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

This post is being updated with reports of atrocities around the army camp accommodation and hotels, and other Home Office plans to accommodate people in new sites such as Haasockfield/Derwent, and Rwanda:

Care4Calais: #StopRwanda https://care4calais.org/stop-rwanda/


Updated 22 June 2022: BBC: Plan to reverse European Court Rwanda rulings

The European Court of Human Rights block on sending asylum seekers to Rwanda could be overturned by ministers under new proposals.

The plan, being introduced to Parliament, would allow ministers to ignore the court’s injunctions.

It is an addition to planned changes to the Human Rights Act, and could also affect future cases involving migrants.

Critics say the proposals are confusing and would create two tiers of rights that hand more power to ministers.

But Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said his proposed Bill of Rights fixed problems with the Human Rights Act without abandoning it altogether.

Unveiling the plans, Mr Raab confirmed the government would not quit the European Convention on Human Rights, a set of legal safeguards allowing ordinary people to challenge what they say is unfair treatment by the government.

The Human Rights Act came into force in 2000. It introduced into UK law rights contained in the Convention – a treaty largely written by British civil servants and lawyers after World War Two and agreed by almost every nation in Europe.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-61887933


Updated 21 June 2022: See also this post:

https://statusnow4all.org/international-federation-of-iraqi-refugees-claims-that-man-was-subjected-to-inhumane-treatment-during-attempted-deportation-to-rwanda/

16 June 2022: Guardian: Rwanda refugee policy is like the rendition of slaves in the 1800s

Prof Julia O’Connell Davidson likens the government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to the forced returns facilitated by the Fugitive Slave Act in the US. Plus a letter from Mark Stephens

Priti Patel claims that the policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is a means to combat criminal gangs involved in people trafficking – a form of modern-day slavery. Yet, unlike African victims of the transatlantic slave trade, the people described as trafficked today actively want to move, and for very good reason.

A better historical comparison is with people who tried to escape from slavery. Like “fugitive slaves”, they move in search of greater freedom. Through this lens, Patel’s Rwanda policy looks more like the forms of rendition facilitated by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act in the US, whereby those who escaped were more readily returned to the condition they had fled.

Had she been present at the time, presumably Patel would not have been disappointed by the Massachusetts court that ruled in 1854 that Anthony Burns, a refugee from slavery, could be forcibly returned to his “owner” in Virginia. Burns had, after all, made an illegal border crossing to escape. But in the words of Henry David Thoreau, Burns’ rendition revealed the state of Massachusetts as “morally covered with volcanic scoriae and cinders”. With perhaps even greater resonance for Britain today, he continued: “If there is any hell more unprincipled than our rulers … I feel curious to see it.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jun/16/rwanda-refugee-policy-is-like-the-rendition-of-slaves-in-the-1800s


Care4Calais 

Last night, at the 11th hour, five men were stopped from boarding a flight to Rwanda. In the morning, seven had been expecting to be on the plane. Through the day, four of those seven made individual claims to the British courts to stop them being forcibly sent. Three more men had their deportations stopped by an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

This meant there was no deportation to Rwanda yesterday.

The ECHR gave four main reasons for its decision:

– The Evidence from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that asylum seekers in Rwanda would not have access to a fair and efficient process to determine their asylum claim.

– That the UK courts had acknowledged that this evidence raised very serious issues, even though they decided not the stop the removal.

– That enforcing human rights in Rwanda would be difficult as Rwanda is not part of the European Convention on Human Rights.

– That there is no legally-enforceable way of ensuring someone would be returned to the UK if the policy was found unlawful.

Because of this, the ECHR was satisfied that there was a real and imminent risk of severe and irreversible harm, and so it ordered that the individuals should not be removed from the UK.

This was a great relief for us, for the individuals concerned and for their families. However, it is by no means over yet. The important hearing is the one in July. In July we will go to court again for the court to decide whether the Rwanda policy itself is lawful. This will be an incredibly important decision for many refugees, and for the future of the UK.

We think this policy is utterly barbaric and, given there are more humane and effective alternatives available, a stain on our nation’s history. If the Government truly wanted to stop people smugglers and save lives they would give other refugees visas to cross the Channel in a similar way to Ukrainians. With these visas, refugees could then claim asylum on arrival in the UK. This would put people smugglers out of business overnight. We have not seen any Ukrainians getting in small boats or paying people smugglers, so we know this could work.

Right now people are coming anyway, but there is no control and they are taking dangerous risks. Visas would mean we know exactly who is coming. People smugglers would no longer make money.

They should never have been put through the hell of the last few days. We must remember that every single refugee is a victim of the worst things on this planet. They need our help and our compassion as human beings. Using them as political pawns is unforgivable. Our lawyers are working hard to get them released. But we know the Government will work harder than ever to deport more people just like them.

Last night was the culmination of dedicated people working long days and nights with no breaks or weekends. We are incredibly proud of our volunteers, some of whom are refugees themselves. This will be a long hard fight. You can support their work here: bit.ly/c4caccess


Guardian: What is the ECHR and how did it intervene in UK’s Rwanda flight plans?

International court that grounded deportation flight was established in 1953 to stop human rights abuses

After the first deportation flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda was abandoned following a dramatic 11th-hour intervention from the European court of human rights, the government insisted it was only a “temporary setback”. As some Conservative MPs are expected to renew calls for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR, here are some key questions surrounding its role in this case.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2022/jun/15/what-is-the-echr-and-how-did-it-intervene-in-uk-rwanda-flight-plans


15 June 2022: Politico: The next hole in UK’s Rwanda asylum plan: Conflict in Congo

In a dramatic military escalation, Kinshasa accuses Kigali of backing a rebel group and seizing a border town.

LONDON/BUKAVU, Congo — Lawyers aren’t the only obstacle to Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The U.K. prime minister will soon also have to grapple with the fallout of a dramatically escalating regional conflict that Rwanda is accused of stoking in the east of neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Britain’s first planned flight transporting refugees more than 4,000 miles away to Kigali was ultimately canceled on Tuesday night after an 11th-hour intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. Undeterred by farcical scenes of passengers being pulled from the plane one-by-one in the minutes before take-off was scheduled, Johnson’s government is vowing to press ahead with its highly contentious new migration policy.

Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who won a Nobel prize for his work combating sexual violence in conflict zones, said an increasing number of victims were heading to his clinic in eastern Congo and pointed the finger squarely at Kigali. “Rwanda is hoping that everyone will look at the Ukraine war and that it will be left alone here,” he told POLITICO at the Panzi hospital in Bukavu.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-deportation-plan-rwanda-fighters-congo/



14 June 2022 14 June 2022 10.12pm: Care4Calais@Care4Calais· BREAKING: Last ticket cancelled. NO ONE IS GOING TO RWANDA


Jessica Simor QC @JMPSimor

Breaking: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg grants rule 39 request to stop the flight to Rwanda from leaving. Basis: real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment (Art. 3 ECHR). Please share – government must comply.

This is in relation to one individual but the ruling contains a generic test that would apply to any of the applicants who have pending legal proceedings, which is likely all of them in so far as they have sought interim injunctions (ie until their cases are heard).


7.45pm: Guardian: Rwanda asylum flight in doubt after 11th-hour ECHR intervention

Lawyers make successful emergency application to European court that could lead to grounding of first flight

In an initial decision, a letter from the court has stated that the asylum seeker should not be removed on Tuesday evening. Sources have claimed that the grounds cited apply to all asylum seekers facing removal so all asylum seekers due to board the plane tonight can rely on this decision from the court.The court said it took particular account of evidence from UNHCR that asylum seekers transferred from the UK to Rwanda will not have access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination. The decision also cited the ruling by Mr Justice Swift, who although he refused to grant an injunction to halt tonight’s flight said the question about whether to treat Rwanda as a safe third country was irrational or based on ‘insufficient enquiry’ gave rise to “serious triable issues”.More details soon …

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/14/european-court-humam-right-makes-11th-hour-intervention-in-rwanda-asylum-seeker-plan



The Bar Council: @TheBarCouncil

Read more: https://twitter.com/thebarcouncil/status/1536732488827035648/photo/1

Independent: ECHR confirms ‘interim measures’ to block removal of asylum seeker to Rwanda

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has confirmed its decision to block the sending of an asylum-seeker facing imminent removal to Rwanda, bringing the total number of people left on the flight departing for the African country tonight to six.

The urgent intervention by the ECHR, requested yesterday, is in relation to an Iraqi national who came to the UK on 17 May this year.

The interim measures indicated that the removal of the individual may not go ahead until “three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings,” the ECHR said.

Its statement reads: “Under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, the Court may indicate interim measures to any State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Measures under Rule 39 are decided in connection with proceedings before the Court, without prejudging any subsequent decisions on the admissibility or merits of the case.

“The Court grants such requests only on an exceptional basis, when the applicants would otherwise face a real risk of irreversible harm. For further information, see the factsheet on interim measures.”

The Home Office was approached for comment, but declined.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rwanda-refugees-flight-latest-priti-patel-b2100383.html


If you only do one thing today, make it this…

So it appears that Privilege Style (what a name) airline is up to its neck in Priti Patel’s inhumane Rwanda policy (aka offshoring some of the world’s most vulnerable people).
Email the owner and the company to express your disgust and tell them to pull out.
The owner of Privilege Style is Chema Alvarez, e-mail address Chema@privilegestyle.com

Marketing: communication@privilegestyle.com
Commercial: sales@privilegestyle.com
Information: privilege@privilegestyle.com
Not in my name.


The government is plotting to send people fleeing torture and war to Rwanda. But they need planes to fly people – and airlines can choose whether to play a part. That’s where we come in.

Small private airlines aren’t used to getting attention, if thousands of us get in touch, they’ll realise just how damaging this cruelty would be for their public image.

Let’s flood the inboxes of the airlines with emails. The first plane could leave within weeks – but it can’t happen if these airlines refuse. https://secure.freedomfromtorture.org/page/107146/action/1


14 June 2022: Guardian: We are the civil servants who put up ‘Go home Paddington’ notices in revolt

Secret Home Office staffer

The Rwanda deportation plan has pushed us over the edge. So we are resisting, and invite our colleagues to stand up for their principles

Like many civil servants, I joined because of the principles. We work here because we want to serve the public, to make vital services work well, and to help people. I work with dedicated, skilled and compassionate people. We understand that we aren’t the politicians; we just want to get on and make things work for the public.

But at the Home Office, it is unavoidably clear that the things we are now ordered to put into place – from borders to policing to immigration enforcement – are doing real harm to many people. As the report on the historical roots of the Windrush scandal showed, the Home Office has a long and ugly history of structural racism, with UK immigration policy shaped for decades to try to minimise the number of black and minority ethnic people in this country.

So it is little surprise that the barbaric Rwanda transportation plan – to forcibly fly people who have escaped trauma and horror to another continent – is presented to us by senior fellow civil servants as “humanitarian”. The laughably absurd idea that it has anything to do with preventing people smugglers is repeated with a straight face.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/13/civil-servants-go-home-paddington-revolt-rwanda-deportation



BBC: The first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda will take off and people who are not removed on Tuesday will be on subsequent flights, Liz Truss has said.

The foreign secretary said it would “establish the principle” and break people traffickers’ business models.

[It’s interesting that in an earlier version of this story, the BBC wrote’

The charter flight, operated by airline Privilege Style, is estimated to be costing the government £500,000 They will get accommodation and support while the Rwandan government considers their….’,

but that has been removed]

Seven or eight people are due to be removed on Tuesday, after dozens won legal cases to be taken off. But more legal challenges are set to be heard.

Church of England leaders described the plan as an “immoral policy”.

Three more legal challenges from people set to be flown to the east African nation’s capital Kigali are expected to be heard in the courts before the flight departs.

A last-ditch attempt to block the flight altogether was rejected by the Court of Appeal on Monday, however.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61791994


The Times: Church says sending migrants to Rwanda brings shame on Britain

The entire senior leadership of the Church of England has denounced the Rwanda migrant flights as an “immoral policy that shames Britain”.

An excoriating letter to The Times, signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and all of the other 23 bishops’ sitting as Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, states: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.”

It adds that “the shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries”.

Read more: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prospects-for-rwanda-flight-slim-httc7s007


13 June 2022: Guardian: Children deemed adults by Home Office could be deported to Rwanda

Children’s and refugees charities raise concerns after detention of three children misjudged as adults in offshoring programme

Concerns are mounting that children wrongly assessed as adults by the Home Office could end up being offshored to Rwanda.

The Guardian understands that three age-disputed children who the Home Office declared to be adults and detained in preparation for offshoring to Rwanda have now been released. It is understood that concerns have been raised about whether at least three more detainees threatened with removal to the east African country are children rather than adults.

A letter signed by members of the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium including the Children’s Society, Refugee Council and ECPAT is being sent to the home secretary, Priti Patel.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/13/children-deemed-adults-by-home-office-could-be-deported-to-rwanda


Updated 10 June 2022: Care4Calais: The High Court has denied an injunction seeking to stop next week’s planned flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He says that each case should be considered on an individual basis and there is no need for an injunction.However, as a result of today’s case six refugees have had their directions to be sent to Rwanda cancelled. This shows how important it is that no one is deported until the lawfulness of the policy is fully examined. Some of the refugees do not yet have legal representation. They are at risk of being deported by a policy that may ultimately be found to be unlawful. We are therefore considering an urgent appeal.

This is an extremely disappointing outcome and we are deeply concerned for the welfare of the people who may be forcibly deported to Rwanda, a fate that could profoundly harm their mental health and future lives. However, today was just the beginning of this legal challenge and we believe that the next stage may bring an end to this utterly barbaric plan.

There are other, more humane and more effective ways to both save lives and combat people smugglers. As compassionate people, we need to ask ourselves if an unnecessarily brutal and cruel plan like Rwanda is really what we want to do.

During the hearing UNHCR explained several reasons why they consider that the policy is unlawful. We now need the courts to do the right thing and agree. Today’s decision was on the granting of interim relief. This is not the Court’s decision on the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy, which will be determined at a final hearing.

We need your help more than ever to #StopRwanda.

Please go to care4calais.org/stop-rwanda/


The Times: Prince Charles: Flying migrants to Rwanda is ‘appalling’

Prince speaks out before Commonwealth summit as judge rules first deportations can go ahead

The Prince of Wales has privately described the government’s policy to send migrants to Rwanda as “appalling”, The Times has been told.

Prince Charles is said to be particularly frustrated at Boris Johnson’s asylum policy as he is due to represent the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, this month.

Migrants who arrive in Britain illegally face being deported to Rwanda, more than 4,000 miles away, under a deal struck by Priti Patel, the home secretary, in April.

Today Patel overcame an initial legal challenge to the policy after a High Court judge ruled that the first flight due to deport migrants on Tuesday could go ahead.

A source had heard Charles, 73, expressing opposition to the policy several times in private and said he was particularly uncomfortable about it amid fears that it would overshadow the summit on June 23.

“He said he was more than disappointed at the policy,” the source said. “He said he thinks the government’s whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the government’s direction of travel.”

Clarence House did not deny that Charles was opposed to the policy but insisted that he had not tried to influence the government. A spokesman said: “We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral. Matters of policy are decisions for government.”

Read more: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prince-charles-flying-migrants-to-rwanda-is-appalling-l6jzklfhm


Freemovement: leaflet: How to respond to Rwanda removal notices

https://freemovement.org.uk/notice-of-intention-removal-to-rwanda-information-leaflet/


Telegraph: Asylum seekers resettled in Rwanda under EU scheme abandoned to poverty

Refugees tell the Telegraph there is not enough food, housing, medical services and other basic necessities

Asylum seekers in Rwanda have said they have been left in a “traumatising” poverty-stricken limbo for years, barely able to afford clothes and constantly in fear of the country’s brutal security forces, an investigation by The Telegraph has found.

As the Home Office prepares to send the first batch of asylum seekers 4,000 miles south on a one-way ticket to Rwanda on Tuesday 14 June, this newspaper sent journalists to investigate what was happening in the police state.

Read more: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/asylum-seekers-resettled-rwanda-eu-scheme-abandoned-poverty/


The Catholic Church: Nuncio brings Pope’s Blessing to Asylum Seekers housed at Napier Barracks

For the second time this year, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Pope’s representative to Great Britain, visited asylum seekers housed in a former army barracks in Kent to bring the Holy Father’s special blessing and greetings to them as they seek the prospect of a better life without persecution.

The Apostolic Nuncio saw Pope Francis’ simple Christian gesture as a sign of solidarity and hope.

You can listen to our short interview with Archbishop Gugerotti and read the transcript below.

Listen (on the link)

Transcript

I am Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain. Today we went together to Napier Barracks in Dover for the second time. The first time was some months ago.

The Pope was very eager to have an idea of how these people lived – these people who came by boat. I was speaking with them. [Some said] it took two, two-and-a-half years to arrive in Great Britain. We had very nice conversations with many of them the first time, and also with the people who take care of them.

When I came back, something very strange happened. I wrote an email to His Holiness, the Pope, explaining that I had gone to the barracks and met refugees. After two days, exactly two days, I received a picture of the Holy Father, his blessing and his handwritten signature. The Pope said, “Now go back to the barracks and just convey to these people my blessing – the special blessing that I have sent to you for them.” Which I did. So the reason for today’s trip was to go and give the picture with the blessing of the Holy Father to the residents of Napier Barracks.

Certainly the Pope is very attentive to their needs. The marginalised, the person in trouble, the person who sometimes is not well-received… well, this is Jesus Christ. This is exactly what happened to Jesus. Jesus told us that all those in that condition and all that is done or given to them, is done and given to Him. It’s simply the Gospel – nothing more, nothing less.

The group we met was mostly Christian. So the very fact that the Pope, not only decided to give this image, this picture and his greetings, but wanted to sign it personally was a sign of hope. What they need is to imagine they can live well integrated into a community and can work for the good of that community. They want to live a life that is different from the slaughters and tragedies that they have had to see – not only in their counties but also during their travels.

So you see, it’s a very simple gesture. It’s a Christian gesture. One of the most morally significant people in the world thought of them – took them into consideration, blessed them. It’s an expression of solidarity, which for them is a reason for living and continuing to wait and expect the possibility of a better life without persecution

Read more: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/nuncio-brings-popes-blessing-to-asylum-seekers-housed-at-napier-barracks/


Updated 8 June 2022: PCS: PCS and human rights groups challenge home secretary’s Rwanda removal policy in High Court

PCS, Care4Calais and Detention Action, along with 4 asylum seekers facing removal by plane to Rwanda on Tuesday, have now issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the home secretary’s plan to remove asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

The claimants, represented by Duncan Lewis Solicitors, argue that the Rwanda removals policy, as well as the removals of the 4 individual asylum seekers specifically, are unlawful on multiple bases. These include, but are not limited to:

  • the vires or legal authority of the home secretary to carry out the removals;
  • the rationality of the secretary of state’s conclusion that Rwanda is generally a “safe third country”;
  • the adequacy of provision for malaria prevention, and compliance with the Human Rights Act.

The claim has been issued as a matter of urgency, following Priti Patel’s scheduling of the first removal flight to Rwanda on Tuesday (14 June) and her refusal to give assurances that no removals to Rwanda would take place until the lawfulness of the Rwandan removals policy has been tested in court.

The claimants also seek an injunction in respect of the flight scheduled for 14 June.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS believes that the government’s Rwanda plan is unlawful. In the past 5 years, we have lodged five judicial review applications against the government where they have breached the law. We are determined to hold them to account over this latest scheme.

“It appears this government have learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, among others. PCS is not prepared to countenance our members being put in potentially dangerous and traumatic situations, where they may be asked to act illegally.

“PCS is determined to work for a more humane environment on asylum and immigration. This would give our members the time, space and resources that they need to carry out their jobs properly and would improve the experience of refugees. This latest judicial review application is key to that endeavour.” 

James Wilson, deputy director of Detention Action, said: “In her desire to punish people for seeking asylum by forcing them on to a plane to Rwanda, Priti Patel has overstepped her authority.

“By rushing through what we say is an unlawful policy, she is turning a blind eye to the many clear dangers and human rights violations that it would inflict on people seeking asylum.

“It’s vital that new government policies respect and uphold the laws that we all, as a society, have agreed to follow. That’s why we’re seeking an injunction to keep this plane to Rwanda from leaving the runway.”

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: “We have spoken to nearly 100 people in detention who’ve been told they will be forcibly sent to Rwanda. Almost all are overwhelmed by total shock and despair.

“Many came to the UK believing it to be a good place that would treat them more fairly than the places from which they escaped.

“We say that the Rwanda plan is unlawful. We hope the courts will agree with us.”

https://www.pcs.org.uk/news-events/news/pcs-human-rights-groups-challenge-home-secretarys-rwanda-removal-policy-high-court


Guardian: Home Office’s Rwanda deportation plans face high court challenge

About 130 asylum seekers expected to be sent to Rwanda on 14 June

Priti Patel’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as soon as next week is facing a legal challenge under emergency proceedings launched in the high court on Wednesday.

An application for a judicial review claims that the home secretary’s policy is unlawful. Claimants are also seeking an injunction that will attempt to stop the plane from taking off.

It is the first legal challenge of the policy to have been officially put before the courts, and comes as Boris Johnson is under pressure from his own MPs to demonstrate a policy success.

With less than a week until the flight on 14 June, up to 130 asylum seekers are expected to be flown one way to Rwanda and encouraged to apply for asylum there.

The judicial review has been launched by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the charity Care4Calais and the pressure group Detention Action, along with four asylum seekers facing removal to the east African state.

The policy, which was unveiled by Johnson, will be challenged over Patel’s right to carry out such removals; the rationality of Patel’s claim that Rwanda is generally a “safe third country”; the adequacy of provision for malaria prevention in Rwanda; and whether it complies with the Human Rights Act.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/08/home-offices-rwanda-deportation-plans-face-high-court-challenge


Updated 7 June 2022:

Facing Rwanda

Men on a list to be deported to Rwanda.

The illustrations you see here are of men on a list to be deported to Rwanda, a country they’ve never been to, where they have no family or friends, no connection at all. The drawings are based on photos sent by the men’s families, some showing them at home with their children before leaving, or saying goodbye, or in the course of their journeys.

The Home Office plans to forcibly deport them on the 14th of June.

These men came to the UK seeking safety. They are nine out of a hundred on the Home Office’s list. The hundred include survivors of torture, and of modern slavery. These hundred were picked by the UK authorities to be made an example of, picked out of hundreds more who have recently crossed the English Channel in small boats.

Read more: https://www.syrianotes.org/2022/06/facing-rwanda.html


MSN: Rwanda’s own refugees warn deal with ‘conman’ Kagame shows UK doesn’t care what happens overseas

In a week’s time on 14 June, the first flight of refugees seeking asylum in the UK is set to depart to Kigali, Rwanda. The idea is that from there, these refugees, mostly from Syria, will be processed and offered the right to settle in the east African country.

Yet Rwanda has created, and continues to create, countless refugees of its own. At least 287,000 Rwandans live outside the country, having fled from the regime of President Paul Kagame – and it is estimated the figure could be as high as one million.

“Kagame is a stooge: he’s a conman of the West in dubious business including, now, human trafficking,” is how one such Rwandan exile describes the president and his £120m deal with the UK Government.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/rwanda-s-own-refugees-warn-deal-with-conman-kagame-shows-uk-doesn-t-care-what-happens-overseas/ar-AAYakAD


Updated 5 June 2022: Guardian: UK accused of attempting to deport children to Rwanda

Charities claim asylum seekers under 18 being classed as adults under Home Office age assessments

The Home Office has been accused of attempting to deport unaccompanied 16-year-olds to Rwanda in the first wave of asylum seekers to be sent to east Africa later this month.

Charities have identified what they describe as a “worrying pattern” of children being classed as adults by Home Office age assessments, raising fears they could be among those deported 4,500 miles to Rwanda.

One individual who said they were under 18 was placed in detention awaiting potential deportation to Rwanda and only released at the end of May, following intervention from lawyers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/05/uk-accused-of-attempting-to-deport-children-to-rwanda


See this post: Public Order Bill is a Threat https://statusnow4all.org/public-order-bill-is-a-threat/

Updated 2 June 2022: Freemovement leaflet: How to respond to Rwanda removal notices

Asylum seekers arriving by boat have started to receive notices informing them of the UK government’s intention to remove them to Rwanda pursuant to the “Migration and Economic Development Partnership” announced last month. We learned yesterday that the Home Office wishes to begin removing people on 14 June. This article offers some practical suggestions on how representatives may wish to respond to notices of intent, based on my own experience and research so far.

These notices are not decisions or removal directions. If the person served with the notice is in detention, they are told that they must respond within seven days. If they are not in detention, the deadline is 14 days. The shorter timeframe for people in detention is presumably because of the supposition that legal advice is available through the Detained Duty Advice Scheme. The problems with this are well-known.

The notice should be accompanied by an information leaflet (download a copy or see below).

Read more: https://freemovement.org.uk/notice-of-intention-removal-to-rwanda-information-leaflet/


A reminder about vaccinations for people threatened with removal from UK, using Rwanda as an example: Malaria is endemic in Rwanda.  Up to 20% of children die of it before age five.  Those who remain are mostly immune.  However new arrivals who have not previously suffered it are likely to get it, unless they are protected.  Among the many legal challenges to the government’s policy of sending people to Ruanda will be one concerning malaria protection.  This danger is worth mentioning to anyone in immigration removal centres.


Care4Calais: STOP RWANDA: What you can do to help

Donate: Donate to our Crowdfunder for legal fees to challenge the Rwanda plan in court. We are raising funds for our own legal costs, and to protect us from paying the Home Office’s legal fees if the case gets to court and we don’t win. Donate now

Read more: https://care4calais.org/stop-rwanda/


Updated 1 June 2022: The Times: ‘Everyone knows that we have a dictatorship in Rwanda. That is not a secret’

The country’s opposition leader — jailed for eight years — attacks the Tories’ asylum plan and says her nation is no democracy

The British government is betraying the democratic values of the Commonwealth by deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, the repressive African country’s opposition leader has said.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza spent eight years in prison — five in solitary — after returning from exile to challenge Paul Kagame, the long-serving president, in the 2010 election. She was arrested that year and convicted of genocide denial and conspiring against the government in what human rights groups called a flawed trial. Following a presidential pardon and her release in 2018 she is living in the capital Kigali, where the Commonwealth heads of government meet next month. She cannot leave the country without permission, however, and must appear at a prosecution office once a month.

She is also unable to register her political party, Development and Liberty For All (Dalfa-Umurinzi) in Rwanda.

Ingabire, 53, criticised the British government for the deal, under which it will pay Rwanda to take in an unknown number of people who have come to the UK to claim asylum. “Everybody knows that we have a dictatorship in Rwanda. That is not a secret,” she said. “It is unacceptable that a democratic country sends refugees to a non-democratic country. That a rich country sends the refugees to the poor country saying we will give you money. The UK is the head of the Commonwealth. It is betraying the values that they pledge to everywhere, human rights, democracy, tolerance and respect, freedom of expression, the rule of law. They are all values Rwanda does not respect and I think now the UK government is in violation of the core values of the Commonwealth

Read more: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/everyone-knows-that-we-have-a-dictatorship-in-rwanda-that-is-not-a-secret-hrsd27w8f


Updated 31 May 2022: Zoe Gardner@ZoeJardiniere Syrians. It’s 15 Syrians who have been served with a removal notice that they’ll be sent away to Rwanda on 14 June.

We cannot stand for this barbarism. Syrians refugees, ALL refugees are welcome here. Zoe is Policy & Advocacy at JCWI


PCS on Twitter: @PCSPress

Responding to the Govt’s announcement it is to start sending refugees to Rwanda on June 14, @pcs_union said: “This policy is inhumane and impractical, and together with charities @DetentionAction and @Care4Calais, we shall continue to challenge it in the courts.”


Guardian: First Rwanda deportation flight to leave UK on 14 June, says Priti Patel

Group of asylum seekers sent formal notices advising they will be relocated to east African country, say officials

The first deportation flight to Rwanda carrying people who arrived in the UK without authorisation is scheduled to leave on 14 June, Priti Patel has announced.

A group of asylum seekers has been sent formal notices by the Home Office advising they will be relocated to the east African country, officials have said.

There remain few details about the numbers of people expected to be sent to Rwanda in this first flight, and how they have been identified. Officials said those who will be removed are already in detention, while the government is braced for a flurry of legal challenges over their removal.

“The Home Office has begun issuing formal removal direction letters to those who are set to go to Rwanda where they will be able to rebuild their lives in safety,” a statement from the department said.

It is the next legal step after “notices of intent” were issued to dozens of people who have arrived in the UK by irregular means.

The timing of the announcement will prompt suspicion. It comes amid growing pressure on Boris Johnson for a policy success, amid claims he could face a vote of no confidence as soon as next week.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/31/first-rwanda-deportation-flight-leave-uk-14-june-priti-patel

BBC: First flight taking Channel migrants to Rwanda set for 14 June

The first flight to Rwanda carrying migrants who cross the English Channel is set to leave in two weeks’ time on 14 June, the Home Office has said.

Officials have begun issuing formal directions to the first people set to be flown to the African country.

It is expected there will be legal challenges against the move.

The controversial plan has been criticised by politicians, charities and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who called it “opposite the nature of God”.

Under the five-year trial scheme, some asylum seekers who have arrived in the UK are being sent to Rwanda where their application will be processed.

While their application is considered they will be given accommodation and support and, if successful, they will be able to remain in Rwanda with up to five years’ access to education and support.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61653063


Updated 26 May 2022: Tribune: Priti Patel’s New Asylum Prisons

While anger is focused on the brutal Rwanda scheme, the Tories have also quietly announced new ‘camps’ to house asylum seekers in isolated locations in Britain – yet another attack on people seeking sanctuary.

[…] In half-following Greece’s suit, Britain now has the unenviable distinction of an asylum system that is two-tiered on the basis of nationality but universally dysfunctional, serving, ultimately, none of those seeking asylum here. The answer, of course, is not to scapegoat any one group of desperate people for the parallel desperation of another. It is to fight for non-discriminatory policies that operate on a genuine basis of international responsibility, and offer real refuge and compassion to all those fleeing war or persecution. Anything less is not enough.

Read more: https://tribunemag.co.uk/2022/05/linton-on-ouse-yorkshire-camp-refugees-asylum-seekers-rwanda-greece/


Updated 24 My 2022: Guardian: The UK’s view of Rwanda is deeply ignorant – I once fell prey to it myself

The refugee deal with President Kagame reveals a profound misunderstanding of history

It’s easy to fall prey to misconceptions about Rwanda. I’ve done so myself while writing about the small country – about twice the size of Yorkshire – to which we are dispatching our “migrant problem”.With flights to Kigali imminent, and the president, Paul Kagame, proposingalleged UK-based “génocidaires” be extradited to face trial, I wonder if we really understand what we’re getting into.

Faults in Priti Patel’s policy should not need rehearsing. Yet so great is western ignorance and amnesia about Rwanda (and the wider Great Lakes region of Africa) that the arguments against require reinforcement. For there has, since the genocide, been a “blank ahistoricism” about the country, as the Rwanda expert Michela Wrong has put it.Advertisement

The arguments against this devil’s bargain with the Rwandan government include: its assassination or abduction of rivals abroad, notably allegations surrounding the cases of Patrick Karegeya (Kagame’s former intelligence chief, strangled in a Johannesburg hotel – the government has denied any involvement) and Paul Rusesabagina (subject of the film Hotel Rwanda, tricked into flying to Rwanda from Texas); the suppression of activists and journalists within Rwanda; a poor history of hosting migrants (many Eritreans and Sudanese, sent from Israel, fled Rwanda for Uganda – others started the journey to Europe); a likely lack of oversight of UK funds (initially £120m) paid to Rwanda; and, not least, the difficulty of fending off challenges by – to use Johnson’s judiciary-hating phrase – “lefty lawyers”.

It’s fallacious to say, as Patel has done, that the policy is right simply because no one is offering alternatives. It’s instructive, too, that fellow Conservative Andrew Mitchellfirst among those few MPs who know Rwanda, does not support this policy. Maybe he agrees with David Davis that the scheme is “moral delinquency”. These are not the usual bedfellows of lefty lawyers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/24/west-view-rwanda-uk-refugee-deal-president-kagame


Updated 23 May 2022:  Independent: ‘Fundamentally wrong’: Refugee charity prepares legal challenge to UK’s Rwanda asylum plan

Volunteer-led charity Care4Calais are preparing a legal challenge against the government over the Rwanda asylum plan, which will send asylum seekers arriving into the UK to Rwanda for processing and resettlement.

Care4Calais believe the scheme is a breach of the UK’s legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention, and are building their challenge on these grounds.

The plan, enacted by Home Secretary Priti Patel, is initially targeted towards small boat male migrant crossings in the English channel, with the first deportation flights set for 6 June 2022.

{Please watch the video]

https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/refugee-charity-legal-challenge-rwanda-b2085363.html


Updated 22 May 2022: Guardian: Home Office detains all asylum seekers it plans to send to Rwanda

Department says previously announced option of serving arrivals to UK with notices while living in community has not been used

All the asylum seekers whom ministers want to send to Rwanda have been placed in detention centres after arriving in the UK on small boats, the Home Office has confirmed.

When the government announced its controversial plans last month to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, officials said some of those issued with notices of intent that they would be offshored would be served with the notices while living in the community and would have 14 days to appeal against the decision. About 100 asylum seekers are thought to have been issued with notices of intent so far.

However, the Home Office has confirmed to the Guardian that everyone they want to send to Rwanda has been locked up in detention centres, with the community option not currently being used.

Many who arrive on small boats are in poor physical and mental condition, and some charities have reported that those detained for offshoring are traumatised, bewildered and do not understand what is happening to them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/22/home-office-asylum-seekers-detention-centres-rwanda

Updated 20 May 2022: Rwanda:

Information on the Care4Calais website for people at risk, two leaflets with information in various languages, phone numbers – please pass the information on: https://care4calais.org/stop-rwanda/


Guardian: Far-right threat feared at huge base for asylum seekers in North Yorkshire village

Nicola David, chair of Ripon City of Sanctuary and a member of the Linton-on-Ouse action group, said to Home Office officials at the meeting: “You treat asylum seekers like animals, like pawns in your political game.”

A senior police chief has admitted officers are consulting with counter-terrorism experts about threats from the far right at a military base in North Yorkshire where the Home Office is planning to house 1,500 asylum seekers.

On Thursday night a meeting of residents in the small village of Linton-on-Ouse was told that the first people were due to move in in less than two weeks. The chief inspector for Hambleton and Richmondshire, David Hunter, also acknowledged at the meeting that police were being assisted with advice from Counter-Terrorism North East to prepare for the threat of far-right activity which could put the asylum seekers at risk.

Home Office officials, along with their sub-contractors Serco who will be managing the accommodation, attended the meeting of Linton Parish council to answer questions about the plans from concerned villagers and campaigners. Approximately 10 far-right protesters gathered outside but were barred from entry by police.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/19/counter-terror-experts-assisting-with-far-right-threat-to-asylum-housing


Open Democracy: Is Johnson’s Rwanda plan a crime against humanity?

Possibly, yes.

The latest evolution of the UK government’s “hostile environment” for migrants is perhaps its most controversial yet. A deal signed last month by the UK home secretary, Priti Patel, and the Rwandan foreign minister, Vincent Biruta, aims to ‘offshore’ asylum seekers to central Africa for processing. If found to be genuine, they will not be brought back (as the term ‘processing’ implies). They will be offered a chance to settle in Rwanda – and Rwanda alone – instead.

The first 50 people, Boris Johnson has said, will leave in less than a fortnight.

Some commentators have said this plan is tantamount to human trafficking. I doubt that would stand up in court. Traffickers normally benefit materially from the movement of human beings, and under this plan the UK at least would incur a large material loss. The UK has so far committed to paying Rwanda £120 million for its participation, and some have estimated that it may cost as much as £2 million per person transferred. Another key element of trafficking is exploitation – sexually or of a person’s labour or organs. This could transpire given the dreadful human rights record of Paul Kagame’s Rwandan government, but we cannot yet be sure.

Read more: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/beyond-trafficking-and-slavery/is-johnsons-rwanda-plan-a-crime-against-humanity/


Home Office News Team: Repairing the broken asylum system is a moral imperative

This ‘explanation’ for sending people to Rwanda is an outrageous use of language, used to crawl into people’s minds and justify the Government’s actions – pure grooming: https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/05/19/repairing-the-broken-asylum-system-is-a-moral-imperative/


19 May 2022: ITV: Campaigners ‘relieved’ as Rwanda asylum seeker flights delayed until next month

The government has been forced to delay its first deportation flights to Rwanda after campaigners lodged a legal campaign against the controversial policy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last weekend that 50 asylum seekers have already been told they are due to be flown to the East African nation within a fortnight, which would be the end of May, but anticipated opposition to the move.

Campaigners said they received notice on Wednesday evening that the Rwanda flights will now not take place until at least June 6.

It comes as an inquiry is launched into the handling of the deal amid accusations of Parliament being bypassed.

Read more: https://www.itv.com/news/2022-05-19/campaigners-relieved-as-rwanda-asylum-seeker-flights-delayed-until-next-month


ITV: Inquiry launched into handling of controversial UK-Rwanda asylum seekers deal

An inquiry has been launched into the handling of a controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda amid accusations of Parliament being bypassed.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who chairs the International Agreements Committee, lamented how the deal had not been debated or approved by Parliament before it was signed.The House of Lords heard this was because the type of deal, known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), is not legally binding.

However, peers argued that MoUs should not be used as a way around parliamentary scrutiny.

Labour’s Lady Hayter told the Lords: “Perhaps more importantly and certainly more urgently is the issue of deals being signed by way of Memoranda of Understanding rather than by treaty.

“This means they do not even have to be disclosed to Parliament, let alone laid and debated here.

“I raised this in a private notice question on April 25 in regard to the Rwanda deal – deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“That was done by MoU without any debate or approval by Parliament.

“And I can tell the House that just today, this morning, the committee has launched an inquiry on this and we will have a call for evidence on the MoU on our website shortly.”

Read more: https://www.itv.com/news/2022-05-19/inquiry-launched-into-handling-of-controversial-uk-rwanda-asylum-seekers-deal


Updated 17 May 2022: Yorkshire Live: First asylum seekers to arrive at controversial Linton-on-Ouse centre by the end of the month

The controversial asylum reception centre in a North Yorkshire village is set to receive its first asylum seekers by the end of the month.

Sixty asylum seekers are to be moved into a disused North Yorkshire RAF base by the end of the month, Hambleton District Council has said. The council says it has asked the Government to pause the controversial proposal “immediately” amid opposition from residents in the village of Linton on Ouse.

Read more: https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/local-news/first-asylum-seekers-arrive-controversial-23986421


Updated 14 May 2022: No to Hassockfield campaign demonstration today

Thanks to Magy from These Walls Must Fall for the photos

See also https://statusnow4all.org/enabling-nurse-daisy/

BBC: Derwentside immigration detention centre ‘resurfaces trauma’

Protestors against a female immigration detention centre say it “retraumatises” already vulnerable women.

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre in County Durham houses women waiting to be deported from the UK.

At a demonstration against the centre on Durham’s Palace Green campaigners called for the government to show “compassion”.

The Home Office said “the public expects” the UK to remove “those with no right to be in the UK”.

Agnes Tanoh, who fled violence on the Ivory Coast, said detention “destroys” women.

“It’s not a place to put people who are already distressed and depressed,” she said.

Ms Tanoh said earlier that the government had broken its promise “to reduce its use of detention because of the harm it causes” by opening Derwentside last year.

The centre at Hassockfield, Consett, which has capacity for 84 people, replaced Yarl’s Wood as the UK’s only women’s-only centre.

The site previously served as the Medomsley detention centre for young offenders and was the scene of widespread abuse for decades before it shut in 1988.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-61449996

Chronicle Live: Hundreds gather in Durham in protest against immigration centre

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) began detaining women at the end of 2021 and is one of seven IRCs operated by The Home Office in the UK

Hundreds of people from across the UK gathered in Durham city centre today to oppose an immigration removal centre (IRC) in the county.

Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre began detaining women at the end of 2021 and is one of seven IRCs operated by The Home Office in the UK. Derwentside, which was previously known as Hassockfield, will replace Yarl’s Wood as the main IRC for detained women and will hold around 80 women at the site.

Read more: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/durham-immigration-removal-centre-protest-23960496

Mariam who is spoke at this Hassockfield event will be with us for the QARN-Woodbrooke event on zoom:

Changing the Conversation on Asylum in the UK

16 June 2022 – 16 June 2022
19:00 – 20:30




Updated 14 May 2022: BBC: Boris Johnson: Fifty migrants told they will be sent to Rwanda

[What kind of language is this from a Prime Minister who would hopefully respect the law, and the Court system: Mr Johnson told the Mail: “There’s going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers’ money to mount these sort of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament. We’re ready for that.

“We will dig in for the fight and we will make it work,” he added. “We’ve got a huge flowchart of things we have to do to deal with it, with the leftie lawyers.”]

Fifty migrants have been told they will be the first to be sent to Rwanda in east Africa as part of the government’s controversial resettlement policy.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson revealed the figure, saying he expected a lot of legal opposition but insisted the government would “dig in for the fight”.

Under a new deal, people judged to have entered the UK illegally now face being flown to Rwanda for resettlement.

The policy has been widely criticised.

Among its critics are more than 160 charities, the Archbishop of Canterbury, opposition parties and senior Conservative Party backbenchers, including former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Together they have raised questions about the ethics, legality, cost and efficacy of the policy.

Aid agencies have reported several asylum seekers in the UK going into hiding because of fears they would be sent to Rwanda.

The threat of removal has also prompted some to self-harm, with one attempting suicide, the Red Cross and the Refugee Council said.

Small boat crossings have continued, however. The latest available government figures show 792 migrants arrived in small boats in the week from 2 to 8 May.

Earlier this week, the Home Office said it planned to start informing the first migrants whom it wanted to remove to Rwanda. Among them would be people who had crossed the Channel, the department said.

In his interview, Mr Johnson said 50 “notices of intent” have now been issued. This marks the first stage of the process.

Those people will have between seven and 14 days to lodge objections.

It is widely expected there will be legal challenges to the plans. Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that would mean the process would “take time” but insisted she would not be deterred.

‘Huge flowchart’

Mr Johnson told the Mail: “There’s going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers’ money to mount these sort of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament. We’re ready for that.

“We will dig in for the fight and we will make it work,” he added. “We’ve got a huge flowchart of things we have to do to deal with it, with the leftie lawyers.”

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61447106


Don’t forget: EVENT: No to Hassockfield Campaign – national demonstration 14 May 2022 in Durham – see below

Updated 13 May 2022: Please tweet and also use this hashtag #RefugeeMentalHealth This is an open letter written in response to RCGP chair about Rwanda deportation.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing’ are the words of, Edmund Burke, a philosopher that Martin Marshall, RCGP chair, chose to start his recent blog ‘Just Saying,’ calling out the British government on its plan to dispense with asylum seekers by deporting them to Rwanda.1
As GPs and hospital doctors we have been advocating on our migrant patients’ behalf since the early days of the hostile environment in 2015, when the inhumane and unethical NHS charging regulations came into place.

However, we have rarely witnessed our NHS leaders speaking out against these issues.

Read more: https://bjgplife.com/open-letter-to-bjgp-life-a-response-to-rcgp-chairs-just-saying-on-refugees-to-the-uk-being-deported-to-rwanda/


Updated 12 May 2022: Home Affairs Committee: Oral evidence: Asylum and migration, HC ­197 Wednesday 11 May 2022

Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 11 May 2022.

Watch the meeting

Witnesses: Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Immigration, Home Office; and Dan Hobbs, Director, Asylum, Protection and Enforcement, Home Office.

Examination of witnesses

Witnesses: Tom Pursglove MP and Dan Hobbs.

Q1                Chair: Good morning, and welcome to Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove MP and Dan Hobbs, Director of Asylum, Protection and Enforcement at the Home Office. We are grateful to you both for attending this morning.

Today we want to look specifically at the announcement last month of the UK-Rwanda partnership agreement concerning asylum seekers. We will move on to specific questions about the policy, but I want to start with the actual announcement and the way it was made. The announcement was made on 14 April, which was just at the start of the purdah period for the local elections on 5 May. Minister, could you enlighten us about the exchange of letters between the permanent secretary and the Home Secretary that took place on 13 April, the day before, and concerned the ministerial direction that the permanent secretary sought from the Home Secretary? It all seems very late in the day if the announcement was to be made on 14 April. Could you explain why there was a rush to get the policy out—in particular with no detail?

Tom Pursglove: Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the invitation to appear before the Committee this morning. Can I congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair? It is a privilege to be here and give evidence on this important issue.

Let me just set this in some perspective. As a Government, we have been consistently clear that we cannot continue to have people putting their lives in the hands of evil criminal gangs and paying money to those evil criminal gangs to facilitate these crossings. We have said that we will strain every sinew to put a stop to that evil criminality.

I would argue that it was right that we signed this new partnership at the first opportunity we had to do so. Every day that passes without it is a day when lives can potentially be lost in the channel. We wanted to waste no opportunity to crack on and get on with delivering this partnership. The partnership is complex, of course, and there has been intensive negotiation and discussion around it over the course of the last few months. Those negotiations concluded, at which point we were in a position to get on and sign it. That is precisely why we acted in the way that we did, wasting no opportunity to do that.

Q2                Chair: But there was no detail available, was there? It was the BBC, the Telegraph and The Times that all got briefed on what they thought the policy was. None of that detail was available to Parliament for MPs to look at. I notice that it was only on Monday this week that the Home Office produced documents setting out the detail of the policy. You will understand that there was a lot of concern. A lot of the charities that work with asylum seekers and refugees in this country have raised the problem that by making that announcement on 14 April with no proper detail, you caused a lot of distress and upset. In today’s media round, for example, there was reference to a Rwandan asylum seeker in this country who heard that announcement and thought that would mean he would be sent back to Rwanda. What I do not understand is why you made that announcement on 14 April with no detail about how this policy would work. Why has it taken you three weeks to produce the detail?

Tom Pursglove: You will know, of course, that the announcement was made as part of a wider package of measures that the Prime Minister set out in Kent. Of course, the Home Secretary was in Rwanda at the same time and was able to announce this policy.

Q3                Chair: But where was the detail? That is the issue.

Tom Pursglove: We have taken great care to make sure that the detail underpinning this policy has been made available as far as we are able—

Chair: But three weeks later.

Tom Pursglove: —taking into account, of course, that we do not want—I think you will recognise why this is important—to do anything that aids these evil criminal gangs to exploit vulnerable people. It is right that we tread carefully in delivering the detail of the policy in a way that is sensitive to that and that doesn’t support that sort of criminality, which is so egregious and unacceptable.

Q4                Chair: I understand what you are saying, but the three weeks has caused problems—concern—for asylum seekers in this country, and it just seems to us that Parliament should have had that detail when the announcement was made.

The other point I want to raise with you is about Wendy Williams and her review of how the Home Office operates. One of the things she was very clear about was the Home Office failure, in the past, to always look at the “face behind the case”. This is, again, illustrative of that failure to understand that this is about individuals—about people. By making these announcements giving no detail, you set lots of hares running, but it has taken you three weeks to actually come up with the details.

Read more: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/10195/html/


ICIBI: An inspection of contingency asylum accommodation
May 2021 – November 2021

Firstly, whilst relationships are now being repaired, the short notice and lack of consultation provided by the Home Office to local authorities prior to new hotels being established in their areas has damaged relations considerably.

Secondly, the Home Office needs to be realistic in setting targets and working with providers and stakeholders to agree what is achievable. At the start of this inspection we found little credible evidence that the target to end the use of hotels as asylum accommodation by May 2021 would be met; 12 months later nobody believes the revised target of March 2022 is achievable. A clear understanding of the situation which allows the creation of an effective strategy is an essential first step to tackling the huge challenges the Home Office faces.

Finally, ministers need to make timely decisions to enable senior officials to effect change quickly. No one is clear whether the establishment of reception or processing centres will be sufficient to accommodate the current hotel population. However, it is crystal clear that the Home Office must speed up the asylum decision-making process to give people some certainty and move them through the system so they can get on with their lives. Whatever the solution, it cannot come quickly enough for the large number of people who have been living in hotels for many months.

This report was sent to the Home Secretary on 16 February 2022.
David Neal
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

Read more: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-inspection-of-contingency-asylum-accommodation


Channel 4: Former RAF base ‘unsuitable’ as asylum centre, says Tory MP

We spoke to the MP Kevin Hollinrake, and asked him how he felt about the Home Office ignoring his reservations about the planned location of an asylum seeker processing centre at a former RAF base in his constituency. Former RAF base ‘unsuitable’ as asylum centre, says Tory MP
https://www.channel4.com/news/former-raf-base-unsuitable-as-asylum-centre-says-tory-mp


Updated 10 May 2022: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration – is publicising a new project: The IAGCI invites tenders to evaluate Home Office Country Information Products on Rwanda (one way to assess the information held by officials about Rwanda)


Potential reviewers are invited to submit expressions of interest by the close of Monday, 30 May 2022.

Description of work:
Country Policy and Information Notes aim to provide an accurate, balanced and up-to-date summary of the key available sources regarding conditions in the country covered. The purpose and scope of the reports are clearly set out in an introductory section of the document. Reviewers should evaluate the reports in this context and seek to identify any areas where they can be improved.

Specifically, the review should entail:

  • assessing the extent to which information from source documents has been appropriately and accurately reflected in the CPIN reports
  • identifying additional sources detailing relevant aspects of current conditions in the country
  • noting and correcting any specific errors or omissions of fact making recommendations for general improvements regarding, for example, the structure of the report, its coverage or its overall approach ensuring no reference is made to an individual source which could expose them to risk

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-iagci-invites-tenders-to-evaluate-home-office-country-information-products-on-rwanda


Guardian: Priti Patel blames lawyers as she admits Rwanda plan will ‘take time’

Home secretary attacks ‘specialist lawyers’ as Labour calls delayed plan little more than a press release

Priti Patel has admitted that it will take time to establish the government’s high-profile plan to send people who arrive in the UK without authorisation to Rwanda, amid growing suspicion that it will not solve the migration crisis in the Channel.

In a further attack on the legal profession, the home secretary blamed “specialist lawyers” as the main reason for the delays in setting up the scheme.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/may/10/priti-patel-blames-specialist-lawyers-rwanda-plan-delays

The language used in this email from the Home Office is disgraceful, and the spin they put on their plans is not surprising, whilst the idea of removing people to Rwanda is shocking:

Home Office External Affairs – Rwanda press release
From: External Affairs <externalaffairs@homeoffice.gov.uk>
Date: Tue, May 10, 2022 9:57 am
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Good Morning, Last night the Home Office issued the following press notice announcing the first group of illegal migrants with no right to be in the UK will this week be informed of our intention to relocate them to Rwanda under the new Migration and Economic Development Partnership. The government last night published a range of document online, these include:

 Additionally, the release also confirms that this week, the Home Office will start an informal consultation with councils over how a new, fairer asylum dispersal system will operate in their areas in the long-term.  This will mean each area can agree a regional plan that works for them Please find a full copy of the release below. If you are issuing a statement in response, we’d be grateful if we can be signposted to your comment once published. If you have any questions please do let us know. Kind Regards, Aaron. FIRST ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TOLD OF IMPENDING REMOVAL TO RWANDA The first group of illegal migrants with no right to be in the UK will this week be informed of our intention to relocate them to Rwanda under the new Migration and Economic Development Partnership. Migrants who crossed the Channel are among those who will be served with notices and the Government has the power to detain individuals pending their removal from the UK. Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Britain’s asylum system is broken as criminals exploit and smuggle people into our country at huge costs to UK taxpayers. The world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda means those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK may be relocated to Rwanda to have their claims for asylum considered and to rebuild their lives there – helping break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life. “This is just the first stage of the process and we know it will take time as some will seek to frustrate the process and delay removals. I will not be deterred from acting to deliver on the changes the British people voted for to take back control of our money, laws and borders.” These notifications are the first step in the process and warn migrants they may not be admitted to the UK’s asylum system because they travelled through safe countries where they could and should have claimed asylum. Lawyers representing some of those notified are expected to lodge claims to prevent removal, and as set out when the partnership was first announced, first flights are expected to take place in the coming months. It comes as the Home Office publishes guidance to inform decision-making in the interests of transparency. The guidance published includes a formal, robust and comprehensive assessment of Rwanda, reaffirming that it is a safe country to relocate people to. It is based on a wide range of research, including visits to the country and interviews with independent organisations working there. Notes to Editors

  • The government routinely removes people to other countries for immigration reasons, including foreign national offenders, failed asylum seekers and visa overstayers.
  • Since March 2021 more than 10,000 people have been removed by both scheduled and charter flights, with 78 flights chartered to 13 different countries.
  • Last week a chartered flight to Albania removed foreign national offenders convicted of crimes including firearms and drug offences, assault of an emergency worker and theft, with combined sentences of over 56 years.
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a world-first Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-Operation Vincent Biruta in the capital Kigali on Thursday 14 April. 
  • The agreement is uncapped and Rwanda has capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead. Anyone who came to the UK illegally since 1 January 2022 could be considered.
  • Rwanda is a State Party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the seven core UN Human Rights Conventions.
  • Rwanda: country policy and information notes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • Inadmissibility: third country cases – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Asylum dispersal

  • On Wednesday 13 April, the Home Office announced that all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales will be expected to be asylum dispersal areas and they will receive new government funding.  
  • This week, Home Office will start an informal consultation with councils over how a new, fairer asylum dispersal system will operate in their areas in the long-term.  This will mean each area can agree a regional plan that works for them

Updated 9 May 2022: Guardian: First refugees to be told this week of their relocation to Rwanda

Arrivals who crossed Channel will be notified of Home Office plan to send them to nation to make asylum claims

The first group of people will be informed this week of the government’s intention to send them to Rwanda under its controversial relocation scheme, the Home Office has said.

