/2020

  • UK to deny asylum to refugees passing through ’safe’ third country

    Immigration rule will also prevent migrants from making a claim in UK territorial waters

    Ministers have quietly changed immigration rules to prevent people fleeing war or persecution from claiming asylum in the UK if they have passed through a “safe” third country, prompting accusations of a breach of international law.

    From 1 January, claims of asylum from a person who has travelled through or has a connection to a safe third country, including people coming from EU member states, will be treated as inadmissible.

    The changes will also prevent asylum seekers from being able to make a claim in the territorial waters of the UK.

    The UK government will be able to remove refused asylum seekers not only to the third countries through which they have travelled, but to any safe third country that may agree to receive them, an explanatory memo states.

    A 10-page statement (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/943127/CCS207_CCS1220673408-001_Statement_of_changes_in_Immig) outlining the changes to the rules was published online without a press or public announcement.

    However, the changes highlight a significant hurdle for the UK government: claims will only be treated as inadmissible if the asylum applicant is accepted for readmission by the third country through which they have travelled or another safe state agrees to take them.

    Immigration law experts have said this could render the new policy “pointless” and would most likely delay asylum applications and leave refugees in limbo in the UK.

    Colin Yeo, a leading immigration barrister with expertise in asylum law, wrote on Twitter: “The policy is pointless because the govt has negotiated no such return agreements, so all it does is delay decisions on all claims, which is cruel to genuine refugees, and delay removal of non genuine cases.”


    https://twitter.com/ColinYeo1/status/1337069616078721025

    The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, said the changes were “yet another breach of international law”.

    He said: “The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative government is turning its back on refugees. This latest nasty policy from [the home secretary] Priti Patel goes against our commitments under the refugee convention and against everything the UK stands for. It’s yet another breach of international law by this irresponsible tory government.”

    Beth Gardiner-Smith, the chief executive of Safe Passage International, a charity that help refugees access safe and legal routes to asylum, said: “The government’s changes to the immigration rules are a direct assault on the fundamental human right to asylum. These chilling changes on International Human Rights Day do a disservice to the UK’s proud record of providing safety to those fleeing persecution and violence.”

    The number of small boat arrivals across the Channel has surged to record levels this year, with more than 8,000 migrants and refugees travelling across the Dover Strait, compared with less than 2,000 in 2019. However, total asylum applications are down year on year as the Covid-19 pandemic has cut off other methods of travel and limited migration flows.

    Patel has been accused of responding haphazardly with kneejerk proposals ranging from sending asylum seekers thousands of miles away to islands in the South Atlantic, to using giant water cannons to repel boats. The prime minister has reportedly become frustrated with Patel’s handling of the situation.

    The UK is a party to the UN’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and to its 1967 protocol, a piece of international law designed to protect refugees.

    The Home Office provided a statement through the immigration compliance minister, Chris Philp. He said: “We are determined to fix the broken asylum system to make it firm on those who come here through illegally facilitated routes and fair on those who play by the rules. There is no reason to leave a safe country like France to make a dangerous crossing. These measures send a clear message and are just one of the steps th​e government is taking to tackle the unacceptable rise in small boat crossings.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/10/uk-to-deny-asylum-to-refugees-passing-through-safe-third-country

    #UK #Angleterre #asile #migrations #réfugiés #droit_d'asile #Manche #eaux_territoriales #pays_sûr #transit #pays_tiers_sûr #brexit #EU #Europe #UE #renvois #expulsions #01_janvier_2020 #inadmissibilité #attente #limbe #accords #droit_international #Priti_Patel

    ping @isskein

  • Home Office proceeds with disputed Jamaica deportation flight

    Thirteen of 50 people due to be deported put on controversial flight despite campaigns to prevent it.

    The Home Office deported 13 men to Jamaica on a controversial charter flight that left in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but a significant number of other offenders were granted a last-minute reprieve after a legal challenge.

    Documents lodged in the high court by the Home Office stated that its intention was to remove as many as 50 Jamaican nationals, but only a fraction of that number boarded the flight, according to ministry sources.

    The Home Office minister for immigration compliance, Chris Philp, said the flight had removed 13 “serious foreign criminals” from the UK. A number of others due to be onboard are said to have been granted a reprieve after the ministry acknowledged they may have been victims of modern slavery.

    The mass deportation became a high-profile issue after a series of campaigns including one from 82 black public figures – among them the author Bernardine Evaristo, the model Naomi Campbell and the historian David Olusoga – who urged airlines not to operate the Home Office flight.

    Several NGOs, dozens of solicitors and barristers including 11 QCs signed a letter saying the deportation flight was unlawful, unjust and racist. More than 60 MPs and peers signed a letter to the home secretary, Priti Patel, calling for the flight to be cancelled, and a petition from BARAC UK and BAME Lawyers for Justice attracted more than 180,000 signatures.

    A series of legal challenges were launched in the days before the flight, many of which succeeded.

