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News & Views Monday 14th December to Sunday 20th December 2015

One in Eight Babies Born in Conflict Zones In 2015

The number of babies born in conflict zones increased by more than 125,000 this year to 16.6 million compared with last year, the United Nations said on Wednesday. The figure translates to one in eight of all births worldwide in 2015, according to data released by UNICEF. "Can there be a worse start in life?" said Anthony Lake, UNICEF's executive director. Protracted civil wars have put civilians at risk in a slew of countries including Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Last year, 16.4 million babies were born into conflict zones, rising this year to 16.6 million, UNICEF said.
Read more: UNICEF, 17/12/2015

The Fast Track is Dead, Long Live the Fast Track?

But after the euphoria, the question remains of where this leaves us. It is a question of the most pressing importance for the asylum-seekers of today and tomorrow. But it may also throw light on the value and limitations of strategic public interest litigation, that vexed territory where politics and the law frequently come into collision. First, some limitations. Our litigation never aspired to end the detention of asylum-seekers altogether – and it has not done so. In common with almost every other EU state, the UK continues to detain asylum-seekers. The letterhead has changed: no more Detained Fast Track, now it is Detained Asylum Casework. For the person in detention, this is limited consolation.

Further, it is likely that something called the Detained Fast Track will return. The courts did not find that any Fast Track would be unlawful, just this one. The Home Office are likely to come back with a ‘DFT 2’, which seeks to address the Court of Appeal’s criticisms. This will take time, though, as the Court of Appeal struck at the judicial machinery, not just Home Office practice. Any DFT 2 will require that the relevant judicial bodies draw up, consult on and agree fresh rules governing the appeals process. The balance, between making it fast enough to meet the Home Office’s requirements for a Fast Track, and slow enough to address the findings of unlawfulness, will be tricky in the extreme.

But one can legitimately worry that this latest judgement will itself drift into the sands of bureaucratic adjustment. Certainly, there were times during our litigation when it seemed structurally impossible to make a decisive blow at this moving target. Each time the courts found unlawfulness, the Home Office adjusted their practice, granting a minimum of four days with lawyers before the initial interview, or moving to justify detention during the appeals process on the grounds of risk of absconding. The appeal rules are slower and tougher to fiddle with, but the question remains whether we will at some point find ourselves back where we started, contemplating fresh litigation with little prospect of real change.
Read more: Open Democracy, 15/12/2015

EDM 880: Human Rights Violations and Natural Resource Extraction

That this House condemns serious and systematic human rights violations resulting from natural resource extraction operations around the world, as highlighted recently in a conference organised by the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme; recognises that mining, oil and gas extraction projects are often a source of considerable conflict, threatening indigenous and other communities living on the land; believes that women from affected communities are at particular risk from irresponsible mining practices, as they can face dispossession, displacement and sexual and gender-based violence; notes that the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in his recent report highlighted excessive use of force against defenders of rights relating to land, defence of the environment and corporate responsibility; further notes his observations of systematic collusion between state and non-state actors designed to block reports by defenders that expose corruption and human rights violations; and calls on the Government to make strong representations, including at EU and UN level, to strengthen and implement comprehensive and gender-sensitive protection mechanisms for human rights defenders in this context, and to work to ensure that affected communities and those defending them are able to participate fully in the drafting and implementation of Business and Human Rights Action Plans.

House of Commons: 15/12/2015

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Early Day Motion 859: Legal Community in China

That this House is very concerned about China's country-wide crackdown against lawyers and the legal community, with hundreds of criminal defence and human rights lawyers, law firm staff, family members and lay advocates being subjected to wrongful arrests and prosecutions, arbitrary and incommunicado detentions and enforced disappearances without judicial oversight, and over 20 still missing or detained; notes that the trial of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and picking quarrels and provoking trouble for comments made on social media, some of which questioned the authorities' excessively violent crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang, has been marred by repeated procedural irregularities and ended with no verdict being announced, though he faces up to eight years in prison if convicted; further notes in connection with that trial that diplomats were denied entry to the courtroom and that police and plain clothes security officials pushed and harassed journalists and cameramen near the courthouse entrance; believes that the crackdown on these lawyers in China effectively denies the right to legal representation for Chinese people and groups seeking remedies for other rights violations; and calls on the Government to be more forthright in its condemnation of Chinese President Xi Jinping's crackdown on lawyers, campaigners and journalists who challenge the Chinese government and China's failure to adhere to its international human rights obligations and to uphold the rule of law.

Primary sponsor: Clwyd, Ann       House of Commons: 14.12.2015 

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UKHO CIG Gambia: Opposition to the Government

Basis of claim

1.1.1 Fear of persecution or serious harm by the state because of a person’s actual or perceived opposition to the government.

Other points to note  
1.2.1 Where a claim falls to be refused, it must be considered for certification under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 as Gambia is listed in respect of men only as a designated state.

Published on Refworld, 16/12/2015

UKHO CIG Iran: Background Info, Including Actors of Protection and Internal Relocation

1. Introduction
1.1 Summary of issues to consider

1.1.1 In general, are those at risk of persecution or serious harm able to seek effective protection?

1.1.2 In general, are those at risk of persecution or serious harm able to internally relocate to escape that risk?

Published on Refworld, 16/12/2015

UKHO CIG Iran: Illegal Exit

Basis of Claim
1.1.1 Fear of persecution or serious harm by the Iranian authorities because the person left Iran illegally.
Published on Refworld, 16/12/2015

Obama Makes a Powerful Defence of Immigrants

Amid a heated national debate on immigration, President Obama on Tuesday made an impassioned defense of migrants and refugees at a naturalization ceremony in Washington, D.C. — telling some of the country’s newest citizens they were emblematic of America’s longstanding cultural diversity. Speaking before the original copies of the founding documents at the National Archives, the president told the 31 new Americans, “as of today your story is forever woven into the larger story of this nation.” Turning to history to defend immigrants, the president noted that eight of the people who signed the U.S. constitution that lay in bullet-proof glass behind him were immigrants themselves. “We are born of immigrants. That is who we are,” he said. “Immigration is our origin story. For more than two centuries, it’s remained at the core of our national character. It’s our oldest tradition. It makes us who we are.”

With Republican contenders for the presidency calling for walls to be constructed along the U.S. border with Mexico and a total ban on Muslims entering the country, and as dozens of governors across the country demand an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees, Obama instead in his speech harked back to some of the most shameful moments in history to make his defense of immigration. He referenced Africans brought over on slave ships; Irish people once barred from New York City employment; Catholics coming under suspicion for having a possible foreign allegiance to the pope; Chinese people being banned from entering the country; and German, Italian, and Japanese immigrants and dual citizens being detained and interned in camps during World War Two. “We succumbed to fear,” he said of these episodes. “We betrayed not only our fellow Americans but our deepest values. We betrayed these documents. It’s happened before.”
Read more: David Mack, Buzz Feed News, 15/12/2015

Unlawfully Detained for a Period of 13 Months

West, R (On the Application Of) v SSHD [2015] EWHC 3627 (Admin) (15 December 2015)

1. The Claimant says that he is Paul West (or Paul Ricky West) and that he was born on 28 May 1979 in Ghana to a Ghanaian father and a Jamaican mother. He says he was taken to Jamaica at the age of 3 months and raised there by his mother, and later his aunt. He says that he arrived in the UK at the age of 16 in 1995 on a visit visa to join his mother who was resident here. He says that he stayed, working in various jobs, until his arrest for drugs offences on 24 November 2005. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and recommended for deportation.

2. There is no particular reason to doubt this account, save for some inconsistencies in its telling, but there is also no supporting evidence at all prior to his arrest in 2005. That total lack of any documents is at the heart of the difficulties which faced the Defendant in trying to deport him to Jamaica or to Ghana. The question in these proceedings is whether she took too long in those attempts, while the Claimant remained in immigration detention.

3. That detention lasted from 27 August 2007, when the custodial term of his prison sentence expired, until 14 January 2010, when he was released on immigration bail. That is a period of over 2 years 4 months, substantially longer than the period of imprisonment he actually served for his offences.

4. Permission was granted to apply for judicial review at an oral hearing on 4 February 2011. The substantive hearing has been postponed on two occasions to await decisions of the Court of Appeal in other cases. The latest of these was R (Francis) v SSHD [2015] 1 WLR 567 in relation to the effect of the "mandatory" detention provisions in paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the Immigration Act 1971. It is now established and accepted (subject to the result of an appeal to the Supreme Court in a similar case) that the Hardial Singh principles apply to such detention as they do to detention under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 3.

5. Directions were given in this case which allowed both sides to call witnesses of fact, and to cross-examine them, but it was agreed that none would be called and I have been invited to decide the issues on the witness statements and documents. Accordingly I am unable to express any view about the Claimant's credibility, or whether he is who he says he is. In any event, that is not the decision I am called upon to make.

69. It follows that the Claimant is entitled to a declaration that he was unlawfully detained for a period of 13 months.

70. He has a claim for damages, as yet unquantified. I will give the parties time to agree these if possible. If not, they should be transferred to a Master or to the County Court for assessment.

71. The parties may be able to agree any costs orders. If not, I will decide them on written submissions.

Full transcript:

EDM 868: Reductions In Employment And Support Allowance

That this House is aware of the review carried out into the up to £30 per week cut for some claimants of employment and support allowance, as set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which clearly shows that far from incentivising people with disabilities to find work as the Government claims such cuts will widen the disability employment gap, increase the likelihood of ill health and hinder, not enhance, people closer to employment prospects; believes such cuts will have devastating consequences, particularly upon people with learning disabilities; and calls on the Minister to desist from imposing such unfair measures.

House of Commons: 14.12.2015

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UKHO CIG Liberia: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

1.1 Basis of Claim
1.1.1 Fear of persecution or serious harm by the state and/or non-state actors because of the person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

1.2 Other Points to Note
1.2.1 This instruction refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons collectively, although the experiences of members of each group may differ.
1.2.2 Decision makers should also refer to the Asylum Instructions on Sexual Identity Issues in the Asylum Claim; Gender Identity Issues in Asylum Claims; and Gender Recognition in Asylum Claims.

Published on Refworld, 17/12/2015

UKHO CIG Ukraine: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

1.1 Basis of Claim
1.1.1 Fear of persecution or serious harm by the state and/or non-state actors because of the person's actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

1.1.2 For the purposes of this instruction, unless specified, the above are collectively referred to as 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons'.

1.2 Other Points to Note
1.2.1 In addition to the guidance in this section, decision makers should also refer to the Asylum Instructions on Sexual Identity Issues in the Asylum Claim; Gender Identity Issues in Asylum Claims; and Gender Recognition in Asylum Claims.

1.2.2 Where a claim falls to be refused, it must be considered for certification under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 as Ukraine is listed as a designated state.
Published on Refworld, 17/12/2015

Last updated 18 December, 2015