Asylum Seekers (Support)
Sarah Teather (Brent Central) (LD) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State if she will make a statement on support provided to meet the essential living needs of asylum seekers under sections 95 and 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): Asylum seekers are supported by the Home Office if they are destitute. The support package usually consists of accommodation, with gas, electricity, water and other utilities provided free, plus a weekly cash allowance to cover essential living needs. The cash allowance is currently £36.62 a week for a single adult, but it is higher in cases where there are children in the household. A family of two adults and two children would receive approximately £180 a week.
The Government completed a full review of payment levels in June 2013. The review concluded that the levels were sufficient to meet essential living needs. That decision was challenged in the courts by Refugee Action, a group that campaigns for asylum seekers, and the court issued its judgment yesterday. It decided that there were some errors in the way in which the 2013 review had been conducted. It found, for example, that items such as household cleaning products and non-prescription medicines should have been considered as essential and therefore factored into the overall assessment of the adequacy of the payment levels. The court did not decide that the current payment levels were too low. That question will be considered by the Government in a fresh review of the payment levels. We are of course considering the full implications of the judgment, and whether or not to appeal.
Protest Over Deportation of Nigerian Lesbian Asylum Seeker
A protest against the deportation of a lesbian asylum seeker to Nigeria will take place on Friday outside the Home Office in central London. Campaigners warn Apata Adejumoke, 46, is at risk of homophobic persecution if returned to the country which in January strengthened its laws against same-sex sexual activity. She claims her girlfriend was murdered in the country and fears the same fate. The group Movement for Justice (MFJ) said Adejumoke was subject to homophobic torture, persecution, and brutal arrest in Nigeria.
Read more: Pink News, <> 09/04/14
"A Gilded Cage is Still a Cage"
Mentally incapacitated people have the same rights to liberty as everyone else. If their own living arrangements would amount to a deprivation of liberty of a non-disabled individual then these would also be a deprivation of liberty for the disabled person. So says the Supreme Court, which has ruled that disabled people are entitled to periodic independent checks to ensure that the deprivation of liberty remains justified.
Read more: Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog, <> 08/04/14
HMP/IRC The Verne [Detainees will be subject to Prison Rules]
Lord Roberts of Llandudno to ask Her Majesty's Government whether migrants detained in HM Prison The Verne from 24 March will have access to (1) Rule 35 procedures to determine whether their health would be damaged by detention, for example, due to a history of torture, (2) mobile telephones and the internet, (3) the ability to receive telephone calls from solicitors, family and friends, and (4) on-site legal advice surgeries; and if not, why not.[HL6241]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): HM Prison The Verne started taking immigration detainees as scheduled from 24 March 2014. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) will retain The Verne as a prison in the short term. Its designation as a prison will be reviewed later this year, with the intention of completing the re-designation to an immigration removal centre by the end of September 2014.
While The Verne retains its designation as a prison it will be governed by Prison Rules rather than Detention Centre Rules. As The Verne is not governed by Detention Centre Rules, Rule 35 of those rules is not applicable.
Detainees held at The Verne will be treated in the same way as other detainees held within the prison estate. As such they will not have access to mobile telephones or the internet, nor will they be able to receive telephone calls. They will, however, be able to make telephone calls and will have access to both social and legal visits.
There is a dedicated Home Office Immigration Enforcement Team on site who will see detainees routinely on induction and upon request. In addition, independent immigration advice will be provided by Migrant Help.