    Charter flights to Jamaica are particularly controversial because of the Windrush scandal, and because some people earmarked for deportation came to the UK as children or have lived in the country for decades with established families.

    A last-ditch legal attempt by two children to prevent the deportation of many of those due to be on the flight failed. The two siblings brought the case on behalf of their father, arguing that the Home Office had failed to properly assess the best interests of children whose parents it sought to deport.

    The children were hoping to secure an injunction preventing the flight from leaving until an assessment had been carried out in the cases of all of the children about to be separated from their fathers. Their application did not succeed but the case will continue.

    The Guardian has seen a letter and drawing from a 10-year-old boy addressed to a judge he hoped would remove his father from the flight. The boy wrote: “People are making decisions about my dad. When they grew up they probably had a dad. The decisions they make mean I won’t have a dad with me.”

    No one who arrived in the UK under the age of 12 was put on the flight, after the Home Office and the Jamaican authorities quietly agreed a deal not to remove people who came as children, according to Jamaica’s high commissioner, Seth Ramocan. Documents seen by the Guardian have confirmed the arrangement.

    Bella Sankey, the director of Detention Action, said: “This cowboy operation was stopped in its tracks by judges intervening to defend those whose lives are at risk in Jamaica. But the tragedy of this tale is the many devastated children who have had a loving parent forcibly ripped from their lives without any consultation or being able to make their voice heard. This is child cruelty plain and simple and it will not stand.”

    Karen Doyle, of Movement for Justice, said: “While there are many families desperately relieved this morning, there are also many children who just lost their father before Christmas at a time of pandemic when children’s mental health is already suffering.”

    Philp said: “In the early hours of this morning 13 serious foreign criminals were deported from the UK. It is disappointing that immigration law firms continued to use last-minute tactics to remove a significant number of offenders from this flight.

    “These individuals had every opportunity to raise the claims in the days and weeks leading up to the flight. However, a significant number of claims were not submitted until hours before the flight was due to leave – meaning some murderers and rapists were able to stay in the UK.

    “They have committed crimes which have a devastating impact on victims and families. We’ll be working through these cases as quickly as we can. I’m committed to removing foreign criminals & anyone with no right to be here to keep the British public safe, which is always my priority.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/02/home-office-proceeds-with-disputed-jamaica-deportation-flight
    #renvois #expulsions #UK #Angleterre #Jamaïque #Windrush #migrations

  • Undercover officer rekindled relationship seven years later, inquiry told
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/09/undercover-officer-rekindled-relationship-seven-years-later-inquiry-tol

    An undercover officer who deceived a woman into a sexual relationship reappeared in her life seven years after his deployment ended to rekindle their relationship, only to suddenly disappear again without explanation, a public inquiry has heard.

    The police officer, who used the fake name Rob Harrison to infiltrate pro–Palestine campaigners, had a relationship lasting almost a year with the woman while he was undercover. The relationship ended in 2007, when Harrison disappeared, claiming he had to look after his dying mother.

    In 2014, after intermittent contact, he persuaded the woman to resume their relationship, telling her that he wanted to have children together. At that point, the woman, who is known only as Maya as she has been granted anonymity by the inquiry, broke up with her partner of five years.

    However, Harrison disappeared the day after they slept together again. He has not contacted her again since then, excluding one email he sent four years ago.

    #infiltration #surveillance

  • Secrets and lies: untangling the UK ’spy cops’ scandal
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/28/secrets-and-lies-untangling-the-uk-spy-cops-scandal

    The police spies initially belonged to the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was created to control the restive protests of the late 1960s, including those opposed to the war in Vietnam, but continued to monitor protest groups for a further four decades. Known only to a select few at the upper echelons of Scotland Yard, the squad, whose officers often grew beards and long hair ahead of their deployments, adopted the nickname “the hairies”.

    As one detective inspector in the SDS said: “We were part of a ‘black operation’ that absolutely no one knew about and only the police had actually agreed that this was all OK.” The SDS was disbanded in 2008 because, according to one senior officer, the officers had “lost their moral compass”.

    Yet the techniques of highly intrusive, long-term infiltration of protest groups continued in the unit to which Kennedy belonged: the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

    The scale of both spying operations was remarkable: over more than four decades, at least 139 police officers were given fake identities to closely monitor the inner workings of more than 1,000 political groups.