Under plans announced last month, people arriving illegally in the UK via Channel crossings and other routes will be detained and sent to the east African nation to apply for asylum there.

The government has said it expects tens of thousands of people to be relocated under the scheme, although the plans face legal challenges from charities and campaign groups.

The Home Office has said that people who arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel will be among the first group notified that it plans to send them to Rwanda. It added that it expects the first flights to take place in the coming months.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/09/first-refugees-to-be-toldd-this-week-of-their-relocation-to-rwanda


The Article: Priti and the people smugglers

Priti Patel’s announcement that Rwanda was to be given £120 million for accepting deported migrants and refugees has not gone down well. But, undeterred, the Prime Minister has said he will get it done. For a moment let’s take at face value the Government’s response to the widespread outcry.

[…] With the Home Office prediction of only 300 deportations to Rwanda annually and with forthcoming legal challenges, Ms Patel’s money-for-migrants partnership seems unlikely to be implemented. The judges and “Left-wing lawyers” will be blamed when it is stopped. And Government headline-grabbing will continue: irresponsible, deceptive and shameless.

Read more: https://www.thearticle.com/priti-and-the-people-smugglers



Updated 9 May 2022: Guardian: Why we confronted Priti Patel about her inhumane ‘Rwanda plan’ at a Tory dinner by Holly Hudson

The government has a responsibility to help people seeking refuge, not detain them 4,000 miles away

  • Holly Hudson is an organiser with Green New Deal Rising

On Friday night, I and several others went undercover to a crowded dinner party held by the Bassetlaw Conservatives Association and challenged the home secretary, Priti Patel, on her inhumane “Rwanda plan” to process refugees offshore. The newspapers called us a “mob”, but I know that we were simply standing up for what is right.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/09/priti-patel-inhumane-rwanda-plan-tory-dinner

Updated 7 May 2022: Guardian: Activists disrupt Priti Patel speech in protest against Rwanda refugee plan

Green New Deal Rising campaigners were escorted from the dinner to chants of ‘out, out, out’

A speech by the home secretary, Priti Patel, was disrupted on Friday evening after pro-refugee activists infiltrated a Conservative party “spring dinner”.

Eight young social justice and climate campaigners from Green New Deal Rising disrupted the Bassetlaw Conservative Association Spring Dinner and demanded she drop controversial plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda.

As Patel started to address the party faithful, activists stood up, one by one, to condemn the offshoring plans and called on Patel to abandon them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/07/social-justice-activists-disrupt-priti-patel-speech-to-protest-rwanda-refugee-plan


Updated 4 May 2022: Politics Home: As a refugee myself, I know the government’s Rwanda plan will only lead to more tragedy

“Never give up on your dreams.” That’s the saying. But I lost my job, my family – everything – in the blink of an eye.

I was forced to flee Iran, the country I grew up in, because of my political activities as a member of the Kurdish minority. The journey I was forced to take left me scarred for life, and the most dangerous part of it was crossing the English Channel in a small boat. It was so foggy we could barely see.  

The government has said it will start sending single men, like me, who arrive this way to Rwanda. It claims this will cut off the hands of smugglers, but the reality is this will only punish people who are seeking sanctuary.  

When I claimed asylum, the authorities sent me to the Penally Barracks. This controversial ex-military site in Wales felt like a prison. To end up there, after having just fled prison and death, felt both ridiculous and at the same time scary and traumatic. In the drawings I made at the time, I showed how I felt about the situation.  

Read more: https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/as-a-refugee-myself-i-know-the-governments-rwanda-plan-will-only-lead-to-more-tragedy


Update 29 April 2022: EVENT: No to Hassockfield Campaign – demonstration 14 May 2022:

At the start of 2021, news emerged that a new Immigration Removal Centre was to be opened in County Durham. It soon came to light that this was to be a site for women, and was to replace Yarl’s Wood as the main IRC for women in the UK. In March 2021, groups of cross-party, human rights campaigners came together to set up The No To Hassockfield Campaign, which would stand against this site and battle for its closure and the release of all those to be imprisoned.  The site was officially opened at the end of last year, with the first women transferred on the 28th of Decemeber… an incredibly cruel period between Christmas and New Year. 

Along with Abolish-Detention – Hassockfield, and Durham People’s Assembly, we host monthly demonstrations at the site itself on the third Saturday of Every Month. Prayer vigils, organised by multiple faith groups, also take place monthly.  In early December, 2021, we hosted our first cross-organisation National Demonstration in Consett.  This was co-organised by No To Hassockfield, Abolish Detention, Durham People’s Assembly and Women for Refugee Women. We had a great turnout of between 200 and 300 people and had some amazing media coverage. Here is a BBC article from the demo: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-59534165

We wanted to do a call out to other refugee support and anti-detention organisations to inform you of the next National Demonstration taking place in Durham City Centre on the 14th of May (12-3pm) (flyer attached in this email).  We have chosen Durham city centre because Durham is a city of Sanctuary and is only 25 minutes away from the site. We hope that by hosting in Durham where there are better transport links, that more people are able to attend, and we can help spread the word even further. We have some incredible speakers lined up for this event, some of whom are traveling across the country to be there and show support, including, but not limited to: 

🧡 Agnes Tanoh: former refugee from Ivory coast, previously detained in Yarls Wood IRC, now campaigner, speaker and activist, as well as member of Women for Refugee Women. 

🧡 Roza Salih: former child refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, known as one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’, now campaigner and activist. 

🧡 Margaret Owen OBE: 90-year-old human rights lawyer who has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women and girls, particularly asylum seekers and refugees. 

🧡 Kate Fox: poet, broadcaster and writer who battles against the erosion of fundamental rights and uses words to spread hope and love. 

🧡 Gulwali Passarlay: former child refugee from Afghanistan, now graduate, speaker, activist and campaigner. Also, author of the best-selling book ‘The Lightless Sky’. 

🧡 Mary Foy MP: local MP for the City of Durham. Has battled against this site from the beginning, raising parliamentary questions and putting pressure on the government. 

🧡 Mariam Yusuf: asylum-seeker from Somalia, won the Women on The Move ‘Women of the Year’ award in 2016, has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers and women who have experienced domestic violence and FGM. 

We also have some incredible musicians and performers lined up for the day. We are encouraging people to wear orange 🧡 , the colour of solidarity and compassion for those forcibly displaced, if you are able to do so, as well as bring signs of love and support, to show the government what we think of their asylum and immigration policies. 

Hassockfield/Derwentside IRC may be strategically located (or hidden) in an out-of-the-way, middle-of-nowhere site, but that does in no way mean this is a hidden issue. This is a national issue, and one we are trying to make extremely visible. We must come together to oppose this site, and all other inhumane, expensive, and unnecessary immigration prisons across the country. 

Here’s how you can support us or get involved now: 

  • Please help us circulate and advertise the National Demonstration happening in less than a month’s time. Plese feel free to share our graphics and link to the Facebook Event here: https://fb.me/e/1mmkjfnHg
  • Please attend our national demonstration if you can! It would be so incredible to have organisations from across the country there in solidarity. 
  • Follow us on Twitter: @NoTo Hassockfield
  • Email us for more information: No2Hassockfield@outlook.com
  • Visit our website for more information and a link to where donations can be made to help us continue spreading the word and provide us with the means to host future demonstrations like the one on the 14th of May: https://notohassockfield.org.uk/ 

We are hoping to increase campaign contacts and activities. It would be amazing if we could connect, and mutually support each other as organisations who believe in the asylum rights, migrant rights and human rights. We would love if anyone from your organisation could promote, support, or join the N2H campaign. Let us know if you would like to be added to the mailing list and/or anyone would like to come along to one of our monthly zoom meetings to find out more. 
We hope to see some of you on the 14th of May in Durham. Thank you for taking the time to read this message. 

Best wishes and in solidarity, 
Emma On Behalf on the No To Hassockfield Campaign


Morning Star: Patel’s Rwanda deal already causing ‘immense harm’ to asylum-seekers

The Star speaks with refugees who have run away from hostels over fears of being deported

PRITI PATEL’S Rwanda deal is already causing “immense harm” to asylum-seekers in Britain – with some running away from hostels over fears of being deported, the Morning Star has learned.

The Star spoke to two asylum-seekers who decided to flee their accommodation following the Home Secretary’s announcement two weeks ago.

Despite the risks of leaving Home Office accommodation, including becoming destitute and vulnerable to exploitation, both said they would prefer to sleep on the streets in the UK than risk being sent to Rwanda.

“I’ve already had a war in my country, I came all this way to seek refuge to have peace of mind,” Asif*, a Syrian national who came to Britain by small boat earlier this year, said.

“Now we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s inhumane.”

Under the deal, asylum-seekers who arrived in Britain after January 1 in small boats across the Channel could be deported on a one-way ticket to Rwanda to claim asylum there.

The Home Office claims people sent to Rwanda would be provided with safe accommodation, food, healthcare, translators and access to legal support, but the policy has been widely condemned and is now subject to two legal challenges, launched this week.

Mahir*, also from Syria, spoke of living in a state of fear since the deal was announced. “I left the hotel because of my fears of the government’s decision,” he told the Star.

“In Syria we didn’t go out of our houses because we are always frightened. If I left my home for even five minutes, a police car would come and take me either to the army or prison straight away.

“When I came to Britain I felt safe and at home here, I could go out of the house at midnight or anytime [and] no-one would bother me.

“Now I am always frightened going out, walking around the street, communicating with people, because I don’t know what is going to happen in the next hour, the next second.

“When I heard about this decision I even thought about suicide. Taking me to Rwanda will affect me and if I didn’t take my life here I would do it in Rwanda.”

Mahir is now staying with a friend, but says he cannot stay there long. Both asylum-seekers are waiting to see whether the Rwanda deal will be dropped, after which time they hope they can resume their asylum cases.

Kenan, a co-founder of the refugee-led charity Life Seekers Aid, told the Star he knows of “many” asylum-seekers who have left hotels for the same reason: “They are terrified of being moved out to Africa, to Rwanda.”

Even asylum-seekers who arrived before January 1 fear they could be targeted and are among those who have gone into hiding, Kenan says.

“The Home Office is converting them from asylum-seekers to illegal immigrants,” he said.

“They are now undocumented people in this country.”

Refugee rights charities have also highlighted that while no-one has yet been sent to Rwanda, the announcement alone has had a “catastrophic” impact on asylum-seekers’ wellbeing.

“Families are scared and anxious to leave their homes, and even people who claimed asylum years ago are worried that they may be targeted for deportation,” Refugee Action’s Mohamed Omar said.

Humans for Rights Network director Maddie Harris told the Star: “I think the policy, in advance of anybody going there, is already causing immense harm [not only because of] people feeling unwelcome and unwanted but also being absolutely terrified that they are at risk of being sent to Rwanda.

Read more: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/patel-rwanda-deal-already-causing-immense-harm-to-asylum-seekers


Updated 28 April 2022: Guardian: Priti Patel’s Rwanda asylum seeker plan faces first legal challenge

Charity Freedom from Torture says it has ‘serious concerns’ about lawfulness of policy

Priti Patel’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is facing its first legal challenge after a charity instructed lawyers to demand the disclosure of documents because of fears the policy is contrary to international law.

In a pre-action letter to the Home Office, which is expected to lead to a judicial review claim, the solicitors Leigh Day stated that the charity Freedom from Torture “has serious concerns about the lawfulness of the policy”.

It has requested “disclosure of information regarding the policy”, including documents outlining it, risk assessments and the memorandum of understanding signed by the UK and Rwandan governments.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/apr/27/priti-patel-faces-legal-challenge-over-rwanda-asylum-seeker-plan


Guardian: ‘Unsafe’ UK accommodation threatens asylum seekers’ health – report

Exclusive: poor healthcare and conditions at sites such as Napier worsen mental and physical illness, Doctors of the World says

Asylum seekers’ accommodation is “unsafe” due to inadequate healthcare, while poor living conditions are exacerbating or creating mental and physical health problems, according to a new report by Doctors of the World.

The charity’s research, published on Wednesday, details the barriers to medical care and medication for asylum seekers in initial accommodation across the UK.

Evidence gathered by Doctors of the World shows that a failure to meet basic human standards in hotels and former military barracks such as Napier in Folkestone has exacerbated depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health concerns among asylum seekers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/apr/27/unsafe-uk-accommodation-threatens-asylum-seeker-health-doctors-of-the-world-report


Updated 26 April 2022: Rwanda: “A serpent in place of a piece of fish” by David Forbes

UK’S UNGODLY ACTION

The UK’s forcible transportation to Rwanda of asylum seekers declared “inadmissible” because they have entered without a visa has rightly been deemed “ungodly” by Justin Welby. It is a basic infringement of the Golden rule of love of God and love of neighbour. Today, we often prefer other less theological language notably “concern”, “care”, “protection from harm” language which has become enshrined in the general notion of “human rights”. Nevertheless examples from Jesus’s parables such as  the neighbourliness of the Good Samaritan, the father’s unconditional love and care for his Prodigal Son survive in the public consciousness.

Read more: https://qarn.org.uk/rwanda-a-serpent-in-place-of-a-piece-of-fish/


Updated 24 April 2022: Guardian: ‘Guantánamo-on-Ouse’ plans to place 1,500 asylum seekers in Yorkshire village

Decision decried as ‘morally bankrupt ploy to reduce our obligations to the most desperate people’

It has been described as Guantánamo-on-Ouse: a giant one-stop reception centre for asylum seekers due to open within weeks slap bang in the middle of a quiet, bucolic North Yorkshire village.

“When we first heard about it they said 500 people and we thought that’s just about manageable,” said 67-year-old Taff Morgan. “Then last night we heard 1,500 and that might not be the maximum. It depends on how many they can fit in.”

Morgan lives in Linton-on-Ouse and like most people in the village he is still digesting the enormity of the government’s New Plan for Immigration.

Most of the attention and controversy has been directed at the proposal to send people to Rwanda. Refugees not sent there will, the government said, go to a new reception centre at the former RAF base at Linton-on-Ouse where they will live while their claims are processed.

The base is not close to Linton, it’s part of Linton.

[…] It would, residents were told, be predominantly adult single men single from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Eritrea being sent to Linton. They might have to live in Greek-style temporary containers. They could live there for up to six months. They will be free to come and go but will be expected back at the site by 10pm.

Villagers point out they don’t have the infrastructure to cope. There are four buses a day to York, 10 miles away. There’s one shop. The village pub closed a number of years ago.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/apr/24/guantanamo-on-ouse-plans-to-place-1500-asylum-seekers-in-yorkshire-village


Updated 23 April 2022: Guardian: Rwanda genocide survivors moved out of hostel so Priti Patel could inspect it

Residents sent on awayday during the home secretary’s visit, and some fear losing their home to asylum seekers from the UK

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/23/rwanda-genocide-survivors-moved-out-of-hostel-so-priti-patel-could-inspect-it


Independent: Rwanda ‘more akin to detention camp than sovereign state’, says ex-ambassador

Senior Conservative MPs have also questioned the logic behind the Nationality and Borders Bill.

A former Rwandan ambassador to the US has warned the Government that the East African country is “more akin to a detention camp than a state where the people are sovereign”, as controversial immigration reforms edge closer to becoming law.

Theogene Rudasingwa, who was the country’s representative in the US from 1996 to 1999, has been in exile in America since 2004 after falling out with Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

The British Government has said it trusts Rwanda to treat the asylum seekers sent there humanely, Dr Rudasingwa said.

“As a Rwandan with decades of political and diplomatic experience my view is that under the regime of President Kagame such trust is unfounded,” Dr Rudasingwa said.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/rwanda-british-government-mps-conservative-bob-neill-b2063821.html


Independent: Priti Patel accused of ‘hypocrisy’ over plans to place asylum seekers on RAF site in rural village

Tory MP points out that two years ago home secretary ordered that asylum seekers be removed from hotel in her own constituency on basis that area was too rural

Priti Patel has been accused of “hypocrisy” over her department’s plan to place asylum seekers in a rural Yorkshire village two years after she claimed they should not be placed in her own constituency because it was not a “major conurbation”.

The home secretary announced plans last week to open the UK’s first bespoke asylum reception centre, set to house upwards of 500 people while their claims are considered, at a former RAF site in Linton-on-Ouse, which has a population of 1,200 and is 10 miles from the nearest town.

But charities and the village’s Tory MP have said the move is contradictory, pointing out that only two years ago the home secretary ordered that asylum seekers be removed from a hotel in her constituency on the basis that the area was too rural and not in close proximity to a town or city.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/priti-patel-asylum-seekers-reception-centre-linton-ouse-kevin-hollinrake-uk-b2063215.html


21 April 2022: Re: Rwanda. The discussion on radio 4 last week with David Aaronovitch suggested the scheme is unworkable, also that when Israel used a similar one in 2014 most refugees who were taken there left the country as fast as possible and the scheme was abandoned. You can listen to it on BBC sounds here


20 April 2022: Washington Post: Why Britain’s deal with Rwanda on migrants is so repulsive:

Both countries have their reasons for an agreement to relocate migrants, but those don’t include the welfare of thousands of vulnerable people.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/04/20/britain-rwanda-refugees-trafficking-resettlement-deal/


19 April 2022: Hansard: Global Migration Challenge – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 19th April 2022.

Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department  3:39 pm, 19th April 2022: With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the United Kingdom’s approach to the global migration challenge.

[…] Every day, the broken asylum system costs the taxpayer almost £5 million in hotel accommodation alone. The cost of the asylum system is the highest in over two decades at over £1.5 billion.

Read more: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-04-19/debates/04A9FDC8-59F6-4CA9-BEBD-3B6F5850D707/GlobalMigrationChallenge


Updated 17 April 2022: No to offshoring! Stop Government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Please help by signing the petition now. No to offshoring! Stop Government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

No to offshoring! Stop Government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Government have announced plans to send those who cross the channel seeking refuge and asylum 4,500 miles away to Rwanda for ‘processing’. 

Those making the perilous journey across the channel will be taken to an RAF base in Yorkshire before being flown to Rwanda, where they will be sent to asylum camps and resettled there.  It’s going to cost £120 million to do.

The Government’s plan to offshore asylum processing for those who have fled war, violence, famine and persecution is inhumane and cruel. It is an extraordinary dereliction of our duty and our legal obligations – washing our hands of some of those most in need at huge expense. 

This plan violates the principle of the UN convention ( of which the UK was a founding signatory) which states that we must “grant people a fair hearing on UK soil”.*

In Australia, they have run a similar scheme of sending refugees to camps overseas, and it is reported to have led to people experiencing “rampant abuse” as well as “rape, murder and suicide.” How have our government not learned the lessons from this?*

To add to this, Rwanda, as Amnesty International has pointed out, has an abysmal record on Human Rights and as recently as last year a Rwandan national was granted asylum in the UK after they fled persecution there. In 2018, Rwandan National Police shot and killed Congolese refugees protesting mistreatment and poor conditions. They arrested a further 60. 

This horrific plan will only cause further suffering and torture to refugees and asylum seekers. It cannot be allowed to go ahead. 

We call on the Government to stop this disastrous plan, to say no to offshoring and to cancel the deal.

Please help by signing the petition now. https://www.change.org/p/no-to-offshoring-tell-pritipatel-to-stop-plans-to-send-asylum-seekers-to-rwanda


Independent: Tory MP accuses archbishop of ‘wanting to live with law-breaking’ after Rwanda asylum criticism

Justin Welby says there are ‘serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas’

Delivering his Easter Sunday sermon, the head of the Church of England criticised the plan to send some asylum seekers on a one-way ticket over 4,000 miles away to the east African country.

In a scathing intervention, Archbishop Welby accused the government of “sub-contracting” its responsibilities, adding there were “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, Mr Welby said the measures “cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values”.

He added: “The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/justin-welby-rwanda-conservative-mp-speech-b2059645.html


BBC: Rwanda asylum plan: Justin Welby raises ‘serious ethical questions’

https://emp.bbc.co.uk/emp/SMPj/2.44.14/iframe.htmlRwanda asylum plan: Justin Welby raises ‘serious ethical questions’Close

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Easter sermon to condemn the government’s plans to send asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda.

Justin Welby told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral that “subcontracting out our responsibilities” goes against Christian values.

“As a policy it privileges the rich and the strong,” he said.

He recognised Rwanda’s good intentions with its part in the plans, but said that responsibility for the asylum seekers lies with the UK.


BBC: Patel warned of uncertainty over Rwanda plan’s deterrent effect

Priti Patel’s top civil servant warned her there was not enough evidence of the “deterrent effect” of the plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

In a letter, Matthew Rycroft said the policy’s value for money relied on it reducing illegal Channel crossings.

He said while there was not “sufficient evidence” of the scheme’s benefits, that did not mean it would not work.

The home secretary replied it would be “imprudent” to allow a lack of modelling to delay the scheme.

The exchange between Ms Patel and her permanent secretary was published by the Home Office after it emerged she had issued a rare “ministerial direction” to push through the plans, meaning she takes personal responsibility for it.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-61133983


Updated 16 April 2022: Guardian: Refugee who fled torture in Rwanda attacks UK asylum deal

Journalist who sought safety in Britain still in fear for his life after his paper criticised President Kagame

“Rwanda is a good country for image, but not for freedom of speech. I’m really shocked that the offshoring to Rwanda is happening. It is like selling people. It’s really shameful for a country like the UK to be doing this. It’s like a business,” he said.

“People will suffer there but it won’t stop the smuggling gangs. I believe asylum seekers will get bad treatment in Rwanda. I live outside London because the Rwandan embassy is in London and I don’t want to be near them. So many Rwandans who have left the country live in fear wherever they are.”

He said he was scared of what would happen to him if he was ever sent back to Rwanda. “Those who oppose Kagame end up in prison. The Rwandan government use torture and violence against their opponents.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/apr/16/refugee-who-fled-torture-in-rwanda-attacks-uk-asylum-deal


Guardian: Priti Patel could face Home Office mutiny over Rwanda asylum plan

Unions say civil servants could stage mass walkouts after home secretary overruled their concerns

Priti Patel could face a Home Office mutiny over plans to process migrants 5,000 miles away in Rwanda after overruling officials to push through the scheme.

The home secretary issued a rare ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the scheme would deliver value for money.

It is only the second ministerial direction – an order enforced by a minister despite objection from a permanent secretary – the Home Office has received in 30 years. The first was to speed up the Windrush compensation scheme before legislation.

Civil servants could stage mass walk-outs in protest against the new plans, unions have warned.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/apr/16/priti-patel-home-office-mutiny-rwanda-asylum-plan


BBC: Patel personally approved Rwanda plan launch after civil servant concerns

Priti Patel had to personally approve a scheme to send some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda after her officials voiced concern over value for money.

The home secretary issued a rare “ministerial direction” to push through the plans, meaning she takes responsibility for it.

It is only the second time the Home Office has used the power in 30 years.

A union for top civil servants said the plan was “divisive” but officials would have to implement it or leave.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman told BBC News: “Civil servants know their job is to support the government of the day. They sign up for that knowing they might not like what the government does.

“On the more divisive policies, which this clearly is, they face a choice – implement or leave. That could mean elsewhere in the Home Office, another department, or the service.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which also represents civil servants, said: “For the government to attempt to claim this is anything other than utterly inhumane is sheer hypocrisy.

“We have already seen that they are prepared to risk lives by turning boats back in the channel – a policy which we have had to take them to court over. It is a heartless approach that displays total disregard for human life which everyone must oppose.”

[…] Last year, the UK government raised concerns at the UN about claims of “extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture” in Rwanda, as well as restrictions to civil and political rights.

But a Home Office spokeswoman said Rwanda was a “safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers” and that under the plans, the country would “process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee convention, national and international laws”.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61126360


Guardian: Peers will fight UK government’s ‘awful’ Rwanda plans, says Lord Dubs

Exclusive: Alf Dubs, former child refugee, says sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is effectively ‘state-sponsored trafficking’

Ministers will face a fierce battle in parliament over plans to force some asylum seekers to be relocated to Rwanda, a Labour peer and former child refugee has vowed.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/apr/16/peers-will-fight-uk-governments-awful-rwanda-plans-says-lord-dubs


do not piss on me and tell me its raining: speech from todays protests – Loraine Masiya Mponela from CARAG

15 April 2022: World News: Rwanda migrants – latest: Rory Stewart calls plans ‘disturbing’ as Boris Johnson prepares for legal wrangle

Keir Starmer says Rwanda asylum plan will cost taxpayers ‘billions of pounds’

Rory Stewart has slammed the announcement that asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda as “very strange and very disturbing”, adding he does not believe anyone will actually be sent there.

“I don’t like what they are doing in Rwanda, I think they are offshoring a British problem and they’re trying to put it out of sight and out of mind,” the former Africa minister said.

“It’s very strange and very disturbing.

“I was in Rwanda two weeks ago. There are many things that are positive, as you know, about Rwanda. It’s come out of a genocide, it’s gone through an extraordinary process of national healing, but it’s also an authoritarian state.”

Elsewhere, prime minister Boris Johnson today said the partnership with Rwanda will be “fully compliant with our international legal obligations”, while insisting it is “one of the safest countries in the world”.

“But nevertheless, we expect this will be challenged in the courts,” Mr Johnson added, as he hit out at what he called a “formidable army of politically motivated lawyers”.

https://theworldnews.net/gb-news/rwanda-migrants-latest-rory-stewart-calls-plans-disturbing-as-boris-johnson-prepares-for-legal-wrangle


Free Movement:      The UK-Rwanda memorandum of understanding on asylum processing is now available. It sets out the terms of the agreement between the countries at a high level but provides some insight into how this scheme is supposed to work.  https://freemovement.org.uk/uk-rwanda-refugee-offshoring-deal-first-thoughts/

Updated 14 April 2022: The memorandum of understanding:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/memorandum-of-understanding-mou-between-the-uk-and-rwanda


Write to your MP:

Rainbow Migration have a template letter you can use to urge the Government not to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Write to your MP now.

