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On the 14th of May this year the Queen gave royal ascension to the Immigration Bill. This bill had been launched on October 9th 2013 and sponsored by the Home Secretary Theresa May. It outlined the Coalition government’s new approach to what it considered to be the key problems of the immigration sector. Hopefully this post will highlight some of the history, contents and responses to the bill, which given its cross-societal nature, have been widespread and largely in opposition.
In overview, the bill deals with several large areas:
1) The extension of fingerprint and biometric controls, passport controls, and embarkation orders in order to better and more quickly identify illegal migrants. Increase powers to inquire into partnership and marriage statuses to prevent sham marriages.
2) Cut the number of decisions on which a migrant can appeal against asylum refusal and deportation from 17 down to 4. Create a policy of ‘deport first and appeal later’ in cases where no clear threat to life exists. Advance government pressure to reduce the use of Article 8 (EHR Right to Family Life) in court hearings. Increase restrictions on multiple requests for bail from immigration detainees.
3) Restrict access to illegal migrants in a number of areas. Firstly require landlords to check immigration status on prospective and existing tenants. Secondly enforcing a payment on those subject to immigration controls for short term stay visas or longer than 6 months (asylum seekers excluded) for use of the NHS. Others include requiring bank workers and driver licensing authorities to check applicants against immigration databases.
4) Increasing regulation over the immigration advice sector and enforcing payment of unpaid civil penalties.
A number of political factors and myths have led up to this bill being passed. As part of the general attack on the welfare state by the coalition, there has also been a policy of using immigration as the ‘sharp end of the wedge’. Nowhere more clearly has this been demonstrated than the increasing attacks on so-called ‘welfare tourism‘, in particular health tourism. The bill also plays into general public fears about abuse of human rights legislation to overstay in the UK, hence the attacks on Section 8 and other rights designed to protect family life. But far and away the bill is aimed at, in Theresa May’s own words, ‘creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants‘, which is just what is aimed at with the removal of access to public services and private rented accommodation.
However, the reality on the ground does not bear out to these concerns. In particular the shocking lack of evidence for the claim that EU migrants are costing the NHS and the welfare state a fortune. After some particularly unpleasant comments by the Coalition aimed at European migrants, the European Commission demanded proof that welfare tourism was costing what Theresa May described as an ‘unacceptable burden’. What emerged from a leaked document was that in fact the UK does not keep figures on EU migrants who access welfare benefits, and so were unable to tell the Commission even how many migrants had rightfully accessed benefits, let alone fraudulently. In an immortal line the document stated ‘we consider that these questions place too much emphasis on quantitative evidence’. In other words, because some voter saw lots of Spanish people in an A+E once it must be the case that there is abuse, don’t let pesky evidence get in the way. In fact, figures for the cost to the NHS from migrants reveal that, at a generous estimate, migrants cost 12 million pounds a year. In perspective, this is 0.06% of the amount the NHS is being required to slash, or 0.011% of the total overall budget. So much for evidence based policy.
The major problem that this bill faces is the totally unethical and unworkable proposal that private landlords should become an arm of the immigration service, on pain of a £3000 fine. There has been an outcry from various organisations ranging from landlord advocacy groups, to homeless charities. If the bill goes through, the future of the rental sector will become thus: when someone applies for accomodation or is requested a property in the private sector through a Local Authority (LA), they will become subject to an immigration control. Every person regardless of skin colour or accent is in theory supposed to be checked. But overwhelmingly the concern is, even from landlords, a default to only accepting a UK passport or worse, a white UK passport. Given that there are in theory over 200 types of European ID documents, it’s not a surprise that landlords aren’t happy. In fact there is an endless list of ways in which this bill could go wrong, including – the changing nature of immigration statuses, surcharge by letting agents for immigration checks, clash between s.193 homelessness duty from an LA and immigration status and people fleeing violence or domestic abuse who may not have access to their documents. Overall this is an ill thought out piece of legislation, but the pilot schemes will be rolled out on the 1st of December in various cities. Despite this attempt to drive out illegal migrants, all this bill will do is make life harder for ordinary people, create discrimination where there was none and force illegals into the hands of criminal landlords. A recipe for housing exploitation and homelessness is to be expected.
To prevent this becoming an excessive length piece, there will be a follow up to cover the responses and opposition to the bill. For further information on the contents of the bill click here. A
Despite the best efforts of a handful of friends and family who blockaded Cedars detention centre and held up the coach for 5 hours, Mrs Saleh and her children were taken to an airport on Wednesday morning and deported to Egypt. However, the appeal against this course of action is building serious momentum as there have been a huge number of irregularities, illegalities and clear cases of abuse surrounding these events. Watch this space – we will be posting a detailed update really soon.
DEMONSTRATE! In Support of the Saleh Family
11.30am, Saturday 27th October
Aneurin Bevan Statue, Queen St, Cardiff.
Bring banners, signs, messages of support, and of course everyone you know!
An article in today’s Guardian, has added extra meaning to our protest outside the UKBA this afternoon. Louise Perrett worked as a case owner at the UK Border Agency office in Cardiff for three and a half months last summer. Due to her experiences of her time in the agency she has risked breaching the Official Secrets Act to go public with evidence of anti-immigration views and abuse of power by UK Border Agency staff.
“I witnessed general hostility, rudeness and indifference towards clients. It was completely horrific. I highlighted my concerns to senior managers but I was just laughed at. I decided to speak out because nobody else was saying anything and major changes are needed at senior management level.”
Her revelations reveal a culture of bigotry and prejudice in the Cardiff office, where members of staff took pride in refusing applications.
- One manager said of the asylum-seeker clients: “If it was up to me I’d take them all outside and shoot them.”
- If a case was difficult, she was simply advised to refuse it and “let a tribunal sort it out”.
- Any officer who approved an asylum application had a stuffed toy “grant monkey” placed on their desk by other members of staff as a badge of shame.
- One official tested the claims of boys Read the rest of this entry »
A new report: “Chance or choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK” has been published by the Refugee Council. The report is the result of research undertaken by Professor Heaven Crawley, Director of the Centre for Migration Policy Research at the University of Swansea.
The findings say what anyone who has any knowledge of the experience of refugees already knows. That people seeking sanctuary have little, if any, choice over which country they claim asylum in, and that few know what to expect before they arrive. The result being that harsh policies which make the life of a refugee tougher after they have arrived in the UK have no demonstrable influence over whether people Read the rest of this entry »
In the UK, on average, 50 people a day are forcibly removed from their homes and deported. In Cardiff, snatch squads leave from the UK Border Agency on 31-33 Newport Road in order to smash in peoples’ doors and drag them out of bed.
On Monday morning, UK Border Agency ‘Officers’ were at work early, busy at an address on Newport Road. The UKBA used dark blue anonymous unmarked vans, with blacked Read the rest of this entry »
“an immigration removal centre can never be a suitable place for children”
Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Two recent reports on full announced inspections of two privately run detention prisons provide extremely damning evidence of the treatment of asylum applicants incarcerated within them. The report on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and report on Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre were both carried out by Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. These are the places where single women and families – men, women and children – are locked up, often for extended periods of time, despite having never committed any crime, apart from coming to the UK in search of a better life. Both reports focused particularly on the effects that such imprisonment has on children.
Some key findings from the report on Yarl’s Wood
- Escort vehicles with caged compartments were inappropriately used to transport children
- the average length of children’s detention had increased and this had a detrimental effect on children and their families
- overall provision of health services was a concern
- Children staying for more than a few days received an unsatisfactory educational experience and there were few activities outside school hours
- There was no evidence that children’s individual needs were systematically taken into account when decisions to detain were made. Our interviews with detained children illustrated the effect of sudden arrest and detention on their well being and reflected how scared they were while held in detention
- The standard of care delivery was reasonable for basic primary care, but some serious gaps in provision, including poor access and communication, impacted negatively on detainee wellbeing
- Services for children were under-developed
Some key findings from the report about Tinsley House:
- Our principal concerns about safety related to children. While staff in the family centre made considerable efforts to support children and their families, they could do little to mitigate the damaging effects of their detention
- We were disturbed to observe some unprofessional conduct by external escort staff
- We were particularly troubled by the plight of single women …the conditions for single women were extremely poor …Their situation should be addressed as a matter of urgency
- there were examples of detainees given tranquilisers inappropriately without their consent
- Prolonged detention was not adequately explained or reviewed. When detainees made bail applications for independent review of detention by a court, BIA disclosure was sometimes prejudicially late and inaccurate
- there had been no progress on substantive areas of care since inspectorate recommendations as far back as 2002
Both these reports highlight the terrible conditions and human rights violations that asylum applicants must endure within detention centres, and as the final quote from the Tinsley House report highlights, nothing much has improved since the last inspection. The idea that such places could ever be made happier, more caring, or humane is pure fantasy. You know what we think. Close all detention prisons!
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On 9th January, Ama Sumani, a terminally ill Ghanaian mother of two was denied medical care for her cancer at University Hospital, Cardiff and subsequently deported. The decision has been widely and strongly criticised by the UK medical profession, with the medical journal `The Lancet’ stating that
“the UK has committed an atrocious barbarism”.
A doctor treating Ama at the hospital stressed to the immigration authorities that they were sending her to her death. Ama now has to fund her own kidney dialysis in Accra at £50 a day, without which she would die within 2 weeks. Most of the vital medication that was given by Welsh doctors for Ama to take home with her was taken by a UK government Doctor, leaving her Read the rest of this entry »
It has been discovered that ‘snatch squads’ who carry out dawn raids on asylum seeker families operate out of the ‘Border & Immigration Agency’, General Buildings, 31-33 Newport Road, Cardiff. As part of the fight against unjust & racist migration controls worldwide, activists from No Borders Wales have conducted early morning monitoring of immigration staff at General Buildings & have witnessed ‘snatch squads’ leaving the building on a number of occasions at around 6am in the morning. Activists who have followed the ‘snatch squads’ have been Read the rest of this entry »
Asylum seekers may once again be locked up without charge in Cardiff Jail, despite assurances that this barbaric practice had ended. Sources in the prison itself have confirmed this is true, despite official denials.
In May 2001 it was revealed that asylum seekers were being held behind bars alongside remand prisoners. It has now been 7 years since the removal of the “final” asylum seekers from the jail was welcomed by Read the rest of this entry »
While the NHS was set up to provide health care for all based on need & not an ability to pay, this is not the case for us all.
In April 2004 the Government tightened up restrictions on free health care to ‘overseas visitors’, in response to the perceived threat to the NHS of people coming to the UK specifically for free medical treatment. In fact, as pointed out by a 2006 Refugee Council report, there is no evidence to indicate the scale of such ‘health tourism’ & no specific examples of people migrating to the UK specifically for free health care. According to the Refugee Council, the main factors affecting the choice of country where individuals seek asylum is their language, family connections or historical connections between their country & the UK. Also, many asylum seekers simply do not have a choice of where they go as increasingly tighter border controls mean Read the rest of this entry »
Sunday 3rd – Tour for freedom of movement & against migration control in Glasgow. The crowd split into small groups, visiting government institutions & multinational companies where, denied sanctuary & protection, asylum seekers are exploited & repressed.
These included the Immigration Appeal courts, the registration of birth, marriage & deaths, employment agencies such as Manpower & Staff Finders, who profit from Read the rest of this entry »