Civil servants threaten ministers with legal action over Rwanda bill

12 March 2024: Guardian: Civil servants threaten ministers with legal action over Rwanda bill

Exclusive: Union says Home Office staff could be in breach of international law if they implement deportations

Civil servants have threatened ministers with legal action over concerns that senior Home Office staff could be in breach of international law if they implement the government’s Rwanda deportation bill.

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, have warned they could also be in violation of the civil service code – and open to possible prosecution – if they followed a minister’s demands to ignore an urgent injunction from Strasbourg banning a deportation.

It has sent a pre-action legal letter to James Cleverly, the home secretary, calling for clarity – with a request to either amend the legislation or change the code.

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People seeking asylum in London face malnutrition, but there is scope for local action

12 March 2024: Sustain: People seeking asylum in London face malnutrition, but there is scope for local action

New report finds food insecurity and malnutrition are commonplace for people seeking asylum in London, and outlines key areas for local action.

New report, Food experiences of people seeking asylum in London: areas for local action, published today by Sustain, finds serious issues with food access for people seeking asylum in London. Key areas for local action are outlined, with recommendations of how councils can work with local actors to improve the situation.

Serious concerns were raised about food provided in catered accommodation, with evidence of poor food safety and lack of provision for people with medical conditions and allergies, in some cases leading to hospitalisation. Key issues were raised around unsafe infant feeding with parents lacking access to equipment to sterilise and store bottles, and food being inappropriate for children, who were losing significant amounts of weight. People want to have choice over what they eat and be able to cook their own meals. This was particularly important to mothers, who were deeply impacted by not being able to provide for their children, who were becoming malnourished.

Sustain worked with Jesuit Refugee Service UK and Life Seekers Aid to conduct the research between October 2023 and February 2024. This included focus groups with people with lived experience of the asylum system, interviews with local authorities, healthcare providers and voluntary and community sector organisations, and a workshop with local authorities.

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Looking tough on migration is eroding human rights

6 March 2024: Politico: Looking tough on migration is eroding human rights

Curtailing migrant rights may help score quick political gains, but electoral success doesn’t give governments carte blanche to place themselves above the law.

Europe’s insistence on looking tough on migration is endangering rule of law across the Continent.

Pursuing ever more stringent asylum and migration policies, European countries are not only perpetuating human rights violations against asylum seekers and migrants; they are also dismantling collective human rights safeguards, as well as eroding wider legal and democratic checks and balances that protect all our rights.

The upcoming adoption of the United Kingdom’s Safety of Rwanda Bill, currently working its way through the House of Lords, is perhaps the starkest illustration of this dangerous trajectory.

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The chief inspector of borders and immigration angered ministers by exposing an ineffective, cruel system

4 March 2024: Hansard: Dame Diana Johnson  (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Office if he will make a statement on the publication of 13 reports by the former independent chief inspector of borders and immigration on 29 February and how the inspectorate will now operate in the absence of a chief inspector or deputy?

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3 March 2024: Guardian: The Guardian view on asylum failures: David Neal was sacked for telling the truth

The chief inspector of borders and immigration angered ministers by exposing an ineffective, cruel system

here is a role in public life, for sure, for people who speak truth to power,” said David Neal, the sacked UK borders inspector, at a hearing of the home affairs select committee last week. It is a role that Mr Neal, who once commanded the 1st Military Police Brigade, did his best to perform. Independent inspectorates play a vital role in upholding standards – particularly when their job is to inspect places otherwise hidden from view. Often, they reveal problems that make ministers uncomfortable. But the truths unearthed by Mr Neal about the borders and asylum system are ones they do not want even to hear.

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New reports from ICIBI and Home Office responses

Dave Neal, who has been ICIBI was sacked – see this report: He has complained throughout his time as ICIBI that the Home Office was slow, sometimes very slow to publish his Department’s reports. They have now published 13 of them all at once. In his absence the ICIBI team will be unable to act until there is a new appointee.

The role of the Independent Chief Inspector is to help improve the efficiency, effectiveness and consistency of the Home Office’s border and immigration functions through unfettered, impartial and evidence-based inspection.

His findings and recommendations for improvement to the Home Office are captured in inspection reports. They are submitted to the Home Secretary and laid before Parliament before publication.

The Independent Chief Inspector has developed a set of expectations against which his staff conduct inspections.

The Home Office publishes official responses to the ICIBI reports.

29 Feb 2024: Inspection reports by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) 12 long-awaited reports have now been released by the Home Office. Some have been delayed

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Publication of correspondence: Letter to Home Secretary following David Neal session

29 February 2024: Home Affairs Select Committee: The Home Affairs Committee has written to the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, with questions following its evidence session with former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), David Neal.

The letter highlights key concerns raised in the session and request further information on an number of issues, including the role of ICIBI and the impact of the post remaining vacant; outstanding ICIBI reports and their publication; the situation at Wethersfield asylum accommodation centre; and UK border operations.

Chair’s comment

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Dame Diana Johnson said:

“We were deeply troubled by what we heard at yesterday’s session with David Neal. Irrespective of the whys and wherefores of his dismissal, we are left with yet another Home Office mess. The ICIBI is a vital part of scrutinising border operations but it is left without leadership for months. 15 reports remain unpublished by the Home Office and we have to wonder how far the Home Office will have taken on board their findings to improve border operations. We have asked them to set out how they intend to restore the authority and effectiveness of this vital role.

“We are also concerned about the conditions at Wethersfield and have asked the Home Office to allow us to see for ourselves what is going on here.”

Wednesday briefing: How a sacked official blew the whistle on new lows in the asylum system

28 February 2024: Guardian: Wednesday briefing: How a sacked official blew the whistle on new lows in the asylum system

In today’s newsletter: Why David Neal lost his job, and what he had to say about the faltering immigration system

Good morning. When then-home secretary Priti Patel appointed David Neal as the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration in 2021, the Commons home affairs committee refused to endorse the decision. They were worried that the recruitment process had been inadequate and said they had seen no evidence that he was “confident to challenge performance publicly”. Well, they’ve seen it now.

Last week, David Neal was sacked from his job by James Cleverly, now the home secretary, just a month before he was due to stand down. Neal’s crime was to disclose unauthorised information to the media – a tactic that he appears to have resorted to after 15 reports he wrote uncovering problems with the immigration system went unpublished, instead gathering dust on a Home Office shelf. Now Neal has told the same parliamentary committee of “shocking leadership” at the Home Office and said he was “sacked for doing my job” – and his testimony paints a grim picture of the state of the accommodation centres where the government houses asylum seekers.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke to Diane Taylor, who covers immigration and asylum for the Guardian, about what her own reporting has uncovered about the facilities that drove Neal to go rogue – and what his departure tells us about the Home Office’s appetite for scrutiny. Here are the headlines.

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Report Launch: “No Such Thing as Justice Here”

25 February 2024: University of Oxford: Report: “No Such Thing as Justice Here” and launch on 7 March 2024

This report, published by the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and Border Criminologies, shows how people have been imprisoned for their arrival on a ‘small boat’ since the Nationality and Borders Act (2022) came into force. It details the process from sea to prison, and explains how this policy is experienced by those affected. Analysis is based on observations of over 100 hearings where people seeking asylum were prosecuted for their own illegal arrival, or for facilitating the arrival of others through steering the dinghy they travelled on. The report is informed by the detailed casework experience of Humans for Rights Network, Captain Support UK and Refugee Legal Support. It also draws on data collected through Freedom of Information requests, and research interviews with lawyers, interpreters, and people who have been criminalised for crossing the Channel on a ‘small boat’. 

Read the full report here, and the summary here

You can join for the launch of the report at Garden Court Chambers on the 7th March, 2024. To register for this hybrid event, click here.

Labour Exploitation Advisory Group report

February 2024: Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG): “So I decided to carry on…”: The continuum of exploitation in practice

This report produced by the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) explores the ‘continuum of exploitation’ model which shows that workers’ experiences can be understood as existing along a ‘continuum’, or spectrum, ranging from decent work through to breaches of employment rights and at the severe end, conditions of forced labour and trafficking.

It looks at the limits of the ‘modern slavery’ approach to labour exploitation and the need for the UK to move toward a more preventative approach informed by workers’ real lived experiences.

The report is based on engagement with migrant workers with thanks to the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organization, Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Work Rights Centre and the workers who shared their experiences to inform this report.

Download the report from the website here:

It’s scandalous

Updated 20 February 2024: The Government is really angry with Dave Neal for speaking out: BBC: Immigration watchdog sacked after critical news stories

Mr Neal, whose tenure was due to end on 21 March, told the Times on Tuesday that he had not made the decision to speak to the media “lightly”. He added: “But I’ve been forced into this because my reports aren’t being published.”

“I’ve spent all my working life protecting this country, I’ve identified a security failing and I’ve brought it back to the Home Office,” he is quoted as saying.

“There’s a strong public interest here and that’s why I’ve done what I’ve done. The border is there to keep us safe, it’s critical that there are clear auditable risk decisions made to protect every one of us in the country.”

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Status Now 4 All Newsletter – February 2024. 

Welcome to the Status Now Newsletter for February 2024. 

Status Now 4 All Campaign

This is our call:

We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in *Indefinite Leave to Remain. In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else

Our campaign continues to be as relevant as ever in this hostile environment, and we stand with those who share our concerns,  some of which are reflected in the following news items. We begin with news from StatusNow4All signatory organisations and then point the reader to just a few of the many articles that confirm the need for our existence.

Continue reading “Status Now 4 All Newsletter – February 2024. “

Migrant Voice Roundtable Event

Migrant Voice organised a Roundtable Event on Tuesday 6 February 2024, for Migration Week 2024.

This is part of Migrant Voice efforts to advance the agenda for a migration system that respects the dignity of all people. It stems from the conviction that the system should adhere to the UK’s commitment on the global stage. It is also an attempt to advance the discussion on migration beyond the hostile narrative that is presented by the current government.

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SistersNotStrangers Conference

Details of Sisters not Strangers Conference on Friday 16th Feb 2024, 2:00pm to 5:00pm in Liverpool

Join us for a powerful event of connection and collaboration as SistersNotStrangers comes to Liverpool for an afternoon conference! 

This event is a unique opportunity to meet members of our coalition, particularly those working with asylum seekers, refugees, or individuals with lived experiences.

SistersNotStrangers is a UK-based coalition dedicated to supporting asylum-seeking and refugee women. It is made of 7 groups: The Women’s Group (Swansea), DEWA (Sheffield), Women for Refugee Women (London), CARAG (Coventry), Refugee Women Connect (Liverpool), Women Seeking Asylum Together (Manchester)c, Women With Hope (Birmingham).

Our mission is to campaign against destitution and other inhumane policies affecting women seeking safety in the UK. SistersNotStrangers envision a world where these women are seen as sisters, not strangers – as women, neighbours, mothers, colleagues, and activists.

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Exporting people seeking asylum – Rwanda

27 January 2024: Guardian: Revealed: UK granted asylum to Rwandan refugees while arguing country was safe

Home Office said refugees’ fear of persecution was ‘well-founded’, undermining Rishi Sunak’s claims about East African country

Four Rwandans were granted refugee status in the UK over “well-founded” fears of persecution at the same time as the government was arguing in court and parliament that the east African country was a safe place to send asylum seekers.

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Concerns about the use of barges, army barracks, hotels, offshoring etc etc. continued 2023

This post follows on from the initial post which became very long, but can be found here Here we update the post with reports of atrocities around the army camp accommodation and hotels, and other Home Office plans to accommodate people in new sites. These are the consequences of the hostile system that leaves people languishing without a decision for long periods of time.

See also posts regarding ‘Detention Centres‘ such as such as Hassockfield/Derwentside, and also the post regarding plans to export people seeking asylum to Rwanda 

Re: children:

StatusNow4All: our campaign: ‘Indefinite Leave To Remain’ for people who are undocumented, destitute, and those in the legal process #HealthAndSafetyForAll

24 January 2024: Open Democracy: Torture victims being housed on Bibby Stockholm in possible breach of rules

Revelation comes weeks after death of Leonard Farruku on board the controversial asylum barge

Vulnerable people including victims of torture are being housed on the Bibby Stockholm in a potential breach of the government’s own guidelines, those on board have told openDemocracy.

The allegations come just weeks after the death of a man on board. Leonard Farruku, an Albanian man, is thought to have killed himself in December. Speaking to us, his former roommate warned Farruku’s death was “just the beginning”.

Current residents of the barge spoke on condition of anonymity and included a man from the Horn of Africa, who told openDemocracy that he was a victim of torture. The man, who had previously been housed in a hotel and receiving psychological support, has been on the barge in a shared room since November 2023. Members of local residents’ organisation Portland Global Friendship Group, which offers informal pastoral support and activities for dozens of people on the Bibby Stockholm, told openDemocracy that they knew of at least two other victims of torture – one from Russia, another from Iran – who were also on board.

Continue reading “Concerns about the use of barges, army barracks, hotels, offshoring etc etc. continued 2023”