JCWI: Unspeakably cruel new plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Today the Government is announcing a deal to ship off asylum seekers to Rwanda.

These unspeakably cruel plans play fast and loose with the lives of refugees and will put people in danger. The situation in Rwanda for LGBTQI+ people, for example, is so poor that the UK accepts Rwandan refugees on the basis of their sexuality.

The deal will also fuel the smuggling trade, as people make new journeys to safety. A similar deal made by Israel with Rwanda in 2013 led to refugees being detained, beaten up in prison, and ultimately paying smugglers to escape Rwanda and make a new journey to safety.

We have seen from the outpouring of support towards Ukrainians and Afghans that the British public welcome refugees.

It’s time to build a decent asylum system that is accessible, and works fast to help people build new lives here in safety.


Join a demonstration:

London 6pm, Thursday 14 April, Outside the Home Office on Marsham Street, London (see map)

on 16 April, in Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Coventry


Detention Forum: URGENT: This Government plans to send people to offshore detention camps in Rwanda

This is urgent. On Thursday the 14th of April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his Government has signed a contract with Rwanda to build offshore detention camps there, where he will lock up people seeking asylum.

We have a chance to stop this, but we need your help.

Wherever it happens, offshore detention is designed to treat people seeking asylum with such cruelty and inhumanity that they return to the countries they fled.

The Rwandan government has a disturbing record of repression and human rights abuses. Rwandan police shot Refugees protesting against poor conditions in the camps there. In Rwandan detention centres people – including women and children – have been locked in filthy, crowded cells, and beaten by guards. https://detentionaction.e-activist.com/page/103976/donate/1


ripples: Stop Priti Patel’s offshore refugee camps

Refugees arriving in Britain will be flown to offshore “processing” centres in Rwanda, the government has announced.

The plan is modelled on Australia’s brutal network of offshore camps – widely condemned by human rights groups as at least 12 people died and many more suffered abuse.

According to Human Rights Watch, detainees in Rwanda have suffered from ill-treatment and even torture. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has also criticised the plan, saying it does not support any plans to transfer refugees offshore.

The scheme will also cost over £120 million – enough money to give every refugee in Britain a decent life, instead of spending it on imprisoning them.

It is the latest version of government plans that have failed multiple times before with various possible offshore detention locations, from the remote, volcanic Ascension Island to the use of disused ferries as prison ships.

This plan manages to combine being inhumane and cruel with being unworkable. It must be dropped immediately, this time for good.


The Guardian: Boris Johnson says tens of thousands could be sent to Rwanda under relocation plan for asylum seekers – UK politics live

The Home Office has released a press release about the deal with Rwanda. It confirms, as Mark Easton said on the BBC this morning (see 9.11am), that people being sent to Rwanda will just get a “one-way ticket”.

The government has been floating the prospect of offshore processing for asylum seekers for some time, but the assumption had been that people might be flown offshore (ie, to a country abroad) to have their claims for asylum in the UK processed, with those found to qualify eventually being allowed to return. Under this plan, people would instead only be offered the chance to seek asylum in Rwanda.

Here is an extract from the briefing.

Migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys, such as by small boat or hidden in lorries, have their asylum claim processed in Rwanda. Those whose claims are accepted will then be supported to build a new and prosperous life in one of the fastest-growing economies, recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants.

Under this partnership the UK is investing £120 million into the economic development and growth of Rwanda. Funding will also be provided to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services.

There were reports this morning that the plan would only apply to adult males. But the Home Office press release implies any asylum seekers arriving in the UK on small boats could be sent to Rwanda.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2022/apr/14/uk-politics-live-boris-johnson-asylum-seekers-rwanda-plan-provokes-fury-priti-patel-latest-updates


From ITV reporter: https://twitter.com/AnushkaAsthana


Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership

Posted by:Home Office news team

On Thursday 14 April, the UK and Rwanda announced a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes.

The Partnership will see those travelling to the UK through illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods considered for relocation to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claim processed. Those whose claims for protection are rejected will either be offered the chance to stay in Rwanda or return to their home country – they will not return to the UK once their claims have been decided by Rwanda.

Read more: https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/04/14/factsheet-migration-and-economic-development-partnership/


Human Rights Watch: World Report 2022: Rwanda

The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) continued to stifle dissenting and critical voices and to target those perceived as a threat to the government and their family members. The space for political opposition, civil society, and media remained closed. Several high-profile critics, including opposition members and commentators using social media or YouTube to express themselves, went missing, were arrested or threatened. Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities was commonplace, and fair trial standards were routinely flouted in cases deemed sensitive. There were credible reports of arbitrary detention and mistreatment of people accused of “deviant behaviors,” including street children, sex workers and petty vendors. 

Political Repression 

The political and civic space in Rwanda remain closed. Christopher Kayumba, the former editor of The Chronicles newspaper, established a new political party, the Rwandese Platform for Democracy (RDP), in March. This followed the publication of an open letter in which Kayumba criticized President Paul Kagame’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, its impact on the population, and denounced the existence of “safe houses,” where detainees are routinely held illegally and tortured. Shortly afterwards, allegations of rape and “sexual misconduct” were brought against him, and he was arrested in September. He began a hunger strike a few days after his arrest to protest the “politically-motivated” charges and had to be transferred to hospital for treatment. He was transferred to Nyarugenge prison in Kigali after his bail application was denied in October.  

Other political opposition figures, such as Victoire Ingabire, continued to face obstruction in their work, including threats and harassment by authorities. Authorities detained 10 people around “Ingabire Day,” an event scheduled for October 14 and organized by the unregistered opposition Dalfa-Umurinzi party to discuss, among other things, political repression in Rwanda. At the time of writing, seven party members, and a YouTube blogger were charged with several offenses including “spreading rumors”, “spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state,” and “causing uprising or unrest among the population.” 

The September conviction and 25-year sentence of critic and political opponent Paul Rusesabagina on charges including murder and membership in a terrorist group after a flawed trial was emblematic of the government’s overreach and manipulation of the justice system. Rusesabagina was forcibly disappeared and unlawfully returned to Rwanda in August 2020. His trial was marred with fair trial and due process rights violations

Freedom of Expression

Read more: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/rwanda


Human Rights Watch – HRW: UK Plan to Ship Asylum Seekers to Rwanda is Cruelty Itself

Government Continues to Rip Up its Duties to Asylum Seekers

Shirking its obligations to persons seeking asylum at its shores, the UK government has today signed an agreement with Rwanda to send asylum seekers crossing the English Channel there.

Under the new Asylum Partnership Arrangement, people arriving in the UK irregularly or who arrived irregularly since January 1, 2022 may be sent to Rwanda on a one-way ticket to have their asylum claim processed and, if recognized as refugees, to be granted refugee status there.

The UK is arguing that offshoring asylum seekers to Rwanda complies with its international legal obligations. However, offshore processing is not only cruel and ineffective, but also very likely to be unlawful. It creates a two-tiered refugee system that discriminates against one group based on their mode of arrival, despite refugee status being grounded solely on the threat of persecution or serious harm and international standards recognizing that asylum seekers are often compelled to cross borders irregularly to seek protection.

We have seen the severe abuses resulting from offshore processing. Australia’s offshore detention regime on Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, caused more than eight years of immense human suffering. Twelve people have died since the policy began in 2013. Men, women, and children have suffered inhumane treatment and medical neglect, and years of indefinite detention led to suicides and an epidemic of self-harm. The costs were also exorbitant. Detaining a single asylum seeker on Papua New Guinea or Nauru cost around AUD $3.4 million (GBP£1.8 million) annually.

Furthermore, Rwanda’s appalling human rights record is well documented. In 2018, Rwandan security forces shot dead at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo when they protested a cut to food rations. Authorities then arrested and prosecuted over 60 of them on charges including rebellion and “spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state.” Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents. In fact, the UK directly raised its concerns about respect for human rights with Rwanda, and grants asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country, including four just last year.

At a time when the people of the UK have opened their hearts and homes to Ukrainians, the government is choosing to act with cruelty and rip up their obligations to others fleeing war and persecution.

Read more: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/14/uk-plan-ship-asylum-seekers-rwanda-cruelty-itself


Guardian: Rwanda: human rights fears in nation whose leader faces murder claims

Paul Kagame, president of nation where UK plans to send asylum seekers, accused of seeking to assassinate opponents

Rwanda, Priti Patel’s planned destination for the processing of migrants arriving in the UK, is a largely rural east African country whose authoritarian president, Paul Kagame, has been accused of seeking to assassinate opponents.

The mountainous and landlocked country of 12 million, which witnessed an appalling genocide in 1994 in which 800,000 people were killed in 100 days, has been a recipient of generous development aid in the decades since.

Kagame has been feted by supporters in the west for his role in ending the genocide and for reducing poverty, though some critics have questioned the statistics.

But his leadership has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, especially over accusations that he orchestrated the kidnapping and murdering of his political opponents in order to eliminate challengers to his rule – accusations he denies.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/14/rwanda-human-rights-fears-paul-kagame


UNHCR: UN Refugee Agency opposes UK plan to export asylum

Following public announcements made today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed strong opposition and concerns about the United Kingdom’s plan to export its asylum obligations and urged the UK to refrain from transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing.

“UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.

“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

UNHCR urged both countries to re-think the plans. It also warned that instead of deterring refugees from resorting to perilous journeys, these externalization arrangements will only magnify risks, causing refugees to seek alternative routes, and exacerbating pressures on frontline states.

While Rwanda has generously provided a safe haven to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution for decades, the majority live in camps with limited access to economic opportunities. UNHCR believes that wealthier nations must show solidarity in supporting Rwanda and the refugees it already hosts, and not the other way around.

The UK has an obligation to ensure access to asylum for those seeking protection. Those who are determined to be refugees can be integrated, while those who are not and have no other legal basis to stay, can be returned in safety and dignity to their country of origin.

Instead, the UK is adopting arrangements that abdicate responsibility to others and thus threaten the international refugee protection regime, which has stood the test of time, and saved millions of lives over the decades.

The UK has supported UNHCR’s work many times in the past and is providing important contributions that help protect refugees and support countries in conflicts such as Ukraine. However, financial support abroad for certain refugee crises cannot replace the responsibility of States and the obligation to receive asylum seekers and protect refugees on their own territory – irrespective of race, nationality and mode of arrival.

While UNHCR recognizes the challenges posed by forced displacement, developed countries are host to only a fraction of the world’s refugees and are well resourced to manage claims for asylum in a humane, fair and efficient manner.

Read more: https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/4/62585e814/un-refugee-agency-opposes-uk-plan-export-asylum.html


Updated 8 April 2022: Refugee pupils with no school places have lessons in Manchester car parks

Volunteers run makeshift classrooms for ‘hundreds’ of children at hotels facing long waits to get into schools

The children of refugees and asylum seekers are receiving lessons in hotel car parks in Manchester because no places have been found at local schools, charity workers say.

Children thought to number in the hundreds, who have fled with their families from countries including Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Syria, are being put up in hotels across the city by the Home Office while they await news about their asylum applications.

Dr Rhetta Moran, a founder of the Manchester-based charity Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research (Rapar), said volunteers were giving the children lessons in the car park of a hotel where they are living. She is calling on Manchester city council – as well as outsourcing firm Serco, the company that has the Home Office contract for provision of accommodation in this part of the UK – to address the problem urgently.

Moran said: “Many of these children have been victims of war and persecution. They have then endured traumatic journeys to get to the UK, and upon arrival they are faced with lengthy delays in our asylum and immigration system.”

A resident of one Manchester hotel, who did not wish to be identified, told the Guardian there were about 30 children residing at the same premises as her, predominantly of Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Yemeni and Sudanese origin, and that some have faced waits of at least six months for a school place.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/apr/08/refugee-pupils-no-school-places-lessons-manchester-car-parks


Updated 7 April 2022: APPG: Napier Barracks visit – report published

MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention have today published their report from a visit in February to Napier Barracks – a former military base near Folkestone where people seeking asylum are being placed by the government in detention-like conditions.

** Access the full visit report here **

An inquiry undertaken last year by the APPG found that being accommodated at Napier left many people seeking asylum feeling dehumanised and suffering a profound deterioration in their mental health, in some cases to the point of attempting suicide. 

The MPs visiting in February found that little had changed at the site and said they remain “deeply concerned” for the individuals accommodated there, calling for Napier to be closed with “immediate and permanent effect”.

A ruling by the High Court in June 2021 found that Napier Barracks did not meet minimum standards for asylum accommodation. The parliamentarians’ report warns that changes introduced by the Home Office after the ruling have failed to address the fundamental problems at the site, with serious concerns continuing in relation to:

  • inadequate safeguarding of vulnerable people, such as victims of torture and trafficking, with little being done to identify residents who are in need of support
  • the physical environment of the site, which was run-down, isolated and bleak, with many buildings in an extremely poor state of repair
  • a near total lack of privacy and private spaces at the site, with residents continuing to be accommodated in dormitories of up to 12-14 people and having to share showers, toilets, and other facilities
  • noise levels in the dormitories, and the sleep deprivation and the negative impact on residents’ mental health resulting from this
  • inadequate access for residents to healthcare and legal advice, and the difficulties they face in engaging with their asylum claim at the site
  • the site’s prison-like nature and military features, including security checks upon entering and the presence of security guards patrolling
  • the lack of autonomy, choice and control over their daily lives that residents experience at the site.

The report explains that, having seen and experienced the sites for themselves, the MPs are firmly of the view that Napier and other sites like it are fundamentally unsuitable for use as asylum accommodation, and do not allow a person to engage effectively with their asylum claim.

The MPs also confirm in the report their support for the recommendations contained in the 2021 APPG Inquiry Report, including a call to close Napier with immediate and permanent effect, and to ensure that people seeking asylum are housed in decent, safe accommodation in the community that supports their well-being and recovery from trauma, facilitates their engagement with the asylum process, and allows them to build links with their community.

The MPs that took part in the visit were: Alison Thewliss MP (SNP) – APPG Chair; Stuart C. McDonald MP (SNP); Anne McLaughlin MP (SNP); Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Labour). The visit took place on 2 February 2022.

Read more: https://appgdetention.org.uk/napier-barracks-visit-report-published/


Updated 21 March 2022: Event: National Demonstration against Hassockfield Immigration Prison SATURDAY, 14 MAY 2022 FROM 12:00-15:00

Event by The No To Hassockfield Campaign and Abolish Detention – Hassockfield Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3, United Kingdom

In the last few days of 2021, the first women were transferred to Hassockfield (now known as Derwentside) Immigration Prison. This prison is only a 30 minute drive away from Durham city centre.

Many of the women incarcerated at Hassockfield are innocent of any criminal activity and are detained for unjust, unnecessary and inhumane administrative purposes.

Majority of women within immigration detention have endured unimaginable trauma from human trafficking, modern slavery, torture, abuse and gender-based violence. We know that confinement and imprisonment resurfaces trauma and renders women especially, extremely vulnerable.

The opening of this immigration prison completely contradicts previous Home Office pledges to reduce the number of immigration removal centres (prisons!) across the country.

Since March 2021, we have been committed and will continue to be committed to doing all we can to get this prison shut down! This site could instead be used for something that will bring benefit and hope to those in the surrounding community, creating jobs that aren’t founded in the inhumane exploitation and detention of human beings.

It’s time we made the UK a welcoming, supportive and kind place that welcomes those who are forcibly displaced, no matter where they come from. No one chooses to be a refugee. It is time the Government abolishes its hostile policies, and closing immigration prisons like these is the first step in doing so!Please join us and stand in solidarity against this abhorrent facility. We are calling for the government to #ShutItDown and #SetHerFree!🧡 Speakers to be confirmed
🧡 Please bring banners with your own messages to the government
🧡 This demonstration is being organised by No To Hassockfield, Abolish Detention, Durham People’s Assembly and Women For Refugee Women See less

https://www.facebook.com/events/545957817073641/


Updated 8 March 2022: BBC: Derwentside detention centre: Protest held for International Women’s Day

Campaigners have laid flowers outside a female immigration detention centre to mark International Women’s Day.

About 20 people protested outside Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre in County Durham.

The government said the centre houses foreign national prison inmates due for release and immigration offenders awaiting deportation.

Protesters said it was “more humane and cheaper” to keep the women “in the community”.

The centre at Hassockfield, Consett, which has capacity for 84 people, replaced Yarl’s Wood as the UK’s only women’s only centre when it opened at the end of last year.

The site previously served as the Medomsley detention centre for young offenders and was the scene of widespread abuse for decades before it shut in 1988.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-60661211


Updated 4 March 2022: Duncan Lewis (from 25 Feb 2022) ‘Home Office Policy Discriminates Against Women Refugees’

Duncan Lewis Solicitors has issued a judicial review against the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) and her failure to provide access to in-person legal advice to women refugees in Derwentside immigration removal centre.

Under instruction from the charity Women for Refugee Women (WFRW), our challenge contends that this failure amounts to discrimination and affects their “fundamental right to access of justice.”

Female detainees at the County Durham removal centre, many of them victims of gender based violence and trafficking, have been told that they can only obtain legal advice over the phone, unlike men in similar circumstances.


Around a dozen women were transferred to Derwentside immigration removal centre, a former youth prison in County Durham, at the end of December. The centre replaced Yarl’s Wood as the main site for women detained for immigration purposes. Despite assurances in the Equality Impact Assessment that an in-person service would be available, the SSHD opened Derwentside without this in place.

Detainees can receive up to 30 minutes of free legal advice irrespective of financial eligibility. Our public law team’s own research revealed there is an inadequate number of immigration legal aid lawyers near the centre. Ministers cancelled the process of procuring legal advice provision for the new centre in November 2021, after receiving insufficient compliant tenders. The surgery rota was allocated to London-based firms, which had previously provided surgery advice at Yarl’s Wood. However, the Derwnentside centre is 10 hour round trip from London, making it impractical for face-to-face meetings.

On behalf of our client, our public law team says that the shift to Derwentside has resulted in discrimination against the women who will be held there, up to 80 detainees, as they are only able to access legal advice by phone, unlike at many of the centres occupied by men.

The vast majority of detained women are survivors of gender-based violence and trafficking. The WFRW charity contends that it takes a number of face-to-face attendances to build a rapport with such vulnerable clients and that there are going to be numerous issues with disclosure with this current set up.

Public law solicitor Shalini Patel said: “The Home Secretary’s decision to detain women at Derwentside, despite the issues with access to face-to-face legal advice is extremely concerning. Her own policy recognises that survivors of trafficking and/or gender-based violence may have additional difficulties with self-identifying and disclosing their trauma and yet she has continued with a women’s detention centre, in the knowledge that its location would severely restrict the detainees’ fundamental right to access of justice.”

To support Women for Refugee Women and help stop the detention of women at Derwentside please visit their Crowd Justice fund HERE

Read more here: https://www.duncanlewis.co.uk/news/%E2%80%98Home_Office_Policy_Discriminates_Against_Women_Refugees%E2%80%99__(25_February_2022).html


Updated 24 February 2022: via Freemovement: Women at Risk of Deportation Being Refused In-Person Legal Advice


The Home Office is being taken to court over claims women at risk of deportation are being refused in-person legal advice. The campaign group Women for Refugee Women are seeking a judicial review over claims women held at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre have only been able to access legal advice by telephone. This is despite assurances from the Home Office that in-person advice, initially unavailable due to the pandemic, could be accessed ‘on request’. The group say they are unaware of anyone being able to access face to face visits since the centre opened in December.
The charity say that lack of access to in-person legal advice harms women in detention, in particular considering research shows the majority of women in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking. They are concerned survivors will have difficulties disclosing what has happened to them to someone they’ve never met, over the phone, and this may have significant negative consequences in terms of their legal case.
Read more: Samantha Dulieu, Justice Gap, https://rb.gy/egmg4p


Updated 16 February 2022: ICIBI – COMPLETED INSPECTIONS AWAITING PUBLICATION

The use of contingency asylum accommodation (16 February 2022), which means it’s now waiting for Priti Patel …. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/work-in-progress


Updated 4 February 2022: Guardian: Home Office to stop paying for asylum seekers’ toiletries and medication

Letter to former Afghan guard at British embassy in Kabul says measures will come into effect on 11 February

Asylum seekers staying in hotels have been told by the Home Office that it will stop providing them with free access to non-basic toiletries and over-the-counter medication from next week.

According to a letter seen by the PA news agency, the measures will come into effect on 11 February.

Faiz Mohammad Seddeqi, a former guard at the British embassy in Kabul, has been staying in a hotel in Watford for almost six months after being evacuated from Afghanistan with his wife and son.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/04/home-office-stop-paying-asylum-seekers-toiletries-medication


Updated 4 February 2022: Corporate Watch: REFUGEES ARE BEING HOUSED IN INFESTED HOTELS BY THE HOME OFFICE’S SLUM LANDLORDS

Corporate Watch has collaborated with The Canary on an investigation about asylum seekers housed in insect-infested hotels run by private landlord Clearsprings for the Home Office.

The investigation includes an interview with an Iraqi Kurdish family, one of 55,000 families housed in Home Office ‘contingency accommodation’, waiting for their asylum claim to get approved.

The Rodja family, whilst living in a hotel run by Clearsprings Ready Homes, have faced bed bugs, the ceiling caving in, water pouring in from the apartment on the floor above, insufficient food, lack of electricity, and dangerous electrics.

Clearsprings has cashed in £4.5 million according to the latest annual accounts. Surging profits have resulted in a seven-fold increase in dividends to its parent company.

Beyond the hotel mentioned in the investigation, Clearsprings rakes profit as the asylum accommodation contractor responsible for South England including the squalid conditions in the ex-military barracks, Napier.

Clearsprings, alongside the Home Office’s other slum landlords Serco and Mitie, profit from the privatisation of the UK’s asylum housing contracts.

Read more: https://corporatewatch.org/refugees-are-being-housed-in-an-infested-hotel-while-the-home-offices-slum-landlords-are-raking-it-in/


Updated 27 January 2022: BBC: Newcastle project finds community better than detention for asylum claims

A pilot project funded by the Home Office has found it is more humane and less expensive to support asylum seekers in the community rather than in detention centres.

Refugee charity, Action Foundation, supported 20 women in a community setting in Newcastle.

It found the women experienced more stability and better health.

Most had previously been detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

In November 2021, a new female-only Immigration Removal Centre opened near Consett in County Durham to house 80 women.

The Derwentside centre has attracted criticism from various campaign groups including Durham People’s Assembly, Abolish Detention and No To Hassockfield, which says the women housed there should be allowed to live in the community.

Agnes Tanoh, a former detainee at Yarl’s Wood and now a campaigner against the Derwentside centre, said: “I think the best way is to put people in the community, to welcome people who are in need, who have fled persecution.”

Action Foundation chief executive Duncan McAuley said the results of the project “clearly demonstrated that these women would be better served in a community setting”.

The evaluation also found the cost of keeping people in the community could be less than half the cost per participant per night than holding an individual in detention.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-60125207.amp


Updated 18 January 2022:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1482350186802331649
https://twitter.com/i/status/1482345480600309762

Updated 11 January 2022:

Protest at Hassockfield on Saturday 15 January 2021

Updated 3 January 2022: Chronicle Live: Asylum campaigners gather outside County Durham detention centre to show support for women inside

Protesters say the first groups of women have now been transferred to the Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, near Consett

Read more: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/asylum-campaigners-gather-outside-county-22625461


Updated 1 January 2022:

Poster advertising demonstration at Hassockfield/Derwent Immigration prison 2 January 2022 12pm


Updated 15 December 2021: Asylum Matters: New Joint Report: ‘In a place like prison’: voices from institutional asylum accommodation

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is In-a-place-like-prison-wide-300x169.jpg

Today, Asylum Matters alongside Action FoundationBirmingham Community HostingBirmingham Refugee and Asylum Seekers Solidarity (BRASS), Life Seeker’s Aid Charity and Stories of Hope and Home are launching a new joint report, ‘In a place like prison’: voices from institutional asylum accommodation, which looks at the experiences of people seeking asylum who have been housed in hotels, hostels, barracks and initial accommodation centres. The report demonstrates that this type of institutional accommodation causes harm, and that the UK Government’s plans to introduce new large scale ‘accommodation centres’ for people seeking asylum must be abandoned.

The organisations worked together to carry out in-depth interviews with fourteen people in the asylum system with recent experience of living in institutional asylum accommodation. Their stories shared some common themes, as highlighted in the report, including:

  • People we spoke to were left in limbo, for months on end in unsuitable and often unsafe accommodation, with little to no information about their asylum claims. 
  • While not officially a form of detention, the people we spoke to felt that they were being deprived of fundamental liberties and that their lives were being regulated, given the restrictions on visitors, monitoring of residents’ movements and de facto ‘curfews.’
  • People with experiences of detention and torture in their countries of origin felt re-traumatised after being placed in army barracks which caused their past experiences to resurface;
  • Both of the pregnant women we interviewed struggled to access antenatal care and nutritious food; one of them struggled to access emergency care following an incident with her high-risk pregnancy;
  • The two families with children we spoke had no support to enrol their children in school, with both erroneously being told asylum-seeking children were not allowed to go to school; 
  • Many of the interviewees we spoke to felt unsafe in their accommodation, particularly as they faced threats and harassment from far-right extremists present at the sites

The findings of the report are particularly concerning given the Government’s plans, as outlined in its anti-refugee bill, to introduce new ‘accommodation centres’ where people seeking asylum will be housed. We anticipate these facilities, if allowed to come into being, risk permanently instituting the concept of large prison-like refugee camps in the UK. We are calling on the Government to immediately scrap these plans and commit to housing all people seeking asylum safely in our communities. 

You can view the report here: ‘In a place like prison’: Voices from institutional asylum accommodation


and despite all the negative reports about the use of camps/barracks: Home Office: New secure site for processing illegal migrants

Manston in Kent announced as new site for secure processing of small boat arrivals.

The Home Office has confirmed that part of the Ministry of Defence site at Manston, Kent will be used as a processing site for illegal migrants by January 2022.

The new, secure site will be able to hold migrants for up to 5 days as security and identity checks are completed.

