Immigration detention and removal in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/10528/all cached version 10/05/2018 14:53:10 en Home Office fails Albanian child refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/esme-madill/albanian-blood-feuds-shpresa-asylum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>One Saturday at a London drop-in for children fleeing crime gangs and blood feuds.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dancing_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dancing_0.jpg" alt="" title="Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)" width="460" height="255" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people at Shpresa Monday evening dance class, Forest Gate, London (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>“The first night I arrived at the foster carer’s she told me to prepare my food and then go and eat in my room,” Loran says.</p><p>“I was stressed as I was not good at cooking and it is very strange in Albania to tell people to eat alone. She was watching me and she told me to clean up as I made the food and I could not find the cloth to clean. I chewed and chewed but the food would not go down. I did not eat that night.”&nbsp;</p><p>Loran is talking to staff and volunteers from a refugee charity in York. He’s helping to train people who work with “unaccompanied minors” —&nbsp;child refugees who’ve come to this country without any adult relatives to care for them.&nbsp;</p><p>I first met&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;one sunny Saturday at Shpresa Programme, a registered charity run by and for women from the Albanian community, initially founded to help refugees from the Balkan conflicts to help themselves. Shpresa volunteers set up a Saturday drop-in for unaccompanied children from Albania who were struggling to help themselves.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">His hands were often sore from long days cultivating the harvest. And the beatings.</p><p>Loran had been referred by his social worker. I took his statement. Back in Albania a crime gang had forced him to tend cannabis plants on a huge farm. He slept in a shed with a corrugated iron roof. Dogs licked his hands. He says this was comforting. His hands were often sore from the long days cultivating the harvest. And from the beatings.&nbsp;</p><p>Loud noises, sudden movements frighten&nbsp;Loran. It’s hard for him to tell his story. He tries to talk about the beatings, hesitates. His eyes twitch. He speaks of his escape from the cannabis farm. Pauses. Twitches.&nbsp;</p><p>Sometimes, when a boy cries, I might put an arm around him, hold his hand. Physical contact makes&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;flinch. That first session,&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;tells me he doesn’t need our help, he’s fine.&nbsp;<em>He&nbsp;</em>wants to help&nbsp;<em>us</em>. He trains professionals and welcomes new youngsters referred to the service. He says he can look after himself.</p><p>Loran was unlucky with his foster carers. Others call Shpresa to ask how they can best support the children in their care. Children as young as 11, who have night terrors and panic attacks, children who disassociate as they talk about the violence they have witnessed and been subjected to.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That Saturday, when&nbsp;Loran&nbsp;leaves, I walk out into the crowded, open plan office where boys and some girls may wait for hours to see volunteers who will try to find them a lawyer, refer them to the Red Cross for help in tracing family members, reassure them that they are not alone, try to guide them through the Kafkaesque UK asylum system.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BACK_HEAD_PARKER.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BACK_HEAD_PARKER.jpeg" alt="" title="At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At a Shpresa gathering (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>Some of these children have no lawyer when they come to us. Some have fallen into the hands of caseworkers who do shoddy work. We’ve seen pro-forma statements sent to the Home Office bearing the wrong country of origin. It takes care, time and skill to take a statement from a child who may be frightened and distrustful.</p><p>“My solicitor was kind,” Ilir says. “She told me what I said would not get back to Albania and she took time but I had not met a solicitor before… I did not know what she was going to do. There was an interpreter there and I thought she might speak to people back in Albania. She was actually really kind too but I did not know that then. At the first meeting, I was not relaxed.”</p><p>Ilir is reed thin, with a cheeky, disarming smile. He has waited three hours to see us. I apologise. He shakes my hand warmly, tells me to stop apologising. He’s thankful, makes us smile, jokes even about his homelessness and how his few belongings are scattered with friends across London.&nbsp;</p><p>He charms all the staff and volunteers — you hear happy laughter as he moves from room to room. Like&nbsp;Loran, Ilir was forced to work for a drugs gang. He waited nearly two years for a Home Office decision, and then it was a No. Any day now, he might get forcibly removed to Albania.&nbsp;</p><p>He claims not to think about it, not to care.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Ilir was forced to work for a drugs gang. He waited nearly two years for a Home Office decision. It was a No.</p><p>Then he tells me about the phone call from his cousin back in Albania saying men came looking for him. They had AK47s. Since Ilir wasn’t there, they tied up his sister. To stop her screaming they put a cloth in her mouth. “I am not upset for me,” he says quietly, “It is for her. I should be able to protect her.”</p><p>We didn't see Fation that Saturday. Fation is great at mechanics, loves volunteering, refurbishing old bikes. A while ago I asked him what he’d do if could stay in the UK. “My dream is to get a job in a garage and volunteer at Shpresa Programme,” he said. Fation, deaf in one ear from his father’s beatings, feared his father would kill him if he was returned to Albania. But the Home Office denied him asylum and his appeal was dismissed. We think he’s in Albania now. We haven’t heard from him.</p><p>That sunny Saturday we saw 13 victims of trafficking, violence or blood feuds. At 6.30pm we divided up the tasks, discussed who was the most vulnerable, whose case to put first on Monday morning. One boy had talked of suicide. We were quiet as we packed up ready for home.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Local authorities have a duty to protect and support highly vulnerable children like Loran. The&nbsp;<a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/656429/UASC_Statutory_Guidance_2017.pdf">UK government acknowledges</a>&nbsp;that unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking, often have complex needs.&nbsp;</p><p>There’s a system for identifying and protecting victims of trafficking, known as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/child-trafficking/research-resources/national-referral-mechanism-nrm/">National Referral Mechanism</a>. It’s supposed to quickly gather information from various agencies, identify trafficked children, keep them safe.</p><p>But the system isn’t working for Albanian children.</p><p>In 2016, of 229 unaccompanied children from Albania who received an initial decision on their asylum claim, only two were granted refugee status, according to the Refugee Council report, <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0003/5923/Children_in_the_Asylum_System_Aug_2015__2_.pdf">Children in the Asylum System 2017</a>. The year before the figure was one.&nbsp;</p><p>One girl had been waiting more than 24 months for a Home Office decision. A lawyer told her: “You are from Albania, what do you expect? You’ll be waiting years.”</p><p>Even among professionals whose job it is to protect vulnerable children — lawyers, teachers and social workers —&nbsp;there’s a common assumption that Albania is a safe country, that these children are economic migrants.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But this does not match the facts. Of the 3,805 potential victims of trafficking referrals to the National Referral Mechanism in 2016, 699, the largest number, came from Albania, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/national-referral-mechanism-statistics/2016-nrm-statistics/788-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-end-of-year-summary-2016/file">National Crime Agency</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tightrope_PARKER.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young people from Shpresa learning outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tightrope_PARKER.jpg" alt="" title="Young people from Shpresa learning outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people from Shpresa learn outdoor skills with Shawfire CIC in Croydon (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>Albanian children are fleeing trafficking, violence and blood feuds, a post-communist phenomenon that draws on medieval Kanun law, and demands revenge killings to salvage family honour. While the Home Office claims these feuds are&nbsp;<a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565464/CIG-Albania-Blood-feuds-v2-July-2016.pdf">“few and in sharp decline”</a>&nbsp;the European parliament reports&nbsp;<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX%3A52013IP0596&amp;from=IT">rising numbers</a>. Even the Albanian parliament admits that its efforts to prevent blood feuds have not succeeded.&nbsp;</p><p>The result is boys marked out to be killed when they reach 16.</p><p>The boy who talked of suicide that sunny Saturday had fled a blood feud. He saw his uncle shot in front of him. He wet the bed every night.&nbsp;</p><p>His appeal has been dismissed. The Home Office says the&nbsp;Albanian<em>&nbsp;</em>state will protect him. We could not find him a lawyer. We’ve tried calling his mobile. It just rings out.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Young people from Shpresa will talk about their experiences of the UK government’s hostile environment at ‘Breaking the Chains’, an event hosted by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Houses of Parliament on Friday, 1 June 2018 from 1-5pm. The Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit and Shpresa Programme will bring together Shpresa’s young people with legal professionals and others who support young Albanians, with expert speakers on blood feuds,&nbsp;representing trafficking victims, strategic litigation, child-centred case work, and country of origin research.To register please <a href="https://breaking-the-chains.eventbrite.co.uk">visit Eventbright</a>.</p><p><em>Young peoples names have been changed. Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/children-made-homeless-by-migration-rules">UK migration rules make children homeless</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Esme Madill Wed, 09 May 2018 07:00:31 +0000 Esme Madill 117748 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ‘Windrush generation’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ are both our kin https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/luke-de-noronha/windrush-generation-and-illegal-immigrants-are-both-our-kin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As well as newfound sympathy for the Windrush generation, we should remember that ‘illegal immigrants’ are our kin, especially if we are to challenge the racism of the ‘hostile environment’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/windrush solidarity.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/windrush solidarity.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Windrush solidarity event in Brixton, April 2018. Yui Mok/PA Images. All rights reserved.</em></p><p>On Sunday Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned following the furore over the Windrush scandal: perhaps the first time a Home Secretary has faced sustained criticism for being&nbsp;<em>too tough</em>&nbsp;on the question of immigration. We should be cautious, however, in celebrating this apparent change in public mood. In fact, what we are witnessing is the&nbsp;<em>re-drawing</em>&nbsp;of the line separating those who belong from those who do not: ‘Windrush migrants’ are brought into the fold of the national ‘we’, while ‘illegal immigrants’ are constructed as manifest outsiders.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last couple of weeks, we have been consistently reminded that the Windrush generation are not migrants, but arrived as citizens, as though this distinction must necessarily preface our compassion. We are then peddled the myth that Windrush migrants were invited to Britain, and welcomed with open arms, when in fact ‘coloured migration’ was always deemed undesirable, and racism has shaped immigration politics and nationality law since that historic docking at Tilbury.</p> <p>The fact that the Windrush generation were&nbsp;<em>turned into</em>&nbsp;‘illegal immigrants’ is precisely how immigration control works. There are no sharp divisions between ‘legal migrants’ and citizens over here, working hard, paying taxes and playing by the rules, and the ‘illegal immigrants’ over there, sneaking around, stealing jobs and deceiving ordinary Brits. In fact, the law changes around people;&nbsp;<em>illegality is produced</em>&nbsp;in ways which create divisions within our families, communities and classrooms. We can only develop a stronger critique of the UK’s cruel immigration system if we see Windrush migrants and ‘illegal immigrants’ as kin, rather than as good and bad migrants to be isolated from one another.</p> <p>In response to this, last week on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-43920554/question-time-should-there-be-amnesty-for-illegal-immigrants">Question Time</a>&nbsp;Diane Abbott stated that she would not support any amnesty for undocumented migrants who’ve been living in the UK for over ten years, and suggested that Labour would in fact ‘bear down on the numbers of illegal immigrants’, &nbsp;apparently because they lead ‘tragic lives’. But this sharp distinction between ‘Windrush migrants’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ does not hold in practice. To see this, we need to question how migration works over time.</p> <p>Between 1948 and 1962, around 10% of Jamaica’s population left the island for Great Britain (the percentage was higher in some of the smaller islands). This kind of mass migration cannot be turned off like a tap. People continue to live their lives across borders, transnationally, as family members make plans for their children, partners and cousins to join them. In short, the effects of migration are cumulative and networked, despite immigration restriction.</p> <p>Since 1971, the numbers of migrants moving from the Caribbean to the UK has decreased – North America became the prime destination – but people continued to move. In the last thirty years, some of these migrants overstayed visas. Most were able to regularise and now they are ‘legal migrants’ and British citizens. Some could not. These are the ‘illegal immigrants’, and they are often remarkably familiar, speaking with British accents and identifying with the same neighbourhoods as their British friends. Their children, partners, and parents are often British. But for different reasons, they remain ‘illegal’. I am suggesting that ‘Windrush migrants’ and ‘illegal migrants’ are often kin literally, part of the same extended families, as well as figuratively, in terms of their shared vulnerability to state violence and racism.</p> <p>The difference, however, is that ‘illegal immigrants’ end up on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-stop-the-charter-flight-pvt070-deporting-people-to-jamaica-in-may">mass deportation charter flights.</a></p> <p>This Thursday, up to 50 Jamaican nationals will be taken in the middle of the night from their detention cells, told to pack up what few possessions they have, and loaded onto coaches set for their plane ‘home’. Many will be&nbsp;<a href="http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/focus/20170716/luke-de-noronha-inhumane-deportation">shackled in body restraints</a>, their pleas for mercy ignored, their legal appeals cut short, their family lives destroyed.</p> <p>These are the ‘illegal immigrants’ who are unworthy of amnesty. These are the ‘bad migrants’, those who failed to play by the rules. They will be exiled home,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/18/act-jamaica-deported-british-england-home-office">banished to Jamaica</a>, and this is routine, ordinary under UK immigration policy.</p> <p>There is a cruel irony to the timing, but we would be wrong to identify a contradiction here. With immigration, there is nothing out of step about protecting some so that most can be excluded, detained and deported. This is immigration politics as usual.</p> <p>What the Windrush scandal has provided is the rare opportunity to publically reflect on the violence of our immigration system (see David Lammy’s brilliant piece&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/30/amber-rudd-departure-toxic-policy-windrush-generation-home-secretary-david-lammy">here</a>). It should remind us of the human cost of the anti-immigrant politics we have cultivated, from the first restrictions on commonwealth subjects in 1962, through Enoch Powell, Thatcher, Blair and now Theresa May. Instead, we see the re-drawing of the line between us and them, good migrants and bad migrants, the Windrush generation and the ‘illegal immigrants’.</p> <p>Of course, the treatment of Windrush migrants has been abhorrent, but those who have moved in more recent years also have compelling claims to move and to stay. Most migrants move to the UK because of deep historical and family connections, as they retrace, in reverse, the grooves of British imperialism. This is impossible to talk about when the consensus on ‘illegal immigration’ is so deafening.</p> <p>As we reflect on the Windrush scandal, we might find that the charter flight to Jamaica on Thursday captures more about the UK’s approach to immigration than the newfound sympathy for the Windrush generation, and we should remember that ‘illegal immigrants’ are our kin, and necessarily so if we are to challenge the racism at the heart of the ‘hostile environment’.</p><p><em>This article is cross-posted with kind permission from <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3771-the-windrush-generation-and-illegal-immigrants-are-both-our-kin">Verso Books</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/amber-rudd-resigns-anti-migrant-propaganda-machine-lives-on">Amber Rudd resigns, the anti-migrant machine works on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/child-locked-up-by-mistake-for-62-days-at-adult-immigration-jail">Child locked up ‘by mistake’ for 62 days at adult immigration jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/rayah-feldman/pregnant-women-bear-brunt-of-government-s-clampdown-on-migrant-nhs-care">Pregnant women bear brunt of government’s clampdown on ‘migrant’ NHS care</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Luke de Noronha Tue, 01 May 2018 10:16:58 +0000 Luke de Noronha 117598 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Amber Rudd resigns, the anti-migrant machine works on https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/amber-rudd-resigns-anti-migrant-propaganda-machine-lives-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hardline policies have failed in their stated aim of reducing immigration. Is their true purpose to impress particular voters?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Textbody"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AMBER_RUDD.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Home Secretary Amber Rudd 12 April 2018"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AMBER_RUDD.jpg" alt="" title="Home Secretary Amber Rudd 12 April 2018" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amber Rudd 17 days before her resignation as Home Secretary. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Textbody">The Windrush scandal and Amber Rudd’s failures have dominated headlines, but Theresa May’s anti-migrant&nbsp;<a href="https://corporatewatch.org/the-hostile-environment-turning-the-uk-into-a-nation-of-border-cops-2/">“hostile environment” policies</a>&nbsp;have been causing misery for years.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">It was in 2012 that May, then Home Secretary,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html">made public her plan</a>&nbsp;to make Britain a “hostile environment” for people who have “no right to be here”.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody"><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/the-hostile-environment-turning-the-uk-into-a-nation-of-border-cops-2/">Measures would include</a>&nbsp;compulsory ID checks in hospitals, a series of bans on migrants defined as illegal by the Home Office: they couldn’t rent homes, open bank accounts, obtain driving licences or work.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">Schools, NHS service providers, police forces and local authorities would work with immigration enforcement, sharing data and information to track down and deport anyone suspected of breaking immigration rules.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">Despite this the government came no closer to its’ stated aim of “getting control” over immigration. The&nbsp;<a href="https://corporatewatch.org/deportation-charter-flights-collective-expulsion-in-2017-2/">mass&nbsp;</a><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/deportation-charter-flights-collective-expulsion-in-2017-2/">deportation</a><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/deportation-charter-flights-collective-expulsion-in-2017-2/">s</a>, NHS passport checks,&nbsp;<a href="https://corporatewatch.org/snitches-stings-leaks-how-immigration-enforcement-works-2/">workplace raids</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://corporatewatch.org/court-victory-against-st-mungos-and-thames-reach-rough-sleeper-raids-what-next/">rough-sleeper round-ups</a>&nbsp;and other nasty features of the hostile environment haven’t driven down immigration.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">What then, was the point?</p><p class="Textbody">It’s a question tackled in depth by Corporate Watch’s latest report <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/who-is-immigration-policy-for-full-report/">“Who is immigration policy for?</a>” Our research exposes the different roles played by politicians, media, right-wing hate preachers and corporate power in creating an atmosphere of hate and fear, fuelling conditions for a rise in anti-migrant feeling and xenophobia.&nbsp;</p><h2><span>Standing on the shoulders of Labour Home Secretaries</span></h2><p class="Textbody">None of this is new. The hostile environment, which seeks to turn us all into immigration informers, builds on the legacy of Tony Blair’s Labour Party.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">Between 1999 and 2009, Labour governments passed five major immigration acts, which dramatically expanded the immigration detention and deportation system, and dismantled asylum rights.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody"><span class="mag-quote-right">A long line of Home Secretaries made their names by rolling out ever tougher measures against “illegal migrants”</span></p><p>Officially, the aim of these policies was always to reduce immigration and restrict entry into the UK to the “right” immigrants.&nbsp;</p><p>Yet net migration to the UK has been positive&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/november2017#further-characteristics-of-long-term-international-migrants">every year since 1994</a>, peaking at over 300,000 in 2014 and 2015.&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile the ineffectiveness of vicious Immigration Enforcement measures is an open secret among Home Office officials.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned over the Windrush scandal and for claiming ignorance of her own officials’ methods. But stories of departmental chaos are nothing new.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/may/23/immigrationpolicy.immigration1">Three rounds</a> of rebranding and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/mar/26/uk-border-agency-broken-up">restructuring</a> since 2006 haven’t changed the culture of an institution with extremely low morale, whose officials are well aware of their lack of impact.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">The Independent Chief Inspector’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspection-report-on-illegal-working-december-2015">report on illegal working from 2015</a>&nbsp;quotes Home Office managers. He writes,&nbsp;“Immigration Enforcement would never have the resources to resolve the overall problem. They described it as ‘not a realistic working model’.”</p><p class="Textbody">Even the most extreme hostile environment measures fail as an immigration deterrent. Instead these policies are dramatically reshaping aspects of Britain’s civil society and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/project/does-immigration-enforcement-matter-diem/">research suggests</a>&nbsp;that many migrants do feel their bite. They live with high levels of fear and anxiety. But there is little evidence that this pain actually pushes many people to leave. The reasons people migrate to the UK are complex, influenced by conditions faced at home, rather than levels of hostility from the Home Office.&nbsp;</p><h2>Spectacle and audience</h2><p class="Textbody">If the numbers aren’t falling, what drives these vicious ineffective attacks?</p><p class="Textbody">Immigration policy is a spectacle, an emotive performance. It rarely targets&nbsp;<em>overall&nbsp;</em>migration levels. Instead the focus is on controlling vulnerable “low value” scapegoats: “asylum-seekers”, so-called “illegals”, and others who fall between the cracks.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">This suits the demands of big business. One example is City lobby group&nbsp;<a href="http://www.londonfirst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/London-First-immigration-proposal_300617.pdf">London First</a>, whose meeting with Amber Rudd was cancelled last Thursday. London First advocates liberalised migration controls for students and workers on the one hand, “robust enforcement to clampdown” on “low value migration” on the other.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Textbody">This performance, immigration policy as a spectacle, is designed for a narrow audience. Our report shows that attacks on migrant scapegoats are primarily directed at two groups of older, white “target publics”.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">One is made up of alienated working-class people hit hard by poverty and social tension, often living in run-down neighbourhoods in the North or Midlands. The other are comfortable “middle Englanders”.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/ImmigrationEnforcement.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/ImmigrationEnforcement.jpg" alt="White van with immigration enforcement written on the side" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Home Office teams on the prowl. Image by kenjonbro. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</span></span></span></p><p class="Textbody">Whereas the first have personal economic and social troubles they blame on migrant scapegoats, the second often have little contact with migrants at all. But what both share is a generalised anxiety about migration as a “cultural threat”. Together they only make up about 20 per cent of the population but, in the UK’s electoral system, they can be pivotal voters, particularly when centrist governments feel a threat from the “populist” right.</p><p class="Textbody">Our research examines the ways media and politicians collaborate to court these target publics and, in the long run, shape their attitudes.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">While it has deep roots, the tempo of anti-migrant media-politics picked up during the Blair years. There was the 1999 panic whipped up about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/publications/refugees-what-s-the-story-case-study-.pdf">Sangatte</a>, a refugee camp in Calais, France. Then Home Secretary David Blunkett’s revival of Thatcher’s&nbsp;<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1949863.stm">“swamping”</a>&nbsp;discourse. The time Blair’s cabinet&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/may/24/uk.pressandpublishing">jointly planned</a>&nbsp;an “asylum week” of scare stories and policy announcements with The Sun newspaper.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Labour developed a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781403939166">conscious strategy</a>&nbsp;of scapegoating asylum-seekers to “neutralise” the electoral threat from the BNP.</p><p class="Textbody">Labour developed a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781403939166">conscious strategy</a>&nbsp;of scapegoating asylum-seekers to “neutralise” the electoral threat from the BNP. The same moves play out today, with UKIP taking the BNP’s role. Since 1999 surveys report the proportion of people concerned about immigration as an important issue has doubled. Meanwhile, a long line of Home Secretaries made their names by rolling out ever tougher measures against “illegal migrants” – as well as the other undesirable spectres caricatured and demonised in the media.</p><h2>Beyond the “public debate”</h2><p class="Textbody">How can pro-migrant campaigners counter this propaganda machine?&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">Our analysis calls into question some popular approaches. Campaigners often aim to push alternative views and voices into the liberal media sphere, trying to influence the “public debate” on migration.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">But there is no “public debate on immigration”. This idea is a charade that obscures how power works. There is no&nbsp;<em>one&nbsp;</em>public, but many different people having many different conversations. And it’s not a debate, it’s a propaganda war. Fought with emotive stories, not facts and reasons. Conservative campaign guru&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&amp;v=H_YareK6WKk">Lynton Crosby says</a>: “When reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins”.</p><p class="Textbody">Right-wing politicians and propagandists, at least the clever ones, are well aware of this. They understand who they need to talk to, and how they need to talk to them. This isn’t to say we should copy their strategies, as indeed our aims and values are very different. But we do need to question a default campaigning approach based on getting positive messages – interview comments, opinion pieces, media-focused stunts, or reports like this one – into the liberal media and left-leaning parts of Facebook.&nbsp;</p><p class="Textbody">When the current scandal blows over, the raids, detentions and deportations continue. To strategise effectively, first we need to understand how the enemy works.</p><hr /><p><span>Click&nbsp;</span><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/who-is-immigration-policy-for-full-report/">here</a><span>&nbsp;to read the new Corporate Watch report “Who is immigration policy for?”</span></p><p><em><span>More</span><span> Corporate Watch reports on the hostile environment:</span></em></p><p class="Textbody"><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/apr/08/hostile-environment-turning-uk-nation-border-cops">The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops&nbsp;</a></p><p><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2016/aug/30/snitches-stings-leaks-how-immigration-enforcement-works">Snitches, Stings and Leaks: how immigration enforcement works</a></p><p><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/mar/05/rough-sleeper-immigration-raids-charity-collaboration-st-mungos-thames-reach">The Round-up: rough sleeper immigration raids and charity collaboration</a></p><p><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/iraqi-deportations-the-airlines-helping-the-home-office-deport-refugees-to-war-zones-2/">Iraqi Deportations: the airlines helping the Home Office deport refugees to war zones</a></p><p><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/carceral-colonialism-britains-plan-to-build-a-prison-wing-in-nigeria/">Carceral Colonialism: Britain’s plan to build a prison wing in Nigeria</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Edited by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/child-locked-up-by-mistake-for-62-days-at-adult-immigration-jail">Child locked up ‘by mistake’ for 62 days at adult immigration jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phoebe-braithwaite/refuse-retract-resist-boycott-schools-census">Refuse, retract, resist: boycott the schools census </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/nadia-graham/5-reasons-why-we-stopped-ukgov-deportation-flight-to-nigeria-la">5 reasons why we stopped a UKgov deportation flight to Nigeria last night </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Corporate Watch Mon, 30 Apr 2018 08:17:06 +0000 Corporate Watch 117565 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May’s hostile immigration regime destroys another family https://www.opendemocracy.net/theresa-may-s-hostile-immigration-regime-destroys-another-british-family <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British migration policy forces working class families to choose between country and the people they love. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1.dungavelDemoFLICKR_resized.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1.dungavelDemoFLICKR_resized.jpg" alt="Children protest with signs and placards. Signs read No Detention, No Deportation" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Same story: Children protest back in 2003 against Dungavel House Prison for refugees. The detention estate has since expanded. Photo by Gareth Harper. CC BY-NC 4.0. </span></span></span></p><p class="Standard">I met Evan* around three years ago, through my work at the <a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/">Unity Centre</a> in Glasgow. Our first conversation was over the phone because he was locked up in an immigration detention centre. Evan was softly spoken, and anxious at the idea that he could be <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/home-office-use-indefinite-immigration-detention-causing-serious-harm-new-amnesty">detained indefinitely</a>.</p> <p class="Standard">Evan came to the UK in 2001 when he was 15 years old. He studied English, maths and art in college and then went on to work as a painter and decorator in London. In 2007 Evan met and fell in love with Kelly*. They got married and had a daughter, now the family live together just outside London.</p> <p class="Standard">Kelly works in a nursery. She has muscular dystrophy, which means she can only work part-time and often needs help with daily tasks such as shopping, cooking and bathing. Evan is an attentive carer and has always looked after Kelly. When her condition flares up he does everything for her and their daughter.</p> <p class="Standard">Evan and Kelly’s daughter Rhea* is now nine years old. Her mum says that she loves school and up until recently lived a happy life. Rhea loves doing adventurous things with her dad, like climbing.</p> <p class="Standard">But a Home Office policy called Operation Nexus has ruined their family life, and could yet tear them apart.</p> <h2><strong>A hostile environment</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Almost 10 years ago, Evan spent six weeks in prison for a non-violent crime. Since then, Evan has only minor convictions for the possession of cannabis. But Evan has been constantly harassed by the police. </p><p class="Standard">Once, he was almost arrested for getting into his own car after work. A police officer thought he was trying to steal it. He has been pulled over while driving under the speed limit. He has been stopped and searched while walking down the street countless times.</p> <p class="Standard">Evan’s experiences reflect <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/feb/02/stop-and-search-police-unacceptably-slow-to-comply-with-new-rules">evidence</a> and <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lammy-review-final-report">research</a> over <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/research/statistics/criminal-justice/">decades</a> about the over-policing of black, brown and working class communities in the UK. Last year, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/oct/26/stop-and-search-eight-times-more-likely-to-target-black-people">official statistics</a> revealed that black British people are still eight times more likely to be stopped than white people. Black and brown people are more likely to be <a href="https://www.release.org.uk/publications/numbers-black-and-white-ethnic-disparities-policing-and-prosecution-drug-offences">prosecuted for minor offences</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/24/rise-proportion-black-ethnic-minority-young-prisoners-stop-and-search">locked up for longer</a>.</p> <p class="Standard">Now Operation Nexus gives the police yet more powers by working with the Home Office to round up and deport foreign nationals.</p><h2><strong>Operation Nexus</strong></h2><p class="Standard">In 2012 the Home Office launched Operation Nexus in partnership first with the Metropolitan Police and then with police forces across the country. Under Nexus, information about foreign nationals known to the police is shared with immigration enforcement to build a case for their deportation, even if that individual hasn’t committed or been charged with a crime.</p><p class="Standard">To gather this intelligence, immigration officers are posted within police stations to examine all arrests involving foreign nationals. The police may also refer ‘high harm’ cases to immigration enforcement. The Home Office provides this definition of&nbsp;<span>“</span>high harm”:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">For the purposes of Operation Nexus, Foreign National Offenders are considered as ‘High Harm’ cases where their conduct incurs significant adverse impact, whether physical, emotional or financial, upon individuals or the wider community.</p><p class="Standard">According to the Home Office, Evan is&nbsp;<span>“</span>high harm”. That decision has been made based on his six-week prison sentence and encounters with the police through stop and search. After being flagged up by Nexus, Evan was arrested and locked up in immigration detention.</p><h2>Indefinite detention</h2><p class="Standard">Evan spent over a year in immigration detention and is traumatised to this day. I’ve learnt to avoid the topic with him. Re-living the things he saw and the hopelessness he felt being away from his family is too difficult. Evan describes his time in immigration detention as worse than anything he experienced during his six weeks in prison.</p><p class="Standard">Evan’s family has suffered too. Teachers noticed that Rhea was unhappy. I spoke with Kelly, Evan’s sister and his aunt regularly. They spent a vast amount of time, energy and money trying to get him out. At one point, Kelly and Rhea were forced to move in with Kelly’s parents. They couldn’t afford to pay both Evan’s lawyer and their rent.</p><p class="Standard">Evan was finally released on bail last year – with conditions. Once a week he must make a 50-mile round trip into London to <a href="http://www.righttoremain.org.uk/legal/reporting-to-the-home-office-exploring-connections-to-detention-and-solidarity/">report</a> to the Home Office.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The little girl’s fear has become so obvious that every week her primary school give her a day off to go with her dad to the Home Office.</p><p class="Standard">Rhea is terrified that the Home Office will take her dad away again. The little girl’s fear has become so obvious that every week her primary school gives her a day off to go with her dad to the Home Office.</p><h2>A right to love and family</h2><p class="Standard">Evan has a British family and the UK has been his home for more than a decade. His conviction are for non-violent offences. Is there a legal remedy to his plight?&nbsp;</p><p class="Standard">There are exceptions to deportation: if it would be&nbsp;<span>“</span>unduly harsh”&nbsp;to expect Kelly and Rhea to relocate or live in the UK without him for example.</p><p class="Standard">But the Home Office has decided it would be fine for Kelly and Rhea to live in the UK without Evan.</p><p class="Standard">Evan’s family have gathered evidence – letters from teachers, social workers, doctors – to show the impact of his deportation. The health impacts for Kelly, the psychological effects on Rhea.&nbsp;</p><p class="Standard">But the Home Office argue that Kelly and Rhea – both British citizens – should relocate to Jamaica. In a letter to the family, the Home Office note that English is spoken in Jamaica. They say that Rhea can continue primary school there and Kelly’s condition can be managed appropriately there.</p><p class="Standard">The Home Office says that Evan is not&nbsp;<span>“</span>socially and culturally integrated in the UK”, despite having lived here for the last 17 years.</p><p class="Standard">And they question Evan’s right to have fallen in love with Kelly.</p><p class="Standard">When the couple met, Evan had leave to remain. But under immigration rules, little weight can be given to a relationship formed while a migrant’s immigration status is&nbsp;<span>“</span><a href="https://immigrationbarrister.co.uk/the-precarious-definition-of-precarious-rhuppiah-v-sshd">precarious</a>”.</p><p class="Standard">The Home Office say that Evan and Kelly’s relationship was formed when his status was precarious. Evan and Kelly have been married almost a decade. They have raised their nine year old daughter together. Still the Home Office dismisses their relationship.</p><h2>Wider questions</h2><p class="Standard">Until recently, if foreign ex-offenders wanted to appeal a Home Office decision to deport them, they were deported first and expected to appeal from outside the UK.</p><p class="Standard">The&nbsp;<span>“</span>deport first, appeal later”&nbsp;regime was piloted first on foreign national offenders, a group that does not enjoy much public sympathy. The new laws were unlikely to mobilise much opposition. </p><p class="Standard">The legislation was then <a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/remove-first-appeal-later-provisions-force-today-new-guidance-published/">rolled out for other categories of migrant</a>. Eventually, the policy was challenged in the courts and last year was ruled <a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/deport-first-appeal-later-unlawful/">unlawful</a>.</p><p class="Standard"><a href="https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2018/01/18/deportation-of-foreign-criminals-out-of-country-appeals-still-lawful/">Little help to anyone already deported</a>, those exiled under&nbsp;<span>“</span>deport first appeal later”&nbsp;cannot necessarily return to the UK. Untold numbers of people remain stranded in counties they should never have been deported to, separated from their families and the lives they built here in the UK.&nbsp;</p><p class="Standard">&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><span><em>An appeal from the author</em></span></h2><p class="Standard">Evan’s appeal against his pending deportation will soon be heard before a judge. He has fought hard for this in-country appeal. In 2014, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/aiuk_legal_aid_report.pdf">legal aid was cut in England and Wales</a> for immigration cases. Evan is paying privately for his lawyer. He is banned from working, so the pressure is on Kelly to cover the legal fees. And she must do this on a part-time wage. The family are <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/x97n7p-help-me-stay-with-my-daughter-wife">currently asking for donations</a> from the public, to contribute to their legal costs.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p><em>*Names have been changed to protect the identity of Evan’s daughter.</em></p>Edited by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.<fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/lawyers-fail-migrants-in-uk">How lawyers fail migrants in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nando-sigona/another-dangerous-national-us-you-can-t-have-more-integrated-society-in-hostile-environ">Another dangerous ‘National Us’: you can’t have a more integrated society in a hostile environment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/money-talks-meet-three-people-who-want-to-live-in-uk">Money talks: Meet three people who want to live in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/nadia-graham/5-reasons-why-we-stopped-ukgov-deportation-flight-to-nigeria-la">5 reasons why we stopped a UKgov deportation flight to Nigeria last night </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light UK Democracy and government Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Mia Light Thu, 29 Mar 2018 05:59:59 +0000 Mia Light 116884 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How lawyers fail migrants in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/mia-light/lawyers-fail-migrants-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Access to justice has diminished almost to vanishing point, leaving asylum seekers and irregular migrants at risk of exploitation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail from a Biometric Residence Permit"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" alt="lead " title="Detail from a Biometric Residence Permit" width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A lawyer is charging Suleiman £900 for an application that should be free for him as a refugee.</span></span></span></p><p class="Standard">I strain to understand what Amir* is saying; his English is broken and the phone signal in Brook House immigration removal centre is notoriously bad. “I have a ticket for Friday” he says. It’s Monday. I’m not sure what to say. “Do you have a lawyer?” I ask limply. I’m not optimistic.</p> <p class="Standard">Most likely, Amir does not have a lawyer. He might not know how to go about getting one. One in three people in detention do not know they are entitled to 30 minutes of free legal advice. It’s also possible that Amir’s case is not in the scope of Legal Aid since the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/cuts-legal-aid-have-decimated-access-justice-thousands-most-vulnerable">cuts</a>. Best case scenario is that Amir is entitled to Legal Aid and does understand the Legal Aid <a href="http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/united-kingdom/detention-asylum-seekers/procedural-safeguards/legal-assistance">‘surgery’</a> system in England’s immigration removal centres. But he will be told that he must wait for an appointment, as most people <a href="https://hubble-live-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/biduk/redactor2_assets/files/213/Legal_Advice_Survey_-_Spring_2017.pdf">have to wait over 1 week</a> and there is no official mechanism to prioritise people. The Home Office will have forcibly removed Amir before he has a chance to secure legal representation.</p> <p>Or maybe Amir does have a lawyer — one that he is paying for privately. He will be paying privately because, due to those practical and administrative barriers, he cannot get Legal Aid. Amir’s private lawyer might have come recommended by someone in his community. Amir might be very happy with his lawyer, because they’re not letting on how bad the situation is, merely feeding Amir with legal sounding lies. Amir might also be angry at his lawyer, for being unresponsive or incompetent. </p> <p>Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies centre at Oxford University and the <a href="http://www.refugeelegalaidinformation.org/">Rights in Exile Program</a>, is all too familiar with these scenarios. </p> <p>She told me of a lawyer selling legal services to asylum seekers and others out of a house in Oxford, even though he’s been struck off. </p> <p class="Standard">Another practitioner, known to the <a href="http://www.unitycentreglasgow.org/">Unity Centre</a> where I volunteer, has for years offered women held at the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire free consultations and the option to pay after work done. Sounds attractive? Time and time again he has taken action that has jeapordised women’s cases irreversibly and then pursued them and their families for money. </p> <p class="Standard">Unity volunteers try to warn women against him but it’s difficult. Many women see him as their only hope.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.NEWbiometric_permit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="223" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Standard">Angel, who lives in a city in the north of England, tells me she’s heard that her ‘lawyer’ has almost definitely left the country. She says he’s left with her money and her documents. All her documents. Her and her son’s identity cards, and the photographs and the original papers necessary to substantiate her claim.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">I meet Suleiman, an elderly Eritrean man at a drop-in centre. Straightaway he tells me of his mental health issues. “I was in hospital a long time in my country,” he says. Suleiman proudly shows me his Biometric Residence Permit, that coveted pink and blue card that conveys his leave to remain as a refugee. It will expire he explains, this November, and he must pay £900 to renew it. I’m confused by this because I know applications to renew refugee status are free. They are one of the few applications still covered by legal aid and the application itself has no fee for refugees. </p><p class="Standard">I speak to the drop-in centre staff who confirm that they are aware of the situation. But Suleiman’s mind is made up. He wants to use this lawyer and believes it necessary to pay the £900. Such blatant malpractice, preying on the vulnerable, can only be complained about with the consent of Suleiman who does not give it. This lawyer will get his £900 and this lawyer remains untouchable. </p> <p class="Standard">I meet Tariq at a community meal, whilst doing outreach for Unity. He came to the UK aged 14 from Iran. He speaks with a Scottish accent and is small, still child-like in appearance. The Home Office refused Tariq’s asylum claim when he first came, but gave him leave to remain in the UK until he was 17 and a half years old. Now he is 19 and awaiting the Home Office to decide on a “fresh claim”. Tariq could be detained and forcibly removed from the UK at any time. </p> <p class="Standard">It is standard practice for the Home Office to give children who are refused asylum leave to remain in the UK which expires just before their 18th birthday, it is known as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (or <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/resources/uasc-leave/">UASC</a>) leave. But being granted UASC leave does not mean your future in the UK is secured, and any competent lawyer would advise a client (child or otherwise) to appeal the refusal of an asylum claim if possible. </p> <p class="Standard">I listen to Tariq recount his story. He tells me that he speaks English now and gets what is going on, but in the beginning he didn’t understand anything. Not the English language, nor the UK’s legal processes. “My lawyer told me there was no need to appeal the Home Office’s refusal, because I got leave to remain,” he says. “I had no reason not to trust him, he said he would look after me.” There’s nothing I can say. “My social worker is my witness,” he says. “My lawyer said that, he told me not to appeal even though I could have done, but now he acts like he didn’t. My social worker didn’t know the law either. She listened to my lawyer and she trusted him too.” </p> <p class="Standard">With the appeal deadline now long passed, Tariq is what is called “appeal rights exhausted”. Tariq’s lawyer did not apply to extend his UASC leave and instead advised him to make further submissions to the Home Office (often referred to as a “fresh claim”). Tariq had to <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/forcing-penniless-asylum-seekers-to-travel-to-liverpool-is-hardly-good-customer-service-9998953.html">travel to Liverpool at his own expense</a> to submit this. Now all he can do is wait.</p> <p class="Standard">What makes matters worse is that it is apparent Tariq’s lawyer had prepared his fresh claim badly, it is weak when it could be strong. Tariq has been failed and there is no redress, as according to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission any complaint <a href="https://www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk/making-a-complaint/advice-and-information/time-limits.aspx">should be made within 1 year</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/5.NEWbiometric_permit copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/5.NEWbiometric_permit copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Standard">Tariq’s lawyer is not what is known as a ‘back-street’ lawyer. He would not be considered a rogue practitioner, in fact he is the principal solicitor of a well-known high-street firm. His bad practice is testament to the deplorable quality of representation that those seeking asylum or with irregular immigration status may encounter.</p> <p>Why is this happening? </p> <p>I asked former barrister and vice-chair of the <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/">Institute of Race Relations</a>, Frances Webber. She said: “Access to justice has diminished almost to vanishing point, making a mockery of our supposed adherence to values of fairness, justice and the rule of law.” She said: “People who don't have English as their first language are expected to navigate areas acknowledged to be of fiendish legal complexity on their own, without legal help.”</p> <p class="Standard">Cuts to Legal Aid implemented on 1 April 2013 have been <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/cuts-legal-aid-have-decimated-access-justice-thousands-most-vulnerable">devastating</a>. The pressure on lawyers has increased, with desperation often leading to shoddy practice. To stay above water, some firms take on too many clients. This means that there is not enough time to communicate with clients or explain things fully.</p> <p class="Standard">Alice, a solicitor in a busy Legal Aid immigration firm, tells me: “I have client appointments all day.”</p> <p class="Standard">I ask her: “If you see clients all day, when do you do the work that you’re promising in the appointments?”</p> <p class="Standard">“I stay late,” she says flatly. </p> <p class="Standard">“Does everyone stay late?” </p> <p class="Standard">Alice gives me a look.</p> <p class="Standard">Asylum seekers and other migrants may have multiple vulnerabilites. Denied the right to work, threatened with removal, maybe locked up or living in dangerous accommodation, struggling with language difficulties. People’s lives often depend on remaining in the UK. </p> <p class="Standard">They’re perfect prey for dodgy lawyers. </p> <p class="Standard">Making a complaint against a lawyer is a complicated and laborious process. One that requires a good grasp of the English language, time, energy and confidence. The bigger the mistake a lawyer makes, the worse a situation a person is likely to be in. Securing alternative legal representation and taking steps to regularise immigration status will be likely priorities, not engaging in the bureaucratic complaints process. Lawyers can therefore bet safely that those they wrong are not likely to seek redress. </p><p dir="ltr">Many Legal Aid firms continue to do right by their clients, including law centres across the UK who recognise the benefits of supplementing Legal Aid income with other funding. But securing funding is a job in itself. The odds are against the good guys. These<span>&nbsp;stories are those that I have encountered personally in the last few months. There must be countless others.</span></p> <p><em>* All clients’ names have been changed.</em><em> </em><em>If you are interested in assisting&nbsp;people&nbsp;to make complaints about immigration lawyers, please contact <a href="mailto:immigration.info2@gmail.com">immigration.info2@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><span>Editing and images by Clare Sambrook for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</span></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lucy-alper/locked-up-pushed-out-shaida-s-welcome-to-britain">Locked up, pushed out. Shaida’s welcome to Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/money-talks-meet-three-people-who-want-to-live-in-uk">Money talks: Meet three people who want to live in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry">‘If I’d known what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Mia Light Tue, 17 Oct 2017 07:15:04 +0000 Mia Light 114012 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The UK outsourcing experiment: playing with vulnerable lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/kiri-kankhwende/uk-outsourcing-alan-white-serco-G4S <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A review of Alan White’s&nbsp;<em>Who Really Runs Britain?</em>&nbsp;—&nbsp;the private companies taking control of benefits, prisons, asylum, deportation, security, social care and the NHS.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460_0.JPG" alt="" title="A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p><span>By any measure, the allegations of abuse by women imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood detention centre should be a public scandal, but despite a stream of reports prompting the Chief Inspector of Prisons to brand the centre </span><a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/yarl-s-wood-detention-centre-becomes-a-national-concern">“a place of national concern”</a><span>, sustained campaigns and protests, there has not yet been a collective public outcry.</span></p> <p>Research into the plight of women at the centre is hampered by a lack of access to official information. In June 2016, the Independent <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/home-office-refusing-to-reveal-whether-women-in-yarls-wood-have-been-raped-to-protect-the-commercial-a7077736.html">reported</a> that a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for further information about sexual violence against detainees was denied on the grounds that “disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests” of the company running it, Serco. </p> <p>The lack of transparency by both the government and Serco, and the obstacle this presents to those seeking accountability for crimes against the women held there, are twin themes at the heart of Alan White’s book on Britain’s outsourcing industry, Who Really Runs Britain?. </p> <p>Yarl’s Wood is just one of many case studies detailed in the book which illustrate both the vast scale of the outsourcing project and the devastating human cost when things go wrong and the lines of accountability are muddied. White examines key areas of the state where services are outsourced, including the NHS, Ministry of Justice, asylum services, social care, disabilities and unemployment — all arms of the state with which some of the most vulnerable people in society interact.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/animals_blurred--(None)_LRG_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl&#039;s Wood, March 2015"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/animals_blurred--(None)_LRG_1.jpg" alt="" title="Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl&#039;s Wood, March 2015" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl's Wood, March 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>The book opens with a memorable case study and one of the few outsourcing stories to permeate the national consciousness, the mismanagement of the security project for the 2012 London Olympics by G4S, which resulted in the army standing in at the last minute. It’s one of the few stories that made a national impact, as the country and the world were focused on London in 2012. However, White notes that “while the implications of the scandal seemed severe for G4S at the time, they actually made little impression on it or the industry”. </p> <p>White goes on to reveal an industry enjoys lack of competition and oversight, meaning that companies like G4S will have multiple contracts and be constantly bidding for more, despite sometimes high-profile failures. </p> <p>Counter intuitively, some contracts are not particularly profitable for the companies involved. However, they are low-risk, as the state provides a safety net in the event of failure, and there are guaranteed inflows of cash.</p> <p>White returns repeatedly to the human cost of failure. As a society, we have to ask ourselves, what is an acceptable level of risk when lives are on the line? </p> <p>The major incentive for the state is supposed to be savings, but interestingly, sometimes outsourcing costs more.</p> <p>White underscores repeatedly that finding data on the details, merits and outcomes of the outsourcing projects is difficult, partly due to the confidential nature of some of the contracts but also because there is no one place that all the information is systematically retained. This is exacerbated by the fact that corresponding figures for comparison don’t really exist for the period when the state ran the services. In essence the British outsourcing project is an experiment with no systematic method of evaluation.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">In essence the British outsourcing project is an experiment with no systematic method of evaluation.</p> <p>The sheer scale of the outsourcing project is facilitated by settled political ideology on its merits. </p><p>Labour firmly adopted the Tory idea of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) while in power. White notes that in the political context of New Labour’s compromise between social democracy and neoliberalism, “outsourcing was considered a natural development in a corporate-led world”. The pace has increased markedly since the coalition government in 2010. Although outsourcing itself is not an ideology, White notes that it is borne of one, and this consensus hampers cross-party criticism and oversight.</p> <p>Despite the challenges in scoping the industry, White is at pains to point out that rather than a sinister plot, very often the problem is miscommunication or lack of communication between government departments. This book is not a polemic but a forensic and even-handed inquiry. </p> <p>It becomes clear that four companies dominate the sector: G4S, Atos, Serco and Capita. The biggest spenders are the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice, funnelling hundreds of millions of pounds to these firms, which are too big to fail. They cover everything from security, transport or waste collection to “human services” such as welfare, prisons and probation services to transport, waste collection. </p> <p>White’s book was first published last year with the title Shadow State, Inside the Secret Companies that Run Britain. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Who_Really_Runs_Britain_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Who_Really_Runs_Britain_460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="369" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>This new edition carries an afterword given over to voices from these companies, who, perhaps understandably, are often reluctant to engage with a critical media. Nevertheless, there is an acknowledgment from some in the industry of the “accountability vacuum” that White so eloquently unpacks in this book —&nbsp;and which is apparent in the case of asylum seekers housed in a “fire trap” G4S-run hostel in Halifax, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-fire-trap-hostel-halifax-asylum-housing-grenfell">recently exposed on Shine A Light</a>. Multiple actors including a private landlord, G4S, the Home Office and Calderdale Council all have some responsibilities towards the tenants in the hostel. Activist John Grayson found that “one dangerous consequence of the privatisation of asylum housing, apparent in this case, is the fog around who is responsible for what”.</p> <p>Companies like G4S are quick to point out that when things go wrong, they are often gagged from talking publicly about their contracts by the government on grounds of “commercial confidentiality”, while also being blamed for failures — adding to the confusion around accountability. They are also not allowed to trumpet their successes. </p> <p>There are quite a few points of agreement between White and the outsourcers who have spoken to him both on and off the record: “they want many of the same things campaigners do: more transparency, more innovation, a more competitive market.” </p> <p>But when it comes to figuring out why that hasn’t happened yet, we find ourselves in yet another fog of confusion with contractors and the government pointing fingers at each other. </p> <p>Another point of agreement is that White does not believe outsourcing is inherently wrong, but he does suggest that it can be done better, perhaps by social enterprises, which have different aims and focus to large for-profit companies. Currently, small providers are squeezed out of the broken market. White points to places where outsourcing has worked, using local knowledge, smaller scale and an emphasis on putting the humanity back into human services.&nbsp; </p> <p>A physicist friend of mine once asked incredulously, how the company running the physics laboratory where he worked could be expert at this and also in everything from leisure services to traffic lights and still maintain standards? </p> <p>White points to larger questions: is the for-profit incentive for private companies compatible with improving lives — a qualitative measure which does not sit in the neat margins of a profit/loss worksheet? Following lengthy interviews with advocates of outsourcing, he concludes: “Outsourcers will tell you how they can save money. But few can promise to make things better.” </p> <p>Although the chief executive of Serco makes an impassioned argument that for-profit companies can still work for the public good, &nbsp;a multitude of cases in the book illustrate that standards can fall in pursuit of profit, prompting White to explore whether the profit incentive encourages the contractor to do a good job or encourages them to game the system. For example, how does the need for repeat business square with targets of reducing reoffending rates in the prison system?</p> <p>And surely, this should be the point. How should we, as a society, be caring for those among us who are most in need of it and maintain their human dignity? </p> <p>There are clearly problems in the way that some projects are administered in that they do not take account of the complex needs of disabled or vulnerable people. White points out time and again that the human toll of failure is visited on groups that the public is least likely to care about, like asylum seekers, who are often out of sight and out of mind. </p> <p>But, given that profits are not currently ploughed back into the services (or necessarily staying in the UK), this concerns all of us a matter of social value and the potential effect on society’s social fabric.</p> <p>The outsourcing of public services without effective means of evaluation and rigorous oversight and accountability mechanisms is an experiment with very high stakes indeed.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Who Really Runs Britain?&nbsp;The private companies taking control of benefits, prisons, asylum, deportation, security, social care and the NHS</em>, by Alan White, is published by Oneworld on 6 July.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/harmit-athwal/neglect-and-indifference-kill-american-man-in-uk-immigration-detention">Neglect and indifference kill American man in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/sarah-uncles/fit-to-run-prison-g4s-dodges-difficult-questions">Fit to run a prison? 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Dvorzak inquest. Day 5</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Kiri Kankhwende Sun, 09 Jul 2017 23:08:00 +0000 Kiri Kankhwende 112090 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Security company G4S housed six families with babies and toddlers in a fire-trap hostel in Halifax.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" alt="" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>“The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there,” neighbours warned. “It’s because we are black, they don’t care,” one tenant said. They’re talking about a hostel that is home to six families and their nine children, most of them babies and toddlers.</p> <p>Tenants of the six flats in a converted house in Halifax, West Yorkshire, have told me they are frightened. They say the wiring is faulty, the hallways are blocked, and there’s repeated leaks and flooding. They’ve shown me the evidence. They worry about risk of fire, and how they might escape.</p> <p>I first learned about the hostel a little over two weeks ago, on Friday 9 June. A charity worker who supports one of the tenants asked for my help. She said tenants had struggled to get anybody to act on their concerns about fire safety and repairs. </p> <p>Some feared speaking out, worried that this might affect their claims for asylum. All of the tenants are asylum seekers.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" alt="" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>The worker told me: “At 8.15pm on Tuesday 6 June I went to the flats. I noticed there was no indicator light on the alarm control panel. I contacted the regional manager for G4S, who called a repair man. He arrived just before 9pm, and began installing smoke alarms in the hallways. I am really worried about how safe people are in there.”</p><h2>A visit to the hostel</h2><p><span><span>I visited the hostel on Saturday 10 June and spent four hours inspecting, taking photographs, listening to tenants’ concerns.</span></span></p><p><span>The hostel is part of a converted townhouse, just off Halifax town centre, in the borough of Calderdale. The flats sit atop an electrical shop and another shop, apparently abandoned.</span></p><p>Directly above the shops are two flats. Another floor up, three more flats. Up another flight of stairs, at the top of the house is Flat 6, with more stairs leading up to a mezzanine within the flat.</p> <p>The hostel is owned by a private landlord and managed under a UK government contract by G4S, the international security company. A subcontractor procured the property. The client is the Home Office. Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services also have responsibilities towards tenants.</p> <p>One dangerous consequence of the privatisation of asylum housing, apparent in this case, is the fog around who is responsible for what.</p> <p>Here’s what some tenants told me. For their protection we’re calling them Mary, Brian, Eric, Helen, Tasmin, Joanne.</p><h2>Water rushes through the ceiling</h2> <p>“One day in January the electric main board was flashing ‘fire in room 3’ and we dialled 999,” Mary said. “The fire engine could not find the address. I was jumping up and down in the street waving my arms to get them to the flats. It took them forty-five minutes to get here from our call. They said that a leak from a boiler in the flat above had caused the alarm.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Water rushes through light fittings"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Water rushes through light fittings" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Water rushes through light fittings (screenshot from tenant's video)</span></span></span></p><p>Brian worked as a builder in his home country. He worries about the risk of electrical fire.&nbsp;</p><p><span>“Water pours in everywhere,” he said. “This happened last week.” He showed me a video on his camera. I could see water rushing through the light fittings.</span></p><p>Joanne pointed to exposed wires hanging from the ceiling on one of the landings. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs" width="240" height="174" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Evidence of water ingress, ceiling repairs</span></span></span></p><p>“Perhaps the wires are not live there,” Joanne said. “But they frighten the older children who hear us talking about the water and the electrics causing fires.”&nbsp;<span>Signs of water penetration and ceiling repairs were all around.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" alt="lead " title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) " width="240" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Replacement hob </span></span></span></p><p><span>Eric said his G4S cooker had fused the electrical circuits throughout the building. He showed me the replacement two-ring hob that G4S had supplied for himself, his wife and their baby.</span></p><p>Joanne took me to the only external door at the rear of the hostel. Because so many families with young children live here, the hallway is full of buggies. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" alt="" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker" width="240" height="189" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker</span></span></span>“This is our only escape, we have to leave the buggies here, the stairs are so difficult, there is no fire escape,” Joanne said.&nbsp;</p><p>A neighbour who knows the flats had told her: “The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.”</p><p><span>All the tenants said that over eight months, time and time again, they had contacted the G4S helpline pleading for better and safe conditions for their children.</span></p><p><span>Mary said: “They never do anything, even for the big things, heating and flooding. They don’t care. It’s because we are black, they don’t care.”</span></p> <p>She told me about when the downstairs corridor flooded: “There was water full of oil and waste from the drain outside.” She showed me video on her phone. The water was ankle deep.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The flood water was ankle deep"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" alt="" title="The flood water was ankle deep" width="460" height="490" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The flood water was ankle deep (screenshot from tenant video)</span></span></span></p><p>Tasmin pointed to wet plaster in a corner of the kitchen units in her flat. </p> <p>“Always water comes in,” she said. On her phone were pictures of the debris left when the wall unit crashed down, she said, narrowly missing her six-year-old daughter.</p><p><span>Tenants told me about other worries.</span></p> <p>“Early one morning I heard noises in my living room which woke me and I found a man from G4S there,” one lone mother said. </p><p><span>“He said he had used his own key to get in. My daughter was terrified, she has bad memories of men hurting me in the past. For months the door on my toilet and bathroom would not shut. G4S never did anything. I could have been in the toilet or showering when that man came in.”</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Buggies crowd the escape route"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" alt="" title="Buggies crowd the escape route" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buggies crowd the escape route (John Grayson)</span></span></span></span></p> <p>She went on: “The local women’s centre suggested to G4S that I get a chain on my door. They refused, but the women’s centre threatened to get the work done themselves, and G4S put a chain on the door, and one on the door of another woman here — but still refused to fit chains on the other four flats.”</p><p>One of the support workers told me: “Three months ago, in March, St Augustine’s community centre sent complaints about the hostel to G4S, but nothing was done about them.” </p> <p>Another tenant recalled a visit from the Home Office: “G4S took them only to the flats where they knew the tenants could not speak good English and were frightened to complain. When I asked why they did not come to my flat, they said the Home Office did not have time.”&nbsp;</p><h2>If you won’t listen to the tenants. . . </h2> <p>G4S knows me and my work. I’m a housing academic. I work alongside refugees at South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk">SYMAAG</a>. </p> <p>Since G4S won the Home Office asylum housing contract five years ago I’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">published quite a lot about them</a>. </p> <p>On Monday 12 June I contacted G4S and Calderdale Borough councillors and told them that the hostel was unsafe.</p> <p>My intervention prompted an emergency inspection by council officers and West Yorkshire fire service on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday, a G4S welfare officer called in. One tenant suggested an emergency fire drill: “We have never had one, and it would show we cannot get out of the building safely.” </p> <p>The G4S welfare officer allegedly refused, saying: “That’s up to G4S, not me.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" alt="" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hostel rear view (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Heidi Wilson is Calderdale Council’s head of environment and housing services. After the inspections she told me that the council took reports of risks to tenants “very seriously” and was “giving them a high priority”. They had given G4S a list of actions and a “short time frame”. Should G4S fail to make the necessary improvements the council “would certainly consider enforcement action”.&nbsp;</p><h2>A dangerous place for babies</h2><p>When I called in to check on progress on Thursday 15 June, I found G4S workers making repairs that had been first reported months ago. I was told that the Home Office was going to send someone to inspect the place.</p><p>I climbed all the way up to the top of the house to see Helen. She lives up there with husband Brian and their three year old son. Another stairway led to the small mezzanine where their son had had access to a floor-level window. On Tuesday&nbsp;<span>the council had noted the “poor guarding to the window”. So&nbsp;</span><span>G4S workmen had boarded up the stairway.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" alt="" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Helen told me: “The G4S boss when he came up here yesterday said: ‘This is a dangerous place for babies.’”</p><p>As I left the property I saw the G4S supervisor putting up a noticeboard by the front entrance, near the alarm control panel. He had pinned up no-smoking signs, a&nbsp;<span>warning about the absence of fire extinguishers,&nbsp;</span><span>a fire safety log book and a floor plan. Someone had taken a fat red marker pen and marked out a rough escape route on the plan.&nbsp;</span></p><p>All the information was in English. Most tenants are still learning the language.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" alt="" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)" width="460" height="411" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>I set about researching fire safety, emailing and phoning the tenants and G4S with more questions.</p> <p>It wasn’t easy. Fire safety regulations are fiendishly complex. G4S’s own spokesman confessed to having difficulty. </p> <p>G4S appeared to be in breach of fire regulations. </p> <p>Before the hostel opened last year, it seems, they should have arranged for a fire risk assessment by a qualified fire safety practitioner — as required by the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/contents/made">Fire Safety Order 2005.</a></p><p>From what I could see, G4S had an obligation to test the alarm every week and hold a monthly fire drill. Tenants told me these things hadn’t happened.</p><div><p class="mag-quote-left">Tenant: It’s because we are black, they don’t care.</p><p>The regulations require that testing dates are recorded in a log book displayed in the building. The log book on the newly erected notice board contained just one entry —&nbsp;for a test dated April 2017.</p> <p>All escape corridors and landings should have smoke alarms and emergency lighting. But the hallway smoke alarms were fitted on Tuesday 6 June 2017, eight months after the hostel opened. </p> <p>Every kitchen should have a fire blanket. And they do. I asked one tenant, who is fluent in English, to open the packaging. She said: “The instructions are confusing. No one has ever told us about fire safety here. There are no instructions on the fire blanket or anywhere else in any language — except difficult English.”</p> <p>My reading of the regulations suggests that G4S has a responsibility to inform and regularly update tenants on fire safety — and to provide safety information in appropriate languages.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Neighbour: The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.</p><p>All of these things seem anyway like basic common sense if you are housing multiple families with small children in a four or five storey house.</p> <p>As landlords of asylum housing for babies and small children, G4S has particular obligations. </p> <p>The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/11/section/55">Section 55)</a> requires that immigration and asylum functions be carried out with respect for the need to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children”.</p> <p>After the Calderdale council inspection on Tuesday 13 June, one tenant told me: “The council man said the bedroom with my children should not be used. He said the window was too small to let light in for them.” &nbsp;</p> <p>I asked G4S to respond to the issues raised in this article. On 15 June a G4S spokesman said the building had a valid electrical certificate and was “compliant with fire safety standards”. </p> <p>About the flooding, G4S said: “There has been a very recent issue with damp after the landlord installed a new concrete walkway outside the property which is not draining effectively.&nbsp;We are in discussions to have a drain fitted. A roof leak has also recently been rectified and the landlord will be making good any cosmetic damage that arose.”&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>And the intrusion? G4S said: “Our protocol is that when our staff visit a property they knock twice (leaving a gap in between).&nbsp;If there is no answer they unlock the door and call out to announce themselves.&nbsp;If there is still no answer they then proceed into the property, calling out that they are from G4S. We are entirely confident that this procedure is — and was — followed at this property.”</p> <p>At the company’s request —&nbsp;(the spokesman sounded quite flustered) — we delayed publication of this piece to give G4S time to provide further comment.</p><p>On Tuesday 20 June, I tuned in to BBC Radio Sheffield, for&nbsp;<span>Toby Foster</span><span>’s</span>&nbsp;breakfast show. He had an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056f4dx">interview with John Whitwam</a>, the ex-army officer who is G4S managing director, immigration and borders. Whitwam told listeners that G4S had about 18,000 asylum-seekers in 5,000 properties. “There is a great deal of scrutiny,” he said. “These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.”</p></div><p><span>Whitwam said the G4S helpline took 4,000 calls last month. Toby Foster cut in: “5,000 houses, 4,000 calls! Nearly every house is ringing you every month!”</span></p> <p>Whitwam replied: “These aren’t <em>all</em> complaints.” And then: “That’s not to say many of them aren’t.”</p> <p>I was still waiting for the company’s response to my queries on Tuesday evening, when a tenant called to say that an extractor fan had fallen off the wall in Flat 2. She said she was only slightly injured, but her four year old child was hysterical.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" alt="" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>On Tuesday evening, Brian was back in touch. He said the G4S welfare officer had been round to tell them: “The Home Office are coming tomorrow, you have to say everything is fine in the flats.”</p> <p>On Wednesday afternoon Brian called again. He said the woman from the Home Office had been round, she’d done more talking than listening and assured them that if there’s a fire, they’ll have plenty of time to get out.</p><p>On Thursday another tenant called to say that workmen were, at last, fitting smoke alarms in tenants’ rooms.&nbsp;</p> <h2>A curious response from G4S</h2> <p>Also on Wednesday came the company’s detailed response to my queries.</p> <p>It was odd.</p> <p>G4S offered a series of curious assertions that neither confirmed nor denied tenants’ allegations about fire safety, but, rather, bypassed their concerns.</p> <p>For example, G4S noted: “Smoke alarm and fire alarm tests as recorded in our monthly property inspection report.”</p> <p>On the absence of fire drills, G4S claimed: “Drills are not mandatory for private dwellings.”</p> <p><em>Private</em> dwellings? </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">G4S: These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.</p><p>And: “All fire safety information is provided as part of the induction when asylum seekers move into the property and information in 71 languages is available in the home.”</p> <p>Seventy-one languages!</p> <p>About the absence of fire log books, G4S claimed: they “are sometimes taken away and used as notebooks by residents.”</p> <p>And the apparent failure to arrange a fire risk assessment on the building until after I got involved? G4S claimed: “All fire alarm systems are checked monthly.” </p> <p>About the Fire Service inspection of 13 June, prompted by my interventions, G4S claimed: “All adjustments recommended have now been completed. Any observations made by the fire services regarding door fittings or openings were rectified within two days.”</p> <p>About the alarm control panel that had either been turned off or was defective, G4S said: “We require service users to report defects to control panels and we operate a 24 hours turn around policy to fix or replace such systems.” </p> <p>G4S has claimed repeatedly that it <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8e793754-d6dd-3531-b8b9-c00de20fb4a9?mhq5j=e3">loses money on asylum housing.</a> The company, which had no prior experience of housing asylum seekers, won the Home Office contract after a computer-based reverse auction. G4S bid £8.42 per family member per night (according to contract details revealed in a High Court judgement <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2017/200.html">here</a>). At that price, packing 17 people into the Halifax hostel brings the monthly take to around £4,300.</p> <h2>Who’re you gonna call?</h2> <p>Until last Thursday, Calderdale <a href="https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/community-and-living/equality-and-diversity/asylum-seekers-and-refugees">Council’s website told asylum-seekers</a> in the borough that their housing was provided, not by G4S, but by another company, Cascade Homes. The council supplied a phone number tenants could call if they needed help and advice.</p> <p>I called the number. An angry man picked up. He said he was fed up with getting calls and he had nothing to do with Cascade.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" alt="" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)" width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Calderdale Council's misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)</span></span></span></p><p>I told the council about that —&nbsp;they corrected the online advice. They said Cascade no longer managed properties in Calderdale, only procured them. G4S confirmed: “Yes, all properties in the Halifax area are provided by Cascade.”</p><p>I was sorry that Cascade had been given any role to play. </p> <p>Over years I’ve reported on their shoddy behaviour. How Cascade asylum properties in Leeds were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">infested with cockroaches and slugs</a>.&nbsp;<span>Male staff </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">harassed women tenants</a><span>.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">Cascade failed to pay energy bills and council tax bills</a><span>. </span></p><p><span>My evidence has been&nbsp;</span><span>cited in Parliamentary inquiries and debates. Speaking in the Commons on 27 February 2013, </span><a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-93.htm">Mark Durkan MP said</a><span>: “What is especially alarming is that the neglect and suffering go on, regardless of this kind of public and Parliamentary exposure. There has been little impact on the everyday practice of G4S and their subcontractors.”&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>In February 2014 G4S announced that they&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">had dropped Cascade.</a></p> <h2>‘<span>I watched that place burn</span><span>’</span></h2> <p>While we were working on this piece, on Wednesday 14 June 2017, fire gutted a tower block in West London with appalling loss of life. </p> <p>The block was called Grenfell Tower. </p> <p>The residents were mostly people of colour, and poor. The first victim to be named was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-first-victim-named-mohammed-alhajali-syrian-refugee-a7791401.html">Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee</a>. </p> <p>Grenfell tenants had warned repeatedly that the flats were unsafe. Their warnings were variously dismissed, ignored, and met with legal threats. </p> <p>“White tenants said their concerns were ultimately ignored, but officials were more likely to listen to them,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/opinion/london-tower-grenfell-fire.html">British journalist Dawn Foster</a>&nbsp;<span>wrote</span><span>&nbsp;in the New York Times. “Black and South Asian survivors told me they felt the implicit message from everyone they contacted before the fire for help with the building was ‘you are a guest in this borough, and a guest in this country, you have no right to complain’.”</span></p> <p>Back in the Halifax hostel, the tenants have come from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.&nbsp;<span>Up in the top flat, Brian told me how Grenfell had shocked him: “I watched that place burn,” he said. “I thought I couldn’t get out of this flat if there is a fire.”</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Edited by Clare Sambrook for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a> at openDemocracy.</li><li>To follow John on Twitter: @SYMAAG</li><li>To follow Clare and Shine A Light:&nbsp;</li><li>@CLARESAMBROOK</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. 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What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/margaret-hodge/parliamentary-watchdog-too-often-private-sector-contractors-ethical-stand">Parliamentary watchdog: too often private sector contractors&#039; ethical standards found wanting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/capita-guard-course-did-not-tell-me-what-to-do-if-someone-is-not-breathing">Capita guard: “The course did not tell me what to do if someone is not breathing”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Austerity Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 26 Jun 2017 23:08:14 +0000 John Grayson 111844 at https://www.opendemocracy.net High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Highly unusual punitive damages awarded to Felix Wamala, who was subjected to intensely painful, dangerous restraint techniques.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tascor promotional material</span></span></span></p><p><span>In a damning judgment published on the evening of 22 June 2017, the High Court has found that staff employed by Tascor, a Capita subsidiary, seriously assaulted a mentally-ill torture survivor. The Judge also describes as “outrageous” and “utterly unacceptable” the regular use of painful, dangerous and unlawful restraint techniques.</span></p><p><span>The judgment describes a chain of events triggered by serious blunders by Theresa May’s Home Office in 2011.</span></p><p>Subsequently, five officers from Reliance (since renamed Tascor) took 46 year old Felix Wamala into their custody unlawfully and attempted to unlawfully remove him from the UK on a Qatar Airways flight to Doha on Christmas Eve 2011.</p><p>After threatening Mr Wamala in order to get him on the airplane, Mr Justice Walker has found that the officers severely assaulted Mr Wamala. During this prolonged assault, an unauthorised “pain compliance” technique was used.&nbsp;<span>Mr Wamala experienced “intense pain”. He also experienced difficulties breathing.</span></p><h2><span>Believed he was going to die</span></h2><p><span>Mr Wamala had known </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">Jimmy Mubenga</a><span>, an Angolan national who had died during a similar restraint episode the year before. The High Court accepts that Mr Wamala believed he too was going to die as the five officers pinned him down on the floor of the aircraft aisle and assaulted him.</span></p><p>Eventually, Mr Wamala was dragged off the airplane to a waiting escort van. This part of the assault was captured by the van’s CCTV camera in footage played in court and described by the Judge as “shocking”. The footage shows Mr Wamala being dragged into the van by his cuffed arms, crying out in pain, and with the escorts stood over him shouting at him.</p><p>The High Court has found that Mr Wamala suffered serious physical injuries as a result of the assault, as well as severe psychiatric injuries the effects of which are on-going.</p><p>In further damning findings, the Judge found that:</p><ol><li>Reliance’s staff made “highly improper” amendments to a critically important UK Border Agency document. Reliance/Tascor then repeatedly disputed that its staff had done so in documents submitted to the High Court.</li><li>One of the escort officers, Carol Govey, provided “manufactured testimony” to the High Court. Ms Govey was also criticised for her “antagonistic” and “unprofessional behaviour” towards Mr Wamala, which was recorded in the CCTV footage; this included referring repeatedly to Mr Wamala, who is black, as “Bruno”.</li><li>Another officer, Carol Lee, had in her evidence before the High Court “constructed an account thought to be helpful to [Tascor’s] case”.</li><li>Before he was placed on the airplane, Mr Wamala correctly informed the officers that they were acting unlawfully. However, their response was simply to laugh at him and to tell him they were “not bothered”. According to the Judge, they displayed a complete lack of understanding of when it is lawful to remove someone from the UK.</li><li>After the incident, Tascor told the Home Office that Mr Wamala had been violent and aggressive. This false statement had “severe” consequences for Mr Wamala in terms of his subsequent treatment by the immigration authorities.</li></ol><p>In a very unusual move, and one reflecting the seriousness of the High Court’s concerns about the conduct of Reliance/Tascor, the High Court has ordered Tascor to pay exemplary damages. These are punitive damages reserved for “outrageous exercises of unlawful executive power”. </p><p>In making the award, the Court concluded that Tascor’s staff had routinely used unapproved, intensely painful and dangerous restraint techniques. The High Court has ruled that this was “utterly unacceptable and calls for condemnation”. The Court said that the use of an unauthorised “pain control technique, which could and did easily go wrong, is a particularly disturbing feature”; so too the “flagrant disregard of the express prohibition [in the Home Office contract] of the use of any head restraint”. This prohibition reflects the well-known risks of restraint asphyxia.</p><h2>Disregard for the law at corporate level</h2><p>As Mr Wamala’s solicitor, I can say that&nbsp;the treatment of Mr Wamala was inexcusable, and so is the Home Office’s failure to take any action either against Tascor or the individual officers who were involved.&nbsp;</p><p>This is not just a few bad apples, the High Court has identified a disregard for the law at a corporate level. That is why the High Court has taken the very unusual step of ordering Tascor to pay punitive damages.</p><p>Tascor and the Capita group continue to earn tens of millions of pounds annually from the Home Office’s escorting contract and, as far as we are aware, the officers who assaulted Mr Wamala continue to have responsibility for escorting people from the UK on behalf of the Home Office.</p><p><strong>Documents</strong>:</p><p>For the judgment including annex 1&nbsp;<a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Wamala-v-Tascor-Services-Ltd-2017-EWHC-1461-approved-judgment-publis...-1.doc" target="_blank">click here</a>. For annex 2 to the judgment&nbsp;<a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Wamala-v-Tascor-Services-Ltd-2017-EWHC-1461-annex-2-to-approved-judg...-1.doc" target="_blank">click here</a>. For our press release which summarises the judgment&nbsp;<a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="http://www.dpglaw.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Wamala-press-release-with-judgment-para-cross-refs.docx" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Gareth Mitchell, who acted for Mr Wamala, is a partner at civil rights and judicial review specialists <a href="http://www.dpglaw.co.uk">Deighton Pierce Glynn</a>.&nbsp;@dpg_law on twitter.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/kath-grant/capita-death-ombudsman-exposed-problems-that-coroner-failed-to-address-family">Capita death: Ombudsman exposed problems that Coroner failed to address, family says</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/margaret-hodge/parliamentary-watchdog-too-often-private-sector-contractors-ethical-stand">Parliamentary watchdog: too often private sector contractors&#039; ethical standards found wanting</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. 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G4S dodges difficult questions https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sarah-uncles/fit-to-run-prison-g4s-dodges-difficult-questions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At a locked down shareholders’ meeting, security company boss sidestepped hard questions, praised BBC exposé of abuse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking_door_G4S460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking_door_G4S460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>G4S boss Ashley Almanza said the BBC team who exposed abuse in a G4S child prison deserved to win their BAFTA Award. Almanza was speaking at the company’s annual meeting on 25 May at the Holiday Inn, in Sutton, Surrey.</p> <p>An undercover BBC reporter had <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">filmed shocking abuse of child prisoners</a> at G4S Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent.
 One boy, who had self-harmed, was subjected to unlawful violent restraint on the anniversary of his mother’s death.
 A burly G4S guard yelled in the face of another child, aged 14, grabbed him, pushed him onto a table, twisting his arms behind his back. The BBC Panorama film, broadcast in January 2016 <a href="http://www.bafta.org/media-centre/transcripts/winners-acceptance-speech-current-affairs">won the current affairs BAFTA</a> in June 2017.</p> <p>Almanza, G4S chief executive officer, commended the documentary, saying that Panorama had performed a “good public service” and “deserved” the BAFTA. He confirmed that G4S has withdrawn from two of the three youth service government contracts to date, following the Panorama revelations.</p> <p>Almanza’s comments came in response to a series of questions that <a href="https://downsizingcriminaljustice.wordpress.com">Reclaim Justice Network</a> members put to G4S directors at the company’s annual general meeting. <a href="https://downsizingcriminaljustice.wordpress.com">Reclaim Justice Network</a> campaigners advocate social justice, not criminal justice, and call for the immediate and complete withdrawal of G4S from all criminal justice services in the United Kingdom. </p> <p>The UK government continues to rely on ineffective practices of policing, surveillance and prison to address complex economic, social and political problems. The prison industrial complex describes the overlapping interests of government and private industry in the criminal justice sector. G4S profits from government contracts in care and justice services.</p> <p>G4S proudly claims to be “the world’s leading, global, integrated security company”. According to its <a href="http://www.annualreport.g4s.com/documents/G4S_2016IR_Final_PDF.pdf">2016 annual report</a>, the company boasts a massive £296 million profit before tax. The market dominance of G4S is perhaps surprising, given its long, tainted <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/23/g4s-prisons-contracts-hmp-birmingham">history of serious failings</a>. </p> <p>For the fourth consecutive year Reclaim Justice Network members attended the meeting, as shareholders, to challenge the board on the company’s record.</p> <h2>Extreme security</h2> <p>Airport-style security measures, intimidating and intrusive, have become routine at G4S annual meetings. All electronic devices, bags and accessories had to be removed and placed within a locker. Every shareholder was required to walk through a metal detector and then have their body scanned by a guard armed with an electromagnetic wand. </p> <p>Uniformed G4S guards, and other staff identifiable by their blue lanyards, lined the walls and were strategically placed amid the rows of shareholder seats. </p> <p>Once the meeting began it became clear that G4S personnel overwhelmingly outnumbered the independent shareholders in the room.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/g4s_logo_c_slogan-465.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/g4s_logo_c_slogan-465.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>John Connolly, G4S chairman, opened the meeting, drew attention to the “meeting procedures” and warned that anyone who disrupted the meeting would be asked to leave. “Safety is incredibly important and is our number one priority,” he said.</p> <p>Nine board members sat at the front table. What followed was a fine-tuned and polished performance of weaving evasiveness by chairman John Connolly and chief executive officer Ashley Almanza.</p> <h2>Remuneration</h2> <p>A question was posed concerning remuneration and awards to staff. Specifically, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/21/managers-g4s-medway-youth-jail-paid-bonuses-despite-failings">performance-related pay awards given to the senior managers at Medway</a> youth jail in April 2016 that amounted to between 10% and 25% of their annual salaries. </p> <p>A <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/01/Medway-Secure-Training-Centre-advice-note.pdf">report</a> by the Chief Inspector of Prisons concluded that “managerial oversight failed to protect young people” who suffered both physical and psychological abuse at the prison. </p> <p>Almanza, who took home <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/g4s-boss-takes-home-75-rise-after-scandal-hit-year-qrjlj0rwc">£4.8m in pay and perks last year</a>, said that those directly involved with the abuse had been removed from their positions and subjected to a police investigation. However, he avoided commenting on the bonuses received by the senior managers whose failed oversight arguably put young people at risk of harm. </p> <h2>Revolving doors</h2> <p>Another question concerned <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/05/20/prison-service-boss-hired-manage-troubled-g4s-detention-centres/">G4S’s new recruit Paul Kempster</a> — until recently a civil servant and “head of custodial contracts” <a href="https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/contacts/hmps/prison-finder/prison-map.pdf">for 12 UK prisons</a>. The questioner wanted to know the time lapse between Kempster’s government job and the start of his contract at G4S.</p> <p>Connolly and Almanza both hesitated to answer. They asked other members of staff and received confirmation that Kempster had “started fairly recently”. Connolly stepped in, saying: “I am sure that whatever is standard time lapse protocol has taken place.”</p> <p>This is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/26/g4s-youth-jails-a-story-of-revolving-doors-dangerous-restraints-and-death">not the first time that government employees have been snapped up by G4S</a>. The revolving door creates inevitable conflicts of interests in government decision making and increased interference of private companies in the public sector. </p> <p>John Connolly, by the way, was formerly senior partner and chief executive at the big accountancy firm Deloitte’s where he <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/supportservices/5973813/Deloitte-chief-John-Connolly-collects-5.2m-as-anger-grows-over-City-pay-deals.html">trousered a £5m annual pay package</a> just as the financial system came close to collapse.</p> <h2>Poor performance</h2> <p>Another questioner asked about <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/justice-update--2">faulty electronic monitoring equipment</a> administered by G4S, that may have led to unwarranted enforcement action.</p><p> Almanza said the faulty batches were removed and “the client”, meaning the Ministry of Justice, was satisfied with this response, although no investigation into the consequences of this error was undertaken. </p> <p>The shareholder then asked how many fines and penalties G4S has paid because of contractual failures, such as this. Almanza said he was “not at liberty to disclose”, there were confidentiality concerns, and he directed shareholders to “ask the client”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ASHLEY_ALMANZA_g4S_8MARCH2017_460.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ASHLEY_ALMANZA_g4S_8MARCH2017_460.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ashley Almanza discusses G4S financials on Bloomberg, March 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>The questioning then moved onto a riot in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-38350970">Birmingham prison in December 2016</a>. Prisoners took over four wings for 12 hours, igniting fires and destroying prison records. The shareholder asked whether the board agreed that “G4S are not fit to run prisons”, given that it had overseen “the worst prison riot in 26 years”.</p> <p>Connolly intervened and instructed Almanza “not to answer”, claiming the comment was phrased as a statement, not a question. Almanza said that he didn’t agree with the shareholder’s statement and “neither do our clients”. The board refused to discuss the riot or elaborate further.</p> <h2>Prisoner safety </h2> <p>Concerns about safety in G4S prisons were raised by another shareholder who asked whether rates of self-harm and suicide had improved. </p> <p>Almanza took the question. He was quick to point out that self-harm has increased across UK prisons. He explained that in the last year there had been 344 non-natural deaths in prisons, including seven in prisons run by G4S.</p> <p>This raises concern. G4S are not specialists in mental health provision and prisons are not institutions fit for vulnerable individuals experiencing mental illness. Almanza, in his own words, described the “daunting, unsettling and isolating” environment of prison that can lead to self-harm. </p> <h2>Transparency? Accountability?</h2> <p>Concluding remarks were made by a shareholder who expressed disappointment with the lack of direct answers provided to the shareholders’ questions. </p> <p>Annual general meetings supposedly provide a forum for transparency and accountability. This meeting lacked both.</p> <p>At the start one shareholder had complained that the minutes of the 2016 G4S annual meeting were the “worst set of minutes” she had ever seen. They covered only formal business and failed to record serious concerns raised by shareholders. G4S’s legal officer asserted that the minutes complied with legal requirements.</p> <p>During the meeting, the board consistently failed to provide specific information that shareholders requested —&nbsp;from statistics on self-harm to details of financial penalties. For many of the issues raised the responsibility was passed to their clients, the Ministry of Justice.</p> <p>John Connolly did invite shareholders to put any specific questions in writing, guaranteeing that the board “will get back to you”.