The OutCry! partnership between The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees, that made such a vital contribution to campaigning for an end to the immigration detention of children, has come to a close. The funding for the partnership came to an end last month.
The Children’s Society and Bail for Immigration Detainees, will continue to campaign, alongside a number of other charities, for the government’s commitment to end child detention to be fulfilled. The safeguarding and welfare of children must be placed at the heart of the asylum and immigration system.
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all our supporters for your help in achieving groundbreaking changes to the system. It would not have been possible without you.
Heathrow Holding Facility – banging reports against a brick wall
JCWI, 4 May 2011
The Independent Monitoring Board has published its report on the welfare of detainees held at Heathrow’s non-residential short-term holding facilities over the year to January 2011. During the period covered by the report, the facilities were run by private company G4S. The report expresses exasperation over the failure to make changes recommended in previous reports – ‘Yet again we draw attention to the fact that men, women and children continue to be detained in unsuitable conditions’ (p. 10). The ‘regrettably degrading features’ still in evidence include a lack of proper sleeping and washing facilities, poor ventilation and temperature control, and the presence in one facility of strip lighting that cannot be dimmed at night (p. 4). The report remarks that poor conditions might perhaps be ‘tolerable’ if holding times were ‘very short’, but they are not (p. 10). http://bit.ly/m6LSMq
Gay asylum claims not being counted despite pledge, admit ministers
Guardian, Karen McVeigh, 1 May 2011
Ministers have admitted they are failing to collect data on the number of people who claim or are refused asylum on the basis of their sexuality, despite a government promise not to deport lesbians and gay men at risk of persecution. http://bit.ly/lVjbrX
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Loss of refugee legal charity leads to drop in asylum-seeking families receiving help
Children & Young People Now, Neil Puffett, 4 May 2011
Provision of free legal help for families and children fleeing persecution has dropped since a major charity went into administration, CYP Now has learned. Figures obtained by CYP Now show that in 2009/10, when Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) was still operating, a total of 98,643 new asylum and immigration cases were dealt with. According to Legal Services Commission (LSC) documents following a new tendering process, capacity among contracted providers will run to 93,655 cases a year until 2012/13, a drop of around five per cent. http://bit.ly/ixTLOx
- Asylum support rates have been increased by 3.1% for the current financial year, this is in line with increases to Income Support which is what we have been lobbying for, but UKBA have resisted making a permanent link between asylum and income support annual increments.
- ASAP have published their new report, No Credibility: UKBA Decision Making and Section 4 Support. The report highlights the flawed nature of UKBA decision making on section 4 support applications. Its key finding is that 82% of London-based asylum seekers refused support on the grounds they were not destitute had the decision overturned on appeal. The full report can be accessed at: http://asaproject.org/web/images/PDFs/news/asapreport260411.pdf
- On litigation, both Medical Foundation and MIND have made submissions to a judicial review which is considering access to support under S21 of the National Assistance Act and S117 of the Mental Health Act (should be heard at the beginning of June). ASAP is involved in a case which is seeking to challenge delays in the provision of support.
- The sleepouts along with a letter writing campaign from Amnesty local groups boosted signatures for the permission to work Declaration which now has the support of 110 MPs. All are encouraged to write to MPs who have not yet signed and/or get their supporters to do so.
- The Department of Health responded to the consultation on access of foreign nationals to the NHS and proposes to: (a) Exempt refused asylum seekers on S95 or S4 and unaccompanied children from charges for secondary healthcare and (b) Ensure those that have started free treatment will continue it even if their status changes and they become eligible for charging. This should benefit more than 10,000 asylum seekers.
- MIND is keen to have testimonies from individuals who are having problems accessing and using health services, please contact Sile if you think you might be able to help at: email@example.com
The impact of public sector cuts on refugee services in Oxfordshire
Public sector cuts being introduced by the coalition government are having an overwhelmingly negative impact on public and voluntary sector organisations providing services for refugees and asylum seekers in Oxfordshire. The cuts directly impact on the lives of our clients, indisputably some of society’s most vulnerable members. For example, clients without access to basic state benefits, children, , single women with children, and clients speaking little English.
At a national level, the Refugee Council is facing a 60% cut to frontline services. Their survey of Refugee Community Organisations carried out in September 2010 indicates that 58% of organisations surveyed would experience funding cuts over the coming 12 months, and that 77% thought their capacity to deliver services to these vulnerable people would worsen. The Community Legal Advice website giving information on how to access legal aid will be closed from April 2011.
In Oxfordshire, the main charities working with these client groups are losing or have lost significant funds, with significant knock-on effects on their clients.
efugee Resource provides counselling, mentoring, employment support and a women’s group for refugees and asylum seekers. Refugee Resource also lost funding from the County Council last year which resulted in the loss of a youth counsellor post, that has provided emotional support to young refugees and asylum seekers. Amanda Webb-Johnson, director of the charity, says ‘We have so far raised just over 50% of our budget from last year and will have to reduce our services substantially to clients if we do not close the funding gap. Due to the pace and scale of the funding cuts and increased competition for funds, the survival of small charities like ours is a real risk.’
The Bridging Project has been working since 2002 with 16-19 year old asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. Clients are assessed, placed and supported throughout their education up to university level. Young people are equipped with skills that give them more of a choice in mainstream education or the employment market. The Bridging Project staff was reduced to zero by the current cuts, effectively closing the organisation from March 2011, with full acknowledgement from professionals in the sector that this may well mean clients cannot complete their education. A former staff member, Fiona Tracey commented: ‘Education is often one of the most empowering and positive options for many of our clients. They often say that through going to college they are able to stop focusing on the past and start to build a life for themselves. I’m afraid that the closure of the Bridging Project and the specialist knowledge regarding this client group will have a devastating effect on many young people who will be unable to navigate their way through our education system. ‘
A sad irony of the cuts is that they appear to fly in the face of the government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda which claims it will support voluntary-sector organizations that mobilize large numbers of volunteers. At Asylum Welcome for example, we estimate conservatively that over 100 volunteers work approximately 310 hours per week, the equivalent of 9 full-time posts. We only have three staff. Yet the small amount of public funding that is essential to provide the professional support and expertise to enable such an extraordinary voluntary contribution is being diminished.
Promises, promises… “pre-departure accommodation” for families
End Child detention Now, 3 March 2011
The most recent update on the Coalition Government’s promises to end child immigration detention is provided by a letter from David Wood of the UK Border Agency. …the proposals raise serious concerns. The unit is intended to be secure, which in this case means a 2.5m palisade fence with electronic gates surrounding the site, and 24-hour staffing designed to provide “an appropriate level of security to protect the occupants of the site and deter them leaving the site.” There will apparently be provision for children to be allowed to leave the facility, but this would be under supervision, for short periods, and subject to a ‘risk-assessment’. In other words, there are no guarantees that any detainee will be allowed to leave the facility, except to catch the plane that will be used for their enforced removal.
A cut out and keep guide to judicial review
Adam Wagner, Human Rights Blog, March 1
It is important to understand the basis on which individuals can challenge decisions that affect them … Decisions of public authorities can be challenged in the courts by way of “judicial review”: a process by which legislative and executive decisions are reviewed by judges to ensure that they are lawful. The purpose of judicial review is to ensure that public authorities don’t go beyond the powers given to them by parliament and that they don’t abuse those powers. http://bit.ly/hemqFr
Immigration Detention and Proportionality
Global Detention Project, Michael Flynn, February 2011
Immigration detention is characterized by a tension between the prerogatives of sovereignty and the rights of non-citizens. While states have broad discretion over who is allowed to enter and reside within their borders, their decision to detain and deport is constrained by a number of widely accepted norms and principles. One of these is the principle of proportionality, which provides that any decision to deprive a person of his or her liberty must be roportionate to specific ends established in law. http://bit.ly/eUTP9R
Refusal with no right of appeal revisited
Freemovement, 28 February 2011
The problem has now been addressed in two linked cases in the Court of Appeal, R (on the application of Mirza & Ors) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 159 and R (on the application of Daley-Murdock) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 161. http://bit.ly/gHbiQ8
New detention phone system to keep detainees under control
A new phone system run by a private company will replace personal mobile phones in immigration detention centres, Corporate Watch can reveal. The trial at Tinsley House detention centre, near Gatwick airport, is run by Global Comms & Consulting Ltd (GCC), which specialises in secure telecommunications services to major government agencies and multinational companies.
Detainees will not be able to call free numbers and will pay significantly higher
rates to call their family and solicitors. All calls will also be recorded,
monitored and disrupted when necessary by the immigration authorities and/or the immigration prison’s management. …
Full Corporate Watch article: