Please join us outside the court at 9.30am to support Manjeet.
See Manjeet's campaign page for details.
Manjeet's new court date has been rescheduled for 2nd April 2014.
Please join us outside the court at 9.30am to support Manjeet.
See Manjeet's campaign page for details.
Manjeet's tribunal, which was to be held on the 6th March, has now been adjourned until April (date unspecified).
Please watch Manjeet's campaign page for any further news.
Thursday, March 6th 2014
Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Offices,
Manchester M1 4AH
(Please Note: Access to the tribunal offices is on Mosley Street)
Manjeet Kaur is an Afghan national and current Chair of RAPAR, the human rights organisation based in Manchester.
Since she sought asylum in the UK three years ago, Manjeet has been at the forefront of many campaigns against the government’s unfair asylum policies and practices. During the Conservative Party conference in October 2013, Manjeet was interviewed on ITN’s News At Ten about the impact the Home Secretary’s newly announced immigration legislation would have on people seeking asylum.
Manjeet came to this country after she was subjected to a series of threats and attacks following the disappearance of her husband in India in February 2011. Before he disappeared, Amitt Bhatt, a campaigning journalist and Panun Kashmir activist, had been persecuted and attacked as a result of articles and books he had written criticising the Indian government’s policies in Kashmir. Manjeet helped with research and proof-reading for Amitt’s books, 'Lies and Genocide of the Indian Government' (2011) and 'Cryashmir' (2009).
Following his disappearance, Manjeet was beaten at her home in Delhi on two occasions by a group of men looking for information about her husband’s whereabouts. They told her if they failed to find him, they would be back to rape and kill her. Manjeet uses a wheelchair due to paralysis resulting from polio and the injuries sustained from these attacks have worsened her condition. The violent assaults were reported to the police in India but no protection was offered to Manjeet, despite increased vulnerability due to her paralysis.
Manjeet fled India in March 2011 in fear for her life. She came to the UK to be with family members who live in London because they could offer her the safety and support she needs. When she claimed asylum, Manjeet was housed in Manchester and now has numerous friends and supporters she has met through her work for RAPAR, community and trade union activities, and national disability rights and access to justice campaigns.
Manjeet met Amitt in India after moving there from Afghanistan following the death of her father who was a doctor in Kabul.
Despite documents which show that she is from Afghanistan, the Home Office wants to return Manjeet to India where she has already been threatened, and where there is no-one to support her and 90% of the infrastructure is wheelchair inaccessible. She needs to be with her family and friends in the UK. We urge everyone to support the campaign and demand that Manjeet is given asylum here.
Manjeet is appealing against the Home Office decision to return her to India. The tribunal date is Thursday, March 6th, and the campaign group is asking all supporters to join us in a presence outside the Asylum and Immigration tribunal offices in Mosely Street, Manchester, and inside the court itself.
Two and a half years ago, Manjeet successfully fought eviction from her asylum support housing in Whalley Range when the Home Office first turned down her case. With the help of RAPAR, Manjeet contacted community, trade union and disability activists who turned up to her home to prevent her being thrown out onto the streets.
Her case was taken up by Trafford MP Kate Green and her story covered by the media. Manjeet’s asylum support was reinstated and, following critical media stories, the rundown block of asylum support flats where she lived was re-decorated and re-furbished.
The Home Office initially told Manjeet she had to report weekly at Dallas Court, Salford Quays, despite the fact that she had a manual wheelchair at the time and had to take four buses to get there and back again in all kinds of weather. After a long campaign, Manjeet was finally told she could report to Dallas Court by telephone and her fight set a precedent for all disabled people seeking asylum.
Manjeet is a member of Unite’s Greater Manchester Social Action Branch and her campaign is also backed by the Manchester and Salford branch of the National Union of Journalists which has worked with the International Federation of Journalists to establish what happened to Amitt.
Together with another member of RAPAR, Manjeet worked with the UK Disabled People’s Council on a Disability Murals project in Bristol. A group of disabled people seeking asylum helped an artist put together a mural portraying their struggles against the asylum system. Copies of the mural have been exhibited throughout the country and Manjeet featured in a film about the project – the title of the film, “I’m An Asylum Seeker, It Changes Everything” is a quote from Manjeet.
During her time with RAPAR, Manjeet has also:
· Spoken about the UK’s immigration policies and practices at Manchester Trades Union Council and many other meetings
· Related her experience of eviction at anti Bedroom Tax meetings and rallies
· Joined lawyers on the platform at demonstrations to speak out against the cuts in legal aid
· Run a workshop at a union sponsored event to campaign against Nick Griffin’s re-election to the European Parliament
· Chaired a Stop Serco group which raised awareness about privatisation of asylum housing in the North West
Media coverage includes:
· Being interviewed on News At Ten and in the Disability Murals film
· Her story featured in the Manchester Evening News and other local media
· A short film called “Manjeet’s Journey” focusing on Manjeet’s campaign for telephone reporting to Dallas Court
What You Can Do To Help
· Come to the tribunal hearing to support Manjeet – date and time to be circulated
· Get your union branch or other organisation to pass a motion backing the campaign
· Write to your MPs urging them to contact Manjeet’s MP, Kate Green, to offer support. If Kate Green is your MP, ask her to continue to support Manjeet
· Write to the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister telling them that Manjeet must stay in the UK
· Sign the petition on the RAPAR website
· Donate to campaign costs, which include legal fees
· Join the campaign group
There are model letters and a model motion which you can use
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT KATH GRANT firstname.lastname@example.org
or go to the Campaigns Page on the RAPAR website www.rapar.org.uk
A mental-health crisis, endemic self-harm, suicide and forced abandonment of children - Hazel Healy exposes the damage caused by the detention of immigrants.
Abobeker* is an energetic man from Darfur with a long stride and more lives than a cat. As we speed-walk through Cardiff, he greets numerous Eritrean friends, one of whom he stops to embrace, exclaiming: ‘He was with me on the boat to Lampedusa!’
Migrants make a lot of friends, moving around Europe in and out of detention. Abobeker is something of an expert. He has spent time in more than half of Britain’s 10 detention centres, and two more in Italy, for over three years in total. He can reel them all off: Four months, four days in Sicily, four months and 17 days in Oakington, nine months in Campsfield - the first time…
While Britain and Italy took turns to detain Abobeker, his family fell apart. His wife was murdered, his four-year-old son died of malaria and his eight-year-old was snatched from a refugee camp. He has one surviving daughter in the care of his mother-in-law. ‘I lost my family. If [Britain] had accepted me in 2009, they would be here with me now,’ he says.
Abobeker fell foul of draconian detention powers in Europe. He is just one of over a million asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants deprived of their liberty in Europe and the US each year.
Detention has reached epidemic proportions. Some 700 years after habeas corpus became established in English law, officials routinely lock up non-citizens without charge. They can be held for days, months or, in the case of Britain, Australia and the US, indefinitely.
The practice, which had been growing since the 1980s, took off in the 1990s and soared post-9/11. English-speaking nations are the most enthusiastic detainers. Since the 1990s, the number of people detained under immigration powers in the US has quadrupled. Detention centres in Australia doubled between 2010 and 2011; Britain saw a 12-fold increase between 1993 and 2013, with capacity climbing from 250 to 4,500.
Campsfield House was key to this expansion. One of Britain’s first dedicated immigration detention facilities, it is a bleak, out-of-the-way place, with 10-metre high fences topped with razor wire. In 20 years, it has seen its fair share of controversy: breakouts, hunger strikes, riots and two suicides. Last October, a fire allegedly started by a suicidal detainee took out an entire accommodation unit.
A refurbished borstal for delinquent boys (at a cost of $31 million), it lies 11 kilometres north of New Internationalist’s editorial offices, off a series of bland roundabouts past the tidy bungalows of Kidlington.
Its first guests were a busload of Jamaicans who arrived at Christmas in 1993. Since then, its 200-odd beds have held up to 30,000 people from all over the world. Last year’s detainees hailed from 50 different nations, including Sudan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Like the majority of Britain’s detention centres, it is privately run, currently by MITIE, part of a powerful transnational industry that builds, caters for, and administers detention centres around the globe.
MITIE is required to provide a secure but humane environment. This creates an uncomfortable dissonance. Guards like to be called officers; inside, the jangle of keys, clank of gates and the sound of basketball are audible from the visitors’ room, which has a play area to entertain detainees visiting children. CCTV on reception shows a grainy Bingo game.
Campsfield is presented as a sinister leisure centre in a 2012 report from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB). It praised the activities on offer to its male detainees music, Diwali celebrations, yoga, IT and badminton. It also reported how a sit-down demonstration by 60 people in the sports hall was quickly suppressed and the ring leaders moved out. It was a good year for the ad-hoc use of handcuffs (down). And a man who jumped off the roof was re-captured in the buffer zone.
Activist Bill McKeith doubts the humane claim. ‘In Britain, they get prayer mats and gyms and lock up more and more people,’ he fumes. A founder of the Close Campsfield Campaign, he has organized monthly demonstrations since the day it opened.
The lack of a time limit is what got to Abobeker, who spent over a year incarcerated there. He took a $1.60-an-hour job in the kitchen to stay sane. People get stressed because there’s no answer, he says. They cannot tell you why you are there. If I knew it would be a day, a week, even a year… The problem is not knowing.’
‘Automatically, after six months, or a year, people go mental,’ says Hamid. An Iranian man with large haunted eyes, he spent over three years in immigration detention after serving a six-month prison term. Fifteen months after release, he is still suffering from depression.
A growing body of research confirms the corrosive impact of detention on mental health. Studies have found around 85 per cent of detainees suffer from clinical depression, which increases the longer they are held.
Self harm - cutting, asphyxiation, head-banging - is the grim barometer for emotional stress. Some 1,800 detainees were on self-harm watch in Britain in 2012. Over 200 people received medical treatment for injuries. This is a global problem. Australia’s ombudsman produced a shocking report in May 2013, which tracked a self-harm epidemic in detention centres that reached a rate of 1 in 10 detainees, some of them children.
Migrants claim staff are quick to dish out anti-depressants. ‘They give you a lot of pills,’ says Hamid darkly. ‘It makes you so lazy. You ask for drugs: they feed you to keep you calm.’
Asylum-seekers are predisposed to mental distress. They make up 50 per cent of all immigration detainees in Britain, and 83 per cent in Australia. And while legal clauses exist to release the vulnerable - the mentally ill, trafficked, victims of torture - in practice these are systematically ignored. The Gatwick Detainee Support Group has reported that a man with the mental age of 11 was held in isolation for six weeks at Brook House in southern England.
‘Detention is like a concrete jungle,’ explains Souleyman Sow, a chiselled 46-year-old from Guinea Conakry. ‘Easy to find your way in, hard to find your way out.’ It took him three and a half years to find his way out, after he was jailed for possessing a false passport.
It’s also hard to recover. Three Australian former detainees have recounted how they suffered nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts, and an enduring sense of loneliness.
Those who visit detention centres risk being overwhelmed. One woman, who has supported detainees in Campsfield for 20 years, said: ‘I try not to think about them or remember them because I’d get depressed. If you did, it’d destroy you.’
In the US, Human Rights Watch has condemned botched medical care that has resulted in great suffering or even death. Expectant mothers are routinely shackled and shortfalls in medical care have led to miscarriages.
Women are vulnerable across the board. A recent abuse scandal at the Yarlswood centre for women detainees in Britain led to a guard being sacked (his victim was deported).
Tilia, who spent a year in Yarlswood, says abuse was commonplace. Having women was a perk of their jobs, she explains. ‘They took advantage of the vulnerable ladies, led them to believe they could help with their case.’
The impact of detention on children can be devastating, inflicting life-long damage on cognitive and emotional development. Captured Childhood, a harrowing report from the International Detention Coalition based on interviews with child detainees, is not for the fainthearted. It includes the story of a bright 11-year-old Nigerian girl who attempted suicide after developing post-traumatic stress disorder, and of a three-year-old Somali boy who has spent his entire life in detention with his father.
The graphic accounts in this report have helped to reduce child detention in a number of countries. Less is done for children who lose their parents to detention. In a recent report, Bail for Immigration Detainees catalogued the acute distress of 200 children whose mother or father were detained. In 40 per cent of cases, they were taken into care.
The children lost weight, had nightmares, suffered insomnia, became withdrawn and deeply unhappy, particularly the toddlers. One disabled boy, who was left in the care of his seriously ill grandfather, was run over. ‘I never knew people could take away your kids out of your life, just like that’ wrote a woman called Kayla, who was detained for seven months. ‘They don’t know the pain you feel, you feel it in your guts.’
In the end, 83 per cent of the parents detained for an average of nine months were released back to their families, raising major questions over why they were detained in the first place.
‘It is difficult to imagine,’ says the report, ‘any other situation where children in the UK could be separated from their parents indefinitely with such scant attention to their welfare.’
The suffering of asylum-seekers, women and children is not incidental. ‘Migrants divide themselves into groups,’ says Don Flynn from the Migrants Rights Network. ‘Those who organize their whole life under the radar are much harder - and more expensive - to reach. So they go for the vulnerable: the asylum-seekers, women and children - the low-hanging fruit.’
The state’s rationale for detention fails on most counts. If the aim of detention is to have migrants available for deportation, why, in Italy, are half the detainees released? In Britain last year, 40 per cent of people left custody to rejoin their communities. For children, the figure rose to 50 per cent.
Hamid and Souleyman were earmarked for deportation as ex-offenders. Yet during their many years of detention they were not once issued with travel documents or flight directions. Hamid was refused bail 14 times.
Often, civil servants justify detention on grounds of ‘fear of absconding’; that the person will ‘lose touch’ with the authorities. Yet the Home Office has no evidence that people will abscond, and their trials with other coercive forms of detention, such as tagging, showed a 90-per-cent ‘success rate’.
The NGO and legal community has led the way in demonstrating humane ways to monitor migrants on behalf of governments. Some of these alternatives place no restrictions on liberty and can boast 90-per-cent ‘compliance’ and 80-per-cent cost savings on custodial measures. Unsurprisingly, they show that migrants treated with respect and given access to legal advice are more prepared to co-operate with the outcome of an immigration decision.
The rich world is increasingly outsourcing detention to the Global South in an attempt to cut migrants off at the pass. Australia has famously bullied the Pacific island Nauru and Papua New Guinea into hosting their 'offshore' detention centres. It is perhaps less well known that in the space of five years, funds from Australia have also seen a drastic increase in the number of people detained in Indonesia, which holds migrants - including children - for up to 10 years.
Mexico - another country that used not to detain - held 90,000 in 2012, under pressure from the US. The Global Detention Project report that the US has detention centres all over the Caribbean, including one in Guantanamo Bay.
Economic powerhouse South Africa, which has a capacity to detain 6,500 migrants at the privately run Lindela detention centre, is now supporting detention in Mozambique and Botswana.
For its part, the EU gave $41 million to Ukraine for detention infrastructure in 2011, and supported detention centres in Libya, where Amnesty recently condemned ill-treatment amounting to torture.
As the borders push southwards, the few rights afforded migrants in the West tend to evaporate. 'We spoke to some unaccompanied children from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka who were recently detained in Indonesia', said one researcher, who asked not to be named. 'They were beaten, sexually abused, and then released traumatized to the UNHCR. What they needed was legal support and safety. All detention did was damage them.'
Another rationale for detention, which is often explicit though technically illegal, is to deter migration. Yet there is no evidence that detention (rather than catch and release) has, for example, reduced illegal crossings along the Mexican border. There is evidence that it has increased migrant deaths, as people take riskier routes. UNHCR’s Alice Edwards writes that globally, as detention has increased, the number of people seeking to enter these territories has also risen or remained constant.
The price tag of detention is exorbitant. Australia will spend US$1.7 billion over the next four years building and running a detention centre for 750 vulnerable refugees on Nauru, a lump of phosphate rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That works out at $1,570 per day. Supporting the same number of asylum-seekers to live in the community costs just $6 per day.
Meanwhile, Britain had to pay out $19 million in compensation for unlawful detention in 2010-11. Hamid received $28,000 when his detention was ruled arbitrary and unlawful. ‘Your taxpayers have to work hard to keep people like me in detention,’ he says drily.
UNHCR, Amnesty International and EU parliamentarians have repeatedly drawn attention to violations of international law and the refugee convention, which state that detention should only be used as a last resort, and for the shortest time possible.
It was not always like this. In the early 20th century, foreigners could be stopped and questioned, and internment kicked in during wartime. But the US had closed Ellis Island where aliens were often detained on arrival in New York for good by 1954. While states possessed the power to detain, up until around the 1980s, migrants were more likely to be given a notice of deportation, or to be held in humanitarian open camps for processing.
Michael Flynn, a researcher who has been tracking the growth of detention infrastructure at the Global Detention Project, concludes: ‘It doesn’t add up. It’s spending vast amounts of money and political capital in a fruitless endeavour.’
The race to lock up migrants has not gone unnoticed by social theorists. They slot detention into a wider pattern of racial criminalization across Western liberal states, driven by a pattern of uncertainty, risk and fear. Detention centres crystallize and reaffirm ideas about dangerous foreigners. The language politicians use to justify them further fuels public imagination about the harm migrants pose to society.
Such crass, xenophobic populism is one reason why Sarah Teather, Liberal MP for Brent, plans to step down before Britain’s 2015 elections. ‘I’m deeply uncomfortable with a politics that is deliberately using people who are already relatively vulnerable, as outsiders, as a tool to demonstrate how tough we are,’ she told The Guardian. ‘It’s about trying to create and define an enemy.’
Incentives for officials who hit target of winning 70% of tribunal cases include vouchers, cash bonuses and extra holidays
Diane Taylor and Rowena Mason
Tuesday 14 January 2014
Home Office officials are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for helping to ensure failed asylum seekers lose their attempt to stay in the country, new documents reveal.
Official guidance obtained by the Guardian shows that immigration staff have been set a target of winning 70% of tribunal cases in which asylum seekers are appealing against government decisions that they should leave the UK.
These officers are also incentivised by Home Office reward schemes involving gift vouchers, cash bonuses and extra holidays, according to information received under freedom of information laws.
Asked what rewards were given to presenting officers and case owners in the fields of asylum and immigration, the department confirmed high-street vouchers for £25 or £50 were handed out to "recognise positive performance over a short period of time", including when officers "exceed their casework targets for a month".
Critics said it was a new low for officers to be rewarded for outcomes that meant asylum seekers being asked to leave the UK for countries where they claim to be facing persecution or war. The incentives undermine confidence in the fairness of the system, they say.
But the Home Office said the "success of officers in upholding asylum decisions" was only one of a range of criteria used to monitor staff performance. It is understood officers are also judged on the effectiveness of their presentation, the strength of their cases and compliance with official guidelines before getting rewards.
A Home Office spokesman declined to say how many vouchers in total had been given out to asylum and immigration staff. However, a parliamentary answer reveals 11 high street shopping vouchers for £25 have been given out solely to presenting officers in asylum cases since July 2012 as a "one-off recognition of individual performance at court". Mark Harper, a Home Office minister, said no vouchers had been issued purely for winning cases at the immigration tribunals as several factors are taken into consideration. "Presenting officers' performance is assessed equally by reference to other relevant factors that include the quality of preparation and advocacy," he said.
"Presenting officers' performance is managed in accordance with the same performance management policy that applies to all Home Office staff. Where an officer's overall performance is judged to be unsatisfactory, the Home Office's poor performance procedure may be instigated."
Sarah Teather MP, a prominent Liberal Democrat and former minister, said schemes such as this one "completely undermine any sense that the system will give a fair hearing to those who come here seeking sanctuary from war and persecution".
"If the Home Office are really giving out shopping vouchers for officers who help ensure asylum seekers lose their appeals that is a new low," she said.
"We have also seen before that setting success targets incentivises Home Office lawyers to delay those cases they are likely to lose at the last minute. Not only does this cost the taxpayer money through court costs and ever-increasing backlogs, but it leaves asylum seekers in a devastating state of limbo.
"If the Home Office wants to reduce the number of appeals they lose, they should improve the quality of the decisions they make in the first place."
In response, a firm of immigration lawyers said it was considering a legal challenge because voucher rewards for casework targets were a "clear incentive to bad practice".
James Packer, of Duncan Lewis solicitors, said: "The Home Office expects its officials to win a specific number of appeals and can reward them if they exceed their 'target'. This is a clear incentive to bad practices. I am especially dismayed to discover that a mandatory success rate of 70% applies in asylum appeals where people's lives are at stake. We believe these measures are unlawful as well as immoral and have written to the Home Office making it clear that we will bring a legal challenge unless these incentives are withdrawn."
Human rights organisations said they had evidence that some asylum seekers whose cases were rejected were tortured or otherwise persecuted on return to the destination country.
Emma Mlotshwa, coordinator of the charity Medical Justice, which works to protect the health of immigration detainees, said: "This is deeply disturbing. We have cases of people who have survived torture, claimed asylum, had their cases rejected and have then been forcibly removed from the UK.
"On arrival in their home country they have been tortured again. The fact that some Home Office officials may have received [rewards] for helping secure decisions to remove such people from the UK is very worrying indeed."
The disclosures about the incentives come after Duncan Lewis wrote to the Home Office protesting at long delays in handling the some asylum-seeker cases. The firm believes some cases with strong grounds for appeal are being withdrawn by the Home Office on the day of the tribunal because officials fear they will lose and risk failing to meet their target of winning 70% of cases. The applicant then has to wait even longer for the Home Office to make a fresh decision.
This allegation is rejected by the Home Office, which said officers did not prioritise cases depending on the likelihood of success and added that "any decision to withdraw a case has to be approved at a more senior level".
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By Hussein Kesvani
It's not difficult to empathise with failed asylum seekers. The usual story is as follows: flee your home country and put yourself in the hands of people traffickers, risking your life to travel thousands of miles – only to find your plea for asylum falling on deaf ears. Then, after becoming the unwitting star of a government PR drive to appear tough on immigration, you're either detained indefinitely or put on the next flight back to wherever it is you spent so much time and effort fleeing. Now imagine all that, but with the threat of being deported to a country that you don't even come from.
This miserable chain of events is what's happening to the hundred or so Bajunis currently seeking asylum in the UK. Hailing from islands off the coast of southern Somalia, they spent the majority of their time in their home country fishing, and the rest of it being the victims of tribal persecution and threats from the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab.
Having sought asylum in the UK, the Bajunis are facing possible deportation to Kenya and Tanzania – countries where they have no heritage or current familial links. This is because the Home Office is refusing to acknowledge the Bajunis' Somali identity, thanks to the results of Language Testing for the Determination of Origin (LADO) tests – a type of "forensic linguistics" designed to assess the validity of nationality claims.
The Bajunis I spoke to told me that these decisions were made on the basis of their interviews with language analysts, and claimed that they had to speak mainland Swahili, rather than their mother tongue of Kibajuni.
The Unity Centre in Glasgow, a charity that has assisted the Bajunis with their asylum claims, alleges that the Home Office's LADO reports have dismissed official academic guidelines and independent expert findings. They argue that political decisions are being made through the use of evidence from Sprakab, the Swedish company that conducts the reports. The centre believes that this is far from a bureaucratic mistake, and instead a way of getting around the legal barriers – under EU human rights law – involved in sending people back to war-torn Somalia. Essentially, it would seem that the Home Office wants rid of the Bajuni refugees, and – unable to deport them back to their home country – are making selective use of Sprakab analysis in order to send them elsewhere.
According to Jasmin Sallis, one of the centre's organisers, "It is a deliberate tactic. It is no coincidence that the Home Office insists these Somali Bajunis are from countries with no barriers to deportation. Lack of objective knowledge of the Bajuni Islands and differences between individuals from the mainland is a key reason the Home Office's tactics work so well towards this minority group."
When I chased up the Home Office to ask about Sprakab and its reports, it refused to comment on individual cases, but did confirm that the company has worked for them since 2000. Sprakab also failed to comment on the questions I asked them.
"It's a huge waste of taxpayer money and resources," said Brian Allen, who is an expert witness in the tribunal courts for Bajuni language testing. Having seen over 400 Sprakab reports, he criticised their methods, saying that obscure and misleading questions are often asked in Kenyan Swahili, rather than Kibajuni.
"You have to bear in mind that the Bajuni are a remote people, and not formally educated," he told me. "They aren't going to answer questions [about] the names of parliamentarians or the names of mainland landmarks." Referring to Sprakab's testing methods, Brian said, "It's unprofessional and intimidatory. Not only do the interviews not speak to the Bajunis in their native tongue, but a lot of the interviews were quite aggressive.
"There's a huge lack of transparency, and complete anonymity for Sprakab analysts, whom the Home Office are keen on supporting," Allen added. "It makes it very difficult to understand how testers come to their conclusions, or the qualifications they have in the first place." Surprisingly, Allen says that, in a rare conversation with one of the company's managers, they told him that their reports shouldn't be used as an authority to make asylum decisions.
And it's not just Allen who has questioned Sprakab's practices; Alison Harvey, the legal director of the Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association, said, "Language analysis cannot tell you a person’s nationality. It is relied upon by those who prefer the comforting certainties of pseudo-science to the responsibility of exercising judgement and weighing the evidence in a particular case."
Regardless of this expert criticism, language analysis remains a vital device in deciding the future of the Bajunis, most of whom are currently on limited support on the condition that they are making preparations to deport themselves. Nineteen-year-old Abdul Rahman, who left the islands after losing his uncle, told me that, despite attempts to prove his Somali origin, the Home Office still expects him to go to Kenya.
When I asked about the testing, he told me the Sprakab analyst didn't speak Kibajuni to him, but the Kenyan dialect Swahili, while the questions asked were so vague that it proved "[the analyst] knew nothing about Somalia". He added, "They try to trick you into telling them the answers they want to hear."
Like a number of other Bajunis, Abdul receives a very small allowance each week to spend on necessities, putting him in a better situation than the few who refused to accept voluntary deportation and have been left to rely on the help of charities and refugee organisations.
Difficult as life in the UK is for the Bajunis, accepting deportation isn't really an option, considering – as I was told – they are regularly subjected to beatings and lootings by gangs, and in some cases even rapes and murders. Mohammed (a pseudonym), one of the Bajunis I interviewed, left the islands in 2006 after his family "couldn't take it any more", first seeking refuge in Kenya, before eventually coming to the UK.
"They killed most of my family while they slept, and we used to hear rumours that they terrorised other island communities, too," he said. "I wanted to stay in my home for as long as possible, but we didn't have any guns or real weapons. I had no other choice but to leave." He said of his time in Kenya, "Those who went to Kenyan refugee camps were ignored most of the time – given little food and water, too. They didn't like us at all, and would only give orders in Swahili – a language that the refugees had no knowledge of. They had to learn it to survive."
Unfortunately for the Bajunis who made it here, the UK has only been a little more hospitable. But in spite of all the difficulties, The Unity Centre's Bajuni Campaign remains optimistic. According to Jasmin, "As the campaign has gained an online presence, contact by other Bajunis also facing disputed nationalities in Germany, The Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland has been made. The desirable outcomes are very basic: the right to work, and the right to be recognised as Somalian."
See the original article here: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-bajuni-somalis-are-being-deported-to-countries-that-arent-their-homes
New rules restricting access to welfare benefits for new EU migrants including a six month statutory presumption for benefits paid to jobseekers.
In this post Garden Court Chambers barrister Desmond Rutledge look at how we got here, what are the new rules and what might follow next.
HistoryOn 27 November 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a number of measures designed to ensure that “no-one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately” – see EU migrants: David Cameron sets out more benefit restrictions.
On 13 December 2013, the Government announced the introduction of a new, ‘improved’ habitual residence test – see the DWP press release.
On 18 December 2013, the Prime Minister announced that from 1 January 2014 all EU jobseekers will have to wait for 3 months before they can apply for out of work benefits.
These changes were widely seen as the Government’s attempt to rush through a block on EU migrants’ access to benefits in response to the politically sensitive lifting of the restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK from 1 January 2014 – see Tories rush through curbs on benefits access for Romanians and Bulgarians.
Amendments to the legislationAll this has resulted in the following amendments to the legislation affecting EU migrants’ access to benefits as jobseekers.
The Immigration (European Economic Area) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 (SI.No.3032/2013) which amends the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1003) introduces a 6 month statutory presumption for Jobseeker’s Allowance. The Regulations make changes with respect to the definitions of ‘jobseeker’ and ‘worker’ in the 2006 Regulations to the effect that: -
The DWP has issued official guidance in DMG Memo 28/13: JSA(IB) – 3 months residence requirement.
Procedural changes to the habitual residence testUnder an “improved Habitual Residence Test” migrants will be required to answer more individually tailored questions, provide more detailed answers and submit more evidence before they will be allowed to make a claim.
According to EU case-law, an EEA national seeking work will have a right to reside for an initial period of six months but the period can be for longer if the EEA national can show that they are genuinely seeking work and have a reasonable chance of being engaged (Case C-292/89 R v Immigration Appeal Tribunal, ex p Antonissen  ECR 1-7450, Directive 2004/38/EC, Art 7(3)(b)–(c)). In AG and Ors (EEA-jobseeker-self-sufficient person-proof) German  UKAIT 00075, the Upper Tribunal held that the six months’ period is a general rule of thumb and that there is no fixed time limit (para 49). Former workers who have actually worked in the UK for at least a year (Directive 2004/38/EC, Article 7(3)(i)) retain the status of worker as a work seeker indefinitely, subject to being registered as a jobseeker (CIS/0601/2008  UKUT 35 (AAC), para 22). They are not subject to the additional condition imposed after six months on those who have worked for less than 1 year.
Regulations restricting the right of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals (‘A2 nationals’) to work in the UK ceased to apply from 1 January 2014. This change is given effect by the Immigration (European Economic Area) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3032). Subject to transitional rules, this means that, from 1 January 2014, A2 nationals will have the same EU rights to reside in the UK as any other EEA national. See also the official guidance in DMG Memo 27/13: Nationals – ending of restriction on right to reside.
Lastly, in a report published on 23 December 2013 – In transition: Romanian and Bulgarian migration to the UK – the Institute for Public Policy Research says whilst temporary restrictions on the working rights of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens in the UK will be lifted in January 2014, it is likely that patterns of migration from Romania and Bulgaria will be different to those seen after the A8 countries joined the EU in 2004.
Original article here: http://www.freemovement.org.uk/2014/01/13/the-political-row-over-benefits-and-eu-migrants/
Private security firms G4S and Serco have placed asylum seekers in sub-standard properties, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
A report on contracts awarded by the Home Office also criticised the length of time taken to house asylum seekers.
Three providers - G4S, Serco and Clearel - signed contracts in March 2012 to find housing for destitute asylum seekers.
The move was intended to save around £20m a year over seven years.
But the NAO has found that in 2012-13, it achieved a saving of only £8m.
G4S and Serco were singled out for particular criticism, after struggling to get their contracts up and running because of "negotiating difficulties" with the existing housing suppliers.
The NAO noted that overall performances were now improving, but that G4S and Serco were "still failing to meet some of their key performance targets" relating to the condition of housing provided and the time taken to secure it.
In three of the six regions for which the firms are responsible, the transition to the new contracts took longer than planned - up to three months in some cases.
Ninety per cent of those requiring accommodation were able to remain in their existing place of residence.
But around 2,000 asylum seekers who had to move as a result of the new contracts received "mixed messages", the NAO said, and those messages were "not routinely translated".
The report reveals that both G4S and Serco took on housing stock without inspecting it, and then found that many of the properties they had taken on did not meet the required quality standards.
The housing stock is the subject of a continuing commercial dispute between G4S and the Home Office, in which G4S claims the cost of bringing the housing up to the required standard is prohibitive.
By contrast, the Home Office argues that providers were aware that they would be taking on the risks associated with property standards when they submitted their bids.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, warned that as things stand "it will be difficult for the Home Office, providers and local authorities to develop the mature relationships needed to achieve the envisaged savings and an effective service".
James Thorburn, managing director of Serco's home affairs division, said the company had worked "extremely hard to raise standards".
He conceded that the handover from previous contracts was "challenging", but said Serco had "concentrated on minimising the disruption" and remained committed to further improvement.
A Home Office spokesperson said the UK had a "proud history of granting asylum to those who need it" and welcomed the report's recognition of contractors' recent improvement.
The National Audit Office report also raised concerns that some asylum applicants may be occupying houses to which they are not entitled.
In order to receive accommodation and support, asylum seekers must be assessed as destitute.
But the NAO said its fieldwork had revealed that in some cases "it was clear that the occupants may have a level of income above that expected".
Housing officers who observe "signs of wealth" in the course of regular inspections have a duty to report it, and the Home Office will also seek to recover overpayments.
Original article at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25674108