    #mark_kennedy https://seenthis.net/tag/person:mark%20kennedy

  • ’We can’t put a barrier on the border’: Welsh town fears influx from English Covid hotspots | UK news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/11/we-cant-put-a-barrier-on-the-border-welsh-town-fears-influx-from-englis
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e5f4d4d70cd1fb8b45345fe2ffa0a303d64759cc/0_224_6720_4032/master/6720.jpg?width=1200&height=630&quality=85&auto=format&fit=crop&overlay-ali

    Sharon and Tommy Gee, who run the Spar store in Montgomery, a picturesque town in mid-Wales a mile from the English border, admit they are worried. They operate a friendly shop and are keen both to serve their local community and give a warm welcome to the many visitors drawn by the town’s castle, cafes, pubs and good hiking and cycling routes.
    But Covid-19 means the steady flow of tourists across the border into a rural area that has had few cases is seen as a mixed blessing.
    “We’re so close to the border and not far from places that have high Covid rates,” said Sharon. “We are worried,” Tommy added. “It wouldn’t be such a concern if everyone took all the precautions. Most do, but there is a minority that don’t.”There has been growing anger within the Welsh government for weeks over Boris Johnson’s refusal to stop people travelling from areas in England that are subject to lockdown to places where there are few Covid cases.The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, made it clear on Friday that if the prime minister did not take action, his government would bring in rules that would effectively stop people from English hotspots crossing the border. Montgomery in Powys, where there is no lockdown, is the sort of place the Welsh government is keen to protect.The approach from Drakeford’s government means that a person from Wrexham in north Wales, which is in local lockdown, is not allowed to leave their area unless they have a “reasonable excuse”. A day out to Montgomery would not be allowed.

    #Covid-19#migrant#migration#grandebretagne#angleterre#paysdegalle#frontiere#sante#confinement#cluster#epicentre

  • Revealed: No 10 explores sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea | UK news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/sep/30/revealed-no-10-explores-sending-asylum-seekers-to-moldova-morocco-and-p

    Downing Street has asked officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea and is the driving force behind proposals to hold refugees in offshore detention centres, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

    The documents suggest officials in the Foreign Office have been pushing back against No 10’s proposals to process asylum applications in detention facilities overseas, which have also included the suggestion the centres could be constructed on the south Atlantic islands of Ascension and St Helena.

    The documents, marked “official” and “sensitive” and produced earlier this month, summarise advice from officials at the Foreign Office, which was asked by Downing Street to “offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”.

    #migration #asile #déportation #externalisation #déterritorialisation

    • Downing Street has asked officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Morocco or Papua New Guinea and is the driving force behind proposals to hold refugees in offshore detention centres, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

      The documents suggest officials in the Foreign Office have been pushing back against No 10’s proposals to process asylum applications in detention facilities overseas, which have also included the suggestion the centres could be constructed on the south Atlantic islands of Ascension and St Helena.

      The documents, marked “official” and “sensitive” and produced earlier this month, summarise advice from officials at the Foreign Office, which was asked by Downing Street to “offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”.

      The Australian system of processing asylum seekers in on the Pacific Islands costs AY$13bn (£7.2bn) a year and has attracted criticism from human rights groups, the United Nations and even the UK government, according to the documents, which reveal British ministers have “privately” raised concerns with Australia over the abuse of detainees in its offshore detention facilities.

      The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that the home secretary, Priti Patel, asked officials to consider processing asylum seekers Ascension and St Helena, which are overseas British territories. Home Office sources were quick to distance Patel from the proposals and Downing Street has also played down Ascension and St Helena as destinations for asylum processing centres.

      However, the documents seen by the Guardian suggest the government has for weeks been working on “detailed plans” that include cost estimates of building asylum detention camps on the south Atlantic islands, as well as other proposals to build such facilities in Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea.

      The documents suggest the UK’s proposals would go further than Australia’s hardline system, which is “based on migrants being intercepted outside Australian waters”, allowing Australia to claim no immigration obligations to individuals. The UK proposals, the documents state, would involve relocating asylum seekers who “have arrived in the UK and are firmly within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of the ECHR and Human Rights Act 1998”.

      The documents suggest that the idea that Morocco, Moldova and Papua New Guinea might make suitable destinations for UK asylum processing centres comes directly from Downing Street, with documents saying the three countries were specifically “suggested” and “floated” by No 10. One document says the request for advice on third country options for detention facilities came from “the PM”.

      The Times reported that the government was also giving serious consideration to the idea of creating floating asylum centres in disused ferries moored off the UK coast.

      While composed in the restrained language of civil servants, the Foreign Office advice contained in the documents appears highly dismissive of the ideas emanating from Downing Street, pointing out numerous legal, practical and diplomatic obstacles to processing asylums seekers oversees. The documents state that:

      • Plans to process asylum seekers at offshore centres in Ascension or St Helena would be “extremely expensive and logistically complicated” given the remoteness of the islands. The estimated cost is £220m build cost per 1,000 beds and running costs of £200m. One document adds: “In relation to St Helena we will need to consider if we are willing to impose the plan if the local government object.”

      • The “significant” legal, diplomatic and practical obstacles to the plan include the existence of “sensitive military installations” on the island of Ascension. One document warns that the military issues mean the “will mean US government would need to be persuaded at the highest levels, and even then success cannot be guaranteed”.

      • It is “highly unlikely” that any north African state, including Morocco, would agree to hosting asylum seekers relocated to the UK. “No north African country, Morocco included, has a fully functioning asylum system,” one document states. “Morocco would not have the resources (or the inclination) to pay for a processing centre.”

