News & Views Monday 24th May to Sunday 30th May 2021


Thousands of Asylum Seekers Left Unable to Afford Food

NGOs say vulnerable people, including families with babies and children, are being 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. The issue has 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.

The transition took place over the weekend. Asylum seekers had been informed that on Saturday and Sunday they would not be able to access funds – a weekly allowance of £39.63 if they are in a house and £8 if they are in a full-board hotel – while the transfer between the old and new Aspen card took place, but that the new cards would be usable from Monday. However, charities said on Wednesday that thousands of people were either yet to receive their new cards or had been unable to activate them, leaving them without any money.

Read more: May Bulman, Independent,

Home Office Must Compensate Trafficked Women for Lack of Childcare

The Home Office must compensate female victims of sex trafficking whose children had to hear details of their abuse because no childcare was available during appointments, the high court has ruled. Mr Justice Kerr found in a ruling on Monday that the system of support for victims of trafficking discriminates against asylum-seeking women. The Home Office admitted it treated this group differently but told the court that despite this they should not be entitled to any remedy. Two trafficking victims brought the case, both of them single mothers from Albania recently granted refugee status. The judge said: “The claimants are highly vulnerable people who have been poorly treated … Both have suffered much.” Under the current system, trafficking victims with a dependent child receive a benefit that they can use to cover childcare during appointments, unless they are in receipt of asylum support.

The two women were denied this “dependent child trafficking support”, which left them unable to pay for childcare while they attended appointments to help them take their cases forward and assist with their recovery. Such appointments involve disclosure of specific details about the women’s exploitation while trafficked that they did not want their children to hear. The judge found that the Home Office’s system of support discriminates against lone parent asylum-seeking victims of trafficking and “the treatment of the claimants … was egregious”.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Dozens of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers Wrongly Placed in Napier Barracks

The Independent has learned that around one in five individuals placed in the former military camp since it reopened on 9 April have been transferred out after the department admitted they had vulnerabilities which, according to its own criteria, made them unsuitable to be in barracks accommodation. Among them are people who have been previously trafficked or subject to torture for months, causing them severe PTSD, and those who are age disputed, meaning they say they are children but have been assessed to be adults or haven’t yet undergone an age assessment.

However, lawyers and charities have told The Independent that 44 individuals have been transferred out of the camp on the grounds of vulnerability since it reopened, indicating that there is still no adequate screening process in place. Campaigners have also raised alarm at the fact that the Home Office has started to carry out asylum interviews in the camp, reportedly sometimes giving residents just a few hours’ notice and not providing adequate means of accessing legal advice ahead of their interview.

Read more: May Bulmann, Indpendent,

Children Speak of Sickness and Neglect In US Asylum Camps

The US has a vast system of detention sites scattered across the country, holding more than 20,000 migrant children. In a special investigation, the BBC has uncovered allegations of cold temperatures, sickness, neglect, lice and filth, through a series of interviews with children and staff. In late March, CBP released disturbing images of cramped conditions within one particular facility it runs in Donna, Texas - a mass of enormous white tents looming above the small town. The facility was designed to hold 250 people but housed more than 4,000 at peak occupancy. With children eating and sleeping in close quarters, the cubicles quickly became rancid. Ten-year-old Ariany said the guards threatened the children if they did not keep their cramped quarters clean.

Who are the children? Persecution, gang violence and organised crime, losses from natural disasters (including two Central American hurricanes in 2020), and poverty are all causing parents to send their children to seek refuge in the US. Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and sexual abuse along the way

Read more: BBC News,




'Enough is Enough': Patel's Message to Deportation Disruptors

Home secretary Priti Patel has told those seeking to frustrate the deportation process that ‘enough is enough’ in her latest speech on the government’s controversial immigration reforms. The Home Office denied that her comments were targeted at lawyers. Patel detailed her vision for a ‘world-class immigration system’ as part of the government’s New Plan for Immigration at an event hosted by thinktanks Bright Blue and British Future. The home secretary said the next strand of the Home Office’s plan will be about speeding up removal of those with no legal right to be in the UK.

‘For too long, we have been frustrated by those who know how to play the system,’ Patel said. ‘More than 10,000 foreign national offenders remain in the UK. Among that number are individuals who have committed serious crimes, including murder and rape. Since the start of the year, we have removed more than 800 foreign national offenders. But there is much more to do. And we are taking further action. I have a message to those who seek to disrupt the efforts of our enforcement officers. They should think about whether their actions may be preventing murderers, rapists and high harm offenders from being removed from our communities - and they should think long and hard about the victims of these crimes.’

Read more: Monidipa Fouzder, Law Gazette,

UK Asylum Seekers at ‘Unprecedented’ Risk of Suicide Amid Deportation Threat

The Home Office’s rush to deport asylum seekers who had crossed the Channel in small boats last year led to “unprecedented levels” of those at risk of suicide, a watchdog has found. During the period between the end of July to December 2020, when the Home Office was operating a programme of “compressed” charter flights, one-third of the detainees at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick were placed on constant suicide watch, the Independent Monitoring Board [IMB] found.

Numbers on a vulnerability register known as Rule 35 increased almost fivefold from the earlier months of the year from 85 to 392, the report added. Mary Molyneux, chair of the IMB for Brook House, told the Guardian the findings in the new report were “exceptional” and “more distressing than other years” due to the vulnerability of those who were detained.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian,

Glasgow Politicians call on Home Office to Halt Immigration Raids

Leading Glasgow politicians have written to the Home Office telling officials to stop unannounced immigration raids, as the Scottish Refugee Council urged Police Scotland to “push back” against further operations. Their demands came a week after a peaceful protest prevented the detention of two men in the south of the city.

The cross-party signatories, who included Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, and the leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, said in a joint letter: “We are proud to say that, for more a decade, regardless of who has been in power in Scotland, there has been cross-party opposition to dawn raids.” They described the home office operations as “expensive, harmful, lacking in compassion and more often than not aimed at people who are no threat to public safety”.

Read more: Libby Brooks, Guardian,