House of Lords / 7 Apr 2014 : Column WA250
Inspection of Escort and Removals to Nigeria and Ghana
"This is the first time that we have carried out a follow-up inspection of a charter flight removal to a specific destination. While there were some noticeable improvements, especially in the attitudes and language of escort staff, several of our recommendations have had to be repeated verbatim this time. It is concerning that there was a sustained disagreement over what should happen to a physically recalcitrant detainee before, during and after her forcible removal from the aircraft." Nick Hardwick
Inspection 6/7 November 2013 by HMCIP, published 04/04/14
Limited Improvements: The removal of detainees is distressing and stressful for those involved, and although some improvements had been made, no progress had been made on some of the recommendations from previous escort inspections, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, today as he published the report of a follow-up inspection of escort and removals of detainees to Nigeria and Ghana. The report describes the realities of the removal process and the distress involved for some detainees undergoing removal. The cases described illustrate this, as well as the strain that can be placed on the professionalism of staff. This was the first time that inspectors have carried out a follow-up inspection of a charter flight removal to a specific destination and came two and a half years after the first inspection of a flight to Lagos.
Escort contractor: Tascor - Number of detainees escorted 42 - Number of escort staff 82 - Health care staff 3 - Length of journey 18.5 hours (maximum for first detainees to be collected from an IRC)
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
- while there were some noticeable improvements, especially in the attitudes and language of escort staff, several recommendations have had to be repeated verbatim;
- some ways of working had become entrenched with little justification, which included keeping handcuffs on for much longer than was necessary, holding detainees by the arm in secure areas and searching in locations without any privacy;
- there were deficiencies in the recording and communication of information about risk, which is essential when detainees are being passed from the care of one contractor to another during a stressful series of events;
- although staff were calm and confident in dealing with a detainee who physically resisted throughout the journey, they had to improvise their methods because of the lack of accredited techniques or training for use of physical restraint in the confined space of a coach or aircraft; and some of them also fell short of a professional standard of behaviour by discussing the situation in the hearing of this and other detainees, and in some cases making inappropriate remarks.
- a lack of co-ordination and of clear systems of decision-making led to a chaotic and potentially dangerous situation when a detainee was handed over to local officials in Lagos.
- Inspectors made 15 Recommendations
Asylum-Seeker Subsistence Payments Defeat For Government
The home secretary, Theresa May, has been ordered to review the level of benefits paid to asylum seekers after the high court ruled that she acted unlawfully in freezing essential living needs payments.
The ruling is a victory for the charity Refugee Action, which campaigns to increase the support provided to those awaiting decisions about whether they can settle in Britain. Single asylum-seekers currently receive £36.62 a week, a sum that has not changed since 2011.
The judge, Mr Justice Popplewell, rejected as irrational the home secretary's decision last June not to raise essential needs payments and ordered her to announce a new benefit level by 9 August. The Home Office was also told to pay £40,000 in legal costs.
"She [May] failed to take reasonable steps to gather sufficient information to enable her to make a rational judgment in setting the asylum support rates for 2013-2014," Popplewell said in his judgment.
There are estimated to be more than 23,000 asylum-seekers in Britain, who having fled war, torture and persecution but are denied the right to work. The case is an embarrassing political setback for the government, which has been seeking to limit benefit rises and the availability of legal aid to non-British citizens.
Read more: Owen Bowcott, theguardian.com, <> 09/04/14
Refugee Action, R (Application Of) v SSHD  EWHC 1033
Conclusion: 164. Permission is granted. The application succeeds. The decision is quashed and falls for reconsideration in the light of this judgment.
1. This is an application for judicial review of the Defendant's decision, announced to Parliament on 6 June 2013, that the level of support provided in cash to meet the essential living needs of asylum seekers for the financial year 2013/2014 should remain frozen at the rates which had applied since 2011. Such support is provided pursuant to sections 95 to 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 ("the 1999 Act"). The weekly amounts are set out in Regulations 10(2) and 10A of the Asylum Support Regulations 2000 ("the AS Regulations 2000").
2. The claim is brought in the interests of all asylum seekers by the Claimant, which is a charity established in 1981 to support and work with refugee communities in order to facilitate the successful resettlement in the UK of refugees and asylum seekers. In recent years it has been funded predominantly by the Defendant in order to provide advice and assistance to asylum seekers at regional centres, with the remainder of its income coming from charitable grants and individual donations.
3. It is worth emphasising at the outset that the question is not what the Court considers to be the appropriate amount to meet the essential living needs of asylum seekers. That judgment does not lie with the unelected judges, but is vested by Parliament in the elected government of the day. The latter's decision can only be challenged on well recognised public law principles.
4. Judicial review is sought on the following grounds:
(1) The Defendant's decision that the current rates of asylum support are sufficient to meet the essential living needs of asylum seekers is incompatible with her obligations under EU law and in any event is irrational. No sufficient investigation has been conducted into the level of support necessary to meet essential living needs. In taking the decision the Defendant has taken account of irrelevant considerations and/or material errors of fact, and has failed to take account of relevant considerations.
(2) The Defendant has breached her public sector equality duties ("PSED") under s. 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
(3) The Defendant has breached her duty towards children under s. 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
5. A rolled up hearing of the application for permission, with the substantive hearing to follow immediately if permission is granted, was ordered by Kenneth Parker J on 23 August 2013.
Early Day Motion 1273: Bias In The Media
That this House shares the widespread and continuing public concerns regarding the power of media barons in the events leading up to the Leveson report; notes that recent legislation gagging civil society groups has only served to amplify the voices of established news organisations, thereby distorting democratic debate; condemns the way in which groups such as benefit claimants, immigrants, women and environmental campaigners are routinely misrepresented in the media; believes that there should be urgent action to safeguard the right to independent and pluralistic information; further notes that a coalition of civil society organisations and professional bodies from throughout Europe has come together with the immediate purpose of running a European Citizens Initiative demanding action to ensure media pluralism; and therefore expresses its support for the UK Coalition on Media Pluralism which aims to open up a serious debate on the need to limit the concentration of media ownership and to increase the range of voices in the local and national media.
Sponsors: Long, Naomi / Llwyd, Elfyn / Lucas, Caroline / Leech, John / McDonnell, John / Watson, Tom - House of Commons: <>08.04.2014
EDM 1275: International Day Against Homophobia And Transphobia
That this House welcomes the tenth annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May 2014; supports those local authorities, police, health authorities and voluntary organisations who will mark this day with events, campaigns and statements of support; commends the World Health Organisation on reviewing classification of being transgender as a mental illness; and calls on the Government to urge the World Health Organisation to bring forward the debate on declassification of being transgender as a mental illness to 2014 as opposed to 2015.
Primary sponsor: O'Donnell, Fiona - House of Commons: <>08.04.2014
Journeys to Freedom - Creative Connections
Merseyside's first official festival exploring the refugee experience, arts & culture.
Bringing together refugees and the wider communities, individuals, grassroots, small and larger organisations for a 31 day experience across the city.
Beginning 16th June, the first day of refugee week, and finishing 16th July this programme will act as a prologue and epilogue to Liverpool One World Festival. Those of you who know about the festival may see that dates have slightly shifted- well spotted!!!
Join us in collaboration, through a wide range of activity, events and programmes; music, exhibitions, campaigning, discussions, socials, art actions, workshops, education, awareness raising, poetry, drama, storytelling, film shows, meet & greet, living books, food & more.
Read more: Sola Arts, <>08/04/14
KK & Ors v SSHD  EWCA Civ 415
Lord Justice Maurice Kay: These six renewed applications for permission to appeal all relate to what are sometimes called "health cases" in the context of Article 3 and Article 8 of the ECHR. All six applicants suffer from grave medical conditions which are being effectively treated in this country. On the evidence I think five of them would be at risk of a very early death if returned to their home countries; in the sixth case, the evidence is less certain and suggests a slightly longer, but not enormously longer, period.
Accordingly, with a view to this court producing a judgment on the scope and application of the existing authorities, I shall grant permission in all cases so that the court can have before it a selection of factual matrices. If I have been too generous in granting permission, that may turn out to be something of a luxury.
I should add that in the case of GM, there is a further ground of appeal to which I shall refer as the Ahmadi point. On the face of it that is or may be an irresistible ground of appeal. It would not in itself necessarily prevent removal in the not too distant future because it is unrelated to the actual health issues; it is a technical point. But it is important that he be granted permission in relation to that. The Secretary of State will no doubt consider whether it is to be resisted.
In the circumstances, it is probably undesirable for me to say much more. I observe in passing, as Ms Lieven QC has pointed out, that the Strasbourg Court itself, or at least six of its members, have manifested a wish that the existing jurisprudence be reconsidered (this is the case of Mwanjay v Belgium). It is possible that it will transpire that it is in Strasbourg and Strasbourg alone where that may ultimately have to take place. However, I am persuaded that there is purpose and satisfaction of the second appeals test in granting permission to all six of these applicants.
Inside America's $2bn Immigrant Detention Industry
Under President Barack Obama, the US has deported almost two million undocumented immigrants, more than any of his predecessors. Before being kicked out of the US, most of these people will spend time locked up in a detention centre. Some have criminal convictions, but the majority are detained on immigration charges.
A little-known federal law enacted in 2006 ensures that a minimum of 34,000 undocumented immigrants must be held on every single day. Private companies run most of the centres. Critics claim the congressional mandate forces law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain immigrants to meet an arbitrary bed number rather than act on the merits of each individual case.
Facing a backlash from Hispanic leaders angry at the impact deportations are having on families and communities, the White House has promised a "more humane" approach. Now, the administration is pushing to lower the minimum number of daily detainees. But backers of the law say the number detained each day is a tiny proportion of the estimated 12 million immigrants currently living in the US without official papers. And the bed mandate serves as a check on the administration's enforcement efforts.
BBC News, <>2 April 2014
Salad, Re Judicial Review  NIQB 37 (6 February 2014)
 The applicant is a Somalian National from a minority tribe and a refugee who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2011. She challenges a decision of the Home Office dated 17 December 2012 whereby a fee of $3200 was levied in respect of her family's application for family reunion in order to join her in the UK. Neither the applicant nor her family can discharge this application fee and the respondent has refused to waive same thereby debarring the applicant's family from having their application considered by the respondent.
 The applicant fled Somalia as a member of a minority clan subject to persecution from the majority clans in Somalia. Unfortunately, the applicant became separated from her family and they fled to Ethiopia where they remain to this day. The applicant fled to the UK and claimed asylum, was granted refugee status and limited leave to remain on 12 August 2011. The applicant's family in Ethiopia consists of her mother, Shamso Omar Ahmed and her siblings Abdul Aziz Salad, Habon and Farhiyo Salad. The applicant seeks family reunion with these family members in the UK.
 The applicant remains in contact with her family in Ethiopia by way of telephone as regularly as she can afford it. Her last contact with her family was on 4 January 2013. When the applicant resided in a care home she had frequent weekly contact by telephone as the care home provided the calling facilities. The applicant has also sent some limited financial provision to her family in Ethiopia by way of money transfers.
 In order to seek reunion with her family in the UK the applicant completed an application form which was forwarded by her solicitor to her family members at an address in Ethiopia. This was then presented by the family to the British Embassy in Abbis Ababa on or about 17 December 2012. On presentation a British Embassy official advised them that they would have to pay an application fee of $3,200 for the application to be accepted and processed. As refugees from Somalia the family could not afford to pay the fee since they have little disposable income and the applicant is in a similar position.
 The relevant rule states that no fee is payable when the Secretary of State determines that the fee should be waived. The internal guidance however places a substantial gloss on the exercise of the Secretary of State's discretion. This test which has to be met is not published and interestingly is not referred to at all in the response to the pre-action protocol letter. So it appears that until these proceedings were brought and the respondent filed its affidavit evidence that the existence of this test was undisclosed. This was not part of the applicant's case.I leave that point to one side as I am able to decide the case on grounds that were pleaded.
 The court has no evidence from the person who made the impugned December decision, indeed his or her identity is apparently unknown, and there is no evidence that the decision maker appreciated that there was a discretion or gave any consideration to its exercise.
 Accordingly, for the above reasons I accede to the application and quash the impugned decisions.