      • Seeming to dismiss the idea of sending asylum seekers to Moldova, Foreign Office officials point out there is protracted conflict in the eastern European country over Transnistria as well as “endemic” corruption. They add: “If an asylum centre depended on reliable, transparent, credible cooperation from the host country justice system we would not be able to rely on this.”

      • Officials warned of “significant political and logistical obstacles” to sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, pointing out it is more than 8,500 miles away, has a fragile public health system and is “one of the bottom few countries in the world in terms of medical personnel per head of population”. They also warn any such a move would “renew scrutiny of Australia’s own offshore processing”. One document adds: “Politically, we judge the chances of positive engagement with the government on this to be almost nil.”

      A Foreign Office source played down the idea that the department had objected to Downing Street’s offshoring proposals for asylum seekers, saying officials’ concerns were only about the practicality of the plan. “This was something which the Cabinet Office commissioned, which we responded to with full vigour, to show how things could work,” the source said.

      However, another Whitehall source familiar with the government plans said they were part of a push by Downing Street to “radically beef-up the hostile environment” in 2021 following the end of the Brexit transition. Former prime minister Theresa May’s “hostile environment” phrase, which became closely associated with the polices that led to the Windrush scandal, is no longer being used in government.

      But the source said that moves are afoot to find a slate of new policies that would achieve a similar end to “discourage” and “deter” migrants from entering the UK illegally.

      The documents seen by the Guardian also contain details of Home Office legal advice to Downing Street, which states that the policy would require legislative changes, including “disapplying sections 77 and 78 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so that asylum seekers can be removed from the UK while their claim or appeal is pending”.

      Another likely legislative change, according to the Home Office advice, would require “defining what we mean by a clandestine arrival (and potentially a late claim) and create powers allowing us to send them offshore for the purposes of determining their asylum claims”.

      One of the documents states that the option of building detention centres in foreign countries – rather than British overseas territories – is “not the favoured No 10 avenue, but they wish to explore [the option] in case it presents easier pathways to an offshore facility”.

      On Wednesday, asked about the FT’s report about the UK considering plans to ship asylum seekers to the south Atlantic for processing, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson confirmed the UK was considering Australian–style offshore processing centres.

      He said the UK had a “long and proud history” of accepting asylum seekers but needed to act, particularly given migrants making unofficial crossings from France in small boats.

      “We are developing plans to reform our illegal migration and asylum policies so we can keep providing protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and criminality. As part of this work we’ve been looking at what a whole host of other countries do to inform a plan for the United Kingdom. And that work is ongoing.”

      Asked for comment about the proposals regarding Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea, Downing Street referred the Guardian to the spokesman’s earlier comments. The Foreign Office referred the Guardian to the Home Office. The Home Office said it had nothing to add to comments by the prime minister’s spokesman.

      #UK #Angleterre #Maroc #Papoue_Nouvelle_Guinée #Moldavie
      #offshore_detention_centres
      #procédure_d'asile #externalisation_de_la_procédure #modèle_australien

      #île_de_l'Ascension

      #île_Sainte-Hélène


      #Sainte-Hélène

      –---

      Les #floating_asylum_centres pensés par l’UK rappellent d’autres structures flottantes :
      https://seenthis.net/messages/879396

      –—

      Ajouté à la métaliste sur l’externalisation des frontières :
      https://seenthis.net/messages/731749

    • Ascension Island: Priti Patel considered outpost for UK asylum centre location

      The government has considered building an asylum processing centre on a remote UK territory in the Atlantic Ocean.

      The idea of “offshoring” people is being looked at but finding a suitable location would be key, a source said.

      Home Secretary Priti Patel asked officials to look at asylum policies which had been successful in other countries, the BBC has been told.

      The Financial Times says Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles (6,000km) from the UK, was a suggested location.

      What happens to migrants who reach the UK?
      More migrants arrive in September than all of 2019
      Fleeing the Syrian war for Belfast

      The Foreign Office is understood to have carried out an assessment for Ascension - which included the practicalities of transferring migrants thousands of miles to the island - and decided not to proceed.

      However, a Home Office source said ministers were looking at “every option that can stop small boat crossings and fix the asylum system”.

      "The UK has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection. Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future.

      “As ministers have said we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”

      No final decisions have been made.
      ’Logistical nightmare’

      Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive - so it seems entirely plausible this Tory government came up with it.”

      Alan Nicholls, a member of the Ascension Island council, said moving asylum seekers more than 4,000 miles to the British overseas territory would be a “logistical nightmare” and not well received by the islanders.

      He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the presence of military bases on the island could make the concept “prohibitive” due to security concerns.

      Australia has controversially used offshore processing and detention centres for asylum seekers since the 1980s.

      A United Nations refugee agency representative to the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, said the proposal would breach the UK’s obligations to asylum seekers and would “change what the UK is - its history and its values”.

      Speaking to the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, she said the Australian model had “brought about huge suffering for people, who are guilty of no more than seeking asylum, and it has also cost huge amounts of money”.

      The proposal comes amid record numbers of migrants making the journey across the English Channel to the UK in small boats this month, which Ms Patel has vowed to stop.

      Laura Trott, Conservative MP for Sevenoaks in Kent, said it was “absolutely right” that the government was looking at offshore asylum centres to “reduce the pressure” on Kent, which was “unable to take any more children into care”.

      In order to be eligible for asylum in the UK, applicants must prove they cannot return to their home country because they fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, gender identity or sexual orientation.

      Asylum seekers cannot work while their claims are being processed, so the government offers them a daily allowance of just over £5 and accommodation, often in hostels or shared flats.

      Delays in processing UK asylum applications increased significantly last year with four out of five applicants in the last three months of 2019 waiting six months or more for their cases to be processed.

      That compared with three in four during the same period in 2018.

      –—

      Ascension Island key facts

      The volcanic island has no indigenous population, and the people that live there - fewer than 1,000 - are the employees and families of the organisations operating on the island
      The military airbase is jointly operated by the RAF and the US, and has been used as a staging post to supply and defend the Falkland Islands
      Its first human inhabitants arrived in 1815, when the Royal Navy set up camp to keep watch on Napoleon, who was imprisoned on the island of St Helena some 800 miles away
      It is home to a BBC transmitter - the BBC Atlantic Relay station - which sends shortwave radio to Africa and South America

      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-54349796

    • UK considers sending asylum seekers abroad to be processed

      Reports suggest using #Gibraltar or the #Isle_of_Man or copying Australian model and paying third countries

      The Home Office is considering plans to send asylum seekers who arrive in the UK overseas to be processed, an idea modelled on a controversial Australian system, it is understood.

      Priti Patel, the home secretary, is expected to publish details next week of a scheme in which people who arrive in the UK via unofficial means, such as crossing the Channel in small boats, would be removed to a third country to have any claim dealt with.

      The government has pledged repeatedly to introduce measures to try to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving across the Channel. Australia removes arrivals to overseas islands while their claims are processed.

      A Home Office source said: “Whilst people are dying making perilous journeys we would be irresponsible if we didn’t consider every avenue.”

      However, the source played down reports that destinations considered included Turkey, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man or other British islands, and that talks with some countries had begun, saying this was “all speculation”.

      Last year it emerged that meetings involving Patel had raised the possibility of asylum seekers being sent to Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic British territory in the south Atlantic, or St Helena, part of the same island group but 800 miles away.

      At the time, Home Office sources said the proposals came when Patel sought advice from the Foreign Office on how other countries deal with asylum applications, with Australia’s system given as an example.

      Labour described the Ascension Island idea as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive”.

      After the Brexit transition period finished at the end of 2020, the UK government no longer had the automatic right to transfer refugees and migrants to the EU country in which they arrived, part of the European asylum system known as the Dublin regulation.

      The UK government sought to replace this with a similar, post-Brexit version, but was rebuffed by the EU.

      With the government facing political pressure on migrant Channel crossings from some parts of the media, and from people like Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader who frequently makes videos describing the boats as “an invasion”, Patel’s department has sought to respond.

      Last year, official documents seen by the Guardian showed that trials had taken place to test a blockade in the Channel similar to Australia’s controversial “turn back the boats” tactic.

      Reports at the time, denied by Downing Street, said that other methods considered to deter unofficial Channel crossings included a wave machine to push back the craft.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/18/asylum-seekers-could-be-sent-abroad-by-uk-to-be-processed

  • ’We don’t know what to do’: asylum seekers flown to Spain by Home Office

    The 11 Syrians said they were sitting outside #Madrid airport with no food, water or support

    Eleven Syrian asylum seekers have been abandoned outside the airport in Madrid where a Home Office charter flight deposited them, the Guardian has learned.

    The men, ranging in age from 18-45, said they had been sitting in temperatures of 32 degrees since their flight landed in the Spanish capital at around 10am on Thursday morning.

    The asylum seekers said many of them were removed from the UK without their identity documents.

    One man told the Guardian he has three brothers in the UK, while another said he had two. Family ties in the UK are part of the claim to remain that the Home Office considers under rules known as the Dublin regulation, whereby one European country can return asylum seekers to the first European country they are known to have passed through.

    The men said they had used the same solicitor to try to halt their removal from the UK to Spain, and had paid him thousands of pounds between them, but their enforced removal was not halted.

    They said they all came from the same area in the south of Syria.

    One man said he had worked as a farmer before the conflict in Syria began, and that he had left his wife and four children, hoping to bring them to join him if he was granted refugee status in a safe country.

    Syrian refugee claims are generally accepted in many European countries but the Home Office sent the 11 men back to Spain because all had been fingerprinted by the police there.

    “I spent two years after fleeing Syria trying to reach safety,” said one 45-year-old. “I spent about four months in Calais trying to cross by small boat and finally succeeded in April.”