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-roberts/g4s-dont-blame-us-blame-prison-system">G4S: Don&#039;t blame us — blame the prison system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/rebecca-roberts/more-mega-prisons-wont-fix-broken-society">More mega-prisons won&#039;t fix a broken society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">Bullying kids: G4S abuse of child prisoners exposed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-independent-report-on-r">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain-s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-degrading-treatment-by-guards-high-on-d">Children suffer racist abuse and ‘degrading treatment’ by guards high on drugs at G4S Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Sarah Uncles Wed, 07 Jun 2017 23:08:30 +0000 Sarah Uncles 111503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘If I’d known what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When Theresa May’s&nbsp;Britain grants asylum, a brutal 28 day countdown starts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;reports from the frontline of Britain</strong><span>’</span><span>s immigration and asylum system. See also&nbsp;</span></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/usman-sheikh/home-office-cost-of-immigration-visas">Money talks</a><span>&nbsp;and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-">Theresa May</a></span><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-">’s tough line on immigration punishes British children.</a></span></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_3.jpg" alt="lead Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span>“That period when you’re waiting for your papers, when you don’t know what’s going to happen, it takes a bit of your life away,” says Kia, a refugee from Uganda, as we chat on the phone.</span></strong></p> <p>Kia applied for asylum in June 2012. She finds it difficult to talk about what she describes as a ‘terrible time’, following the trauma of fleeing her country in the first place. “I am not the type of person who’s going to cry out for help,” Kia tells me. “I should have.”</p> <p>I found Kia through <a href="http://baobabwomensproject.wixsite.com/waah">Baobab</a>, a busy drop-in for undocumented, asylum seeking and refugee women in south Birmingham, four miles from the city centre.</p><p>***</p> <p>Last year, almost 40,000 people sought asylum in Britain (39,389 to be precise). The government aims to decide cases within six months. During the wait, asylum seekers can live in asylum housing or with friends or family, and they get £36.95 a week.</p> <p>If asylum is refused, they can appeal this decision in court until the appeal process has been ‘exhausted’ or they can submit a new claim for asylum. For Kia and many others this process may take months or years.</p> <p>If asylum is granted, a brutal countdown starts. People have 28 days before payments stop and they are moved out of their homes. The UK Home Office calls it the “move on” period.</p> <p>Here’s what new refugees have to accomplish:</p> <ul><li>• Read and understand a five-page Discontinuation of Asylum Support letter that is sent with a wad of other official letters in a large, brown-paper envelope.</li><li>• Chase up their Biometric Residence Card — that’s compulsory identification for every new refugee living in the UK.</li><li>• Get a National Insurance number.</li><li>• Make a decision about where to live in the UK.</li></ul><p>That’s only part of it. There’s:</p><ul><li>• Obtain proof of address and an identity card to open a bank account.</li><li>• Apply for benefits.</li><li>• Apply for social housing if it’s an option.</li><li>Or&nbsp;</li><li>• &nbsp;find a private landlord willing to take on a refugee, get hold of references, money for a deposit and the first month’s rent.</li><li>•&nbsp; Find a computer with wifi and a printer to apply for an integration loan.</li><li>•&nbsp; Travel to new accommodation with belongings.</li></ul> <p>Imagine doing all that in a foreign language. Without money. With no support network. Pregnant. With small children. A disability. Trauma. Mental health difficulties. Old age. Age-disputed.</p> <p>Fail the 28 day challenge and what happens next?</p> <p>“By the time your papers come through, if they come through, your brain is not functioning properly”, Kia explains softly.</p> <p>“That’s when you need help to come to you. But I couldn’t look for help, I didn’t trust even my own words. I think that’s what they call losing your confidence.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/3mumwithkids.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/3mumwithkids.jpg" alt="Illustration of mother with baby and two children. She is holding two sheets of paper in out stretched hands." title="" width="460" height="672" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <h2>“I can’t complain”</h2> <p>By the time Kia got refugee status in March 2016, she was severely depressed.</p> <p>She’d been in Britain for almost four years applying for asylum. Her first application was refused and she spent time in a detention centre before her appeal was successful.</p> <p>On the day Kia’s 28 day ‘move-on’ period was up, an employee from private housing contractor G4S came to her shared house to get her key.</p> <p>Her last Home Office payment of £10 arrived ten days before her financial support was stopped. When she packed her suitcase and walked to the nearest bus stop on 23 March, Kia had just £6 in her purse. She was still waiting for her National Insurance number and hadn’t applied for benefits.</p> <p>Kia counted out £4 for a daysaver and took a bus to Birmingham’s Neighbourhood Office to ask for help.</p> <p>She arrived at 9.30am when the office doors opened. The housing officer couldn’t see her right away so Kia took her suitcase and sat in the waiting room. There were three other people there, says Kia, also waiting to be allocated a place to live. Lunchtime came and went. Too scared to use her last £2, Kia didn’t eat or drink anything all day.</p> <p>More than eight hours later, the housing officer finally saw her. He asked her questions about her health then told her there was no accommodation available. He scribbled down an address for a B&amp;B and told Kia to go there.</p> <p>“I’m in tears, it’s late, it’s wet and freezing cold. I don’t know where I’m going,” Kia recalls.</p> <p>She got the bus as far as she could and her friend booked her a taxi for the last leg of her journey.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Too scared to use her last £2, Kia didn’t eat or drink anything all day</p> <p>When she arrived at the run-down B&amp;B, located near a motorway, Kia gave the receptionist a letter that the housing officer had handed her. She had a shower but nothing to eat.</p> <p>“It was a nice room. I can’t complain,” she says.</p> <p>Every morning there was cornflakes and juice.</p> <p>Then, nothing.</p> <p>In three weeks, Kia ate three times, when a friend came to visit and brought food.</p> <p>“I’m a bit to blame because I should have acted,” Kia sighs. “But when you can’t express yourself, you can’t explain what you’re going through. I should have started chasing this Job Seekers Allowance thing during those 28 days.</p> <p>“If I had known what to do, what to ask for, I wouldn’t have gone hungry.”</p> <h2>Deterioration in mental health</h2> <p>Kia’s experience isn’t unusual. In April 2015, in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, researchers asked women refugees about what happened to them during the move-on period. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/13womanandcalendar.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/13womanandcalendar.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman holding a calendar. " title="" width="240" height="427" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>One woman applied for Job Seekers Allowance on the day her asylum support was terminated. She had accommodation but no money for three weeks. She told the Women in Exile project researchers that she wished the Home Office would take back her papers so she could stay as an asylum seeker.</p> <p>Another woman self-harmed and was hospitalized after being housed far away from her support network. Their stories appeared in <a href="https://stillhumanstillhere.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/28-day-move-on-period-briefing-final.pdf">Still Human Still Here</a>’s report in May 2016.</p> <p>The researchers wrote: “Women who access the project’s mental health services and are granted refugee status frequently experience a deterioration in their mental health as a direct result of the pressure caused by having to transit between support systems within the 28-day deadline.”</p> <p>The government set the 28-day period in 2002. But all the available evidence suggests it should be much longer. That’s research evidence from the <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0003/1769/28_days_later.pdf">Refugee Council</a>, the <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/~/media/BritishRedCross/Documents/About%20us/Research%20reports%20by%20advocacy%20dept/Move%20on%20period%20report.pdf">Red Cross</a>, and, most <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0004/0316/APPG_on_Refugees_-_Refugees_Welcome_report.pdf">recently</a>, by the all-party parliamentary group on refugees. They suggest the period should be at least 40 days, preferably 50.</p> <p>I asked the Home Office if they had any plans to change the deadline.</p> <p>A spokesperson said: “There is no change to this time period and it is still under review.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Another woman self-harmed and was hospitalized after being housed far away from her support network.&nbsp;</p> <h2>What help is there?</h2> <p>In 2008, a government-funded scheme called the Refugee Integration and Employment Service gave new refugees support for 12 months to get welfare benefits, find housing and start education or employment.</p> <p>But Theresa May, then the Conservative Home Secretary, took an axe to the Border Agency’s budget and that support disappeared in 2011.</p> <p>What replaced it?</p> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/PeopletoPeopleSolidarityActioninUK/?ref=br_rs">UK Refugee Welcome – People to People Solidarity</a> is a network on Facebook that connects volunteers around the country with asylum seekers and refugees who need practical help or advice.</p> <p>The Red Cross <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support">support </a>around 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers each year who are destitute — one in five of whom have refugee status — by giving them food, clothes, small amounts of money and advice.</p> <p><a href="http://www.refugeesathome.org/">Refugees at Home</a> is a charity that connects people who have a spare room with refugees who need one.</p> <p>The group formed in February 2016 because of the “28-day trap and other blackspots for those newly granted protection”, says co-organizer Rachel Mantell. In little over a year, the team have supported more than 300 people and facilitated a total of 19,000 nights of hosting.</p> <p>Volunteers, groups and stretched refugee organisations do what they can. It’s not enough.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/14calendardetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/14calendardetail.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman holding a calendar and pointing at a date. " title="" width="460" height="499" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <h2>A two-tier system</h2> <p>Things are somewhat better for the 5,706 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the UK so far on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/The-Syrian-Vulnerable-Persons-Resettlement-programme.pdf">Programme</a>. These refugees get dedicated caseworkers to help them adjust to their new lives.</p> <p>I asked the Home Office if they have plans to restart the integration programme for refugees not on the resettlement scheme.</p> <p>The Home Office replied: “Asylum seekers who are granted refugee or other status in the UK can apply for integration loans. These can be used, for example, to pay a rent deposit, for essential domestic items or for work equipment or training.”</p> <p>Oh yes, the integration loan of between £100 and £500, that people are told about in the weighty correspondence they get from the Home Office, along with their Discontinuation of Asylum Support letter and information sheets on opening a basic bank account, applying for benefits, travel documents, healthcare and leave to remain.</p><p>When they apply for a loan applicants must submit their Biometric Residence Permit card, just when they need proof of identity the most.</p> <h2>Theresa May’s hostile environment</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/12womansitting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/12womansitting.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman sitting on the floor surrounded by paper." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Parvin and Ali, an Iranian couple, were granted refugee status in November 2016. Unlike Kia, they received their papers just seven months after arriving in the UK. They were living in a small town near Leeds and were welcomed into their local church. But they missed their community.</p> <p>Renting in London is a nightmare for anyone who’s not rich or already living there for years but, after 28 days of indecision, Parvin and Ali moved there to be close to Iranian friends. They stayed in their friends’ small flat for a month before they found somewhere of their own.</p> <p>Parvin proudly shows me around their small apartment above a takeaway. They have no chairs, no table, no bed. They sleep and eat on the floor.</p> <p>Ali tells me how difficult it was to find. “First we need to speak English and have a bank account that is at least six months old, with a good statement.”</p> <p>The landlord didn’t accept the couple’s documents so the tenancy is in their friend’s name — and only because she had rented a house from this particular landlord before. She also lent them the money for their deposit.</p> <p>Kia had no-one to ask.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">They have no chairs, no table, no bed. They sleep and eat on the floor.</p> <p>Why do refugees find it so difficult to rent privately? Rachel blames the government’s ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">hostile environment’</a> policy, devised while Theresa May was Home Secretary and enshrined in law in the <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/immigration-act-2016-plain-english/"><em>Immigration Act 2016</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>It requires private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. Many landlords now refuse to rent to refugees because of the risk of prosecution and because “the rhetoric around refugees is so negative”, Rachel explains.</p> <p>“If we didn’t have any friends, what should we do?” asks Ali.</p> <h2>A place to call home</h2> <p>After three weeks in the B&amp;B, Kia was moved to a hotel closer to the city centre last April and shortly after that, to a hostel where she was given a support worker.</p> <p>Thanks to a pre-paid card given to her after arriving at the hostel, she was able to buy food and other basics again. Kia finally received her National Insurance Number in June and her first benefit payment in July – five months after her asylum support stopped.</p> <p>She stayed in the hostel for nine months while bidding weekly on council accommodation, which was a painful process.</p> <p>“They turned down my first application and I went to Sarah [Kia’s advocate with Baobab drop-in] and told her. The council said they were going to review my case. They asked me so many questions, everything about my medication. Then they dug into my asylum case – my case was private. This was very annoying, but I didn’t have a choice.”</p> <p>Eventually, a council housing officer secured Kia privately rented accommodation.</p> <p>Kia moved into an apartment earlier this year, on 8 February. Almost eleven months after her claim for asylum was accepted.&nbsp;</p> <p>Kia, Parvin and Ali are still moving on, months after the 28-day deadline.</p> <p>“From a detention centre, behind locked doors, to now, finally, a place that I call home”.</p><p><span>*The names of refugees interviewed have been changed.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Illustrations by <a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lydia Noon Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Lydia Noon 111212 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light"><strong>Shine A Light</strong></a><strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></strong><strong>reports from the frontline of Britain</strong></strong><strong>’s immigration and asylum system. See also <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/usman-sheikh/home-office-cost-of-immigration-visas">Money talks</a> and&nbsp;</strong></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;"><strong>‘</strong></span><strong><strong>If I’d known what to ask for I wouldn’t have gone hungry</strong></strong><span style="font-weight: bold;">’</span></a><span style="font-weight: bold;">.</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="shine a light migration series"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_1.jpg" alt="Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="shine a light migration series" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tom&nbsp;was about to leave for school when they&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">came.&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He was putting his shoes on by the front door of the small flat he shares with his mum, dad and two younger brothers. He heard a loud thud, something heavy hitting the front door. Then a bang. Another bang. The noise hurt his ears. In their bedroom, Tom’s mum and dad were confused. </span><i>Who was trying to break down their door? </i><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> Amid the noise, shouting: “Immigration and police! Immigration! Police!” </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tom’s mum Leah ran toward the door, shouting: “Stop, stop, I’ll just open the door.” The front door flew off its hinges. Half a dozen officers in uniform charged into the house, into the kitchen, bathroom and main bedroom. They’d come for Michael. As they led him away, neighbours on the estate stood watching.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Inside the house, some officers stayed to interrogate<strong> </strong>Leah. <i>Who lives here? What about the children? </i>Leah was shaking. Tom, 12, and his younger brothers, Zackey, aged four and Jermaine, 10, were terrified. <span style="color: red;">&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">A female officer noticed the children. Her manner softened. She tried to answer Leah’s questions. </span><span style="color: black; mso-themecolor: text1;">She said </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael was on that morning’s list of people being rounded up for deportation.</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">There had been no warning, Michael was in the ‘system’, but no one told them this could happen. The officers hadn’t even rung the doorbell.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael had an ongoing case with the Home Office, Leah said, he was challenging his removal from the country. The officer replied, </span><i>No, he hasn’t got anything lodged with the Home Office. That’s why we’ve come to get him. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">“That’s not true,” said Leah. “I know that’s not true.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Well, if what you say is correct then it’s not a problem, he can sort it out. </span></i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">But still they took him away. Later he would call her from an immigration lockup near Gatwick Airport. It’s called </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor/feed"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Brook House</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">. Two people recently died there.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">It was Thursday, Leah’s day off. From now on Leah would spend her Thursdays fighting to stop the Home Office forcing Michael onto a plane to a Caribbean island, 4,000 miles away from his family.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">She would learn fast.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, 'Liberation Sans', FreeSans, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Why is he still here? Why doesn’t he just go? The children will be fine without him</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br />She would learn to explain things she’d never had to put into words before, not to strangers anyway. That her children needed their dad, that she and Michael had a real relationship, that it just wasn’t fair.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">But each time, Michael’s Home Office caseworker would say: </span><i>Why is he still here? Why doesn’t he just go? The children will be fine without him.</i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">All that would come later. For now, the day of the raid, Thursday 26th January, a friend called round and took the bewildered children to school. Leah waited alone for the council to send someone to fix the door.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt; text-align: left;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr />&nbsp;<p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael&nbsp;had arrived in the UK in 2001 aged 19, scared and shaken after a run in with local gangsters back home, a small town in the West Indies.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He had witnessed a murder and thwarted a drug deal, four local gang members came looking for him. </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">They shot him in the back and carried him off to a warehouse. He was beaten, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, still bears the scars. They demanded his parents pay a ransom. </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">When they paid part of it Michael was dumped on the streets. He spent three days in hospital, then local police advised him to leave the country for his own safety.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael chose the UK where his nan and grandad lived. For a few years, he lived with them in the north of England</span><strong> </strong><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">then moved down to London with his cousin. Michael was a car fanatic: “Fixing, driving, mechanics, electronics.”&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">When he first arrived, he applied for college but couldn’t afford the fees. He was granted leave to remain and was permitted to work but wasn’t entitled to subsidised or free education. Michael began working at a garage in South London and became a father to two children (now young teens —&nbsp;this was before he settled down with Leah). Eventually he set up his own garage. “Things were good,” he said.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then came 2008: the economy crashed, banks collapsed and Michael’s garage struggled. “Everything went wrong,” he said.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael made some bad decisions. He borrowed money from a murky source — a little under £10,000 — which turned out to be drug money. He was convicted of money laundering. The judge, making an example of him, sentenced him to five years in prison.</span></p><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">He served his time and was released in 2011. Michael’s probation report described him as low risk all round: low risk to the public and low risk of reoffending. He spent the last five months of his sentence at an open prison in Kent, free to spend away days with his family.</span></p><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-left" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1family_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/1family_1.jpeg" alt="Illustration of a man with his arms around his wife. She is holding a baby. Two small children hold their hands." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On release Michael set about trying to rebuild his life. His garage had long since collapsed, but he found work as a parts technician. “It was good and steady work,” he said. Leah gave birth to Zackey, and Michael stayed out of trouble. In 2014, the family planned a holiday and Michael applied to renew his passport. Things were good.&nbsp;</span></span></p><p style="text-align: center;" class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-left" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">***</span></span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">But while Michael was moving on with his life, the political rhetoric against migrants was becoming increasingly hostile.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The tabloids have had a longstanding habit of using the terms “refugee” and “asylum seeker” as terms of abuse.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Blunkett ‘right to lock up refugees’” shouted one Daily Mail </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-79512/Blunkett-right-lock-refugees.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">headline</span></a></span><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> in 2001, referring to the hardline Labour Home secretary David Blunkett.&nbsp;</span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Asylum fraud chaos” and “SCANDAL AS ASYLUM SEEKERS GO ON RUN” yelled the Daily Express in 2003.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Antipathy turned toward foreign national offenders in 2006 when then Home Secretary Charles Clarke&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">admitted that 1,013 migrants had been released without being considered for deportation</span><i>. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">At the time, the law required that foreign offenders sentenced to 12 months or more in prison be considered for removal. </span><span style="color: black; mso-themecolor: text1;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The Home Office was attacked by the </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmpubacc/788/788.pdf"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Public Accounts Committee</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> and in the Commons. Public pressure mounted. “Home Office blunders left foreign rapists in UK” shouted the </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-384183/Home-Office-blunders-left-foreign-rapists-UK.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Daily Mail. </span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">And “</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-385683/Killers-human-rights-placed-public-safety.html"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Killer’s human rights placed above public safety</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">”. In response&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Prime Minister Tony Blair sacked Charles Clarke, and replaced him with hardliner John Reid who promised a stricter regime at the Home Office. He wanted deportation to be automatic for any foreign nationals who received “significant” jail sentences. An intention subsequently embodied in the UK Borders Act 2007, which resulted in automatic deportation, irrespective of personal circumstances, for those imprisoned for 12 months or more.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Academic and migration expert Luke de Noronha has traced a line from this period, when foreign national offenders first entered the public consciousness as figures of hate and fear, to now. He writes: “Today, conversations about immigration control rarely proceed without reference to these unequivocal ‘baddies’. Their notoriety might appear self-explanatory: they are migrants </span><i>and</i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"> criminals, and most British people don’t like either.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Tony Blair sacked Charles Clarke, and replaced him with hardliner John Reid who promised a stricter regime at the Home Office</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Initially, none of this impacted on Michael. He served his sentence, returned to his family and heard nothing from the Home Office. But in 2013 the Coalition government stepped things up a gear up with a plan to dramatically increase the number of foreign prisoners it deported. The plan covered three departments, several ministers and would entail a “tougher environment” for migrants with convictions.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/15alltogether.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/15alltogether.jpg" alt="Illustration of group of men, women and children holding papers." title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">It was part of the then Home Secretary Theresa May’s desire to create a&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">hostile environment</a></span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">”&nbsp;for migrants and refused asylum seekers. More Home Office case workers were hired to systematically seek out foreign national offenders and deport them. The net widened to include people who had served sentences of less than 12 months.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This “hostile environment” was given legal effect by the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016, which turn doctors, </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/right-to-rent-checks-introduced-for-landlords-in-england"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">landlords</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> and bank managers&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">into border guards; obliging them to check a person’s migration status and refuse to treat them, rent to them or allow them to open a bank account if they lack the right papers.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Those professionals who refuse or fail to carry out these checks face criminal and civil sanctions.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Operation Nexus was one another feature on the landscape of the “hostile environment”. Nexus purports to target serious, dangerous criminals for deportation, Home Office and police forces across the country share information to catch these </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/operation-nexus-high-harm"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“high-harm”</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> individuals.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">A policy setting out to achieve these objectives might appear uncontroversial. But the reality is that Operaton Nexus scoops up anyone who has had contact with state authorities, whether through stop and search,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2016/04/caught-nexus-dragnet/" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">activism</a>,&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">or an old or non-violent conviction.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">While <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13621025.2017.1328486">leading research at the University of Bristol</a> on the family lives of men facing deportation from the UK, academic Melanie Griffiths witnessed the reality of Nexus at immigration tribunal hearings.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">“The rhetoric is usually about&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">‘high harm</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’ individuals, with a lot of reference to&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">‘gangs</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’, but actually in my experience the people that get caught up are often only involved in very, very low criminality, if at all,</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">” she says.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">“And yet aged 18 they are told that they are being sent to Somalia, say, by themselves, even though they haven't seen the country since they were three. Such cases seem like an over the top response to what is basically a teenage kid that the police doesn</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">’t like very much.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/4mates_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/4mates_2.jpg" alt="Illustration of three boys with their arms on each others shoulders, talking." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Even those acquitted of criminal charges can be deported. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/mar/05/rough-sleeper-immigration-raids-charity-collaboration-st-mungos-thames-reach"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Rough sleepers on the street are rounded up by charities and police officers.</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> If they’re foreign, they’re handed over to immigration officials. Some are deported, others are locked up in immigration detention, while the Home Office builds a case against them. Cuts to legal aid for immigration cases, introduced by the Coalition Government in 2013, make it difficult to challenge detention and impending removal.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;">To effect the removal of those rounded up as part of Operation Nexus, <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2017/jan/06/deportation-charter-flights-collective-expulsion-2017"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">mass charter flights</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> carrying people to the Middle East and Africa are booked in advance, and immigration officers are under pressure to fill them. The flights are kept secret with people taken late at night or in the early hours of the morning, and deported before they can challenge the state’s case against them. That this can happen is a consequence of changes to the Immigration Rules&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">introduced by Theresa May during her tenure as Home Secretary, meaning some people </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/remove-first-appeal-later-provisions-force-today-new-guidance-published/"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">could appeal their case only after deportation.</span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> In reality few are able to exercise this right once they are outside of the UK.<span class="MsoHyperlink"><span style="text-decoration: none; text-underline: none;">&nbsp;</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span class="mag-quote-center">Yet aged 18 they are told they are being sent to Somalia, even though they haven't seen the country since they were three. Such cases seem like an over the top response to what is basically a teenage kid that the police doesn't like very much&nbsp;</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">In 2014, as the government’s plans unfolded, Michael and Leah happily planned a holiday. They would take the children to Euro Disney. Michael applied to renew his passport.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">That same year, he was stopped and search by the police —&nbsp;a routine occurrence for many black men in London. On two occasions, as the officers took his details they said: </span><i>Immigration has got a serious interest in you.</i></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/2familyabsent.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/2familyabsent.jpg" alt="Illustration of a man holding the shadow of his wife and three children." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael went to see a solicitor. “Why would immigration be interested in me?” He thought it might be to do with the passport, but his solicitor said: </span><i>Well, you have a criminal conviction. </i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Still, Michael had been clean since his release, he wasn’t worried.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then came a letter from the Home Office. It ordered him to “stop working, stop using the NHS” and to sign on once a week at a Home Office immigration reporting centre in London Bridge.&nbsp;</span></p><div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael re-applied for leave to remain in the country. Early in 2015 his application was refused. The Home Office increased his reporting requirements to twice a week, this time in Croydon. Again, he was told not to work but this time his driving license was taken away as well. Michael tried to keep the family together, applying for different types of British residency as a carer for his children. Both applications were refused.</span></div><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">With Michael unable to work Leah had to rely on working tax credits to boost her income. Michael for his part loved the extra time with his three boys. He took them to school, helped them with homework. But he needed to be earning and found himself increasingly depressed unable to do so; a state of mind compounded by the uncertainty of his situation.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">This uncertainty and stress lasted nearly two years before the raid in January 2017 and Michael’s subsequent detention. Looking back, Michael says: “If I was the person who they made me out to be, I would have turned to crime. I can’t work, I can’t look after my family. What do you want me to do?” </span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">For the children, their lives are divided into the time before and after the raid. Before the immigration raid they had their dad, he took them to school, played football with them. after the raid, he wasn’t in their lives any more. Not like before.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Every Sunday their mum drove them for nearly two hours through central London beyond the M25 to the place that looked like a prison. Brook House. They had to go through secuirty, their bags searched. They would meet him in the visitor</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">’s room. He could get up to say hello, but that was it. Physical contact, such as hugs, were prohibited.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Week after week, Michael watched his children change and worried about the effect his situation was having on them. “Jermaine is worried. Zackey is playing up. His mum is at work and when I was there we were close. Now I’m not there. Tom don’t show any emotion, he won’t tell you what he is thinking.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael appealed against the decision to removed him from the UK arguing that removal would result in a breach of his<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica;"><a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/blog/article-8-right-respect-private-and-family-life"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">article 8 right to a family life. </span></a></span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">He wanted to stay in the UK to be a father to his five children in the UK and a partner to Leah. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Using her Thursdays off, Leah worked on gathering evidence for Michael’s case. There were letters from the children’s teachers, the local dentist, her own boss and another school mum to testify that Michael was part of their lives. </span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sadfacedrawing_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sadfacedrawing_0.jpg" alt="Child's drawing of a sad face with caption, please mend our family." title="" width="460" height="449" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child’s plea: Jermaine’s drawing </span></span></span>The Home Office response was that Leah and her children would manage fine without Michael.</span><br /></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Kids need their dad,” Leah said. “You hear sometimes the government placing emphasis on the reason that things are going wrong is single parent families and dads not looking after their children. All that sort of stuff. But, yet they are causing that to happen. I don’t understand.”</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah was mostly worried about Tom. They live in an area where boys could get into trouble with gangs. “It’s quite a lot easier to get involved in that without his dad around,<span style="font-size: 13px;">”</span>&nbsp;she said.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">“</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Growing up in London. You just hear about all these stabbings.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica;">”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><br />&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">The children wanted to help with the case. Tom tried start a gov.uk petition to call on the government to “stop deporting dads”. A few of his mates were going to sign it. It was rejected.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah went to see a social worker to get evidence to support their case. The social worker said it might be Zackey she had to watch: “You are more worried about the older boys, but they’ve had their dad with them to this stage. By the time the little one gets to their age, he wouldn’t have had his dad around for much longer.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The children wanted to help with the case. Tom tried start a gov.uk petition to call on the government to “stop deporting dads”. A few of his mates were going to sign it. It was rejected. They said Michael’s case was still ongoing, so the petition wasn’t valid. </span><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></p><div><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Jermaine,10, handwrote a letter to one of the judges hearing Michael’s case while he was detained:</span></div><div style="text-align: left;"></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/lettertojudge_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/lettertojudge_2.jpg" alt="Handwritten letter. Child's handwriting." title="" width="240" height="238" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i></span></div><div style="text-align: left;"></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Dear Judge,</span></i></span></div><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i></span><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">I would like you to please bring our dad home because he is a very big part of our family. He has been doing a lot for us, since our mum has been working, and without him there are a lot of things changing for us. He cannot take me or my brothers to our clubs anymore, and our mum has to cut back on working hours to do so. He isn’t here to help me with our homework and me and my brother can’t watch movies with him anymore either. May I ask how you would feel if you could not do any fun things with your father as a child. And so I am asking you to please bring our father home.</span></i></div><div style="text-align: left;"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></i><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Yours faithfully,&nbsp;</span></i><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">[Jermaine*] (middle son of [Michael])</span></i></div><p style="text-align: left;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Baghdad; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></p><div style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael a</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">pplied f</span><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">or bail in a bid to stay with his family while his appeal was considered. The&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">b</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">ail heari</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">ng, on&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">February 28th, was held&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">at a tribunal court in London, Michael appeared via video link&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">and Leah was there in person. T</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">her</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">e’s no le</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">gal aid for immigration bail hearings so they hired a private solicitor, borrowing and using their savings. Before the hearing, they worried that Michael would be denied bail and remain in detention until he won his appeal. What happened was worse. There was no point in granting bail, the Home Office lawyer said at the hearing, because Michael was booked on a charter flight for 8th March. Eight days away.</span></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;" class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">***</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah sprang into action straight after the hearing. She contacted her MP and their solicitor lodged a judicial review of the decision to place Michael on the charter flight. They didn’t get a response from the Home Office. Leah panicked. The charter flight to Jamaica was due to leave at 6am on 8th March. Michael prayed. When he called his mother to tell her, she cried. She lives in America now, most of his family long since emigrated.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Then, the day before the flight, Michael’s solicitor told him his ticket had been cancelled.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">That night Michael went to bed, naked under the covers. “Brook House is hot.” At around 10pm there was a knock at the door and two guards came in.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">You’re on a flight, </span></i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">one said. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“No, I’ve got this JR, my ticket’s cancelled,” Michael replied. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">OK, we’ll go check. </span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">They returned a few minutes later with more guards. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">You are on the reserve list. </span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Michael was confused. The guards swooped to restrain him. He yelled. They bent his wrist and arm, one guard had his hands around Michael’s neck. Michael, still naked, struggled and tried to free himself. One of the guards squeezed his testicles. He gave up and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">went limp.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/7visadetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/7visadetail.jpg" alt="Illustration showing someone holding an open notebook and pointed at the page." title="" width="240" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">A guard pulled boxers onto him,<span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;then they strapped a restraint belt around his waist and strapped his arms. Another set of guards took him and drove him to the airport.</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Leah heard what happened by text, from Michael’s roommate. “That’s it, he is actually going,” she said. “It’s final. I just thought there’s no chance of him coming back really. They say it’s an out of country appeal but I don’t know how many people have managed to appeal and come back. I can imagine it’s very minimal. It is far… It’s not like we can afford to just go there. Especially with three children.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“To the Home Office it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. It doesn’t really affect them. But it’s a big thing… when you’ve got three children being left without a dad. It’s quite major. I now have to bring them up on my own.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></p><h2><hr /></h2><h2><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt; font-weight: bold;">A second chance?</span></h2><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Leah was still crying when Michael called her from the security guard’s van to say they weren’t taking him after all. Last minute cancellations are common. Michael was certain that the guards knew before they drove him to the airport that he wasn’t on the flight, but they kept him in the van all night anyway.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The guards who drove Michael to the airport are employed by Tascor, a security company to whom the work of ‘escorting’ people from detention to the airport has been outsourced.</span></p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/5mateabsent.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/5mateabsent.jpg" alt="Illustration of a young man walking alone." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Michael spent the night in the van thinking about the past. “I was not a criminal really. I just got caught up. It was a mistake that I’m paying for. That was when I was 25. I’m going to be 35. I’m not the same person.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Two days later the Home Office requested issued further removal directions, beginning the process again. And again, Michael tried to appeal. “It all seemed to run smoothly,” said Leah. “The judge was on our side.</span><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">The Home Office didn’t put up too much of an argument. To me and the solicitor it went quite well.” But the judge reserved his decision: taking time to consider the case before giving his judgment.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">Following the appeal hearing Michael applied for bail again but his application was refused. It was the judge dealing with Michael’s bail application who dropped the bombshell that his appeal had been refused. That was the first Leah and Michael had heard of it. There’d been no letter. “It seemed to go so well,” said Leah. “I don’t understand what could have gone wrong.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">A week later, on the 9th May, Michael was deported.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_2.jpg" alt="Illustration of a woman dancing alone." title="" width="240" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Seated on the plane Michael still believed a miracle might save him. “He’s always hopeful,” said Leah.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">“But I don’t see how.” </span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><div><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Twice that day he spoke to me by phone, first as he was being driven to the airport. His voice trembled. He sounded scared to me. Then, when he was on the plane, sitting between two guards, I called him again. “I’m fearful for my life,” he said. “I wonder what’s going to happen to my kids.” Then the line went dead.&nbsp;</span></div><div><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><br /></span></div><div></div><div></div><div><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">At the time of writing, Tom, Jermaine and Zackey do not know that their father has been deported. Tom and Jermaine have exams coming up and it is Jermaine’s birthday Thursday. Leah cannot face telling them. Not yet.&nbsp;</span></div><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">For her part, Leah has had little time to grieve. And acceptance will be a long time coming “If he was born in this country he would have just served his time and then been allowed to get on and bring up his kids like he is supposed to do. But just because he wasn’t born here, not only him, but all his children have to now be punished for the rest of their lives. It just sounds ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><i>*Michael, Leah and their children</i>’<i>s names have been</i></span><i style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;changed to protect identities. &nbsp;</i><span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></p><hr /><p>Illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p><p>This piece was funded by Shine A Light and Red Pepper<span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 13.333333015441895px;">’</span>s Black Journalism Fund.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/black journalism fund logo .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/black journalism fund logo .jpg" alt="Black journalism fund logo" title="" width="240" height="68" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/nadia-graham/5-reasons-why-we-stopped-ukgov-deportation-flight-to-nigeria-la">5 reasons why we stopped a UKgov deportation flight to Nigeria last night </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/simon-parker/theresa-may-this-is-not-crisis-of-migration-but-crisis-of-inhum">Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama">Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 111189 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Money talks: Meet three people who want to live in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/usman-sheikh/money-talks-meet-three-people-who-want-to-live-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Government visa fees tell would-be immigrants that in the UK, money talks ...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><strong><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Lig</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">ht</a>&nbsp;reports from the frontline of Britain</strong>’s immigration and asylum system. See also&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span><strong>‘</strong></span></a><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">If I’d known what to ask for, wouldn</a><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">’</a></span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed">t have gone hungry</a></strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lydia-noon/if-i-d-known-what-to-ask-for-i-wouldn-t-have-gone-hungry/feed"><span>’</span></a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/when-you-ve-got-three-children-being-left-without-their-dad-"><span>Theresa May</span><span>’s tough line on immigration punishes British children.</span></a></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/16massgroup_2.jpg" alt="lead lead lead lead lead lead Illustration showing a crowd of men, women and children. Some have placards and pieces of paper." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All illustrations by Carrie Mackinnon. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span>These stories are fictionalised examples drawn from various clients’ experiences.</span></p><h2>Paula loves Edison and wants to live with him</h2> <p>Edison is a 24 year old Brazilian man. He’s from Salvador in the north east. He met Paula, a 21 year old British woman, while she was travelling in Brazil after finishing university in the UK. They fell in love and want to be together. They have decided to make a home in the UK.</p> <p>Paula wants to start her career in the UK and Edison is happy to give it a go. They have just got engaged and they are over the moon. Paula has <a href="https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/visas-family-and-friends/getting-a-visa-for-your-spouse-or-partner-to-live-in-the-uk/">done some research</a> and knows she has to earn £18,600 a year before she can apply for Edison to live with her in the UK. She has started a job in marketing on a starting salary of £19,000. She&nbsp;lives in London and is paying a lot in rent and bills.</p> <p>She has to pay £1,464 in Home Office fees (recently up from £1,195). She has no savings. She can’t afford it. But there is no way around it — if she does not pay, the application will not be considered. She also finds out that later on, when Edison wants to extend his visa or apply for British citizenship, he will have to pay more fees.</p> <p>She tries to get help. Her parents say that she is an adult, so she has to deal with it herself. Edison earns very little in his job teaching surfing (that’s how he met Paula). He has no savings. Paula finally manages to borrow some money from her older sister.</p> <p>She has looked into the application process and can see it is complicated. She wants to get a lawyer to help. Because of government cuts,&nbsp;there is no legal aid for immigration law. Most lawyers that she speaks to are charging £1,000 or more to help with this type of application. Paula finds a family and immigration law solicitor, Peter, who will do it for £500.</p> <p>Unfortunately, he isn’t very good.</p> <p>Peter neglects to ask Edison&nbsp;if he has ever come to the UK before. In fact he came to visit Paula last year. He was cautioned by the police for smoking a cannabis joint on the street. Peter does not record this in the visa application. The British Embassy dealing with Edison’s case refuse the application, claiming that Edison was trying to deceive them. The Embassy will not return the Home Office fee.&nbsp;</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/8dancing_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/8dancing_3.jpg" alt="Illustration of man and woman dancing. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="400" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>If Edison wants to apply again, he will have to pay the Home Office fee again. Peter is claiming that the Embassy’s refusal is Edison’s fault, not his. He is refusing to return any of his fee for his work. He says it will be hard for Edison to obtain a visa in the future. If Edison had mentioned the caution, it might not have been such a big problem. Edison is annoyed. He’d been&nbsp;smoking with Paula and her friends on the way to a party, but the police did not caution anyone else.</p> <p>Paula and Edison are distraught. Paula doesn’t want to give up the career that she has just started in marketing. Her Portuguese is not good enough to find work in Brazil. And there aren’t many jobs in Salvador anyway.</p> <p>What’s more, Paula has now heard that the Conservatives want to increase the amount that she will have to earn before she can apply for a visa for Edison to live with her in the UK. (It’s in their <a href="https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/manifesto2017/Manifesto2017.pdf">Manifesto</a>). She only just had enough money this time, so she does not know what she will do if she and Edison make another visa application.</p> <p>Paula and Edison feel even worse now that Edison tells Paula that his friend, Rodrigo, had a much easier time coming to settle in the UK.&nbsp;Rodrigo&nbsp;did not have to pay any Home Office fees when he applied and the application process was simple. He did not bother to hire a lawyer. He has just received his visa.</p> <p>Paula learns that it was easier for Rodrigo because he is married to a Portuguese woman living in London. As his wife is an EU citizen, Rodrigo can apply under a different – and cheaper – system. Even though the UK is still in the EU, Paula does not count as an EU citizen in this situation. Rodrigo is now on his way to the UK (but he is worried about what will happen after Brexit).</p> <p>Paula and Edison don’t know what to do next.</p> <h2>Samira wants to protect her mother</h2> <p>Samira was born in Canada. Some years ago, she met a British man, Faisal, online. They had plenty in common — they both had parents from India, they were both looking for a Western Muslim partner and they were both teachers. Samira obtained a spouse visa, then indefinite leave to remain (settlement) and now she is a British citizen. She and Faisal have two British children and they live in Cambridgeshire.</p> <p>Back in Canada, Samira’s father&nbsp;recently&nbsp;passed away. Her mother Zarina&nbsp;is lost without him. He had always looked after her well, especially after she developed hip problems, which have limited her mobility significantly. She needs help going up stairs and moving around the house. She used to rely on her husband to drive her around. She is now alone and isolated. She wants to be with Samira, to whom she has always been close. Samira cannot move back to Canada - she is settled in the UK, with her British husband and children. Zarina, 67 years old, lives on her modest pension and has asked Samira to pay the costs of bringing her to the UK.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">Vijay explains that the Home Office fee alone for the application is £3,250&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Samira stopped working as a teacher after the birth of her children. Her husband, Faisal, is currently supporting the family. He earns £38,000. The family are managing — just about. Samira thinks that it will be easy to bring Zarina to the UK. She found it fairly easy to obtain her visa and she assumes that the Commonwealth links between Canada and the UK will help. Just to be on the safe side, she has arranged a meeting with an experienced immigration solicitor, Vijay.</p> <p>Vijay has a series of nasty shocks for Samira. First, her mother Zarina stands a low chance of obtaining the visa. It is unlikely that her situation is serious enough to meet the rules. Samira wants to try anyway. Vijay explains that the Home Office fee alone for the application is £3,250 (recently up from £2,676). He explains that the Home Office fees do not just cover the administrative cost of the system - they also contain a large profit element. His fees to help with the application will be £1,800.</p><p>Vijay points out that if — as is likely — the British Embassy dealing with the case refuse Zarina’s application, she may not be able to do much about it. She may not have a right to appeal to a court. If she does have a right to do this, she will need to pay more fees (some court fees and another £2,300 for Vijay). Zarina would probably have to wait at least a year for a court to hear the case.</p> <p>Samira decides that she can’t go ahead with the application. It is just too expensive and too uncertain. She calls her mother, Zarina, to explain. But Zarina interrupts her to say that she has had a fall at home and is very upset. She wants to know how soon she can come to the UK.</p> <p>Samira does not know what to say.</p> <h2>Hasan desires prestige and convenience</h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/11walletdetail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/11walletdetail.jpg" alt="Illustration of a person holding open a wallet with notes. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Hasan is a 41 year old Pakistani man. He knows exactly what to do and exactly what to say. After all, he is a multi-millionaire. He is attracted by the prestige of holding a British passport — something which, for all his money, his Pakistani passport could never bring him.</p><p>Hasan is taking advice from Charlotte, a solicitor in the City specialising in immigration for “ultra high net worth” individuals. He will apply for an investor visa, offering to invest £10 million in a UK company. He will pay £1,561 in Home Office fees (recently up from £1,530) —&nbsp;not much more than Paula had to pay.</p> <p>Hasan will pay Charlotte £15,000 for her services helping with his application. Charlotte tells him that usually, to get a long term visa, you have to be able to speak English. But this one is special; there is no language requirement.</p> <p>Money talks, it seems.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/10manwithwallet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/10manwithwallet.jpg" alt="Illustration of a man holding a wallet with notes." title="" width="240" height="512" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Charlotte has told Hasan that the UK government wants to “roll out the red carpet” for immigrants like him. The government will offer him a fast track to settlement within 2 years - for which he will be happy to pay the £2,297 Home Office fee (recently up from £1,875). By then, he will need to learn English, but Karen has promised to recommend some elite English tutors.</p> <p>After that, Hasan will apply for British citizenship, unfussed by the £1,282 Home Office fee (recently up from £1,236). At each stage of the process, Charlotte will make sure that he is successful first time.&nbsp;</p> <p>After Hasan obtains his British passport, he will probably withdraw his investment and put it back into his bank account in Cyprus.</p> <p>As a multi-millionaire, Hasan has time to reflect on things. He knows that he obtained his wealth in Pakistan in questionable circumstances (though his expensive lawyers have made the allegations go away). He has always been willing to do anything necessary to get what he wants. Life in Pakistan showed him that was possible.</p> <p>Now, thinking about his move to the UK, he sees little real difference between the UK and Pakistan. In both countries, he can buy what he wants — in the UK, things are just more expensive. For him, British citizenship was always simply another product to be purchased. In both countries, he is surrounded by people saying Yes to him — in the UK, those people are just more expensive. In both countries, the rich get what they want and the rest get what they are given.&nbsp;</p> <p>He doesn’t think much about the UK’s welfare state, but he hears that it is struggling anyway.</p><h2>Social bonds</h2> <p>The government’s approach to visa fees encourages the Hasans of this world. It tells people who want to come to the UK that only the wealthy need apply. They reduce our social bonds to economic transactions. That makes us a poorer country.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/9dancerabsent_1.jpg" alt="lead lead Illustration showing the shadow of a woman dancing alone. There are feint outlines of a partner." title="" width="460" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li>See also: Colin Yeo, <a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/interregnum-11-years-without-free-movement-1962-1973/">The interregnum: 11 years without free movement from 1962 to 1973</a>, Free Movement Blog.</li><li><a href="https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/biography/ronan-toal">Ronan Toal</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/hostile-environment">Hostile environment</a>, Counsel Magazine, August 2016.</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Illustrations by&nbsp;<a href="mailto:cmackinnon@hotmail.com">Carrie Mackinnon</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-official">So many reasons why turning landlords into immigration officials is a bad idea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself">Deportation: an increasingly &#039;foreign&#039; Britain at war with itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/love-is-not-all-you-need-says-court-of-appeal-can-you-afford-to-love-migr">Love is not all you need, says Court of Appeal: can you afford to love a migrant?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/can-you-afford-to-fall-in-love-with-migrant">Can you afford to fall in love with a migrant?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Usman Sheikh Sat, 03 Jun 2017 10:00:00 +0000 Usman Sheikh 111193 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Refuse, retract, resist: boycott the schools census https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/phoebe-braithwaite/refuse-retract-resist-boycott-schools-census <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the British state tries to make a register of foreign-born children, parents should question a liberal trust in government and reject borders in classrooms. An interview with Gargi Bhattacharyya.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-19457327.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-19457327.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Even the tiniest children are being used as these political footballs'. Children at the Windrush Nursery in Greenwich, south east London. John Stillwell/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On Thursday, 18th May, schools in the UK will be gathering personal data from children aged 5-19 for the National Pupil Database (NPD), which records information about children's nationality, ethnicity and country of birth. The further penetration of policing into schools builds on a systematic effort to create hostile environments in the lives of people the state seeks to remove.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Giving this information is not mandatory.</strong></p> <p>Before Thursday there are a few things parents can do:</p><ol><li>Refuse to give this information. You are under no compulsion to comply. Boycott the census.</li><li>Withdraw any information that has so far been gathered. You can retrospectively decide not to participate in the school census as long as it is before Thursday 18th May.</li><li>Resist the surveillance of children, migrants and all people, by getting involved in politics locally and <a href="https://www.schoolsabc.net/resources/">campaigning against state racism</a>.&nbsp;</li></ol> <p>Schools campaign group <a href="https://www.schoolsabc.net/">Against Borders for Children (ABC)</a> have already helped to successfully ward off attempts to collect data from children aged 2-5 in early years education. If enough people refuse to participate in Thursday’s census, the group will have helped to avert further invasions, rejecting stark militarisation in the lives of young people.</p><p>"'This is an important campaign," says Frances Webber of the Institute of Race Relations, a signatory of the campaign. "The danger is that once schools are implicated in immigration policing, they become places of fear, not learning and development for children.'</p> <p>In the words of sociologist Gargi Bhattacharyya, here is a far older activity of the state – paring back who counts as human. Policing the immigration status of children, and parents via their children, is a matter “of not only actively marking the border, but of fostering popular racism. It's as much about excluding some children, as it is encouraging others to think of themselves as settled, as potential racists, as having investment in the racist idea of a nation.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“In this country, certainly since the 60s there's been a whole series of ways of actively racialising children in schools,” she says. “As Bernard Coard famously says, West Indian children are made <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/schools-still-failing-black-children/">educationally subnormal</a>… that's sadly been a core aspect of UK schooling – probably since the institution of popular schooling in this country, certainly since the <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/livinglearning/school/overview/educationact1944/">‘44 act</a>,” says Bhattacharyya.</p> <p>Last year leaks revealed that the Home Office under Theresa May tried to enforce a policy which would <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38165395">de-prioritise children</a> on the basis of their citizenship, withdrawing places from children whose parents were seeking asylum in the country or whose documentation was otherwise irregular.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the wake of a massive hack of NHS computer systems, it is also clear that inadequately funded services cannot protect citizens’ intimate data – data the state is gathering more and more actively. But this is not to imagine that hackers would be using families’ information for any more harmful ends than immigration enforcement themselves.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Refusing to take part in the census gives a real-world meaning to a left-wing&nbsp;ideal&nbsp;of ‘not being complicit’ in the structures of oppression.</p> <p>It is especially important that parents of children who were born in this country or with secure immigration status boycott the census. This would make data unusable because it would mean that people were not identifiable purely on the basis of abstention. Refusing to take part in the census gives a real-world meaning to a left-wing ideal of ‘not being complicit’ in the structures of oppression: people in strong positions can quite literally lessen the burden on those made precarious by structural racism through refusing to take part.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2016/05/23/what%E2%80%99s-next-hostile-environment-immigration-act-2016-and-queen%E2%80%99s-speech">Immigration Act 2016</a> made border guards out of ordinary people. Employers of migrant workers can now report employees for the crime of “illegal working”; landlords are to check the immigration status of potential tenants and will face up to five years in prison for refusing to do so; newly invasive powers enable immigration enforcement to search property and seize documents, to stop migrants from driving, and to freeze or close bank accounts. Migrants across the board now have to appeal their case out of the country, which makes the task of appealing far harder.</p> <p>“I think this is clearly a larger technique of government to try and institute different public spaces, as if we're all under suspicion and the only way to show that you're not under suspicion is to become an informant.” This kind of “securitised logic,” says Bhattacharyya, “is extended beyond immigration and Prevent, and deeply embedded in issues around welfare now.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">For those that are really at the hard end of state violence it confirms their sense that you can't reach out to other people, that your space of operation gets smaller and smaller, that your life becomes more and more unseen.</p><p>Bringing the border closer to home “does in the day-to-day it makes people frightened, and it is designed to do that. The people who are most vulnerable feel most frightened because they're not hearing other people say, ‘Oh, this is just ridiculous, I can't do that’. They just hear the state injunction to shop people."</p> <p>“That is a core bit of it, that in some ways it doesn't matter so much that all of the rest of us are compliant or not, as long as that logic is repeated and repeated. Because for those that are really at the hard end of state violence it confirms their sense that you can't reach out to other people, that your space of operation gets smaller and smaller, that your life becomes more and more unseen.”</p> <p>"If you don't participate in state policing, then you yourself become the object of policing. And I think that sadly does work to corrode trust and solidarity between people. And it works unevenly,” she says. "Sometimes the overreach of the state can be helpful to us because they reveal themselves so openly. And I wonder sometimes if even Prevent has been a little like this, that it's been so overblown in its claims, of how broadly suspicion should be framed and how limited our knowledge of what it should be based on is."&nbsp;</p> <p>This campaign is vital in the short term, but, Bhattacharyya argues, there is also an opportunity here for “reckoning with what is actually going on... Bordering is already in our schools, including with the tiniest children, even if they've removed the early years reporting aspect now, this shows how absolutely children are being used as these political footballs in a poisonous debate about immigration… Although it's terrible, there's part of me that thinks: ‘Aha! we've revealed you as you are.”</p><p><em>With thanks to Ella Milburn for her work on the piece.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/kiri-kankhwende/we-all-bring-something-to-table-young-migrants-in-uk">&#039;We all bring something to the table&#039; Young migrants in the UK</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Deport Deprive Extradite Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Phoebe Braithwaite Wed, 17 May 2017 08:31:56 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite 110975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 17 plead not guilty over Stansted deportation protest https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/phil-miller/17-plead-not-guilty-over-stansted-deportation-protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Defendants contest public order charges arising from protest that stopped a Home Office removal flight.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Defs.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Some of the defendants outside Chelmsford Magistrates Court Wednesday 3 May 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Defs.jpg" alt="" title="Some of the defendants outside Chelmsford Magistrates Court Wednesday 3 May 2017" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Two journalists and fifteen protestors have pleaded not guilty to public order offences arising from a protest at Stansted Airport in March that stopped a deportation flight.</p> <p>Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard on Wednesday that the flight had been due to deport around 50 migrants to Nigeria and Ghana, flanked by 100 guards.</p> <p>Barry Hargreaves, for the prosecution, claimed that the defendants went through a hole in the perimeter fence and trespassed onto the airport runway at 9.30pm on 28 March 2017, before “chaining themselves together causing disruption to the [deportation] flight”.</p> <p>The protest was likely to have inconvenienced passengers, it was further alleged.</p> <p>The defendants, nine women and eight men aged 23 to 46, were charged with public order offences and breaching airport byelaws. They pleaded not guilty.</p> <p>Raj Chada, a solicitor from Hodge Jones &amp; Allen, is representing the majority of the defendants. Mike Schwarz, from Bindmans, is representing another of the accused, who gave his occupation as journalist.</p> <p>District Judge Holdham granted bail on the condition that the defendants cannot go to Stansted airport, except with a pre-booked flight ticket.</p> <p>She ordered the defendants to appear at Basildon Magistrates court on 22 September for a six day trial.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Phil Miller Thu, 04 May 2017 13:13:12 +0000 Phil Miller 110610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behave or get deported, says G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>EXCLUSIVE: The world’s biggest security company, landlord to asylum-seekers, threatens tenants with expulsion from the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4Slogo_720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4Slogo_720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>About 900 people who are seeking asylum live in the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. For five years G4S, the world’s largest security company, has held the government contract to accommodate them whilst they await the outcome of their claims for asylum.</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, visiting tenants in one of G4S’s asylum houses, I spotted a surprising document. Displayed prominently on the house notice board, and marked “Private and Confidential”, here it is:</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TheNotice.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TheNotice.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>It’s a letter from “G4S Immigration and Borders”. Dated 10 November 2016, it begins: “Dear UK Asylum Seeker RESPECT IN ASYLUM ACCOMMODATION”. </p> <p>G4S thanks “the majority of tenants” who respect G4S staff, and goes on: “There are, however, a few who do not respect the officers allocated to look after them.”</p> <p>The letter reports “a brutal and cowardly attack” by an asylum tenant on a G4S officer in Birmingham, which resulted in the officer being hospitalised and the asylum seeker being arrested and “forcibly deported back to his country of origin”.</p> <p>G4S then warns that tenants who “are abusive and aggressive will not be tolerated and will be reported to the Police and may be deported away from the UK”.</p> <p>And: “Unacceptable behaviour is always reported to the Police and Home Office and kept on their records while your application is being considered.”</p> <p>And: “Those who threaten or attack (with words or actions) may be detained and deported away from the UK.”</p> <p>G4S signs off with a list of rules, ending in: “You must not participate in illegal activity, including smoking indoors.”</p><p><span>So, here’s G4S telling vulnerable tenants that words alone, perhaps even a crafty smoke, could result in detention and deportation. </span></p><p><span>What is the legal basis for that?</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/no_smoking_G4S property.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/no_smoking_G4S property.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Notice in a G4S house in Sheffield, April 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span><br /></span></p> <p>I showed the letter to Frances Webber, the distinguished immigration barrister. Here’s what she said:</p> <p>“My response is to ask how far has outsourcing gone? Is a private corporation now mandated to make decisions on asylum and deportation?”</p> <p>Webber explained: “G4S, like any owner of accommodation, is entitled to tell residents that assaults on staff will be reported to police, and if the accommodation is run on behalf of the Home Office, that Home Office officials will also be notified. But a private company has no business issuing threats of deportation, let alone to people who are likely to be particularly vulnerable because of what they have witnesses and/ or experienced.”</p> <p>It’s not rocket science. If I assault a G4S officer I might have to go to prison, but that’s a decision for the independent judiciary and (i) should not affect my immigration status and (ii) should not be decided by G4S telling the Home Office to send me down and then deport me.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">My response is to ask how far has outsourcing gone? Is a private corporation now mandated to make decisions on asylum and deportation?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Publicly, G4S has strongly and repeatedly denied that it has any say over peoples claims for asylum. Here’s G4S boss John Whitwam speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show:</p> <p>“I have no influence or interest in the application which the asylum seekers have, whether they are granted asylum or not is not anything to do with the providers such as G4S and Serco it is entirely a matter for the Home Office.” (His job title, by the way, is: managing director, immigration and borders.)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Whitwam, managing director, immigration and borders, G4S</span></span></span></p> <p>Also on the programme was Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee. In response to Whitwam’s assurances she said: “<em>I </em>know that, and you know that, but for a lot of <em>them</em>, <em>they</em> don’t know that and they’re fearful and that’s the problem.”</p> <p>This exchange starts about six minutes into the clip, and the date is Tuesday 31 January. That’s a couple of months <em>after</em> G4S authorised the printing, distribution and display of a frightening notice threatening tenants with deportation. </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">I have no influence or interest in the application which the asylum seekers have.</span></p><p><span>I asked G4S and the Home Office to respond on the issues raised in this article. The Home Office did not respond.</span></p> <p>G4S emailed a statement:&nbsp;<span>“Our teams have no influence on the course of an asylum seeker’s application and we recognise that the language used in this letter was emotive and imprecise. It came following a serious attack on one of our welfare officers that left them badly injured and fearful of returning to work.</span></p> <p>“We will ensure that our future communications are expressed more clearly because we have a responsibility to remind the small number of asylum seekers who are violent or abusive that their conduct will be referred to the Home Office and the police. This fulfils our duty of care to the safety of our colleagues and we also believe that it is what the public would expect.</p> <p>“On the specific point regarding legislation on verbal abuse, there are multiple sections within the Public Order Act around causing harassment, alarm or distress which could apply in those cases.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">We recognise that the language used in this letter was emotive and imprecise.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, was it just a matter of some “emotive and imprecise” language? </p> <p>Over the past five years, working alongside asylum tenants, I have heard many reports of G4S staff, now called ‘Welfare Officers’, threatening them with consequences for their claims for asylum, if they protested about conditions. G4S has a poor record in Sheffield both for the quality of accommodation and for its disrespectful behaviour towards tenants. </p> <p>In 2015 in one Sheffield G4S house, with eight young men in shared bedrooms, G4S had been inundated with complaints about the very poor conditions and the way tenants were forced to share bedrooms. G4S staff posted their own version of tenancy rules – the Golden Rules, stating they had no choice in sharing bedrooms, and no choice of roommate. When the young men took down the notice and told other people in Sheffield, they were summoned to a meeting with G4S staff and told any further protests would be reported to the Home Office and it would affect their asylum claims.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Golden_Rules_July_2015.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Golden_Rules_July_2015.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S Golden Rules posted in an asylum house, Sheffield, July 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>This past February, a tenant whose home had for months been infested with bedbugs told me: “Ten days ago, I was really desperate. The children, particularly my ten year old son, have flashbacks at night and the bedbugs make it even worse, none of us have slept well for months and months.” He showed me his own medical report. It featured “post-traumatic stress disorder… symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks and insomnia…suicidal thoughts”.</p> <p>He said: “G4S have done nothing about the bed bugs in either of the houses, and simply brought mouse trap boxes to keep down the numbers. So I was determined to keep ringing their Help Line every day until they came to clear up the bugs. On 14 February, I rang them and again demanded action. The operator shouted down the phone ‘If you call again and complain we will make sure that this will affect your asylum claim.’”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:30:23 +0000 John Grayson 110268 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 5 reasons why we stopped a UKgov deportation flight to Nigeria last night https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/nadia-graham/5-reasons-why-we-stopped-ukgov-deportation-flight-to-nigeria-la <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a government ghost flight prepared for take-off, activists intervened.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Stansted.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Stansted.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="268" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stansted Airport, Tuesday 28 March (End Deportations)</span></span></span></p><p>Last night at Stansted Airport people who had lived in the UK, some for decades, were forced onto a plane bound for Nigeria and Ghana. They had been rounded up by immigration officers and torn from their families in an operation code-named “Operation Majestic”.</p> <p>At 10:30pm, activists from End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) and Plane Stupid ran onto the runway and locked ourselves to the plane using arm tubes and tripods. We stayed there for more than eight hours. This is the first time this kind of direct action has successfully stopped a mass deportation charter flight. </p> <p>So why did we do this? Here are five main motivations for taking the action last night.</p> <h2>1) Charter flights are secretive and dangerous</h2> <p>Mass deportation flights leave in the middle of the night, with no publicly available information about who is on the flight and when it leaves. Every person who is deported is accompanied by at least two guards. As recently as May 2016, one deportee was forced onto the plane by 8 Tascor guards and bound to his seat. People are restrained, sometimes even by their head, waist and wrists&nbsp; — techniques so extreme, they are not even used in prisons. </p> <h2>2) Charter flights tear families and communities apart</h2> <p>Charter flights deport people who have lived in the UK for decades. Many of these people have family, friends and secure jobs in the UK. Charter flights will send them to places where they may have few or no ties, leading to homelessness and destitution on arrival.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/thumbs.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/thumbs.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stansted, Tuesday 28 March (End Deportations)</span></span></span></div><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One man, who is soon to be deported, has lived in the UK for 18 years with his wife, brother, nieces and nephews. He was detained by the Home Office after he informed them that he would miss one appointment because his sister had passed away. He has said that if he is taken back to Ghana, he will kill himself.</p> <p>The Home Office has no respect for the dignity for these families. When they complain of having their lives ripped apart, the Home Office replies with a brutal indifference, telling them simply to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-gov-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jamaica">conduct their relationships with their family and children via skype</a>.</p> <h2>3) People with ongoing asylum claims are deported on charter flights</h2> <p>Under the Geneva Refugee Convention people have a legal right to claim asylum. It is illegal to deport someone while they are still trying to claim asylum. One person deported on the most recent charter flight to Nigeria (in January 2017) <a href="http://novaramedia.com/2017/03/08/filling-up-seats-charter-flights-and-the-uks-unlawful-deportation-tactics/">was still waiting for a decision on his asylum claim</a>. He was issued a ticket only 2 days before the charter flight despite the fact that lawfully you should be given 5 days notice.</p> <h2>4) Like Trump’s Muslim ban, Charter Flights are racist</h2> <p>The Home Office schedules charter flights in advance. Immigration officers are under pressure to find enough people to fill those seats and work with the police to target particular ethnic groups, creating fear and isolation, disrupting and ‘othering’ communities.</p> <h2>5) We must resist racism in all its forms</h2> <p>Racism and xenophobia are on the rise, spurred along by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">government behaviour and rhetoric</a>. Creating a “hostile environment” for migrants is an explicit policy objective. Brexit has unleashed a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">surge of racist violence</a>. We need to combat “hate crime” and state racism, both at once. We must resist mass deportations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nadia Graham is pseudonym. This piece was written by the End Deportations collective.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Nadia Graham Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:53:01 +0000 Nadia Graham 109763 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sheffield campaigner scheduled for life-threatening removal to Cameroon on Friday https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sarah-eldridge/sheffield-campaigner-scheduled-for-life-threatening-removal-t <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Blomfield MP works to avert deportation of Pride Mbi Agbor, a popular member of Yorkshire’s City of Sanctuary movement.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IMG_2587_mk2_large720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IMG_2587_mk2_large720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pride Mbi Agbor, aged 32, trustee of City of Sanctuary Sheffield </span></span></span></p><p>Last week the British High Commissioner to Cameroon met the country’s 84-year-old president Paul Biya, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/18/nation-divided-tensions-mount-cameroon-english-speakers-marginalisedby/">reportedly urging him</a> to end the use of force against English speaking protesters.&nbsp; This week the British Home Office is planning to deport an English speaking Cameroonian who is a long term opponent of that same president and his government.</p> <p>Pride Mbi Agbor, 32, was arrested last Thursday while his solicitor was awaiting an expert report to back up his asylum claim. Since then, he has been held in Morton Hall immigration removal centre in Lincolnshire and has been told he’ll be flown out of the country this Friday.</p> <p>Labour MP for Sheffield Central Paul Blomfield said today: “Pride has become a really valued member of the local community. I’m working with his friends to make the strongest possible case to persuade the Home Office to stop Friday’s planned removal and review his case. There are real concerns about the position of the Anglophone community within Cameroon, which must be properly considered.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/18/nation-divided-tensions-mount-cameroon-english-speakers-marginalisedby/">The <em>Daily Telegraph </em>last week reported</a> that Cameroon was in “deep crisis” that threatened its survival as a state, as the government cracked down on protests by English speaking citizens.&nbsp; Protestors have been killed and the internet shut down in the predominantly French-speaking country, which subsumed the former British colony of Southern Cameroon when it gained independence in 1961.</p> <p>Pride came to the UK in 2009, to study computer engineering at Portsmouth University. Two weeks into the course he received the news that his father had been killed. Like Pride, his father had been active in the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), an opposition group that fights for the rights of Anglophone Cameroonians. Pride was urged not to return home, and to seek sanctuary in the UK.</p> <p>After completing three years of his four year course, Pride applied for asylum in the UK. His application was refused and subsequent submissions were also rejected. Pride continued his political activities with the SCNC, and was frequently photographed at demonstrations in London. He also kept himself busy in Sheffield, volunteering with City of Sanctuary Sheffield (COSS), attending St Marie’s Roman Catholic Church and helping with a gardening project. He was recently appointed a trustee of COSS.&nbsp; </p> <p>“I never imagined I’d find myself locked up in detention for trying to do the right thing,” Pride said, speaking from Morton Hall detention centre in Lincolnshire. “I just want to get justice for English speaking people in my country, to finish my course and help people here in Britain.”&nbsp; </p> <p>While pursuing his claim for asylum, Pride has become well known in Sheffield and the surrounding area, giving talks about the situation in Cameroon and volunteering for different groups. His friends are horrified at the latest turn of events and are appealing to the Home Office to halt the deportation and carefully consider the fresh application for asylum.</p><p>Speaking in happier times, about his volunteer work among destitute people in Sheffield, Pride said:&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>Volunteering has helped me because as an asylum seeker, if you don’t get involved you get drowned in your own despair and it can be hard going out and talking to people. By volunteering you meet people who want to get to know you and you have someone who can listen to you. When I started volunteering I made a lot of friends.</span><span>”&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Pride’s solicitor delivered a fresh claim to the Home Office on Monday.</p> <ul><li><span>If you feel moved to help Pride, please <a href="https://www.change.org/p/amber-rudd-mp-stop-the-removal-of-pride-mbi-agbor">sign this petition</a>, and write immediately to Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill MP at:</span></li><li><a href="mailto:Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk">Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk</a><span>.&nbsp;</span></li><li><span>And please forward an email copy to Pride’s solicitor: Dr Hani Zubeidi at </span><span><a href="mailto:zubeidi@btinternet.com">zubeidi@btinternet.com</a></span></li></ul><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Sarah Eldridge Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:58:41 +0000 Sarah Eldridge 109574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today’s inspection report reveals that children were detained among 400 adults. One detainee had been convicted of multiple offences against children. (See also: '<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention">People come in here normal, but they get ill</a>')</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main gate, Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincolnshire (HMIP)</span></span></span></p><p>A child was held for 151 days in a dangerous and prison-like UK immigration removal centre among adult men. Other children were held for 12 days and 36 days at Morton Hall, where staff had failed to put a convicted child abuser on their list of detainees who might pose a risk to children.</p><p>Some children were detained for long periods while local authorities argued over who was responsible for assessing their age.</p> <p>The details emerged today in <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/?post_type=inspection&amp;s&amp;location=morton-hall">a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons</a>, who paid a surprise visit to Morton Hall immigration removal centre near Lincoln last November.</p><p> Procedures for safeguarding children who visited the centre were “not properly implemented”.</p> <p>“In theory visits staff were made aware of detainees who posed a risk to children,” the inspectors wrote, “but one staff member could not tell us which detainees posed a risk. A detainee with convictions for offences against children and who had been held at the centre for several months was only added to the list during our inspection.”</p><p>(I have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">documented instances</a> of the UK immigration detention authorities<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;careless approach to child protection).</span></p> <h2>Suicide and self-harm</h2> <p>Nearly half the detainees told the inspectors they felt depressed or suicidal on arriving at Morton Hall. Incidents of self-harm had tripled since the inspectors’ last visit in March 2013, and there’d been one self-inflicted death. </p> <p>During 2016 four detainees had narrowly escaped fatal or serious injuries as a result of tying ligatures. </p> <p>From May to October 2016 there’d been 16 incidents where detainees had set fire to their cells or to communal areas.</p> <p>Despite all this Morton Hall had no strategy for reducing self-harm.</p><h2>Home Office withholds “material facts”</h2> <p>Too many detainees were held for prolonged periods, the inspectors said. “There was a tense atmosphere on most residential units and many detainees, especially those detained for the longest periods, were extremely frustrated. Many cited the uncertainty of their immigration cases and the prison-like environment.”</p> <p>Thirty-one men had been held for more than a year, including three held for two years. </p> <p>Others were repeatedly bounced in and out of detention. Two men had each been detained on three separate occasions, spending more than three years each at Morton Hall. </p> <p>The inspectors found&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>inefficient</span><span>”</span><span>&nbsp;case work by the Home Office — errors, omissions, inertia:&nbsp;</span><span>“Material facts supporting release were omitted from one detention review. There was inertia by Home Office caseworkers in referring this same case for release; senior managers repeatedly said a release referral should be considered yet none was made.”</span></p><p><span> In another case the department took seven months to decide on an asylum application.</span></p> <h2>A relaxed regime?</h2> <p>Immigration removal centres are not supposed to be prisons. “Although this was a custodial establishment, we were mindful that detainees were not held because they had been charged with a criminal offence and had not been detained through normal judicial processes,” the inspectors wrote.</p><p>Morton Hall is a former prison run by the Prison Service for the Home Office.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/residential_unit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/residential_unit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Residential unit, Morton Hall (HMIP)</span></span></span></p> <p>Detention centre rules required “a relaxed regime” with “as much freedom of movement and association as possible consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment”. </p> <p>Instead, at Morton Hall inspectors found a prison, with razor wire fences, batons drawn, a punitive “rewards system”, and men locked up overnight.</p><h2>“Inappropriate” use of force</h2><p>In the six months before the inspection, there had been 125 incidents where force was used against detainees, much higher than in the similar period four years ago.</p><p>Batons had been drawn on five occasions in the previous six months. Inspectors said the available evidence did not show that these occurrences had been necessary or effective. They said: “Batons are not carried in most IRCs and this equipment is inappropriate for an immigration detainee population.”</p> <p>In defiance of inspectors’ recommendation four years ago: “Many detainees were still being transferred in the early hours of the morning, often to and from other immigration removal centres.” </p> <p>During September and October 2016, “there were 173 arrivals and 31 discharges from the centre between 10pm and 6am.” </p> <p>Some men were woken at 4.30am to be told they were leaving the centre at 6am. Inspectors called that “unacceptable”.</p> <p>The prison practice of locking men up overnight persisted regardless of inspectors’ objection four years ago — and despite evidence that it had contributed to a young man’s death at Morton Hall.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Rubel-Ahmed-011.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Rubel-Ahmed-011.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rubel Ahmed</span></span></span></p> <p>Rubel Ahmed was found hanging in his cell on 5 September 2014. He was 26 years old. Morton Hall’s Centre Manager <a href="http://inquest.org.uk/media/pr/jury-returns-critical-narrative-in-the-inquest-of-rubel-ahmed">accepted in her evidence to the inquest</a> into his death that locking detainees in their rooms was dangerous and that there were lessons to be learned from Rubel’s death.</p> <p>In August 2015 <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/rubel-ahmed/">Coroner Stuart Fisher warned</a>: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/roll-calls-body-searches-and-sex-games">Roll calls, body searches and sex games</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-a">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/inquest-jury-finds-failures-in-detainee-healthcare">Inquest jury finds failures in detainee healthcare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ian-dunt/report-which-could-destroy-britain-s-immigration-prisons">The report which could destroy Britain’s immigration prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dying-detainee-84-taken-to-hospital-handcuffed-to-chain-dvorzak-">Dying detainee, 84, taken to hospital, handcuffed to a chain. Dvorzak inquest. Day 5</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/satisfactory-uk-immigration-lock-up-that-samaritans-dare-not-vis">Satisfactory? The UK immigration lock-up that Samaritans dare not visit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:15:00 +0000 Clare Sambrook 109560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Intrusive police surveillance deployed against peaceful protestors at Morton Hall. (See also: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor/feed">Child held for 151 days at Morton Hall</a>)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demonstrators march on Morton Hall immigration removal centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <ul><li><strong>“Thanks for coming, get it out there, tell people what’s happening in here!”</strong></li><li><span><strong>Message shouted through the wire and steel walls of Morton Hall detention centre</strong></span></li></ul> <p>Eleven days into 2017 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/13/investigation-after-third-death-in-uk-immigration-detention-centre">Lukasz Debowski</a>, a 27-year-old Polish man, was found dead at a Morton Hall, a little-known immigration detention centre in rural Lincolnshire.</p> <p>Fellow inmates said that Lukasz was “young and quiet, never causing any trouble”, that&nbsp;<span>he had not committed any crime in the UK and that he had sought medical help for mental health problems.</span><span>&nbsp;They said he’d spent his time watching TV, playing games and at the gym. </span></p><p><span>They said Lukasz had killed himself, and that he’d been refused bail just before Christmas because he could not provide sureties.</span></p> <p>His partner, whose advanced pregnancy left her unable to attend the bail hearing, gave birth to the couple’s son on the day that Lukasz died. </p> <p><span>The mood at Morton Hall was low.</span></p> <p>Just a few weeks earlier, another Morton Hall detainee had died in hospital. A friend reported to the <a href="https://detainedvoices.com/tag/morton-hall/">Detained Voices</a> website that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> fell down in his cell “foaming at the mouth”, that nurses were called at 3pm, and Kabia was taken to hospital four hours later. </p> <p>“He was really a nice person and was always willing to help people,” said the friend, a fellow detainee: “He would just help people through the goodness of his heart for nothing in return.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> was reportedly 49 years old and stateless, probably from Sierra Leone. The friend said he had lived in the UK for 27 years. Detainees had heard that when Bai Ahmed Kabia was close to death, the Home Office had signed his release papers. </p> <p>“If he was given bail and left here. People would have been proud and happy,” said the friend. “But the way he left really weighs heavy on your heart. The media needs to know about this. This place is a stressful place. He’s been punished. We don’t have anyone to stand for us.”</p> <h2><span>Standing up for immigration detainees</span></h2> <p>Members of SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group) decided to organise a demonstration to highlight the deaths, to show support and solidarity for the 392 men locked up at Morton Hall, and to alert local and national attention to this little-known immigration removal centre in the Lincolnshire countryside. We chose the date, Saturday 11 March.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protestors march on Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (picture by Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>In early February I took a call from Lincolnshire Police Liaison Officer Jimmy Conway 997, a Group B Community Patrol Constable, who is based in Sleaford. He said that he and another liaison officer in pale blue jackets would be the only police presence (with ‘resources’ nearby but out of sight), and asked us to appoint our own security marshalls “to keep everyone safe”. He seemed relaxed. </p> <p>But then, things changed.</p><h2>Intrusive surveillance</h2><p>About 60 people travelled from Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham and Oxford to Morton Hall, near the village of Swinderby, 8 miles south west of Lincoln.</p> <p>On the morning of the demonstration, just as our coach was leaving Sheffield, PC Conway called me again. He said: “There will be a number of uniformed officers present now John, and a unit who will be filming – you will recognise them by the orange flashes on their jackets.”</p> <p>Surveillance as deterrence works. Some of my SYMAAG colleagues in Huddersfield and Sheffield had already chosen not to come because they were still in the asylum system. They feared surveillance and its effect on their asylum claims.</p> <p>PC Conway was true to his word. We were greeted at the gates to Morton Hall by a vanload of uniformed police and a van with members of the filming unit. As you can see from the picture: specialist filming cops were getting close-ups of demonstrators. This is pretty unusual in my experience — I have never seen them openly filming amongst demonstrators at the four Yarl’s Wood detention centre demonstrations I have attended.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Intense police surveillance of a peaceful demonstration, Morton Hall, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>They didn’t like our photographer filming <em>them</em>. One officer asked him: “How long have you been here in the UK?”</p> <p>“Twenty two years,” he replied.</p><h2>Speaking from inside Morton Hall</h2> <p>We had some phone numbers for men locked up inside Morton Hall who had agreed to let us amplify their voices on our sound system. </p> <p>They told us management had tried to undermine the demonstration.</p> <p>“They play music and stop us being outside, they also bring ice cream,” one man told us. “When we heard chants and we managed to get outside. We then heard it was people supporting us people.” </p> <p>Another said: “We heard the protesting and they try to stop us going outside but we manage to. They tell us it’s about a football team.” </p> <p>And another: “I shut off the music, they will come and grab me today because I stopped the music.”</p><h2>“Freedom! Freedom!”</h2> <p>About 40 men gathered behind the wire fences. One climbed up the fencing and was able to shout to us. He was Nariman Jalal Karim, an Iranian asylum seeker who said he had been locked up in Morton Hall for six months. He was a physical education teacher who had left his family in the Middle East. For two hours, he chanted “Freedom! Freedom!”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Climbed_fence.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Climbed_fence.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nariman, at top right of picture, scales the fence and shouts 'Freedom! Freedom!' (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>One man, who <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-557324857/morton-hall-inmate-describes-treatment-inside-immigration-prison">spoke for eight minutes</a>, told us: “People come in here normal but they get ill. But they don’t care, they don’t care. There are people in here who shouldn’t be here — old people with grandchildren, some have not seen family for years.”</p> <p>“People need medical attention, for mental health, for diabetes. They need physical and emotional support.</p> <p>“They lock us up like prison and it’s bad conditions. They don’t want us to show how we are living here. People taking their lives, we have no release date. You’ve no idea what detention does to your mind and body.</p> <p>“A hundred of us sent a letter to the Home Office because of how long they are keeping us in here, but they never replied. They treat us like rubbish, leaving us to rot in here”</p> <p>Among us protestors on the outside of the fence was Kingsley, who had been locked up at Morton Hall. Our sound system carried his voice to the protestors on the other side of the fence.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="689" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kingsley at Morton Hall (Manuch)</span></span></span>“They refused me health care,” Kingsley said. “They treated me like a liar and I had to prove myself. It’s a disgrace. On my first night, I was in lots of pain. They did not believe me. By the third time I asked for help and was refused, I broke everything in the room. They finally called a nurse. They finally called the ambulance.”</p> <p>About the two recent deaths at Morton Hall, Kingsley said: “One man died because he was not given medical attention. You will be next if you don’t stand up for your freedom against oppression.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“You have to fight. Never work for £1 an hour. If you refuse to cook and clean, the place will not run. Keep fighting!!”</p> <p>By phone from inside Morton Hall, one man protested about mobile phones with cameras being confiscated. “They don’t want us to show what it’s like in here,” he said. “But we can’t even have pictures of our families and grandchildren to remember. We’re not prisoners, we’re not criminals, but we would be better off in prison, there we could have our phones.”</p> <p>Bill McKeith from the Close Campsfield detention centre campaign told the demonstration: “This is an important day to expose what’s going on in Morton Hall. There are ten detention centres in the UK, nine are privately run – this one is run by the Prison Service on behalf of the Home Office. It was a prison for men from 1985 then for women from 2009, and since 2011 the prison changed its name and became an Immigration Removal Centre for 392 men. But it’s still run like a prison – a badly run prison. The contract paid the Prison Service £11m of taxpayers<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;money in its first year, and presumably a lot more since then.”</span></p><h2>A safe place?</h2><p>Morton Hall, a former women’s prison, was ‘reroled’ as an immigration removal centre in May 2011. Within months —&nbsp; in September 2011 —&nbsp;eighteen men went on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-england-lincolnshire-14946764">hunger strike</a>&nbsp;to resist their removal to Afghanistan.&nbsp;</p><p>In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-18973240">July 2012 two men took to the roof</a>; many detainees were “upset” over the duration of their detention, the BBC reported.</p><p>The Prison Officers’ Association&nbsp;<a href="http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/topic/morton-hall-immigration-removal-centre/">told ITV News</a>&nbsp;in November 2012 that 150 detainees had protested and staff had “been forced” to use their batons. The POA blamed rising tensions on the mix of high and low-risk detainees.&nbsp;</p><p>On Christmas Day and 30 December 2012, staff and detainees were injured in disturbances involving scores of inmates. The POA&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">told the Guardian</a>&nbsp;that staffing levels were&nbsp;“at the very, very sharp end of what we believe to be safe”. But the UK Border Agency insisted:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">“Morton Hall is a safe place for detainees and staff.”</a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main gate, Morton Hall (HMIP)</span></span></span></p> <p>In September 2014 Morton Hall again erupted in a protest after a 26 year old Bangladeshi man called <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/07/morton-hall-immigration-detention-centre-death-rubel-ahmed">Rubel Ahmed</a> was found hanging in his cell.</p><p>In March 2015 Morton Hall joined Yarl’s Wood women and people in Harmondsworth in a <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/protests-and-hunger-strikes-are-breaking-out-at-immigration-detention-centres-all-over-the-uk-009">hunger strike to highlight conditions across detention centres</a> which had been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, and a Channel 4 documentary exposing conditions in Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth.</p> <p>Across detention centres in the UK, figures show that there were 185 recorded incidents of self-harm in 2010. By 2015, that <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/rise-in-self-harm-at-asylum-detention-centres-10519471">number had more than doubled</a> to 409. In 2015 across the detention estate there <a href="http://www.no-deportations.org.uk/Media-2014/Self-Harm2015.html">were 393 suicide attempts</a>&nbsp;recorded. That’s an average of more than one a day. Morton Hall IRC with 51, was the fourth highest, and had 252 inmates listed as ‘at risk’ of suicide during the year.</p> <p>A team of prisons inspectors visited Morton Hall last November and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor">reported today</a>: “Half the detainees in our survey said they had problems with feeling depressed or suicidal on arrival. There had been a three-fold increase in incidents of self-harm since the previous inspection [in March 2013]. During the previous year, four detainees had narrowly escaped fatal or serious injuries as a result of self-harm.”</p> <h2><span>Protest and be punished</span></h2> <p>In a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-39244905">statement to the BBC Look North programme</a>, after the Morton Hall demonstration, the Home Office said it respected “everyone’s right to peaceful protest” but detention centres were “essential elements of an effective immigration system”.</p> <p>Directly after the demonstration Nariman and one of the people who had spoken on the phone to us, Raffael Ebison, were punished and shipped out of Morton Hall. I spoke to both of them whilst writing this article. </p> <p>Nariman told me: “I am in Brook House now, it looks like another prison. They sent both of us here yesterday (Thursday 16 March)”. </p> <p>Raffael said: “At the end of the protest on Saturday I was taken straight to the segregation block. We had to stay there till they sent us here to Brook House.”</p> <p>Campaigners at the demonstration continue to support and contact Nariman and Raffael in Brook House. Plans are already being made for another action at Morton Hall. We are determined to shut down Morton Hall…and all detention centres in the UK.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Author note: Thanks to Lizy for notes, and to Manuch for photographs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/inquest-jury-finds-failures-in-detainee-healthcare">Inquest jury finds failures in detainee healthcare</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:14:51 +0000 John Grayson 109549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting to win asylum from rape: the case of Erioth Mwesigwa https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/sian-evans/fighting-to-win-asylum-from-rape-case-of-erioth-mwesigwa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, Monday 20<sup> </sup>February, at 4.30pm, a protest has been called outside the Home Office against the removal and detention of Erioth Mwesigwa, a rape survivor from Uganda.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WARprotest.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WARprotest.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WAR protests at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, June 2014</span></span></span></p><p>When Erioth Mwesigwa came to the self-help group we help coordinate, she said nothing. She said nothing at the second meeting either but she looked a little less wary and withdrawn. But then she started chatting to other women in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7wZ8gJxuMs">the All African Women’s Group</a> in North London. By the time Erioth came to her fourth meeting she was standing up to report on the help she had given a woman who was under threat of losing her child. Within six months she was speaking about asylum seekers being denied health care at a meeting to save the NHS in Camden Council’s Chambers — such is the power of collective action.</p> <h2>Erioth’s story</h2> <p>Erioth was imprisoned and raped by soldiers in Uganda over 30 years ago because her husband was suspected of opposing the president. He escaped and was given asylum in the UK. Erioth didn’t. After she escaped from prison she hid with her godfather until she was recognised.&nbsp; She fled from his home, but her godfather was killed by soldiers who came to find her. She was hidden in an orphanage by a priest where, until she was recognised and had to flee again, she never left the compound. More discoveries and more escapes followed until in 2002 she ran out of places to hide. Erioth was being ordered to trap her husband into returning to Uganda.&nbsp; Friends warned her she would be killed and organised for her to come to England.&nbsp; </p> <p>After nearly 14 years living in the UK, Erioth was detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Lately —&nbsp;on 10 February — guards came to take her to the airport to remove her to Uganda. She refused, politely, as is her way, and the guards backed off. But they threatened that next time she would be forced onto the plane. </p> <h2>Talking about rape</h2> <p>In one respect Erioth’s case is unusual – the rape she suffered has been believed. <a href="http://www.womenagainstrape.net/resource/book-misjudging-rape-breaching-gender-guidelines-a">Research by Women Against Rape (WAR)</a> found that 88% of victims seeking asylum are disbelieved by the Home Office. But even when women’s accounts are accepted, rape and its aftermath are routinely downplayed as grounds for asylum.&nbsp; </p> <p>Like many women, Erioth tried to keep her experiences of rape secret.&nbsp; Our research found that 20% of women had not been able to speak about rape before the Home Office considered their case and 14% still had not reported by the time of their appeal hearing.&nbsp; Erioth could not claim asylum because she couldn’t face speaking about the rape she suffered. Instead she again lived “underground”. It was only after she was offered counselling that she felt able to tell anyone she had been raped.&nbsp; </p> <p>But when interviewed by the Home Office, this reserved, quietly spoken woman couldn’t challenge immigration officials whose default position appears to be one of hostility and scepticism, tinged with not a small amount of racism. So the notes contain damaging inaccuracies which have been used to say she can safely return to Uganda.&nbsp; </p> <p>The aftermath of rape is at best systematically downplayed, at worst completely ignored, by the Home Office. So-called inconsistencies and late arriving disclosures are interpreted as evidence of lying, rather than symptoms of trauma. Erioth’s experiences, even though they were 33 years ago, continue to have a devastating impact on her life.&nbsp; We see the victims of historic child abuse speaking now still traumatised by what they suffered. Who would dare say that many years have passed and they should “get over it”?&nbsp; But that is what Erioth is being told.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AAWG_Ms_EM.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AAWG_Ms_EM.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The All African Women’s Group celebrates Erioth stopping her flight, February 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>Erioth’s case was deemed <em>“manifestly unfounded”</em> so denying her the opportunity to go before a judge and prove the Home Office wrong. No account was taken of the way she was forced to live in Uganda — she was barely asked about this in her interview.&nbsp; </p> <p>She was said to have <em>“failed to demonstrate systematic failure of state protection</em>” because she should have reported what happened to the police.&nbsp; Amnesty International has documented <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2010/04/uganda-victims-rape-and-sexual-violence-denied-justice/">how hard it is for rape victims in Uganda to get justice</a>; how much harder must it be if your attackers are soldiers. That is common sense, right? But it is a common sense ignored by the Home Office determined to deport at any cost, no doubt fired up by a politician-led witchhunt against asylum seekers and immigrant people. Even the <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/4538_independent_inspector_calls_for_improvements_in_home_office_decision_making">Home Office’s own internal audits</a> have marked its casework records “weak” and “fail”.</p> <p>Even when evidence is presented to support a woman’s case, it is routinely ignored, disbelieved or wilfully misconstrued.&nbsp; In such circumstances, the right to appeal is vital — WAR found that women with expert evidence, from an organisation such as ours, are six times more likely to win at appeal than those without.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Collective self-help in action</h2> <p>The All African Women’s Group (AAWG) fortnightly meetings at the Crossroads Women’s Centre where we are also based, are now attended by over 90 women. Campaigning and legal cases are discussed using the principle of collective self-help. When a woman speaks about her situation, other women who often have suffered similarly, offer advice. &nbsp;If a woman needs extra help she often gets referred to the weekly work sessions WAR runs with AAWG, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Legal Action for Women (LAW). Volunteers using <a href="http://legalactionforwomen.net/2015/03/12/stop-press-new-updated-self-help-guide-for-asylum-seekers-and-their-supporters-now-available-free/">LAW’s Self-Help Guide for Asylum Seekers and their Supporters</a> helped Erioth understand her case and write a summary which she used to find a new lawyer.&nbsp; This is “collective self-help” in action.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many women’s cases are undermined by poor or no legal representation; legal aid cuts have devastated their access to justice.&nbsp; Erioth’s solicitors spent two months failing to reply to her calls, let alone challenge the Home Office.&nbsp; We found another lawyer, but Erioth’s first solicitor was slow to forward her papers so time lapsed before it came to court. Judge Ockleton, then blamed Erioth saying she had deliberately used delaying tactics. </p> <h2>Rape survivors in detention</h2> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/a-dickensian-classic-set-in-bedfordshire/">Legal Action for Women’s investigation</a> found that over 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood are rape survivors.&nbsp; Our <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/15/yarls-wood-report-calling-for-closure-decade-abuse-complaints">dossier</a> (published jointly with Black Women’s Rape Action Project) documented 10 years of systematic sexual abuse by guards including rape, which has been covered up by Serco and the other corporations. A guard is due to go on trial shortly for alleged rape. But other accused guards still work at Yarl’s Wood and some have been promoted. Black Women’s Rape Action Project has been the main support for women inside who have spearheaded protests, including hunger strikes, demanding that the centre be shut down. When a whistleblower corroborated women’s reports he was sacked and blacklisted. We raised the abuse with the Joint Committee for Human Rights and key women MPs, but have seen no action. </p> <p>The government <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/when-youve-been-tortured-does-it-matter-who-your-torturer-was">claims its “Rule 35”</a> procedure triggers release of victims of torture, who should not be detained.&nbsp; Erioth was accepted as a victim but she is still inside.&nbsp; The in-house doctor who spent approximately five minutes with her recorded that Erioth was having “flashbacks of the torture she suffered” since being detained. But the doctor concluded: “I’m not worried that continued detention will affect the lady’s mental health.”&nbsp; </p> <p>The only action triggered by Erioth’s Rule 35 report was the issuing of her “Removal Directions”. The Home Office could then justify her detention on the grounds that she faced imminent removal. </p> <p>In Erioth’s case the Home Office accepted that a GP was qualified to comment on a person’s mental health. Earlier this year I attended an appeal at which the Home Office disputed a GP’s competence on mental health—&nbsp;when the diagnosis undermined the Home Office case.</p> <h2>The bigger picture</h2> <p>Hundreds of people from all walks of life, including actor Miriam Margoyles, have now written to the Home Secretary to demand Erioth is released and given the right to an appeal in the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>This outpouring of compassion is not unusual. We see it every time a woman is able to describe what she has suffered. But what is rarely heard is the voice of women from Africa who put the responsibility squarely with western governments and corporations for why people have to flee in the first place. For that we give the last word to the All African Women’s Group: </p> <p>“We are here because we were imprisoned, raped, starved, our children killed or taken from us under dictatorships and corrupt governments propped up by the West. The UK got rich from colonialism — £7 trillion was stolen from Africa and this theft of wealth and the most precious resource — people — continues to this day. When we arrive in the UK we are treated like beggars and criminals.&nbsp;We are made destitute, put in detention, racially and sexually abused. Politicians blame us for the lack of jobs and housing, the low wages, the strain on schools and the NHS. We didn’t cause austerity. We were its first targets.”</p> <p>For us in Women Against Rape we are motivated by the knowledge that in defending Erioth Mwesigwa we are defending ourselves; we refuse to be divided. Information about how you can write to the Home Secretary to support Erioth can be found <a href="http://womenagainstrape.net/erioth-mwesigwa%E2%80%99s-case-refused-%E2%80%93-more-help-needed">here</a>. Please join us at the demonstration outside the Home Office organised by the All African Women’s Group on Monday 20 February between 4.30 and 5.30pm. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/vanessa-munro-sharon-cowan-helen-baillot/rape-and-asylum-claims-credibility-and-constr">Rape and asylum claims: credibility and the construction of vulnerability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-bleeding-anus-interrogation-by-uk-border-agency">A child, a bleeding anus, interrogation by the UK Border Agency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/july-court-rejects-uk-gov-attempt-to-send-transplant-patient-to-her-death">JULY: Court rejects UK gov attempt to send transplant patient to her death — AUGUST: &#039;Free at last&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Sian Evans Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:04:05 +0000 Sian Evans 108921 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fail, fail, and have another government contract https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Security contractors G4S and Serco and housing company Clearsprings have for years supplied UK asylum seekers with shoddy housing. The contracts carry on regardless.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/under_kitchen_window.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/under_kitchen_window.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S asylum housing, Leicester (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>For five years now I’ve exposed the dangerous consequences of the UK’s ill-conceived, badly planned and poorly executed rush to privatise housing for asylum seekers. I’ve told of children exposed to health risks in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">rat-infested homes</a>, a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">cockroach in the baby's bottle</a>, lone women&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">intimidated by their landlords</a>.</p> <p>This home is one of the worst. It’s a terraced house in the East Midlands of England, just off Leicester’s city centre. I call in one frosty morning in early January. Paul comes to the door. He is an asylum seeker from the Middle East who speaks fluent English.</p><h2><strong>Living with bed bugs</strong></h2><p>“The house is full of bedbugs, in David’s bedroom, another guy’s bedroom and all in here—.” Paul points to the settee in the lounge.</p> <p>The room is full of bedclothes and personal belongings. “G4S never clears away what they take from rooms when people leave,” says Paul. “We don’t like throwing the things away, people might come back.”</p> <p>Four men live here. David speaks to me in Arabic, Paul interpreting. “I have been here over a year and the bedbugs have got worse,” says David. “I had to throw my mattress in the yard and I sleep on the floor. I try and stop the bugs coming in through the floor boards by taping up the room.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/david_bedroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="David&#039;s bedroom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/david_bedroom.JPG" alt="" title="David&#039;s bedroom" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David's room (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Outside David shows me piles of rubbish – infested mattresses, bedclothes, broken furniture. </p> <p>“Ring G4S all the time,” he says in broken English. “Never come.” </p> <p>Paul fetches some dead bugs he has saved. David shows me the bites on his arms and stomach.</p><p>I ask Paul how long he has been in the house. “Four months,” he says. Paul came to England in a refrigerated lorry— “It was very cold, four people on the lorry had to go to hospital.”</p><p>He claimed asylum: “They took me to detention centre, Campsfield. I was there two months, then Birmingham. One month in Kensington hotel.”&nbsp;</p><p>I had been to the Kensington, a rundown place G4S used alongside Birmingham initial accommodation centre, for people waiting to be housed.&nbsp;</p><p>Paul goes on: “Two months in Birmingham centre, then Stoke.”&nbsp;</p><p>I ask him about the Stoke house.&nbsp;</p><p>“Really bad,” he says.&nbsp;</p><p>After a further two months the Home Office claimed that Paul had been fingerprinted in Hungary on his journey and thus had to be deported back there. He was rearrested and sent back to Campsfield where he spent a further two months. Then in October 2016 he was moved again to the Leicester terraced house with the bed bugs.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bed_bugss.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bed_bugss.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bed bugs (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>David shows me his leg and a badly scarred knee.</p> <p>“I get this from torture in my own country,” he says. “I cannot walk very far but I have been given a bus pass.” </p> <p>The heating has failed many times and the radiator in Paul’s bedroom has broken away from the wall. His window doesn’t shut. </p> <p>“The walls were falling on me,” Paul said, pointing to cracked plasterwork he had repaired with tape.</p> <p>A G4S maintenance worker had inspected the house on 12 December and passed on an urgent text message to G4S, demanding remedy. One whole month later David told me nothing had happened. I went back to the house a few days ago. Friends had come to help get rid of the sofa and the lounge had been cleared, but not by G4S. The bed bugs were thriving. Paul showed me fresh bites on his arms.</p> <h2><strong>Victoria Derbyshire — a bad day for contractors</strong></h2> <p>Lately the lives of asylum seekers housed in the UK by commercial contractors got <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04rfnc2">rare prime time attention</a> on BBC television. The occasion was publication of a damning report from the Home Affairs Select Committee who’d found “vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation. . . children living with infestations of mice, rats or bed bugs, lack of health care for pregnant women. . . inadequate support for victims of rape and torture.” </p> <p>The MPs had urged a complete overhaul of the contracting system. </p> <p>Committee chair Yvette Cooper appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme alongside G4S executive John Whitwam.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Derbyshire31JAN2017.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Derbyshire31JAN2017.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>The presenter asked the G4S man: “Would <em>you</em> live in a house infested by rats, mice and bed bugs?”</p> <p>“No, of course I wouldn’t,” Whitwam said. </p> <p>He claimed G4S inspections had found defects and addressed them: “The issue is not that things go wrong in a house —&nbsp;they go wrong in my house, they go wrong in every house,&nbsp;but the requirement we have to address them, which we do.”</p> <p>That was Tuesday 31 January. A bad day for the contractors, but not nearly as bad as it might have been. </p> <p>The MPs’ report had downplayed evidence of racism and intimidation. Evidence, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">for example,</a> from the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) who said that “derogatory and racist behaviour” was common among contract staff. Asylum seekers said staff behaviour “made them feel like ‘animals’ and that they were ‘subhuman’.” Others reported that they felt bullied.</p> <p>The BBC had planned to air testimony from activists and G4S tenants in Yorkshire asserting that tenants who complained had been moved against their will, had been threatened that complaints would damage their claims for asylum. </p> <p>My colleague, housing rights activist Violet Dickenson, had been invited to take part in the programme as a studio guest. She was looking forward to speaking out about the culture of intimidation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Violetout_Sharonin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Violetout_Sharonin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="438" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Out goes activist witness Violet Dickenson. In comes corporate voice Sharon Holmes.</span></span></span></p> <p>But during the weekend before transmission <a href="https://theferret.scot/asylum-seeker-intimidation-g4s/">G4S had lobbied the BBC</a>, invitations were withdrawn, interviews pulled. The film clips of asylum seekers and activists (from the film, The Asylum Market, by <a href="http://www.brass-moustache.co.uk">Brass Moustache</a>, that you can see <a href="https://vimeo.com/201062637">in full here</a>) were binned. Instead of Violet Dickenson’s live testimony about intimidation, the programme ran a pre-recorded interview with Sharon Holmes, G4S head of business, who dismissed some of the evidence in the MPs’ report as “anecdotal”.</p> <h2>Missing the boat</h2> <p>As for the MPs’ call for a complete overhaul of the contracting system, it was weaker than it appeared. For that ship had already sailed.</p> <p>Since 2012 Home Office accommodation has been provided to asylum seekers by companies —&nbsp;G4S, Serco and Clearsprings — their subcontractors, and hundreds of small private landlords,&nbsp;through what’s known as COMPASS contracts (an acronym for Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services). The contracts, worth <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-57.htm">a reported £1.7 billion</a> over five years, had been due to expire in 2017 —&nbsp;unless the government exercised its option for a two year extension.</p> <p>“Before the Home Secretary signs the next contract, the committee will have things to say,” the then committee chair Keith Vaz MP had <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35848080">told BBC Scotland</a> back in March 2016. “So, we will conclude our inquiry in plenty of time for the Home Secretary to be able to reflect on it before she signs the new contracts.”</p> <p>That didn’t happen. Instead, the report’s publication was delayed. And delayed. </p> <p>By 8 December 2016, and still no sign of the report, the government quietly issued a <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Lords/2016-12-08/HLWS333/">written ministerial statement</a> confirming that the Home Office had extended the existing contracts, <em>and</em> that it was going to pay more —&nbsp;though not how much. “I have increased the amount of money that the Home Office pays for the provision of welfare officers and staff property management,” wrote immigration minister Robert Goodwill. </p> <p>As for five years’ compelling evidence of rats, cockroaches, racism and intimidation,<strong> </strong>Goodwill wrote mildly: “There has been considerable interest in the accommodation and support that is provided to asylum seekers,” and he had “listened carefully” to concerns.</p><h2><span style="font-weight: bold;">“Considerable interest”</span></h2> <p>What does “considerable interest” look like?</p> <p>It looks like this:</p> <p>Asylum seekers “are treated as luggage rather than people who deserve some dignity and respect. Government must get to grips with that with housing contractors.” </p> <p>That was Sarah Teather MP in the foreword to her <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/asylum_support_inquiry_report_final.pdf">Parliamentary inquiry report</a> in January 2013: “Racial abuse and victimisation at the hands of members of the public were striking enough, but more shocking for us were the examples of abject disregard for basic human dignity demonstrated by housing providers.” </p> <p>A <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/asylum/">Home Affairs committee report</a> later that year noted: “We were very concerned by the description of the substandard level of housing provided to asylum seekers.”</p> <p>In January 2014 the <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/10287-001-accommodation-for-asylum-seekers-Book.pdf">National Audit Office reported</a>: “Both G4S and Serco took on housing stock without inspecting it . . . many of the properties they had taken on did not meet the contractual quality standards.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div width="100%"><iframe frameborder="0" height="300" width="100%" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/201062637"></iframe></div><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://vimeo.com/201062637">The Asylum Market</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/brassmoustache">Brass Moustache Films</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/asylum-accommodation-substantive/">Public Accounts Committee followed up in April 2014:</a> “The standard of the accommodation provided was often unacceptably poor and the providers failed to improve quality in a timely manner.” And: “Contractors have remained slow in providing decent accommodation for a very vulnerable group of people.”</p><h2>Red doors and a Taliban room-mate</h2> <p>In February 2016 Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South &amp; Penarth, secured a <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160210/halltext/160210h0001.htm">debate in Westminster Hall</a>: “We appear to have a situation in which the Home Office is contracting a small number of companies to place highly vulnerable people — often, it seems, in crowded or unsuitable accommodation — in a very small number of areas in a small group of dispersal centres and cities, and frequently in areas of low rents and deprivation,” he said.</p> <p>Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, reported: “A young man in my community who is gay and who has come to this country is having to share a bedroom with somebody who was once a member of the Taliban.”</p> <p>Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East, SNP) said: “We have had refugee houses easily identifiable by the colour of the door; stories of humiliation and harassment caused by the requirement for refugees in Cardiff to wear coloured wristbands; and a level of overcrowding that would be more appropriate in the slums of the 1900s, not the 21st century. It is clear to me that the system is broken, not just in one location and not just with one provider. That is why the Scottish National Party is calling for an urgent inquiry<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">.”</span></p> <p>But that didn't happen.</p><p>Labour’s Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said: “There is now a short period until most of the contracts come up for renewal, so now is the time for a review to be carried out so that whatever mistakes were made in the past can be avoided in the future. I think some contracts will expire in 2017, with a possible two-year extension clause, so time is of the essence.” </p> <p>He said that lately: “I spent the whole day in Oldham, and in the end I came away with the conclusion that the only reason why more than 600 asylum seekers were there was because the unit price per head of accommodating them was lower there than anywhere else.” </p> <p>Starmer went on: “I lend my support to the call for a review. There is now a window of opportunity.”</p> <p>As we’ve seen, that window slammed shut in December 2016 when the Home Office extended the contracts.</p><h2>MPs in the dark</h2> <p>During the Westminster Hall debate, Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, highlighted the matter of secrecy, how MPs are kept in the dark about how the companies carve up all that public money.</p> <p>“We must make the companies involved more accountable to the taxpayer,” Cunningham said. “Private companies that deliver public services, such as G4S and Jomast, are exempt from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner has no power to investigate private contractors.” He went on: “It is nigh on impossible to get our hands on the details of much of what private companies are up to with public money. Accountability must not stop where private sector involvement starts.”</p><h2>Criminal investigation into G4S and Serco</h2> <p>Lack of transparency isn’t the only problem. Both G4S and Serco were caught out “overbilling” the taxpayer under contracts for monitoring offenders — <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ellie-butt/g4s-serco-fraud-oops-we-couldnt-tell-difference-between-right-and-wrong">the tagging scandal</a>. Both had charged the Ministry of Justice for applying electronic tags to ex-offenders who were not being tagged. Some were in prison. Others were dead. Serco <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/taxpayer-compensated-for-overcharging-as-cross-government-contracts-review-concludes">agreed to pay £68.5m back</a>. G4S tried to get away with <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/supportservices/10528322/G4S-probe-deepens-as-tagging-scandal-costs-Serco-68m.html">paying back £24.1 million</a> but eventually agreed on nearly £110 million. The <a href="https://www.sfo.gov.uk/cases/g4s-serco-2/">Serious Fraud Office</a> has had both companies under criminal investigation since November 2013. Information supplied by the SFO prompted the Financial Reporting Council in June last year to open another investigation —&nbsp;into <a href="https://www.frc.org.uk/News-and-Events/FRC-Press/Press/2016/June/Investigation-into-the-preparation,-approval-and-a.aspx">Deloitte’s handling of Serco’s accounts</a>. </p> <p>During “emergency talks” with the Home Office in December 2015, G4S and Serco <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/79c0bf80-a70b-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879">used the financial press</a> to air their concerns about the losses they claimed to be making on the Compass contracts. That summer Serco boss Rupert Soames had used an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s business programme The Bottom Line to almost boast that over five years Serco would lose&nbsp; £115 million on the Compass contracts. “The taxpayer presumably is smiling,” he said.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FinancialTimescontracts.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FinancialTimescontracts.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="469" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Financial Times features 'struggling' outsourcers, 23 December 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>At the Home Affairs Committee hearing on 13 September 2016, Soames told MPs: “The reasons why the contracts are losing money for us are varied. One is that we under-bid. The price was too low. I have to say that a system of reverse Dutch auction conducted over the internet may not be the best way to establish pricing for a contract to provide care to tens of thousands of people.” </p> <p>He said the other reason was an increase in the numbers of asylum seekers.</p> <p>David Winnick MP asked Soames for a copy of Serco’s contract with its subcontractor Orchard &amp; Shipman. Soames replied: “No, sir, I do not think that would be appropriate.”</p> <p>The National Audit Office in <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/report/memorandum-role-major-contractors-delivery-public-services-2/">November 2013</a> issued a warning about the “crisis of confidence in contracting out of public services: “There is currently a lack of transparency over the role that contractors play, the business that they do, the rewards that they make and the way that they perform.”</p> <p>The NAO explained: “It is difficult to isolate the profit relating solely to their public-sector work. They (the contractors) rarely separate out their public-sector work as part of their segmental reporting. The government only has access to information on the profits contractors make where ‘open book arrangements’ are written into contracts.” Such open book arrangements do not apply to the Compass contracts.</p> <h2>Turning the tide</h2> <p>At a public meeting in Sheffield in 2012, when people learned that G4S had been given the asylum housing contracts, an asylum tenant from Zimbabwe stood up and said: “I don’t want a prison guard as my landlord.”</p> <p>Remember the executive sent to defend G4S’s reputation on the Victoria Derbyshire show? John Whitwam’s expertise is not in housing, nor human rights, nor the asylum system.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S executive John Whitwam on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme</span></span></span></p> <p>He’s a military man. As Lt Col John Whitwam he served as commanding officer, Royal Fusiliers. Then, after a brief go at investment banking —&nbsp;at Barclays, according to <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/johnwhitwam">his LinkedIn profile</a>,&nbsp;he moved into soldiering-for-profit, as commercial director at Pilgrims Group, before joining G4S, the world’s biggest security company, and becoming “managing director immigration and borders”.</p><p>Asylum housing doesn’t belong in the private security industry and its Asylum Market.</p> <p>Tenants and rights campaigners did find some things to welcome in the Home Affairs Committee report. We in Yorkshire had already pushed our local councils to ban the forced sharing of bedrooms. The MPs recommended: “That forced bedroom sharing be phased out across the asylum estate as a whole and that the use of large scale HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation) be reduced.”</p> <p>And . . . The MPs recommended that future contracts should involve local councils and the devolved nations, and voluntary organisations in deciding on and scrutinising local, and regional contracts for the provision of asylum housing. </p> <p>Asylum rights campaigners will seize on these recommendations to turn the tide against privatisation and intimidation, take asylum housing out of the market and put it back where it belongs, in public hands.</p> <p><br /><em> Asylum-seekers’ names have been changed.</em></p><p><em>See also Kate Smith at The Conversation: "<a href="https://theconversation.com/despite-repeated-failings-private-firms-continue-to-run-asylum-housing-70949">Despite repeated failings, private firms continue to run asylum housing".</a></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ellie-butt/g4s-serco-fraud-oops-we-couldnt-tell-difference-between-right-and-wrong">G4S &amp; Serco fraud: Oops, we couldn&#039;t tell the difference between right and wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . 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Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:59 +0000 John Grayson 108799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The end of domestic violence support for black and brown women in the UK? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/end-of-domestic-violence-support-for-black-and-brow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dedicated refuges were created to answer a desperate need. Now their survival is at risk.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p>Balancing her baby daughter on her lap, Leah* sits in a bright room on the top floor of an East London office block. It’s a lively part of town. Newly built luxury flats tower over streets lined with decades-old black beauty shops, one-stop mobile phone stalls. The storefronts of family-run greengrocers are piled high with yams and bowls of okra, peppers and coriander.&nbsp;</p> <p>Leah is waiting to get help and advice from <a href="http://lawadv.org.uk">Latin American Women’s Aid</a>. They’re a small charity challenging violence against women and working with survivors of domestic abuse. They rent three rooms — one for an office, a crèche space for children and a place to see women.</p> <p>Lawa, as the group is widely known, opened in 1986 and they run the only domestic violence refuge for Latin Americans in the UK. Like other refuges and organisations set up in 70s and 80s Britain, they arose from radical women’s rights and anti-racist movements. Domestic violence shelters specifically for black, south-Asian, Chinese, Latin American and other ethnic minority women, now bundled under the term BAME, were founded because these women weren’t getting support from statutory or mainstream places.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest2_1.jpg" alt="lead lead lead Young woman holds banner. It says: "BME refuges are bridges to safety."" title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sisters Uncut block city bridges across the UK ahead of govt. spending statement. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Decades on, by the time the Coalition government made deep cuts in public spending in 2010, many BAME domestic violence organisations, including Lawa, relied on council funding to pay for part, if not all, of what they offered. Bed spaces, English as a second language classes, counselling, childcare, time intensive advice work, court assistance.</p> <p>But in the past six years, cash-strapped local authorities have cut back frontline domestic violence services, diverting money from small specialist providers and awarding contracts to larger organisations making promises to deliver more for less money. </p> <p>Each year Women’s Aid surveys the state of refuge and service provision, each year the numbers are worse and each year brings news of another refuge closed. </p> <p>Then, last month, in response to the worsening crisis, the government released a £20m pot of funding for local authorities to bid for, in partnership with local specialist domestic violence providers. “Domestic abuse knows no barriers,” said Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. “It can happen to anyone of us, at any time. Our £20 million fund is designed to increase refuge spaces and ensure that no victim is ever turned away from the essential support they need.” The government said the fund was “also seeking to address the needs of diverse communities, including BME victims and those from isolated communities, so they can access support and help.”</p> <p>But there’s a problem.</p><hr /><p>It is a Tuesday when Leah visits Lawa’s drop-in session, and already she is dreading the weekend. Leah is 25 and lives in a two-bedroom flat with her husband Gabriel*, her baby and four other adults.</p> <p>Alejandra, one of Lawa’s case workers, sits across from Leah, taking notes at a table between them. </p> <p>Behind Alejandra, there’s a colour photo of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and a poster: “Unity, Strength, Resistance” splashed on red. Across the room Rosie the Riveter has been refashioned into four women: black, Spanish, white and Native American. The caption reads, Si, Se Puede! A Post-it note stuck to a cork noticeboard says, “Hey you don’t give up. Okay.” </p> <p>Leah tells Alejandra that she needs housing advice— that’s the purpose of her visit. But as Alejandra listens, another story emerges.&nbsp; </p> <p>Originally from Guatemala, Leah and Gabriel have lived in the UK for little over a year. Like nearly half of all Latin American migrants in London, Leah’s husband took an unskilled job. He cleans nine hours a day, and earns roughly £1,300 each month. Most weekends he drinks heavily, using alcohol to ease the disappointments of their life in London. </p> <p>Leah smiles and bounces her four-month old daughter on her lap. “He is a good man,” she says. “He is a good dad. It is just that the alcohol makes him aggressive.” </p> <p>Alejandra asks: “Are you frightened?”</p> <p>“No.” Leah shakes her head, still smiling. He is frustrated, she adds, the housing situation is unbearable and the family struggle to survive on his wages. </p> <p>It’s a familiar story to the women running Lawa. Men forced to work long hours in menial, ‘feminised’ jobs, become violent and abusive towards their wives.&nbsp; </p> <p>In Leah’s case the abuse is verbal. Malicious comments, name calling, heated arguments over money. Except the one time he grabbed her by the throat.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersuncutprotest9.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersuncutprotest9.jpg" alt="Protestors walk on Waterloo Bridge carrying large banner. It says, "Give migrant survivors access to D.V services."" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Waterloo Bridge, London. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Between 2001 and 2011 Britain’s Latin American community grew fourfold. And though Latin Americans are not officially recognised as an ethnic minority, they experience the harassment, employment discrimination and problems that affect other minority groups in the UK. </p> <p>There are high employment rates for Latin Americans in London (85 per cent compared to the average for other foreign-born residents, 55 per cent), but much of that work, around 70 per cent, is concentrated in cleaning, hospitality and catering, despite professional training and experience acquired in their home countries.</p> <p>They face discrimination at work, 11 per cent are illegally paid below the minimum wage and the majority send a significant chunk of their low incomes back home. As with other poor and even middle income households in London, it is impossible to find decent housing, close to the centre where many of them work cleaning corporate buildings.</p> <p>These are the conditions revealed through research by Trust for London in the 2011 report No Longer Invisible. Few Latin Americans in London access public services, the report says, one in five never visit a GP. The restrictions on legal aid for poor migrants means few can get legal advice to regularise their migration status to access the full range of rights citizens receive. Settling into British life is difficult because of the unsociable hours in the typical jobs available, like cleaning and hotel work. English as a second language lessons are most likely to be during work hours or when people need to sleep because they work nights.</p> <p>When a woman in this community faces domestic violence, her experience intersects with the other problems she faces as a disadvantaged minority. The threat of homelessness, poverty, childcare, immigration, language needs, among other things.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sistersprotest8_0.jpg" alt="Young women at protest. Banner says, "Black services for black sisters."" title="" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Around 600 women and non-binary people took part in Sisters Uncut actions in Newcastle, Bristol, Glasgow and London. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>This is where Lawa comes in. “The language barrier is almost the smallest issue women face if they go to a generic service,” says Salma, Lawa’s senior development officer. She adds: “The most important thing is that when they come through our doors, they are believed, culturally understood and properly supported, rather than judged and discriminated. BME services play a key role in building a bridge between BME survivors, local services and the wider British society. In our last user survey, 85 per cent of women did not feel confident enough to access mainstream services prior to seeing Lawa.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Lawa has changed over the years as more Latin Americans have arrived in London, mostly from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, and often via Portugal or Spain. As Home Secretary, Theresa May promised to create a hostile environment for migrants, and migrant women fleeing violence were no exception. Many of Lawa’s cases are “European Economic Area cases”, that is Latin American women with an EU passport from Spain or Portugal. Lawa sees women who flee to the UK after some sort of crisis, abuse by a relative or spouse. Or the women might be living in the UK on a spousal visa, linked to their husband’s British/European Economic Area status.</p> <p>In both cases Home Office rules restrict their access to public services, which means they are more likely to be destitute, homeless and vulnerable to exploitation and further violence. Women can apply to have the restriction lifted, but the threshold for proving violence and destitution, thus entitling them to public support, is high. The recent changes to immigration law have created a culture of suspicion among public sector professionals who aren’t always sure what foreign born women are entitled to and so lean towards refusing services or charging for it. </p> <p>One of Alejandra’s clients lives in the UK on a spousal visa. Originally from Colombia, she is married to a British man. He’s ex-Army, has access to guns that he uses to threaten her. She wants to leave, but her spousal visa comes with the condition that she has no recourse to public funds. </p> <p>Alejandra found a bed for her at a shelter that accepts ‘no recourse’ women. She is lucky; there are few such refuges in the country. The next step is securing a non-molestation order to prevent the husband from contacting her. This is expensive — they’ll need legal aid. Even then, it’s a tall order. She’ll need to prove destitution and provide evidence of the domestic violence. This involves gathering and collating GP letters, a marriage certificate, passport, bank statements and evidence from the refuge. If and when legal aid is secure, Alejandra can go ahead and apply for the non-molestation order. All this could take weeks. </p> <p>“Working with women who have no recourse to public funds is tough,” says Victoria, Lawa’s violence against women and girls coordinator. “What happens after the initial help? There are so few places we can send the women to. There aren’t many organisations that work with no recourse women, so we have to do the work ourselves. But we are a small charity with limited capacity and can’t indefinitely support the neediest women with no extra funding.”</p> <p>On the day of Leah’s visit, Victoria is working across the corridor in Lawa’s office on the phone, trying to reach a local GP. Other Lawa staff dash in and out, speaking in Spanish and English, to each other and on the phone to clients. Camilla, Lawa’s counsellor, has just secured a grant to expand the charity’s mental health support next year. Nayane, originally from Brazil, rushes out to help an Angolan woman, who has arrived with letters from the Department for Work &amp; Pensions stopping her grandson’s Disability Living Allowance. She is his sole carer and unsure of what to do next. Nayane gets on the phone to the DWP. </p> <p>Victoria shushes her colleagues as the doctor answers the phone. He wants £20 for a letter explaining the domestic violence Victoria’s client has experienced. “My client has nothing,” Victoria tells me later. “She was totally dependent on her husband.” </p> <p>Without the letter, they might not secure legal aid, which the woman needs to fight her husband in the family courts for custody of their children. In the worst cases women are deported, made homeless or forced to stay with their abusive partner.