Shrinking the space for human rights: A look back on 2020

2021 January 5: Written by: Frances Webber

A raft of new laws, Home Office measures and government proposals attempt to restrict the legal accountability of state actors, including ministers, while removing legal protections from those who need them most. In this IRR News long read, Frances Webber examines the various threats to human rights over the last year.

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Napier camp, Folkestone is unsafe

People seeking asylum in Folkestone are protesting. They want their voices to be heard.

A resident at Napier Barracks writes: ” I can’t speak English , but I can write for you and I send good pictures for you , you can read the posters on my pic we are human. Everyone here has a mental problem because nothing is human. No body is responsible for how long we have to be here. Neither in terms of health nor food and any other help many people here do not have access to a doctor,
Many do not have warm clothes.”

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Migrants must be included in all COVID-19 recovery plans – UN and regional experts

18 December 2020: OHCHR International Migrants Day

GENEVA (17 December 2020) – Migrants and their families, no matter what their migration status, must be included in the national COVID-19 response and recovery plans of all countries, human rights experts* said today in a statement marking International Migrants Day. Their full statement is as follows:

“The pandemic has manifested globally the vital contributions migrant workers provide to local economies. Migrant workers form a crucial workforce in various sectors that are contributing to the delivery of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in domestic households. Among them, migrant health and care workers have been on the frontline.

On this day where we pay tribute to all migrants, in a context of a continuing global health crisis that also has a severe impact on the governance of migratory movements, we must remind States to treat all migrants with dignity and provide them with equal access to services, benefits, information, and assistance.

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Revealed: shocking death toll of asylum seekers in Home Office accommodation

15 December 2020 Guardian: FoI response shows 29 people died – five times as many as lost their lives in perilous Channel crossings

Twenty-nine asylum seekers have died in Home Office accommodation so far this year – five times as many as those who have lost their lives on perilous Channel small boat crossings over the same period.

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AVID: 60+ organisations join our call to close the barracks and engage with civil society

8 December 2020: AVID: Today, we sent a letter to the Immigration Minister and Shadow Home Secretary highlighting the risks of housing vulnerable asylum-seekers in crowded barracks where social distancing is impossible, and urging them to implement community-based alternatives, to avoid further harm. Our letters were co-signed by more than 60 community organisations working with people in detention or seeking asylum.

Read the letter to the Immigration Minister Chris Philp MP

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We Belong: Mental Health check

The young migrant folk at We Belong recently published this report that looks at mental health and the precariousness of growing up on LLR:

“We Belong’s Mental Health Check is not an easy read – but it is an essential one. It is a clarion call for change. Our report catalogues the terrible toll that the immigration system in general – and the 10-year Limited Leave to Remain route in particular – is taking on young people’s mental and physical health.

Our country cannot afford to go on like this: too many young lives are being damaged and distorted; too much harm is being inflicted; too much ambition and talent is being hobbled – or even extinguished.

Here, we repeat the call of our 2019 report, ‘Normality is a Luxury: How Limited Leave to Remain is blighting young lives’, for a shorter, more affordable and humane path to citizenship for those of us who are proud to call the UK our home (see page 30-31)”

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Alarming Rise in Asylum Backlog Despite Fall in Applications

30 November 2020: The backlog of asylum cases has reached alarming new heights, with over 46,000 people now waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their asylum application. The figures as of 30 September 2020, which were released today, show a 19% increase from three months earlier and a 76% rise since September 2019. he Home Office has used the backlog as a pretext to accommodate asylum seekers in converted military barracks in Wales and Kent. But the backlog is not an unforeseeable pandemic-induced crisis: it had been rising for several years, at a faster rate than the increase in asylum applications over the same period. Applications did rise by around a third between 2017 and 2019, but the backlog doubled.

The pandemic has made a bad situation worse.

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Fair Immigration Reform Movement

For your consideration: The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) unites a call for humane immigration and inclusion policies that can truly reflect our society’s democratic values, and that draws on a distinguished history in Britain of standing for the dignity and justice of all.

The Charter emerged as a result of conversations with those who face the sharp end of current policies: with their family and friends, campaigners, politicians, journalists, case workers, volunteers, and many others who support everyone who has been affected by the increasingly brutal immigration policies in Britain.