Read more: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-secure-site-for-processing-illegal-migrants


Updated 9 December 2021: APPG: Inquiry into quasi-detention – full report

Cross-party call by parliamentarians to end dehumanising quasi-detention of people seeking asylum. See our post here: https://qarn.org.uk/appg-inquiry-quasi-detention-in-camps_deadline-25-june-2021/


Updated 28 November 2021: Guardian: ‘Shocking’ that UK is moving child refugees into hotels

Children’s Society criticises practice of placing unaccompanied minors in hotels with limited care

Record numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on small boats are being accommodated in four hotels along England’s south coast, a situation that the Children’s Society has described as “shocking”.

About 250 unaccompanied children who arrived in small boats are thought to be accommodated in hotels, which Ofsted said was an unacceptable practice.

In September, Home Office officials told the home affairs select committee it was accommodating 70 unaccompanied children in hotels.

On 23 November the government announced that a scheme for this group of children to be dispersed to different local authorities was temporarily being made mandatory. But individual councils have two weeks to make representations against this new rule. London councils currently care for 1,500 of these children – a third of the total.

Kent county council officials said they were at capacity, caring for 363 unaccompanied child asylum seekers as of 23 November along with 1,071 care leavers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/28/uk-child-refugees-hotels-unaccompanied-minors


Updated 25 October 2021: Guardian: Asylum accommodation deaths ‘twice as high’ as Home Office admitted

Government accused of downplaying toll after information requests reveal discrepancies

“The steep rise in deaths coincides with the Home Office decision in 2020 to push thousands of asylum seekers into hotels. “

[See more of this article here: https://statusnow4all.org/barriers-to-wellbeing/ and here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/24/asylum-hotel-deaths-twice-as-high-as-home-office-admitted


Updated 5 October 2021: Scottish Housing News: Asylum seekers in hotels should have been given money for phone calls, High Court rules

A decision by the Home Office not to give money to thousands of asylum seekers to make calls to friends and family during the pandemic has been declared unlawful by the High Court.

The ruling means the UK Government could be forced to roll back weekly payments for some 10,000 asylum seekers.

After an earlier hearing, the Home Office agreed to make payments and late payments of £8 a week for other essential living costs previously denied to asylum seekers living in hotels, which authorities say cost £4 million, The Guardian reports. But phone costs were not included. […]

Judge Farbey ruled that being able to communicate by telephone was essential for “interpersonal and social relationships, as well as for cultural and religious life”. […]

[StatusNow signatory] Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “We strongly welcome Mrs Justice Farbey’s, ruling in the High court that the Home Office’s decision not to give thousands of asylum seekers money to make calls to friends and family during the pandemic was unlawful. We welcome her ruling that being able to communicate by phone is essential for ‘interpersonal and social relationships as well as cultural and religious life’.

“Our staff and volunteers worked on the ground with many hundreds of asylum seekers throughout the pandemic distributing emergency supplies such as phone top ups, crisis payments, food packs and digital technology. We saw firsthand the oppressive and miserable conditions created by the Home Office and its accommodation contractors for asylum seekers in Glasgow and across the UK at a time when all human beings ought to expect compassion and support.

“Would events at the Park Inn in Glasgow in June 2020 have happened if people had a little money for phone calls or a piece of fruit? Would Adnan Walid Elbi, who was removed from his home and dumped indiscriminately into a guest house in Glasgow with zero social distancing, have still been alive? These are all burning questions that remain but there is no inclination by government towards a public inquiry to ask what happened and why? What we do know is that forcing people already living in a state of near destitution to the brink can only result in further tragedy. We fear that this government has not learnt those lessons.”

Ahmed Aydeed of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who represented the asylum seeker in the case, said: “The Home Secretary, during the pandemic, failed to meet the basic living needs of the asylum seekers.

“She chose to ignore the advice of her public officials and again the courts forced her to do the right thing. We are happy that our customers finally have access to the essentials of everyday life and can communicate with their families again.”

Read more: https://scottishhousingnews.com/article/asylum-seekers-in-hotels-should-have-been-given-money-for-phone-calls-high-court-rules


Updated 1 October 2021: Financial Times: Asylum seekers housed in London hostel that was deemed ‘not safe’

Local council demands UK ministers cut numbers at facility suffering Covid outbreak

The UK government has housed “between 400 and 500” asylum seekers in a building in south London that the local authority had deemed “not safe for use to house rough sleepers” earlier in the pandemic.

The London Borough of Southwark has been raising concerns about the suitability of the hostel since July, when Clearsprings Ready Homes, a Home Office contractor, first expressed its intention to use Driscoll House.

Kieron Williams, council leader, said the building “is not suited or designed to sustain this level of occupation”, in a letter sent to the Home Office last week. He cited concerns both about potential coronavirus spread and fire safety.

The council declined on safety grounds to use the building during the “Everyone In” initiative, when homeless people were housed at the start of the pandemic.

The councillor wrote that Driscoll House “has roughly 100 rooms, only around 70 of which are self-contained”, and highlighted an “active Covid outbreak at the hotel”. He demanded to know when the number of occupants would come down to “safe levels”.

Clearsprings, a UK contractor which had been little known but has become a target of migrant rights campaigners following a High Court ruling that conditions at Napier barracks, a decommissioned military headquarters near Folkestone also managed by Clearsprings, were “squalid”.

Justice Thomas Linden found that precautions undertaken against the spread of Covid-19 within the barracks were “completely inadequate” and an outbreak of the disease in January 2021 “was inevitable”. Of the 400 residents housed at the site at the time, 197 tested positive for coronavirus.

Read more: https://www.ft.com/content/bfb357e9-5717-43da-848c-4fb0cf4bdc86


21 September 2021: APPG inquiry into Quasi-detention: https://qarn.org.uk/appg-inquiry-quasi-detention-in-camps_deadline-25-june-2021/


Updated 21 September 2021: Event by Humans for Rights Network and Close The Camps UK: Demonstration 28 September 2021, London:


BBC: Napier Barracks asylum seeker site must close, charities say

Use of a former military barracks to house asylum seekers “beggars belief” and must end, charities say.

Part of Napier Barracks was branded unfit for habitation after two Covid outbreaks, with both a High Court judge and inspectors criticising conditions.

The site was loaned to the Home Office a year ago for emergency use amid rising numbers of people crossing the Channel.

The Home Office said the ex-barracks in Folkestone, Kent, is suitable for use.

Despite continued outcry from charities and refugee organisations, the government announced last month that the barracks could be used for accommodation until as late as 2025.

Tuesday marks a year on from the first asylum seekers moving on to the site. It comes as high numbers of people continue to cross the Dover Strait from France.

In the latest crossings, 41 people on a single boat reached the UK on Sunday, and a further 123 arrived on three boats on Monday.

Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-58638350


Britain 1st has posted a number of videos in the last few days, including of Napier, filming it seems from the top of a car to get around the covers that have been put on the fencing. They clearly still have an intimidating presence.


Updated 18 September 2021Humans for Rights Network   · 

Image

We believe the Home Office is breaking the law by using Napier barracks as asylum accommodation and that’s why we are taking @pritipatel to court. In light of the announcement that our Government plans on continuing to use the site to accommodate asylum seekers until 2025, we are left with no other option than to challenge this decision and call for its closure in the courts. Napier barracks is experienced by many held there as a detention camp or prison and was found by the high court to fall short of the minimum standards for asylum accommodation. People seeking safety in the UK should be provided with safe, secure, private accommodation with access to help and support within communities, not held in dilapidated army barracks. Humans for Rights will continue to advocate alongside these men, ensuring no further harm is done to others forced to live there.

#wearewitnesses#napierbarracks#closethecamps#breakingnews#hfrn#humansforrights#refugeeswelcome#humanrights#legalaction

and other reports: here: https://statusnow4all.org/intervention-by-the-courts/


Updated 17 September 2021: House of Lords SECONDARY LEGISLATION SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Drawn to the special attention of the House: Town and Country Planning (Napier Barracks) Special Development Order 2021

Piloting new processes

Instruments drawn to the special attention of the House: Town and Country Planning (Napier Barracks) Special Development Order 2021 (SI 2021/962)

This instrument would extend the planning permission for the Napier Barracks in Folkestone to allow them to continue to be used as asylum accommodation until September 2026. We appreciate that the asylum accommodation at Napier Barracks was set up very quickly and has had some operational difficulties in consequence. However, the information that, in the opinion of several authorities including the High Court, the site was unsuitable and significant improvement was required should have been disclosed to Parliament given that the purpose of the instrument is to enable continued operation at that site for a further five years.

The date that the current planning permission expires has been known for 12 months: we found unconvincing the Home Office’s reasons for laying a potentially controversial instrument when Parliament was not sitting, particularly as the Home Office also states that the site may be used to pilot new models for “reception centres”.

8. Paragraph 7.7 of the EM states that “the Napier site may also form part of the Home Office’s longer-term plans to reform the asylum system, as set out in the New Plan for Immigration published on 24 March 2021.”6 In supplementary information the Home Office stated that: “The continued use of the Napier site may enable the new processes to be tested and piloted, and so inform the final design of how accommodation centres will operate.” It is not clear whether this piloting would happen at Napier itself or the additional capacity at Napier would allow sufficient leeway in the overall estate for piloting to happen elsewhere.

9. Nor do the responses of the Home Office make the explicit link to the potentially controversial nature of these pilot programmes. The section indicated in the New Plan refers to the intention to introduce “reception centres”:“To help speed up processing of claims and the removal of people who do not have a legitimate need to claim asylum in the UK, we plan to introduce new asylum reception centres to provide basic accommodation and process claims. We will also maintain the facility to detain people where removal is possible within a reasonable timescale. The use of hotels to accommodate new arrivals who have entered the UK illegally will end.

The reception centre model, as used in many European countries including Denmark and Switzerland, would provide basic accommodation in line with our statutory obligations, and allow for decisions and any appeals following substantive rejection of an asylum claim to be processed fairly and quickly onsite. We will set in legislation a new fast-track appeals process–with safeguards to ensure procedural fairness.”

Timing

10. Paragraph 6.3 of the EM says: “The extension of permission through a Special Development Order has been chosen because it allows permission to be secured in a timely manner, in view of the urgent need to continue to use Napier for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute when the current planning permission expires.” Since the date that the current planning permission expires has been known for 12 months, we found this reason for laying a potentially controversial instrument when Parliament was not sitting unconvincing.

11. We also asked why, given the criticisms about the suitability of the premises, the extension was being sought for five years rather than a shorter period. In their supplementary response the Home Office stated:

“An extension for a five-year period enables the Home Office certainty of occupation and will allow the Department to plan for and invest in the site. There have been significant improvements to the Napier site over the past year in response to the previous criticisms. The investment programme will allow the Home Office to refurbish the accommodation and ensure it will continue to be fit for purpose.”

Conclusion

12. We appreciate that the asylum accommodation at Napier Barracks was set up very quickly and has had some operational difficulties in consequence. However, the information that, in the opinion of several authorities, including the High Court, the site was unsuitable and significant improvement was required, should have been disclosed to Parliament given that the purpose of the instrument is to enable continued operation at the site for a further five years. The APPG Inquiry is evidence of parliamentary concern about its operation, that the EM fails to address

13. In supplementary evidence the Home Office has explained the improvements it has introduced at the site, but the House may wish to satisfy itself whether these changes are sufficient to bring Napier Barracks up to the required standard.

and the accompanying report from our signatory organisation Jesuit Refugee Service is here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7349/documents/76790/default/


Updated 17 September 2021: The importance of speaking truth to power: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration Annual Report for the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021

For example, from the end of 2020, with the help of (new to ICIBI) stakeholder groups, I was able to develop a dialogue with residents and former residents of Penally Camp and Napier Barracks. Their first-hand accounts of life in the camps and of the wider asylum process were particularly powerful and instructive.


Updated 15 September 2021: Close The Camps UK @closecampsuk Our govt plans to warehouse people seeking asylum in “unlawful” disused Kent army barracks for 5 more years! To mark 1 year of #NapierBarracks we are taking to the streets to demand they EMPTY THE BARRACKS & CLOSE ASYLUM CAMPS. Join us https://bit.ly/CloseNapierBarracksDemo #closethecampsuk ·


Updated 14 September 2021: thanks to John O at No Deportations/Electronic Immigration Network: More Concerns Over Use of Former Barracks as Asylum Accommodation
All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention on Monday 6th September, published an important interim report on its inquiry into the Home Office’s use of large-scale, institutional sites to house destitute asylum seekers here: https://appgdetention.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/210907-APPG-Inquiry-Interim-report-Summary-of-oral-evidence-sessions.pdf?x78463. T

Just one example:

“Other residents were now having their substantive asylum interview conducted on site, instead of in the community. There were serious concerns about this. People were being been given very little notice of their interview, in some cases just minutes or hours, affecting their ability to prepare. People were also not always able to access legal advice before the interview, or aware of the need for it. As one resident said: “I saw people who went for their interviews without speaking to a lawyer first. I thought it was normal, people were getting their interview letters the day before their interview, so they just did it. We didn’t know any different.”

This week’s interim report presents a summary of three oral evidence sessions held with key witnesses in July. A number of serious concerns were raised by witnesses, with the report noting these included “unsanitary, crowded, ‘prison-like’ conditions at the sites; chronic levels of sleep deprivation; ineffective safeguarding; inadequate access to legal advice and healthcare; problematic changes in the processing of residents’ asylum claims; and intimidation and mistreatment of both residents and NGO workers supporting them.”

The report notes that the cramped conditions and lack of privacy at the sites meant residents had to hold sensitive discussions with their lawyers within earshot of other residents and staff, which had implications for disclosure, confidentiality and the person’s mental health. Sleep deprivation caused by conditions at the sites added further problems. One resident told the APPG inquiry: “I’m mentally and physically drained all the time, and this doesn’t put me into the right mindset for engaging with my asylum claim.” Mechanisms for identifying and safeguarding vulnerable people before and during their placement at the sites were inadequate, the APPG found.

The report states: “In the absence of effective safeguarding measures, the Home Office appeared to be relying on lawyers and legal interventions to identify vulnerable people. Many vulnerable people had been, and continued to be, moved out of the sites as a result of such interventions, having experienced additional suffering during their stay. It was not acceptable to rely on such interventions as a substitute for proper safeguarding measures, not least given the barriers to effective legal support faced by residents.” On the subject of access to legal advice, the report added: “Residents needed legal advice on asylum and public law matters, but faced many barriers in terms of accessing it – and little was being done to address this.

Read more: Electronic Immigration Network, https://is.gd/t0P2Tt


Updated 20 August 2021: BBC: Sheffield hotel fall: Boy who died was Afghan refugee

‘The housing group Mears was looking after the hotel until a few months ago, but safety concerns saw it withdraw to another nearby hotel.What has happened here, therefore, raises some serious questions about what steps were taken to ensure the hotel was safe for vulnerable families and young children and about the state of accommodation being provided to asylum seekers’

Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-58269533


Updated 12 August 2021: Independent: Covid outbreak at controversial camp housing hundreds of asylum seekers

Exclusive: Home Office accused of ‘once again’ putting lives of Napier Barracks residents and wider community at risk

Dozens of asylum seekers have been ordered to self-isolate at a former military barracks following a coronavirus outbreak at the site.

The Independent understands that around 100 residents in four blocks have received a letter from Clearsprings Ready Homes, the firm contracted by the Home Office to manage the camp, telling them to self-isolate after three individuals tested positive.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/covid-napier-barracks-asylum-seekers-home-office-b1900699.html


Updated 8 August 2021: Guardian: Home Office records 70 racist incidents by far right at asylum accommodation

Campaigners say figures for last two years underestimate the true situation at barracks and hotels

The Home Office has recorded 70 racist incidents by far-right supporters against asylum seekers in barracks and hotel accommodation, according to a freedom of information response obtained by the Guardian.

However, campaigners supporting asylum seekers in such accommodation say the figure is a significant underestimation of the true picture.

[…] Just one incident at Penally barracks was reported to the Home Office last year and none in 2021. However, witness statements from legal challenges by asylum seekers living there reveal a catalogue of disturbing episodes, including an attempt to ram a refugee with a car. Others include: stones and bottles being thrown, rape threats, attempts to start fights, fireworks shot through the gate, and eggings. According to witness statements, a farm shop in the area said some of the far-right supporters had asked to buy pigeon scarers to mimic the sound of gun fire and frighten the asylum seekers.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/aug/08/home-office-records-70-racist-incidents-far-right-asylum-accommodation


Update 23 July 2021: ICIBI: An inspection of contingency asylum accommodation:
HMIP report on Penally Camp and Napier Barracks (November 2020 – March 2021)

On 8 March 2021 the then Chief Inspector, David Bolt, published interim high-level findings. This report is the fuller final report that was sent to the Home Office. It reflects the department’s factual accuracy checks, and includes forewords from David Bolt, the previous Chief Inspector, and David Neal, the current Chief Inspector.

There is also a copy of a letter sent in March from David Bolt to the Director General of Asylum and Protection.


Updated 1 July 2021: Independent Chief Inspector on Borders and Immigration – ICIBI:

Note, the new ICIBI – Dave Neal has published a list of reports completed etc. One of the ‘completed inspections awaiting publication’ is ‘An inspection of contingency asylum accommodation: HMIP report on Penally Camp and Napier Barracks (7 June 2021)’. Priti Patel can hold this for a while until she is ready to publish. Maybe we need to ask our MPs to ask questions about when it will be released:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/work-in-progress


1 July 2021 Shropshire Star: Napier Barracks ‘could be used to house asylum seekers for longer’

Lawyers and medical professionals gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention.

The Government may be considering using military barracks to house asylum seekers for “another couple of years”, MPs and peers have heard.

Lawyers told a parliamentary inquiry that Napier Barracks in Kent could be used for asylum accommodation beyond September, after it was initially thought the measure was temporary and anticipated to last for about a year during the coronavirus pandemic.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention heard evidence on Thursday from legal and medical professionals who have worked with people staying at the barracks, after it launched an inquiry into the Home Office’s use of such sites amid concerns over living conditions.

Sue Willman, a solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn Law, told the politicians: “We have heard that the Government plan to extend use of the barracks beyond September, which is something we are very concerned about, that they’re continuing to use it for another couple of years.”

Read more here: https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/uk-news/2021/07/01/napier-barracks-could-be-used-to-house-asylum-seekers-for-longer/


Updated 28 June 2021 Guardian: Home Office proposals due on sending asylum seekers abroad

Legislation expected next week that could open way to moving asylum seekers offshore while claims pending

The home secretary, Priti Patel, will publish proposed legislation next week that will open the door to sending asylum seekers overseas as they await the outcome of their application for protection in the UK.

Ministers published the New Plan for Immigration in March, which included proposals to amend sections 77 and 78 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so that it would be possible to move asylum seekers from the UK while their asylum claim or an appeal is pending.

Home Office sources confirmed that the legislation was expected to be published next week, but sought to play down reports that the government was in talks with Denmark over sharing a centre in Africa.

“We’re not opening talks with Denmark over the sharing of a centre,” a source told the Guardian. “Governments talk to other governments who are pursuing similar policy aims to see how they are getting on. It’s not a regular dialogue, it was a slightly long phone call [with the Danish government] to see what they were doing. We’ve both got a similar issue and believe a similar policy solution is one of the answers. But it’s a bit premature.”

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jun/28/home-office-proposals-due-on-send


From Oxford University Faculty of Law: The Everyday Cruelties of the UK Asylum System

[Extract below]

The cruelties of isolation

Social contact has, however, been limited even in the hotels. At times of complete lockdown, volunteer visits to the hotel were only possible to drop things off (e.g clothes, phones). Sometimes I had to distribute outside even in mid-winter. Even when lockdown eased, frequent changes in the staff of the companies managing the hotel meant constantly changing rules about what is allowed and what not. In the past eight months, I have only rarely been able to just sit and chat. Social contact between Sudanese has also been made difficult during the pandemic, as they were told they could not visit eachother in their rooms and had to adhere to social distancing rules when elsewhere in the hotel. For Sudanese to stay and eat alone, is also very undermining of their identity, culture and religion, for example during Ramadan.   

Now that most of my new Sudanese friends are in Home Office managed houses in the north of England, they seem relieved because at least something has happened (and it’s not deportation). But they face new obstacles for social contact, communication, and subsistance. Everyone has been separated – some in different houses in the same city but most in different cities far apart. This separation means that most no longer have access to the few English speakers amongst them for translation. Wifi is not provided, which once again makes it difficult to communicate (no WhatsApp or Google translate), continue online English classes, get health care or contact lawyers, or register for college in the new place. While individuals do keep in touch, they have lost face-to-face contact with the friends and support network they had in London. The £39/week they receive now for subsistence does not cover the transport needed to meet up or Wifi, as well as other basic needs. And most recently, people have not even been receiving this money. The Home Office has recently changed the company providing the debit payment cards. However, when their old card stopped working on 21 May, many were left without access to cash for weeks because they had not received the new card. Some received emergency payments but others did not, thus potentially going hungry or leaving them dependent on food banks, charities or the kindness of volunteers. 

The cruelties outlined here are only a fraction of those faced by asylum seekers in the UK. Much more can be written and no doubt much more is to come. It is up to all of us as volunteers, charity workers, researchers, citizens to keep resisting and protesting these cruelties until they end. 

Read the whole blog here: Jaspars, S. (2021). The Everyday Cruelties of the UK Asylum System. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2021/06/everyday [28.6.2021]


Update 23 June 2021: Guardian: Transfers of asylum seekers to Napier barracks suspended

Health officials say Kent accommodation could be site of ‘enduring’ Covid transmission

The transfer of asylum seekers to the controversial Napier barracks in Kent has been suspended, the Guardian has learned, as internal documents show government health officials warned it could become a site of “reoccurring or enduring” Covid transmission.

There was a mass Covid outbreak at the barracks in January and February, with about half of all its occupants – approximately 197 people – infected.

The Home Office has insisted it is not closing the barracks and more than 200 asylum seekers are now accommodated there. But the decision not to transfer new residents there is a significant shift in government policy, which has been steadily refilling the barracks after emptying them due to the outbreak.


Updated 14 June 2021: Hansard: Napier Barracks Asylum Accommodation, Volume 696: debated on Thursday 10 June 2021

Extracts: Chris Phelps: ‘The current arrangements on the site are due to run until September. No decision has been made beyond that, but I assure my hon. Friend that he will be closely engaged with at all stages as any further decision is taken.’

There are some deeply troubling aspects the this Hansard session, and also some excellent points made.

Yvette Cooper opened:

In January, there was a major covid outbreak at the Home Office centre at Napier barracks. Some 200 people got covid, both residents and staff, impacting on the local community too. Last week’s damning court judgment said:

“The ‘bottom line’ is that the arrangements at the Barracks were contrary to the advice of PHE…The precautions which were taken were completely inadequate to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection, and…the outbreak which occurred in mid-January 2021 was inevitable.”

The Home Office put people in dormitory blocks, with shared facilities for up to 28 people, at the height of a pandemic.

When the Home Affairs Committee asked the Home Secretary about this, she said that


“the use of the accommodation was all based on Public Health England advice, and…working in line with public health guidance…so we have been following guidance in every single way.”

The permanent secretary told the Committee

“we were following the guidance at every stage”.

But the court judgment and the evidence from PHE shows the opposite is true.

An internal Home Office email from 7 September records PHE advice as

“advice is that dormitories are not suitable”.

Public Health England told the Home Affairs Committee they

“don’t know how dormitories can be COVID compliant.”

They told the Home Office to follow youth hostel guidance—single rooms only and dormitories to be closed, except for household groups. They and Public Health Wales advised that if the Home Office were going ahead, they should at least limit the number of beds to six, keep people in bubbles with clear isolation facilities and have strong cleaning regimes. None of those things happened at Napier.

Instead, the independent inspectorate and local health officials found poor ventilation in dormitories, inadequate shared washing facilities, a deficient cleaning regime and no proper arrangements for self-isolation, with those testing positive and negative all kept in the same large dormitories. The Home Office was clearly not following public health advice in every way or at every stage. The Minister has an obligation to correct the record, so will he now admit that the Home Office did not follow public health advice and apologise for the inaccurate information given?

Will the Minister tell us what is happening now? Leading local health professionals have warned that the site still cannot be considered safe, and the Home Office’s own documents show local health professionals saying that another outbreak is inevitable. Charities have told me that there are still 12 to 14 people in a room and 28 people in shared blocks. Is that true, even after a damning inspectorate report and a damning court judgment, and even after 200 people caught covid on the site? The Home Office has a responsibility to keep people safe. Why has it been ignoring public health advice in the middle of a pandemic and putting public health at risk?


Kent Live: The biggest misconceptions about Napier Barracks in Folkestone debunked

Many still believe the site is fit for purpose, even after a wave of criticism and a High Court defeat for the Home Office

A Parliamentary debate on Napier Barracks has only served to fuel the furious divide between the Home Office, vulnerable refugees and the High Court.

The debate, held yesterday (June 10), came after the High Court ruled the Home Office had acted unlawfully in housing asylum seekers at the barracks near Folkestone.

Both Home Secretary Priti Patel and Under-Secretary for the Home Office, Kevin Foster MP, did not attend, with the latter not present due to a family bereavement.

In their absence Chris Philp MP, who grew up in Orpington, represented the Home Office.

Throughout the debate, a number of familiar topics emerged: from criticisms made by Public Health England and the British Red Cross to emotive comments over whether the barracks, which were built during the First World War, were still fit for purpose.

Very few concrete answers emerged however. The High Court ruling seemed to have done little more than reinforce the Home Office’s position that it had nothing to apologise for, in spite of its recent loss.

As a result, there weren’t many material takeaways from the debate.

Instead there were a few key themes that demand further inspection.

Below we explore the four biggest misconceptions about Napier Barracks tackled in yesterday’s debate and the truth behind them.

1. ‘If the barracks were good enough for troops, then why aren’t they suitable for refugees?’

This emotionally-charged question came up a number of times.

However, ignored by many who asked this question was the point made by the Chief Inspector of Prisons following an inspection in Feburary 2021.

The independent inspectors found that the conditions at Napier were “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.”

The High Court ruling did side with the Home Office, stating that the accommodation was not “squalid” and was closer to adequat.

However this does not mean lodgings are perfect – and they have been described as “less than pristine”.

Critically – as one MP pointed out – if it had been soldiers and not refugees living in conditions that caused “a significant risk of harm or self harm and attempted suicide” and saw a COVID outbreak with over half of the inhabitants getting infected, the issue may well have been taken more seriously by the responsible office.

There have been several occasions of Napier residents reporting they felt suicidal, had self harmed, or even attempted to end their own lives while staying at the accommodation.

Prior to use in 2020, the barracks had been unused for four to five years by the military.

It was already scheduled for redevelopment after a 2014 report indicated that the buildings “were never intended for long-term use,” and conversion of the existing blocks was “unsuitable”.