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST4_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST4_0.jpg" alt="Protestors shout while walking across Waterloo Bridge. " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"You block our bridges, so we block yours." Rallying cry at feminist direct action protest against cuts to DV services. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>More women than ever need help. Lawa can’t keep up. Two years ago, Islington Council stopped funding Lawa’s work. “Since then we have been struggling to balance the books,” says Salma. “We continue to provide the service by going above and beyond, but there is great insecurity. We don’t know how much longer we will be able to provide the service women deserve without additional funding.”</p> <p>About that £20m funding pot from the government. The design and structure of the commissioning process may block access to the groups who serve “BME victims and those from isolated communities”. Groups like Lawa. </p> <p>Earlier this year, research among charities based in London where around 40 per cent of the population is from an ethnic minority, revealed a profound lack of trust in the people who commission services. Imkaan, a black feminist network of violence against women and girls organisations, reported that many of its members felt local commissioners did not recognise the importance and necessity of BAME services. </p> <p>In England last year 662 women were turned away from domestic violence refuges because they had no recourse to public funds, up from 389 the year before. These women would have already been denied access to social housing, benefits or legal advice because of their status. There are no safe places for them to flee to. “The women we work with are victims twice over,” says Victoria. “First of domestic violence and then of the system's refusal to help them.”</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST7_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/SISTERSPROTEST7_0.jpg" alt="Protestor holds placard. It says, "Trans services for trans survivors are bridges to safety."" title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of Sisters Uncut demands is comprehensive DV services for all, especially underserved communities of black and brown, disabled and LGBT+ survivors. Photograph: Guen Murroni. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div>In May, MPs held a parliamentary debate about the future of domestic violence refuges. Labour MP Julie Cooper called the debate todiscuss the lack of ring-fenced funding for women’s refuges. Cooper directed her plea to George Osborne, the then Chancellor responsible for orchestrating Conservative spending cuts, said: “At the end of every cut he makes to local authorities, there is a woman who will die, avoidably, at the hands of a man who once promised to love her. Cuts to public spending are creating orphans who could have grown up with parents. I beg the Minister to ensure that this Government do not unravel 40 years of good work. I beg him to listen and to act without delay.”<br /> <p>More than one politician said they feared BAME specialists services would not survive. Sarah Champion, Labour MP, spoke up for Lawa and for Apna Haq, a small domestic violence charity in her own constituency of Rotherham. “Such dedicated services are vital for women,” she said. “They are experts in their provision, designed and delivered by, and for, the users and communities they serve. The women who seek shelter see themselves reflected in the staffing and the management of the services.</p><p>“ … specialist services are trusted by the women who use them. Their presence is known in the community, meaning that women will self-refer, enabling those women to leave a violent relationship because they know that support exists.”</p> <p>But what if that support is taken away?</p><hr /><p><br />Leah’s interview with Alejandra lasted about 25, 30 minutes, long enough to squash any dream of finding a rented flat for just herself, her husband and daughter by in London. “It’s going to be very difficult to find somewhere to live, especially on his wages,” Alejandra said. They might qualify for housing benefit, but they need to find a place to live first and a contract before applying. “It is impossible.” A look on Leah’s face suggests she knew this. She smiled, then more questions. If I go back to Guatemala without telling him? What will happen? And then: I would like to divorce him. A divorce would invalidate her right to remain in the UK. Leah gets up to leave and puts her daughter into her pushchair. She plans to come back to Lawa for the free English lessons. Alejandra has told her about a service in north London for families with drug or alcohol problems, the couple should attend together. If your husband refuses, she says, “Call me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karen-ingala-smith/when-man-kills-woman">When a Man Kills a Woman</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/jeremy-corbyn-and-women-matter-of-policy-not-appointment">Jeremy Corbyn and women: a matter of policy not appointment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maid-in-london/exposing-daily-violence-of-womens-hotel-work">Exposing the daily violence of women&#039;s hotel work</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/assault-on-bme-womens-organisations-in-uk">16 Days: cutting Black and minority ethnic women&#039;s organisations </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rats-in-lunchbox-mould-in-mattress-living-in-squalor-in-london">Rats in the lunchbox, mould in the mattress: living in squalor in London</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light UK Economics Equality Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 16 Days: activism against gender based violence gender justice Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:30:59 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 107377 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Racist attacks are condemned by politicians who stop short of examining their complicity. New research suggests policy ignites hatred.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3GOHOMEPAGES.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3GOHOMEPAGES.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>“In the UK illegally?”, “Go home or face Arrest” went the slogans on the government’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">Operation Vaken mobile ad-vans in July 2013</a>. “Go back” out of “our country” echoed the abuse following the summer’s referendum.</p> <p>Multiculturalism has failed, we need British values, in the face of Islamist extremism, announced Prime Minister <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference">David Cameron in February 2011</a>. </p> <p>In August 2014 journalists were invited to film immigration raids to remove homeless migrants from around Marble Arch in central London; Theresa May, as home secretary in August 2015, announced plans to ban EU migrants unless they had a job.</p> <p>In June 2016 a 34-year-old doctor was attacked on his way to a football match in Plymouth. “We only tolerate you lot because of the income you bring,” went the abuse. In Milton Keynes, on 30 June, a migrant was deliberately picked on and robbed at knifepoint because of his homelessness. </p> <p>On 1 July a law firm received a Facebook message: There is “only one law in the UK: abide by it or GTF Out”. Two days later in a Sunderland shopping centre, a woman had her veil ripped off. “You’re in Britain, live by British rules,” yelled her attacker. </p> <p>Almost every utterance shouted alongside a specific racist attack was already a dominant ideological policy position. The <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html">hostile environment that Theresa May promised</a> the country in 2012 has certainly become one on the ground.</p> <p>Now, five months after the referendum, many organisations are in the business of explaining the horrific level of post-Brexit racial violence witnessed in the UK. That there was such a rise in violence is agreed on by everyone from newly created online forums like #postrefracism to police chiefs and home secretary Amber Rudd. What there is less agreement on is how to analyse and therefore combat such racism. </p> <p>On the one hand you have academics such as Imran Awan (Birmingham City University) and Irene Zempi (Nottingham Trent University), backed by the anti-fascist group Hope Not hate, who see the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/26/jo-coxs-was-followed-by-50000-tweets-celebrating-her-death">25,000 individuals who sent abusive and offensive tweets after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox</a> as revealing both the impact of&nbsp; reading Nazi propaganda and the need to&nbsp; tackle hate ‘speech’ on line. Such an approach can allow racism to be reduced to a question of individual bigotry. </p> <p>Then you have the quasi-governmental Equality and Human Rights Commission whose officers David Isaac and Rebecca Hilsenrath, unusually, on 25 November wrote <a href="https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/letter-all-political-parties-westminster">a letter of rebuke to all political parties</a>. “Politicians of all sides should be aware of the effect on national mood of their words and policies, even when they are not enacted.” </p> <p>You have the responsibility, they tell politicians, to see that “the right to free and fair elections [are] supported by accurate information and respectful debate ... essential to our democratic process”. And: “There are those who used, and continue to use, public concern about immigration policy and the economy to legitimise hate.” </p> <p>The EHRC clearly sees the role of politicians as pivotal in delegitimising hate. </p> <p>Individuals may have wielded the stick, politicians may have added during the Brexit debate to the toxic brew. Both have to be seen in a larger and historical context according to the radical think tank, the <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk">Institute of Race Relations</a>. First, the IRR, which has collated a database of racial attacks in the UK since 2010, points out that though such violence indeed ‘spiked’ during the summer, it should not be seen as something new. Second, it warns against treating such violence as merely a law and order problem. Such a view in fact depoliticises the issue and lets the government off the hook. </p> <p>This is the crux of <em><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Racial-violence-and-the-Brexit-state-final.pdf">Racial violence and the Brexit state</a></em>. Its author Jon Burnett argues convincingly exactly how, in over 100 incidents he analysed, the racial epithets used during &nbsp;75% of attacks, including those recorded above, exactly echoed a series of government pronouncements and policies on migrants, religion, refugees and immigration since 2011. “Go-home” messages on vans become “go home” abuse on the street. </p> <p>The racism evidenced in attacks revealed the following in perpetrators: an affirmation the country was theirs again; cultural norms could be reasserted; racism was linked to “entitlement”; campaigning to remain was “betrayal”; anti-migrant and anti-Muslim racism intersected; new racisms rooted in former racisms. Above all, the attacks had their gestation within policy measures which expressed the same aim or sentiments. </p> <p>A. Sivanandan, in his foreword, adds, “In siphoning off racism and racial violence, which are socially-based, to the terrain of law and order, the government conceals its complicity in creating state racism.” And for him the Brexit state which has made nativism the state ideology and “take back control” its political culture, has elevated institutional racism to fully-fledged state racism. </p> <p>The struggle then is on two levels: against “hate crime” and against state racism, both at once.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/simon-parker/theresa-may-this-is-not-crisis-of-migration-but-crisis-of-inhum">Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/kiri-kankhwende/we-all-bring-something-to-table-young-migrants-in-uk">&#039;We all bring something to the table&#039; Young migrants in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ornette-clennon/on-race-and-referendum">On race and the referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">&#039;Go Home&#039; texts expose anti-migrant British policy to the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey">Welcome to Britain. Go Home. And have a pleasant journey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-official">So many reasons why turning landlords into immigration officials is a bad idea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">We all belong to Glasgow - Refugees Are Welcome Here</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Jenny Bourne Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:08:30 +0000 Jenny Bourne 107307 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Meanwhile a parliamentary inquiry into asylum housing lumbers on over ten months . . . and today in Leeds the Home Office holds yet another 'consultation' on a sorry business.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/preparing-lunch-on-floorBRIGHT.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/preparing-lunch-on-floorBRIGHT.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne chops vegetables on a tray on her kitchen mat (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Jayne is on her knees, chopping vegetables on a tray on her kitchen mat. Jayne has no table or chairs. She and her two young children have lived in this squalid house in Sheffield for two weeks. Their landlord is the international security company G4S which holds part of a £620m government contract to house asylum seekers.</p> <p>“I cannot stay here, it is not safe for my children.” Jayne is crying. She points to her storage ‘cupboard’. There’s shelving around steep, filthy and unguarded stairs that lead to cellar. The cellar is full of rubbish.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Dangerous_dirty_stairs_cellar_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Dangerous_dirty_stairs_cellar_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne's cellar steps (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Sam is Jayne’s lively four-year old son. “Sam is ill all the time,” Jayne tells me. “It is because of the dirty house.” Sam has already fallen down the steep bedroom stairs — when the handrail came away from the wall.</p> <p>Debbie, a volunteer social worker, tells me: “I first came across Jayne and her family in a refugee hotel in Dunquerque. We spent months persuading the British authorities that the family had relatives in the UK and was entitled to claim asylum here.”</p> <p>Through an interpreter Jayne, in tears, says: “Travelling from Turkey my husband and my other daughter went missing, I don’t know where they are. </p> <p>“When I arrived I was given £90 for each of us, that was in August. I have received nothing for nearly three months. Friends and my relatives around Sheffield give me food, and support us. G4S promise to get me a payment and I am waiting for the post every day.”</p> <h2>A typical G4S house </h2> <p>In late October I inspect the house — typical of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">dozens of G4S houses</a> I have seen in Yorkshire over the past few years — rundown, dirty and neglected. Debbie has already protested about Jayne’s dangerous cooker and the National Grid man has capped off the gas pipe.</p> <p>“He told me G4S should be ashamed to put the family in with that cooker, he said that there had been a serious house gas explosion in the recent past in the area.”</p> <p>Jayne gave me a letter confirming that a dangerous gas appliance notice had been served on G4S.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/National_Grid_noticeCROP.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/National_Grid_noticeCROP.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="443" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>I walk around to the back of the house, where Sam might play. There’s a blocked drain, a broken-down fence and a passage leading directly on to the street with the door missing.&nbsp;</p> <p>Debbie had told me that Jayne was desperate about Sam’s safety. “Her fifteen-year-old, Marie, cannot understand why she has to keep security gates shut for Sam.” Both children have learning difficulties. Jayne tells me she must carry Sam around on her back up and down stairs. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jayne_carry_SamOBSCURE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jayne_carry_SamOBSCURE.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne carries Sam down the stairs (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>As I am leaving Jayne answers to a knock on the door — it is a G4S delivery of table, chairs and a new cooker — Debbie’s protests have worked. </p> <p>The house is still dangerous for Sam and I have written to G4S warning them that they must provide safe accommodation now or risk a legal challenge to safeguard the human rights of Sam and Marie.</p> <p>Legal action may be the only way to make Sam safe. On 7 November the Red Cross wrote to Paul Bilbao, head of Asylum Support Contracts and Compliance at the Home Office in Leeds giving details of my inspection of Jayne’s house and a further Red Cross visit detailing dangers to Sam and his sister, and the urgent need for the family to be moved. On 10 November a reply came from Lee-Anne Prince, the Home Office specialist for ‘safeguarding children’ in asylum housing in Yorkshire.</p> <p>She wrote:&nbsp;“I have spoken to G4S and we are intending to visit the property in the next few weeks after which I will come back to you.”</p><h2><span>Breaches of contract</span></h2> <p>According to its Home Office contract G4S must supply accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose, and correctly equipped and furnished, and G4S must “provide accommodation for disabled persons that is fit for purpose…in compliance with relevant law.”</p> <p>Jayne’s furniture and a safe cooker should have been in the house before G4S moved the family in — one more breach of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">COMPASS asylum housing contract</a> requirements. </p> <p>Working alongside asylum seekers over the past five years I have uncovered hundreds of such breaches. </p> <p>This past year other campaigners, local councils and groups of asylum tenants and refugees have sent <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/asylum-accommodation/publications/">written evidence</a> about asylum housing, just like Jayne’s, to the Home Affairs Committee’s (HAC) Inquiry into asylum housing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cellar_head_larder_filthy_stairs_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cellar_head_larder_filthy_stairs_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne's cellar-head 'larder' (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) interviewed 76 asylum-housing tenants, and <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">told the committee</a> that asylum seekers reported unsanitary conditions, dampness and cold, electrical and heating faults. One person told the researchers that the heating timer was set to turn off from Friday to Monday, and therefore there would be no heating in the house over the weekend. Another said they were left without heating for weeks on end.</p> <p>The <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/36555.html">Welsh Refugee Coalition evidence</a> states: “Housing is a major problem for many asylum seekers ...the housing provided was often inadequate, degrading, shameful and unhygienic.”</p> <p>Bradford City of Sanctuary investigated <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37950.html">twenty-five cases</a> and reported that: </p> <p>“fifteen directly referred to the cleanliness of the housing, which includes dusty carpets, mice infested kitchens, water leaking from walls, poor odours and mite damage. A number…did not have fully functioning central heating and boilers”.</p> <p><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37951.html">Bradford City Council</a> had responded to complaints from asylum housing tenants.</p> <p>“The Council’s housing standards team inspected a number of HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) properties…and found that within each property similar deficiencies were repeatedly present such as; rodent infestations, damp, failure to meet…standards in terms of fire safety, external yards/gardens were overgrown.”</p> <h2>Jessica: blood and mice</h2> <p>Reading the evidence, I’m reminded of a G4S house in Leicester I visited recently. There I listen to Jessica, who arrived from the Middle East in July. </p> <p>She was allocated a room in a filthy G4S house. The mattress of her bed was stained with blood.</p> <p>After protests from the Red Cross she was moved to another house in Leicester…this time infested with mice.</p> <p>“I am terrified of the mice in my bedroom,” she tells me. “I cannot sleep.” Jessica shows me the mouse-traps and poison she has bought for her room. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jessica_bedroom_rodent_control.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jessica_bedroom_rodent_control.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jessica attempts rodent control (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Two other women in the house, young asylum seekers from Africa, tell me of other problems. Dawn said: &nbsp;</p> <p>“This house was without heating and hot water for nearly a month, we were boiling kettles to have a bath. The G4S man said that we should not switch the boiler off because it will not come back on…we live with a noisy boiler in this overheated kitchen now.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buckets_hand_washing_clothes.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buckets_hand_washing_clothes.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buckets for hand-washing clothes (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Dawn had been in the house for two years. “Our washing machine kept leaking and was never repaired properly — then G4S left us without a washing machine for six months — they told us to wash our clothes by hand.” Dawn pointed to the buckets they had bought to do the washing.</p> <h2>Ken – two years with rats</h2> <p>Rodents are a common feature in G4S housing. In Sheffield I talked with Ken, who showed me a window in his kitchen. “My wife had nightmares when she saw the rats out there so we put tape on the window,” he said. Ken arrived from the Middle East two years ago with his wife and twenty-year-old daughter.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kenkitchen_window.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kenkitchen_window.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ken's kitchen window (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>“We saw the house and said we would not live there, the G4S man said that there were plenty of English people living under bridges and that we could join them if we refused the house.” </p> <p>Ken and his family have complained about the rats on at least six occasions over the past two years. The G4S notice in the house says the pest control staff came in mid-September but Ken tells me the rats are still about. </p> <p>And that’s not all.</p> <p>Ken told me: “Young people came every night throwing stones at the house and calling racist names.” The police were called, but still G4S would not move the family to safe accommodation.</p> <p>Asylum seekers in Northern Ireland reported racist treatment from their landlords —&nbsp;the property company Orchard &amp; Shipman, subcontractors to Serco. The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers expressed alarm that “derogatory and racist behaviour” was common among Orchard &amp; Shipman staff.</p> <p>The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">reported to the Home Affairs Committee</a> that a majority of asylum seekers said staff behaviour “made them feel like ‘animals’ and that they were ‘subhuman’. Others reported that they felt ‘bullied’.”</p> <h2>What next for asylum housing?</h2> <p>Campaigners for better conditions for asylum seekers in accommodation provided by the Home Office contractors G4S, Serco and Clearel (Clearsprings) have had some success. Scottish Refugee Council’s work &nbsp;alongside asylum housing tenants in Glasgow has resulted in <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14759915.Under_fire_housing_firm_says_move_away_from_asylum_seeker_home_management_is_not_because_of_complaints/">Serco dropping Orchard &amp; Shipman from the contracts in Scotland</a>. In the North East rumours circulate that G4S is planning to drop its sole contractor there, Jomast Developments, the company that achieved front page coverage in The Times for painting asylum seekers’ doors red.</p> <p>While the Home Affairs Committee prepares its report on these matters, the Home Office continues to negotiate with G4S, Serco and Clearel (Clearsprings) to extend the contract for two more years until 2019.</p> <p>Since the contractors came on board in June 2012, there have been four significant inquiries, featuring asylum housing in Parliament, the Children’s’ Society Parliamentary panel in 2013, a Home Affairs Committee inquiry in 2013, a Public Accounts Committee inquiry in 2014 and the current Home Affairs Committee inquiry. </p> <p>In 2016 G4S was fined £5.6m for the standard of the housing it provided in 2013/14. Despite all that, regardless of persistently negative media coverage and asylum tenants’ tenacious resistance and solidarity campaigning, still, G4S, Serco and Clearel hold the contract. Indeed, the Home Office is currently negotiating a contract extension with its ‘commercial partners’.</p> <p>In any normal commercial setting a contractor producing such shoddy work might quickly find themselves off the job. </p> <p>Why does the government tolerate this? Is it because substandard accommodation is exactly what the government wants for asylum seekers? This is one of the questions I'll put to the Home Office today in Leeds at their 'consultation' on future asylum housing contracts.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Note: Jayne, Sam, Marie, Jessica, Dawn and Ken are pseudonyms.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 18 Nov 2016 08:39:00 +0000 John Grayson 106909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Delayed lives — the hidden misery of stateless people locked up in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/chris-nash/delayed-lives-hidden-misery-of-stateless-people-locked-up-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alienated, homeless, denied the right to work, criminalised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/4CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/4CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All photographs by @GregConstantine for European Network on Statelessness.</span></span></span></p><p>Peter has lived in the UK for a long time, over twenty years. Naturally, he considers this country as his home. But the government has failed to regularise his status or provide him with documentation that would safeguard his right to live, work and participate in society. Continuously denied citizenship and the right to work, he did everything he could to survive, including accepting badly paid jobs. The result? He was sent to prison, convicted of working illegally, made into a criminal simply for trying to support himself. </p> <p>After serving his sentence, Peter was moved to an immigration detention centre. For nine long months the Home Office kept him locked up while they attempted to deport him to Nigeria. By now, labelled as a criminal, and worn down by all this time in prison, Peter agreed to be ‘voluntarily’ removed from the country he called home. However, the Nigerian authorities refused to accept that he was one of their nationals.</p> <p>After his release was eventually ordered, Peter initially refused to leave the detention centre: he had nowhere to go, and viewed returning to Nigeria as his only option. Forced out of the detention centre and once again abandoned to homelessness, with no means of support, he was soon arrested and detained for another three months while the Home Office made further futile efforts to remove him. </p> <p>Where is Peter now? </p> <p>In limbo, still unable to convince the UK to provide him with a legal status, on the unreasonable grounds that he could apply for Nigerian nationality – an option he has tried and failed. Therefore, although, since April 2013 the UK has <a href="https://www.gov.uk/stay-in-uk-stateless">legislation</a> in place that can determine whether someone is stateless or not, Peter continues to experience the country in which he has lived for over 20 years, as a no man’s land. </p> <p>Peter is just one of several stateless persons interviewed for a <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu/resources/protecting-stateless-persons-arbitrary-detention-united-kingdom">new report Protecting Persons from Arbitrary Detention in the United Kingdom</a>, released today by the <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu">European Network on Statelessness</a>. Peter’s story highlights the contradictions, and failures, of laws that are well intentioned but fail so many other people like him, and which are not living up to expectations. </p> <p>How does this happen? How is it, in a fair and modern country, that Peter’s impossible situation came about, and that after 20 years living in the UK it had not been recognised that he was a stateless person? Also, even though there was legislation in place designed specifically to determine his status, why was he prevented from doing so while he was in detention? To Peter, it must have felt that the system had been designed to block him at every turn. </p> <p>This new report addresses these questions and assesses whether the new immigration rules on statelessness work as they were intended, and are capable of providing stateless persons with the protection owing to them under international law. Regrettably, in many respects, the answer is no.</p> <p>The report corroborates several failings <a href="http://d2t68d2r9artlv.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Policy-briefing-statelessness-22-September-final.pdf">identified</a> with the procedure. For example, it is clearly not fair that there is an unreasonable burden of proof on the applicant, who has to prove a ‘negative’ (often while destitute or detained). Also, why does it take up to two years for someone to receive a decision? To make matters worse, the definition in the regulations about who is excluded from being defined as a stateless person (and hence eligible for a residence permit) is unduly restrictive and runs contrary to international law. When you throw in the fact that applicants are denied free legal advice and an automatic right of appeal, it’s not surprising that so few stateless persons are able to benefit from the new procedure. That’s clearly not fair – even hardened criminals are provided with lawyers. Incredibly, the research reveals that as of April 2013 only 39 applications had been granted! (This represents approximately 5.2% of the 754 decided applications.)</p> <p>There was a common complaint from people who had been held in detention, about the enormous difficulty of accessing the existing regulation in practice. Invariably officials had tailed to consider statelessness as part of the initial decision to detain. This suggests an unsafe disconnect regarding information that should be feeding into the decision-making process. Those officials with responsibility to decide on a person’s liberty clearly need to be better trained to recognize statelessness, and thus to be able to refer cases to the proper procedure.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/2.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Peter’s story is not unusual. Muhammed, a Sahrawi from Algeria, is a shocking example of someone who was clearly stateless but still faced being locked up, suffering eight episodes of detention totalling four years, despite a doctor providing evidence that he was suffering from high blood pressure, cholesterol and asthma, and was wholly unsuited to detention. People whose citizenship status is more complex are even more likely to be locked up for disproportionately long periods. This is especially alarming where the inability to return is not due to their lack of cooperation but rather the refusal by another country to recognize their nationality or to provide them with documentation. </p> <p>One of the worst mistakes by the Home Office is to attribute the wrong nationality to someone, as the inevitable consequence of this can be months or years of futile back and forth with the country in question. Anthony, for example, spent 14 months in detention before being released after the Zimbabwe government refused to accept him as a national. Earlier this year Anthony was detained once again, while the Home Offices insisted on making enquiries with Nigeria, a country with which he claims to have no connection. His situation has been made worse by being separated from his wife, who is a British national and whose mental health condition has been aggravated by their dreadful predicament. And so it continues, with Okeke, who was detained for four months. Almost unbelievably, the Home Office attempted to remove him from the UK even though they had classified him as being of ‘unknown nationality’. Extraordinarily, all this happened to a man who has spent his entire life in the UK.</p> <p>To put people in detention, in preparation for removing them, when it is clear that removal proceedings are likely to fail, <a href="http://www.statelessness.eu/sites/www.statelessness.eu/files/ENS_Detention_Toolkit.pdf">violates domestic and international law</a>. Stateless migrants in this country find themselves particularly vulnerable, as the UK is the only EU country with no statutory time-limit on immigration detention. So why do it? Why detain people like Okeke when there is no chance of removing them? It is hard to avoid concluding that administrative detention is often intended as a punishment, as a deterrent. If so, this is wrong and a purposeful violation of the aim of the regulations. </p> <p>If one carefully considers Peter’s story, or Muhammed, and certainly Okeke’s, they all suffered the same consequences following their release. They could not be removed, often found themselves homeless and unable to work, and condemned to an endless limbo, excluded from regularization (under the Immigration Rules on statelessness) due to having a criminal conviction. It didn’t matter if their ‘crimes’ were related to ‘subsistence’ (for example, petty theft), ‘administrative’ (‘working illegally’) or for using a false travel document (by definition many stateless persons lack authentic documentation); as in the eyes of the law, and society, they had all been criminalised. </p> <p>What is to be done?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/1.CONSTANTINE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Home Office officials responsible for deciding applications to stay in the UK legally, as a stateless person, should be more sensitive, and generous in granting protection status to individuals with criminal convictions, many of which were the result of situations of blameless hardship, of being stateless and in limbo. These officials should adopt a more rights-respecting and inclusive approach when assessing who qualifies as a stateless person. The first priority should be to protect vulnerable people, not to further punish them; an approach which would be more consistent with both the letter and the spirit of international conventions such as the 1954 Statelessness Convention. There seems little rationale or justification in leaving a small number of would-be citizens on the margins of society, with no possibility of belonging but equally no prospect of establishing a life elsewhere.</p> <p>But there is hope for those men and women who told their stories, as the UK does at least have in place a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (many countries in Europe do not have these regulations in place) even though it holds out promises that more often than not are illusory. Akram, a Palestinian from the West Bank, was one person who explained how he had managed to avail himself of protection under the Immigration Rules (despite having a criminal conviction for possessing a false document). Thankfully, he is now happily married and working as a baker, and is an optimistic example of how the law can work well if applied well. The challenge, now, is to fix the anomalies and weaknesses in the UK legislation that so often result in unfair detention or removal, and to keep to the spirit of the procedure that was designed to provide a solution for individuals who, through no fault of their own, find themselves stuck in a limbo of statelessness.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chris-nash/stateless-in-uk-amid-chaos-groundbreaking-step-forward">Stateless in the UK: amid the chaos, a groundbreaking step forward </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/kristy-belton/statelessness-as-forced-displacement">Statelessness as forced displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/alice-ross-patrick-galey/making-uk-citizens-non-persons">Making UK citizens non-persons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mona-kareem/we-may-be-stateless-but-we-are-not-voiceless">We may be stateless but we are not voiceless</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chris-nash/still-stateless-still-suffering-it%E2%80%99s-time-for-european-leaders-to-take-action">Still stateless, still suffering: It’s time for European leaders to take action</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Chris Nash Thu, 10 Nov 2016 00:00:20 +0000 Chris Nash 106623 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Children seeking asylum in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes. The culture of disbelief so often criticised in the Home Office has now seeped into some local authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>&nbsp;“The only concern held by the assessors was that his shyness and apparent uncomfortable disposition may have been due to his being an adult attempting to hide his physical appearance and project an image of a young person.”</em> (Quote from a local authority age assessment)</p> <p>Two years ago, Coram Children’s Legal Centre <a href="http://www.independentageassessment.co.uk/caselaw/Y%20v%20Hillingdon%202011.pdf">secured a victory</a> in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales for a victim of trafficking, known as ‘Y’. The case centred not on convicting Y’s traffickers of a criminal offence, nor on securing damages for the years of systemic abuse she had experienced having been kept as a domestic slave since the age of five. Instead, the legal battle centred on the decision taken by the local authority, to whom she had turned for support and protection, to dispute her age. </p> <p>Y knew her date of birth, but like many other asylum seekers and victims of trafficking who come from countries that do not register all births, or who have had to destroy their documentation while fleeing to the UK, she had no passport, birth certificate or other documentation to prove how old she was. Rather than accepting her account, the social workers carrying out an assessment of Y concluded that she was over 18, not 16 as she claimed, and moved her into accommodation with adults.&nbsp; That assessment could only be challenged in court, by initiating a judicial review of the local authority’s decision, and by spending three days in a ‘fact-finding’ hearing so that the judge could come to their own view with regard to Y’s age. In the event the judge believed Y and held that she was the age she claimed to be. </p> <p>After the case, Y pledged to ‘make the most of my life’ and went on to study child care at college. But the process of being disbelieved and of having to challenge the local authority legally had taken nearly three years: yet more time wasted on top of the ten years of her childhood she had already lost. Crucially, while the dispute was ongoing, she was also denied the <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=faqs_trafficking">protection to which she was entitled as a victim of trafficking</a>, such was the focus on her chronological age rather than her needs and vulnerability.</p> <p>Each year, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tables-for-immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2013">at least one quarter</a> of all unaccompanied children claiming asylum in the UK have their ages disputed. These children are alone, without family, trying to rebuild their lives, often while <a href="http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/documents/Finalseminarreport_000.pdf">dealing with</a> bereavement, trauma, experiences of exploitation and abuse, and mental health problems. Their age is fundamental both to their access to local authority care and to the proper determination of their asylum, immigration or trafficking case, but these children are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes, during which they frequently do not receive the support and protection to which they are entitled. </p> <p><strong>A long, costly and damaging system</strong></p> <p>Assessing age is <a href="http://www.unicef.org/protection/Age_Assessment_Practices_2010.pdf">extremely difficult</a>. Within different ethnic and national groups there are wide variations in young people’s growth and ages of puberty, and children may look and act older as a result of their experiences in their country of origin. Even when using medical evidence, it is impossible to identify a child’s exact chronological age, and a <a href="http://www.clusterweb.org.uk/UserFiles/KSCB/File/Resources_and_Library/The_Health_of_Refugee_Children_1.pdf">margin of error of up to five years either side</a> applies. While the UK government has <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17567082">focussed</a> on dental x-rays as a means of determination, the simple truth is that there is no magic bullet for establishing precise age. The system that has developed in the UK involves an age assessment conducted by social workers, with the only guidance being the criteria developed through jurisprudence as these assessments have been challenged in the courts. There is no appeal process; as demonstrated in the case of Y, the only way a child can challenge the outcome of the assessment is by judicial review.</p> <p>As a <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=happy_birthday?">new report</a> published by Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights, the age assessment process is long, costly and most importantly damaging to the children involved. In the 35 age dispute cases reviewed for the report, the length of time taken to resolve the issue of the child’s age ranged from ten months to over four years, with many children denied access to support, accommodation and appropriate education during that time.&nbsp; As one judge in a recent age assessment case in the Court of Appeal <a href="http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed104952">stated</a>: ‘These appeals show how disputes as to age assessments can generate prolonged and costly litigation. The expense is bad enough. But even worse is the damage that delay and uncertainty may cause to the interests of children’.</p> <p>The case of ‘H’ highlights the many problems and safeguarding concerns raised by age disputes. Arriving in the UK at aged 16, having suffered years of abuse in Afghanistan, H was assessed to be an adult and dispersed to Home Office accommodation. The social workers had concluded that he looked older than 16 and that he was ‘deliberately trying to make himself appear younger’. Months later, despite concerns raised by a nurse&nbsp; working with H regarding his mental health and her firm belief that he was a child for whom it was dangerous to be housed with adults, H was assessed again to be over 18. Eventually he was detained in an immigration removal centre. Following a court order ordering his release, he was assessed by a third local authority, who found him to be the age he claimed to be.&nbsp; In all it took a year, three assessments, and costly legal action to resolve his case, during which time he was detained for nearly a month. </p> <p><strong>Unnecessary disputes</strong></p> <p>A principal problem is that, instead of accepting the child’s age where there is no reason to doubt it and applying the benefit of the doubt <a href="http://www.seekingsupport.co.uk/images/pdfs/seek_supp_age_disputes_02_12_12.pdf">in line with case law</a>, immigration officials and social care professionals regularly dispute age and put the children through unnecessary age assessments. The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">culture of disbelief</a> so often criticised in the Home Office has seeped into some local authorities, and this, as well as conscious and unconscious attitudes to asylum, immigration and race, affects how assessments are conducted.&nbsp; Many assessments examined for the report showed unsound conclusions frequently based solely on the child’s appearance and demeanour. If one child is aggressive this is deemed to be ‘adult behaviour’; if another child is passive it is used to draw the same conclusion.</p> <p>More worryingly, the focus on protecting the child and determining their needs is often lost entirely, and the risks and potential damage of treating a child as an adult overlooked. While it is important to be vigilant so that adults claiming to be children are not placed in foster care or in schools with younger children, it is equally important to ensure that <em>every</em> child is protected and that children do not end up placed in immigration detention, or at risk of abuse in unsupervised accommodation with adults.</p> <p><strong>A less contentious and distressing process</strong></p> <p>What is needed is a shift in the default position of the Home Office and local authorities so that the age of a child is disputed only when there is clear reason to doubt their account of how old they are or the evidence they provide. Where an assessment is necessary, it should be conducted in a fair and lawful manner, with the views of independent professionals feeding into a holistic, multi-agency assessment process. While supporting migrant children imposes sometimes unwelcome financial burdens on cash-strapped local authorities, the financial burden of protracted legal challenges is significant too. Rather than litigation, an alternative, less distressing resolution process should be considered to reduce the contentiousness and costs of disputes and enable faster resolution. In addition, the Home Office, as a matter of urgency, must take further action to ensure that no unaccompanied child is placed in immigration detention, an ongoing concern <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/766_new_government_stats_show_children_still_being_detained_our_response">raised</a> by charities such as the Refugee Council.</p> <p>The vulnerabilities of young refugees and migrants can often be forgotten in the race to prioritise immigration control over individual rights. No organisation working with children in the immigration system would deny that there may be occasional cases of people claiming to be younger than they are. Nor can it be ignored that some children will be briefed by smugglers who facilitate their journeys to this country. But these exceptional cases should not shape the whole system for children who do not have proof of their age, and should not excuse a process that does not adequately consider the needs and rights of children within it.</p><p><em>This article was first published in June 2013</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/us-immigration-bill-silence-on-deportation-of-children">US immigration bill: silence on the deportation of children </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/nando-sigona/life-in-limbo-for-uk-s-irregular-migrant-children-and-families">Life in limbo for UK’s irregular migrant children and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/nando-sigona/triple-vulnerability-lives-of-britains-undocumented-migrant-children">Triple vulnerability: the lives of Britain&#039;s undocumented migrant children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/usa-dreaming-comprehensive-immigration-reform">USA: DREAMing comprehensive immigration reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-a">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lorena-cotza/who-does-this-world-belong-to-unaccompanied-immigrant-children-in-italy">&quot;Who does this world belong to?&quot; - unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zubair-gharghasht/afghan-voice-radio-frontline-of-%E2%80%98new%E2%80%99-afghanistan">Afghan Voice Radio: The frontline of a ‘new’ Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-sachrajda/uk-immigration-policy-more-than-enforcement-issue">UK immigration policy: more than an enforcement issue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/deconstructing-detention-in-britain">Deconstructing detention in Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light England voices from exile institutions & government europe Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Kamena Dorling Thu, 20 Oct 2016 02:45:33 +0000 Kamena Dorling 73132 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/simon-parker/theresa-may-this-is-not-crisis-of-migration-but-crisis-of-inhum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a carefully coded speech, the UK Prime Minister categorises people on the move as “threats that we face” alongside war and global terrorism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Survivors.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Survivors.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Survivors and relatives of the victims of the Lampedusa shipwrecks of 3 & 11 October 2013 mark the second anniversary of the tragedy (S. Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>The so-called Mediterranean migration crisis has focussed Western attention on the desperate lengths that people fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty will go to in search of a chance of survival. But those arriving in Europe since the start of 2015 still only account for less than 2.5% of the world’s forcibly displaced population, and only 1 in 500 of the population of the European Union. Of the 4.8 million refugees who have fled Syria since the conflict began, the United Kingdom has agreed to take just 4,000 vulnerable persons per year over five years from refugee camps in the countries surrounding Syria. But many UK local authorities, particularly in London, are refusing to offer sanctuary to any refugees under the vulnerable persons scheme.</p> <p>The Lord <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/160209-gc0001.htm">Dubs Amendment</a> in the 2016 Immigration Act allowing for an unspecified number of unaccompanied children to be brought to the UK at the request of local authorities has yet to see any progress according to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/02/home-secretary-urged-to-act-over-refugee-children-stuck-in-calais">Citizens UK</a>. Meanwhile tragedies continue unabated including that of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/18/afghan-boy-killed-in-calais-in-attempt-to-climb-on-to-lorry-to-uk">14-year-old Afghan boy</a> who, desperate to join his family in Britain and having lost all hope of legal re-unification, fell from the roof of a lorry and died in a hit and run accident in Calais. His was the 13th fatality at the port this year where UK taxpayers’ money is contributing to the construction of a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37421525">4m high barrier</a> that will extend a further 1km along the approach road to the ferry terminal with the single purpose of preventing “illegal entry” into the UK.</p><h2>50 million children</h2> <p>As delegates gathered for the first&nbsp;<span>United Nations General Assembly Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants</span>&nbsp;in New York last week, UNICEF drew attention to the fact that of the 50 million children around the world who have been uprooted from their homes, 28 million have been forced to flee as a result of conflicts. UNICEF’s new report,&nbsp;<span>Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Migrant and Refugee Children</span>&nbsp;highlights the fact that children make up a growing and disproportionate number of the world’s forcibly displaced people, which is estimated to have reached 65 million —&nbsp;equivalent to the population of the entire United Kingdom.</p> <p>When Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/theresa-mays-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly">UN Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants</a> last week (20 September) she framed “mass movements of people” as “threats” to be countered, alongside war, global terrorism and climate change.&nbsp; She sidestepped the <a href="http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration">New York Declaration</a>’s commitment to “achieving a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees” by insisting that the burden of hosting refugees should be entirely shouldered by the first “safe country” into which a refugee or migrant stepped —&nbsp;and preferably one a long way away from the white cliffs of Dover.&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to ensure better “managed migration”, Prime Minister May insisted, “we need to improve the ways we distinguish between refugees fleeing persecution and economic migrants” by ensuring “the existing convention and protocol are properly applied to provide protection to refugees and reduce the incentives for economic migrants to use illegal routes”. This distinction is of little interest to smugglers for whom the absence of safe and legal routes has been a lucrative gold mine since the “war on terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq gave way to the human catastrophe of the Libyan and Syrian conflicts, while violence, persecution and poverty continues to draw forced migrants from the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa—an increasing number of whom are child victims of <a href="https://www.iom.int/infographics/iom-2015-counter-trafficking-statistics">trafficking</a> (more than 1 in 4 of all cases according to the <a href="http://missingmigrants.iom.int/">International Office of Migration</a> (IOM)).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GATE OF EUROPE.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&#039;Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D&#039;Europa&#039;"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GATE OF EUROPE.jpeg" alt="" title="&#039;Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D&#039;Europa&#039;" width="400" height="600" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D'Europa' memorial by Mimmo Paladino (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p> <p>Against the backdrop of a UN convulsed with the seemingly intractable tragedy of the war in Syria, Theresa May’s was a carefully coded speech sprinkled with encouraging notes about rejecting “isolationism and xenophobia” (as if the recent Brexit vote had nothing to do with that same toxic cocktail) and tackling “modern slavery”, while committing billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to support education provision and to combat gender violence. Yet the consistent underlying theme of May’s address was the insistence that the forcibly displaced can only call on our collective consciences remotely. For the West to act otherwise is to encourage the spread of organised crime, terrorism and racist and xenophobic extremism.</p> <p>It is surprising therefore that even in the face of growing <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37409451">opposition from German voters</a> and&nbsp;<span>rising support for anti-immigrant parties</span> Theresa May’s fellow conservative, Chancellor Angela Merkel (who&nbsp;<span>grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall)</span><span>&nbsp;has pledged to admit a further 300,000 refugees this year on top of the 1 million welcomed in 2015.</span></p><p>Merkel’s aversion to state security barriers is clearly not shared by fellow leaders of the European Union whose member states continue to build border fences and to deny safe and legal routes for those seeking to escape from North Africa and Turkey to Europe. Instead the European Union has favoured refugee ‘hold back’ and maritime interdiction agreements in return for financial donations to countries such as <a href="http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/18-eu-turkey-statement/">Turkey</a> and most recently <a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/un-rome/8753/eunavfor-med-operation-sophia-signs-agreement-to-train-libyan-coast-guard-and-navy_en">Libya</a>, which have been heavily criticised by <span>Amnesty International</span>&nbsp;for failing to respect fundamental human rights and the rights of refugees.</p> <p>These agreements have done nothing to stop the rising death toll in the Mediterranean, however. Despite a relative fall in the numbers attempting the Mediterranean crossing, the <a href="http://missingmigrants.iom.int/">International Office of Migration</a> reported 37% more migrant deaths during the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.</p> <h2>Dangerous inflatables</h2><p>Part of the explanation relates to changing smuggler practices and a shift to smaller plastic dinghies on the central Mediterranean route that are unsuitable for long journeys, with several craft often leaving from different parts of the Libyan coast at the same time, making search and rescue very challenging. The increasing use of dangerous inflatables is also a direct consequence of the switch in the European Union’s priorities after the end of the&nbsp;‘Mare Nostrum’ operation in 2014 from search and rescue to anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking.&nbsp;</p> <p>EUNAVFOR-MED is the EU’s military based task force whose <span>core mandate</span>&nbsp;is “to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers”. In practice, EUNAVFOR-MED vessels are also regularly deployed to undertake search and rescue activities when requested to do so, but an increasing number of rescues are carried out by non-state humanitarian organisations including&nbsp;<span>MSF</span>&nbsp;and most recently&nbsp;<span>Save the Children</span>&nbsp;with the assistance of the&nbsp;<span>Italian Coast Guard</span> as well as by commercial vessels less equipped to undertake search and rescue.</p> <p>The consequence of blocking safe passage has not been to halt the flow, but rather to force refugees to attempt riskier routes that are not routinely patrolled by rescue vessels. On Friday 23 September, reports confirmed that an overcrowded refugee boat had sunk off the coast of Egypt claiming at least 300 lives including 10 women and a baby. As many as 150 other bodies are thought to have either sunk with the vessel or have been washed away and may never be recovered. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/23/death-toll-in-migrant-shipwreck-off-egypt-rises-to-300">This fresh tragedy</a> will evoke bitter memories for the survivors of the notorious shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, which claimed 368 lives. The survivors and the families of the victims are gathering once again on the tiny Sicilian island to <a href="http://www.comitatotreottobre.it/?lang=en">commemorate the anniversary</a> which has become more famous for its tireless search and rescue activity and its EU funded ‘hotspot’ detention centre – evocatively captured in Gianfranco Rosi’s haunting film ‘<a href="http://www.curzonartificialeye.com/fire-at-sea/">Fire at Sea’</a> – than for its limpid waters and award winning beaches.</p> <p>While constituting only a small fraction of the world’s displaced population, the Mediterranean region accounted for 78% of all the recorded migrant deaths and disappearances globally in 2016. This unusually risky transit zone presents a particular danger to children who make up 28% of all forced migrants heading for Europe. Unfortunately 3-year old Alan Kurdi’s death was far from an isolated case, with <a href="http://missingmigrants.iom.int/iom-unicef-data-brief-migration-children-europe">children constituting 30% of all fatalities at sea</a> in 2015.</p> <h2>Forced labour, prostitution</h2><p>However, as I argued in a recent contribution to UNICEF’s Research Watch special&nbsp;<span>Children on the Move</span>, the problems that migrant children face do not end when they reach the relative safety of Europe’s shore. Many children who have become separated from their families or who are forced to travel alone are subject to mistreatment and exploitation, while some are trafficked into forced labour or prostitution. NGO officials and volunteers we interviewed for our Economic and Social Research Council’s <span>Mediterranean Migration Research Programme</span>&nbsp;project&nbsp;–&nbsp;<span>Precarious Trajectories: Understanding the Human Cost of the Migrant Crisis in the Central Mediterranean</span> * also pointed to the increasing psychological trauma that children face as a consequence of being held in EU designated ‘hotspot’ reception centres.&nbsp;</p><p>Children can be confined for several weeks or months in inadequate conditions, often with adults or in mixed sex accommodation where they can be exposed to scenes of violence and mistreatment. Even worse conditions face the hundreds of children forced to sleep rough in train stations or abandoned buildings in the cities of Europe or in the inhumane surroundings of ‘<span>the jungle</span>’ near Calais.&nbsp;</p><p>For these most vulnerable children, education provision is often haphazard or non-existent and it is not unusual for local state schools to refuse admission to refugee children and for social services not to intervene on behalf of unaccompanied minors —leaving welfare and advocacy support almost entirely to self-funding independent volunteers and charities.</p> <p>When children are forced to make perilous journeys to escape danger, we need governments to join forces with civil society organisations to ensure their safety and well-being. The UN Summit and President Obama’s World Leaders’ Summit offered an important opportunity to remind the world that no-one chooses to be a refugee and that those least able to protect themselves--especially children travelling alone—deserve our love, care and protection. The UNICEF message that children on the move are not refugee children, not migrant children, they’re #childrenfirst is one that needs to echo around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>* Precarious Trajectories: Voices from the Mediterranean Migrant Crisis – the documentary film of the research project — will be showing as part of the <a href="http://theworldtransformed.org/portfolio/">World Transformed</a> festival in Liverpool in association with <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/about-us">Global Justice Now</a> at the Black-E Community Arts Centre 11.00 on Sunday 25 September. Free entry and all welcome. Details <a href="http://theworldtransformed.org/sunday-schedule/">here</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/maurice-stierl-john-akomfrah/video-john-akomfrah-on-sea-migration-bor">Video: John Akomfrah on sea-migration, borders, and art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/lampedusa-never-again">Lampedusa: Never again</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/glenda-garelli-martina-tazzioli/eu-hotspot-approach-at-lampedusa">The EU hotspot approach at Lampedusa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruben-andersson/mare-nostrum-and-migrant-deaths-humanitarian-paradox-at-europe%E2%80%99s-frontiers">Mare Nostrum and migrant deaths: the humanitarian paradox at Europe’s frontiers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leanne-weber/death-at-global-frontier">Death at the global frontier </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/tribunal-12-migrants%E2%80%99-rights-abuses-in-europe">Tribunal 12: migrants’ rights abuses in Europe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move Simon Parker Sat, 24 Sep 2016 19:18:48 +0000 Simon Parker 105563 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A special gift from UK to Nigeria: promoting human rights or secrecy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith-mark-umunna/special-gift-from-uk-to-nigeria-promoting-huma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At Lagos Airport, Nigerians deported from Britain are processed out of sight in a ‘reception centre’ given by Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MURTALA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MURTALA.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos</span></span></span></p><p>One July day the British High Commissioner to Nigeria met with the country’s minister of interior to <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/british-high-commission-abuja-donates-returns-reception-centre-to-nigeria-immigration-service">express “delight”</a> at a special gift from one friendly country to another.</p> <p>The gift, hidden away behind a locked fence in the cargo section of Lagos’s&nbsp;Murtala Mohammed International Airport, is a newly built “reception centre” for processing people forcibly returned to Nigeria by the UK immigration authorities.</p> <p>Speaking at the commissioning ceremony on 13 July 2016, High Commissioner Paul Arkwright said: “Nigeria is a valued partner to the UK and we have made real progress on issues that are important to both our countries.”</p> <p>He called the new centre “our gift to the Nigeria&nbsp;Immigration Service” and claimed it would “improve the returns process for you on the ground, but more importantly, allow a dignified return of Nigerians repatriated from the UK, which is important to both our countries.”</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/british-high-commission-abuja-donates-returns-reception-centre-to-nigeria-immigration-service">Commissioner’s press release</a>, the centre would provide a “safe, secure and weatherproof environment for processing returns, away from the public eye”.</p> <p>That’s the official version.</p> <h2>Leaving families behind</h2> <p>We’ve gained access to the new centre and elicited confidential comment from Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) employees that tells a different story.</p> <p>“The property is used to keep deportees from the public eye,” one senior immigration officer told us. “I think is an attempt by the British government to keep shut the mouth of the Nigerian immigration and maintain the relationship of having people deported from the UK to Nigeria.”</p> <p>There were deeper problems that a new reception centre could not address, the officer said. “There have been recent incidents where distressed Nigerians deported have caused disruption to the runway and tried to stop other planes from leaving to attract attention. Many Nigerian people are suicidal and do not want to be returned or speak to immigration. They are upset for leaving behind their families and life in the United Kingdom.”</p> <p>“People that have been in the UK for a long time, that have established private life there and have family in the UK, they should not be deported.”</p> <p>Another long-serving immigration officer told us: “People are deported with bad mental health. I have spoken to many people on charter who should be in hospital in the United Kingdom not on a charter and taken to Nigeria. I have seen some women very distressed when the charter lands here. It is not safe for them here. Away from their families in the United Kingdom.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FRONT OF RETURNS.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FRONT OF RETURNS.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Returns centre, front entrance.</span></span></span></p> <p>This officer said: “Deportation by means of charter is corrupt. I do not think Nigerians should be deported on charters. But charter saves money and this is the priority of Nigeria and United Kingdom government.”</p> <p>The officer went on: “I don't know if the reception centre means that deportations will increase. It's up to the British government whatever number of people they bringing home but deportation is not stopping anytime soon.”</p> <p>Charles (not his real name) was deported from the UK to Lagos last year. He has set up a support group for fellow deportees. Speaking from Lagos he told us about his own experience: </p> <p>“I was deported. It is horrible to be taken away from my child in the UK.”</p> <p>“The Nigerian immigration noticed how I was holding the pen to sign. They asked me. I reported use of force by the escorts to the Nigeria immigration but they did nothing.”</p> <p>Charles went on: “People deported are faced with financial difficulties, depressed, traumatised due to prolonged detention and deportation, and are without a job or accommodation in Nigeria.”</p> <h2>Human suffering and indignity</h2> <p>In July 2013 a London inquest jury passed a verdict of “unlawful killing” in the case of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man killed by the “unreasonable force” used by one or more escorts employed by security company G4S during an attempted removal. (The guards were paid by the hour and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bhattmurphy.co.uk/media/files/Mubenga_16_05_13c.pdf">stood to lose £170 each</a>&nbsp;if the removal failed.)&nbsp;That ‘restraint’ happened <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">aboard a British Airways flight</a>, witnessed by paying passengers and BA crew.</p> <p>On charter flight removals there are no paying passengers, no free and independent witnesses. Independent scrutiny happens infrequently.</p> <p>After HM Inspectorate of Prisons accompanied a removal flight to Nigeria in April 2011 their report noted: “inspectors were very concerned at the highly offensive and sometimes racist language they heard staff use between themselves. . . it suggested a shamefully unprofessional and derogatory attitude that did not give confidence that had a more serious incident occurred, it would always have been effectively dealt with.”</p> <p>On the plane’s arrival at Lagos, Nigerian officials boarded to complete the admissions process. Inspectors reported: “Their attitude was forceful and aggressive.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/inside returns centre screening booths.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/inside returns centre screening booths.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inside the returns centre: screening booths. </span></span></span></p> <p>As one man tried to explain that he had spent most of his life in London, the escorts, from G4S, “mocked his accent”. The 2011 report is <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130128112038/http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/detainee-escort-inspections/nigeria.pdf">archived here</a>.</p> <p>In November 2013, inspectors accompanied detainees on <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/media/press-releases/2014/04/detainees-under-escort-inspection-of-escort-and-removals-to-nigeria-and-ghana-limited-improvements/">journeys from UK detention centres to Nigeria and Ghana.</a> Their report, published in April 2014, is full of human suffering. “A detainee at Colnbrook had self-harmed and barricaded himself in his room before removal,” the inspectors noted. Guards managed to restrain him and he surrendered a razor blade. </p> <p>“Another detainee at Harmondsworth had been banging his head against a wall repeatedly the evening before departure”. Another “had taken his clothes off at Tinsley House and refused to leave, saying that he would hurt himself and would rather die”. This man was handcuffed and placed under constant supervision.</p> <p>Ms D, a mentally ill Nigerian woman, told inspectors she “had nothing in Nigeria” and threatened to kill herself if sent back. Home Office contractors placed her in “leg restraints for 10 hours 5 minutes and in handcuffs for 14 hours 30 minutes, continuously in each case.”</p> <p>The inspectors reported: “Her head was restrained continuously for more than 45 minutes without sufficient testing of her compliance; her arms were restrained by some staff (but not others) throughout the flight, which was unnecessary; and at one point pain compliance was used when restraint would have sufficed.” </p><p>But, they noted:&nbsp;“On the whole, staff showed commendable calmness and confidence in keeping Ms D under control.” Phil Miller wrote about these matters&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">here on openDemocracy</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/little car parked.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/little car parked.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A long view of the gate leading to the UK-funded 'immigration returns reception centre'</span></span></span></p> <p>The latest HMIP report on removals to Nigeria and Ghana, <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/nigeria-and-ghana-escort-and-removals/">published in November 2015</a>, repeated previous criticisms. Escorts, employed by Tascor, continued to deny privacy to detainees using the toilet, continued to deny pillows, blankets and hot drinks on cold overnight flights, and overused waist restraint belts. </p><p>Over two years a “number of issues” had not been addressed, standards had “reached a plateau” with “little aspiration to improve further”.&nbsp; Noting long delays in processing detainees on the plane at Lagos, the inspectors recommended: “The British government should work with the Nigerian government to establish an appropriate reception facility for returnees at Lagos airport.”</p> <p>That “reception facility” is now open. But our informants suggest this is nothing to celebrate. Does the donation represent a commitment to “respect human rights of migrants” <a href="http://mamajsaviationblog.com/2016/07/dambazzau-uk-high-commissioner-unveil-immigration-processing-centre-lagos-airport/">as claimed</a> by the UK and Nigerian governments? Or is it about pushing a nasty business even further out of public view?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Support in Nigeria</h2> <p><a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">A group of people</a> who have been removed to Nigeria against their will by the UK Home Office are offering support and solidarity to people who are also forcibly removed to Nigeria. They want to help to pick people up from the airport, contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, document people’s stories to raise awareness of the injustice and violence of deportations, and challenge removals where possible.</p> <p>You can read more about the group and donate to their crowdfunder <a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">here</a>. The money raised will go towards costs for travelling to and from the airport people, phone credit and phones for people to contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, food, emergency accommodation, emergency transport, and resources for recording peoples stories.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/frail-84-year-old-subjected-to-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-p">Frail 84 year old subjected to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’, prison ombudsman says</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/security-industry-provides-medics-for-uk-deportation-flights">Security industry provides medics for UK deportation flights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 'Mark Umunna’ Lotte Lewis Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:10:00 +0000 Lotte Lewis and 'Mark Umunna’ 105381 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, yet again, a Parliamentary committee will hear how commercial landlords are failing asylum seeker tenants. And then what?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010330.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010330.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jean's back yard (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>A few days ago I was chatting with Jean, the mother of three small children, in the back yard of her Sheffield home.</p> <p>Jean pointed to rat poison boxes, the fence gnawed by rats. “My children cannot play here, they are frightened of the rats,” she said. </p> <p>Jean (not her real name) is an asylum seeker from North Africa. She finished a degree in England last summer. Her home has water leaks, unsafe flooring, and damp walls which had holes in them, back in April, when the family moved in. The house is managed under a government contract by the world’s largest security company, G4S.</p> <h2>Unity and social justice</h2> <p>On the day that Home Secretary Theresa became Prime Minister, she stood on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street and proclaimed her ‘mission’. &nbsp;It was “to make Britain a country that works for everyone”. She spoke of “social justice”. She spoke of the union, not just between the countries of the United Kingdom, “but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from”.</p> <p>Remember that: “Everyone of us, wherever we are from.”</p> <p>In late July <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/exclusive-g4s-to-take-over-vital-government-discrimination-s?utm_term=.krPMWl2kN#.ak1JeMrxQ">the UK government named the company</a> that would run a helpline for people who have faced discrimination on the grounds of their sex, race or disability. The company? G4S.</p> <p>Did it matter that G4S is well known for the “unhealthy culture” and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">“endemic racism”</a> noted by the coroner at the inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an asylum seeker “unlawfully killed” by G4S?</p> <p>Did it matter that G4S had recently been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/05/moj-to-take-over-medway-child-jail-from-g4s">stripped of a contract</a> to run <a href="http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/childrens-rights-blog/1158565/secure-training-centres-in-numbers">Medway</a> children’s prison after revelations of abuse of young people, abuse which had prevailed in secure training centres <a href="https://policypress.co.uk/children-behind-bars">for many years</a>? </p> <p>Apparently not.</p> <p>Over the past four years the Home Office, under Theresa May, has come under relentless criticism for the quality of asylum housing. There was the &nbsp;Children’s Society parliamentary inquiry in early 2013, the Home Affairs select committee inquiry in 2013, the Public Accounts Committee inquiry in 2014 —&nbsp;all reported on “atrocious” asylum housing conditions. G4S and Serco were fined £5.6m for this fundamental breach of the contract in 2012/13.</p> <p>Back in 2013, Zoe Williams asked in the Guardian, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/12/g4s-serious-failure-government">just how bad does G4S need to get before it loses government contracts?</a>” </p> <p>Something for parliamentary Home Affairs committee to consider when it resumes hearings on the G4S, Serco and Clearsprings asylum housing contracts on Tuesday 13 September. </p> <h2>Hostile environment</h2><p>Lately I’ve been talking with Angela. She was a G4S asylum tenant in 2012. I wrote then about how <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">she had found cockroaches in her baby son's bottle</a> and slugs in the carpets. Now a refugee settled in Leeds, Angela (not her real name) said: “I am really shocked G4S still has that asylum housing contract, they have ruined the early months and years of so many children.”</p> <p>In May 2012, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, told the Telegraph: “The aim is to create here in Britain <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html">a really hostile environment</a> for illegal migration.”</p><p>The following month, G4S, along with Serco and the smaller Reliance security company (in partnership with Clearsprings housing company), were handed the £620m contract for housing people awaiting the outcome of their asylum claims. At the time, this was the largest contract ever given by the Home Office.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">Over four years</a>, working alongside asylum seekers, I have witnessed and reported on the “hostile environment”. I have seen its devastating impact on vulnerable lives.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Grayson, BBC TV Inside Out programme March 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>Catherine Tshezi, who was dumped in a G4S/Jomast <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">‘mother and baby’ hostel in Stockton</a> in 2012, weeks after giving birth, said about her experience there: “This really goes to show that the asylum seekers are not respected. We are all human beings and we deserve respect and dignity.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/uncategorized/mother-and-baby-face-eviction/">Cha Matty</a>, a whistle-blower who exposed conditions in the hostel in the Guardian and before a parliamentary inquiry told me: “They simply want to make profits out of us, they show us no respect.” </p> <p>When I interviewed her in 2012 she had been in the hostel with her toddler son for over a year. She said she was “shocked and disappointed at how we have been treated by the powers that be. How inhuman they are treating us, and we are just numbers for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad”.</p> <p>It’s 2016 and I am still visiting <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">squalid G4S asylum properties in Yorkshire</a>. In March, The Times reported on allegedly <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4717097.ece">“horrific”</a> asylum housing supplied by Serco in Glasgow, and Clearsprings in London. On 2 August the Guardian reported: </p> <p>“There are currently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/02/dozens-of-asylum-seekers-crammed-into-single-home-office-property">18 women and 15 children living in the property</a> in Hounslow, which is two terrace houses knocked together …. Residents have complained of infestations of rats in the kitchen, bedbugs and slugs, filthy conditions, leaks, naked wires left exposed and periodic infestations of cockroaches.”</p> <h2>Good enough for an asylum seeker</h2> <p>Stuart Monk is owner and managing director of Jomast, a property company based in the north east of England, that “strives to relentlessly pursue improvement in all aspects of its business” according to <a href="http://www.jomast.co.uk/about-us/strategy-visions-values/">its publicity material</a>.</p> <p>In January 2016 The Times accused Jomast of creating <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“apartheid on the streets of Britain”</a> by painting asylum seekers doors red, and Monk was called before the Home Affairs Select Committee. He said memorably that the homes he provided were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest-landlord">“a product suitable for an asylum seeker”</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stuart Monk of Jomast, Home Affairs Committee, January 2016</span></span></span></p> <p>Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill and CEO of Serco, in June 2015 told BBC Radio 4’s cheerleading business programme ‘The Bottom Line’ that the new outsourcing market: “makes Britain now to public service provision what Silicon Valley is to IT”.</p> <h2>The winners</h2><p>In the first three months of 2016 new public sector contracts <a href="https://www.arvato.com/content/dam/arvato/documents/reports/studies/arvato_UK_outsourcing_index_Q1_2016_main_infographic.pdf">worth £1.35 billion</a> were announced in the UK – sixty five per cent of all outsourced contracts.</p> <p>In a close and cosy world, outsourcing companies provide well paid positions to former politicians and other prominent public figures. In 2009, John Reid, while still a serving Member of Parliament, took a <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/090624/memi23.htm">£50,000-a-year “consultancy” role at G4S</a>. They made him a director —&nbsp;from July 2010 until April 2013. And Reid, a former Labour Home and Defence Secretary has continued to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/woolwich-lord-reid-security-industrys-salesman">promote the security industry’s wares</a> in the House of Lords.</p> <p>G4S board members have included Lord Condon, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Adam Crozier, head of ITV. Current chairman <a href="http://www.gosh.org/about-us/leadership-and-governance/trustees">John Connolly</a>, once Britain’s highest paid accountant —&nbsp;at Deloitte — also chairs the board at the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity, and was an advisor to Mayor of London Boris Johnson. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010327.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010327.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fence gnawed by rats in Jean's back yard (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>The Telegraph in April 2016 estimated that in 2011/2012 the Home Office spent £150million providing accommodation for asylum seekers, in 2014/15 it is <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/24/rich-list-asylum-king-who-houses-migrants-in-budget-hotels-enter/">thought to be closer to £200million</a>. </p> <p>Stuart Monk, owner of G4S contractor Jomast is reported to be worth £175m. </p><p>James Vyvyan Robinson CEO of Clearsprings, formerly of G4S, has an annual salary of more than £200,000. Graham King, the founder and chairman of Clearsprings, trousered £960,000 from the company in 2014. </p><p>Alex Langsam, founder of Britannia Hotels, twice voted <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2809363/Britannia-Hotels-named-worst-chain-UK-according-holidaymakers-Sofitel-Premier-Inn-given-honours.html#ixzz4FXZU6NNs">the worst hotel chain</a> in Which? Polls, this year entered <a href="http://tdi.tagmedia.co.uk/NITL/TT_AND_ST_BRAND/RICH_LIST_2016/APR16_LANDING_PAGE/109052117_/OUTPUT_FILES/HTML_v3/index.html">The Sunday Times rich list</a> with an estimated personal fortune of £220m. Langsam has <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/24/rich-list-asylum-king-who-houses-migrants-in-budget-hotels-enter/">been dubbed ‘The Asylum King’</a> after securing contracts in 2014 to house refugees in 17 of his budget hotels and making a profit of £14m for the company. </p> <p>Over the past few months, along with other members of SYMAAG, an asylum rights group, I have been attending small ‘hearings’ in Yorkshire held to collect evidence for the Home Affairs Committee from G4S asylum housing tenants. The evidence continues to reveal a picture of filthy properties, G4S staff invading the privacy of tenants’ homes, and vulnerable and traumatised tenants being neglected.</p> <p>Tenants attending the hearings and the many tenants I have worked alongside over the past four years have had the courage to raise their voices against the disrespect and abuse they have faced in their asylum homes. Will the peoples representatives take action this time? Will they force G4S, Serco and Clearsprings off the asylum housing contract? If not, why not?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">Britain&#039;s botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 13 Sep 2016 07:00:00 +0000 John Grayson 105297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do your parenting by Skype, UK tells fathers being deported to Jamaica https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jama <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A secret Home Office flight tomorrow (Wednesday 7 September) will forcibly remove fathers 4,500 miles away from their children in the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p>An elderly man with British children and grandchildren is among passengers due to be forcibly flown to Jamaica tomorrow. Other passengers on the secret Home Office flight include a father of three who has lived in the UK since he was four years old.</p> <p>The Home Office regularly books secret charter flights to deport people to countries including Nigeria and Pakistan, but this is the first charter flight to Jamaica since 2014. Many of those being deported have spent their formative years in the UK and have British families. </p> <p>In most cases people are unable properly to challenge their deportation because they cannot afford to pay for legal advice. People are notified that they will be on these planes with just days to try and contest the decision.</p> <p>More than 50 people booked onto Wednesday’s charter flight to Jamaica have spoken to volunteers at&nbsp;<a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org">The Unity Centre in Glasgow</a>,&nbsp;and almost everyone said they had come to the UK as a child.</p> <h2>James pays for crime again and again</h2> <p>James was just four years old when he arrived in the UK. Now he is 30 and father to three British children. In 2012 he was convicted of money laundering and served two years in prison. Despite having served his sentence, he says it feels like he’s paying for his crime over and over. Since the end of his sentence, he has been detained and released three times and lives in constant uncertainty. He missed the birth of his youngest daughter and missed another daughter’s birthday.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CONTACTBYSKYPE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CONTACTBYSKYPE.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="48" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>James grew up without a father and fears that his children will grow up without a father too. “It’s like a cycle,” he said. “Just another generation with no fathers to help them grow.<em> </em>How can they not understand that will create more crime?”<em> </em></p> <p>Though James’s partner and his children are British, the Home Office can still deny them their <a href="https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-8-respect-your-private-and-family-life">Article 8 rights</a> to a family life by deporting him from the UK. The Home Office advises people in this situation to conduct their family relationships “…by telephone, email or other modern methods of long-distance communication such as Skype”. </p> <h2>Gerry leaves a partner, children, grandchild </h2><p>Gerry is booked on the flight and his family are British. He has a partner, three children and one grandchild, as well as extended family. </p> <p>Home Office policy is to detain and then deport foreign nationals given a sentence of 12 months or more, regardless of how long they have lived in the UK. Gerry’s most recent conviction was for dealing drugs 12 years ago in 2004. </p> <p>Gerry is in his fifties. In July this year he attempted suicide. Weeks after he left hospital, the Home Office detained him.<em> </em>In order to justify their attempt to forcibly remove him, the Home Office cite a caution for possession of cannabis, three years ago.</p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ICANNABIS6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ICANNABIS6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="75" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Does good behaviour count? William is booked on Wednesday’s flight. He left prison with 13 certificates of achievement and responded well to 2 years and 9 months of probation following his release. &nbsp;</p> <p>William’s wife is British and they have been married for 12 years. He is his wife’s carer. No matter, he is due to fly tomorrow.</p> <h2>Baby in a pushchair</h2> <p>Many people booked for deportation on Wednesday are victims of <a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/operation-nexus-for-dummies-happening-now-in-our-time/">‘Operation Nexus’</a>. This joint initiative between the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police involves the arbitrary deportation of foreign nationals, including people without criminal convictions. The police and Home Office officials share speculative evidence to build a case for deportation. This includes people who may have been accused of a crime and <a href="https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/operation-nexus/">found not guilty</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p>Most people we spoke to said they were arrested suddenly and without warning, usually when signing in with the Home Office. Many people had attended their Home Office reporting centre, to sign as required. When they arrived, they were asked to stay for a quick meeting and a few hours later they were transferred to immigration detention. James had gone with a friend to sign, who was also reporting. They were both detained but sent to different detention centres. James’s friend had brought his baby in a pushchair to the reporting centre.</p> <p>“The Home Office called social services while they did his interview, called them to pick up the baby then detained the daddy,” James said.</p> <p>People in this situation feel tricked and cannot understand why their compliance is used against them. Many people used the word 'kidnap' to describe their detention. “I honestly feel like I’ve been kidnapped,” said Matthew, who was picked up while reporting to the Home Office. “Kidnapped from my family. I been signing on for nine years, even when I’m sick I go there. And now they say I'll abscond.” </p> <h2>Unscrupulous lawyers</h2> <p>The only person that Matthew knows to have absconded over the years is his lawyer. His lawyer disappeared with his case documents and his money, preventing him from regularising his status. </p> <p>It is an all too common story. Since <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/03/real-impact-legal-aid-cuts">Legal Aid has been cut</a> for most immigration matters, people are left with few options and vulnerable to unscrupulous lawyers. James said that he had saved up money to go to university, but ended up using it to pay lawyers to fight his case: “They tell you it’s going to cost £4,000 to cancel the ticket. You panic. You pay.” People are often penniless by the time they are forcibly removed from the UK.</p> <p>Once people are detained in immigration removal centres, <a href="https://www.ein.org.uk/news/report-finds-legal-aid-cuts-affects-three-quarters-immigration-detainees-and-leads-stress-worry">access to legal advice is even harder</a>. In England you can only get a legal aid lawyer from the ‘legal aid surgery’ – a system in which contracted firms operate a rota. They have 10 slots for each surgery, which means they can see only a fraction of those detained when most are in need of urgent legal advice. </p> <p>The cuts to legal aid in immigration cases were made as part of the government’s efforts to save money. However, the government spends a great deal on charter flights. Corporate Watch <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/sites/default/files/Collective-Expulsion-report.pdf">discovered</a> that the cost of deporting people on charter flights has risen, even as the number of people being deported falls. In 2011/2012 the average cost of a charter flight was £218,617. James asks: “Why are the government cutting benefits, saying they got no money, when they find the money for this?” </p> <h2>No way out </h2> <p>The people booked on Wednesday’s flight cannot appeal their deportation while they are in this country. The British government operates a <a href="https://www.freemovement.org.uk/report-serious-irreversible-harm-test-case-heard-in-court-of-appeal/">“deport first, appeal later”</a> policy. If someone wants to appeal on human rights grounds, they have to do so from the country they are deported to. An exception is made for people facing “serious irreversible harm” in their country of origin. But most people fearing serious irreversible harm claim asylum. And doing so in the run up to deportation is usually considered an attempt to “frustrate” removal, which the Home Office can use as a reason to <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/421558/Certification_s96_guidance_1.0_EXT.pdf">remove appeal rights</a>, meaning the asylum claim must be dealt with out of country.&nbsp; <em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>The legality of the “deport first, appeal later” policy is being challenged in the <a href="https://justice.org.uk/kiarie-byndloss-v-secretary-state-home-department/">Supreme Court</a> with a hearing date set for year. Meanwhile, people are swept up, detained and deported on secret charter flights escorted by private security guards.</p> <p>Many know the story of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/jimmy-mubenga">Jimmy Mubenga</a>, a healthy 46 year old, the father of five children, who died while being “restrained” by three G4S security guards on a British Airways plane bound for Angola in October 2010. The truth emerged only because paying passengers witnessed what happened to Jimmy Mubenga and spoke out about it.</p> <p>On the Home Office’s secret charter flights there are no independent witnesses aboard.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>There will be demonstration at the Jamaican embassy the today — Tuesday 6 September 4pm.</p> <p>All names have been changed. Extracts from Home Office Refusal letters supplied by The Unity Centre.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/frail-84-year-old-subjected-to-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-p">Frail 84 year old subjected to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’, prison ombudsman says</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/security-industry-provides-medics-for-uk-deportation-flights">Security industry provides medics for UK deportation flights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Mia Light Tue, 06 Sep 2016 12:50:38 +0000 Mia Light 105148 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A support group gathers disturbing testimony from people deported by commercial contractors Tascor.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tascor promotional material</span></span></span></p><p>Eight private security guards restrained and physically forced a fearful man onto a recent Home Office removal flight at Stansted Airport, a fellow passenger has reported.</p> <p>The charter flight on Titan Airways departed Stansted for Nigeria and Ghana on May 24. It was staffed for the UK Home Office by the private security company Tascor, a subsidiary of Capita, <a href="http://www.tascor.co.uk/what-we-do/immigration-and-border/">who claim to achieve</a>&nbsp;the “safe and secure escorting and removal of more than 18,000 individuals from the UK each year”. </p> <p><a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org">The Unity Centre</a> in Glasgow, a voluntary group that offers support to people seeking asylum and anyone affected by border controls, has taken witness statements from three men who expressed concerns about the treatment meted out to the restrained detainee we’ll call Jack. The three witnesses were forcibly removed from the UK alongside Jack.</p> <h2>Propelled onto the plane </h2> <p>Speaking over the phone from Accra, Witness A told us he was sitting behind Jack on the coach journey from Colnbrook detention centre in Middlesex to Stansted Airport. He said that Jack complained of back and leg pain during the 65 mile journey. When the coach reached Stansted, and the guards prepared to board the plane, he said that Jack knelt down and “just let himself go”, falling to the ground.</p> <p>The witness claimed that Jack showed no aggression as he told Tascor guards that he didn’t want to go, and that his life would be in danger if he got onto the plane. He continued to tell staff this as he passively resisted being removed from the ground.&nbsp; </p> <p>Then, approximately eight Tascor guards held the man, pulling him up from the floor and holding him in an “L” position, propelling him up the stairs and onto the plane, said Witness B. Jack’s escort “buddy” —&nbsp;the guard assigned to him —&nbsp;asked the supervisor “if it was okay if they bind him”, to which the supervisor agreed.</p><p>Via email from Lagos, Witness C told us of prison-like conditions and humiliating scrutiny. He said: “Anyone finding themselves in that situation… having someone sit next to you, taking notes on your behaviour patterns, if you’ve eaten, if you’ve drank water, if you’ve been to the loo — I mean, no one wants to be in that situation.”</p> <p>He continued: “It’s not a nice experience for anybody. Imagine —&nbsp;even when you’re getting on the plane, they hold you, there’s one person holding you on the left, one person holding you on the right, and then takes you up the plane.”</p> <p>Witness B told us that detainees were vastly outnumbered by Tascor guards.</p><h2>A nasty business&nbsp;</h2><p>In 2013, Tascor guards were accused of a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21384435">brutal assault</a> on Marius Betondi, a Cameroonian man who was seeking asylum.</p> <p>Dr Charmian Goldwyn, a doctor instructed by the UK charity Medical Justice, examined Betondi, noting that the “number, pattern and distribution of injuries is in my opinion typical of their attribution to deliberate blows to the face caused during a recent assault”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/betondi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/betondi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="224" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marius Betondi</span></span></span></p> <p>But, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21384435">BBC report</a>ed: “immigration sources said Mr Betondi had caused the injuries himself”.</p> <p><span>Tascor is part of the Capita outsourcing group, who took over the Home Office contract from Reliance Secure Task Management in 2012. The contract had passed to Reliance from G4S in April 2011, six months after the death of Jimmy Mubenga during an attempted removal.</span></p> <p>Mubenga, a healthy 46 year old and father of five children, died after being restrained by three G4S guards on a British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport in October 2010.</p> <p>In July 2013 an inquest jury found that he had been “unlawfully killed”. Three G4S guards were acquitted of manslaughter in December 2014. Racist texts found on the mobile phones of two of the guards were read out to the inquest jury, but the racist texts and the fact of the unlawful killing verdict were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">withheld from the jury in the criminal trial</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jimmy Mubenga</span></span></span></p><p>The coroner in the case of Jimmy Mubenga published a report on the case (known as a&nbsp;<a href="http://iapdeathsincustody.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Rule-43-Report-Jimmy-Mubenga.pdf">‘Rule 43’ report</a>&nbsp;or a 'Prevention of future deaths' report). The coroner, Karon Monaghan QC, noted that employees moved from one contractor to another as the contract changed hands. She cited the racist texts as evidence of a “pervasive racism” at G4S, and she wrote: “There was other evidence . . . of an unhealthy culture in G4S, and then Reliance, and it is difficult to see why that would have changed now that Tascor holds the contract, for the reasons just given.”</p> <p>She went on: “Evidence before the Inquest suggested problems with culture and behaviour more widely manifested by, as it was reported by one witness,<em> ‘loutish, laddish behaviour... Inappropriate language, and peer pressure. Don’t necessarily celebrate difference. Don’t personalise the detainee...’</em>”.</p> <p>The coroner continued, “The same witness reported evidence that Reliance was not a company where women, ethnic minorities and those of diverse religions felt comfortable. It seems unlikely that endemic racism would not impact at all on service provision.”</p> <h2>‘Just doing our job’</h2> <p>One man deported to Nigeria earlier this year told The Unity Centre, via phone from Lagos, that three Tascor guards escorted him onto a commercial Virgin Atlantic flight, before other passengers boarded. </p> <p>Terry (not his real name) told The Unity Centre that he did not physically resist removal, but made it clear to the guards and other passengers that he was being removed against his will from the UK, where he has a partner and young child. </p> <p>Terry told us that in response to his shouts that he had a human rights court case pending, Tascor escorts applied forceful pressure to his joints —to his wrists, left knee and left thumb. This continued at the back of the plane until the flight took off, when Terry says he gave up shouting.</p> <p>No passenger took action or offered support. For the duration of the flight Terry was restrained around his waist and wrists. He said that during the flight Tascor guards began “casually chatting” with him, telling him their jobs were “simply to effect deportation”.</p> <p>Terry says he left the plane in Nigeria in serious pain: his wrists were swollen and he walked with a limp. He says he took more than two weeks to recover and had no money to see a doctor.</p> <h2>Reasonable, necessary and proportionate?</h2> <p>I asked Tascor and the Home Office for comment on the standard use of physical force and restraints by guards during deportations, and specifically in relation to the events on the charter flight of May 24.</p> <p>The Home Office responded: “Those with no right to be in the UK should return home. We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, Immigration Enforcement will seek to enforce their departure.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_0.jpg" alt="" title="Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p> The Home Office statement continued: “Where detainees refuse to comply, we regrettably may have to use force to ensure they leave the UK. Any use of force must be reasonable, necessary and proportionate and there is a heavy emphasis on using it as a matter of last resort, and for the shortest possible time. The use of restraint is closely monitored and we operate a comprehensive complaints system if detainees feel that they have not been treated in accordance with our standards. The decision to use handcuffs is only ever made on the basis of a full individual risk assessment.”</p> <p>Tascor responded that it would be inappropriate for them to comment beyond the statement provided by the Home Office.</p> <h2>The next flight</h2> <p>In accordance with the Home Office’s bimonthly schedule regarding “Operation Majestic”, a mass deportation charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana is set for Tuesday 26 July.</p> <p>Under the new Immigration Act 2016 and expansion of the Home Office’s ‘Deport Now, Appeal Later’ policy, many people given removal directions for July 26 have been denied a right of appeal in the UK. </p> <p>In order to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights, out-of-country appeals must be treated as if the appellant has remained in the UK. In practice, potential appellants face multiple barriers to justice. These include a lack of willing lawyers, the difficultly of lodging an appeal within the 28-day time limit, financial hardship, and the all-encompassing struggle to readjust and survive post-deportation. </p> <p>In the past few months The Unity Centre has been in contact with people unable to pursue an out-of-country appeal due to the precarity and risk first identified in their asylum or human rights claim whilst in the UK.</p> <p>A new organisation called Roots to Return is being set up to support those who wish to pursue their out-of-country appeal “right” and to support families remaining in the UK. If you would like to find out more, you can email:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:rootstoreturn@gmail.com">rootstoreturn@gmail.com</a></p> <p>For more information and ways to get involved with resisting the charter flight on July 26, get in touch: <a href="mailto:unitycentremedia@gmail.com">unitycentremedia@gmail.com</a> </p> <h2>Support in Nigeria</h2> <p><a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">A group of people</a> who have been removed to Nigeria against their will by the UK Home Office are offering support and solidarity to people who are also forcibly removed to Nigeria. They want to help to pick people up from the airport, contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, document people’s stories to raise awareness of the injustice and violence of deportations, and challenge removals where possible.</p> <p>You can read more about the group and donate to their crowdfunder <a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">here</a>. The money raised will go towards costs for travelling to and from the airport people, phone credit and phones for people to contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, food, emergency accommodation, emergency transport, and resources for recording peoples stories.