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News & Views Monday 10th February to Sunday 16th February 2020

Overstaying and Applying For Further Leave To Remain

When it comes to overstaying, prevention is better than cure. Overstaying in the UK is a criminal offence, and without leave in the UK, you do not have the right to study or work and you are at risk of removal. You are also exposed to the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ for overstayers, which means restrictions on the ability to rent accommodation, open a bank account, drive and access medical treatment. 

It is always preferable to take action in advance of your visa expiring if you wish to remain in the UK. However, you can also become an overstayer in other ways, such as failing to act quickly after an in-country application is refused, or if your in-country application is rejected as invalid.

In this blog post, we take a look at the situations in which overstayers may be able to apply for further leave to remain in the UK.

Read more: Olivia Waddell, Richmond Chambers,

Alarm About Worsening Conditions For Newly Displaced In Eastern DRC

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned by the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern Beni Territory where violence has forced more than a hundred thousand civilians from their homes over the past two months.

Attacks by armed groups since December last year on a number of towns and villages that comprise the Watalinga Chiefdom, near the border with Uganda, have displaced women, men and children to the town of Nobili and surrounding areas.

Many were displaced previously and had only just returned to their villages in November last year, after fleeing violence in April. They remain in dire need of assistance.

Tensions in the region have been rising since the launch of a government-led military operation in December against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Civilians, including those displaced in November and December, are among those targeted by armed groups, including the ADF. An estimated 252 civilians are reported to have been killed in Beni Territory since December last year, according to local authorities.

Many people told UNHCR staff that they now live in fear, after witnessing killings, sexual violence and abductions at home and during flight.

The majority of those forced to flee in the latest wave of violence are now being sheltered by local host communities in Nobili town who have welcomed displaced families without hesitation but lack resources to even meet their own needs.

Read more: Relief Web,

The ‘Crisis’ of Legal Advice in Immigration Detention

New research published Friday 7th February 2020,  based on the testimony of 90 individuals held in detention centres in the UK gives rise to serious concerns about the quality of legal advice available. The results lay bare the sorry state of legal advice in immigration detention. The stakes could not be higher – without access to quality immigration legal advice people are at the mercy of the Home Office and face long-term detention and removal from the UK. For many of our clients this means permanent separation from family in the UK, or being taken to a country that they have not seen in many years and may fear returning to.

The survey, collected Bail for Immigration Detainees, is the only data collected on the availability of legal advice and representation in immigration detention. Some 59% of people currently have an immigration solicitor, 68% of whom are represented on a legal aid basis. These figures are lower than those prior to the 2013 legal aid cuts, which removed non-asylum immigration work from the scope of legal aid.
Interviewees were particularly critical of the legal advice surgeries in detention centres. Changes to the contractual arrangements governing the provision of legal advice in immigration detention brought about in September 2018 drastically increased the number of firms delivering advice surgeries (from a total of nine firms to 77) and this has caused a significant reduction in quality.

Rudy Schulkind, Bail for Immigration Detainees,

Violence, Drought, Flooding, Locust Invasion Devastates Horn Of Africa

People in the Horn of Africa are increasingly caught between extremes. In 2019 the region see-sawed between crippling drought and devastating floods, eroding already-fragile livelihoods and forcing people to abandon their homes. Many of them were already displaced from their homes by violence. Today, these communities face yet another threat: locusts.

Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya are facing their worst locust outbreak in decades. Millions of locusts are moving from community to community, devouring hundreds of kilometres of vegetation. For farmers who already lost their crops to droughts and floods, the pests are a particularly devastating blow. Somalia declared a national emergency for fear the swarms will deepen already dire levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. "The locusts are coming on the heels of a year marked by conditions that were either too hot and dry or too wet," said Juerg Eglin, Head of ICRC Delegation for Somalia. "People already on the run from violence saw their animals wither and die in drought, their crops washed away by floodwaters, and now what remains be eaten by locusts. There is only so much families can withstand."

Read more: Relief Web,

Urgent Need to Rekindle Hope For Millions Of Afghan Refugees

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on the world not to let hope fade for millions of displaced Afghans, impacted by more than four decades of unrest in Afghanistan and their host communities in the region.

The Government of Pakistan and UNHCR are jointly convening a ministerial meeting in Islamabad next week to send a global reminder about the fate of millions of Afghans living as refugees, many of whom feel the rest of the world may have already abandoned them. This is an impression that we must prove wrong.

For more than 40 years, Afghans have continued to flee violence, war, conflict and natural disasters. Neighbouring countries – like Pakistan and Iran — continue to show remarkable generosity by providing refuge to millions of Afghan women, children and men, all with little recognition and decreasing international support.

Afghanistan, today, has a population of 35 million people. Nearly 25 per cent are former refugees who have returned home in the last 18 years, while more than a million people are displaced internally.

Some 4.6 million Afghans – including 2.7 million registered refugees still live outside of the country. Around 90 per cent of them are being hosted by Pakistan (1.4 million) and Iran (1 million).

In an upsetting trend, Afghans are the largest group of asylum-seekers currently arriving in Europe.

Read more: Relief Web,

Over 55,000 Grave Crimes Committed Against Children in African Conflict Zones in Five Years

There have been more than 55,882 grave violations against children in conflict affected areas in Africa between 2014 and 2018 according to new analysis by Save the Children [1]. This includes children being killed, maimed or sexually assaulted - despite commitments by African leaders to end all wars on the continent by 2020.

The last five UN Children and Armed Conflict Annual Reports reveal there has been limited progress made towards protecting children in Africa, since the African Union's flagship campaign to "Silence the Guns" was launched in 2013. The agency is concerned that while some steps have been taken by African leaders to curb violent attacks on children, progress has been too slow.

Revealed ahead of the African Union's (AU) 33rd Assembly in Addis Ababa on 9-10 February, the figures show there has been an increase in incidents of four out of the six UN-mandated grave violations against children in Africa in times of war since 2014.

The greatest increase has been in the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, which has more than doubled in Africa in five years.

Read more: Save the Children,

Darkest Decade For Indian Democracy

On 26 January, India marked the 71st anniversary of its constitution. This year, however, the customary Republic Day celebrations were overshadowed by uncustomary protests. Convinced that the ruling party is destroying the values the constitution represents, tens of thousands of Indians took to the streets to demand change.

Just weeks earlier, the government passed a citizenship law that reeks of religious discrimination against Muslims and is seen by many as unconstitutional. The bill lit the spark of the protests. Many of those who have watched the anti-democratic turn in India silently for some years found their voice on the eve of the Republic Day. They tore up the veil of fear and demonstrated in over a 100 towns and cities. Human chains running into miles were formed and sit-ins were widespread. Protesters recited the preamble of the constitution and a copy was sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the advice to read it when he “finds time from dividing the nation”.

There are widespread fears that the government is planning to follow the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act by implementing a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). The scheme, which would require individuals to provide proof of their citizenship, could turn minority citizens into foreigners by demanding documents that a very large number of Indians will never be able to produce. Millions do not know the year they were born, let alone that of their parents. The NRC would give extraordinary powers to petty government officials and would disproportionately affect the poor, minorities, internal migrants, and the Dalits.

Read more: Open Democracy,