In September 2020, shortly before the use of the accommodation to house refugees, permission was granted to developer Taylor Wimpey who planned to demolish the barracks and redevelop the area.

These details indicate that, on many levels, the buildings may not have been appropriate for long-term housing of vulnerable people.

2. ‘If Napier Barracks is so bad, why do people still come to the UK to seek asylum?’

This question is commonly asked in relation to dangerous Channel crossings.

The reasons for people wanting to settle in the UK are varied, but among them include social pulls like family connections, knowing the language of the country they are headed to or a national reputation for toleranc

Though several MPs emphasised that nations like Italy, Germany and France are all safe places, many refugees may have relatives in the UK, meaning their best bet isn’t settling in mainland Europe but finding community among family or those from their country of origin.

The far-right has also been on the rise across Europe, with political parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, Germany’s AfD and the Italian Five Star Movement gaining momentum in recent years.

Meanwhile Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is an explicitly anti-refugee head of government.

This shift in attitude may mean that that refugees have legitimate reasons to believe the political climate in many European countries is hostile towards them.

And, as many can probably sympathise, moving to a new country is scary enough, let alone going somewhere where you don’t know the language and don’t have family by your side.

3. Home Office ‘did everything in our power to provide shelter for those in need’

This was the most often repeated line from Chris Philp MP during yesterday’s debate, emphasising that the accommodation was acquired on short notice and improvements were made as quickly as possible to make it fit for purpose.

However, there is a large amount of evidence contradicting this statement.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons’ report aside, advice from Public Health England and The British Red Cross was that the facilities could not be made COVID-safe while continuing to operate as shared dormitories.

The provisions at the time left no room for individuals to socially distance effectively, with 28 people to a single room before adjustments were made.

This number later fell to a still crowded 14.

The advice from Public Health England as disclosed in the ruling was that the maximum number of people in a dormitory should be six.

Given this, and that the lack of isolation facilities that meant site-wide lockdowns were needed in the event of an outbreak amounted to “unlawful imprisonment”, according to the judge’s ruling.

The idea that Napier was the best that could be done is questionable in the light of the ruling.

There were also warnings that the barracks was not fire-safe before a blaze erupted in January.

When pressed to comment on this, Chris Philp MP stated that the Home Office “Make[s] absolutely no apology” for its efforts.

4. On the suitability of Napier Barracks for those fleeing war and torture

Even if these details aren’t representative of Napier after adjustments have been made – which the Home Office has repeatedly insisted have taken place – one issue remains unaddressed.

Many of those living at Napier are fleeing countries such as Eritrea, Sudan or Syria, which have experienced ongoing humanitarian crises and civil wars in the last decade.

The presence of yoga sessions, footballs or a library at Napier Barracks – all of which were brought up repeatedly in the Parliamentary debate – does not erase the fact the building itself is a military facility.

This fact is troubling given the asylum seekers placed at Napier often have trauma related to conflict and war.

Bridget Chapman, of Kent Refugee Action Network has argued that Napier itself risks “retraumatising,” those who have had negative experiences in a military context and is unnecessarily reminiscent of the conditions refugees have attempted to flee.

Contrary to these suggestions from activists, debate in Parliament saw the reassessment of human rights law brought up as a means to remove the “blockage” to the Home Office’s new, desired system.

https://www.kentlive.news/news/kent-news/biggest-misconceptions-napier-barracks-folkestone-5512843



Updated 6 June 2021: Guardian: Asylum seekers in Napier barracks ‘face blacklist threat for speaking out’

Residents in the Home Office facility claim they have been told their applications will be ‘impaired’ if they talk to the media

Asylum seekers held at the Home Office’s widely criticised military barracks in Kent claim they will be “blacklisted” if they speak out after last week’s high court ruling that the decision to use the site was unlawful.

Staff employed by private Home Office contractors at the Napier barracks site at Folkestone have allegedly told residents that their asylum application will be impaired if they talk to the media about conditions at the camp.

On Thursday asylum seekers won a legal challenge against the government that ruled Napier’s “squalid” accommodation failed to meet a minimum standard. The high court ruling prompted calls for the home secretary, Priti Patel, to resign and the barracks to be closed immediately.

Maddie Harris from Humans for Rights Network, which documents violations against asylum seekers, said allegations that contracted staff were still warning asylum seekers that their claims would be compromised for shedding light on conditions was alarming.Advertisement

Harris said she understood that one staff member had recently approached a group of five Napier residents and singled out two of them.

“They were specifically told that it was known they had spoken to the media and this would affect their claim,” she said.

After the high court ruling Harris said fresh allegations emerged that Napier residents were again warned not to approach the media.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/06/asylum-seekers-in-napier-barracks-face-blacklist-threat-for-speaking-out


5 June 2021: Guardian: Scroungers, lefty lawyers… the Tories duck scrutiny by inventing enemies

Abiding by judicial oversight is alien to a government that acts as if it’s above the law

You cannot say anything coherent without generalising, and so, and to generalise, the British will lose their rights to challenge an over-mighty and underwhelming state because they hate foreigners more than they love political accountability.

The Johnson administration knows that as long as it portrays asylum seekers as cheats arriving in the UK illegally and their solicitors as activist “lefty lawyers”, tricking the trusting public into allowing scrounging aliens to remain on our island, it can end scrutiny of its abuses of power.

Boris Johnson’s government ducks every hard issue from the abysmal state of social care to declining productivity. Instead, it proposes to put scrutiny of its actions beyond the reach of the courts by restricting judicial review of unlawful state decisions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/05/in-court-of-boris-johnson-no-room-for-scrutiny-by-judges


Updated 4 June 2021: Guardian: Home Office ordered to move torture victim out of ‘prison-like’ hotel

High court judge says Crowne Plaza near Heathrow airport is not suitable for trafficked asylum seeker

A judge in the high court has ordered the Home Office to move a torture and trafficking victim out of a “prison-like” hotel surrounded by an 8ft wall.

Judge Coe QC heard an application for urgent action known as interim relief against the Home Office after officials failed to move the man, known as AA, from the Crowne Plaza hotel near Heathrow airport to more suitable accommodation.

The order, made on Tuesday, is thought to be the first of its kind. It is hoped that it will help other trafficking victims accommodated in unsuitable hotels by the Home Office. […]

‘The court heard that the Crowne Plaza, with its intimidating high fences, bag searches and security guards, is not a suitable environment for a trafficking victim.’

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/18/home-office-ordered-to-move-torture-victim-out-of-prison-like-hotel


Updated 3 June 2021: High Court rules Home Secretary acted unlawfully in accommodating asylum seekers in inadequate Napier barracks

Comment from StatusNow4All signatory: Care4Calais:  · **Breaking news**The high court found today:

– Napier Barracks was inadequate accommodation for asylum seekers, placing them at risk of a fire and contracting COVID-19

– The Government’s process for selecting people to be accommodated at the Barracks was flawed and unlawful

– Residents of Napier Barracks were unlawfully detained under purported Covid rules

Read more here: https://statusnow4all.org/high-court-rules-home-secretary-acted-unlawfully-in-accommodating-asylum-seekers-in-inadequate-napier-barracks/


Updated 22 May 2021: Independent: Dozens of vulnerable asylum seekers wrongly placed in Napier Barracks despite watchdog warnings

Exclusive: One in five people placed in former military camp in past six weeks have been transferred out after Home Office admits they are too vulnerable to be in barracks accommodation

The Independent has learned that around one in five individuals placed in the former military camp since it reopened on 9 April have been transferred out after the department admitted they had vulnerabilities which, according to its own criteria, made them unsuitable to be in barracks accommodation. Campaigners have also raised alarm at the fact that the Home Office has started to carry out asylum interviews in the camp, reportedly sometimes giving residents just a few hours’ notice and not providing adequate means of accessing legal advice ahead of their interview.


Updated 17 May: See the petition to close Hassockfield: Please sign here: www.change.org/stop-detaining-women 

Agnes Tanoh, a refugee woman and community organiser who was previously held in detention at Yarl’s Wood, has launched an online petition against the new centre. She says: 

‘This is personal for me. I claimed asylum here because I was being persecuted in my country and I thought I would be killed. But I was locked up at Yarl’s Wood for 3 months. I know how detention destroys a woman. Women become depressed and suicidal in detention. I don’t want to see this happen to any of my sisters. Previously, the Home Office said it would make changes so that fewer people are locked up. I thought change was coming, I allowed myself to feel some hope. If this detention centre opens the Home Office will be going back on its promises, and will harm vulnerable women who need support.’

https://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/stop-the-new-detention-centre/


Guardian: Home Office plan for women’s immigration centre faces legal challenge

Campaigners and MPs express concerns at proposals for new detention facility in Durham

A charity is challenging the planned opening of a new immigration detention centre for 80 women in County Durham – the Home Office’s first new detention centre since 2014.

Women for Refugee Women, whose work includes advocating for women in immigration detention, challenges whether the Home Office is complying with equality rules in the development of the new detention centre.

It has started legal action against the Home Office over a planned centre at Hassockfield in County Durham, which is due to open in the autumn.

Alphonsine Kabagabo, director of Women for Refugee Women, said: “The majority of women seeking asylum who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of rape, trafficking, torture and other horrific violence. Detention re-traumatises them and makes it even more difficult for them to resolve their immigration cases.”

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/17/home-office-challenged-over-planned-womens-immigration-detention-centre


APPG: Inquiry into quasi-detention, deadline 25 June 2021

All Party Parliamentary Group – APPG: Immigration has launched an Inquiry into quasi-detention

https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiries/2021-2/quasi-detention/

The APPG on Immigration Detention is conducting an inquiry into the UK Government’s use of large-scale institutional sites, such as former military barracks and a temporarily ‘de-designated’ Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), as asylum accommodation.

Such sites replicate many of the features found in detained settings, including isolation from the wider community, visible security measures, and reduced levels of privacy and control/agency for residents. The inquiry therefore refers to them as sites of ‘quasi-detention’.

The APPG invites individuals and organisations with relevant information to submit written evidence to the inquiry.

You must read the call for the written evidence before submitting: https://appgdetention.org.uk/inquiry-into-quasi-detention-the-use-of-large-scale-institutional-sites-as-asylum-accommodation-call-for-written-evidence/

The deadline for submitting written evidence is 5pm on Friday 25 June 2021.


10 May 2021: Close The Camps UK: We are a coalition of grass-roots groups organising against the Home Office housing of asylum seekers in Napier Barracks, an old army accommodation in Kent that has been declared unfit for purpose. Join us on 22 May for a day of solidarity at Napier Barracks!

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Hello friends, comrades, chosen family and fellow workers. 

Hello siblings of colour, migrants and asylum seekers, LGBT and sex workers fam, poor and working class folks, Gypsy, Roma and Travelers, feminists, trade unionists, activists and all those who stand in solidarity with us to oppose state violence. 

We are here today representing a small new coalition of groups and organisations working to expose a huge injustice. We are here speaking on behalf of friends who are unable to be here themselves. 

Two hours away from where we are standing now, right outside Folkestone in Kent, our government is operating a camp, where vulnerable people, who committed no crime, are ‘warehoused’ in inhumane conditions. They are doing this in our name. 

The Home Office subcontractor, the infamous and disgraced Clearspring Ready Homes, is using abandoned army barracks to lock up asylum seekers. These barracks have been declared ‘unsuitable for human accommodation’ by independent inspectors and a ‘living nightmare’ by anyone who was forced to live in them. 

Napier Barracks in Kent holds some of the most vulnerable people, who escaped war and persecution, torture, traffiking and exploitation. Residents are forced to live in prison-like conditions, with no release date and in complete violation of their fundamental human rights.

The situation in the camp is desperate. The residents sleep 10 to a room and use shared facilities in direct breach of covid safety rules. In January, a covid outbreak affected 200 people and a suspected new covid outbreak is now again putting lives at risk. Napier is crawling with bed bugs, scabies and even TB. Residents suffer from anxiety, depression and some are suicidal. There is no adequate healthcare in the camp and no access to mental healthcare whatsoever. 

A current Napier resident told us yesterday: 

I feel I’m detained! I feel they’re punishing me. I can’t sleep at night and I’m scared of getting the virus because I live with 10 ppl in a room! There is no privacy and no respect. 

Napier has a lasting effect. A former resident told us: 

I want to urge everyone to pay attention to the residents’ wellbeing. I used to consider myself physically and mentally healthy before going to Napier barracks. I am now dealing with insomnia and anxiety. Just imagine what the ones who are victims of torture, war and persecution are experiencing. I totally felt that we are treated as less than human beings — when no one listened to our complaints, hunger strikes and protests about the dire conditions of the camp, about it being unhygienic and about the food being raw and inadequate. We were ignored when we protested against being put with nearly 28 other people in one block, sharing 2 showers and toilets together without privacy, decency and dignity. This led half of us to become ill with Covid-19. 

This brutality is, of course, not new. It is part of a wider programme of state violence directed at anyone who doesn’t conform to the Tories’ notion of a ‘productive citizen’, with its explicit racism, classism and misogyny — this is extended to all of us who dare to dissent. The UK’s violent borders and cruel immigration system are causing ongoing harm, here and abroad, continuing the barbarity of empire and colonialism. As always, it is the state that inflicts the most violence on the most vulnerable people. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and its counterpart, the New Plan for Immigration, will give the state further powers to brutalise, oppress and silence us. We must oppose this violence in all its forms and everywhere – on the streets, at our schools and universities, at our workplaces and places of worship, and where it is most present – in our police, prison system, detention centres and border enforcement. 

Napier was not the only camp our government used to hold asylum seekers. A barracks camp at Penally, west Wales was closed in March after residents launched a self-organised campaign as the autonomous Camp Residents of Penally union. With support from anti-racist groups and organisations, lawyers and journalists, they fought to close down Penally Barracks – and won!

They proved that when the people who are most affected, self organise to take radical action – they can defeat the brutality of the state. 

Napier is different — residents’ protests and hunger strikes in 2020 were ignored and the camp will soon be filled again with hundreds more people. Priti Patel and the Home Office are using Napier as a flagship for their new and dangerous immigration policy, a massive extension to the existing hostile environment — this new bill is a statement of intent for a new regime of violence the Home Secretary is planning to inflict. Napier residents are collateral damage in this racist and harmful political power game. 

This is a call to action. 

On Saturday 22 May we will travel to Kent to stand in solidarity with Napier residents. We will show them they are not alone and they are not forgotten. We will offer our care and friendship, whatever material support we can share and any experience we can lend. 

We will tell them: your struggle is our struggle – against racist borders and a violent state. 

We would like to end with another message from a former Napier resident: Your words matter. Your actions matter. Be alarmed by this government’s use of army camps as asylum accommodations. Let us raise our voice together and say that we do not want to see human beings used as tools for political purposes. We have to tell the government that harming and sacrificing people’s wellbeing to send a political message is immoral and shameful. 


See the website for more details: https://www.closethecamps.uk/

To keep everyone safe, please make sure you wear a mask and stay in the group you arrived with. Workshops and activities will run in small numbers and with social distancing.

Supporting Organisations

Cooperation Town
Migrants Organise
Kent Refugee Action Network
LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants)
CROP (Camp Residents of Penally union)
Humans for Rights Network
Sisters Uncut
Refugee Community Kitchen
BLM UK
Channel Rescue
SWARM (Sex Workers Advocacy & Resistance Movement)
Women’s Strike Assembly UK
Life Seekers Aid
Antiuniversity Now


23 April 2021: Guardian: Report condemns Home Office failures at barracks used to house asylum seekers

Exclusive: documents seen by the Guardian criticises serious errors in management of Napier and Penally sitesThe full scale of Home Office failures in managing former military sites as makeshift accommodation for asylum seekers is laid bare in a raft of damning documents seen by the Guardian.

An unpublished report by prison inspectors and correspondence sent by the outgoing chief inspector of borders and immigration, David Bolt, highlight “serious mistakes” and “fundamental failures of leadership and planning” by the Home Office in its management of the Napier barracks site in Kent and Penally camp in Pembrokeshire.

[…] Commenting on the findings, Stuart McDonald, SNP MP and member of the home affairs select committee, said: “The Home Office simply dumped hundreds of vulnerable people in totally unsuitable accommodation – and dangerous given the global health pandemic – and washed its hands of responsibility by leaving completely unequipped subcontractors to take charge.”

He added: “Shockingly, far from wanting to close the barracks, the Tories apparently see this type of ‘warehousing’ as the future for asylum accommodation. This will be a disaster for everyone, but most importantly, for the vulnerable people whose health and wellbeing will suffer drastically as a result. The Tories cannot be trusted with the asylum system – far from fixing it, they are destroying it”. […]


17 April 2021: APPGDetention @APPGDetention: Good to see coverage today of our call for @pritipatel to close Napier Barracks w/ immediate effect. Based on evidence from @IndependentCI + @HMIPrisonsnews it is clear that continuing to house people at the site puts them at very serious risk of harm. Read the full letter:


Guardian: MPs and peers urge Priti Patel to shut Napier barracks asylum site

Cross-party group says people should be housed in community rather than ‘unacceptable’ camp in Kent

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has urged the home secretary to close a controversial military barracks being used to house asylum seekers with immediate effect, and instead house them in the community where they can receive appropriate support.

Members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on immigration detention, which has more than 40 members, have written to Priti Patel to say they “entirely agree” with serious concerns aired by the then independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, David Bolt, about conditions at Napier barracks in Kent.

At a meeting with APPG last month, Bolt, who has recently stepped down from his role, told the group it was a “serious error of judgment” to think military barracks could be suitable to house asylum seekers.

The parliamentarians described the conditions at Napier, where almost 200 people tested positive for coronavirus during an outbreak in January and February, as “utterly unacceptable” and said the report highlighted “serious failings on the part of the Home Office in terms of leadership, planning and accountability”.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/apr/17/mps-peers-urge-priti-patel-shut-napier-barracks-asylum-site


Updated 16 April 2021: Kent Online: Full report issued on failings of asylum seeker accommodation at Napier Barracks, Folkestone

Asylum seeker accommodation at a Kent barracks has been slammed in a full report of failings at the camp.

The Napier Barracks in Folkestone was re-purposed as housing to cope with a rise in attempted illegal crossings.

However, that use has since ended after an outcry from MPs, Public Health England, human rights groups and the residents themselves.

Wednesday saw the beginning of a High Court case, being raised by six asylum seekers who stayed in the more than 100-year-old buildings.

As part of the body of evidence, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) issued a full report into conditions at the camp which highlighted many failings.

The High Court heard the housing was “unsafe”, with six asylum seekers who had previously stayed there describing the conditions as “appalling”.

Staff from the department “were rarely present at either site” and managers at both sites lacked “the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation,” it added.

Among other findings, the report highlighted the following issues:

– The accommodation was “inadequate” and “unsuitable”.

– There were “serious safeguarding concerns”. One person who was identified as a potential victim of trafficking remained there for a further 10 weeks before being transferred. In total, 31 residents had to be moved over health and safeguarding fears.

– People at high risk of self-harm were taken to a “decrepit” isolation block which was “unfit for habitation”.

– Seven people were thought to have self-harmed there and a further seven had “threatened suicide”. One “actively suicidal resident” had remained on the site for more than a month.

– Home Office communication with asylum seekers was “poor” and the “dearth of official information gave rise to misunderstandings and rumours, which had a negative effect on individuals and the collective mood”.

– The lack of privacy, activities and limited information available for asylum seekers had a “corrosive effect on residents’ morale and mental health”.

– Some asylum seekers believed to be children were kept at the barracks for long periods of time before being placed with social services. In one instance, this was for more than two months.

– Staff – who were mainly security guards with backgrounds in nightclub, hotel and retail security or personal protection – were seen to be pleasant and respectful towards the asylum seekers but were “ill-equipped” to deal with the complex problems they faced.

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/folkestone/news/asylum-seeker-barracks-slammed-in-inspectors-report-245653/


Updated 15 April 2021: Independent: Vulnerable asylum seeker kept at Napier Barracks for weeks after attempting to take his life

Safeguarding failings meant suicidal individuals and potential trafficking victims remained in camp for weeks despite Home Office saying vulnerable people should not be there, previously unseen report shows.

A vulnerable asylum seeker was held at Napier Barracks for weeks after he attempted suicide at the camp, according to a previously unseen report which raises “serious concerns” about safeguarding on the site.

A damning Prison Inspectorate report into the accommodation of asylum seekers at the Ministry of Defence site in Kent, carried out in February, warns of “major weaknesses” in the way residents with serious mental health and welfare needs are cared for at the camp.

The report, which has not yet been published in full but was released to journalists after it was referenced during court proceedings, found there had been seven incidents of self-harm at the barracks – with some described as “serious” – and that seven residents had threatened suicide.

The findings were cited as evidence in a legal challenge over the use of Napier Barracks, which was repurposed into asylum accommodation in September and around 400 individuals were subsequently moved in.

The camp was emptied in April, but the Home Office has started placing a new cohort of asylum seekers there and intends to use the site until September – which the claimants’ lawyers are hoping to prevent.


Independent: Home Office accepts it placed asylum seekers at heightened risk of Covid in barracks, court hears

The Home Office has admitted that it placed asylum seekers at increased risk of contracting coronavirus when housing them in military barracks, and justified this by saying the men were “young and healthy”.

Priti Patel’s lawyers said she had “always accepted and acknowledged that transmission risk is higher in congregate settings” such as Napier Barracks in Kent, where she placed 400 asylum seekers last September.

[…] The camp was emptied in April, but the Home Office has started placing a new cohort of asylum seekers there and intends to use the site until September.

High Court hearing is taking place this week in which lawyers acting for six former residents of the barracks argue that housing asylum seekers is unlawful and breaches their human rights.


14 April 2021: BBC: Napier Barracks: Suicide attempts at ‘unsafe’ asylum-seeker camp

A former military barracks used to house asylum seekers was “squalid, ill-equipped” and “unsafe”, the High Court heard.

Six men who were housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, claim the accommodation breached their human rights.

Tom Hickman QC said an independent report found seven suicide attempts and seven incidents of serious self-harm.

The Home Office argues that the use of the barracks is lawful.

The six asylum seekers, who were all said to be victims of torture or human trafficking, claim there was a lack of healthcare, with no mental health support and only one nurse on site, the court heard.

Mr Hickman said that with high fences and a nightly curfew, it had “all the hallmarks of a detention facility” and was “not adequate accommodation for vulnerable persons”.

He said it was “squalid, ill-equipped, lacking in personal privacy and unsafe”.


Independent: Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers at ‘serious risk’ of fire in Napier Barracks, document reveals

Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers at ‘serious risk’ of fire in Napier Barracks, document reveals

The Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers in military barracks where they were at “significant risk” of a fire breaking out, previously unseen documents show.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/home-office-napier-barracks-fire-asylum-b1831373.html


BBC: A former military barracks used to house asylum seekers was “squalid, ill-equipped” and “unsafe”, the High Court heard.

Six men who were housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, claim the accommodation breached their human rights.

Tom Hickman QC said an independent report found seven suicide attempts and seven incidents of serious self-harm.

The Home Office argues that the use of the barracks is lawful.

The six asylum seekers, who were all said to be victims of torture or human trafficking, claim there was a lack of healthcare, with no mental health support and only one nurse on site, the court heard.

Mr Hickman said that with high fences and a nightly curfew, it had “all the hallmarks of a detention facility” and was “not adequate accommodation for vulnerable persons”.

He said it was “squalid, ill-equipped, lacking in personal privacy and unsafe”.

Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-56746188


Care4Calais: Volunteers welcome new Napier Barracks residents to Folkestone

Volunteers welcome new Napier Barracks residents to Folkestone

It has been heartbreaking to hear our friends panic when they receive a letter saying they are moving to the infamous Napier Barracks. Just like us, they have heard the horror stories. The saving grace has been our brilliant volunteers in Folkstone who have stepped up as always. On Sunday, they went to greet around 50 new arrivals and reassure them that we will be on hand to support them going forward.

The volunteers took cakes, snacks and drinks to share with the residents. They played football, and spent time talking to people and getting to know them. Yesterday, they ran a circuits session and organised games for some fun and exercise, and there have been walks on the seafront and cliffs too.

Small improvements may have been made but It is still an army barracks and this induces fear in those fleeing conflict. People are still in shared dormitories which cannot be Covid safe. They are still cut off from communities that can help them.

Already we are seeing indications that sufficient improvements have not been made. We’ve spoken to multiple residents who have vulnerabilities that suggest they should not be in this oppressive environment, including victims of trafficking and torture and an age disputed minor. It’s incredible that the Home Office has learnt no lessons from what has gone before. Penally Camp was closed and Napier should be closed too

Until then, we will be on hand to provide friendship and support, and to show the residents that there will always be people who care about them.

To support our work visit Care4Calais.org/donate.


13 April 2021: Matthew Gold & Co: Napier Barracks: Two Day Trial Begins in High Court on 14 April

Tomorrow the High Court will begin a two day trial before the honourable Mr Justice Linden to determine whether the Home Secretary’s use of the former military Napier Barracks as asylum support accommodation was lawful.

The claim is brought by 6 Claimants in 5 joined claims, in which the Claimants argue that the accommodation provided was wholly inadequate and contrary to the Home Office’s own published policies and standards and risked breaching their Articles 2, 3 and 8 human rights. The Claimants also allege that they were falsely imprisoned during their times in the barracks.

Napier Barracks has been used to accommodate around 400 asylum seekers in dilapidated and overcrowded communal conditions since September 2020. That was despite multiple warnings from NGOs that the barracks were completely unsuitable to house so many residents, many of whom have complex needs stemming from fleeing violence, persecution, and torture.

The trial was ordered by the High Court on an expedited basis after the High Court granted permission in February for the claim to proceed. At the permission hearing the Court heard that the Home Office had ignored advice from Public Health England that Napier Barracks was unsuitable.

Clare Jennings, Director of Matthew Gold and Co who represents the Claimants XD and YZM says:

“For over 4 months our clients, and their fellow residents at Napier barracks endured what they describe as unbearable “prison-like” living conditions. They shared dormitory accommodation with up to 13 other men, and bathrooms with too few toilets and showers. In January of this year Covid-19 spread like wildfire through the barracks. An outbreak that was all but inevitable given the cramped communal living conditions within the barracks. We hope that the Court will determine that accommodating our clients in the barracks was unlawful and breached their human rights and provide justice for our clients”.  

The hearing can be accessed by video link by contacting the Administrative Court.

The Claimants are all anonymised pursuant to a Court Order and cannot identified for legal reasons. The case references are: NB v SSHD CO/312/2021, M & F v SSHD CO/329/2021, OMA v SSHD CO/397/2021, XD v SSHD CO/354/2021, YZM v SSHD CO/402/2021.

Clare Jennings and Olivia Halse at Matthew Gold and Co. represent two of the Claimants (XD and YZM). Counsel instructed are Shu Shin Luh and Antonia Benfield of Doughty Street Chambers.

Emily Soothill, Sue Willman Ahmed Ali and Rosa Potter from Deighton Pierce Glynn are instructed by NB, M, F and OMA. Counsel instructed in those claims is Tom Hickman QC of Blackstone Chambers and Leonie Hirst of Doughty Street Chambers.

Liberty and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (“JCWI”) have both been permitted to file written interventions in the proceedings. Zoë Leventhal of Matrix Chambers, Ben Amunwa and Admas Habteslasie are instructed by Liberty. Sonali Naik QC and Ali Bandegani of Garden Court Chambers are instructed by Freshfields on behalf of JCWI.

For enquiries please contact MG&Co on 020 8445 9268.


13 April 2021: Guardian: Home Office faces inquiry into use of barracks to house asylum seekers

Cross-party MPs and peers concerned about ‘quasi-detention’ of vulnerable people

An inquiry is to be carried out into the Home Office’s use of sites such as military barracks to accommodate asylum seekers, the Guardian has learned.

MPs and peers from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on immigration detention agreed to proceed with the inquiry at a private meeting on 17 March. The cross-party group is due to publish its initial findings before the summer recess and hopes its findings can inform parliamentary discussions about the Home Office’s new plans for asylum seekers.

Members of the group have described the Home Office’s use of large-scale, institutional sites as “quasi-detention”, saying that although the likes of Napier barracks in Folkestone are not technically immigration detention the accommodation shares many features with it.


Updated 8 April 2021: Guardian: Asylum seekers told they will stay at Napier barracks for months

Home Office letter says new arrivals will reside at controversial site for at least 60 to 90 days despite legal fight

Asylum seekers being moved into the Napier barracks site in Kent have been told they will reside at the former military facility for at least two to three more months, the Guardian understands, as a number of legal challenges are poised to be heard.

Men who are being held in hotels, as well as some new arrivals in the UK, have received letters from the Home Office telling them they will be moved into the barracks on Friday and that “it is anticipated you will reside at Napier for between 60 and 90 days”.

The Home Office has previously said the former Ministry of Defence site was being used as “temporary, contingency accommodation” for asylum seekers who would eventually be moved to dispersal accommodation such as a house or flat.

The Guardian understands that among those who will be sent there this week are men who have previously stayed in the barracks, including an asylum seeker who spent two months in Napier, left in December and has stayed in a hotel since, still waiting to hear about his asylum claim.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/08/asylum-seekers-told-stay-napier-barracks-for-months


Updated 7 April 2021: Guardian: Home Office to send more asylum seekers to ‘unsuitable’ Napier barracks

Exclusive: Former military site was emptied following evidence camp is not suitable for accommodation

A new intake of asylum seekers will be sent to the controversial Napier barracks site in Kent from Friday, the Guardian understands, despite mounting evidence the camp is not suitable for accommodation.

The former military site near Folkestone was emptied of its last residents over the weekend, raising hopes that the Home Office would discontinue its use as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

However, the Guardian has seen correspondence confirming that Clearsprings Ready Homes, the private contractor that runs the site on behalf of the Home Office, intends to bring in new arrivals from Friday.

The decision comes after a significant Covid outbreak in which 50% of the near 400 residents fell sick, multiple outstanding legal challenges, the closure of a sister site in Pembrokeshire and months of revelations over the suitability of the camp.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/07/home-office-to-send-more-asylum-seekers-to-unsuitable-napier-barracks


Joint Parliamentary Briefing on Asylum Accommodation – March 2021

This is a report from a number of organisations. The report can be accessed here: https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/Joint%20Briefing%20on%20Asylum%20Accommodation%20March%202021.pdf

During the pandemic, an unprecedented number of people seeking refugee protection have been forced into unsafe and inappropriate housing, including disused military barracks.

How people are housed is about more than providing shelter. It is emblematic of the UK’s vision of providing sanctuary to people seeking refuge. We want people seeking asylum to be welcomed as our neighbours, not warehoused in camps.

This briefing, jointly authored by Asylum Matters, Freedom from Torture, Choose Love, Refugee Action, the Helen Bamber Foundation and Doctors of the World explains why the use of barracks and similar contingency accommodation is unacceptable both during and after a pandemic and offers an alternative vision for an asylum system that enables people seeking protection to rebuild their lives in safety within our communities.

Read more: https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/joint-parliamentary-briefing-on-asylum-accommodation-march-2021


Updated 19 March 2021: #CloseTheBarracks The Canary: Asylum seeker recalls ‘worst experience of my life’ living in UK barracks

An asylum seeker who fled gang violence and kidnap in his home country said being housed in military barracks in the UK was like “a really bad dream”.

Eduardo spent more than a month living at Penally camp in Wales, one of two Ministry of Defence sites the Home Office has used to house refugees.

And while Penally is now set to close, it is understood that the controversial use of Napier Barracks in Kent is set to continue.

Later on Friday (today), people across the country are to come together for a virtual day of action calling for fair treatment of people seeking asylum.

Read more: https://www.thecanary.co/uk/news/2021/03/19/asylum-seeker-recalls-worst-experience-of-my-life-living-in-uk-barracks/


Updated 17 March 2021: Guardian: Outcry as UK asylum-seekers camp remains open as sister site shuts

Home Office says it will hand back Penally camp to MoD but second military barracks in Kent will remain in operation

The Home Office is refusing to shut a controversial camp for asylum-seekers set up within a former military barracks despite closing a sister site in Wales after months of pressure over appalling living conditions.

Napier Barracks near Folkestone in Kent will “remain in operation in accordance with current needs”, the department said, after announcing Penally camp in Pembrokeshire would be handed back to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Sunday.

Humanitarian charities and opposition politicians welcomed the closure of Penally but said the Home Office must follow by shutting down Napier.

Both sites have housed hundreds of asylum seekers since being handed over to the Home Office in September and have been dogged by allegations of cover-upspoor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions.


Updated 16 March 2021: In relation to the intended closure of Penally camp, Care4Calais  say:  · Welcome news! The only reasonable thing would be to now close Napier also. Conditions there are equally as grim as Penally, and the recent Inspector’s Report made it abundantly clear it should never have been used to house asylum seekers.


BBC: ‘Run-down’ Penally asylum camp to close on 21 March

An Army camp housing asylum seekers in Pembrokeshire is set to close within days, a UK government minister says.

It comes after inspectors said the camp at Penally and Napier Barracks in Kent were “run-down and unsuitable“.

The Home Office said it gave “safe and secure accommodation for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute”.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the Home Office had agreed to return Penally to the Ministry of Defence by 21 March.

BBC Wales has been told the remaining asylum seekers will be gradually moved out before then. Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-56418361


Updated 12 March 2021: DuncanLewisPublicLaw@DLPublicLaw Court hearing today: HO has agreed they & their contractors have no power to impose restrictions on movement of asylum seekers living in hotels and cannot threaten residents re. non-compliance. HO to immediately inform providers & residents that no such restrictions exist.

Care4Calais Brilliant news at yesterday’s court hearing. Great work by Duncan Lewis Solicitors, Matthew Gold and our fabulous access team. No more curfews or one hour rules.

See also: https://statusnow4all.org/asylum-seekers-threatened-with-homelessness-for-not-complying-with-unlawful-23-hour-curfew-court-hears/


11 March 2021: Care4Calais  · Today, Mohammed C, an African refugee who died in a hotel in November, was buried in North London. His body had been washed and shrouded with the appropriate Muslim practices and an Imam led mourners in prayer and recited the prayer for the dead. After the burial, friends marked his grave with a simple branch.30 friends were able to attend the funeral, in accordance with current Covid regulations. These were all refugees who had met him on his journey. All shared his experiences, knew his friendship and appreciated his value as a human being. We want to express immense gratitude to all of our supporters and volunteers who made it possible for friends to attend. To those who donated money for travel and food, who got people to trains or met them off them, donated oyster cards and phone credit, gave lifts and support – our huge thanks. It was a sombre and deeply sad occasion but made better by the fact that Mohammed was able to be laid to rest surrounded by people who knew and loved him and will keep his memory in their hearts.


Updated 8 March 2021: An inspection of the use of contingency asylum accommodation – key findings from site visits to Penally Camp and Napier Barracks

During the week of 15 February 2021 inspectors from ICIBI and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) visited Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, spending two days at each site.

During the week of 15 February 2021, as part of ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation, inspectors from ICIBI and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) visited Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, spending two days at each site. The Independent Chief Inspector made a follow-up visit to Napier Barracks on 4 March.

HMIP is producing a detailed written report, which the Independent Chief Inspector will append to ICIBI’s full inspection report on completion of this inspection. As well as Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, ICIBI’s report will cover hotels and any other forms of contingency asylum accommodation. ICIBI’s report and recommendations will be submitted to the Home Secretary and published in the usual way. Meanwhile, the points below, which have been shared with the Home Office, provide a high-level overview of what inspectors found during their site visits. The headings are those typically used by HMIP.

ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation is ongoing and inspectors are continuing to gather, analyse and test written and oral evidence from the Home Office, the contracted third parties, national and local stakeholders, and asylum seekers who are or have been in contingency accommodation. While the public ‘call for evidence’ has closed, ICIBI is still keen to receive evidence, including the latest information, about contingency asylum accommodation in general and about specific sites, including Penally Camp and Napier Barracks.

Key findings

Leadership and management

  • Opening Penally Camp and Napier Barracks as contingency asylum accommodation, particularly doing so safely during a pandemic, presented substantial logistical and other challenges. Despite this, the Home Office gave its accommodation contractors less than two weeks to make each site operational.
  • Local stakeholders who needed to set up essential services for residents, such as healthcare, were not consulted in advance of the Home Office taking the decision to proceed. They were given insufficient time to prepare before the first asylum seekers arrived and there seems to have been little understanding or regard on the Home Office’s part of what impact this would have at the local level.
  • In September/October 2020, Public Health England had advised the Home Office that opening multi-occupancy dormitory-style accommodation at Napier was not supported by current guidance, and both they and Public Health Wales expressed concerns about the COVID-safety of the accommodation. Both sites were opened before Public Health Wales and Public Health England recommendations had been actioned.
  • Public Health England further advised that if the accommodation was to be used, the ability to isolate positive cases and/or establish effective cohorting arrangements was essential to containing any COVID-19 outbreak. Given the cramped communal conditions and unworkable cohorting at Napier, once one person was infected a large-scale outbreak was virtually inevitable. In our resident survey at Napier, none of those who responded felt they had been kept safe from COVID-19. At Penally, where overall numbers were lower and cohorts smaller, the vast majority still did not feel they were being kept safe from the risk of infection.
  • The Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate (CPFSI) informed us of serious concerns about fire safety at Napier that had not been fully addressed at the time of the ICIBI/HMIP inspection visit. The work recommended by CPFSI at Penally had been largely completed.
  • While COVID-19 restrictions had meant that some asylum seekers had been accommodated at Penally Camp and Napier Barracks for much longer than had been originally envisaged, the Home Office had been slow to recognise the impact on residents of prolonged isolation in accommodation that was not designed or intended for long-term stays.
  • The resources, skills and assurance systems required to support long-term communal accommodation were inadequate at both sites:
    • On-site management structures were unclear, partly because of the multiple sub-contractors and partly because of inadequate oversight by the contracting companies.
    • Managers at both sites lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation.
    • The Home Office did not exercise adequate oversight at either site and Home Office staff were rarely present. There were fundamental failures of leadership and planning by the Home Office.

Safety

  • We met many men who described feeling depressed and hopeless at their circumstances. In our resident survey, all of those who responded at Napier and the vast majority at Penally said they had felt depressed at some points. At both sites about a third of respondents said they had mental health problems; about a third of respondents at Napier said they had felt suicidal.
  • We had serious safeguarding concerns in relation to Napier. There was inadequate support for people who had self-harmed. People at high risk of self-harm were located in a decrepit ‘isolation block’ which we considered unfit for habitation. Residents who may have been children were also housed in the same block pending an age assessment; in one case we were told that this had been for up to two weeks.
  • Residents at both sites were normally able to come and go. The exception was during the major COVID-19 outbreak at Napier, when over a hundred people were confined to their billets for approximately four weeks and unable to go outside except to use the mobile toilets or showers. They were warned that they might be arrested if they left the camp. In at least one case, a resident was forcibly returned to the camp by the police.
  • At both sites, residents described feeling trapped in poor conditions and feared that if they moved out they would jeopardise their only source of support and possibly their asylum cases.
  • Residents at both camps, especially Napier, told us they had been shouted at and intimidated by protestors and members of the public who did not want them there and that this was another reason they did not want to leave the camp. While Napier was close to a town (Folkestone), Penally Camp was isolated and the nearest town (Tenby) was a long walk.

Respect

  • The environment at both sites, especially Napier, was impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation.
  • Cleanliness at both sites was variable at best and cleaning was made difficult by the age of the buildings. Some areas were filthy.
  • The accommodation contractor had made efforts to improve the facilities (for example, installing mobile shower and toilet units), and at the beginning of March 2021 work was in hand at Napier to reconfigure the interior of some blocks into smaller living units. However, the age and general condition of the buildings made the costs of more substantial refurbishment prohibitive given the uncertainty over how long they would be required as asylum accommodation.
  • At Napier, the number of residents had reduced from almost 400 in mid-January 2021 to 62 in mid-February. Since December 2020, the number at Penally had reduced to c.80, having been double this at its height. The multi-occupancy billets at both sites were cramped, which made effective social distancing difficult, and inspectors heard that this had been impossible before the numbers were reduced.
  • Most current residents had been in Penally or Napier for several months. They did not know how much longer they would be in the camp and this was a major cause of distress. They had been told initially that they would be there for a few weeks. Over the months, they had been told various things about their stay and about moving on and now did not trust anything they heard. Residents told inspectors they did not understand why they were still in the camp while others had been moved out, and some believed (mistakenly) that it was in some way connected to the Home Office’s view of the strength of their asylum claim, and the fact they had been in Penally or Napier would count against them.
  • Most residents were awaiting a substantive asylum interview but did not have a date for this. Home Office communication with them was poor. It had only recently commenced video meetings with residents. These meetings did not provide information about individual asylum claims, which was what concerned residents most. The dearth of official information gave rise to misunderstandings and rumours, which had a negative effect on individuals and the collective mood.
  • Managers did not systematically survey or consult residents.
  • Most residents we spoke to said that onsite security and services staff were friendly and treated them with respect.
  • All residents had a mobile phone throughout their stay and could access the internet, although WIFI at Penally had been poor until recently. They had little to do to fill their time, a lack of privacy, a lack of control over their day-to-day lives, and limited information about what would happen to them. These factors had had a corrosive effect on residents’ morale and mental health.
  • While there were some restrictions regarding access to the sites, mostly COVID-related, local voluntary groups were supporting residents at both camps, including with clothing and other necessities, by organising activities and signposting and facilitating access to legal representatives. Meanwhile, to supplement its contracted telephone helpline service, Migrant Help had arranged to have someone onsite at both sites.

Preparation for leaving the accommodation

  • Most residents had been in hotel accommodation before being moved to either Penally or Napier. Typically, they received little notice (a matter of hours) of the plan to move them to one of the camps and no explanation of why. The same was true of moving them from Penally or Napier. Most were moved back to a hotel. At the beginning of March 2021, Napier residents were informed that they would all be relocated by 2 April. They were not told to where. Most did not believe it would happen and feared that if there were new arrivals before they left they could again become trapped by a new COVID-19 outbreak.
  • There was little focus on helping residents to prepare for next steps, but the visiting agencies and charities provided useful practical support for those who were moving on.

Penally Camp Images

Napier Barracks Images

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/an-inspection-of-the-use-of-contingency-asylum-accommodation-key-findings-from-site-visits-to-penally-camp-and-napier-barracks


Updated 24 February 2021: Home Affairs Select Committee: Home Secretary questioned on the work of the department

[Extract] Q94            Stuart C. McDonald: Good morning to our witnesses. I want to turn now to the issue of asylum accommodation, particularly contingency accommodation, including military barracks. Mr Rycroft, can I ask you first about some of the advice and research the Home Office has done? We have received a lot of evidence that the military barracks are in pretty disgraceful conditions and that there are wider problems with contingency accommodation, so I want to dig down into what the Home Office relies on when it disputes that evidence. For example, could I ask about the following documents and whether they are publicly available? There is an equality impact assessment about the use of barracks that has featured in the newspapers. Is that publicly available?

Matthew Rycroft: First of all, let me assure the Committee that the Home Office takes our statutory obligations extremely seriously. We have a statutory obligation to provide accommodation for all asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute in this country, and we do provide that. We have a variety of different ways of providing that accommodation, whether it is through what we call dispersal accommodation or some of the contingency accommodation, which includes hotels, former student accommodation and, in two cases, former military barracks. Let me say that both the two barracks in question have recently housed members of the British armed forces—

Q95            Stuart C. McDonald: Several years ago. In fairness, I think we know all this. The equality impact assessment that was done before using those two barracks—is that in the public domain?

Matthew Rycroft: We do not routinely publish equality impact assessments. That is a case-by-case decision each time. We will look again at whether we can publish this one.

Q96            Stuart C. McDonald: It would be very helpful for the Committee to see that, if we could. There is also reference in the newspapers to advice from Public Health England from 7 September that suggested that dormitory accommodation would be completely inappropriate during the pandemic. Is that advice in the public domain, or would you be willing to send it to the Committee?

Matthew Rycroft: Just to clarify, Public Health England did not say it would be completely inappropriate. In fact, they give us advice on how to make dormitory-style and other shared accommodation covid-safe. It is that advice which we have followed to the letter.

Q97            Stuart C. McDonald: Can we see that, then? Because that does not really tally with the understanding we have of it through the newspapers. The newspapers may well be wrong, but how are we supposed to do our job unless we can see that advice?

Matthew Rycroft: There is all sorts of advice that you can see. There are also court cases ongoing which it would be wrong of me to prejudice.

Q98            Stuart C. McDonald: Would you be willing to share that advice from 7 September with us?

Matthew Rycroft: We can certainly have to have a look at that, but, as I say, it would be wrong to prejudice any ongoing judicial proceedings.

Q99            Stuart C. McDonald: Okay. More broadly, there was an independent review of asylum accommodation carried out, I think, by Human Applications. Is that going to be shared with the Committee or published?

Matthew Rycroft: Again, it was private advice to help us back at the time when we were setting up this additional asylum accommodation—

Q100       Stuart C. McDonald: Okay. And the review of what happened in Glasgow—is that going to be published? That is something the Committee has asked to see previously.

Matthew Rycroft: It is the same answer, Mr McDonald. We can have a look at it case by case. We would not routinely make these things public, because they are private advice, but we can look at them case by case.

Q101       Stuart C. McDonald: You see the problem, Home Secretary, is that we have an abundance of evidence that has come from lots of reliable organisations telling us that there are huge problems in contingency accommodation, particularly in these barracks. The Home Office says, “No, it’s all fine,” but then offers nothing to us to prove that is the case, or on how it has been reassured that that is the case.

Priti Patel: First of all, Mr McDonald, I know the Chair of the Committee has been in touch with the Home Office and written to us about institutional accommodation. It is really important first of all to put this within the context of the coronavirus pandemic and how contingency accommodation has been stood up throughout the pandemic. It applies to other aspects of Government as well in terms of finding accommodation. What I can say—Matthew, our permanent secretary, has already said this—is that it is right that we work with independent organisations in the way in which we do, but also with Public Health England. That advice is not static advice. Just in terms of the maintenance of our accommodation estate, we are constantly working with Public Health England.

Now, I recognise and fully appreciate the individuals who have come to the Committee and given their views and their advice, but some of the information that has been put in the public domain is incorrect. The permanent secretary has also made it abundantly clear that we do have court cases taking place right now. So inevitably we will provide information where we can. We will certainly write back to the Chair and the Committee about our plans around contingency accommodation, exit and recovery plans, and working with local authorities, because this is not for the Home Office alone.

Q102       Stuart C. McDonald: If you could write, that would be helpful. When the permanent secretary appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in October, he confirmed that it was a goal of the Home Office to move away, again, from the use of barracks and hotels as contingency accommodation and back to the model of community dispersal. Is that the plan, Home Secretary—to get away from this as soon as possible?

Priti Patel: We do want to move out of hotel accommodation, yes.

Q103       Stuart C. McDonald: And military barracks?

Priti Patel: This is contingency accommodation that has been adapted and stood up—

Q104       Stuart C. McDonald: To be clear, your answer suggests that you have no intention of closing the military barracks.

Priti Patel: This is not about closing military barracks. I think we should look at this within the context of Government estate and Government accommodation. It is right that we look at Government estate and Government accommodation as potential contingency accommodation for asylum seekers. I think the public would expect that. This is not just about an automatic default position of putting people into hotels—

Q105       Stuart C. McDonald: I think the public will be horrified that you appear to be saying that you are going to continue using military barracks to accommodate asylum seekers, yet we are not getting any information or justification for that. No evidence is provided to us. The evidence that we have seen is horrific. I cannot believe that it is not part of the plan to close military barracks accommodation.

Priti Patel: As the permanent secretary has said already this morning, this is military accommodation that has housed our servicemen and women, and it has housed servicemen and women recently.

Q106       Stuart C. McDonald: If you were to put military personnel there now, it is you who are insulting our servicemen, not folk who criticise it.

Priti Patel: Not at all—

Stuart C. McDonald: It’s apples and oranges anyway.

Priti Patel: If I may finish and answer the question, we will continue to look at Government estate. It is right that the Government have a wide footprint in terms of estate. It is not just about barracks. Matthew has already said that there are other facilities that we will look at, and we will also adapt them. Napier and Penally have been adapted in line with and in light of Public Health England guidance. That is absolutely the right thing to do, and as I have said—

Stuart C. McDonald: If you could write. We only have another 30 seconds or so.

Priti Patel: [Inaudible] and Public Health England, absolutely to make sure that we have the right kind of accommodation in place. I will, of course, as you have already heard me say, respond to the letter from the Chair of the Committee, which was very specific about institutional accommodation.

Watch the meeting


Updated 21 February 2021: Guardian: Asylum seekers ‘subjected to sexual harassment’ in government hotels

Home Office urged to investigate allegations, including unsafe living conditions, while staff say they are paid below the legal wage

The Home Office has been urged to investigate the network of hotels holding thousands of asylum seekers following allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation and claims that staff have been paid significantly below the minimum wage.

A joint investigation by the Observer and ITV News suggests privately contracted staff at some asylum hotels have been paid little over £5.50 an hour.

Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, has called on the Home Office to investigate if the private firms running the hotels are “fit for purpose”.

Among the investigation’s findings are that asylum seekers have been unlawfully threatened by private contractor staff that the police will be called if they leave their hotel.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/21/asylum-seekers-subjected-to-sexual-harassment-in-government-hote


Updated 17 February 2021: Guardian: Inside Napier: the former army barracks housing asylum seekers

The Guardian’s home affairs correspondent, Jamie Grierson, discusses the government’s decision to use two former army barracks, Napier and Penally, to house up to 600 vulnerable asylum seekers. Amid allegations of cover-ups, poor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions, one former resident describes the impact Napier had on him

Listen here: https://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2021/feb/17/inside-napier-former-army-barracks-housing-asylum-seekers-podcast

Matin (a pseudonym) tells Anushka Asthana about his stay in Napier, a former army barracks near Folkestone, Kent. Within days of getting there he contracted scabies and later Covid-19. After a fire in one of the housing blocks, there was no heating for days.

The Guardian’s home affairs correspondent, Jamie Grierson,examines why the government has decided to use two former army barracks, Napier and Penally in Wales, to house up to 600 vulnerable asylum seekers. The barracks, run by the private contractor Clearsprings, have been criticised for their crowded conditions, limited access to healthcare and legal advice and, more recently, a significant Covid-19 outbreak infecting more than one in four of the 400 residents at Napier.

Anushka also talks to Dr Jill O’Leary, the lead doctor with the Helen Bamber Foundation’s medical advisory service, who describes the enormous mental health strain that conditions at the barracks have had on the asylum seekers forced to stay there.


Updated 15 February 2021: Guardian: Napier barracks not suitable for accommodation, experts found

Seven-year-old report concluded buildings used to house asylum seekers were not for long-term use

Napier barracks

A former army barracks used to house asylum seekers did not “meet acceptable standards of accommodation” when it was surveyed by planning and environmental experts seven years ago, it has emerged.

A report on Napier barracks, near Folkestone, Kent, filed by CgMs Consulting, now part of the RPS Group, concluded that “the buildings were never intended for long-term use” and converting the housing blocks on the site was an “unsuitable approach”.

The report was submitted to Folkestone and Hythe district council in 2014 as part of a planning application by the housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, which in September 2020 was granted planning permission to demolish Napier barracks and build 355 houses.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/15/napier-barracks-not-suitable-for-accommodation-experts-found


Updated 11 February 2021: Church leaders call for Government to stop housing asylum seekers in barracks

Church leaders from across different denominations have written an an open-letter to the Home Secretary about asylum seekers housing.

The Bishop of Durham was joined by several Anglican bishops and Christian leaders from across the country.

Full text below. 

Dear Secretary of State, 

We have watched with growing concern events unfold at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent and are extremely concerned about the welfare of asylum seekers housed across Ministry of Defence sites.

As you know, in the absence of safe and legal routes to apply for refugee status outside the UK, many have no choice but to make a dangerous and perilous journey to seek safety from conflict, persecution, and violence. After such a traumatic journey, having had to often spend time behind wire fences in refugee camps, it is simply insensitive to house people in such environments. In a global pandemic it is nothing short of irresponsible and risks the lives of residents and staff alike. Even as a temporary measure, ex-military barracks are unfit for purpose and entirely inappropriate. Requiring members from different households to use and live in shared facilities greatly increases the risk of infection and residents cannot be held responsible for virus transmission rates when social distancing is not possible.

We are therefore calling for an immediate end to the use of military barracks as accommodation for those seeking sanctuary in the UK. It is not a fair or justified response to your legal duty to house asylum seekers who would otherwise become destitute. We understand it is the Government’s intention to move all individuals in contingency accommodation into suitable dispersed accommodation as soon as reasonably practical. Can you therefore confirm that the Home Office will not expand the use of military barracks for contingency accommodation and whether the Government will set out a timeline for their closure.

We do appreciate the unprecedented pressures the Government is facing to provide accommodation to those who are awaiting a determination of their status, following the welcome decision not to evict people from asylum accommodation through a period of the pandemic. However, a long term sustainable action plan has to be put in place to secure suitable, dignified dispersal accommodation. Steps to speed up accurate processing of asylum applications will also reduce pressure on the system.

Our shared faith as signatories to this letter, leads us to view all human beings as equal and deserving of respect, dignity and welcome. We have witnessed at first hand, the generous welcome provided by civic and faith groups to those seeking protection. When asylum seekers are housed within communities, it allows for better integration and access to support services. Asylum seekers are often no longer seen as “other” but as neighbours and friends. It is in this environment that asylum seekers physical and mental wellbeing can be protected, and they are also able to better engage with their asylum application.

We ask that the Government continue to work constructively with local authorities, devolved administrations and support organisations to secure sufficient and appropriate dispersal accommodation in local communities and to end the use of barracks as a matter of urgency. We look forward to hearing your response to the issues raised.

Yours sincerely,

The Bishop of Durham, The Rt Revd Paul Butler

Cardinal Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster and President of Churches Together in England

Rt Revd Paul McAleenan Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London

Hugh Osgood Free Churches President of Churches Together in England

Revd Dr Paul Goodliff BA MTh General Secretary, Churches Together in England

The Bishop of Loughborough, The Rt Revd Dr Gulnar (Guli) Francis-Dehqani BA MA PhD

The Bishop Rt of Dover and the Bishop in Canterbury, The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin

The Bishop of Bradwell, The Rt Revd Dr John Perumbalath Chair of Churches Refugee Network in Britain and Ireland

The Bishop of Bristol, The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull

The Bishop of Reading, The Rt Revd Olivia Graham

The Bishop of Croydon, The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark

The Bishop of Oxford, The Rt Revd Steven Croft

The Bishop of Worcester, The Rt Revd Dr John Inge

The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun

The Bishop of Gloucester, The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek

The Bishop of Leeds, The Rt Revd Nicholas Baines Pastor Agu Irukwu, Redeemed Christian Church of God, and Pastor Jesus House President of Churches Together in England

Most Revd Father Oluwole A Abiola, OBE President, Council of African and Caribbean Churches UK

The Revd Clare Downing Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

The Revd Richard Teal President of the Methodist Conference 2020/2021

Mrs Carolyn Lawrence Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 2020/2021

Dorothy Kendrick President, Independent Methodist Connexion of Churches Commissioner Anthony Cotterill Territorial Leader for The Salvation Army in the UK and Republic of Ireland

Revd Judith Morris General Secretary, Baptist Union of Wales

Revd Meirion Morris General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Wales

Revd Dan Yarnell The Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland

Roberta Hoey Chair of the Provincial Board for the Moravian Church in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Rev Trevor Howard BA(Hons), QTS, MA (Urban Ed), MTh. Executive Vice-Chair of the Board of Churches in Communities International

Mr David Lockett Chair of Trustees, on behalf of the Trustees of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion.

Rev Luke Larner Chaplain of the Red Letter Christians UK network

Domenica Pecoraro Kent Refugee Projects Officer, Diocese of Canterbury

The Revd Gareth Jones Diocesan Refugee Coordinator, Diocese of Chelmsford

Revd Simeon Oladokun Superintendent of Christ Apostolic Church, UK and Regional Secretary of CAC Europe


Updated 10 February 2021: An inspection of contingency asylum accommodation – visits to Penally Camp and Napier Barracks

Inspectors from ICIBI and HMI Prisons are visiting both sites during the week beginning 15 February.Published 10 February 2021From:Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration

In line with S.52(2) of the UK Borders Act 2007, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has sought the assistance of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) with ICIBI’s inspection of contingency asylum accommodation, specifically Penally Camp and Napier Barracks, Folkestone.

HMIP’s involvement will enable ICIBI’s inspection to progress at pace, without having to divert resources from other ‘live’ inspections, and it will also mean that ICIBI can benefit from HMIP’s knowledge and experience of inspecting large institutional settings, particularly during the current pandemic.

Inspectors from ICIBI and HMIP are planning to visit both sites during the week of 15 February.

The inspection visits will comprise:

  • interviews with accommodation service provider staff and any other persons providing onsite services to the residents
  • interviews with residents
  • a review of relevant locally-held documentary evidence (e.g. local rules, information, risk assessments, complaints logs, etc.)
  • an assessment of the premises and onsite facilities
  • separate short surveys of staff and residents (distributed in advance of the visits).

Following the site visits, HMIP will produce a written report of its findings which will be appended to ICIBI’s inspection report for publication by the Home Secretary in due course. As with all ICIBI inspections, the Independent Chief Inspector will raise any matters requiring urgent attention with the Home Office, or directly with ministers, in advance of submitting his full inspection report.

The ‘call for evidence’ for this inspection closes on Friday 19 February 2021.


Updated 9 February 2021: HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Asylum accommodation inspection

In the week beginning 15 February 2021, HMI Prisons inspectors will visit Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent and Penally Camp in Pembrokeshire. These sites are currently being used as asylum accommodation.

HMI Prisons is assisting the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), who is currently conducting an inspection of contingency asylum accommodation. A statement outlining key findings from the visits will be published on our website in the weeks following the inspection. HMI Prisons will send a full report to the ICIBI, to be appended to his full report when it is published.

Read more about the ICIBI’s request for evidence.

David Bolt, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration is not tasked to inspect detention centres,  but the Prison Inspector is – so working together, they will be more effective in finding out what has been happening.


Updated 9 February 2021: Guardian: Home Office drops plan to house asylum seekers in ‘prison-style’ camp

Temporary accommodation at Yarl’s Wood removal centre will not be used after criticism:
The Home Office has abandoned controversial plans to house nearly 200 asylum seekers in what campaigners have described as a “prison-style” camp on the site of an immigration removal centre.

Government officials originally planned to move the asylum seekers into portable buildings adjacent to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire at the end of last year. Tents were to be erected for preparing and serving food. But in a significant U-turn, the Home Office is no longer proceeding with the plans.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/09/home-office-abandons-plans-for-camp-at-yarls-wood-immigration-removal-centre

[See report from the Guardian on 16 January 2021 that a ‘letter before action’ was sent]


In complete contrast to the media reports about conditions in Napier camp. This is a shameless displacement of any responsibility for their discarding of the duty of care by forcing people into a situation where Covid-19 could run riot, and where a build-up of tensions within the camp cannot be surprising in the circumstances described elsewhere in this post. In contrast, the Home Office ignored advice from Public Health England that housing asylum seekers in dormitories in army barracks was inappropriate in a pandemic, months before an outbreak of 120 Covid cases. https://qarn.org.uk/home-office-ignored-covid-advice-not-to-put-asylum-seekers-in-barracks:


Updated 8 February 2021: Independent: Immigration minister denies asylum barracks ‘public health disaster’ despite over 100 Covid cases at site

Chris Philp claims military camps housing refugees ‘appropriate and suitable’ and ‘good value for money’

The immigration minister has denied that using former army barracks to house asylum seekers has been a “public health disaster” despite more than 100 residents contracting coronavirus.

Challenged by opposition MPs about the conditions in Napier Barracks, a disused Ministry of Defence (MoD) site in Folkestone, Kent which was repurposed to house hundreds of asylum seekers in September, Chris Philp claimed the facility was “appropriate and suitable”. Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-seekers-barracks-coronavirus-home-office-b1799263.html


Updated 5 February 2021: Guardian: Another asylum seeker relocated from Napier barracks after court order

‘Abject failure’ to protect men from Covid-19 at Kent site truly shocking, say lawyers

An asylum seeker and victim of torture held in a controversial army barracks has been urgently rehoused following a high court ruling, lawyers have said.

In the second such move this week, a high court judge ordered the relocation of the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, from Napier barracks near Folkestone, Kent, into hotel accommodation.

The privately run barracks has been used to accommodate about 400 asylum seekers since September and last month experienced a significant Covid-19 outbreak, affecting at least a quarter of the men inside.

The legal team representing the rehoused claimant argued in written submissions to the court that he had been forced to sleep in the “overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsuitable” former army barracks and had been subjected to “prison-like conditions”.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/05/another-asylum-seeker-relocated-from-napier-barracks-after-court-order


4 February 2021: Gov.Wales: CABINET STATEMENT: Written Statement: Penally asylum accommodation February update by Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip

On 18 November, the Senedd debated and agreed a motion that the Home Office’s decision to accommodate asylum seekers at the Penally army camp should be reconsidered because it is an unsuitable place without access to appropriate support networks. I wrote to the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, Chris Philp MP, on 25 November to alert him to our debate and repeat our call for the UK Government to close the Penally camp and move asylum seekers to alternative accommodation which can properly cater for their needs, respect their dignity, and help them to progress their asylum applications.

I had the opportunity to discuss this matter with the UK Government Minister on 1 December but he did not accept my view that the use of the camp for this purpose is inhumane.

Nevertheless, I continue to raise significant concerns about the safety and appropriateness of the camp as asylum accommodation. We have seen footage, photographs and safety reports from within the camp which support our concerns. We believe the Penally site has inherent risks due to the operational model being implemented.

Read more: https://gov.wales/written-statement-penally-asylum-accommodation-february-update


Updated 3 February 2021: Guardian: Asylum seeker cannot remain at Kent army barracks, court says

High court ruling opens door for more people to be transferred out of ‘wholly unsuitable’ Napier barracks

“A former military chief, Nicholas Mercer, now a rector and previously the army’s top legal officer, has condemned the use of military barracks to accommodate asylum seekers.

“As the home secretary well knows, refugees are entitled to special protection under international law,” said Mercer. “It is wholly inappropriate therefore to house them in disused army barracks which have been described by the Red Cross as “unsafe and unsanitary” and which violate the UN convention on refugees. Refuge is about seeking sanctuary in a place of safety but this treatment is nothing more than naked hostility to very vulnerable people.” “

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/03/asylum-seeker-cannot-remain-at-kent-army-barracks-court-says


Canary: ‘Please get us out of these barracks’ say residents of the Home Office’s refugee camp in Wales

Refugees are still being housed at a disused army barracks near Tenby, despite repeated complaints that the accommodation is not suitable.

The Home Office has stated its intention to move people out of the Penally barracks. But residents say it’s not happening fast enough. Residents told The Canary that only 11 people have been moved out of the barracks, and 5 more will leave later this week since the Home Office announcement in January, and that around 100 people remain there in appalling conditions.

Saif (not his real name), who has been kept at Penally since September 2020, said:

The way they are moving people is too slow, last week they moved around 5 people. Its not enough, its really a small number.

I have been here since the end of September, and that’s too long.

The situation is getting worse. To live here during the winter is not easy because it’s an old military camp. The conditions are not correct to keep people here in winter. Its really really bad.

Read more: https://www.thecanary.co/exclusive/2021/02/02/please-get-us-out-of-these-barracks-say-residents-of-the-home-offices-refugee-camp-in-wales/


Updated 2 February 2021: Guardian: Former immigration minister criticises use of barracks to house asylum seekers

The Conservative former immigration minister Caroline Nokes has accused the Home Office of using barracks accommodation for asylum seekers to make the country appear to them “as difficult and inhospitable as possible”.

She said asylum seekers should not be “segregated into a ghetto” in barracks accommodation, but instead placed in supported accommodation where they have access to a range of facilities.

Nokes is among a group of backbench Conservative MPs with barracks in their constituencies who have raised concerns about their use to house asylum seekers. Others include Damian Collins, whose Folkestone and Hythe constituency includes Napier barracks, and Richard Fuller, the MP for North East Bedfordshire, where there is a new barracks-style development close to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/02/former-immigration-minister-criticises-use-of-barracks-to-house-asylum-seekers


Updated 31 January 2021: Independent: Home Office put refugees in barracks after fears better housing would ‘undermine confidence’ in system

Exclusive: Internal documents reveal ministers justified placing hundreds of asylum seekers in military camps because more ‘generous’ accommodation would damage public perception of asylum system

The Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers in controversial military barracks following fears that better accommodation would “undermine confidence” in the system, internal documents reveal.

Concerns have been mounting about conditions in two Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites – known as Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, Kent, and Penally Barracks, in Pembrokeshire – since they were were repurposed for housing asylum seekers last September. Campaigners, lawyers and humanitarian groups have reported poor access to healthcare and legal advice, as well as concerns over coronavirus safety.

The barracks burst into flames on Friday and asylum seekers say they have suffered electricity and hot water outages since the fire, with Kent Police saying five men have been arrested after a disturbance at the camp.

It has now emerged that the Home Office, in its equality impact assessment of the plans to use MoD sites to house asylum seekers, justified the move by stating that housing these individuals in more “generous” accommodation would “undermine public confidence in the asylum system”.

Critics say the document shows ministers “pandering to prejudice” and jeopardising health for “political ends”.

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-seekers-napier-barracks-home-office-b1793951.html


26 January 2021: Independent: Home Office urged to publish review into ‘desperate’ asylum camps amid concerns about Covid outbreak

Ministers come under pressure as hundreds remain in camp where coronavirus outbreak has taken hold, with one asylum seeker saying he is sleeping outdoors to protect himself

Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-camps-home-office-covid-b1792422.html


Updated 23 January 2021: Guardian: UK asylum seekers told claims at risk if they ‘misbehave’

Call for Home Office to act after private contractors tell people their applications will be jeopardised for speaking out, going on hunger strikes or complaining about food

People held at temporary Home Office refugee camps are being threatened that their asylum claims will be harmed if they “misbehave”, according to testimony from site residents.

A series of statements from asylum seekers inside the camps, anonymised to protect them from possible reprisals, allege they have been told by staff employed by private contractors that their asylum application will be jeopardised for speaking out about conditions or going on hunger strike.

One alleged he was told that if he complained about the food his name would be added to a “blacklist” that contractors shared with the Home Office and would “affect his claim”.

Others said they were told their asylum claim would be impaired if they did not return to their accommodation – a disused military training camp – by 10pm.

Asylum is a human right backed by the UN Refugee Convention and assessed in the UK using agreed screening processes and Home Office immigration caseworkers.

Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/23/uk-asylum-seekers-told-claims-at-risk-if-they-misbehave


Updated 18 January 2021: How will people in the asylum system, and those who are undocumented, access track and trace, testing, or the vaccine?

Guardian: Kent refugee site locked down after scores test positive for Covid

Police officers enforce move at Napier barracks after warnings from humanitarian organisations. [Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/19/kent-refugee-napier-barracks-locked-down-covid]


16 January 2021: Guardian: Legal action launched against plan to house asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood

Home Office criticised for plans to accommodate 200 people seeking asylum at ‘prison-style’ camp.

Pressure is mounting on the Home Office over its plans to house nearly 200 asylum seekers in what campaigners have described as a “prison-style” camp on the site of an immigration jail.

The construction of prefab-style accommodation at the privately run Yarl’s Wood centre in Bedfordshire follow a series of damning reports on conditions at two former army barracks sites in Kent and Pembrokeshire being used to hold up to 600 asylum-seeking men.

Campaigners have started legal action against the expansion of Yarl’s Wood, which is set to house its first asylum seekers imminently, while councillors in Bedford have spoken out against the new development.

The Home Office has invoked emergency powers under town and country planning legislation to speedily construct the cabin-style accommodation without seeking planning permission through conventional channels. Images of the new site have been leaked to the Guardian. Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/16/legal-action-launched-against-plan-to-house-asylum-seekers-at-yarls-wood


15 January 2021: BBC: Napier arracks: MP wants asylum seeker accommodation shut

An MP has called for an emergency asylum seeker accommodation centre in his constituency to be shut.

The first of several hundred people seeking asylum arrived at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, in September.

People being housed there recently staged protests at “unbearable” conditions at the ex-military base.

Now local MP Damian Collins has called for its closure. The Home Office has been approached for comment.

Mr Collins said he had raised concerns about the suitability of using the barracks to accommodate so many people at the start of the process.

“The best solution would be for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed and for this facility to be closed down,” he said.

In protest, residents have staged a sleep out and hunger strikes, and police were called on Tuesday when about 100 people walked out for about an hour.

The campaign group Care4Calais says three people are still refusing to sleep inside.

The group’s founder Clare Moseley said: “The asylum seekers at Napier already face cramped, stressful, distressing conditions, and now they are terrified of catching Covid as well.”


14 January 2021 BBC: Covid: Asylum seeker camp conditions prompt inspection calls

Asylum seekers housed in a military training camp have claimed the “very bad” conditions are making them feel increasingly desperate.

The Home Office decided to house up to 250 asylum seekers at the site in Penally, Pembrokeshire, from September.

But some housed at the camp claim the conditions are unsafe and putting them at risk of coronavirus.

Plaid Cymru has called for an urgent inspection, but the Home Office said it was safe and “Covid-compliant”.

On Thursday afternoon, the independent chief inspector for borders and immigration David Bolt said he hoped an inspection can begin “within a few weeks” and was awaiting further details he requested from the Home Office.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55650508


14 January 2021: Guardian: Asylum seeker housing conditions under scrutiny at third ex-military site

Allegations of poor conditions, poor food quality and mental health crises at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.

A third former military site being used as temporary housing for asylum seekers is facing allegations of poor conditions, poor food quality and mental health crises, it has emerged.

The Home Office has been housing asylum seekers in a former officers’ mess at RAF Coltishall, north of Norwich, since April last year. The Norfolk site has not received as much scrutiny as two similar facilities, Napier Barracks in Kent and Penally Barracks in Pembrokeshire, which have been dogged by allegations of cover-upspoor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions.

But it has emerged that there have been similar concerns over the set-up at RAF Coltishall, with people familiar with the site claiming there have been issues with lack of information, food quality, access to medical care including dentistry, as well as suicide attempts and hunger strikes. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/14/asylum-seeker-housing-conditions-under-scrutiny-third-uk-military-site-raf-coltishall-norfolk-


14 January 2021 Morning Star: Asylum-seekers march into Tenby demanding their human rights

ASYLUM-SEEKERS at an army barracks in Wales marched into the local town on Wednesday night with banners reading: “Close the camp” and “We want normal life, no prison.”

Around 250 men have been held in Penally Camp since September, when the Home Office decided to use the disused army base as temporary accommodation for asylum-seekers.

Residents claim conditions at the site are not safe, and have repeatedly raised concerns about a lack of access to medical care and legal support.

Today a group of 40 men from the camp took to the streets to voice their frustration and demand it be shut down.

Walking from the camp to the nearby town of Tenby, protesters, chanting: “We are civilians,” held pieces of carboard asking: “Where are [our] human rights?”

Read more: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/asylum-seekers-in-wales-march-out-of-army-barracks-demanding-an-end-to-their-imprisonment


14 January 2021: Northern Echo: Plans revealed to build prison-style immigration camp on site of former Hassockfield Detention Centre

GOVERNMENT plans to scrap a residential development in favour of creating an immigration detention centre on the site of a notorious facility have been described as “madness”.

Durham county councillors are demanding answers after Ministry of Justice plans emerged, proposing to turn the former Hassockfield Detention Centre, in Medomsley, into a Category 3-style prison to detain around 80 people who have had applications for UK residency denied.

The council had approved a planning application from Homes England for 127 new homes on the site, over a year ago. [Read more here: https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/19009076.plans-immigration-detention-centre-notorious-medomsley-site/ ]


8 December 2020: Barton Stacey asylum seeker cabin site ‘would be open prison’

Plans to accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers in cabins near a village have been condemned by both the local MP and council leader.

Test Valley Borough Council leader Phil North said the “substandard” homes near Barton Stacey, Hampshire, would be like an “open prison”.

Fellow Conservative Caroline Nokes MP said the site would infringe rules on development.

… But good news: 29th April: Barton Stacey: Plans to build asylum seeker camp dropped

Plans to hold up to 500 asylum seekers on a piece of land off the A303 have been dropped by the Home Office.

The government department has withdrawn its plans to build a temporary holding facility on Ministry of Defence land near Barton Stacey, after scores of objections from politicians, residents and human rights groups.

The plans were labelled “akin to an open prison” by Cllr Phil North, leader of Test Valley Borough Council when they were first revealed in December, with almost 3,500 people since signing a petition against it. [Read more: https://www.hampshirechronicle.co.uk/news/19268679.barton-stacey-plans-build-asylum-seeker-camp-dropped ]


15 December 2020: Guidance COVID-19: guidance for providers of accommodation for asylum seekers: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-providers-of-accommodation-for-asylum-seekers/covid-19-guidance-for-providers-of-accommodation-for-asylum-seekers


30 November 2021: ECRE:

Country Report: Types of accommodationLast updated: 30/11/20

Author

Refugee CouncilVisit Website

Initial accommodation centres

Reception centres, called initial accommodation, each accommodate around 200 people – fewer in Glasgow and Northern Ireland. These centres are the usual first accommodation for any asylum seeker who asks for support and is not immediately detained, apart from unaccompanied children. If a place cannot be found on the first night after claim, asylum seekers may be accommodated in an interim hostel in Croydon while accommodation is found, or in hotels in any region where the initial accommodation is full. Accommodation in the initial accommodation centres is usually full board with no cash provided.

The short-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation has tended to rise in times of an increase in applications, although in its response to the Home Affairs Select Committee the government stated that the accommodation providers had taken measures to lessen the need for this. The drawback is that people accommodated in a hotel, even if only for one or two nights, have limited or no access to many of the reception-related rights granted to asylum seekers, with reported cases of persons having only restricted access to accommodation. The consequence of such temporary ‘emergency’ accommodation is that it additionally delays their access to the support system and other welfare services to which they are entitled, as it may take a couple of days before they access advice and complete an application for asylum support.[1]

Asylum seekers should not stay in initial accommodation for any longer than 19 days, but there can be dispersal backlogs and it is common to find asylum seekers stuck in initial accommodation for over 3 weeks due to a lack of dispersal accommodation.[2] The consequences of such backlogs are varied, but the January 2017 accommodation report from the Home Affairs Select Committee highlighted its inadequacy for women, particularly pregnant women and new mothers. The lack of appropriately nutritious food was one example of this inadequacy. The report also commented on the lack of women only spaces and the government responded that it will work with providers to provide these where it may be possible. Similar findings were reported in an inspection of asylum support accommodation by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in 2018.[3] A UK charity has written a guide to the 2019 contracts and has details about all types of accommodation and services covered.[4]

Read more: https://asylumineurope.org/reports/country/united-kingdom/reception-conditions/housing/types-accommodation/


This is a briefing given for MPs in November 2020: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8990/

A guide for people in the asylum system: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/821324/Pack_A_-English-_Web.pdf

3 July: Factsheet – Asylum Accommodation, Applications and Interviews https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2020/07/03/factsheet-asylum-accommodation-and-applications/


 29 June 2020: TFN: Refugee charities slam hotel policy for asylum seekers

Charities previously warned about moving vulnerable asylum seekers

Refugee charities have hit out at the lack of proper procedures when moving asylum seekers into temporary accommodation.

It comes after a Sudanese man attacked a number of people with a knife at a hotel in Glasgow on Friday injusring six before he was shot dead by police marksmen.

Organisations had been warning about the situation concerning temporary accommodation up to the day before the attack, it has been revealed.

Since lockdown was imposed many, who formerly lived in flats in the city, were moved into hotels closed because of the covid-19 restrictions.

Read more: https://tfn.scot/news/refugee-charities-slam-hotel-policy-for-asylum-seekers


12 May 2020: TFN: 400 asylum seekers forced into shared accommodation despite lockdown

Charity demands answers from Home Office and Mears Group after death of Syrian refugee.

Campaigners are demanding answers after the death of a Syrian asylum seeker in a Scottish hotel.

Adnan Olbeh, who was 30, was found dead in his room at the 81-room McLays Guest House in Glasgow on Tuesday 5 May.

Mr Olbeh was one of around 400 refugees and asylum seekers who were relocated into vacant hotels from self-contained flats around the city by housing and social care provider Mears Group in the early weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.

Mears is said to have given asylum seekers just minutes notice of the move before taking them in groups of four or five to the hotels in vans, ignoring rules around social distancing.

Those in the hotels have told charities they now fear for their safety, with many staying in their rooms to avoid coming into close contact with others.

Meanwhile, their regular weekly allowance of £35.50 has been cut to zero, meaning they can no longer buy sanitary products, top up phones for essential calls, or use public transport to travel to food banks.

Read more: https://tfn.scot/news/400-asylum-seekers-forced-into-shared-accommodation-despite-lockdown


20 November 2018: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: Chief Inspector publishes his report on the Home Office’s management of asylum accommodation provision

Inspectors examined resources, policies, processes and performance in respect of the provision, by the Home Office, of asylum accommodation.

The provision of asylum accommodation, in line with the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, was examined by the National Audit Office in 2014 and by the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) in 2017. While I did not set out to re-examine every finding or recommendation made by the NAO or HAC, I took note of the Home Office’s responses to the latter in particular and looked to see what actions had been completed and what improvements had been made.

For several reasons, not least the difficulty of extracting evidence from the Home Office, this inspection proved more challenging than most. My report is likely to please no-one. It was clear from the Home Office’s response to the draft report that this topic touched a nerve. It considered my criticisms unfair and believed its efforts had not been fully recognised.

Meanwhile, I suspect that the many non-government organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders engaged with asylum accommodation, and those living in it, will feel that the report has not gone far enough in challenging the standards of accommodation and support provided.

Discussions with the Home Office, the commercial providers, NGOs and asylum seekers about particular properties showed just how difficult it was to agree on what constituted “an acceptable standard” of accommodation, and how equally difficult it was for the parties to remain objective and to trust each other’s intentions and actions.

The overriding impression from this inspection was of many individuals – from the Home Office, the Providers, NGOs and voluntary groups, statutory services and local authorities – up and down the UK, working hard to do their best for those in asylum accommodation, but often with quite different perspectives and priorities.

The system will always rely on collaboration, but it is the Home Office that holds most of the keys – to easing demand on asylum accommodation through more efficient management of asylum claims; to standardising data capture and improving information flows; to ensuring policies and practices support and protect the most vulnerable; to driving a UK-wide dispersal strategy for asylum seekers and refugees that engages more local authorities.

For all its efforts, this inspection found the Home Office too accepting of the limitations of the current COMPASS contracts and how things are, and too optimistic that the work it has in hand and the new contracts would bring about improvements.

In reality, there is much more that it can and should be doing now, before September 2019 when the new contracts start. Otherwise, the same underlying issues with asylum accommodation are likely to persist, whatever benefits the new contracts may deliver.

I have made 9 recommendations, some of them time-sensitive. My report was sent to the Home Secretary on 9 July 2018. While it has accepted all of my recommendations, the Home Office’s formal response (published with this report) looks to underplay the evidence of poor accommodation standards. This is unhelpful when it comes to building trust.

David Bolt
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration