Shine A Light https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/14893/all cached version 18/04/2018 14:17:05 en 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 Connor Sparrowhawk: How one boy’s death in NHS care inspired a movement for justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/shinealight/sara-ryan-clare-sambrook/connor-sparrowhawk-justiceforLB <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <ul><li>The story of a UK campaign for truth and accountability. And respect for the lives of people who have learning disabilities. Review by Clare Sambrook. Extract by Sara Ryan.</li></ul> </div> </div> </div> <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/Ryan_Sara.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sara Ryan"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Sara.jpg" alt="" title="Sara Ryan" width="460" height="376" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘What has Steve Wright got, Mum?’ he asked. ‘DJitis,’ I said. Sara Ryan (Rich Huggins)</span></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em>, by Sara Ryan</a></h2><h2>Review by Clare Sambrook</h2> <p>Sara Ryan began a blog six years ago, “mostly to document the funny stories that happened in our everyday lives.” Called <a href="https://mydaftlife.com">mydaftlife</a>, it’s a warm and funny read. Ryan has an ear for dialogue, a photographer’s eye —&nbsp;and she’s a nifty swearer. Star of the show is her son Connor, his quirky take on life. One of five children, they call him Laughing Boy, LB for short. He loves lorries, buses, coaches, London, Eddie Stobart, and the family’s Jack Russell, Chunky Stan. </p> <p>Connor is 15 when the blog starts. Here’s a conversation:</p> <ul><li>‘Hey LB! How did meal prep go today?’</li><li>‘Not good, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. Why not?’</li><li>‘I failed, Mum.’</li><li>‘Whaddayamean, you failed?’</li><li>‘I failed, Mum.’</li><li>‘Why? What did you cook?’</li><li>‘Kebabs, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. I don’t get it. What went wrong?’</li><li>‘I didn’t have a skewer, Mum.’</li><li>‘Oh. Why not?’</li><li>‘Dunno, Mum.’</li><li>‘So what did you eat for lunch?’</li><li>‘Bits, Mum.’</li></ul> <p>Connor has autism, learning difficulties, epilepsy. He’s nearing 18 and the prospect of leaving school, the people he knows and likes, when the story darkens. An early encounter with adult social care comes with a manager’s humourless remark: “I am his future.”</p> <p>At home and at school Connor becomes anxious, unhappy, unpredictable, unlike himself. Things come to a head when he punches Big Sue, his beloved support teacher. The family, at their wit’s end, learn that there’s an NHS unit close by that can help. It’s a Short Term Assessment and Treatment Unit (STATT, for short), a mile or two from their Oxford home. It’s called Slade House and run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. There a team of learning disability specialists —&nbsp;psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses —&nbsp;will keep Connor safe, take a few weeks to assess him, work out the cause of his distress.</p> <p>Connor is admitted one night in March 2013. The next morning, in the early hours, he is forcibly restrained by four staff, pinned face-down. Says Ryan: “That was the day he stopped being a sixth former.”</p> <p>Weeks pass. Connor loses weight. One morning, fifteen weeks and two days after his admission, Connor (he has epilepsy, remember) is left alone, behind a locked door, out of earshot, in a steep-sided bath. He has a seizure. And he drowns.</p> <p>His <a href="https://mydaftlife.com">mother’s blog</a>, and now her book, tells this story and its brutal aftermath, as Connor’s family tries to find out what exactly happened to him, how on earth it <em>can</em> have happened at all. </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/Ryan_Justice640.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ryan_Justice640.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="363" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><a href="https://www.inquest.org.uk/family-campaigns">Other families</a> bereaved by state neglect and wrongdoing might find their own experience reflected here: the “indescribable terror”, the pain and struggle, being blocked and bewildered by official lying and contempt. The bullying and the bruising, the character attack, the surveillance, the accusation that <em>you&nbsp;</em>are the problem. </p><p>The waiting. </p><p>And the inequality of arms. About the early days, Ryan writes: “We had no idea how uneven the ‘playing field’ was in a game we didn’t yet understand we were playing.”</p> <p>Ryan’s craft —&nbsp;she is a Senior Research Lead at Oxford University —&nbsp;serves the fight.<strong> </strong>Her partner Richard Huggins is an academic too. Their #JusticeforLB campaign, supported by family, friends, and the charity INQUEST, forces the exposure of negligence and incompetence on a scale that is hard to comprehend. </p> <p>It turns out that seven years <em>before</em> Connor died, another patient <a href="https://mydaftlife.com/2016/03/27/one-way-wriggle-to-the-moon/">drowned in the same NHS unit</a>. <em>In the same bath.</em> A fact that Southern Health concealed for more than two years after Connor’s death. </p> <p>It turns out that Southern Health has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/09/southern-health-nhs-trust-failed-investigate-patient-deaths-inquiry">failed properly to investigate</a> more than 1,000 unexpected deaths —&nbsp;in only four years —&nbsp;and that the deaths of people with learning disabilities are least likely to be investigated. Fewer than 1% of <em>their</em> unexpected deaths have been looked into. <em>One per cent</em>. As if their lives and deaths don’t matter.</p> <p>Without #JusticeforLB these things and more would likely have stayed hidden.</p> <p>Ryan points to the premature mortality rates of people with learning disabilities in the UK, the hate crime, the “lukewarm outrage” to documented experiences of abuse, the lethal undertow of eugenics.</p> <p>Connor’s life, a happy life, well-lived, shared, recorded, celebrated, proves the wrong and falsity in all of that. </p> <p>Ryan’s book speaks of a family’s dreadful loss, charts a creative, comradely and joyous campaign for truth, for justice and accountability, strikes a blow for human rights. And brings to life her funny, kind and much-loved son.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_2bigger5.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="65" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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/536680/3500.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Connor at his school prom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/3500.jpg" alt="" title="Connor at his school prom" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor at his school prom (#JusticeforLB)</span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em></a></h2><h2>Extract by Sara Ryan</h2><p>One thing that was never pinned down during the inquest was what actually happened on the morning Connor died. We found out from the documentation and witness statements that Connor woke up and was going to have a bath before going to visit the Oxford Bus Company. According to the documentation his support worker and key nurse checked on him every 15 minutes until 9.15am when he was found unconscious. Where the decision for 15-minute observations came from was never uncovered, as witness after witness was asked and said they didn’t know.</p> <p>They were both in the nurses’ office which was across the corridor from the bathroom, a short distance away. The support worker was doing an online Tesco order in between checking on Connor. The mundaneness of this detail fills me with queasiness. Still. Ticking the ‘3 for 2’ box while Connor drowned feet away. Their statements and witness testimony provided contradictory evidence about who did what and when. The support worker’s evidence revealed that the bathroom door was locked. She used a key to open it before she found him. Until then, we hadn’t been told that the bathroom door had been locked. </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/connor_bus2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_bus2.jpg" alt="" title="‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Bus’ by Connor Sparrowhawk</span></span></span></p><p>So, not only was Connor not supervised in the bath, but he was locked in the room. This was presented as allowing Connor the privacy to do ‘what boys do in the bathroom’. It was never made clear who locked the door. When it was raised a second time, one or two barristers leapt up to say that we did not know if the door was ‘locked’ – this in spite of the evidence given by the support worker that she had ‘used a key to open it’.</p> <p>Thinking back to Connor bathing at home in the downstairs bathroom with no door, and a constant in‑and‑out of talking to him, reminding him to wash his hair, chatting&nbsp;to him and answering his endless questions, I felt physically sick. In 18 years, we had never left him in the bath with the door shut, let alone locked. Big Sue and Tina said that, on residential school trips, they would always stand by the door of the shower and talk to the kids, even those without epilepsy. </p> <p>Sitting there in full view of the jury and listening to the evidence – ‘I checked…oh no, he checked’ sort of stuff – my brain was screaming: ‘What the actual fuck were you doing? Who checked? When? Did you ever fucking “check”? Or did you suddenly wonder where he was?’ The contradictory evidence over who checked and when was never fully addressed during the inquest.</p> <p>Staff evidence exhibited a mix of remorsefulness, defensiveness, reflectiveness and the downright offensive. The hardest to sit through was [consultant psychiatrist] Dr Murphy, which spread from the Friday afternoon in person to the following Monday by video link from Ireland.</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/Justicequilt-6_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen &amp; Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before his death (Ryan)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Justicequilt-6_0.jpg" alt="" title="Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen &amp; Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before his death (Ryan)" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Step-dad, Rich, brothers Owen & Tom, Connor (far right) two weeks before he died (Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p>We knew from the Verita review [February 2014,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=76277">PDF here</a>]&nbsp;that Dr Murphy had assessed that Connor had not had a seizure on 20 May. She took his subsequent statement that he remembered biting his tongue when angry as the accepted version of what happened without discussion with us. The fact that she interacted with Connor a handful of times across the 107 days was irrelevant.</p> <p>When asked about if Connor had had a seizure, would it be appropriate to leave him in the bath, she replied, ‘If it was a proven seizure, it wouldn’t have been appropriate.’ She went on to say, ‘My understanding is Connor didn’t have a seizure while he was on the ward’ – a point the Coroner dismissed, gently reminding her Connor had a seizure on the day he died.</p> <p>When questioned about the bleedingly obvious point that you don’t rule seizure activity out in a patient with epilepsy, she replied, ‘I made a judgement call on that day, with all the information I had and I’m always thinking bigger picture and I think that’s normal.’</p> <p>Paul Bowen QC, [the family’s barrister] making his polite, missile-like points, continued his questioning, drawing on the testimony of expert witness Professor Crawford, a consultant neurologist and Director of the Special Centre for Epilepsy, York.</p><p>‘Dr Ryan had seen her son have seizures in the past.’</p> <p>‘Yes.’</p> <p>‘And she had seen how he presented after a seizure. And she was the best person to know, having seen him that day whether it was likely or not that he had had a seizure, wasn’t she?’</p> <p>‘I suppose so.’</p> <p>‘And indeed, I could put it to you that Professor Crawford draws the conclusion that it probably was as a result of an unobserved seizure that he bit his tongue.’</p> <p>‘Well, with all due respect, Professor Crawford wasn’t there.’</p> <p>‘I could say the same, you weren’t actually there when he was supposed to have had the seizure.’</p> <p>No.</p> <p>The inquest was obviously a difficult process, and compounded by what seemed to be a continuing tendency to mother‑blame. The staff witness statements produced for Connor’s inquest offered further examples of this. This set of statements typically included a section headed ‘My Relationship with Dr Ryan’ or just ‘Dr Ryan’. Such a heading was unnecessary for many reasons, not least that Connor clearly had a large family who (apart from Tom, who at 13 years old was not allowed on the ward) visited him in the Unit and interacted with staff. It was also odd given I was called Sara in the Unit – there was no ‘Dr’ stuff in those days.</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/connor_tom.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Connor and his brother Tom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/connor_tom.jpg" alt="" title="Connor and his brother Tom" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At Marble Arch, waiting for the bus home after birthday day out, Connor & Tom (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p>Charlotte [Haworth Hird, a leading human rights solicitor] sent us these witness statements in September 2015 with an email warning us of the content. It’s odd really, contrasting the actions that help or ease, with those that make a devastating situation worse. Reading the evidence in advance of Connor’s inquest was devastating. For example, a student nurse who until that point I thought I had got on well with stated:</p> <p>‘I had seen Dr Ryan shouting at a consultant and I did not want to experience that. I was scared of her; she was a bit different.’</p> <p>When something goes catastrophically wrong, pinning the blame on ‘Mum’ or the family rather than trying to establish openly and transparently what went wrong is one of those aspects of public sector provision that has consistently floored us over the past few years. Of course, mother-blame does, in effect, help to relieve a Trust or County Council from having to think about the pain and grief bereaved families experience.</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/Ch6x2nsWwAEZjdZ.jpg-large_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Craftivisim by George Julian"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Ch6x2nsWwAEZjdZ.jpg-large_0.jpeg" alt="" title="Craftivisim by George Julian" width="240" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Craftivisim by George Julian #JusticeforLB</span></span></span>It is also indicative of a wider shortcoming in many health and social care services – of failing to want to understand the experiences and views of families, and failing to factor this in when making decisions or statements.</p> <p>The County Council was also firing nuclear-type missiles our way. We received an independent report commissioned by the Director of Adult Social Care one morning, out of the blue. The report arrived in my inbox two weeks after it had been circulated to everyone and their dog. It was almost farcical, as so much of it was inaccurate. It was also deeply biased, slipping into a review about me and my actions rather than what happened and why.</p> <p>Days before Connor’s inquest began, Alicia Wood, then CEO of the Housing and Support Alliance (now known as Learning Disability England), had forwarded a copy of a letter to Caoilfhionn Gallagher, the human rights barrister who had earlier offered us pro bono support. The letter was from a less reflective Oxford County Council commissioner who had written to two disability activists excusing the Council’s role in commissioning such crap services. As I read it, I could see again subtexts of mother-blame.</p> <p>She described feeling ‘immense sympathy’ for me while stating, in the same sentence, that she believed my campaigning had done a lot of damage. ‘In hindsight’ featured, as it does so commonly when something goes catastrophically wrong. We-could-possibly-have-done-more-but-we-were-so-stretched-type bollocks. The letter ends with a toe-curling paragraph which combines ‘immensely sorry’ with the comment that bloggers have ‘a duty to be honest and accurate’:</p><p>‘My hope is that she can find some kind of peace with this, and that one day, she might be able to move on.’</p><p>Weary Mother, a regular contributor to my blog, captured what the experience is like for many mothers in the following comment on mydaftlife:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">So many of us have fought so bloody hard for justice for our sons and daughters and have all been treated as brutally as Sara and her family has…just for seeking justice. Many of us battle on, like Sara, now. </p><p class="blockquote-new">My son is an actor with a group composed of people with learning disabilities. With tears running down my face I watched him when they performed a play about the First World War. My son was the only soldier from that village to come home. In his tattered uniform he came slowly down the aisle in church, Last Post playing quietly. He leaned heavily on stick (as he now does from damage done to him in real life), his head bandaged and bloody. At front the widows wait with his wife, who moves towards him in beautiful and moving joy. </p><p class="blockquote-new">In the background, slowly and in time to the gently played Last Post, a row of our dead boys walk in line, eyes bandaged and unseeing, comrades all. Arm stretched out, hand on comrade’s shoulder. </p><p class="blockquote-new">I wept. So many, so many…so bloody many. Harm is done to our boys and our girls and like those widows, we are grateful if they just come home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>When cross-questioned at Connor’s inquest, the student nurse changed her position and said she was not scared of me. She said I was a mother trying to do her best for her son.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – A Death by Indifference</a>,</em>&nbsp;by Sara Ryan with a foreword by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.<br /> <strong>To order a copy for £12.99 go to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Jessica Kingsley Publishers</a>.</strong></p><hr /><p><iframe width="460" height="258" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gMtOGXBEDuo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a style="font-size: 17px;" href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/justiceforlb?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Ehashtag">#JusticeforLB: Notes by Clare Sambrook</a></h2> <p>• Sara Ryan continues to blog at <a href="http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/">mydaftlife</a>.</p> <p>• Connor’s family is supported by the charity&nbsp;<a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/">INQUEST</a>, and represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Charlotte Hird Haworth of Bindmans solicitors.</p> <p>• Six weeks after Connor died, an unannounced inspection of Slade House by the Care Quality Commission found it to be inadequate in all 10 measures of assessment. That CQC report, published in November 2013, can be found in <a href="https://mydaftlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/cqc-slade-house-final-report-1.pdf">PDF here.</a>&nbsp;Sara Ryan notes: “The report reads like an inspection of a Victorian asylum.”</p> <p>• In February 2014 the Verita report, commissioned by Southern Health, confirmed&nbsp;that Connor’s death was preventable. <a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=76277">PDF here.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>•&nbsp;A police investigation into Connor’s death was closed in August 2014.</p> <p>•&nbsp;An inquest jury determined in October 2015 that Connor’s death was contributed to by neglect and very serious failings —&nbsp;failings in the assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy in patients with learning disability, errors and omission in Connor’s care at the unit, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust Short Term Assessment and Treatment Unit (STATT), Slade House. The <a href="justiceforlb.org:full-jury-findings-connor-sparrowhawk-justiceforlb">full jury findings are here.</a></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/DNpj-P4XUAUI5qo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, 2 November 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DNpj-P4XUAUI5qo.jpg" alt="" title="Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, 2 November 2017" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sara Ryan at the launch of her book, Doughty Street Chambers, London, November 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>• Under pressure from the #JusticeforLB campaign, NHS England commissioned an independent review of deaths of people with a learning disability or mental health problem in contact with Southern Health (from April 2011 to March 2015), known as the Mazars review. Despite Southern Health’s attempts to stop it, the report was published in December 2015. Mazars identified multiple failures of leadership and governance, and revealed that Southern Health had failed properly to investigate more than a thousand unexpected deaths, and that fewer than 1% of the unexpected deaths of people with learning disabilities were looked into. <a href="https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/12/mazars-rep.pdf">PDF here.</a> The matter was debated in the House of Lords on 10 December 2015. <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/151210-0001.htm">Text here</a>.</p> <p>• The Mazars findings prompted the Secretary of State for Health to ask the Care Quality Commission to examine how acute, community and mental health NHS trusts across England investigate and learn from deaths and identify necessary improvements. That review, published in December 2016 (<a href="https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/20161213-learning-candour-accountability-full-report.pdf">PDF here</a>), reported that “families often have a poor experience of investigations and are not always treated with kindness, respect and honesty.” And: “This was particularly the case for families and carers of people with a mental health problem or learning disability.”</p> <p>•&nbsp;On 9 June 2016, Southern Health accepted full responsibility for Connor’s death, admitted negligence, admitted that it had violated both Connor’s and his family’s human rights. Statement <a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/">here</a> and below. </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/KatrinaPERCY_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/KatrinaPERCY_0.jpg" alt="" title="Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy" width="240" height="264" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ex-chief executive Katrina Percy</span></span></span>• In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36922039">July 2016 the BBC revealed</a> that Southern Health had handed contracts worth millions of pounds to past associates of chief executive Katrina Percy.</p><p>•&nbsp;In August 2016, under pressure from the public, patients and families bereaved by the Trust’s neglect, the Southern Health NHS Trust Board invited chief executive Katrina Percy to step sideways into a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37288843">£240,000-a-year job created especially for her</a>. </p><p>• In October 2016, under continued pressure, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/190k-payoff-for-ex-chief-of-nhs-trust-that-failed-to-investig">Percy stepped down from that role with a £190,000 payoff</a>. At the time of writing (November 2017) Percy is advertising her <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/katrina-percy-88481258/">“strategic consultancy” services on Linkedin</a>. She cites her “inspirational and visionary leadership”, her reputation for “creating a culture which is open, accessible and energised”, and for “delivering ambitious service transformation, financial, quality and operational performance.”</p> <p>•&nbsp;In August 2017 a medical tribunal found multiple failings by Dr Valerie Murphy, the lead clinician responsible for treating Connor. During the tribunal Sara Ryan was grilled for two hours by Dr Murphy’s barrister which she described as a “barbaric experience”. Ryan <a href="http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15488161.__39_Inhumane__39___Connor_Sparrowhawk__39_s_mum_outraged_by_delay_to_tribunal_decision/">told the Oxford Mail</a>: “It was truly traumatising. It was a complete shock.” In November 2017 the tribunal found Murphy <a href="http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15656594.TRIBUNAL___Deplorable__care_failures_in_Connor_Sparrowhawk_tragedy/">guilty of misconduct</a> and said she had failed in ways that “fellow professionals would regard to be deplorable.” The Tribunal is due to meet in February 2018 to consider a sanction for Dr Murphy.</p> <p>• On 18 September 2017, Southern Health <a href="http://press.hse.gov.uk/2017/southern-health-nhs-foundation-trust-pleads-guilty-following-hse-prosecution/">pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws</a> in relation to Connor’s death. Two months later Southern Health <a href="https://www.shponline.co.uk/southern-health-nhs-trust-admits-guilt-womans-death/">admitted guilt</a> in relation to the death in April 2012 of 45 year old Teresa Colvin. The Trust’s new chief executive Dr Nick Broughton said: “The prosecutions against the trust are extremely serious and have contributed to a wholesale programme of change.”</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="23" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">We can't stop thinking about this dream of <a href="https://twitter.com/sarasiobhan">@sarasiobhan</a> 's. Wouldn't it just be incredible? <a href="https://t.co/g4ugkT9Zl5">https://t.co/g4ugkT9Zl5</a> <a href="https://t.co/WexHTdOa6W">pic.twitter.com/WexHTdOa6W</a></p>— My Life My Choice (@mylifemychoice1) <a href="https://twitter.com/mylifemychoice1/status/723161111189659648">April 21, 2016</a></blockquote><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/">Trust statement regarding Connor Sparrowhawk’s death</a></h2> <p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><strong>Southern Health NHS Trust Statement, June 2016</strong></span></p><p>Almost three years ago Connor Sparrowhawk died while in our care, for which we are deeply sorry, and we would like to take this opportunity to again offer our unreserved apologies to his family for his preventable death.</p> <p>We have now been able to come to a successfully mediated settlement with Connor’s family, as detailed in the statement below. The statement and an easy version of the statement are also attached on the right hand side of this page as pdf documents.</p> <p><strong>PUBLIC STATEMENT BY THE TRUST</strong></p> <p>1. Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (“the Trust”) accepts that it was responsible for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, an 18-year-old boy who was a much loved son, brother and friend. He died on 4th July 2013 whilst in the care and custody of the Short Term Assessment and Treatment (“STATT”) Unit, Slade House, for which the Trust was responsible. Connor’s preventable death was the result of multiple systemic and individual failures by the Trust in the care provided to Connor on the STATT Unit.</p> <p>2. The Trust accepts:</p> <p>(i) The findings of the independent investigation into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk by Verita, dated February 2014, which concluded that his death was preventable and found significant failings in the care provided to Connor in particular concerning the management of his epilepsy;</p> <h2><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/southern_banner.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/southern_banner.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="121" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/"></a></h2><p><a href="http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news-archive/2016/trust-statement-regarding-connor-sparrowhawks-death/"></a></p><p>(ii) The findings of the inquest jury on 16th October 2015, which determined that Connor died by drowning following an epileptic seizure while in the bath, contributed to by neglect* due to a number of very serious failings. These failings included both failures in the systems and processes in place to ensure adequate assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy in patients with learning disability at the STATT Unit, and in terms of errors and omissions in relation to Connor’s care whilst on the Unit. The Trust accepts that contributory factors included:</p> <ul><li>(a) A lack of clinical leadership on the STATT Unit;</li><li>(b) A lack of adequate training and the provision of guidance for nursing staff in the assessment, care and risk management of epilepsy;</li><li>(c) Very serious failings in relation to Connor’s bathing arrangements;&nbsp;</li><li>(d) Failure to complete an adequate history of Connor’s epilepsy;&nbsp;</li><li>(e) Failure to complete an epilepsy risk assessment soon after admission;</li><li>(f) Failure to complete an epilepsy risk assessment thereafter;&nbsp;</li><li>(g) Inadequate communication by staff with Connor’s family regarding his epilepsy care, needs and risks.</li></ul><p> 3. Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust acknowledges and accepts that:</p> <p>(i) The failings identified by Verita and by the inquest jury:</p> <ul><li>(a) Caused Connor’s death.</li><li>(b) Were negligent breaches of the duty of care the Trust owed to Connor.</li><li>(c) Violated Connor’s right to life protected by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.</li><li>(d) Violated the Article 2 rights of Connor’s family.</li></ul> <p>(ii) The Trust failed to take all reasonable steps to locate all relevant evidence and to disclose this to the Coroner and Connor’s family.</p> <p>4. The Trust will pay Connor’s family the sum of £80,000 by way of compensation for its unlawful acts and omissions.</p> <p>5. The Trust fully acknowledges that Dr. Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the Justice for LB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way. To the extent that there have been comments to the contrary by Trust staff and family members of staff, these do not represent the view of the Trust and are expressly disavowed.</p> <p>*As that word is understood in coronial law.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><a href="http://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html"><em>Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;A Death by Indifference</em>, by Sara Ryan</a>&nbsp;with a foreword by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.&nbsp;</h2><h2><strong>To order a copy for £12.99 go to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jkp.com/uk/justice-for-laughing-boy-2.html">Jessica Kingsley Publishers</a>.<hr /></strong></h2><p><strong><br /></strong></p><h2><strong><em>Produced by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></strong></h2><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/buses_line_CROP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="23" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></em></strong></p><p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><hr /><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></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/tom-ryan/since-my-brother-s-preventable-death">Since my brother’s preventable death . . .</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/190k-payoff-for-ex-chief-of-nhs-trust-that-failed-to-investig">£190K payoff for ex-chief of NHS Trust that failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/imogen-tyler/connor-sparrowhawk-erosion-of-accountability-in-nhs">Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability in the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death">On Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don-t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">Ministry of Justice says you don’t need a lawyer at an Inquest. Trust the State</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ally-rogers/we-apologise-to-anybody-who-feels-let-down">‘We apologise to anybody who feels let down’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</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 ourNHS Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Sara Ryan Wed, 29 Nov 2017 00:06:20 +0000 Sara Ryan and Clare Sambrook 114931 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Please get me moved from here!’ Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/pregnant-woman-g4s-asylum-housing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Refugee and asylum seeking women are shockingly over-represented in the records of UK maternal deaths. Yet pregnant women and infants continue to be placed in dangerous housing.</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/RearwindowyardSharonshouse.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rear window of Sharon&#039;s G4S asylum home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RearwindowyardSharonshouse.JPG" alt="" title="Rear window of Sharon&#039;s G4S asylum home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rear window of Sharon’s G4S asylum home (all images by John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>One showery September morning I stood outside a large red brick house, just off the town centre in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.</p> <p>I’d been told that the hostel was being used by the security company G4S as accommodation for pregnant women asylum seekers, and lone mothers with babies. One of the growing number of lone mother and refugee children hostels <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shame-of-asylum-housing-of-child-refugees-in-the-uk/">in the UK’s asylum market</a>.</p> <p>Old carpets had been dumped in the hostel’s back yard, a blocked drain overflowed. It didn’t seem a safe place for children to play.</p> <h2>Leaky ceilings and filthy carpets</h2> <p>“Come and see, carpet is too dirty for my baby!” Rita shows me to her room, introduces me to her fourteen month old son. Friends had provided a play-mat to cover the filthy carpet.</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/BackyardSharonsHouseplay.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Back yard, Sharon’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BackyardSharonsHouseplay.JPG" alt="" title="Back yard, Sharon’s home" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Safe for toddlers? Back yard, Sharon’s home</span></span></span>Rita and her housemate Janet were showing me round the hostel. In the kitchen Janet said: “This kitchen is the only room we can meet and let the children play.” She showed me damp patches on the kitchen ceiling where water had leaked from the bathroom above.</p> <p>We looked in on the lounge. “We can’t use this room now, they put old beds in there,” Janet said. It was packed with beds and children’s buggies. “We have nowhere else to put them, the stairs are steep.”</p> <p>A local agency who work with women survivors of trafficking had asked me to take a look at the hostel. They’d protested to G4S on behalf of a client from West Africa, a heavily pregnant woman who had been placed in a room at the top of the house, up three flights of stairs.</p><p><span>An agency worker told me: “Sharon says the place is very dirty and that she is stranded at the top of the house. G4S are simply not doing anything about her.</span><span>” </span></p><p><span>I&nbsp;</span>climbed up the stairs to Sharon’s room. She was sitting on her bed. I apologised for visiting on my own. (Usually I visit all-women accommodation alongside a female colleague). “That’s OK, please get me moved from here, I have never unpacked,” Sharon said. “I must move. I am in constant pain, in both my knees. I cannot take painkillers, for the baby.”</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/StaircarpetcloseupSharonshouse.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Dirty staircase, Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/StaircarpetcloseupSharonshouse.JPG" alt="" title="Dirty staircase, Rose’s home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dirty staircase, Rose’s home</span></span></span>I recognised Sharon. She had been in a G4S house in Barnsley. I had been told that earlier in her pregnancy she had been in an attic room there and had fallen down the stairs. “They have said I will maybe have a C-section. I could not carry my baby up all those stairs. I stay in bed most of the time,” she said.</p> <p>The carpets along the corridors and the stair carpets were filthy. G4S display a management sheet in their houses to record all inspections, cleaning and work. The sheet showed the hostel communal areas had last been cleaned in early July, almost three months previously.</p> <p>An official resident list named twelve people, six of them apparently small children under three years. There was a baby of fifteen months and a toddler of two and a half. The record was incomplete: Sharon and some others were not listed.</p> <h2>Punished for complaining</h2> <p>The previous week I had been to see Rose, in another G4S house, in Sheffield. Rose, also from West Africa, is a survivor of trafficking. In this house too the corridor and stair carpets were dirty. The last recorded clean had been over three months ago. </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/Floorlevelkichencupboard_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Floorlevelkichencupboard_0.JPG" alt="" title="Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home </span></span></span></p><p>“I can’t walk in bare feet outside my room, the soles of my slippers are dirty.” Rose said. She showed me her own very clean room, and the women’s clean bathrooms. “There are seven women here, just one dirty kitchen, I have to store pans and food in my room,” she said.</p> <p>Two women joined us in the kitchen. Tina opened a floor cupboard, exposing mould and dirt. “I never come down here at night, not for months, there are cockroaches when you put the lights on.”</p> <p>On the notice-board a Pest Control notice, dated February 2017, mentioned cockroaches, but there was no evidence of visits in the eight months since then. </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/PestControlnoticecockroaches.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pest control notice in Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PestControlnoticecockroaches.JPG" alt="" title="Pest control notice in Rose’s home" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pest control notice in Rose’s home</span></span></span>On the same notice board was a threatening warning to the women, a controversial ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">behave or get deported’</a> notice.&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course G4S doesn’t have powers to deport tenants. I’d exposed this particular abuse of power <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">here back in April 2017</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>G4S claimed then that they were withdrawing the notices from the properties they managed.</p> <p>Rose told me: “I was forced to move a month ago from a really clean, nice house in Rotherham. I had friends and help there. I complained to G4S because a woman in my house was aggressive and shouted at me. She was really mentally ill, but she reminded me of the woman who trafficked me here. I was very frightened. G4S did not give her a place on her own —&nbsp;they moved me instead.” Rose seemed depressed, and became tearful as I left.</p> <h2>33 weeks pregnant, moved away from medical help</h2> <p>In Barnsley, on the 29th of September, I visited Lucy. She was 33 weeks pregnant, but that day she’d been moved from Barnsley town, near the hospital, to a shared house six miles away in a former mining village, on the outer edge of the borough. Lucy told me she had appointments with her midwife in Barnsley, and at the hospital, over the next few days.</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/BEHAVE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="G4S letter to tenants implying it has powers to deport"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BEHAVE.JPG" alt="" title="G4S letter to tenants implying it has powers to deport" width="240" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S implies it has powers to deport</span></span></span>“I cannot stay here, I could walk to the hospital when I was in Barnsley. The G4S driver said this place was six miles from Barnsley, he pleaded with the G4S welfare officer not to put me up here. I rang about a taxi to get to the hospital — he said it would cost £18 there and back.” </p> <p>On the 4th of October, Lucy asked me to post a letter from her midwife to G4S and the Home Office. The letter confirmed that Lucy was now 34 weeks pregnant and at high risk. It went on:</p> <p>“She is currently housed in accommodation in the attic 2 flights of very steep stairs. This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing and will not be suitable for her baby when she delivers. She has also been moved away from this surgery which means a two bus journey for appointments.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing.</p> <p>Lucy told me: “Take my picture walking up these stairs, there are three flights of stairs.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Three weeks on, and 36 weeks pregnant Lucy is still waiting for a move.</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/Lucyalmostatherroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lucy at top of double flight of stairs"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Lucyalmostatherroom.JPG" alt="" title="Lucy at top of double flight of stairs" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Midwife: “This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing.” </span></span></span></p> <h2>Children’s early years, blighted</h2> <p>G4S, the largest security company in the world, won a slice of the £1.7 billion UK Home Office COMPASS (Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support) contract in June 2012 with two other security companies, Serco and Reliance. None of them had experience of housing. In the first months of the contract an Ethiopian woman whose <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">twelve week old baby had a heart defect</a>, was transported from Bradford, forty miles away, to a tiny flat in Doncaster with no cooker, table or chair, and only a tiny sink to wash dishes and clothes. </p> <p>In November 2012, Angela, from West Africa, a survivor of trafficking, was transferred with her five month old baby son from her Leeds council flat to a slum property — by Cascade Housing, then a G4S subcontractor. The back yard was piled with rubbish. The place was infested with cockroaches and slugs. She did not dare put her baby on the floor. Angela <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby-s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">found a cockroach in her baby’s bottle</a>.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Refugee and asylum seeking women make up 12% of maternal deaths, and 0.3% of the UK population.</p><p>In 2013 in evidence to a Children’s Society parliamentary investigation Dr Jenny Phillimore of Birmingham University pointed to “<a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/Policy/asylum-inquiry/dr_jenny_phillimore.pdf">growing evidence of high maternal and infant mortality rates amongst asylum seekers and in asylum seeker dispersal areas</a> …Refugee and asylum seeking women make up 12% of all maternal deaths, and 0.3% of the population in the UK. The perinatal mortality rates in the City Hospital Trust area of Birmingham which at the time of data collection contained the highest concentration of asylum seeker housing in the city, is 12 per 1000 and rising compared with a national average of 7.6.” Dr Phillimore told the inquiry. “The City Hospital area of Birmingham has <a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/Policy/asylum-inquiry/asylum_support_for_children_and_young_people_-_session_1.pdf">the highest infant mortality rate in Europe</a>, not just in the UK.”</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/bedsbuggiesSharonslounge.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lounge packed with beds and buggies"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bedsbuggiesSharonslounge.JPG" alt="" title="Lounge packed with beds and buggies" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Communal lounge in Sharon’s home</span></span></span></p><p>In 2013 the Refugee Council and the Maternity Alliance issued their report “<a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0002/6402/When_Maternity_Doesn_t_Matter_-_Ref_Council__Maternity_Action_report_Feb2013.pdf">When Maternity Doesn’t Matter</a>: dispersing pregnant women seeking asylum”, based on interviews with twenty women. The researchers found:</p> <p>“Accommodation for pregnant women or those who had recently given birth was often inappropriate. There was rudimentary equipment for the baby but little effort was made to ensure adequate hygiene and sanitary facilities for new-borns. <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0002/6402/When_Maternity_Doesn_t_Matter_-_Ref_Council__Maternity_Action_report_Feb2013.pdf">Women often had to climb several flights of stairs to their rooms.</a>” </p> <p>In 2016, in Glasgow, in Serco’s COMPASS contract area, Red Cross researchers spoke to pregnant asylum seekers, and new mothers in their report <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/~/media/BritishRedCross/Documents/About%20us/A%20Healthy%20Start%20Report.pdf">“A Healthy Start?</a>”:</p> <p>“The state of carpets preoccupied several of the women with young babies who were about to crawl and spending quite a lot of time on the floor. Living in a dirty, cramped house meant that many of them were not feeling able to relax and feel at home. Several lived on upper floors, which caused difficulties when trying to carry a baby, a buggy and bags of shopping up several flights of stairs.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Accommodation for pregnant women or those who had recently given birth was often inappropriate.</p> <p>On 31 January 2017, the&nbsp; record of the private companies in asylum housing was laid bare in the latest UK Home Affairs Select Committee report on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/637/63702.htm">Asylum Accommodation,</a> which 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> <h2>Making money from refugee babies and toddlers</h2> <p>I and my SYMAAG colleague Violet Dickenson and fellow campaigners have worked alongside brave whistleblower tenants over five years to expose conditions in the G4S <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">mother and baby market</a> in asylum housing hostels. We exposed the G4S/Jomast Stockton hostel in 2012 where mothers described their rooms as “cells”, and a G4S Leeds hostel in 2015 in a grubby Victorian villa with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">one bath for twelve women and eleven babies</a>.</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/firetrap_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/firetrap_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In June this year support workers told me about a G4S/ Cascade <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">“fire trap hostel”</a> in Halifax with seventeen people, parents, a pregnant mother, new born babies and toddlers.</p> <p>G4S gets £8.42 per family member, per night, for these hostels (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 of taxpayer’s money. The Doncaster hostel’s take would be around £3,000, every month. </p> <p>Jomast Accommodation Ltd., the G4S contractor in the North East of England, has extended the Stockton hostel, and developed similar hostels in Hartlepool and Newcastle. Smaller G4S hostels for lone mothers and babies have appeared in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Doncaster, Derby, Barnsley and recently in Huddersfield.</p> <h2>The Hostile Environment</h2> <p>The UK Labour government by 2009 was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inside-yarls-wood-britains-shame-over-child-detainees-1674380.html">locking up 2000 children a year in detention centres, around half of them in the Serco managed Yarl’s Wood centre, near Bedford.</a> In April 2009 after an inspection of Yarl’s Wood <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inside-yarls-wood-britains-shame-over-child-detainees-1674380.html">the Independent reported</a> that the Children’s Commissioner for England “found that seriously ill children were denied hospital treatment.... ….Children suffering from serious medical conditions and the mentally ill were routinely kept in detention despite guidelines stating clearly they should not be. …. An eight-month-old baby with asthma was neither released nor given an inhaler.”</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/Underplaymat.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Under the play-mat"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Underplaymat.JPG" alt="" title="Under the play-mat" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Under the play-mat</span></span></span></p><p>In September 2009, Home Office Director of Criminality and Detention at the UK Border Agency and former Assistant Commissioner at the Met, <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/dave-wood-6846056a">Dave Wood</a>, was called before the Home Affairs Committee. He described Yarl’s Wood as a “family friendly detention centre”. MPs asked him: “Why are children detained under the immigration system, because they have not done anything wrong, have they?” Wood explained that the lack of detention <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c7436e4b-362a-45b4-a2c4-d0fe1086223c">“would act as a significant magnet and pull to families from abroad”.</a></p> <p>In May 2017, the government handed G4S <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/09/g4s-welfare-support-families-children-deportation-gatwick">a new contract to lock up families</a> at the Tinsley House detention centre at Gatwick airport. BBC TV Panorama in early September 2017 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/g4s_brook_house_immigration_removal_centre_undercover">exposed the violence and mistreatment of people</a> detained in G4S’s other Gatwick centre, Brook House.</p> <p>G4S, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/11/g4s-guards-at-youth-prison-alleged-to-have-falsified-reports-to-avoid-fines">exposed for its abuse of children</a> in children’s prisons, like Medway in Kent, which it managed, decided to sell (yes it can sell!), these youth prison contracts together with its children’s homes. G4S Children’s services as a whole had annual revenues of £40m from government and local authority contracts. In June 2017, G4S <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/06/03/g4s-sells-controversial-childrens-homes-business/">sold eighteen of its children’s homes to the Prospect Group for over £11m</a>.</p> <p>In December 2016, the government handed G4S, Serco and Clearsprings a two year extension to their asylum housing contracts, stretching them to September 2019. In August 2017, the Home Office started to advertise for <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/08/05/government-launches-tendering-process-troublesome-asylum-seekers/">new contracts from 2019.</a> The contracts are worth £600m of public money. </p> <p>Consider the companies’ record. Consider the very notion of international security companies being handed control over housing for pregnant women, for refugee babies and children. For years now we’ve listened to asylum tenants. We’ve witnessed conditions that blight children’s lives. Campaigners are working hard to stop international security companies like G4S and Serco getting contracts to house refugee babies and children.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: For the refugee women’s protection, names have been changed in this article.</em></p><p><em>All images by John Grayson. Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></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/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 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/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/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</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/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/five-years-of-denial-uk-government-s-reckless-pursuit-of-punitive-asylum-">Five years of denial: the UK government’s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy — never mind the evidence of harm</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 G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 20 Oct 2017 11:07:33 +0000 John Grayson 114149 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 On the lethal restraint of young black Londoner, Rashan Charles https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/shinealight/clare-sambrook/police-restraint-of-rashan-charles-hackney-ipcc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The police claimed that an officer intervened to prevent a young man from harming himself. Video evidence suggests a different story. (<em>warning</em>: distressing)</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/DFY9xChWsAAcM7v.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rashan Charles, according to @kasxest on Twitter"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DFY9xChWsAAcM7v.jpg" alt="" title="Rashan Charles, according to @kasxest on Twitter" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashan Charles, according to @kasxest on Twitter</span></span></span></p><p>On Friday morning, 4 August, I emailed some questions to the UK police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).</p><p>My questions concerned the moments leading up to the death of Rashan Charles, a 20 year old black man, in the early morning of Saturday, 22 July 2017, in the London borough of Hackney.</p><p>You can see something of what happened to Rashan in a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/rashman-police-watchdog-to-investigate-lethal-restraint-of-young-black">video that was posted</a>&nbsp;on Twitter and Facebook late on that Saturday night. (<em>Warning</em>: it’s distressing).</p><p>The place is&nbsp;a supermarket&nbsp;on&nbsp;Hackney’s Kingsland Road. What we’re seeing is the shop’s CCTV footage.&nbsp;A young black man, slightly built, walks down a supermarket aisle. We see him from behind. That’s Rashan Charles.</p><p>A uniformed police officer runs into view, grabs Rashan from behind, pulls him around, pushes him back towards the camera. Nothing we see in Rashan’s demeanour suggests threat. We see no behaviour that might explain what happens next.</p> <p>The officer hurls Rashan to the floor, leans heavily on top of him, appears to apply a headlock. Rashan’s legs kick against the floor. </p><p>A shop worker in a blue shirt, holding cardboard, looks on.</p><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/536680/RASHMAN_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rashan Jermaine Charles under police restraint, Hackney, Saturday 22 July 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RASHMAN_1.jpg" alt="" title="Rashan Jermaine Charles under police restraint, Hackney, Saturday 22 July 2017" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashan Jermaine Charles under police restraint, Hackney, Saturday 22 July 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>Another man, tall, athletic, in blue jeans and black top, gets astride Rashan, pinning his legs down. The uniformed officer cuffs Rashan behind his back.</p> <p>At about 1 minute 45 seconds Rashan appears to stop moving. The officer and the tall man look into his face. The officer shakes him. Rashan stays face down on the floor, hands cuffed behind his back, the tall athletic man still pinning him down.</p> <p>The video lasts 2 minutes and 17 seconds. (A longer, 3 minute 52 second, version of the video appeared on YouTube late on Sunday afternoon. Rashan is still under restraint by the end of it.)</p><p></p><p><iframe width=“560" height=“315” src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rNvf6puOd3c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><h2><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">The official version</span></h2> <p>Across UK national media by Sunday 07:00 only BBC online had noted the incident. (I preserved the BBC’s first report <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/rashman-police-watchdog-to-investigate-lethal-restraint-of-young-black">here</a>&nbsp;and below.) A video was mentioned. The BBC chose not to share that with the public, not to describe its contents, not to provide a hyperlink.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 1.2em;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BBC_REPORT_SCREENSHOT_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="BBC report captured Sunday 23 July 7.04AM"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BBC_REPORT_SCREENSHOT_0.jpg" alt="" title="BBC report captured Sunday 23 July 7.04AM" width="240" height="519" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BBC report captured Sunday 23 July 07:04hrs</span></span></span></span></p><p>No mention of “restraint”. Not by the police. Not by the BBC who reported only the official line: The police had followed a man on foot after trying to stop a car on the Kingsland Road. The police had “intervened” to “prevent the man from harming himself”. He was “taken ill” after “trying to swallow an object”.</p><p>What might those words suggest? A young man out for the night, fleeing the police, swallowing illegal drugs, choking? A police officer, stepping in, trying to save the young man’s life? </p> <p>We might picture the swallowing, the choking, the calming, the encouragement to cough, the 5 back blows, the 5 abdominal thrusts, the <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2301.aspx?categoryid=72">actions recommended in the event of someone choking</a>. </p> <p>Nothing like that happens in the video.</p> <p>Later that Sunday morning, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/ipcc-investigating-police-contact-man-hackney-he-died">issued a statement</a> announcing the start of its investigation. </p> <p>The IPCC stated: “The man became unwell and first aid was provided by a police officer, police medic and paramedics. The IPCC has obtained evidence which indicates an object was removed from his throat at the scene.” </p> <p>Again, no mention of “restraint”.</p> <h2><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">Eight seconds behind</span></h2> <p>On the morning of Monday 24 July the <em>London Evening Standard</em> online published <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/cctv-footage-shows-rashan-charles-swallow-object-while-being-chased-by-police-a3594521.html">a second video,</a> 53 seconds long, including, the <em>Standard</em> claimed, the moment Rashan swallows an object.</p> <p>The video tells its own story, with elements the <em>Standard</em> failed to note.</p><p><iframe src='//players.brightcove.net/1348423965/E1bbO8ZNcg_default/index.html?videoId=5518922071001' allowfullscreen frameborder=0></iframe></p><p>The camera, inside the shop, watches the entrance. At about 11 seconds into the video Rashan walks in. We see his face. He puts his hand to his mouth (the moment, the <em>Standard</em> says, when he swallowed an object).&nbsp;Rashan walks across our screen and out of view.</p><p>About 8 seconds after Rashan walked in, the police officer follows, running into the shop. We see his face. He runs out of shot. For about 7 seconds, in the&nbsp;<em>Standard</em>&nbsp;video, both men are unseen.&nbsp;</p><p>What happens during those seconds? The first video shows some of it: Rashan walking down the supermarket aisle, the police officer running, grabbing Rashan from behind, pulling him, turning him, pushing him.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/cctv-footage-shows-rashan-charles-swallow-object-while-being-chased-by-police-a3594521.html"><em>Standard </em>video</a> picks up the story as they come back into view. The officer has got Rashan’s arms pushed up behind his back. He pushes Rashan against an ice-cream cabinet, then throws him to the floor. Of the scene on the floor we see only Rashan’s trainers, kicking against the floor.</p> <p>The first video shows more of what’s happening on the floor: the heavy and prolonged restraint, the tall man joining in, Rashan falling still.</p> <p>Some questions:</p> <p>In what way was the officer trying to prevent Rashan from harming himself? Which actions suggest the prevention of harm?</p> <p>If, as the Metropolitan Police claimed (and the police watchdog and the BBC repeated) the officer “intervened” to prevent Rashan from harming himself, how could the officer know that Rashan had swallowed something? The video evidence suggests that he ran into the shop 8 seconds <i>after</i> Rashan is presumed to have swallowed.</p> <h2><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">Death by “restraint”</span></h2> <p>The first video appeared on my Twitter feed early on Sunday morning, 23 July 2017. I viewed it maybe 20 times, noted detail and timings, published <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/rashman-police-watchdog-to-investigate-lethal-restraint-of-young-black">my report</a>, with video embedded, and quoting the BBC story in full, here on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a> that Sunday morning, and launched it on Twitter. (Rashan had been identified on social media only, and by his nickname “Rashman”.)</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">my report: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rashman?src=hash">#Rashman</a>: Police watchdog to investigate lethal restraint of young black man in Hackney | <a href="https://twitter.com/SHINEreports">@SHINEreports</a> <a href="https://t.co/4JBNqGB9eI">https://t.co/4JBNqGB9eI</a></p>— CLARE SAMBROOK (@CLARESAMBROOK) <a href="https://twitter.com/CLARESAMBROOK/status/889058686504759297">July 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script type="text/javascript"></script><p>I got the story out fast: I’d researched other state-related deaths of which the first official reports, containing such phrases as “taken ill”, “became unwell”, “took ill”, proved misleading.</p> <p>I’ve reported on “restraint-related” deaths of people of colour, including <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">Jimmy Mubenga</a>, aged 46, restrained to death by G4S guards during a failed deportation attempt, and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">Gareth Myatt</a>, aged 15, restrained to death by G4S guards in a child prison. (<em>Warning</em>: these links go to distressing material including violently offensive racist language).</p><p>I was concerned that the police statement and the BBC report had failed even to mention the restraint on Rashan.</p><h2><span style="font-size: 1.2em;">A reporter's assumption, some questions and answers</span></h2> <p>In my report I described the second man, the tall athletic man who gets himself astride Rashan and pins his legs down, as a “plain clothes officer”. I’d made an assumption. Wrong, apparently.</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/rash2ndmanimage1stvid.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&#039;Member of public&#039; assists police officer in restraining Rashan Charles (still image from first video)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/rash2ndmanimage1stvid.jpg" alt="" title="&#039;Member of public&#039; assists police officer in restraining Rashan Charles (still image from first video)" width="460" height="417" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Member of public' assists police officer in restraining Rashan Charles (still image from first video)</span></span></span></p> <p>According to an IPCC update on 25 July: “The officer restrained Mr Charles, with assistance from a member of the public.” On 28 July, the IPCC <a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/independent-investigation-death-rashan-charles-%E2%80%93-actions-so-far">again reported</a>: “A member of the public visible on CCTV and involved in Rashan’s restraint is not connected to the police.”</p> <p>On the morning of Friday 4 August I emailed some questions to the IPCC. Later that day, a press officer emailed back.</p> <p>Here are my questions, with the IPCC’s answers in <strong><em>bold italics</em></strong>. The first questions concern the “member of the public”. The last question concerns how the officer might have known that Rashan had put something into his mouth.</p> <i>SAMBROOK: Regarding IPCC statement “A member of the public visible on CCTV and involved in Rashan’s restraint is not connected to the police.”&nbsp;Please would you advise:&nbsp;Did that person act in response to request from the police?</i><p><i><strong>IPCC: This will form part of our investigation.</strong></i></p><p><i>SAMBROOK: Has he been interviewed under caution and / or charged in relation to the incident?</i></p><p><i><strong>IPCC: No —&nbsp;he has been interviewed though and a witness statement taken.</strong></i></p><p><i>SAMBROOK: Can you state his occupation?</i></p><p><i><strong>IPCC: No.</strong></i></p><p><i>SAMBROOK: Regarding: “not connected to the police”, can you confirm that he has no connection with police or other security services?</i></p><p><i><strong>IPCC: Not police or security services.</strong></i></p><p><i>SAMBROOK: Regarding video released showing Rashan Charles entering the shop and putting something into his mouth (video&nbsp;<a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/cctv-footage-shows-rashan-charles-swallow-object-while-being-chased-by-police-a3594521.html">here</a>):&nbsp;Question:&nbsp;Am I correct that the camera is in front of Rashan Charles and the police officer is behind him?&nbsp;</i></p><p><i><strong>IPCC:&nbsp;I’m afraid my decrepit IT doesn’t let me play that video but Rashan is afro-caribbean and wearing a dark jacket. Stills from that video are further down in the article.</strong></i></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IPCC_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IPCC_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="278" height="99" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2><em>Look over there!</em></h2> <p>The first official line from the Metropolitan Police, the IPCC and the BBC, the assertion that Rashan had swallowed an object, and the police officer was trying to prevent him from harming himself, the official line that excluded any mention of the restraint, <em>that matters</em>. </p> <p>The police and their “independent”&nbsp;watchdog, aided by the BBC, launched a convenient narrative early, directing the media and public curiosity towards the swallowed object, inviting speculation about what it might be, what it might reveal about Rashan, his intentions and his character:&nbsp;<em>Look over there!</em></p> <p>They suppressed, by omission, an inconvenient narrative, for which there was video evidence, the story of the restraint, the story of what was done to Rashan, the police actions leading up to his death.</p> <p>On Wednesday 2 August, <a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/update-following-meeting-family-rashan-charles-0">the IPCC stated</a> that it had received the results of: “forensic analysis of an object that was removed from Rashan’s airway by paramedics”. </p> <p>And: “The object did not contain a controlled substance.”</p> <p>On Thursday 3 August, the IPCC released <a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/commissioner-update-regarding-death-rashan-charles">another statement</a>, this time from the Commissioner overseeing the Rashan Charles investigation, <a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/about/who-we-are/our-team/cindy-butts">Cindy Butts</a>. She said: “We did not provide further details, because the contents of the package are not directly relevant to our&nbsp;investigation&nbsp;– we are looking into the circumstances of Rashan’s death, not investigating Rashan. However, given the inflammatory nature of some ongoing speculation I will confirm that the package consisted of a mixture of paracetamol and caffeine wrapped in plastic.”&nbsp;</p> <h2>The conduct of those involved in the incident</h2> <p>Rashan’s family also <a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/media/pr/rashan-charles-statement">issued a statement</a> that day. They noted their concern about the IPCC’s “openness and transparency” which was “regrettable at this stage”. </p> <p>About the package and the results of forensic analysis, the Charles family said: “While this is important, we wish to make it clear that the content of the package must not detract from our primary concern, which is to investigate the conduct of those involved in the incident that led to Rashan’s death.”</p><p>The Charles family statement was published by INQUEST,&nbsp;the charity that supports people bereaved by state-related deaths. (The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Carolynn Gallwey and Chanel Dolcy of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.)&nbsp;</p><p>Beneath the family statement, INQUEST noted:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">We are aware of the following deaths after police contact in June/July 2017:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Wednesday 21 June - Edir Frederico Da Costa, 25, black male, died in Newham, East London following restraint by police after stop and search six days earlier.</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Wednesday 19 July - Darren Cumberbatch, 32, black male, died in Nuneaton, Warwickshire following restraint by police.</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Saturday 15 July - Shane Bryant, 29, black male, died in Leicestershire following restraint by members of public and police two days earlier.</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Saturday 22 July - Rashan J Charles, 20, black male, died in Hackney, East London following restraint by police after stop and search.</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Updates on investigations into these deaths from the IPCC can be found&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news">here</a>.</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><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/kojo-kyerewaa/14-year-old-black-boy-on-his-way-home-from-youth-choir">A 14 year old black boy on his way home from youth choir. . .</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/rashan-charles-rashman">Rashman: Police watchdog to investigate lethal restraint of young black man in Hackney</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/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 odd"> <a href="/shinealight/kojo-kyerewaa/fuck-police-working-class-youth-and-routine-abuse-of-power">&#039;Fuck the police!&#039; Working-class youth and the routine abuse of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jon-burnett/twenty-years-after-racist-murder-of-stephen-lawrence-what-has-changed">Twenty years after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, what has changed?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/harmit-athwal/since-stephen-lawrences-racist-murder-how-many-more-ninety-six">Since Stephen Lawrence&#039;s racist murder, how many more? Ninety-six</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 G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:25:10 +0000 Clare Sambrook 112756 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rashman: Police watchdog to investigate lethal restraint of young black man in Hackney https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook/rashan-charles-rashman <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <ul><li>Police claim officer “intervened” to “prevent the man from harming himself”. But video shows sustained restraint. (warning: distressing)</li></ul> </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/RASHMAN_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RASHMAN_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashan Jermaine Charles under police restraint, Hackney, Saturday 22 July 2017</span></span></span></p><p><em>UPDATE According to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40696004">BBC.co.uk</a> at 11AM Sunday the young man was aged 20 and has been named by his family as Rashan Jermaine Charles.</em></p><p></p>The Metropolitan police has claimed that a young black man who died in the London borough of Hackney in the early hours of Saturday morning was “taken ill” after “trying to swallow an object” and that a police officer “intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself”. <p>But <a href="https://twitter.com/_coinz/status/888885496117694464">video circulating on social media</a> appears to tell a different story.</p> <p>The video shows the young man, who has been identified as “Rashman”, walking down the aisle of a shop.&nbsp;</p> <p>A uniformed police officer grabs him from behind and pulls him backwards.&nbsp;</p> <p>The young, slightly built, black man appears to put up no resistance.</p> <p>The officer then appears to throw the young man to the floor, chest down, landing heavily on top of him. He then appears to apply a headlock. The young man’s legs can be seen moving.</p> <p><iframe width=“560" height=“315” src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rNvf6puOd3c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>At 1 minute 12 seconds a second officer, in plain clothes, joins the restraint, appearing to sit astride the young man, pinning his legs down, while the first officer handcuffs him from behind. [See note* below]</p> <p>At about 1 minute 45 seconds the man appears to stop moving, both officers look into his face, and the uniformed officer shakes him. The restraint continues.</p> <p>In the closing moments of the video, at around 2 minutes 20 seconds, the uniformed officer stands up. The plain clothes officer appears to continue the restraint. (A longer, 3 minute 52 second, version of the video appeared on Youtube late on Sunday afternoon. Rashman is still under restraint by the end of it.)</p> <p>A shop worker apparently witnesses the restraint. There is no audio of the incident. The video’s audio track carries sounds of the shop till and people chatting, presumably at the front of the shop.</p> <p>The video was posted on Twitter by @_coinz at 11.16pm on Saturday 22 July and has been shared using the hashtags #Rashman #justiceforrashman and #JusticeForRash .</p> <p>Here is the BBC’s Sunday 7.30AM report in full:</p> <p><em>The Met Police said the man was followed on foot after officers tried to stop a car in Kingsland Road, Hackney, at 01:45 BST on Saturday.</em></p> <p><em>He was "taken ill" after "trying to swallow an object" and was pronounced dead in hospital a short time later, the force said.</em></p> <p><em>The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been informed.</em></p> <p><em>Footage apparently showing the incident has been shared on social media, along with the hashtag #JusticeForRash.</em></p> <p><em>Police said the officer "intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself".</em></p> <p><em>A force medic provided first aid at the scene before London Ambulance Service paramedics arrived.</em></p> <p><em>The man, who has not been named, was taken to an east London hospital and pronounced dead at 02:55.</em></p> <p><em>Police said next of kin had been informed and a post-mortem examination and formal identification would be "arranged in due course".</em></p> <p><em>"The Directorate of Professional Standards and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have been informed and have declared the incident independent," a force spokesman added.</em></p> <p>People have shared <a href="https://twitter.com/kasxest/status/888965932248444928">pictures of Rashman</a> on social media.</p><p>*NOTE: According to an IPCC update on 25 July: “The officer restrained Mr Charles, with assistance from a member of the public.” See: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/shinealight/clare-sambrook/police-restraint-of-rashan-charles-hackney-ipcc">On the lethal restraint of young black Londoner, Rashan Charles</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/DFY9xChWsAAcM7v_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DFY9xChWsAAcM7v_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashman, according to @kasxest on Twitter</span></span></span></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><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/shinealight/clare-sambrook/police-restraint-of-rashan-charles-hackney-ipcc">On the lethal restraint of young black Londoner, Rashan Charles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/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/carolyne-willow/uk-charity-seeks-funds-to-challenge-use-of-painful-restraints-on-childre">UK charity seeks funds to challenge use of painful restraints on children</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/lara-pawson/unlawful-killing-why-jimmy-mubengas-death-is-british-business">Unlawful killing: Why Jimmy Mubenga&#039;s death is British business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/damola-awoyokun/no-surprises-in-failure-to-prosecute-g4s-over-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">No surprises in failure to prosecute G4S over death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <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> </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 Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Sun, 23 Jul 2017 09:25:00 +0000 Clare Sambrook 112448 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Residents challenge council plans to demolish their homes https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/residents-challenge-Lambeth-plans-to-demolish-homes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Central Hill housing estate in South London is threatened with demolition. Residents are challenging the “regeneration”. Photos by Wasi Daniju, words by Lotte Lewis.</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/AWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Lambeth Council plans to demolish the Central Hill estate where I live with my dad in South London. <a href="https://housingmanagement.lambeth.gov.uk/estates-regeneration">Central Hill is one of six estates threatened with demolition.</a>&nbsp;There are 456 homes on the estate and a long-established, close knit community. That will be lost during a regeneration programme that could take more than a decade to complete. Even then, there is no guarantee people could afford homes on the new site. Most people are against the plans, but feel ignored by the council. There are residents here who have lived on the estate since its completion in 1975.</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/BWASI_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BWASI_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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/CWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Last month the residents of the estate held an open day, hosted by the <a href="https://www.savecentralhill.org.uk/">Save Central Hill campaign group</a> and <a href="https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/">Architects for Social Housing</a>. Visitors learned about the history of the estate and the campaign to stop the Labour-led council’s demolition of people’s homes. People shared stories and discussed their encounters with the council. One resident said that the council would <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/lambethhousingregen/pages/1033/attachments/original/1477334021/ASH_Proposals_-_commentary_-_April_2016.pdf?1477334021">replace the existing low-rise maisonettes and flats on the estate with tower blocks measuring just under 30 metres high</a>. Building regulations stipulate that buildings over 30 metres must be fitted with sprinklers. Some new tower blocks will be built on stilts, but the height of the stilts won’t be counted in the height of the building. As one resident says, <em>if there was a fire and you were forced to jump out of the window to escape, the uncounted void – due to the stilts – will not reduce your fall.&nbsp;</em></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/DWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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/EWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><div>The open day took place four days after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire. As I walked through the tightly knitted corridors of the estate, I heard worried voices: <em>“Do we have any cladding like Grenfell’s? Can we get the council to install sprinklers in our flats?”</em></div> <p>Campaign group <a href="https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/category/save-central-hill-community/">Architects for Social Housing</a> have spent two years working with residents in the Central Hill to design an alternative plan, showing the possibility of building more housing on the estate and refurbishing existing housing – without demolishing a single home. Lambeth Council instantly dismissed the proposal without further explanation.</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/FWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Central Hill was designed in the 1960s by <a href="https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/home/rosemary-stjernstedt-london-public-architect-dies-at-86/781421.article">Rosemary Stjernstedt</a>, who worked for the Lambeth Borough Architects headed up by Ted Hollamby. The houses on the Central Hill estate were built low, offering impressive views of London’s skyline. Every home was built with a garden or a spacious patio. Hollamby’s ethos was to put <a href="https://billetto.co.uk/e/open-house-london-central-hill-estate-by-ted-hollamby-and-rosemary-stjernstedt-tickets-96086">“people at the heart of his designs”.</a> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/31/council-estates-if-they-arent-broken-lambeth-council-central-hill-estate-social-housing-affordable#img-2">Trees and wildlife were left to flourish in communal areas.</a></p><p>Maybe we are not entitled to these views. Or the spacious flats, the greenery and the tranquillity. Lambeth Council’s ‘regeneration’ plan will see us kicked from our homes. The area will be given to those deemed worthy of the space: developers, investors and anyone rich enough to buy the replacement luxury flats (white businessmen, from the look of the images in Lambeth’s design leaflets).</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/GWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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/HWASIjpg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/HWASIjpg.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>‘Housing crisis’ is all over Lambeth’s leaflets for the project. A stream of leaflets is posted through my dad’s door. On its <a href="http://estateregeneration.lambeth.gov.uk/hfl">specially designed website</a> the council writes: “We need these better homes for existing residents, and more new homes to help tackle Lambeth’s housing crisis.”</p> <p>But what sort of housing crisis? Why is the solution knocking down spacious, well-built homes?</p> <p>The council makes it sound like there aren’t enough houses in London for people to live in. But there are <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/20/over-200000-homes-in-england-still-lying-empty-despite-housing-shortages">nearly 20,000 empty homes in the capital</a>, worth about £9.4bn based on the average cost of a London home, which is £474,704. In Lambeth there are 756 empty homes and in the borough of Kensington &amp; Chelsea, where Grenfell Tower still stands, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/20/over-200000-homes-in-england-still-lying-empty-despite-housing-shortages">there are 1,399 empty homes</a>.</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/IWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>The official line is that this regeneration project will benefit us, the residents. We don’t believe this. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/31/council-estates-if-they-arent-broken-lambeth-council-central-hill-estate-social-housing-affordable">Just under five per cent of residents on our estate support the demolition, a fact ignored by Lambeth Council.</a> And regeneration is an expensive business. The council says it wants to build an additional 500 to 750 homes. Architects for Social Housing estimates that Lambeth Council could spend between £225-240,000 per flat. <a href="https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/in-defence-of-central-hill/">That’s between £100m and £120m to demolish and rebuild existing homes.</a> </p> <p>Residents say the council told them construction could last 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, it is unclear where we will live.&nbsp; Or to use the council’s terminology, where we will be ‘decanted’ to. It’s highly unlikely that we will be able to return to the area at all, but if some do, they will be returning to a transformed area. Towering blocks of flats will replace Rosemary Stjernstedt’s vision. <a href="https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/g9359/Public%20reports%20pack%20Monday%2012-Oct-2015%2019.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10">Approximately a fifth of residents</a> are elderly and worry about losing their accessible maisonettes. In light of Grenfell everyone is fearful.</p> <p>The strength and solidarity witnessed in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire demonstrates the thriving survival of community in spite of daily attacks from central government and local councils.</p> <p>Many living on Central Hill estate have been here since its completion in 1975, and at the open day referred to the destruction of the community, rather than just the physical estate. One resident said that on some days, it took her nearly an hour to get from one side of the estate to the other, because on her way she would bump into so many people she has built friendships with over the years. The strength of our communities are a threat to capitalism – and the desire to dismantle it by those in power is clear. There is a painted mural in the middle of the estate that the community had commissioned to read ‘Save Central Hill Community’. When Lambeth Council saw this, they ordered that it be repainted, and now it only reads ‘Community’.</p> <p>Many living on the estate are suffering physically and emotionally from the prospect of having no home, as well as the continually changing “evolution of the promise” made to residents by Lambeth Council. The term ‘regeneration’ – spouted by developers, on council surveys and gentrifying businesses – refers to <em>new growth after loss or breakage</em>. Our communities aren’t broken, and where and who we live with are not without value.</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/JWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/JWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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/KWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/KWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Lambeth Council has set up <a href="https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/s77353/Homes%20for%20Lambeth%20an%20SPV%20for%20Lambeth%20Appendix%20C.pdf">Homes For Lambeth</a>, a standalone property development company, to manage the demolition and rebuild of the six estates. When the new housing is built, Homes for Lambeth, rather than Lambeth Council, will be responsible for maintenance and managing tenancies. Homes for Lambeth is the glossy face of its £120m project with promises to increase housing capacity by nearly 45 per cent. But residents are wary. London councils have form in steamrolling through regeneration projects with little meaningful community consultation. The <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/11/look-heygate-estate-whats-wrong-londons-housing">Heygate Estate regeneration</a> in Elephant &amp; Castle is the famous example: the number of social rented homes fell from 1,200 to 79. A one-bedroom flat will set you back £380,000. <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/16/every-flat-in-new-london-estate-has-been-sold-to-foreign-investors-6577715/">More rooms if you have a million-pounds to spare.</a></p> <p>Just two weeks ago&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/03/britain-power-contempt-grenfell-labour-haringey-social-housing">Haringey Council voted to push through widely criticised development plans</a> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/03/labour-mps-urge-haringey-council-to-rethink-housing-sell-off">despite widespread opposition.</a>&nbsp;&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/LWASI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/LWASI.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Some residents worry that the estate has been neglected and poorly managed by the council; the shabbier the estate is the easier it is to argue the case for regeneration. The council’s response to residents’ complaints has been to ignore them, and as Grenfell has shown, this is happening to social tenants across London. </p> <p>Even so, the estate meets the Lambeth’s own housing standards. &nbsp;An internal survey found of residents revealed that the estate is structurally sound, and that refurbishment would cost around a tenth of the current plan to demolish and rebuild. Regeneration <em>is</em> political: rather than properly inspect the mould on my bedroom wall, or make sure all streetlamps work properly when I walk home at night, Lambeth Council will erase the failures they have chosen to ignore.</p> <p>One Central Hill resident declared at the open day: “There is no such thing as the voiceless; there are only those who have their voices systematically and deliberately smothered by those with greater power.”</p><p>The evening of the open day, I walked into Crystal Palace and came across the graffiti artist Artful Dodger painting a mural of Grenfell on an empty wall. It was a warm night, and as groups of passers by sat down together and watched him paint, conversations about Grenfell leading to gentrification and our own areas. When finished, the mural read, <em>Grenfell…How many more will follow?</em> The Council painted over it the next day.</p> <p><span>Visit <a href="www.savecentralhill.org.uk">www.savecentralhill.org.uk</a> t</span><span>o find out more about the Save Central Hill campaign.</span></p><ul><li>Edited by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;at openDemocracy.</li><li>To follow Wasi on Twitter:&nbsp;@knox_o</li><li>Lotte tweets&nbsp;@lotte_lee_lewis</li><li>To follow Rebecca and Shine A Light:&nbsp;</li><li>@Rebecca_Omonira</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><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>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span><br /></span></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/why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coalition-britain">Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-simon-s-story">Losing your home: Simon’s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/hsiao-hung-pai/grenfell-tower-and-people-without-capital">Grenfell tower and the people without capital</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london"> Fire in neo-liberal London</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">The Age of Corbyn 2: Inferno</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 Austerity Shine A Light Lotte Lewis Wasi Daniju Tue, 18 Jul 2017 23:07:59 +0000 Wasi Daniju and Lotte Lewis 112146 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? G4S dodges difficult questions</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="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/sian-evans/fighting-to-win-asylum-from-rape-case-of-erioth-mwesigwa">Fighting to win asylum from rape: the case of Erioth Mwesigwa </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/fail-and-prosper-how-privatisation-really-works">Fail and prosper: how privatisation really works</a> </div> <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/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 odd"> <a href="/shinealight/stuart-crosthwaite/marked-out-for-attack-living-in-uk-asylum-market">Marked out for attack: living in the UK &#039;asylum market&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/antony-loewenstein/disaster-capitalism-and-outsourcing-of-violence-in-uk">Disaster capitalism, and the outsourcing of violence in the UK</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> </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 UK charity seeks funds to challenge use of painful restraints on children https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/carolyne-willow/uk-charity-seeks-funds-to-challenge-use-of-painful-restraints-on-childre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can it be wrong to hurt vulnerable children <em>inside</em> a secure children’s home, but all right to inflict pain in transit?</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/**boy460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/**boy460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image by @ReeceWykes</span></span></span></p><p>Some 200 of the most vulnerable children in England and Wales are held in secure children’s homes. The law prohibits staff from using pain-inducing restraint on children <em>inside</em> the <em>homes</em>. But <em>outside</em> the homes, on visits to court, hospital or a family funeral, pain-inducing restraint <em>is</em> permitted for those children who are remanded or sentenced. What’s more, children can be locked into a “waist restraint belt”. In relation to immigration deportation, the prisons inspectorate has warned the waist restraint belt can be used like a “body belt”,&nbsp; the most extreme form of restraint available in prison, and very rarely used.</p> <p>At the children’s rights charity Article 39, we aim to stop the authorisation of painful and unjustified restraint on vulnerable children. We’re <a href="https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/no-pain-restraint/">seeking funds to mount a legal challenge</a> against the Ministry of Justice. <span></span></p> <p>Secure children’s homes are not the same as child prisons. Of the 200 children in secure children’s homes, about half are placed there for their own welfare and half sent by criminal courts.</p><p> The needs and backgrounds of children sent by the two different routes are virtually identical.</p><p> <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/585991/key-characteristics-of-admissions-april-2014-to-march-2016.pdf">Youth Justice Board data</a> shows that 40 per cent of children sent from criminal courts to secure children’s homes in 2014-16 were children in care. Nearly half (47%) were believed to have a learning disability or difficulty. The same proportion were said by council staff to be at risk of suicide or self-harm. And 17 per cent of the children were the subject of a local authority child protection plan, meaning action was already being taken to protect them from harm.</p> <p class="p1">By anyone’s standards, children in secure children’s homes are extremely vulnerable.</p><p><a class="mag-quote-right" href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463220/Guide_to_Children_s_Home_Standards_inc_quality_standards_Version__1.17_FINAL.pdf">“Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children’s homes.”</a></p><p class="p1">The security company GeoAmey holds the Ministry of Justice contract to escort remanded and sentenced children to and from secure children’s homes. GeoAmey has, <a href="https://www.geoamey.co.uk/services/youth-justice-board">“a fleet of 30 vehicles designed specifically for the transportation of children and young people”,</a> according to the company’s website.</p><p class="p1"> Last year, the Youth Justice Board revealed in its annual report that the behaviour management system devised for child prisons is now used by its <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539930/Youth_Justice_Board_Annual_Report_and_Accounts__2015_to_2016.pdf">“secure escort contractor” taking children to and from secure children’s homes</a>. This system includes techniques that deliberately inflict pain on children. A new form of restraint equipment — the “waist restraint belt” — has been added for the purposes of escorting.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Inflicting pain during restraint is banned inside children’s homes. Statutory guidance states:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463220/Guide_to_Children_s_Home_Standards_inc_quality_standards_Version__1.17_FINAL.pdf">“Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children’s homes.”</a></p> <p>We wanted to know what the prison service’s independent medical advisor had told the government about the safety of restraint techniques used on detained children. </p> <p class="p1">The response to our freedom of information request last September explained that the medical advisor had graded use of the techniques in different scenarios for likelihood of harm, and for the level of seriousness of potential harm. </p> <p class="p1">Of 66 scenarios, 28 were rated as 2, on a scale of 1-5, for the risk of “death or permanent severe disability affecting everyday life”. If a child is subject to restraint with a “head hold”, the waist restraint belt carries this intolerable risk, we were told. Not surprisingly, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/543806/DSO_07-2016_Use_of_Restraints.pdf">the Home Office has banned the use of the waist restraint belt on pregnant detainees</a>.</p><p class="p1"> The Ministry of Justice told us at the same time that no child had suffered serious injury or breathing difficulties while under escort. But this doesn’t explain why the Ministry of Justice has authorised the use of pain during escort, when the Department for Education says such treatment can never be proportionate.</p><p class="p1"> There is also the question of when restraint can be lawfully used on vulnerable children. The law allows escort officers to restrain children for “good order and discipline”, even though similar statutory rules were <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/882.html">quashed by the Court of Appeal</a> in 2008 as a breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Staff working in children’s homes are not permitted to restrain children to make them follow orders.</p><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Adam Rickwood"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ADAMRICKWOOD460.jpg" alt="" title="Adam Rickwood" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Rickwood</span></span></span></div><p>The infliction of pain on children during restraint has proved lethal.</p><p class="p1"> Fourteen year-old Adam Rickwood was remanded to a secure training centre run by Serco in Durham. There were no custodial places to begin with, so Adam was looked after in a children’s home where he settled well. Once imprisoned, his mental health severely deteriorated. He threatened to take his own life and wrote to the judge pleading for bail. </p> <p class="p1">One Sunday, around a month after Adam arrived at the secure training centre, he was instructed to go to his cell because he had passed a note between two other children. The officer who read the note disapproved of its contents. Adam asked what he had done wrong and refused to leave the communal area. The restraint procedure was activated and four officers came running into the unit, grabbed hold of Adam and carried him, face down, into his cell. One of these four officers later conceded that Adam had been calm and had even tried to defuse the situation. </p> <p class="p1">Adam struggled against the unlawful assault and was inflicted with a “nose distraction”, a restraint technique transferred from adult prisons. Officers would apply an “upward strike” to a child’s nose with the intention of causing severe pain. Adam’s nose bled for around an hour and his requests to go to hospital for an X-ray were ignored. </p> <p class="p1">Hours later, Adam was found hanging in his cell.</p> <p>Adam left behind a note for his lawyer explaining he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose, and they said it was restraint. </p> <p>Adam died 13 years ago. </p> <p>Since then authoritative experts and NGOs have expressed opposition to this form of restraint. They include the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Human Rights Council, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the NSPCC and the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners.</p><p> Adam was not the only imprisoned child to die following restraint in 2004. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">Fifteen year-old Gareth Myatt</a> was in a secure training centre in Northamptonshire run by G4S. He refused to clean a sandwich toaster because other children had also used it.</p><p> Gareth was ordered to his cell. He complied. Officers followed him and started removing his few possessions, including a piece of paper that had his mother’s new mobile phone number on it. Gareth was said to have raised his fist at this point.</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/GARETH_MYATT460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Gareth Myatt"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GARETH_MYATT460.jpg" alt="" title="Gareth Myatt" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gareth Myatt</span></span></span></p> <p>An officer “enveloped” Gareth who weighed just 6½ stone and stood less than five feet tall. Three officers then forced Gareth into a sitting position and bent his upper body towards his thighs and knees. They ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.</p><p> The terrifying ordeal lasted for six or seven minutes before Gareth lost consciousness. </p> <p>This was his first time in custody. He had been sentenced on a Friday afternoon. By the following Monday evening he was dead.</p> <p>The inquests, litigation, reviews and investigations which followed the deaths of Gareth and Adam brought into public view the reality of widespread unlawful restraint. The prison service was contracted to come up with a new system of behaviour management and restraint, and this was launched in 2012. It is called “Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint” (MMPR).&nbsp;</p><p> One-third of the restraint techniques within the MMPR system rely on the deliberate infliction of pain. The “nose distraction” that devastated Adam was replaced by the “mandibular angle technique”. </p> <p>This involves officers applying pressure behind a child’s ear at the back of the jaw. We can try and piece together what is involved by reading the instructions to trainers that haven’t been redacted (crucial bits are blacked-out): </p> <p>The instructors are told: “Emphasise staff can use finger or knuckle dependent on length of finger nails.” And: “Apply pressure inward and forward at a 45 degree angle.” </p> <p>Last year BBC Panorama <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2016/jan/11/panorama-exposes-teenage-prison-abuse-video-extract">appeared to show a 14 year-old child, ‘Billy’, being subject to the mandibular angle technique</a> at Medway secure training centre, which was then run by G4S. (It was later transferred to the prison service). Billy tells the officer he can’t breathe. Panorama asked Dr Andrew McDonnell, a clinical psychologist with expertise in reducing the use of restraint, to view the video clip. He said what was done to Billy was “really dangerous”. </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/fucking_door_G4S460_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot, BBC Panorama, &#039;Teenage prison abuse exposed&#039;, January 2016"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/fucking_door_G4S460_0.jpg" alt="" title="Screenshot, BBC Panorama, &#039;Teenage prison abuse exposed&#039;, January 2016" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot, BBC Panorama, 'Teenage prison abuse exposed', January 2016</span></span></span></p> <p>The mandibular angle technique features in the independent medical advisor’s assessment. When a child is standing (as Billy was) or being held down, this is also rated 2, on a scale of 1-5, for likelihood of causing death or permanent severe disability.</p><p> Adam and Gareth had both lived in children’s homes. Adam had hoped to move back to one. He kept his packed sports bag in the staff room so he could quickly leave the secure training centre once news of his bail arrived. He took his bag out of the staff room the day before he died, apparently resigned that a transfer to a children’s home was not going to happen.</p> <p>As well as prohibiting pain, children’s homes’ statutory guidance says: “Children in residential child care should be loved, happy, healthy, safe from harm and able to develop, thrive and fulfil their potential.” </p> <p>That statement is based upon centuries of learning about the needs of children, and conveys the respect we now give to children as human beings with dignity, feelings and rights. Our legal challenge seeks to uphold this commitment to children, from the moment they leave the court building. </p> <p>As a small charity, Article 39 does not have the funds to bring this vital case. We need at least £8,000 to cover our application for a costs-capping order and to pay for unavoidable court fees and charges. And so we’re asking for help. If you can, please back our CrowdJustice appeal <a href="https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/no-pain-restraint">here</a>, tell friends about our work, and share this link on social media. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;at openDemocracy.</li><li>@CLARESAMBROOK</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><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/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/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 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/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/carolyne-willow/how-many-children-are-sexually-abused-in-prison">How many children are sexually abused in prison?</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/carolyne-willow/children-s-rights-and-uk-general-election-2017">Children’s rights and the UK General Election 2017</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/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/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</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 openJustice Prisons & child prisoners Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Tue, 04 Jul 2017 12:15:47 +0000 Carolyne Willow 112071 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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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? 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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 Children’s rights and the UK General Election 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/carolyne-willow/children-s-rights-and-uk-general-election-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A leading advocate calls for an Act of Parliament to enshrine children’s rights in law.</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/536680/20141104_UNICEF_7222460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/20141104_UNICEF_7222460.jpg" alt="" title="©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>©UnicefUK/Sutton-Hibbert All rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Whoever gets to form the next government has the opportunity to go down in history as the political party that introduced a law to promote and protect the rights of every child.<strong><br /> <br /> </strong>Nothing has stopped<strong> </strong>successive governments from doing this before, of course, but this is the first general election in which two of the three main political parties have pledged to enshrine in law the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Liberal Democrats first committed <a href="http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/ge10/man/parties/libdem_manifesto_2010.pdf">two general elections ago</a> to making this UN children’s rights treaty part of our domestic law. Now Labour has made <a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017/leading-richer-lives">the same promise</a>. The Conservatives declared an open mind earlier this year.<br /> <br /> UK children’s rights advocates and civil servants helped draft the UN children’s rights treaty; it covers all aspects of childhood and guarantees every child a comprehensive set of economic, social, cultural and civil and political rights. <br /> <br /> Eleanor Roosevelt said human rights begin “in small places, close to home” and this is precisely where children need them most. Take children’s right to know their rights, contained in article 42 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite the UK ratifying the treaty in 1991, there has never been a public education campaign and it remains outside the national curriculum. </p> <p>More than&nbsp;4000 schools across the UK have teamed up with Unicef’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/">Rights Respecting Schools</a>&nbsp;Award, whose aim is to create safe and inspiring places to learn, where children’s rights are respected, their talents are nurtured and they are able to thrive.&nbsp;An independent evaluation found children were more likely to report abuse after hearing about their rights. A primary school manager told researchers: <br /> <br /> <a href="https://www.brighton.ac.uk/_pdf/research/education/rrsa-uk-evaluation-full-report.pdf">“We always get some disclosures when we talk about rights at the beginning of the school year. [Children] feel empowered enough to say and we have to follow them up, they feel empowered to tell someone and that is something that probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this.”</a></p><p> My charity’s name, Article 39, is taken from the treaty; it’s the part that guarantees children who have been abused, neglected or exploited the right to recover in environments which nurture their health, self-respect and dignity. It requires governments to do everything possible to help children rebuild their lives and self-worth after rights violations. With central government funding to local councils for child protection services <a href="https://www.childrenengland.org.uk/dont-take-child-protection-for-granted">due to be axed from 2020</a>, a legal duty around recovery from trauma could literally be life-saving. It could make all the difference to young people forced out of children’s homes and foster care years before they are psychologically and emotionally ready.<br /> <br /> You would be right to retort that children have the Human Rights Act to protect them, like everyone else. This legislation has safeguarded children in countless ways: it led to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337568/iro_statutory_guidance_iros_and_las_march_2010_tagged.pdf">creation of independent reviewing officers</a> to monitor and protect the rights of individual children in care and care leavers; it helped ensure <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2005/634.html">children’s wishes and feelings are properly represented</a> in court proceedings held to decide with whom they should live after their parents’ separation; and <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/882.html">it brought an end to rules</a> which allowed prison officers to use force on children to make them obey orders. The Act protected young children and their pregnant mother from being <a href="http://www.bhattmurphy.co.uk/media/files/Chen_Order_interim_relief.pdf">unlawfully restrained during deportation</a>; it precipitated a change in the law so that <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2013/982.html">17 year-olds are given the same protection in police stations as other children</a>; and forced the scrapping of discriminatory rules that <a href="https://www.cafamily.org.uk/advice-and-support/money-benefits-work-and-childcare/benefits-and-tax-credits/payment-of-disability-living-allowance-for-a-child-in-hospital/">took benefits from very poorly children hospitalised for long periods</a>. </p> <p>The Human Rights Act is vital for people of all ages and absolutely must stay. But it only protects the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights and was not drafted specifically with children in mind. The UN children’s rights treaty was tailor-made to ensure children can lead happy, safe and fulfilled lives and, as with all human rights treaties, it is ever-evolving. Since the UN adopted the treaty in 1989 it has passed three protocols giving additional protection in the areas of sexual exploitation, armed conflict and the creation of an international complaints procedure (which the UK is yet to sign up to). </p> <p>The Labour Government’s 1997 White Paper on ‘bringing rights home’ — the precursor to the Human Rights Act — said: <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130814142233/http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/hoffice/rights/chap1.htm">“over the years [the ECHR] has become one of the premier agreements defining standards of behaviour across Europe”</a>. There is no doubting the Convention on the Rights of the Child is <em>the</em> premier children’s human rights agreement. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty, with only one country (the USA) failing to take on its legal obligations. A Unicef <a href="https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/law_reform_crc_imp.pdf">review of 52 countries</a> published several years ago found two-thirds had made the Convention part of their domestic law. These manifesto commitments are entirely credible and based on years of evidence-gathering (see <a href="https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforChildrensRights/filestore/Filetoupload,368351,en.pdf">research undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast</a>) and positive developments in Scotland and Wales.</p><div>Back in November 2009, Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Joan Walmsley introduced a <a href="http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2009-10/childrensrightshl.html">Children’s Rights Bill</a> which would have made the treaty part of our domestic law. The legislation has been in hibernation ever since, though the Peer’s attempt to introduce children’s rights duties for public authorities during the recent passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 had impressive backing, including from one of the lead campaigners for the Human Rights Act, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC. Had the Bill gained government support, it would have required public authorities like schools, hospitals and children’s services to actively consider the treaty when carrying out their functions.</div> <p>The Convention gives children over 40 substantive rights; many of these relate directly to supporting parents and family life. Its four overarching principles grant children the right to enjoy all of their rights without any form of discrimination (article 2); require that children’s best interests are a primary consideration in all actions concerning them (article 3); provide that children have the right to maximum survival and development (article 6); and entitle children to have their views given due weight in all matters affecting them (article 12). If even these four provisions were legally enforceable for every child, how much easier would it be to advocate for and obtain essential services and support? </p><p>Directors of children’s services and councillors with lead responsibility for children’s services in England have been required to have <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/271429/directors_of_child_services_-_stat_guidance.pdf">regard to the treaty’s general principles</a> since 2012. More than a quarter of a century after we ratified, it’s time we moved from simply considering the treaty and gave it the full force of law.</p><p> During her latest attempt to secure children’s rights in law, Baroness Walmsley drew a parallel with the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010, citing how this has made a tangible difference to many people’s lives. She concluded:<br /><a href="https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2016-11-08b.1082.2">“a culture of concern for equality issues has infiltrated public organisations. I would like to see a similar culture of concern infiltrate public organisations in relation to children’s rights.”</a></p> <p>In the same debate, Lord Hope of Craighead, a former member of the UK Supreme Court, described how judges grapple with cases concerning children’s rights by following the well-established legal principle “that when the United Kingdom has signed up to an international convention, it is to be presumed that this Parliament, when legislating, will legislate in accordance with what the convention provides”. </p> <p>Labour’s Shadow Children’s Minister Emma Lewell-Buck took up the children’s rights baton when the Children and Social Work Bill reached the Commons. The Ministerial response to her children’s rights duties’&nbsp;amendment indicated the boulder is at last nudging up the hill: Edward Timpson said in January he would <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-01-12/debates/2aea2b6d-772e-422b-aca4-19b18339bc91/ChildrenAndSocialWorkBill(Lords)(SeventhSitting)">“remain open-minded about the right way forward”.</a> </p> <p>One of the many strengths of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that it demands action on child poverty and disadvantage. It contains rights which a country as rich as ours (using GDP as the measure, we have the <a href="https://fullfact.org/economy/uk-worlds-5th-or-9th-largest-economy/">fifth wealthiest economy</a> in the world) is comfortably able to uphold – the right to a standard of living which allows children to fulfil their human potential; the right to enjoy the best of health; and the right to social security and social insurance. Remember when the Supreme Court <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/18/uk-benefit-cap-is-lawful-supreme-court-rules">found that the benefit cap was lawful, but it breached the UN children’s rights treaty</a>? Had the Convention been enshrined in UK law, this breach would have also been unlawful and ministers would have been compelled to revisit the policy. </p> <p>We shouldn’t be fixated on the courtroom, however. The impact of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act extend far beyond litigation, which takes us back to those small places, close to home. The core, universal obligation is that we respect and take care of each other in times of need. That we reach out on the basis of shared humanity and social justice, not charity or paternalism. Children are respected and gain the help they need &nbsp;because they are human beings with equal worth to adults, but also because they are precious. Additional human rights for children were borne out of their particular needs and vulnerabilities; their lack of status and powerlessness at an individual and structural level; and in recognition of the magnificent human potential existing in that space we call childhood.</p><p> Children feeling empowered, thriving, being listened to and accorded their due dignity wherever they happen to live — this is what making the Convention on the Rights of the Child part of UK law could achieve over time. As we continue to come to terms with the horrific scale and impact of child abuse, past and present, what greater message could we give to children about their integrity and worth than by consulting them and then passing an Act of Parliament devoted to protecting their rights?&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/carolyne-willow/england-s-bonfire-of-children-s-rights">England’s bonfire of children’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/how-many-children-are-sexually-abused-in-prison">How many children are sexually abused in prison?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/when-children-s-home-is-one-more-stop-on-road-to-prison">When a children’s home is one more stop on the road to prison </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/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/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/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/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</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/carolyne-willow/england-s-bonfire-of-children-s-rights">England’s bonfire of children’s rights</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 Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Tue, 06 Jun 2017 23:08:30 +0000 Carolyne Willow 111432 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 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 ‘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 Violent and dangerous places: the rise in prison suicides in England and Wales https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/lorraine-atkinson/violent-and-dangerous-places-rise-in-prison-suicides-in-en <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cuts, overcrowding and understaffing have created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery.</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/536680/09_aylesbury_3768.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/09_aylesbury_3768.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'>HM Prison Aylesbury (Andy Aitchison @prisonimage) </span></span></span></p><p><span>One hundred and six&nbsp;people have died in prison so far in 2017. This includes 28 people who have taken their own lives. Last year was the highest number of self-inflicted deaths since current recording practices began in 1978. 120 people took their own lives in prison in 2016. On average a prisoner died by suicide every three days.</span></p> <p>The rise in prison suicides has coincided with cuts to prison staffing and budgets and a rise in the number of people in prison, resulting in overcrowding. Some prisons introduced restricted regimes and many prisoners are spending hours each day locked in their cells with little to occupy them. Overcrowding and understaffing have created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery in our prisons. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/safety-in-custody-statistics">Data from the Ministry of Justice</a> reveal high levels of assaults and self-injury. Some prisoners were too frightened to come out of their cells, according to <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/07/HMIP-AR_2015-16_web.pdf">reports from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)</a>. </p> <p>The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health conducted a <a href="http://howardleague.org/what-you-can-do/transform-prisons/inquiry-into-preventing-prison-suicides/">two year inquiry on suicides in prisons</a>. We published four reports on suicide prevention in prison and submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry on mental health and deaths in prison. Our report on preventing prison suicides stated that a prison regime should be built around a normal life, where prisoners are able to get up each day, take a shower and have breakfast and then occupy themselves productively. Prisoners should also be able to exercise daily and go outdoors. Prisons need to become healthier, safer places for all in order to reduce the risk of death.</p> <p>In 2013 the prisoner incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme was revised, resulting in a more punitive regime for many prisoners. HMIP noted, in its <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/Wormwood-Scrubs-web2015.pdf">report on Wormwood Scrubs prison</a> in 2015, that “the very restricted regime and limited time unlocked rendered much of the [IEP] scheme ineffective as there was too little offered to encourage good behaviour”.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">A prison regime should be built around a normal life, where prisoners are able to get up each day, take a shower and have breakfast and then occupy themselves productively.</span></p> <p>On arrival at a prison, a high risk time for suicide, prisoners are placed on “entry level” and are deprived of basic coping mechanisms such as contact with their family or friends, at a time when they most need support. Prisoners who show “insufficient commitment to rehabilitation and purposeful activity” or have behaved badly can be placed on basic level with limited time out of cell and visits and are only allowed £4 a week of their own money to spend on necessities such as food, toiletries or phone calls. </p> <p>The most challenging prisoners are often the most troubled and the most likely to be placed on basic regime. Prisoners’ poor behaviour can be a sign of their distress but the response from prison staff is often the use of punishment including solitary confinement.</p> <p>In <a href="http://howardleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/3b_-_Frances_crook_smt_SIGNED.pdf">evidence to the Supreme Court</a> in 2015, the Howard League stated that prisoners in segregation “often tended to be the most disturbed and vulnerable prisoners, characterised by being young, institutionalised, with mental health difficulties or histories or self-harm or attempted suicide”. Segregation has been found to have a serious adverse psychological impact on prisoners and can cause irreversible damage. </p> <p>The Ministry of Justice does not publish data on the use of solitary confinement. Prisoners can be held under segregation conditions for weeks, months and even years. There are no limits on how long a prisoner can be segregated nor is there any requirement for the prisoner to be informed of how long he or she will remain in segregation. In April this year the <a href="http://howardleague.org/news/felthamsolitaryconfinementjr/">Howard League brought a judicial review</a> on behalf of a 16 year old boy who had been held in prolonged solitary confinement in Feltham prison. </p> <p>Concern about the rise in deaths in our prisons have been raised by members of parliament, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and coroners. Numerous recommendations have been made, with the aim of preventing further deaths.</p> <p>The <a href="http://iapdeathsincustody.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Harris-Review-Report2.pdf">Harris Review</a>, an inquiry into the self-inflicted deaths of 18 to 24 year olds in prison, was published in July 2015. It called for radical changes and stated “unless progress is made on the proposals that we have made, young people will continue to die unnecessarily in our prisons”. 22 young people aged 18-24 have taken their lives since the report was published less than two years ago.</p> <p>In the 2016 annual report, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Prisons stated that prisons had become “unacceptably violent and dangerous places” and described the picture in respect of self-harm and suicide as “shocking”. It made nine recommendations concerning the care of people in crisis in prison.</p> <p>The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigates every death in prison. In his <a href="http://www.ppo.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PPO_Annual-Report-201516_WEB_Final.pdf">2016 annual report</a>, the PPO described “a shocking 34% rise in self-inflicted deaths” and “steadily rising numbers of deaths from natural causes”. He noted that “improving safety and fairness is less about identifying new learning and more about implementing the learning already available”. </p> <p>In April, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) <a href="https://rm.coe.int/168070a773">published a report on the UK</a>. </p> <p>The committee was “deeply concerned” about the high levels of violence in prisons and noted that overcrowding and inadequate regimes were having a negative effect. The Committee stated: “the situation was particularly austere for those juveniles who were placed on ‘separation’ lists (denoted by vivid pink stickers of ‘do not unlock’ on their cell doors), who could spend up to 23.5 hours a day locked up alone in their cells.” The CPT concluded this amounted to inhumane and degrading treatment.</p> <p>In November 2016 the Ministry of Justice published a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565014/cm-9350-prison-safety-and-reform-_web_.pdf">White Paper on prison safety and reform</a>. </p> <p>It recognised the need to improve safety and security in prisons and announced there would be investment in staffing and an increase in the number of prison officers by 2,500 by 2018. It also announced plans to reform the prison estate to make it less crowded.</p> <p>Increasing staffing levels in prisons should help to prevent suicides. Positive staff/prisoner relationships are crucial in managing suicide risk in prisons. Prison officers need knowledge but also time to identify and support prisoners in crisis. Having a cup of tea and a chat with a prisoner might be the vital intervention that prevents a death.</p> <p>However urgent action is still needed to reduce the number of people in prison. <a href="http://wp.unil.ch/space/files/2017/04/SPACE_I_2015_FinalReport_161215_REV170425.pdf">Statistics published by the Council of Europe</a>&nbsp;<span>show that the prison population rate in England and Wales is 148.3 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than the European average of 133.8 and the highest rate in Western Europe. Prison should only ever be used by the courts as a last resort for the most serious offences and when someone poses an immediate risk to public safety. Reducing the number of people in prison will have a far more immediate impact than building new prisons, which takes time and resources and is likely to lead to an increase in the prison population in the long term.</span></p> <p>Prisoner safety should be a top priority for the new government following the general election in June. Reforms cannot be delayed or more lives will be needlessly lost; more families and staff will face bereavement.</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><hr /><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/suicide-murder-despair-coalition-government-makes-its-mark-on-prisons">Suicide, murder, despair. Coalition government makes its mark on prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/juliet-lyon/rising-suicides-and-assaults-more-punitive-regimes-less-rehabilitation-no-pr">Rising suicides and assaults, more punitive regimes, less rehabilitation. No prisons crisis?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/laura-janes/playing-politics-with-prisoners-access-to-justice">Playing politics with prisoners’ access to justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/who-is-that-man-in-lord-chancellors-seat">Who is that man in the Lord Chancellor&#039;s seat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/mark-day/filth-overcrowding-five-suicides-in-one-year-at-wormwood-scrubs-no-prisons-cris">Filth, overcrowding, five suicides in one year at Wormwood Scrubs. No prisons crisis? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/peter-dawson/solitary-confinement-and-avoidable-harm">Solitary confinement and avoidable harm</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 Shine A Light Lorraine Atkinson Wed, 24 May 2017 07:32:00 +0000 Lorraine Atkinson 111104 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 . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</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 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 Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May has made it clear she intends to follow previous governments in tarnishing Iraq abuse allegations as false. Final day of our 7 day series.</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/Q.tonyblair.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Q.tonyblair.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'>“I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.” Tony Blair’s post-Chilcot Report press conference, Admiralty House, London. PA/Stefan Rousseau. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">At the Conservative Party conference, fellow Tories cheered as Theresa May promised to protect “our brave armed forces” and attacked lawyers representing Iraqi civilians making claims of abuse, torture and unlawful killing against British soldiers. She said, “We will never again in any future conflict let those activist left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave the men and women of our armed forces.” </p> <p class="Default">Over the past few days we have looked at the various investigations into what happened in Iraq and how the government and the courts have responded to allegations of abuse and unlawful killing</p> <p class="Default">But why is it that lawyers acting for the Iraqi civilians making the allegations are now attacked by the government, Conservative MPs and some newspapers?</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SUNFRONTPAGE_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="587" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sun front page 17 October 2016</span></span></span></p><p class="Default"> In May 2004 a British army unit fought Iraqi insurgents at the town of Majar al-Kabir. The skirmish was called the “Battle of Danny Boy” the name of the British checkpoint close by. Twenty or more Iraqis were killed. Their bodies were loaded onto a truck and taken back to the British base at Abu Naji for identification. Nine surviving captured fighters were taken there too for interrogation. When the bodies were released the day after the fighting, their families claimed they bore the marks of deliberate mutilation. The uncle of one of the men killed, Al-Sweady, claimed his nephew had died in the camp not on the battlefield. The nine survivors would also later claim they had been tortured and abused.</p> <p class="Default">Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day &amp; Co took on the case once the Royal Military Police found there was no cause for complaint. As with previous cases, PIL sought a judicial review of that decision, saying the investigation had been insufficient. </p> <p class="Default">The Ministry of Defence defended that action. At a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8300726.stm">hearing in 2009</a>, the high court encountered considerable resistance by the government when asked to disclose documentation about the affair. The Secretary of State’s failure to hand over relevant papers was described as “lamentable” by the court. And the evidence of Colonel Dudley Giles, one of the senior RMP officers who was presented as the government’s witness to discuss disclosure, was also described as “unsatisfactory”. The court held that the investigation by the army into the allegations was “not thorough or proficient” and ordered that a proper investigation should be undertaken. Only then did the Secretary of State, now Bob Ainsworth, decide on another public inquiry.</p> <p class="Default">It took five years for the inquiry to finish its work. In December 2014 Sir Thayne Forbes, the Inquiry chair, dismissed all the serious allegations. He said the unlawful killing and torture claims were “without foundation”, “completely baseless” and the product of “deliberate lies”. Some mistreatment had been suffered by the Iraqi detainees (blindfolding, deprivation of food and sleep in particular) but they were insignificant compared to the original allegations. </p> <p>From this point it was not the conduct of soldiers, but the conduct of solicitors representing those bringing the allegations which have dominated both the news and government policy. </p><p class="Default">The Inquiry findings gave a fillip to the MoD’s argument long maintained that there was no need for any wide-scale scrutiny into the army or the government’s planning for and conduct in Iraq. It justified resisting every case at each stage of the legal process. And it re-directed the story to one of fat-cat lawyers and dubious Iraqi claims. Though the proven cases of unlawful killing and ill-treatment still stood (Baha Mousa, Camp Breadbasket, Ahmed Ali and others) and were still being uncovered, the Al-Sweady findings changed the atmosphere. </p> <p class="Default">Suddenly, there was a presumption that all allegations were suspect. And the news that both PIL and Leigh Day solicitors were charged with breaches of professional rules reinforced that message.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>What next for the Iraq allegations?<br />&nbsp;</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/brianhaw.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/brianhaw.png" 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'>Peace protestor Brian Haw (bottom left) in Parliament Square, London, as demonstrators react to the statement then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made earlier regarding the inquiry into the war in Iraq, 15 June 2009. Johnny Green PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><br /></strong></p><p class="Default">The more persistent government line is that the allegations are presumed false and do not deserve to be unpicked collectively. Political pressure to dismiss all individual claims quickly is now a high priority. The government continues to state that no one is above the law, but the dominant message is that these are spurious claims promoted by unscrupulous lawyers, hired by Iraqis on the make. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37448028">Theresa May</a> seems to have adopted that line wholesale.</p> <p class="Default">It’s a dangerous position to maintain. We know that the UK entered into the Iraq War without proper planning for its aftermath. The lamentably late-reporting Chilcot Inquiry established that. Is it safe then to presume that the treatment of civilian detainees or the conduct of security operations against a developing insurgency would have been any better prepared for?</p> <p class="Default">We know too that bad things happened. There is a line of substantiated cases. The Baha Mousa Inquiry (which revealed a host of individuals across ranks involved in abuse), the Nadhem Abdullah death, the Camp Breadbasket photographs, Ahmed Ali’s drowning, other proven instances of killing and ill-treatment, and the payment of millions of pounds in compensation by the MoD <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/476727/20151109-FOI2015-06481-RESPONSE-O.pdf">(£19.6million has been paid out for 323 claims as at November 2015</a>), all tell us this. Why then intimate that <em>all</em> current claims are false without due examination? Al-Sweady taught us that a proper inquiry can establish whether war crimes have been committed or not. If there is no inquiry the allegations will remain unresolved, festering over time.</p> <p class="Default">The prevailing line, however, is that any inquiry into the activities of our armed forces abroad is assumed to be unnecessary, perhaps even an act of treachery. There is no political opposition to the government’s stance either, hardly surprising given Labour’s involvement in the Iraq War. That makes individual accountability of any kind in the higher echelons of the military or government unlikely. Getting to the bottom of allegations that unlawful systems were in place, in the methods of interrogation and treatment of detainees, in the rules of engagement for dealing with ‘looters’, or the general policing in Basra during the occupation, is highly unlikely too.</p> <p class="Default">We know already that the investigations have been going on too long to the detriment of everyone: the soldiers who might stand accused and are brought back time and again to answer questions posed by different agencies over many years; the victims and their families who have or <em>may</em> have suffered from abuse; the British public who are persistently prevented from knowing what was done or not done in their name in Iraq. The delay is the direct result of the government’s long-held position, whether Labour, Coalition or Conservative: resist and deny and keep hidden any scrutiny of these matters.</p> <p class="Default">If justice is about truth, about the right to know, there seems little chance of its excavation as regards any aspect of the UK’s intervention in Iraq. Though on occasion the family of someone harmed or killed may learn how and why it happened, the process is shamefully slow. Ahmed Ali’s family had to wait thirteen years. Baha Mousa’s sons continue to see who may be held accountable for their father’s killing.</p> <p class="Default">The unchallenged political momentum remains towards drawing a veil over the whole enterprise. Is that something we want? Or have we learnt so little from <a href="http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/">Hillsborough</a> and <a href="http://otjc.org.uk/?pagerd_t20sonc">Orgreave</a> and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26465916">Stephen Lawrence </a>and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/06/mid-staffs-hospital-scandal-guide">Mid Staffordshire</a> to appreciate the injustices that can be hidden when institutions close ranks? Perhaps we should ask who is actually being protected if the government bring a halt to the allegations?</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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Sun, 20 Nov 2016 11:00:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Rogue military personnel? &nbsp;Or a deliberate policy of abuse? Day 6 of our 7 day series on alleged abuse by British soldiers in Iraq.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P.courtmartialrules.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P.courtmartialrules.jpg" alt="" 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'>Documents in the military court room in Colchester, Essex, where four soldiers and three ex-soldiers accused of the murder of an Iraqi civilian stood trial back in September 2005. Corporal Scott Evans, 32, Private Billy Nerney, 24, Private Samuel May, 25, Private Morne Vosloo, 26, and former Privates Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24 and Scott Jackson, 26, were accused of murder and violent disorder following the death of Nadhem Abdullah on 11 May 2003 in a roadside incident in Al U'Zayra. The case eventually collapsed and the men were cleared. The judge criticised the poor handling of the case by the Royal Military Police's special investigations unit. PA/Chris Rayburn. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">By 2010, the number of allegations of unlawful killing and abuse in detention had ballooned. Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) had registered 141 different claimants before the courts and the Ministry of Defence by 21 October of that year. They were gathered as one case, called <a href="http://www.1cor.com/1315/?form_1155.replyids=1339">Ali Zaki Mousa</a>, after the first Iraqi on the list. </p> <p class="Default">PIL argued that the range of ill treatment alleged by these claims suggested “systemic abuse”. In other words, it was not just the result of rogue military personnel but indicated a deliberate policy of abuse to break detainees as part of interrogation — or at best a failure by the military and political establishment to investigate, prevent and punish such practices effectively.</p> <h2>An institutional pattern </h2> <p class="Default">All the Five Techniques that appeared in the Baha Mousa case, with religious and sexual humiliation added, were used across 14 military facilities, PIL said. That alone pointed to an institutional pattern which could be rooted out only by an over-arching independent public inquiry.</p> <p class="Default">The Ministry of Defence accepted that the allegations were sufficiently “credible” although it didn’t accept that they were necessarily true. It also acknowledged, following the <em>Al Skeini</em> judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, that it had a duty to investigate both the individual claims and the possibility of military systems contributing to abusive practices. But it did not accept the call for an inquiry. In court, the MoD argued that it would be far too costly. </p> <p><span>Instead, it set up a convoluted alternative structure that was eventually approved by the high court. First, the MoD recruited a retired senior civilian police detective, Mark Warwick, to lead a 145-strong team made up of military police personnel, civilian investigators and civil servants. Called the </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/iraq-historic-allegations-team-ihat">Iraq Historic Allegations Team</a><span> (IHAT), the unit was supposed to deal with the investigations of the multiple claims. The priority was what the Court came to call, rather insensitively, the “death cases”.</span></p> <p class="Default">If IHAT finds sufficient evidence of a serious crime, it refers the case to the military’s <a href="http://spa.independent.gov.uk/test/director/role_of_the_director.htm">Director of Service Prosecutions</a>, who decides if there is a realistic prospect of conviction and if it’s in the public interest to prosecute.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Default">Up until August of this year, IHAT had been referred 1,668 allegations, 325 of unlawful killing, and the rest ill treatment “ranging from serious sexual assault to common assault”. </p> <p class="Default">After six years of operation, it has completed investigations into 176 of these cases. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545281/20160725-IHAT-Quarterly_Update_website_Jun16.pdf">Publicly available information</a> is thin on detail, but of these, two have been referred to the Director of Service Prosecution (who has decided not to prosecute) and one soldier was referred to his Commanding Officer for an unspecified crime and fined £3000. The remaining 1,492 allegations are still under review. IHAT announced that they would be continuing their work until at least 2019.&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/562682/sirwilliamgage2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sir William Gage, chairman of the Baha Mousa inquiry. Anthony Devlin PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/sirwilliamgage2.png" alt="" title="Sir William Gage, chairman of the Baha Mousa inquiry. Anthony Devlin PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="261" height="420" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sir William Gage, chairman of the Baha Mousa inquiry. Anthony Devlin PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>In the case of Baha Mousa, where the circumstances of his death and the perpetrators of assault and ill-treatment are irrefutable following Sir William Gage's detailed public inquiry, IHAT has been unable to complete its investigations. In </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/iraq-historic-allegations-team-ihat#baha-mousa-review-team">September 2013</a><span>, on the 10th &nbsp;Anniversary of the killing, IHAT announced it was pursuing “new lines of inquiry”. Nothing has been heard since.&nbsp;</span></p><p>It’s not the only case left hanging. In 2014 IHAT reported that in one case of alleged unlawful killing, when an Iraqi prisoner died whilst being transported in an RAF helicopter, it had finished its review and referred the matter to the Royal Air Force Provost Marshal “for consideration”. That’s shorthand for saying something suspicious may have occurred. All that has happened since, according to IHAT, is the Provost Marshal has “directed further investigation”. No one is saying what <em>that </em>entails.</p> <h2>Boy, 12, maimed and disappeared</h2> <p class="Default">The case of Memmon Al-Maliki has also been left in limbo. Memmon was a 12 year old boy who was severely injured after he picked up a shell that exploded in his hands. He was taken to a British army base for emergency treatment and transferred to the British Field Hospital in Basra. The family never saw him again. The army said they had records of the boy’s transfer to an American hospital in Kuwait. But the US had no such information. IHAT reported that they met with the boy’s father and explained what they had found. There was nothing more they could do, they said, and the case is closed.</p> <p class="Default">Frustrated by the delays in getting to the bottom of these cases, either to dismiss them or take action against possible culprits, Public Interest Lawyers with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights contacted the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tony-blair-chilcot-iraq-war-soldiers-international-criminal-court-human-rights-saddam-hussein-a7116696.html">Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court</a> in the Hague at the beginning of 2014. Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor, announced they would begin a preliminary examination into the matter. Her Office representatives have visited the UK to look at IHAT’s operations. They are keeping a watching brief on what’s happening at this stage, no more. A state is left alone to investigate its own alleged crimes <em>unless </em>its efforts do not appear genuine. That point hasn’t been reached, as the ICC reported <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/161114-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf">on Tuesday this week.</a>&nbsp;They are still examining the evidence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/philshiner.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/philshiner.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Solicitor Phil Shiner outside the high court in London ahead of a judicial review on behalf of 180 Iraqi civilians. John Stillwell PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>Another inquiry, no accountability </h2> <p class="Default">The Iraq Historic Allegations Team was not the only process of inquiry approved by the court in <em>Ali Zaki Mousa.<strong> </strong></em>The Minister of Defence established an Iraq Fatalities body in 2013 that will act as an inquest into only some Iraqi deaths. Where cases of alleged unlawful killing have been inadequately investigated and have led to unsuccessful courts martial (the Minister has estimated there may be 11 of these cases), <a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org">Iraq Fatalities Investigations</a> (IFI) will publicly examine what happened. The families concerned are consulted, but these are not criminal proceedings. The IFI is precluded from determining any individual or collective liability. <em>&nbsp;</em>Sir George Newman, a retired High Court judge, was appointed as the IFI chair. &nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">So far six killings have been referred to Sir George. He’s <a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org/reports.aspx">reported</a> on four. In the first, Nadhem Abdullah’s case, he found soldiers had used excessive force which led to Abdullah’s death. </p> <p class="Default">Defence Secretary <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2015-03-20/debates/15032051000018/IraqFatalitiesInvestigations#contribution-15032051000121">Michael Fallon</a> accepted Sir George’s findings in a parliamentary statement. He announced in March 2015 that in “the light of the facts as found by Sir George, and in particular the finding that excessive force was used, I wish to express the Government’s regret at the death of Mr Abdullah”. Appropriate compensation would be paid to the family, he wrote.</p> <p class="Default">In two other cases completed in the past year, Sir George <span>found</span> sufficient evidence to suggest that the soldiers involved had <span>killed</span> in self defence. His conclusions on the drowning of the 15 year old boy Ahmed Ali were released in September.</p> <h2>Evidence of torture, but . . . </h2> <p class="Default">So, despite an inquiry finding that Baha Mousa had been unlawfully killed, that the Ministry of Defence had “forgotten” that abusive interrogation techniques should not be used, despite “credible” allegations accumulating from Iraq, despite Camp Breadbasket and the IFI substantiating claims of two needless deaths at the hands of British soldiers, why is it the government and Theresa May have turned on the lawyers acting for the Iraqis? And why does <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37544280">Michael Fallon</a>, the Defence Secretary, say the legal system has been abused “to falsely accuse our armed forces”? </p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Tomorrow: Why have the Iraq allegations become “vexatious claims”?&nbsp; And what should justice look like in the Iraq cases?&nbsp;</strong></h2><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">&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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:30:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106222 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 British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">Hooding, sensory deprivation, stress positions. . . methods used illegally in 1970s Northern Ireland are deployed again. (Day 5 of our 7 day series).<strong></strong></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/N.militarycourt.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.militarycourt.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Military Court Centre at Bulford, Wiltshire. Press Association/Barry Batchelor. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">In August 1971, the British government sanctioned a mass detention operation in Northern Ireland in response to increasing violence in the Province. Those arrested were taken to specially prepared holding centres in central Belfast, Londonderry and County Down. More than 3000 people were interned by March 1972.</p> <h2>The Five Techniques</h2> <p class="Default">It didn’t take long for internment to become known as a ruthless and brutal process. Those arrested and later released spoke of a systematic handling insidious in its ability to induce hopelessness, fear and chronic stress. Five methods of treatment were used across the detention centres. Prisoners were hooded, forced to stand spread-eagled against a wall, placed in rooms where a constant loud and hissing noise was played, prevented from sleeping before interrogation, and given minimal food and drink. The measures were intended to break the internees, to make them more susceptible to interrogation. They were called the Five Techniques and together amounted to cruel and inhumane treatment according to the European Court of Human Rights. </p> <p class="Default">After the scandal broke, Prime Minister Edward Heath made a statement to the House of Commons in 1972. He said the techniques “will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation”. But he didn’t stop there. “The statement that I have made,” he said, “covers all future circumstances.” If a subsequent government should ever change its mind on this policy, he went on, then they “would probably have to come to the House and ask for powers to do it.” </p> <p class="Default">The government issued plain instructions to the army. A directive issued by the Joint Intelligence Committee ordered that “no form of coercion is to be inflicted on persons being interrogated. Persons who refuse to answer questions are not to be threatened, insulted, or exposed to other forms of ill treatment.” It explicitly prohibited the Five Techniques.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>One hotel receptionist </h2> <p class="Default">Thirty years later, in September 2003, members of the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment raided a Basra hotel. They were looking for insurgents. Though they found none, Baha Mousa, the hotel night receptionist, was arrested along with several other hotel workers. Forty-eight hours later Baha Mousa was dead. At the court martial three years later of seven soldiers allegedly involved, the evidence was conclusive: Mousa and those detained with him, had been subjected to the Five Techniques. They were all hooded with double sandbags, ‘conditioned’ (as the military now called it) through stress positions, and deprived of sleep, food and water. Their guards punched and kicked them too, brutally and consistently. Baha Mousa’s body showed the extent of the assaults. Another detainee suffered kidney failure.</p><p class="Default"><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.bahamousa_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.bahamousa_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="641" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Baha Mousa, who died while held in custody by British soldiers. PA/LIBERTY. All rights reserved.
</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">Although the court martial was unable to pin blame for the ill treatment on anyone except Corporal Payne, it heard that the ban on the Five Techniques had somehow been forgotten. Interrogators had been trained in using some of these methods and army lawyers argued amongst themselves on whether hooding or stress positions were lawful or not. One officer said there had been a “corporate memory loss”. </p> <p class="Default">The result of the court martial provoked no formal government response. It continued to resist undertaking a full inquiry into the case. Only when the European Court of Human Rights gave judgment on 13 June 2007 in the <em>Al-Skeini </em>litigation was something done. The court confirmed that investigation into the death of Baha Mousa had been wholly inadequate. The court martial did nothing to remedy that. It said the government had failed its duty to the victims and their families to find out what had happened and learn lessons for the future. An internal army review was insufficient too. It could not qualify as an independent process. </p> <p class="Default">It took nearly another year before the then Minister of Defence, Des Browne, announced what would be done. On 14 May 2008, he established a public inquiry into “how it came to be that Mr Mousa lost his life”. He said the army “had no wish to hide anything”.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>“Serious, gratuitous violence”</h2> <p class="Default">Sir William Gage was appointed as the inquiry chair. He began public hearings in 2009. Two years later, in September 2011, he published his final report. Gage condemned the “serious, gratuitous violence” used against Mousa and the other detainees. He condemned senior commanders for their ignorance of the Heath ban on the Five Techniques, attributing that to a systemic, corporate failure. And he condemned eighteen individual soldiers for specific abuse and a number of officers from the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mendonca to Father Peter Madden (the unit’s Catholic padre) for their failure to prevent it.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O.iraqiprotestors.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/O.iraqiprotestors.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqis protest against the killing of 26-year-old Baha Mousa, Tahir Square, Baghdad, 9 September 2011 AP/Press Association/Khalid Mohammed. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default">Gage was unable to say that the ill treatment showed widespread abuse by British forces in their detention of civilians. He did not have the power to investigate any other allegation. But he said there was an absence of a proper doctrine on interrogation and this contributed to the banned techniques re-appearing in Iraq.</p><h2>Human Rights Court favours scrutiny</h2><p class="Default">Two months before Sir William Gage published his Baha Mousa Inquiry report, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment on the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/jus/humanrights/HUMR5140/h14/documents/al-skeini.pdf">Al-Skeini</a>&nbsp;case. It decided that the European Convention on Human Rights should apply to operations of the British armed forces in relation to the exercise of its powers in Iraq. That included the detention of civilians and security operations on the streets of Basra. It meant the UK was required to have undertaken full and proper inquiries into any death in custody, any killing of a civilian wherever that took place, and any ill-treatment that had been caused by British military personnel. &nbsp;</p><p class="Default">The decision opened the way for allegations about unlawful killing and ill-treatment of Iraqi civilians to be brought before the British legal system. Until then, though the MoD were aware of hundreds of complaints, it could mostly ignore them.&nbsp;</p><p class="Default">After the European Court’s judgment that approach had to change. But how?</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow, Allegations against troops rise and a pattern of abuse emerges.</h2><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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:07:30 +0000 A.T. Williams 106144 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From war to occupation in Iraq https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">The fall of Saddam Hussein and the death of Baha Mousa. (Day 4 of our 7 day series)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><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.iraqiwomen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J.iraqiwomen.jpg" 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'>Iraqi women wait outside the prison in Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, Iraq. Press Association/Anja Niedringhaus. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">On <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Monday</a> we reported on Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise to crack down on “activist left wing human rights lawyers” to prevent them “harassing” British soldiers. On <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Tuesday</a>&nbsp;we told the story of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, left to drown after being forced into a river by soldiers, one case among hundreds brought to light by investigations into British conduct in Iraq. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">Yesterday</a> we looked at the absence of serious inquiry into these allegations by the Chilcot report and parliament. Today we look at some of the origins of this affair. </p> <p class="Default">After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the rapid collapse of military opposition offered by Saddam Hussein’s forces, the US-led coalition quickly decided that there would be a need to intern thousands of Iraqis who might pose a threat to British and American forces. The Coalition rounded up people who might have useful information, members of the old regime, enemy troops.</p><h2>Organised programmes of interrogation</h2> <p class="Default">As invasion turned into occupation, the purpose of internment or detention expanded. Coalition forces wanted to uncover weapons of mass destruction and seek out those Iraqi officials who might be held accountable for the Baathist regime’s crimes against its own population. And to obtain intelligence about resistance to the Coalition’s occupation, the so-called ‘insurgency’. </p><p class="Default">Coalition forces — which included&nbsp;American, British, Australian and Polish troops —&nbsp;were prepared to incarcerate large numbers of individuals and subject many to organised programmes of interrogation. US forces took over Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad prison called Abu Ghraib, and used it to detain 7000 Iraqis.</p><p class="Default">Other detention camps were specially built by the Americans and British across the country. Camp Bucca, a huge compound of barbed wire, watch towers and army tents, served as the Coalition’s internment facility for southern Iraq where UK forces operated.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Default">Despite intense security, news of life in these camps leaked out. <a href="http://reliefweb.int/report/iraq/iraq-amnesty-international-reveals-pattern-torture-and-ill-treatment">Amnesty International reported</a> on conditions and allegations of torture by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison as early as July 2003. In the spring of 2004, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB108384106459803859">Wall Street Journal</a> revealed the contents of a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross criticising the methods of detention and interrogation as “serious violations of international humanitarian law”. Both the American and British forces were named as responsible.</p><h2>Hooding, beatings, sleep deprivation . . .</h2> <p class="Default">One case in particular was mentioned. Baha Mousa and several other Iraqi civilians had been taken into custody by the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment on 14 September 2003. Within 48 hours Baha Mousa was dead. Along with the others, he’d been hooded with sandbags, forced into stress positions, deprived of sleep, food and water, and beaten repeatedly. During one final assault by British troops guarding him, he’d died of positional asphyxia, held on the floor with his arms handcuffed behind him, his head pulled back and unable to breathe.&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Default">In March 2004, Phil Shiner, principal of the solicitors’ firm Public Interest Lawyers, announced that he’d been instructed to act for Baha Mousa’s father and that he was bringing an application before the High Court for a judicial review into the investigation of Baha Mousa’s death. He argued that the UK had failed in its human rights duties to carry out a sufficiently independent and timely inquiry into this death in custody. Five other cases (involving alleged killings of Iraqis either on the streets of Basra or in their homes) were brought at the same time in what became known as the <a href="http://www.interights.org/al-skeini/index.html">Al-Skeini litigation</a>, named after the first of the defendants, Hazim Al-Skeini, who was shot dead by a British army patrol in August 2003. </p> <p class="Default"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.daoudmousa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.daoudmousa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daoud Mousa holds pictures of his grandchildren and his son Baha outside the High Court in London, July 2004. Press Association/Stefan Rousseau. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /></strong></p><p class="Default">Over the following two or three years, stories of other abuse or killing by British troops emerged. As early as July 2004 the Ministry of Defence had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jul/03/military.iraq">acknowledged</a> that the Royal Military Police in Iraq were conducting investigations into the deaths of 37 Iraqi civilians. 15 year old Ahmed Ali had drowned in the Shatt al-Arab canal after being forced into the water by members of the Irish Guards. Nadhem Abdullah died after being stopped in a car by a Paratroop unit – he was pulled from his vehicle, struck on the head and left lying on the ground. Sa’eed Shabram was also found drowned in the canal.</p><p class="Default">Then, the scandal of Camp Breadbasket broke.</p> <h2>Photographic evidence</h2><p class="Default">Camp Breadbasket was the name given to a large complex set up by British forces on the outskirts of Basra that stored supplies for local distribution. Looters took advantage of the under-guarded perimeter and frequently broke in to steal whatever they could. The commanding officer decided to teach them a lesson. On 14 May 2003 he ordered his men to capture any looters they found and put them to work cleaning up the camp. About 20 were caught early that morning. But the soldiers decided to enact their own form of punishment. Some of the Iraqis were stripped naked and forced into simulated sex acts with each other. One was strapped to the forks of a forklift truck and raised high above the ground. Another was covered with a net, pushed to the ground and jumped on by one of the soldiers. </p> <p class="Default">It might have been all forgotten and disbelieved if it hadn’t been for one of the troops taking pictures of all the abuse. When he tried to have the photographs developed on return to the UK, the photographic shop called the police.</p> <p class="Default">The Camp Breadbasket photographs provoked outrage. No one could deny the cruelty on view. Soldiers looked as though they were enjoying humiliating and abusing their victims.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/breadbasket10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562682/breadbasket10.png" 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'>British Courts Martial handout photo (number 10 of an original set of 22) showing Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, (in the brown t-shirt) and former Fusilier Gary Bartlam (L) leaning over an Iraqi detainee. TJO PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">But it was the death of Baha Mousa and abuse of the several other Iraqis held with him in the British base called Battle Group Main in Basra, which was more disturbing. Here a man had died. Pictures of Mousa’s battered and blood stained body were released and a post mortem report revealed that he’d suffered 93 separate injuries prior to his death. Later, a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqL6N3r3WiA">video</a> would emerge, recorded on one of the soldiers’ mobile phone. It showed some of the treatment the Iraqi civilians had endured during the very early part of their detention.</p> <p class="Default">The Ministry of Defence said immediately that all allegations of crimes committed by UK troops would be investigated and prosecuted. But the process was left in the hands of the army. </p> <p class="Default">It took two years for the Camp Breadbasket case to come to Court Martial. Three junior soldiers were convicted of relatively minor offenses, though one was found guilty of “disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind”. In their defence, the soldiers accused the army of turning them into scapegoats: they said they had been given illegal orders to “work the Iraqis hard’” but officers had escaped prosecution.</p> <p class="Default">The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/may/14/mousa.timeline">Baha Mousa</a> case also proceeded to court martial. But not before the Court of Appeal held in the <em>Al-Skeini </em>litigation, brought by Public Interest Lawyers, that an independent and effective inquiry had not yet been undertaken into Baha Mousa’s death.</p><h2>Closed ranks</h2> <p class="Default">When seven soldiers were finally brought to trial in late 2006 for the sustained and collective ill-treatment of Mousa and the other detainees, six were acquitted of all charges. Only one accused was convicted, Corporal Donald Payne, who’d already pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment. He was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the army. No one was found responsible for the killing. The soldiers involved "closed ranks", the Judge Advocate in the case said. They claimed they could remember little about what happened.</p> <p class="Default">And still no independent inquiry had been undertaken into the incident.</p><p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/M.michaeljackson.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/M.michaeljackson.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>General Sir Michael Jackson, former Chief of the General Staff, Ministry of Defence: Baha Mousa killing was “stain on the character” of the Army. Press Association/PA Archive. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">The killing of Baha Mousa and the acknowledged ill-treatment was widely condemned by senior army officers and ministers alike. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/7809044/Mike-Jackson-criticises-commander-over-Baha-Mousa-death.html">General Sir Michael Jackson</a> would later call it a “stain on the character” of the British army. But even though more allegations of unlawful killing, torture and ill treatment were being brought before the civil courts, the government continued to resist any investigation other than through the Royal Military Police. There would be no independent public inquiry into the patterns of emerging claims, the Ministry of Defence said. Instead, the army would conduct its own review.</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow: British troops are alleged to have used interrogation techniques in Iraq Occupation 2003 that were outlawed by Ted Heath’s government in the 1970s.&nbsp;</h2><p class="Default">&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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:28:15 +0000 A.T. Williams 106141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why, in our democracy, is there so little appetite for proper public scrutiny? (Day 3 of our 7 day series)</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/G.chilcotreport.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.chilcotreport.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'>The Report of the Iraq Inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, published 6 July 2016, spans 12 volumes, 6,000 pages. Press Association/Jeff J Mitchell. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="Default"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">Yesterday</a> we told the story of a young Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers. His death wasn’t an isolated incident. </p> <p class="Default">In September 2003 Baha Mousa, an Iraqi citizen, died after being severely beaten and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment by British soldiers. In 2005 photographs taken at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/jan/19/iraq.military">Camp Breadbasket</a> in Iraq showed British soldiers abusing civilian prisoners.The Iraq Historic Allegations Team is investigating almost 1,500 more cases of alleged abuse and unlawful killing.</p> <p class="Default">The UK government, politicians and campaigners fume at the alleged misconduct by lawyers representing people making allegations of abuse, and what they see as the disrespect shown for the British Army and its heroic servants. They want an end to all legal processes.</p> <p class="Default">But others argue that there has been a failure at the heart of government to get to the bottom of a scandal and that deaths like that of Ahmed Ali and the alleged ill-treatment of hundreds more must be investigated along with any sanctioned system of abuse.</p> <p class="Default">Who should be believed?</p> <p class="Default">Some had hoped the Chilcot Report might provide answers. But the <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/">Iraq Inquiry</a> chaired by Sir John Chilcot considered its mandate to be restricted and was never minded to assess allegations of the systematic abuse or unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians by UK forces. </p> <p class="Default">Chilcot noted in his <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/">report</a>, finally delivered in July 2016 after years of consideration, that criminal investigations were on-going at the time of his hearings, that there had been two public inquiries into specific cases of abuse (<a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120215203912/http:/www.bahamousainquiry.org/">Baha Mousa</a> and <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/al-sweady-inquiry-report">Al Sweady</a>), that lessons about detention and interrogation had already been learned, and that any further investigation by his inquiry might overlap and perhaps prejudice these processes. </p> <p class="Default">Questions of systemic abuse were therefore not his concern.</p> <p class="Default">Even so, the report did say how poor the preparations had been for the transition from invading army to occupying force. On the predictable lawlessness that followed the invasion, Chilcot wrote: “Faced with widespread looting after the invasion, and without instructions, UK commanders had to make their own judgements about what to do.”</p> <p class="Default">The Inquiry heard from Brigadier Graham Binns that, “the best way to stop looting was just to get to a point where there was nothing left to loot”. The case of Ahmed Ali suggests other more abusive tactics were used too. Chilcot acknowledged none of this.</p> <p class="Default">Some of the most disturbing testimony did not make its way into the final report. Kevin Hurley, once Detective Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, and a senior member of the Territorial Army, served two terms in Iraq between 2003 and 2004. He gave a statement to the Inquiry about his experiences in Camp Bucca, a detention centre outside Basra.</p> <p class="Default"><strong><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.campbucca.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.campbucca.jpg" alt="lead lead " 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'>Detainees pray at former U.S. military detention facility Camp Bucca, Iraq. 16 March 2009 AP/ Press Association/Dusan Vranic. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p class="Default">Hurley said about 7000 prisoners were held “in a dozen barbed wire enclosures... set up in the middle of the desert” with “no running water or sewerage provision. Poisonous snakes and rats were everywhere.” </p> <p class="Default">The camp was run by the US military but the British had an interrogation centre there too. <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/96046/2010-06-17-Statement-Hurley.pdf#search=hurley">Hurley</a> said that those in charge “had almost no idea why many of the prisoners were in custody.” </p> <p class="Default">There were young children amongst them, 10 or 11 years old. “At one stage,” Hurley said, “I had to intervene to have these children properly cared for. On a number of occasions I spoke with UK officers about the insensitive and arrogant way they dealt with prisoners. I had a pointed discussion with a barrister in the UK Army Legal Services who had been particularly rude and bigoted in the treatment of detainees.”</p> <p class="Default">Hurley’s final assessment as “a career policeman with many years of senior investigative experience” was disappointment at “how little thought had been given to the issues of prisoner management in terms of provision of basic rights, dignity and influencing their decision whether to talk to us.”</p> <p class="Default">None of this inspired Chilcot to look further.</p> <p class="Default"><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.RobinCook_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.RobinCook_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The late Robin Cook MP resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest against the decision to invade Iraq, 17 March 2003</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">Does the Chilcot Inquiry’s inability or unwillingness to consider the Iraq allegations mirror a longstanding wilful political blindness?</p><p class="Default">The multiple claims of abuse in detention and unlawful killing haven’t attracted the recent attention of Members of Parliament from any party. No politician has campaigned for the truth to be publicly scrutinised.</p> <p class="Default">For the past 13 years the story has developed only because legal challenges and judgments (like those resulting from actions brought by Public Interest Lawyers and those heard by Sir George Newman), have forced accounts of illegal military action into the headlines.</p> <p class="Default">Even then the response has been restricted to one of ‘outrage’ at a specific crime, such as the killing of Baha Mousa or the drowning of Ahmed Ali. Successive governments have failed to grapple with the nature and scale of allegations, resisting calls for an overarching public inquiry into the possibility that systems of abuse had been allowed to develop or perhaps even ordered.</p> <p class="Default">Nor has the Labour Party, as official opposition since it lost power in 2010, challenged the government line.</p> <p class="Default">On 24 September, in an exclusive interview with the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/24/tony-blair-end-this-army-witch-hunt-into-britains-brave-soldiers/">Sunday Telegraph</a> Tony Blair said the Iraq Historic Allegations Team was a mistake. “I do not think this process should ever have been put in place,” he said. “I am very sorry that our soldiers and their families have been put through this ordeal.”</p> <p class="Default">Asked to comment, Jeremy Corbyn, who had just been elected Labour leader that same day, gave a curiously mild<strong> </strong>response. “There has to be a recognition that we’ve signed up to international law on the behaviour of troops,” <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07xsz1w/the-andrew-marr-show-25092016">Corbyn</a> said, “so I think there has to be investigations. Saying never to prosecute, I think, would be a step too far.”</p> <p class="Default">No mainstream political party and no prominent politician is fighting publicly to reveal whether the accumulated evidence indicates failures of policy or represents an unconnected sequence of criminal actions by a tiny minority of rogue soldiers. Only when MPs (mostly Conservatives) have sought to condemn the lawyers and call for on-going criminal inquiries against British troops to be wound up, has any particular political interest been evident.</p> <p class="Default">Why is this so?</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Tomorrow: In the beginning. What happened when the British invasion turned into occupation.</h2><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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la">A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Wed, 16 Nov 2016 00:07:30 +0000 A.T. Williams 106095 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A drowned boy, an apology, an attack on ‘activist, left-wing human rights lawyers’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/at-williams/drowned-boy-apology-attack-on-activist-left-wing-human-rights-la <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">Today we explore the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>(Day 2 of our 7 day series)&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AHMEDJABBARKAREEMALIshort.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AHMEDJABBARKAREEMALIshort.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">On 15 September 2016 the British government issued a public apology for the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers.</p> <p class="Default">Eight days later Prime Minister Theresa May attacked “vexatious claims” being brought against armed forces.</p><p class="Default"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers"> Yesterday</a> we examined that official narrative, and how some of the UK’s media promoted it. Today we tell the story of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali.</p><p class="Default">Sir George Newman, chair of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org/">Iraq Fatalities Inquiry (IFI)</a>, investigated Ali’s death. The Inquiry was set up in 2013 to examine unresolved questions about some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of British forces and is one of the processes which the&nbsp;<em>Mail, </em>the <em>Sun </em>and the&nbsp;<em>Telegraph&nbsp;</em>have campaigned to bring to an end.</p> <p class="Default"><strong><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-Shatt_Al_Arab_river.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E-Shatt_Al_Arab_river.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="204" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British Army soldiers on the banks of the Shatt Al Arab waterway in Basra, Iraq. Press Association/Lewis Whyld. All rights reserved.
</span></span></span></strong></p> <p class="Default">The IFI found that Ali, a 15 year old boy, with three other Iraqi civilians, was arrested in Basra on suspicion of looting by members of the Irish Guards on 8 May 2003.</p> <p class="Default">The soldiers put the four Iraqis in a Warrior armoured car and drove them to the Al-Zubair bridge on the Shatt Al Basra canal. Once there, they ordered the Iraqis out of the vehicle and into the water. </p> <p class="Default">It was supposed to be a form of rough and ready punishment, a tactic called ‘wetting’, designed to deal with increasing looting in the city. The British forces couldn’t cope with the problem. They didn’t have the manpower or the facilities for detaining looters. Instead they resorted to humiliation.</p> <p class="Default">One of the soldiers testified before the inquiry that after the three Iraqi men and Ali were forced into the river, he saw the “‘boy” then suddenly go under the surface, come up and then go under again. The boy didn’t reappear. None of the soldiers went in after him. They got back into the Warrior and left. Ali drowned, his body recovered from the river by his father two days later.</p> <p class="Default">Sir George questioned the soldiers and examined the evidence. He <a href="http://www.iraq-judicial-investigations.org/linkedfiles/reports/iraqfatalitiesinvestigationsreportintothedeathofahmedjabbarkareemali(web-optimisedpdf).pdf">concluded</a> that the actions of the four Guardsmen amounted to “a clumsy, ill directed and bullying piece of conduct, engaged in without consideration of the risk of harm to which it could give rise”. He said ‘“there was a manifest failure to take action to save the life of Mr Ali”.</p> <p class="Default">Sir George also indicated that the general treatment of looters in Basra required further investigation. &nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">He referred to evidence given by Captain Niall Brennan, one of the Operations officers in the Irish Guards at the time Ali died. </p> <p class="Default">Sir George reported that Brennan was “aware that one of the methods for dealing with looters was throwing them into one of the waterways”. It was a routine mode of punishment. And Brennan stated that his commanding officer “would have been aware of the practice”. </p> <p class="Default">The implication was that the treatment, clearly in breach of the Geneva Conventions, may have been known about or sanctioned by senior military personnel. Sir George announced that he intended to look further into the matter and any other cases of other Iraqis alleged to have died in circumstances similar to the death of Ahmed Ali.</p><p class="Default"><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.Iraqi_children_stones_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.Iraqi_children_stones_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="247" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iraqi children in Hyyaniah, Basra in Southern Iraq, throw stones at British soldiers. Press Association/Richard Mills. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Default">How did the government respond to Sir George’s report? </p> <p class="Default">“This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry,” said the Ministry of Defence. “We are committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing by UK forces.” The MoD would “learn lessons to help ensure nothing like this happens again.”</p> <p class="Default">Prime Minister Theresa May gave no comment. Two weeks later, her conference speech contained no sense of contrition, commitment to investigate, openness to learning lessons. Instead, she attacked the very people who sought to expose wrongdoing and hold government to account. </p> <p class="Default">“We will never again – in any future conflict,” May said, “let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave – the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.”</p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p><h2>Tomorrow, a former policeman turned Territorial Army soldier tells of children as young as 10 locked up by British troops.&nbsp;</h2><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/at-williams/conspiracy-cooked-up-by-activist-left-wing-human-rights-lawyers">A conspiracy cooked up by ‘activist left-wing human rights’ lawyers?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/chilcot-report-and-politics-of-iraq-war">The Chilcot Report and the Politics of the Iraq War</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/from-war-to-occupation-in-iraq">From war to occupation in Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/rising-tide-of-allegations-suggests-systemic-abuse-by-british-mi">Rising tide of allegations suggests ‘systemic abuse’ by British military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/iraq-abuse-allegations-resist-deny-hide">Iraq abuse allegations: Resist, deny, hide</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 Shine A Light A.T. Williams Tue, 15 Nov 2016 07:30:00 +0000 A.T. Williams 106049 at https://www.opendemocracy.net