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/frail-84-year-old-subjected-to-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-p">Frail 84 year old subjected to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’, prison ombudsman says</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/security-industry-provides-medics-for-uk-deportation-flights">Security industry provides medics for UK deportation flights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lotte Lewis Sat, 23 Jul 2016 17:50:20 +0000 Lotte Lewis 104208 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May's dangerous record on immigration https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May's time as home secretary was marked by the further marginalisation of immigrants in this society. In a diverse nation, it's worrying that such a person becomes prime minister.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" alt="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images</span></span></span><span>I would like to be able to celebrate Theresa May’s departure from the Home Office. Unfortunately, she is now prime minister. What does this mean for the country? There may be no real link between her time as home secretary and her time as prime minister. After all, as prime minister she will be dealing with a range of people and policy areas that she did not deal with as home secretary. And one of her main policy areas as home secretary – immigration – may now undergo fundamental change in light of the recent referendum result. But I fear that there will be a link. Looking at her time as Home secretary, a consistent image emerges: a&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/oct/08/uk.conservatives2002" target="_blank">nasty</a><span>&nbsp;image.</span></p><p><span></span></p><p>Of course, many will say that if an immigration lawyer is unhappy with the home secretary, that is probably a good thing – it means that immigration is 'under control'. In fact, as we know, immigration is not 'under control' in any conventional sense: net migration is at an all-time high. But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p>This matters in a prime minister. After all, you can judge a country by how it treats foreigners. But moreover, it engenders an atmosphere of fear and mistrust between those who were born in this country, and those who make it their home. We are an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself" target="_blank">increasingly diverse</a>&nbsp;country with growing interactions between natives and foreigners, whether in the family, at work or in education. It would be nice if we could be a little more comfortable with ourselves – a little more at ease in our mixed skins. Unfortunately, there is little sign of this with our new Prime minister.<span></span><span></span></p><p>In the highly emotive area of family migration, her reforms have brought misery to many. She introduced a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/21/families-challenge-minimum-income-visa-rules-supreme-court-non-eu-partner" target="_blank">minimum income requirement</a>&nbsp;for people who want to bring their non-European partners to the UK. This has led to many divided families, forced to try to maintain ties through Skype. It is currently under appeal at the Supreme Court and the Court’s decision may provide an interesting perspective from which to judge the Prime minister’s record as Home secretary. She made it all but impossible for people to bring their non-European&nbsp;<a href="http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/high-court-challenge-of-adr-rules.html" target="_blank">elderly relatives</a>&nbsp;to the UK, a change which is also currently under appeal. In work and study, she has tried to move from long term to short term migration. Skilled workers must generally earn&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/mar/12/eu-workers-deported-earning-less-35000-employees-americans-australians" target="_blank">£35,000</a>&nbsp;to settle here. It is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/05/theresa-may-student-immigration-james-dyson" target="_blank">harder</a>&nbsp;for students to stay in the UK to work after they finish their studies. Whether or not you agree with this move, this constant coming and going of people must make integration more difficult.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Throughout, this has given the impression of a country more interested in money than love or social cohesion. This has surely been confirmed by the prime minister’s much trumpeted decision to “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-rolls-out-the-red-carpet-for-entrepeneurs-and-investors" target="_blank">roll out the red carpet</a>” to wealthy migrants early in her time at the Home Office. She introduced accelerated settlement for those willing to invest large sums of money in the UK. Unlike those in most other immigration categories, these investors do not need to (deign to) speak English. This category has come under significant&nbsp;<a href="http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/gold-rush-investment-visas-and-corrupt-capital-flows-into-the-uk/" target="_blank">criticism</a>&nbsp;for enabling wealthy foreign criminals to launder the proceeds of crime. Recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/wealthy-foreigners-shy-away-from-uk-as-investment-threshold-hits-2m" target="_blank">evidence</a>&nbsp;suggests that the red carpet treatment is failing: the numbers of applications has fallen sharply.<span></span><span></span></p><p>By contrast, the prime minister sought to secure her image as a tough home secretary for other, poorer criminals. In perhaps the most famous case, she was ultimately able to secure the return of Abu Qatada to Jordan. She had –<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/18/uk-european-court-ruling-sends-mixed-message-torture" target="_blank">controversially</a>&nbsp;– obtained assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence based on torture in his trial. However, earlier in the legal dispute, her lawyers appeared to have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9214125/Theresa-May-refuses-to-confirm-if-Home-Office-checked-Abu-Qatada-deadline-with-European-Court.html" target="_blank">miscalculated</a>&nbsp;the deadline for him to lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights. Also, ultimately he returned to Jordan&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10048558/Abu-Qatada-says-he-will-leave-Britain-and-it-could-be-within-months.html" target="_blank">voluntarily</a>. And in the end, he was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/11/abu-qatada-trial-showed-uk/jordan-torture-treaty-worthless" target="_blank">acquitted</a>&nbsp;in his trial in Jordan. So the Abu Qatada case is hardly a positive story for our new Prime minister.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive.</p><p>As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive. The High Court&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1151_judicial_review_finds_home_secretary_acted_unlawfully_in_treatment_of_asylum_seekers" target="_blank">ruled</a>&nbsp;that she had acted unlawfully, but after reviewing the levels, she simply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1248_home_office_announces_asylum_support_rates_will_remain_unchanged_following_review_despite_legal_challenge" target="_blank">maintained</a>&nbsp;them. She fought a&nbsp;<a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge" target="_blank">lengthy legal battle</a>&nbsp;to defend the Government’s system for the detention of asylum seekers until the criticisms from many different parts of the judiciary simply became too strong. She recently tried to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-is-dead" target="_blank">revive</a>&nbsp;the system, but – for now – it seems that this will not happen. She was responsible for the mass removal of students after a Panorama investigation into student visa fraud. The immigration Tribunal recently strongly criticised the evidence on the basis of which many of these students were removed. There were suggestions that there would be a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-faces-parliamentary-investigation-over-flimsy-basis-for-student-deportations-a6948796.html" target="_blank">Parliamentary investigation</a>&nbsp;into this. If this happens, again, this would provide an interesting perspective on the prime minister’s time as home secretary.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Perhaps her greatest claim for praise from those seeking to help migrants would be her work on modern day slavery. She rightly described this as a scourge, “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10470717/Theresa-May-Slaves-may-work-in-your-nail-bar-too.html" target="_blank">hiding in plain sight</a>” in our country. But I for one am not entirely convinced. I worry that the focus on this group of migrants comes from a desire to find objects of pity. This reinforces our sense of virtue, while denying the migrants all agency. There is also generally no straightforward route to settlement for migrants in this category. So our objects of pity do not have the opportunity to stick around long enough to make us question our naïve distinctions.<span></span><span></span></p><p>The clearest recent indication of her as prime minister came in her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-s-speech-to-the-conservative-party-conference-in-full-a6681901.html" target="_blank">speech</a>&nbsp;to the Conservative Party conference last year. Quite apart from being extremely negative, it was also criticised for being “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11913927/Theresa-Mays-immigration-speech-is-dangerous-and-factually-wrong.html" target="_blank">dangerous and factually wrong</a>”. She was denounced as simply “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/immigration-theresa-may-just-turned-into-a-nasty-tory-it-aint-pretty/" target="_blank">nasty</a>”. With such a person as prime minister, I worry for our diverse nation.<span></span><span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/alina-m-ller/immigration-bill-government-side-steps-calls-for-humanitarian-balance">Immigration Bill: government side-steps calls for humanitarian balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">Immigration detention: &quot;expensive, ineffective and unjust&quot;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Usman Sheikh Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Usman Sheikh 104174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S: Don't blame us — blame the prison system https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-roberts/g4s-dont-blame-us-blame-prison-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An activist reports from G4S annual general meeting, Surrey, England, 26 May 2016.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/**G4Slogo Securing your worldCROP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/**G4Slogo Securing your worldCROP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Throughout the criminal justice system, combinations of state bodies and voluntary sector organisations have increasingly been joined by private sector companies to manage and deliver services. Academics and activists have labelled this expanding marketplace as the “<a href="http://www.prisonabolition.org/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/" target="_blank">prison industrial complex</a>”.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.prisonabolition.org/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/" target="_blank">Empty Cages Collective</a>&nbsp;describe the prison industrial complex as not just prisons, but the “mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners”.</p> <p>Globally the prison industrial complex is a multi-billion pound industry that draws together private and government interests. It profits from using policing, prisons and punishment as a response to social, political and economic problems. It is a self-perpetuating system targeting the poor, people of colour and those most vulnerable to detainment, such as those experiencing mental health, drug or alcohol problems. It reinforces and recreates inequalities, ensuring there is an endless supply of people to feed into the criminal justice system.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>G4S: “Securing your world”</strong></h2> <p>One of the private companies involved in the prison industrial complex is G4S, currently drawing international scrutiny as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/british-security-company-g4s-confirms-that-florida-shooter-is-one-of-t">employer of Florida shooter Omar Mateen</a> who slaughtered 49 people in an LGBT night club on Sunday 12 June. </p><p>A company with more than 600,000 employees across 110 countries, G4S boasts that it is “securing your world”. Their <a href="http://www.g4s.uk.com/en-GB/">website</a> outlines the range of services they operate in the UK, including children’s services, custodial and detention, electronic monitoring, immigration and borders, policing support services and health. <span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*G4S ORLANDO-extra stories_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*G4S ORLANDO-extra stories_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>openDemocracyUK front page Monday 13 June 2016</span></span></span><br /></span></p> <p>G4S has drawn significant negative publicity and criticism over recent years. Throughout 2015/2016 there has been a steady flow of official reports and media exposés highlighting reasons to be concerned about the company’s services. </p> <p>In May 2015, Ofsted, the regulator for education and children’s services, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-%E2%80%98degrading-treatment%E2%80%99-by-guards-high-on-">released a report</a> on Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre revealing that young people in the care of G4S were subjected to “racist comments”, “degrading treatment”, “while being cared for by staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs”. </p> <p>In June 2015, <a href="https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/ongoing-electronic-tagging-scandal">it was revealed</a> that the Ministry of Justice were still paying G4S and Serco to deliver electronic tagging, more than a year after they withdrew from such contracts after “overbilling”. </p> <p>In January 2016, a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">BBC Panorama documentary revealed</a> serious abuse at Medway Secure Training Centre that led to the suspension and arrest of G4S staff. This was followed by an announcement in February that they would be withdrawing from youth justice services in the UK and US.</p> <p>In May 2016 I attended the G4S Annual General Meeting as a shareholder, along with other members of the <a href="https://downsizingcriminaljustice.wordpress.com">Reclaim Justice Network</a>. This is the third consecutive year our members have attended. The goal was to ask the G4S board of directors about the company’s role in criminal justice services.</p> <p>No electronic items were allowed into the meeting, making reporting of the questions and answers, difficult. There were a number of campaigners from <a href="http://www.waronwant.org/g4s">War on Want</a> and the BDS movements, among others, raising concerns about G4S’s services in Israel. What follows here is a summary of some of the questions raised by Reclaim Justice Network members in relation to G4S’s criminal justice operations in the UK.</p> <p>The AGM took place at the Holiday Inn in Sutton. The room was lined by around twelve uniformed G4S security guards. The front row was packed with what seemed to be G4S staff. They were joined by various individuals in “plain clothes”, wearing badges marked with “Security”.</p> <p>John Connolly, G4S’s Chairman, opened the meeting – offering a polite, yet strong warning that anyone who disrupted the meeting would be asked to stop and then asked to leave. During his opening remarks, people around the room took turns to chant “Action”, “Not words”. And “Shut”, “Them”, “All”, “Down”.</p> <h2><strong>Medway &amp; Rainsbrook</strong></h2> <p>The first shareholder question was from a man representing a large pension fund with investments in G4S. He raised concerns about the use of excessive force as seen at Medway Secure Training Centre in an undercover BBC Panorama documentary. He asked whether such incidents would affect the value of investments and if it had directly impacted upon directors’ remuneration.</p> <p>In response, John Connolly, who last year took £370,000 in fees and benefits in his part-time job as G4S chairman, said there was a “rigorous process” for assessing the senior management team. </p><p>Ashley Almanza, the G4S chief executive, followed on, stating the contract had now come to an end after an agreement with the Ministry of Justice that it would not be extended.&nbsp;</p><p>Almanza, who took £2.5 million in pay and bonuses last year, said the BBC Panorama documentary had been “appalling” and “shocking”. He claimed there were “rigorous methods” for recruiting staff and it had been “deeply disappointing”. </p><p>He defended the services in Medway and Rainsbrook secure training centres, pointing out both had achieved either “good” or “outstanding” inspections. Almanza said that lessons had been learned from Medway and shared across the whole prison estate.</p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking doorG4SPANORAMA_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking doorG4SPANORAMA_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'All I asked you to do was clean this fucking door and you aint!' G4S Medway officer to boy, age 14 (BBC Panorama)</span></span></span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>One shareholder raised the issue of the restraint of children at Medway, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">as revealed by Panorama</a>, and asked what G4S is doing to remedy the harms experienced. Almanza said that it was important to understand the distinction between restraint techniques developed and approved by government – and “individuals ignoring policy and training”.</p> <p>He said that Medway offered a “learning point for everyone involved and across the UK”, as after Panorama’s revelations, “methods have changed”. Almanza said that G4S want to work with the government to improve safety and mentioned the trialing of body-worn cameras.</p> <p>In later questioning Almanza also emphasised that the company had withdrawn from all “juvenile custody” services in both the UK and USA. He was asked a number of times for clarification on the reasons for this withdrawal but seemed reluctant to offer a direct response — or accept any connection to the incidents at Medway. He eventually said that the company wants to focus on areas they believe they can do the “best job” to “benefit our shareholders”.</p> <p>The board was asked if there were any other outstanding and undisclosed investigations into the behaviour of staff in relation to the treatment of children and young people in secure training centres and children’s homes. Almanza said that he was not aware of any “government investigations”. &nbsp;</p> <p>The shareholder asked again, whether G4S knew of any ongoing and undisclosed investigations into G4S staff behaviour towards children. Almanza responded that it was difficult to say given the number of people they are dealing with and can’t necessarily be aware of all incidents. </p> <p>The shareholder again asked for confirmation: “So, to be clear, shareholders are unlikely to hear further revelations about this kind of thing?” He said that a “hotline” has been set up for staff to report any concerning behaviour, but as this is a new process, he did not have figures.</p> <p>On 8 June 2016, just a couple of weeks after Almanza’s response, <a href="http://www.g4s.uk.com/en-GB/Media%20Centre/News/2016/06/08/Medway%20Secure%20Training%20Centre/">a statement from G4S</a> confirmed that five more G4S staff from Medway STC had been charged by Kent police.</p> <h2>Not G4S prisons, just run by G4S</h2> <p>A question was posed on the right to life, on self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in G4S prisons. A shareholder highlighted that <a href="http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/exposed-alarming-self-harm-rates-suicides-8599851">6 people had died in HMP Altcourse</a> and in 2013 there were more than 900 recorded incidents of self-harm. The shareholder asked whether this “tragic pattern” indicated a failure in the duty of care for human beings.</p> <p>Almanza emphasised that these are not G4S prisons, and that they are owned by the Ministry of Justice. “G4S runs them,” he said, “with oversight from government”. Almanza said that self-harm and deaths in custody are experienced across the prison estate. He said that all members of the board have visited G4S run prisons, and boasted that “you as shareholders would be impressed by the way staff run the prisons”. They are “difficult environments” to work in and he emphasised the “skill of staff”. Almanza said the company will look to continue to reduce self-harm in prisons.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/securing injustice.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/securing injustice.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activist artwork</span></span></span></p><p>The same shareholder then detailed how at a public meeting in February 2016, attended by around 80 people, they had heard a G4S prison custody officer detailing the alleged response by staff to a prisoner who had attempted to take their own life by burning themselves through lighting matches around their clothing. Almanza asked for “evidence”. He said “our facilities are inspected continuously” and said the shareholder had “made a serious allegation” – “provide us with evidence and we will investigate”.</p> <p>The shareholder in question, Dr David Scott, spoke to Ashley Almanza and John Connolly after the meeting. They invited him to put his concerns in writing which he did so the same week. He is yet to receive a reply, but <a href="https://downsizingcriminaljustice.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/g4s-a-global-leader-in-human-rights/">you can read his letter here</a>. It eloquently outlines very important issues relating to G4S commitment to human rights. Scott also asks that “G4S undertake a thorough investigation into the treatment and response of staff to prisoners who self-harm, experience mental health problems and / or experience or have acted upon suicidal ideation”.</p><h2>Electronic tags and 'overbilling'</h2><p>The questioning then moved onto electronic monitoring and G4S overbilling the Ministry of Justice. Almanza said it was important to understand that electronic monitoring services covered the “tracking of products and goods”. He said they will continue to offer it for prisoners as well as for goods and look for new markets. I didn’t note the exact wording but I remember feeling very uncomfortable at the implication that prisoners were simply “goods” to be tracked and monitored.</p> <h2><br />Human rights</h2> <p>One shareholder highlighted G4S’s claim to be a leading company when it came to human rights. She asked what assurances the Board could provide that human rights and civil liberties are a priority — and asked what individual members of the Board are specifically doing to protect human rights and civil liberties.</p> <p>Clare Spottiswoode (a non executive director and chair of the G4S Corporate Social Responsibility Committee who takes £81,500 per year for her part-time G4S job) was invited to respond by John Connolly. She said that “human rights are central to our work” and that the company aims to “spread good human rights work wherever we go”.</p> <p>Shareholder, David Scott who had raised a number of questions about the company’s commitment and record on human rights, asked whether G4S could guarantee a focus on human rights in next year’s annual report. Almost two hours into the meeting, John Connolly, said yes, they would take that as a recommendation from the meeting and consider conducting a human rights audit.</p> <p><span>After two hours of shareholder questions, the chairman then attempted to bring the meeting to a close. At this point a number of shareholders, who had largely posed questions on G4S’s role in Israel, began to shout and disrupt the proceedings. One by one, people were dragged out by the G4S security staff.</span></p> <p>The first person removed from the meeting was a man shouting “shut down Yarl’s Wood” — referring to the notorious Bedfordshire detention centre run by Serco where G4S has provided health service since September 2014.</p><p>Following him, a woman in the process of being carried from the room had some of her clothes pulled from her body. Two other women who objected to this were escorted out. Another man was then dragged out, grabbing empty chairs as they removed him while shouting “you are all complicit in the worst human rights violations”.</p> <p>As the chairman read out the resolutions to be voted on, we could all clearly hear the same man chanting “G4S, shame on you” from outside the door.</p> <h2>Who is to blame?</h2> <p>The meeting was enlightening and frustrating. Clear answers were rarely provided by G4S to what were very direct questions from shareholders. The chairman, John Connolly, referred nearly all questions to Ashley Almanza. With the exception of Clare Spottiswoode, the rest of the board sat in almost complete silence. Staring at the room or down at their paperwork, I couldn’t work out whether this was boredom or embarrassment. They certainly appeared uncomfortable. When a shareholder challenged them on this — asking why no one else on the Board was asking questions&nbsp;— they continued to sit in silence.</p> <p>The key message from Almanza on questions relating to safety in prisons, deaths in custody, self-harm and the use of restraint was that they are part of wider problems in the criminal justice system. On one level, he is right — prisons are damaging institutions, no matter who runs them. However, it also felt like he was trying to avoid responsibility and evade blame for a catalogue of serious issues raised by shareholders.</p> <p>This prison industrial complex captures people. It punishes them. It damages people, their families and communities. It spits them back out. G4S and other companies are complicit in this – they do the dirty work of government whilst turning a profit. People are not “goods” to be transported, imprisoned and monitored. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/british-security-company-g4s-confirms-that-florida-shooter-is">British security company G4S confirms that Florida shooter is one of their own</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/five-more-arrests-and-another-critical-inspection-report-for">Five more arrests and another critical inspection report for G4S child prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-independent-report-on-r">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-suspends-5-staff-over-alleged-attempts-to-massage-999-res">G4S suspends 5 staff over alleged attempts to massage 999 response figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">Bullying kids: G4S abuse of child prisoners exposed</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/ruth-hopkins/g4s-abuses-in-south-african-prison-still-ignored">G4S abuses in South African prison still ignored</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/nice-work-g4s-wins-118-million-guant-namo-contract">Nice work: G4S wins $118 million Guantánamo contract </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/ellie-butt/g4s-serco-fraud-oops-we-couldnt-tell-difference-between-right-and-wrong">G4S &amp; Serco fraud: Oops, we couldn&#039;t tell the difference between right and wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-bludgeoned-woman-to-death">G4S guard bludgeoned woman to death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/concealment-and-trickery-thats-g4s-childrens-homes">Concealment and trickery - that&#039;s G4S children&#039;s homes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Rebecca Roberts Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:30:00 +0000 Rebecca Roberts 102874 at https://www.opendemocracy.net British security company G4S confirms that Florida shooter is one of their own https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/british-security-company-g4s-confirms-that-florida-shooter-is <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <ul><li>• Omar Mateen, who killed 50 people in gay nightclub, was employed as armed guard by G4S.</li><li>• G4S guards have killed before.</li><li>• Company sells its expertise in vetting staff.</li></ul> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4S logo 2009 RGB JPG_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4S logo 2009 RGB JPG_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The international security company G4S <a href="http://www.g4s.com/en/Media%20Centre/News/2016/06/12/Statement%20on%20Omar%20Mateen/">has confirmed that Omar Mateen</a>, who slaughtered 50 people in the Pulse LGBT nightclub, was one of their employees.</p> <p>“We are deeply shocked by this tragic event,” said the company's North America CEO John Kenning after the Orlando nightclub killings. “We can confirm that Omar Mateen had been employed by G4S since September 10th, 2007. Mateen was off-duty at the time of the incident. He was employed at a gated retirement community in South Florida.</p><p>“Mateen underwent company screening and background checks when he was recruited in 2007 and the check revealed nothing of concern. His screening was repeated in 2013 with no findings.<br /><br />“We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigations. In 2013, we learned that Mateen had been questioned by the FBI but that the enquiries were subsequently closed. We were not made aware of any alleged connections between Mateen and terrorist activities, and were unaware of any further FBI investigations.<br /><br />“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of this unspeakable tragedy, and their friends and families.”</p> <p>G4S claims expertise in vetting and screening employees: “A robust employee screening programme helps organisations minimise the risk of making inappropriate recruitment decisions,” G4S <a href="http://www.g4s.uk.com/en-GB/What%20we%20do/Services/Investigative%20services/Screening%20and%20vetting%20services/">tells potential customers</a>. “We have a wealth of experience in developing and implementing background checks and security clearance for companies in the private and public sector.”</p> <p>But time and again racist, misogynist and otherwise dangerous people have slipped through the company’s own screening process and been given power over vulnerable people. Repeatedly the company’s readiness to act in response to warnings has been found wanting.</p> <h2>Khanokporn Satjawat —&nbsp;murdered by G4S guard, November 2012 &nbsp;</h2> <p>In November 2012 a 42 year-old pharmaceutical worker from Thailand took part in a conference about HIV treatment&nbsp;at&nbsp;Glasgow’s&nbsp;Clyde Auditorium. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-bludgeoned-woman-to-death">Her name was&nbsp;Khanokporn Satjawat</a>. A G4S guard checked&nbsp;Satjawat’s&nbsp;ID. He didn’t like her manner. Later he followed her into the toilets and bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher.</p> <p>At the High Court in Glasgow in October 2013, Clive Carter was found guilty of Khanokporn Satjawat’s murder. <a href="http://news.stv.tv/west-central/246102-clive-carter-has-been-found-guilty-of-murdering-secc-delegate/">The court heard</a> that the huge&nbsp;G4S guard (six foot five)&nbsp;tended to become enraged when women contradicted him. In a police interview his wife described the&nbsp;35 year-old&nbsp;as “violent and manipulative”.&nbsp;His GP had referred him for anger management counselling.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Khanokporn Satjawat_5_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Khanokporn Satjawat_5_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="238" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Khanokporn Satjawat</span></span></span>A few days before the killing, Carter had knocked on a woman’s door at the Holiday Inn Express hotel,&nbsp;carrying a fire extinguisher and&nbsp;claiming there had been a report of a fire.</p> <p>In response to my questions after the murder verdict, a G4S spokesperson said:</p> <p>“Clive Carter passed screening in May 2010, following receipt of two employment references and two character references. He had a Security Industry Authority license and therefore went through Home Office screening including a criminal record check.”</p> <p>The company went on:</p> <p>“His instability only became apparent after the murder . . . The incident at the Holiday Inn was not reported to G4S and only came to our attention during the trial. Had we received any complaint concerning him at that time, we would have immediately launched an investigation and if necessary suspended him from duty whilst that investigation was underway.”</p> <p>But G4S’s readiness to act in response to warnings of risk has repeatedly been found wanting.</p> <h2>Jimmy Mubenga unlawfully killed by G4S guards, October 2010&nbsp;</h2> <p>In July 2013 in London an inquest jury found that G4S guards had unlawfully killed Jimmy Mubenga during an attempted deportation in October 2010. Jimmy Mubenga was a healthy 46 year old and the father of five children.</p> <p>After the killing, on a British Airways plane at London’s Heathrow airport, police checks on guards’ mobile phones revealed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">numerous racist texts that were extremely offensive</a>.&nbsp;Assistant deputy coroner Karon Monaghan QC said that the quality and number of racist texts, and the fact that they were circulated widely among G4S guards, suggested not a couple of “rotten apples” but evidence of “a more pervasive racism within G4S”. [<a href="http://inquest.gn.apc.org/pdf/reports/Mubenga_R43.pdf">PDF here</a>]</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jimmy Mubenga</span></span></span></p><p>The coroner wrote: “For example, one message read as follows: ‘fuck off and go home you free-loading, benefit grabbing, kid producing, violent, non-English speaking cock suckers and take those hairy faced, sandal wearing, bomb making, goat fucking, smelly rag&nbsp;head bastards with you.’”</p><p>The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">racist texts were withheld from jurors</a> who found three G4S guards not guilty of manslaughter in December 2014.&nbsp;</p> <p>G4S, among other UK government contractors, had for years been warned about the dangers of excessive force and guards’ racist abuse, most resoundingly in a dossier compiled by medics and lawyers entitled <a href="http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/about/mj-reports/411-qoutsourcing-abuseq-report-140708.html">Outsourcing Abuse</a>, published by the charity Medical Justice in July 2008, more than two years before the killing of Jimmy Mubenga.</p> <h2>G4S man Danny Fitzsimons kills 2, August 2009</h2> <p>Another G4S employee approved by the company’s screening process was Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper passed fit for work in Iraq while he was on bail for firearms offences and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.</p> <p>Ahead of Fitzsimons’s deployment in 2009, a fellow worker <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-19730387">sent a series of emails</a> warning G4S about the man’s instability.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am alarmed that he will shortly be allowed to handle a weapon and be exposed to members of the public,” wrote the whistleblower, signing one email “a concerned member of the public and father”.</p> <p>Another email warned:</p> <p>“Having made you aware of the issues regarding the violent criminal Danny Fitzsimons, it has been noted that you have not taken my advice and still choose to employ him in a position of trust. I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing.”</p> <p>Within 36 hours of arriving in Baghdad’s Green Zone in August 2009, Fitzsimons had shot and killed fellow security contractors Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare.</p> <p>In 2011 the Karkh Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced him to life in prison for the murders.</p> <p>His parents said <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/28/danny-fitzsimons-jailed-iraq-murders">he was suffering from PTSD</a> and should never have been employed in a war zone.</p> <p>Clive Stafford Smith, <a href="http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_02_28dannyfitzsimonslifeimprisonment/">director of the charity Reprieve</a>, said:</p> <p>“If G4S had done the proper checks and risk assessments when Danny applied to work with them, they would have quickly seen that he was suffering from serious PTSD, a consequence of loyally serving his country. Instead they conducted minimal checks and sent him off to Iraq. Now Danny could spend the rest of his life in a hostile prison hundreds of miles from home, when he should be receiving psychiatric treatment.”&nbsp;</p><p>Reporters at BBC Scotland who revealed the emailed warnings also discovered that the company had carried out <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-27594094">two audits five months before the shooting</a> which found shortcomings in its screening and vetting systems.</p> <h2>Gareth Myatt, 15, dies “under restraint” by G4S guards, 2004</h2> <p>In 2004, a boy called <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">Gareth Myatt was restrained to death</a> by G4S guards at Rainsbrook child prison near Rugby, England. He was 15 years old, of mixed race, small for his age and weighed just 40kg.</p> <p>One of the guards involved in the restraint was six foot tall Dave Beadnall, who weighed 100kg. An inquest held in 2007 heard that when Gareth complained: “I can’t breathe”, Beadnall responded: “if you can talk then you can breathe.”&nbsp;</p> <p>When Gareth said he was going to defecate, he was told: “you are going to have to shit yourself”, and the restraint continued.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH MYATT 400_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH MYATT 400_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="168" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gareth Myatt</span></span></span>The inquest heard that one year before Gareth died, David Beadnall had been <a href="http://www.communitycare.co.uk/articles/15/03/2007/103801/myatt-officer-investigated-for-previous-restraint-inquest.htm">investigated</a> for overuse of pain-inducing ‘distraction techniques’. Beadnall told the inquest he had no recollection of that.</p> <p>G4S training documents listed guards’ nicknames. They included “Clubber”, “Crusher” and “Mauler”.&nbsp;</p> <p>An inquest jury ruled that Gareth’s death was “accidental”. </p><p>After the inquest, the coroner, Judge Pollard <a href="http://inquest.gn.apc.org/pdf/myatt_rule43report.pdf">wrote personally to then justice secretary Jack Straw</a> to ensure that no other child should be harmed by improper restraint methods, and to highlight the remarkable failure of G4S’s management to act on reports of abuses. (The coroner refers to Rebound, the division of G4S responsible for Rainsbrook).</p> <p>“Inadequacy in the monitoring of the use of Physical Control in Care at Rainsbrook by Rebound management caused or contributed to Gareth’s death,” wrote the coroner. “We also wish to record that there was a problem with the lack of response by Rebound to the information from Rainsbrook.”</p> <p>Three years ago I revealed that since Gareth’s death <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">Dave Beadnall had been promoted</a> and was working as health and safety manager for G4S children’s homes. A G4S spokeswoman told me: “His current role does not involve any direct contact with young people.”</p><p>Questions regarding the company’s culture and competence are frequent and grave.</p><p>In October 2013 the South African prison authorities&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/09/g4s-sacked-south-africa-prison-mangaung">took over management of the Mangaung</a>&nbsp;maximum security prison run by G4S after the security company “lost control” of the prison. G4S&nbsp;<a href="http://www.g4s.com/en/media%20centre/news/2013/10/28/mangaung/">strongly denied allegations</a>&nbsp;that it had&nbsp;forcibly administered medication and electric shock treatment to Mangaung inmates.</p> <p>In England this year Kent police have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/carolyne-willow/five-more-arrests-and-another-critical-inspection-report-for-g4s-chil">made 11 arrests</a> in relation to abuse allegations after the BBC’s Panorama programme<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35287765">&nbsp;broadcast undercover footage</a>&nbsp;of children at Medway Secure Training Centre being subjected to physical and emotional abuse by G4S guards.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-bludgeoned-woman-to-death">G4S guard bludgeoned woman to death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-suspends-5-staff-over-alleged-attempts-to-massage-999-res">G4S suspends 5 staff over alleged attempts to massage 999 response figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/duty-of-care-beyond-case-of-mr-ward-cooked-to-death-by-gigantic-outsource">Duty of Care: beyond the case of Mr Ward, cooked to death by gigantic outsourcer G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rob-preece/bullying-kids-g4s-abuse-of-child-prisoners-exposed">Bullying kids: G4S abuse of child prisoners exposed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-independent-report-on-r">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain-s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/ruth-hopkins/g4s-abuses-in-south-african-prison-still-ignored">G4S abuses in South African prison still ignored</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Mon, 13 Jun 2016 06:54:11 +0000 Clare Sambrook 102899 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On Home Office flights private sector guards apply restraints so extreme they are very rarely used in prisons. What happened on the 24/25 May flight to Nigeria and Ghana?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p class="western">Lately one Australian family’s immigration case and prospect of forced removal from the UK made front-page news across Scottish national newspapers, was discussed in the House of Commons, picked up by <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/30/australian-family-in-scotland-win-reprieve-from-deportation">The Guardian</a>, The Independent, the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3618903/Hard-working-Australian-family-threatened-deportation-claim-set-fail-continue-battle-remain-UK.html">Daily Mail</a>, and BBC News — resulting in a job offer that might help keep the family here, and a crowdfunder page that has raised more than £4000. </p> <p class="western">In the same week, around 100 people were torn from their long-standing communities in the UK and forcibly removed to a country from which they fled, or hadn’t lived in for up to 20 years. Of these people, their family, their friends, their distress, the fate that awaits them, there is no public awareness, nor any media reporting. With the exception of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light at openDemocracy</a>, no journalists or media outlets picked up the multiple press releases widely issued by <a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/">The Unity Centre</a> in the lead up to the flight.</p> <p class="western">In the early hours of Wednesday 25 May —&nbsp;at 1am —&nbsp;a delayed private charter plane left Stansted airport, bound for Nigeria and Ghana. The UK government does not publicly reveal the location of departure (even to detainees who are set to be on the plane). The flight itself does not appear on airport flight schedules or online as a planned flight. However, we can reveal that the contracted airline is Titan Airways. </p> <p class="western">Who were the passengers? </p> <p class="western">During the previous weeks, hundreds of people with refused asylum and human rights claims were detained in preparation for the flight. We heard reports from inside the UK’s “detention estate” that around 300 people had been issued removal directions for this particular charter flight.</p><h2>Operation Majestic</h2> <p class="western">The overbooking of seats reflects the Home Office imperative to fill the flight, regardless of people’s individual cases. “Reserve” detainees go through the normal removal procedures, say their goodbyes, are kept on coaches — but don’t know whether or not they’ll be removed until after the flight has left. This practice has been condemned repeatedly by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, as <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/05/2013-Pakistan-escort-web.pdf">lacking in humanity and “unacceptable”.</a></p> <p class="western">The UK government’s policy of forcibly removing people en masse via private charter flights to Nigeria and Ghana (and sometimes Sierra Leone) goes by the code-name “Operation Majestic”.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane big.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p> <p class="western">Commonly, between 60 and 80 people are accompanied by commercially contracted security guards. On the charter flight of May 24/25 this company was <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/home-office-contractors-expected-to-lie-inspection-reveals/">Tascor</a>. Standard practice is <a href="http://www.no-deportations.org.uk/">2 security guards for every detainee</a>, with no independent witnesses or monitoring groups aboard.</p> <p class="western">Between January and March 2016, 438 men and and 23 women were forcibly removed from the UK on a total of 10 charter flights, according to a Home Office response to a Freedom of Information request by John O (FOI 39552, 2 June 2016). The number of private security guards totalled 875. The destinations: Pakistan, Albania, Nigeria and Ghana.</p> <p class="western">On fewer than three flights per year, prisons inspectors are aboard. Reporting on <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/escort-and-removals-to-jamaica-24-25-march-2011/">a removal to Jamaica in 2011</a>, when there were 104 guards from the security company G4S and 35 detainees, the inspectors wrote: “the sheer numbers of staff created an inevitably intimidating atmosphere, regardless of how they conducted themselves. This effect was significantly aggravated by the loud behaviour of a few staff.” Two of the people being removed told inspectors they had lived in the UK for 27 and 36 years respectively. One woman said she had lived in the UK for 12 years and was leaving her 18-year old daughter behind.</p> <p>On a <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/detainees-under-escort-inspection-of-escort-and-removals-to-sri-lanka-6-7-december-2012-by-hm-chief-inspector-of-prisons/">removal flight to Sri Lanka</a> in December 2012, 72 guards from the security company Reliance (now called Tascor) and 3 medics escorted 29 detainees on the 19 hour journey. Prisons inspectors reported: “There were too many escort staff with little or nothing to do.” The people being removed included a person in a wheelchair who was brain damaged, and a 67 year old woman who “had boarded the flight before receiving confirmation of an injunction preventing her removal”.</p><h2>Restraints too extreme for prison</h2> <p>Reporting on a removal to Nigeria and Ghana that took place in November 2013, when there were 82 guards for 42 detainees, <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/04/nigeria-ghana-escorts-2013-rps.pdf">inspectors wrote</a>: “some ways of working had become entrenched, for which there was little justification. These included keeping handcuffs on for much longer than necessary; holding detainees by the arm in secure areas; searching in locations without any privacy; denying privacy to detainees using the toilet; and withholding facilities such as pillows, blankets and hot drinks during an overnight flight without regard to evidence of risk in the individual case. There were deficiencies in the recording and communication of information about risk, which is essential when detainees are being passed from the care of one contractor to another during a very stressful series of events.” </p> <p>Inspectors didn’t join a flight to Nigeria and Ghana again until July 2015. What had changed? &nbsp;<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/11/Nigeria-Ghana-final-web-2015.pdf">The inspectors wrote</a>: “We repeat almost exactly the same points in this report.”&nbsp; </p> <p>They went on: “waist restraint belts had replaced handcuffs, and officers no longer routinely held detainees’ arms within secure detention centres. There was a risk that waist restraint belts, which were now embedded in practice, were being overused and applied whenever there was any ground for supposing that the person might not cooperate during the boarding of the coach or aircraft. They were used on eight detainees during this operation. When the wrists are in the close position (i.e. tight to the hips) they are almost equivalent to body belts, the most extreme and very rarely used, mechanical restraints available in prisons.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/just plane.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p> <p class="western">Detainees tell us that many are held in solitary confinement the night (or two) before a charter flight —perhaps an attempt by the Home Office to avoid collective resistance. Last month one person in detention awaiting forced removal on a charter flight to Pakistan told us: “Yesterday we moved to the short stay side of the centre and they closed our room door at 8pm and then didn’t open…I can’t stay one more night in that room, I am sure I will die because the room is so small and we are two boys in there.” </p> <p class="western">Detainees were packed into coaches the afternoon of Tuesday 24th May. By early evening their phones were switched off — making it difficult for detainees to contact their solicitor or support groups regarding any legal avenues still available that may stop them from being removed.</p><h2>Collective expulsion</h2> <p class="western">Those who were forcibly removed on the 24th/25th include a woman who was served with a refusal of her fresh asylum claim whilst she was waiting for the coach to arrive at Yarl’s Wood (the notorious Bedfordshire detention centre) — indicating the regular Home Office practice of preparing to remove people before their asylum claim has even been legally exhausted. She told us that she was subsequently denied access to the library by members of staff and thus was unable to pursue a judicial review to challenge the refusal of her fresh asylum claim. &nbsp;</p> <p class="western">We do not know whether a judicial review might have stopped her forced removal. The Home Office state that due to the “effort and expense” of a charter flight, a judicial review may not necessarily defer removal.</p> <p class="western">This case demonstrates how one’s nationality (identified by the Home Office) determines who is on a charter flight — regardless of the different stages that people are at within the asylum/immigration process. It challenges David Wood’s<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5374109/Asylum-airlines-your-one-way-flight-to-deportation.html"> claim</a>, asserted whilst acting as UK Border Agency Director of Enforcement, that charter flights are specifically for “difficult” individuals — raising questions about <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/sites/default/files/Collective-Expulsion-report.pdf">collective expulsion</a>.</p> <p class="western">Others removed on the charter flight included a man from the LGBT community, who was forced to leave behind his partner in the UK, and who told us he faces violence and imprisonment upon return to Ghana. </p> <p class="western">Unable to access the legal surgery inside detention before his removal date due to extremely <a href="https://detentioninquiry.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/bail-for-immigration-detainees-access-to-legal-advice-bid1.pdf">long waiting times</a>, he was forced to represent himself, not knowing the scale or depth of evidence needed to substantiate his claim. </p> <p class="western">Another man on the charter flight had come to the UK when he was 14 — but the Home Office failed to recognise him as a dependent of his mother (who now has British citizenship). And so 14 years later he has been forcibly removed from her, his siblings and long-term partner, to a country which he has no family in or memories of.</p> <p class="western">When asked for the number of passengers and reserves on the charter flight, the Home Office responded: “A removal flight to Nigeria and Ghana went ahead on 24 May as planned. We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”</p><p class="western">We do not know what forms of restraint were used on this flight, whether people were treated courteously, or, as has happened on previous flights, subjected to coarse language, excessive physical restraints and racist abuse. This is because there were no independent witnesses aboard and we have lost contact with the people being removed. It is particularly difficult to maintain contact after removal: upon arrival, many people are destitute or forced to go into hiding.</p> <p class="western">Detainees are calling for raised public awareness of the use of charter flights. One person who was deported from the UK last year told us: “It’s about 90 per cent of us that don't want to go, the other 10 per cent don't want to go either but they are tired of being humiliated so they say they are ready.”</p><hr /><p><strong>For more information on mass deportation charter flights, </strong><a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/mass-deportation-charter-flight-to-nigeria-and-ghana-set-for-may-24th/"><strong>see here</strong></a><strong>.</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="western"><strong>To get in touch,</strong> contact The Unity Centre at <a href="mailto:unitycentremedia@gmail.com">unitycentremedia@gmail.com</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-to-be-forcibly-deported-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lotte Lewis Mon, 06 Jun 2016 14:43:11 +0000 Lotte Lewis 102724 at https://www.opendemocracy.net