High Court Dismisses Concerns About Legal Aid in Detention Centres
The High Court has thrown out a challenge arguing that the free legal advice given to migrants in detention centres is rubbish. Mr Justice Calver held that statistical evidence that many legal aid firms provide a poor service was unreliable and that “the system is, by and large, functioning well”. The case is R (Detention Action) v Lord Chancellor  EWHC 18 (Admin).
The judicial review challenge concerned the Detained Duty Advice Scheme (DDAS) which gives 30 minutes of free advice to people held in immigration removal centres. The DDAS used to be delivered by a select group of nine solicitors’ firms who knew what they were doing. Changes in 2018/19 “resulted in a significant expansion of DDAS providers from 9 to 77 including 38 firms who had no prior experience with legal aid work at all and 64 firms with no prior experience of the DDAS”. Many have dropped out, but there are still 46 DDAS providers.
Detention Action, a charity, says that some of these providers are incompetent and “a significant majority” are “taking no or few steps to provide legal advice”. In particular, it argued, detainees are “routinely” not told about applying for immigration bail. The formal grounds for judicial review, in the nature of these things, were narrower. The gist was that the Ministry of Justice has failed to ensure effective access to justice in practice, contrary to its statutory duties, and that the way the DDAS operates is therefore unlawful.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/inhhnk
Build a Movement For Migrant Justice in the UK
Migrants Organise - Thursday, January 20th at 7pm, we are hosting a Meeting (on Zoom) for anyone who wants to learn more about how you can get involved to build a movement for migrant justice in the UK. Over three years ago, a meeting with 40 migrant organisers. United in anger at a violent and racist immigration system, they imagined a better world based on welcome, dignity, justice. Through this meeting the Fair Immigration Charter (FIRM) was written and - over the last two years - the Solidarity Knows No Borders (SKNB) Movement emerged.
The energy of this movement is contagious. Across the country, people are coming together in that spirit of solidarity to resist an increasingly racist and oppressive Government agenda. Now more than ever, we must unite to resist the racist Nationality & Borders Bill and all aspects of the cruel and hostile British immigration system.
At this meeting, you will hear stories of hope and resistance and learn how to get involved with campaigns, organising groups and solidarity networks near you, like: Patients Not Passports, Abolish Reporting, Coventry Refugee and Asylum Group, These Walls Must Fall, Migrants in Culture, Our Home Our Vote, SOAS Detainee Support, Leeds Anti Raids, Hastings Refugee Buddy Project, Merseyside SKNB group, and more!
We hope you take action with us so that we can build our power from the grassroots. Together, we will win!
To attend this event, click here https://rb.gy/newls8
Inflexible Biometrics Policy for Refugee Family Reunion Declared Unlawful
In R (SGW) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Biometrics , family reunion policy)  UKUT 15 (IAC), the Upper Tribunal decided that Home Office guidance on refugee family reunion applications is unlawful because it fails to accurately describe the legal discretion in relation to providing biometric information.
The case was about an Eritrean national with refugee status, SGW. His brother, FGW, is in Libya and wishes to join SGW in the UK. FGW had attempted to leave Libya by boat but had been intercepted, sent back to Libya and held in detention for nearly two years. He was assisted by the UN Refugee Agency which considered him to be a minor, secured his release and provided him with accommodation.
FGW requested family reunification outside of the Immigration Rules. His solicitors asked for a waiver of the requirement for biometrics (photographs and fingerprints) to be given before the application could be considered. The Home Office refused and decided that the application was invalid for lack of biometrics.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/3ldiui
How Asylum Seekers Can Get Jobs in Social Care
On the last working day before Christmas, the government announced that it is adding social care workers to the Health and Care visa and Shortage Occupation List. The change is due to come into force “in February 2022“. The Home Office describes this as a temporary measure, in place for a minimum of 12 months. During that period, all roles within SOC Code 6145 will be eligible for sponsorship at a minimum salary of £20,480: care assistant, care worker, carer, home care assistant, home carer and support worker (nursing home). In addition, the fact that they are going on the Shortage Occupation List means that people who have been waiting over a year for a decision on an asylum claim can apply for permission to work in these roles.
Working while in the asylum system. The shortage of care home workers has been well documented and the Migration Advisory Committee recommended including them on the shortage list in its annual report published on 15 December. But the government declined to implement another recommendation from that report, namely to review the policy on allowing people seeking asylum to work. This is only allowed if the person has been waiting over 12 months for an initial decision on their claim through no fault of their own, and then only to work in shortage jobs.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/xr2udj
Automated Passport Checks Make it Harder to Spot Human Trafficking
Airport “eGates” where people can scan their own passport may make it harder for border officers to catch human trafficking, inspectors have warned. A review of eGates by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration highlight concerns by NGOs and some Border Force teams that “the gates make it harder to identify vulnerable passengers”. Border officers in Glasgow airport turn the gates off completely for “high-risk flights” to make sure that all passengers are processed face-to-face: this is “standard practice” for flights from Bucharest, for example. The Modern Slavery Unit accepts “there is a theoretical concern that gates make it more difficult to identify vulnerable passengers” but has no capacity to look into it. The Chief Inspector notes that “stakeholders have more than theoretical concerns”, with one NGO saying “we find that ePassport gates almost completely eradicates the safeguarding aspect”. Citizens of the UK, Economic Economic Area, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and USA can use eGates.
As is now traditional, Chief Inspector David Neale marked publication with a justified protest about the department sitting on reports for months on end: his eGates review was submitted in June 2021, and the Settlement Scheme report in July. “My predecessor highlighted how this delay challenged his independence”, Neale writes, “and I am similarly concerned”.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/sid8by
Home Office threatened to Deport Asylum Seekers For Crimes They Did Not Commit
The Home Office has been threatening asylum seekers with deportation for alleged crimes they did not commit, it has emerged. A Court of Appeal judgment revealed the existence of “notices of liability to detention”, which were handed to migrants crossing the English Channel on small boats. The documents claimed they were “illegal entrants” and “may be liable to removal or deportation from the United Kingdom”. “You are specifically considered an illegal entrant to the UK as you were encountered in a private vehicle, namely a RHIB [rigid-hulled inflatable boat], which had recently arrived in the UK from France,” the notices read.You could not produce any travel document or provide any evidence of your lawful basis to be in the UK and have therefore entered the UK in breach of S.3(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971.”
But judges said the Home Office had misinterpreted the law and that crossing the Channel by dinghy to seek asylum did not amount to illegal entry. Evidence revealed during a successful appeal by asylum seekers who were wrongly jailed for steering small boats said “a number of the official documents” had been issued, and caused immigration interviews to “proceed on an erroneous basis”. Judges found that a “heresy about the law” had originated among Home Office officials and been passed on to prosecutors, defence lawyers and the courts – sparking several unlawful prosecutions.
Read more: Lizzie Dearden, Independent, https://rb.gy/d5yjdj
Home Office Tells Asylum Seeker he Can Return to Syria Safely
The Home Office has told a Syrian asylum seeker he can return to the country he fled during the war because it is safe to do so, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind. The 25-year-old asylum seeker sought sanctuary in the UK in May 2020. He fled forcible conscription into Bashar al-Assad’s army in 2017, saying that he would have been forced to kill other Syrians. He said that if he is forced back to Syria he will be targeted as a draft evader, arrested, detained and killed.
Until now, the UK has not returned refugees who opposed President Assad’s regime because of the dangers still present in a nation torn asunder by the continuing civil war.
But the Guardian has seen a refusal letter sent to the man by the Home Office in December, in which officials said: “I am not satisfied to a reasonable degree of likelihood that you have a well-founded fear of persecution. While the Home Office has accepted he did flee forced conscription, the refusal letter adds: “It is not accepted that you will face a risk of persecution or real risk of serious harm on return to the Syrian Arab Republic due to your imputed political opinion as a draft evader.”
The charity Refugee Action expressed alarm at the Home Office’s decision. Mariam Kemple Hardy, its head of campaigns, said the decision “beggars belief”, and “implored” the home secretary, Priti Patel, to overturn the decision. She added: “Frankly, if this government is no longer granting sanctuary to Syrian refugees, who will it grant sanctuary to? This decision pulls up the drawbridge to those fleeing war and persecution. It fails to meet even the bare minimum anyone would expect of a government claiming to uphold its obligations on the world stage.”
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, https://rb.gy/pzhlnw
British Man Made Stateless by Home Office Has Citizenship Reinstated
A British man who was stripped of his citizenship by the Home Office for almost five years has described the “devastating” impact of the decision as the government pursues fresh powers to remove a person’s citizenship without warning. The 40-year-old, who was born in London, returns to the UK this week after being stranded in Bangladesh since 2017 when the Home Office served a deprivation of citizenship order on him shortly after he flew to the country for the birth of his second daughter. E3, as he is referred to in court documents, was working in the UK when he travelled to Bangladesh but not earning enough to sponsor his wife to join him and has since been stateless and destitute with his wife and three daughters. According to the Home Office’s deprivation order, the Briton was “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity” and that he posed a threat to national security.
Although the UK government has reinstated his citizenship, his lawyers say they have received no explanation or any specific details to support the claims. E3 has never been charged with any criminal offence in the UK or elsewhere. E3 told the Observer: “The allegation against me is so vague that it even suggests that I only tried to travel to some unknown destination to take part in an unspecified activity related to terrorism. “How on earth do you defend yourself against an allegation like that, especially when the government relies on secret evidence? The disclosure my solicitors received was almost entirely redacted so I have no idea what the government is referring to. Why was I not arrested and questioned? Why have I been punished in this way without ever being shown a single piece of evidence against me? The government should admit that they have made a mistake and own up to it.”
Read more: Mark Townsend, Guardian, https://rb.gy/pfk2gd
UK Country Guidance Confirms: Ethiopia Still Not Safe for Oromo Liberation Front Supporters
In AAR (OLF – MB confirmed) Ethiopia CG  UKUT 1 (IAC), the Upper Tribunal has confirmed that the situation in Ethiopia has not changed substantially enough to allow a departure from previous country guidance. This is important because people applying for asylum based on Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) support/and or membership have been finding their cases in limbo, with the Home Office arguing that it would now be safe for them to return. AAR provides a definitive response for many of them: Ethiopia is still not safe.
The appellant, represented by our colleague Alex Burrett, successfully argued that the risk categories in MB (OLF and MTA – risk) Ethiopia CG  UKAIT 30 should continue to apply because there was not a “durable change in circumstances” in Ethiopia. This test for departing from country guidance is set out in SMO, KSP & IM (Article 15 (c); identity documents) Iraq CG  UKUT 400 (IAC), at paragraphs -.
As the tribunal notes in the headnote, the fact that a county guidance decision is quite old does not affect the legal principles relevant to departing from it in a given case. The process remains the same: existing country guidance must be followed, unless in the individual case the departure is shown to be justified. Judges who do depart from country guidance should have a “good reason, explicitly stated”.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/pcveos