Court of Appeal Overturns Asylum Seeker Convictions
Four Iranian men who crossed the English Channel in small boats have had their convictions for immigration offences quashed. The Court of Appeal said it had not been proven they intended to enter the UK illegally. The men were intercepted by Border Force officials on separate crossings in 2019 and 2020 and were all convicted separately. They had all piloted inflatable boats in crossings organised by smugglers. One of the men, Samyar Bani, claimed he had control of the tiller for a matter of seconds. He was released after serving part of his sentence. He told the BBC: "I lost everything because I came to the UK for an asylum claim. "I'm not a criminal, not a smuggler. I just sat in a boat and came here for asylum claim." Mr Bani, who travelled through Turkey, Greece, Germany and France before reaching the UK, was convicted in June 2019 after Border Force officials saw him piloting a rigid inflatable boat across the channel. The Court of Appeal said the jury in his case had been wrongly told Mr Bani broke the law as soon as he entered UK waters.
Read more: BBC News, https://rb.gy/x9oyez
Trafficking Victims Entitled to Back Payments After Court Ruling
People left without basics such as toothpaste and sanitary products after Home Office axed support. Thousands of trafficking victims who had government support payments removed in the midst of the pandemic are entitled to back payments that could run into millions of pounds, following a high court ruling that found the policy to be unlawful. Its decision came after the Home Office removed financial support in July 2020 for trafficking victims who had claimed asylum and were being accommodated in hotels.
Previously people in this group were entitled to up to £65 per week support from the Home Office, and were usually placed in self-contained accommodation where they would buy and prepare their own food. Once the pandemic started some were placed in hotels and the money withdrawn. People were left without basic necessities such as toothpaste and sanitary products and there were reports that some had to resort to begging. The Home Office on 30 August performed a U-turn on the policy after legal action was launched.
The high court ruling on Friday by Peter Marquand, sitting as a deputy high court judge, found that the Home Office’s sudden policy change axing support to trafficking victims who had also claimed asylum was unlawful. A separate high court hearing will be arranged to discuss the details of making back payments to the people who wrongly had their money taken away in 2020.
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, https://rb.gy/yuyhcb
People With Disabilities Invisible in Asylum Information
Understandings of and responses to disability vary widely. In the field of international protection, the approach to disability tends to reflect policy and decision-making practices within host states, as well as the understandings and “unconscious biases” of decision-makers, legal representatives, and country of origin researchers. Asylos and ARC Foundation have been aware for some time that there is a critical need for better quality country of origin information (COI) on persons with disabilities, for use in asylum procedures in the UK and beyond.
Significant information gaps on persons with disabilities. The lack of good quality COI on disability issues stems from the way international protection claims are commonly presented. The focus is on medical responses to an impairment, with a failure to take a holistic and intersectional approach to identifying the relevant issues and an absence of relevant material or sources. The lack of relevant source material is itself linked to the limited visibility of persons with disabilities in societies around the world.
This lack of visibility is also an issue in the COI and has been repeatedly raised with us. We were advised that this information gap risks asylum claims involving children and young people with disabilities being refused because of a lack of objective and relevant evidence that might support their case. This is all the more relevant following the recent case of DH (Particular Social Group: Mental Health) Afghanistan  UKUT 223 (IAC), which recognised that a “person living with disability or mental ill-health” may qualify as a member of a particular social group.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/q2h9in
|Refugee Convention is Dead: Let’s Bury it and Start Again
For too long, the convention, which defines the term ‘refugee’ as well as his or her rights, has been more honoured in the breach than the observance. So has the 1967 protocol to the convention, which broadened refugees’ rights by removing geographical restrictions – the original convention applied only to Europe – and giving people fleeing persecution anywhere equal claim to international protection. In the past decade, there’s been a shift away from international norms for protecting people displaced by war and persecution. What would it take to fix this?
The list of countries brazenly flouting the convention is long – and growing longer – even though a newly published flagship report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency, says that the vast majority of people in the world (96.4%) continue to live in the country in which they were born. The World Migration Report 2022 adds that “trafficked migrants represent a small share of the 281 million international migrants in 2020” and that the pandemic had reduced the overall number of international migrants by roughly two million. For the better part of a decade, the European Union (EU) has also been prioritising policies that go against the spirit of the Refugee Convention.
Read more: Rashmee Roshan Lall, Open Democracy, https://rb.gy/tfyeku
Windrush: High Court Rules Claimants’ Human Rights Breached by Home Office
Members of the Windrush generation had their human rights breached when the Home Office refused to grant them citizenship, the high court has ruled. Eunice Tumi and Vernon Vanriel were refused citizenship after being told by the home secretary they did not fulfil the residence requirement of having been in the UK on the date f ive years before they made the application for citizenship, the court heard. The only reason they could not fulfil this requirement was because the home secretary had unlawfully prevented them from coming back to the UK earlier, the court heard.
They were only granted indefinite leave to remain after the the Windrush scandal, when it emerged that those who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries from 1948 onwards, as well as their children, were wrongly targeted by the government’s “hostile environment” policies designed to deter illegal immigrants. Both were subsequently denied British citizenship when they applied for it under the Windrush scheme.But on Thursday, Mr Justice Bourne ruled that the home secretary had discretion about applying the five-year rule when considering citizenship applications. The ruling is likely to have a significant impact for other members of the Windrush generation in similar situations.
Read more: Diane Taylor and Amelia Gentleman, Guardian, https://rb.gy/udvnm2
New Guidance on Obstructing an Immigration Officer
The Home Office has issued new guidance to immigration enforcement officers, called simply Obstruction. This refers to the criminal offence of obstructing an immigration officer in section 26(1)(g) of the Immigration Act 1971, which can see activists prosecuted for interfering with raids.
A crucial element of that offence, however, is that the officer be “acting in the execution of this Act” at the time they are obstructed. The guidance emphasises this several times. For example, the power to arrest someone for obstruction is confined to situations of “obstruction whilst acting in execution of the Act”. If they do arrest someone,
It is essential that officers’ records are accurate and clearly detail how they were in execution of the 1971 Act. Failure to do so could lead to the arrest being deemed unlawful and a court dismissing the case. By contrast, officers are advised that if they are obstructed “while not exercising any powers within the 1971 Act”, they should instead “consider the necessity to continue their deployment”.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/sqwkxy
Experts Tell Home Office: Put up or Shut up About “Pull Factors”
The Home Office has tended to argue for an employment ban for asylum seekers due to the so-called ‘pull factor’. The argument is that asylum seekers may choose to come to the UK over other safe countries because of the attractiveness of the labour market. One review of international evidence around the ‘pull factor’ found no correlation between access to the labour market and choice of country for asylum. By contrast, other pull factors such as family/friends in the destination country or language spoken amongst others tended to be more important. The Home Office recently made a parliamentary statement regarding analysis of the employment ban, but this contained no evidence on the ‘pull-factor’ but rather focused on fiscal issues which are not the focus of our concern. To the extent that the Home Office has robust evidence to support a link between the employment ban and a pull factor, they should of course make this evidence publicly available for scrutiny and review. That is how good policy is made.
The committee, a crack team of independent economists which advises the government on immigration policy, goes on to say that the Home Office should rethink the near-total ban on asylum seekers working. One option would be “to allow applicants to work if an initial decision has not been made within six months”.
Read more: Freemovement, https://rb.gy/ifb06r