concerns from a coroner last year that the actions of her department could have undermined police investigations. Patel was told last August of concerns from a coroner that Home Office officials possibly “chose to ignore the fact” that witnesses to the contentious death of a black detainee were due to give evidence before attempting to remove them from the UK. Despite the coroner asking Patel to intervene to curb a practice that was compromising police investigations into deaths in immigration detention centres, her response did not address the issue.

Irene Nembhard of the London law firm Birnberg Peirce, who was involved in a case where the Home Office attempted to deport key witnesses, said: “These are black detainees and they are not being seen as valuable witnesses. This failure indicates institutional racism but also a failure to see people as people.” On Wednesday 14/04/2021, a court ruling held Patel accountable for failures in ensuring that deaths in immigration detention centres were properly investigated. The ruling concerns two friends from Nigeria – Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime – who were in Harmondsworth detention centre when Okwurime was found dead in his cell in September 2019. Although Lawal was a key witness, the Home Office attempted to deport him five days after his friend’s death – before he could provide any evidence for the inquest, which subsequently concluded Okwurime had died because of poor medical care.
Read more: Mark Townsend, Guardian,

Are Immigrants and Asylum Seekers Getting Their Day in Court?

The rights of immigrants and asylum seekers were at the forefront of the news last week, with the Home Secretary coming under fire both in the courts and in the political arena. On Wednesday 14/04/2021, a landmark court ruling held Ms Patel accountable for failures properly to investigate deaths among asylum seekers at detention centres. The case concerned two Nigerian nationals, one of whom was found dead in Harmondsworth immigration centre in 2019.

His friend, Mr Lawal, was a key witness in the investigation of the death, but the Home Office sought to deport him before he could give evidence. The court held that the Home Secretary's initial policy, which sought to remove Mr Lawal, its replacement, applied from August 2020, and the current policy, were unlawful and breached human rights because they failed to ensure that those who had relevant information would be able to give evidence before removal proceedings were commenced, thus frustrating inquiries into immigration centre deaths.

Days later it was reported that this may be a widespread problem, with suggestions that scores of people had been prevented from giving key evidence to police investigations as a result of early deportation. While Ms Patel was warned that this practice must be curbed by a coroner in August, it is suggested that her response did little to address the problem.

Read more: UK Human Rights Blog,