[Read more:]

You can sign up to this Charter

12 Oct 2020 Vigil – lives destroyed by the hostile environment

2020 October 10: There was a Vigil this evening commemorating lives destroyed by the hostile environment, and remembering the death ten years ago of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of G4S guards as he was being removed from UK; and others who have died due to this hostile environment … #SolidarityKnowsNoBorders

From the event:

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Home Office outsourcing asylum interviews to private contractors is irresponsible and callous. We have a better alternative.

28.9.2020: The UK Government’s Home Office are planning to outsource asylum interviews to private contractors. They claim that the move is intended to deal with a backlog of over 40,000 cases. The move has sent chills amongst some people seeking asylum, and wider communities with experience of outsourced state services, and especially amongst those who have endured an  interview process that was already dysfunctional before the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis.

Outsourcing the interviews would mean that whichever company gets the contract – G4S, Capita, Mitie, Sopra Steria or Serco – would be able to access highly sensitive and confidential information that could put peoples’ lives at risk. Could any of these private companies be trusted with access to sensitive information? Could they be trusted to employ case workers who are capable of creating safe spaces for people to tell their harrowing stories? Could they ask the right questions in the right ways and not intimidate people? 

Continue reading “Home Office outsourcing asylum interviews to private contractors is irresponsible and callous. We have a better alternative.”

Divisive spin and scandalous neglect: this government’s approach to refugees

We welcome this statement from Leicester City Mayor & Executive:

23.9.2020: Divisive spin and scandalous neglect: this government’s approach to refugees

Leicester is a city that has been shaped by our recent history of providing refuge for people fleeing from war, conflict and oppression. Our city comprises many, many thousands and many generations for whom this plight and flight was a real, lived trauma. People who had to flee immediate jeopardy and make sudden, rapid life changing acts of survival. People who sought refuge and found a home in Leicester.

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Live on zoom! September 21, 2020 – 7:00pm to 9:00pm (GMT)
Reserve your spot now—space is limited!
To join us contact booking by email:
Never to be forgotten we are honouring all victims of:
War; Terrorism; Religious extremism; Political violence; Police brutality; Ethnic violence; Gender-based violence; Climate and resource conflict; Organised crime; Slavery & human trafficking; Gang violence
This event particular is dedicated to the support of children,women and vulnerable people in Yida camp, South Sudan who have experienced and are still dealing with the aftermath of the above while dealing now with the impact of a global pandemic.

What Happens To Precarious Migrants And Asylum Seekers During This Pandemic?

Furaha Asani : A few days ago, journalists from the BBC and Sky News attempted to obtain live interviews with migrants making their way across the English Channel in dhingies. The journalists, safe aboard their own boats, extended microphones over the edge of their boats in the direction of the dhingies. Social media fired up, with many voices speaking both for and against migrants alighting on the British shore. Poll results released around the same time in the United Kingdom showed that nearly half of the respondents had little to no sympathy for migrants who were crossing the channel from France to England.

Mere months ago there was global panic, clearing out shop aisles of food and toiletries and indulging in war rhetoric all in a bid to stay safe and healthy. Covid-19 and its ensuing lockdown gave everyone a taste of instability. Yet the conversation around migration shows reserved empathy with migrants fleeing whatever instability they have left behind.

In this pandemic, for those who have access to healthcare services—and importantly the funds for these services where they are not free—there at least exists the assurance that support is on hand should it be needed. Amongst various marginalized and vulnerable groups, those with immigration hardship often have limited healthcare access for reasons ranging from no funds, to language barriers, and fear of being detained and deported. In the words of Professor Raj Bhopal of the University of Edinburgh, undocumented migrants often live “in the shadows of society, fearful of authority, and with little access to services, which are mostly provided by the voluntary sector.” 

Precarious and undocumented migrants and asylum seekers are therefore multiply marginalized within this pandemic: they likely live with trauma from situations they fled from, they face the virus (just like everyone else), they face instability on the shores they land on, and potential anti-immigrant (and in many cases outright racist) sentiments within those lands.

[Read more here: ]