    He said he had taught himself to speak English on YouTube.

    “I was so happy when I reached the UK but the way I have been treated by the UK has destroyed me. I was held in an underground jail for a year and a half in Syria and when the Home Office arrested me and put me in Brook House detention centre near Gatwick airport it brought back all the memories of that time.”

    He said everyone was told to go quietly to the plane and that if they did not behave, the escorts would use force against them. “Many of the men were crying on the plane,” he said.

    None of them know what they can do now.

    “We don’t know what to do. We are sitting a few hundred yards away from the airport. We have no food, no water, we don’t know where we can go. We are homeless and hopeless,” he said.

    Three brothers from Yemen who were due to be put on Thursday’s flight were granted a last-minute reprieve. A Guardian reader who read about their case and who lives in Spain offered to help them. She is now trying to identify support for the 11 asylum seekers left outside the airport.

    A spokesperson for the Spanish ministry of the interior said they were aware of the case, and that anyone could request international protection in Spain at any time.

    But the Syrian asylum seekers said there were no English or Arabic interpreters at the airport and that they had to leave the building.

    Home Office sources said that the UK is under no obligation to monitor the treatment of asylum seekers who have returned to the EU member state responsible for their claim.

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “Under the Dublin III process, the time and place of the arrival of today’s flight had been carefully worked through between the UK and Spain by mutual agreement – formal requests were made of Spain in advance and they accepted responsibility for the claimants in accordance with the Regulations. Any suggestion that the Home Office has not complied with our obligations is incorrect.

    “A travel or identity document is not required for that country to process an individual as the details of those being returned are shared and agreed in advance.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/sep/03/we-dont-know-what-to-do-asylum-seekers-flown-to-spain-by-home-office

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #UK #Angleterre #Dublin #renvois_Dublin #Espagne #réfugiés_syriens #aéroport #migrerrance #SDF #sans-abris

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Yemeni asylum seeker found dead in #Manchester hotel room

    #Abdullah_Ahmed_Abdullah_Alhabib arrived in UK in June after crossing Channel in boat.


    A man who fled war-torn Yemen, made a difficult journey to Europe and two months ago survived a Channel crossing in a flimsy boat has been found dead in a Manchester hotel room.

    Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah Alhabib 41, was found dead on 6 August in a room where he had been placed by the Home Office after arriving in Dover on 11 June seeking asylum.

    The cause of his death has not yet been confirmed and is under investigation.

    Alhabib travelled on the small boat with 15 other people from Yemen, Syria and Iran. After they were picked up by the Border Force, Home Office officials detained a group of them at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire for three days before moving them to the hotel in Manchester.

    One of the asylum seekers from Yemen who was in the boat with Alhabib and was then placed in a neighbouring hotel room told the Guardian: “I did not know Abdullah before we found ourselves in the dinghy together. We did not recognise the language of the smugglers. They charged us €2,000 or €3,000. The journey was terrifying. Every minute of it we felt we were hovering between life and death and could drown at any time.

    “All of us on these journeys, we have lost our country, lost our family, lost our future. When we got into the boat in Calais we felt the sea was the only place left for us to go.”

    While the group in the boat were relieved to have survived the journey, one of them said it was very difficult for them to be locked up in “prison-like” conditions in Yarl’s Wood because of the trauma they had experienced previously.

    One said that although the hotel in Manchester was good, all of them were frightened of being sent back to Yemen via European countries they had passed through.

    The Home Office has chartered two flights next week for asylum seekers who passed through other European countries before reaching the UK.

    “Abdullah was frightened all the time about this,” one of the asylum seekers said. “His wife and four young daughters, the oldest who is just 10, are still in Yemen. His dream was to bring them out of Yemen to safety. Now that will not be possible.

    “Abdullah was so anxious and stressed all the time, waiting for a knock on the door to arrest him and send him back to his country. We did not know of any physical illness he had. He took exercise and ate healthily. He was a very gentle man. When we went out from the hotel, if he saw rubbish in the street he always picked it up and put it in the bin.”

    Another asylum seeker said hotel staff raised the alarm when Alhabib was found unresponsive in his room.

    “Now that Abdullah is dead, we are worried that the same thing will happen to us,” he said. “We all asked the doctor to check our hearts and our blood pressure. The Home Office has already taken six Yemeni asylum seekers from this hotel and put them in detention in Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick ahead of the charter flight next week. We cannot sleep. We are waiting for a knock on the door and for the Home Office to come and take the rest of us. We feel we are on death row.”

    A spokesperson for Greater Manchester police said: “At around 11.10am on Thursday 6 August, police were called to a report of concern for the welfare of a man in a property on Palatine Road, Manchester. Emergency services attended and a man in his 40s was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.”

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “An individual tragically died in the … hotel earlier this month and all our thoughts are with their loved ones at this time.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/23/yemeni-asylum-seeker-found-dead-in-manchester-hotel-room

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #hôtel #décès #mort #mourir_dans_un_hôtel #Angleterre #UK #peur

    –---

    Rappel, en mai 2020, un réfugié syrien est décédé dans un hôtel en Ecosse :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/852434

  • MPs criticise privacy watchdog over NHS test-and-trace data
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/21/mps-criticise-privacy-watchdog-information-commissioner-nhs-test-and-tr

    UK information commissioner ‘must ensure government uses public’s data safely and legally’ A cross-party group of more than 20 MPs has accused the UK’s privacy watchdog of failing to hold the government to account for its failures in the NHS coronavirus test-and-trace programme. The MPs have urged Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, to demand that the government change the programme after it admitted failing to conduct a legally required impact assessment of its privacy (...)

    #données #COVID-19 #santé #ICO-UK

    ##santé
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/99a1d066700760a8201fca235f428044b56f71da/0_41_8102_4864/master/8102.jpg

  • ’People were abandoned’: injustices of pandemic laid bare in Brent | UK news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/27/people-were-abandoned-injustices-of-pandemic-laid-bare-in-brent
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8fee5a5189317c3a8c42482558c41ee5fef7bf6d/0_384_5760_3456/master/5760.jpg?width=1200&height=630&quality=85&auto=format&fit=crop&overlay-ali

    At least 36 residents have died in Church End, a small, deprived estate in north Brent with a large British-Somali population. Locals believe the cluster, which is the second worst in England and Wales, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, does not account for the true scale of the devastation, as it does not factor in people who work in Church End but live nearby. Overall, Brent has the highest age-standardised coronavirus death rate in England and Wales. Excess deaths in the borough are three times the national average. Ibrahim has not had time to process, let alone grieve, the coronavirus deaths in Church End. They include people such as Abdiqaadir Mohamed Farah, who ran a business in Hammersmith and helped get young people into sports. He died on 24 March. Aweys Ahmed Imaan, known locally as Sheikh Aweys, was said to sell the best halwa, a popular Somali sweet, in his shop on Church Road, where there are a string of Somali cafes and stores. He died on 29 March. Musami Mursal Abdi, a tailor who migrated to the UK in the 90s and was a pioneering figure in the community, also died. Many of those who died were men aged in their late 4os to early 60s.

    #Covid-19#migration#migrant#minorite#BAME#grandebretagne#sante#surmortalite#somali#vulnerabilite

  • Call for probe after man found dead in Covid-19 asylum seeker hotel

    Refugee activists have called for an independent inquiry into the decision to move asylum seekers from their flats in Glasgow into hotels, after a man died suddenly at a guest house.

    Adnan, a 30-year-old Syrian, who had been in the city for about six months and was claiming asylum, was found dead in his room at #McLay’s_Guest_House on Tuesday 5 May.

    He had been living in the hotel for about a month, after accommodation provider, #Mears_Group, moved him from the flat where he had been living alone as part of its Covid-19 response.

    It is understood he may have died after a drug overdose. A postmortem will be carried out to confirm the cause of death.

    Hundreds of asylum seekers across the city have been moved to hotels by #Mears since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Their asylum support of £35 per week has stopped and instead they are provided with three meals per day in communal dining rooms, where it is claimed social distancing is difficult.

    They have no money for essentials such as toiletries, phone top-ups or snacks. After The Ferret reported that shared coffee and tea facilities put people at risk of being infected by Covid-19, they were taken away in at least one dining room. No in-room alternatives have been offered.

    Those supporting asylum seekers in hotels have said the situation is having a toll on their emotional well-being and are concerned about the risks that the situation poses to their physical health during the pandemic.

    The Ferret spoke to a friend of Adnan, who is also staying at McLay’s Guest House. He said his friend had addiction issues, was taking street Valium, and had become increasingly distressed during his time at the hotel.

    It is claimed that he had experienced past #trauma including abuse in jail and his friend said he had been expressing suicidal thoughts in the weeks leading up to his death.

    The day before he died, his friend said he was having flashbacks and had asked to see a GP.

    Pinar Aksu, an activist who also works for Maryhill Integration Network, said: “There needs to be an independent inquiry into this death. If people don’t get the help they need then we risk more people dying.

    “We also need to stop moving people into hotels. It seems very clear to me that this is being done so that Mears and the Home Office can protect profit. If they care about people’s welfare then why are they moving people out of their flats in the midst of a pandemic to places where they have to eat meals in shared areas and share bathrooms?

    “This tragedy is evidence of the damage caused by the asylum system. Moving people to hotels like this is only causing more stress and isolation. It has to stop.”

    A spokesperson from the No Evictions Network said: “We are deeply saddened and utterly outraged by the lack of humanity, dignity, or consideration shown to asylum seekers by Mears, the Home Office, and the UK government. They have failed to comply with basic duties and to treat human life with respect.

    “Individuals, racist policies and systems are directly to blame for this man’s death. This situation was entirely avoidable. Despite this, pleas for change made by both individuals and organisations have been ignored and a young life has now been lost.”

    At oral evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Home Office work on Covid-19, Mears Group said it had taken the decision “on balance” to move people in flats into hotels with meals provided because it meant staff would not need to deliver cash to them. It was also claimed they would have better access to health services.

    Mears, along with Clearsprings Real Homes and Serco who have accommodation contracts elsewhere in the UK, said it was “concerning” that asylum seekers had had their support stopped.

    A spokesman for Mears Group said: “We are deeply sad to confirm the death of an asylum-seeker who had been in Mears supported accommodation. The cause of death has not been determined.”

    A Police Scotland spokesperson said the death is being treated as “unexplained” and that a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

    The Ferret tried to contact McLay’s Guest House for comment but was not able to speak to management. The Home Office has also been contacted.

    https://theferret.scot/covid-19-syrian-man-dies-asylum-seeker-hotel
    #décès #mort #mourir_dans_un_hôtel #Glasgow #Ecosse #UK #asile #migrations #réfugiés #hôtel #covid-19 #coronavirus #hébergement #logement #santé_mentale #suicide (?) #traumatisme #privatisation

    ping @karine4 @isskein @thomas_lacroix

    • Fury after Syrian asylum seeker found dead in Scottish hotel

      CAMPAIGNERS have slammed the UK Government after a Syrian man was found dead in a Scottish hotel.

      Initially named by friends as Adnan Olpi, that can today be confirmed as Adnan Olbeh.

      The 30-year-old was amongst scores of asylum seekers placed in a private guest house by Home Office housing contractor Mears Group.

      Emergency services were called to the 81-bedroom McLays Hotel in Glasgow on Tuesday afternoon but were unable to save him.

      Police Scotland said his death is being treated as unexplained, and friends told The National that he had sought support for mental health struggles and had developed drug problems while in the UK asylum system.

      However, despite some reports on social media that he had taken his own life, it is not known whether or not his death was intentional.

      Friends living alongside Mr Olbeh at the city site were afraid to speak out on the record, for fear of harming their claims for sanctuary in the UK.

      However, speaking on condition of anonymity, one fellow Syrian told how he had accompanied Mr Olbeh to appointments in which he had asked for mental health support. The friend said: “He had suicidal thoughts and told the Home Office that. I went to the hospital with him, he was seeking help. He tried many times. They would ask, ‘can you wait a few days?’”

      However, it is claimed that the move into the hotel exacerbated Mr Olbeh’s distress due to the inability to carry out basic independent tasks, like cooking his own meals. The friend went on: “I’m in shock. It’s really tough for me because I was so close with him.

      “He was under more pressure. I wonder if there was any small thing I could have done to save him.

      “He had a dream, he wanted his life to become better. He wanted to work and send money back to his family. He wanted to improve himself and he was learning the language. He wanted to get married and start a family.”

      The No Evictions Network held an online vigil yesterday evening. A spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the situation, and utterly outraged by the lack of humanity, dignity or consideration shown to asylum seekers by Mears, the Home Office, and the UK Government.

      “They have failed to comply with basic duties and to treat human life with respect. This situation was entirely avoidable. Despite this, pleas for change made by both individuals and organisations have been ignored. We have lost a young life.”

      It is understood that around 500 asylum seekers in total are now being housed in Glasgow hotels, including some brought in from elsewhere in the UK. Mears Group claims it had to move people out of the short-term let accommodation used for new applicants but has been unable to find new provision due to coronavirus restrictions on the property market.

      Advocacy groups have raised fears about welfare, safety and social distancing but Mears Group insists all movement is being undertaken in accordance with health authority guidance on social distancing.

      Last night, a Mears Group spokesperson said: “We are deeply sad to confirm the death of an asylum seeker who had been in Mears supported accommodation. Mears are working with the Home Office to contact the asylum seeker’s family before disclosing more information.”

      The Home Office said: "We are aware of an incident resulting in an individual sadly losing his life.

      “It would be inappropriate to comment before all of the facts have been established and his family have been notified.”

      https://www.thenational.scot/news/18439256.fury-syrian-asylum-seeker-found-dead-scottish-hotel

    • Syrian man dies in Glasgow amid fears over refugees’ mental health

      Concerns raised over hundreds of asylum seekers moved en masse into hotels for lockdown.

      A Syrian man has been found dead in a Glasgow guesthouse after outreach workers raised significant concerns about the spiralling mental distress of hundreds of asylum seekers who were moved en masse into hotels at the beginning of lockdown.

      The man, who was 30 and had been living in Glasgow for the past six months while he completed his asylum application, was found dead in his room at McLay’s Guest House in the city centre on 5 May. A postmortem will take place to establish the cause of death, but a friend said the man had been experiencing suicidal thoughts for several weeks.

      Last month the Guardian reported that more than 300 asylum seekers housed in the city – the UK’s largest dispersal area – had been given less than an hour’s notice to pack up their flats before being moved into city centre hotels, where they claimed physical distancing was “impossible”. In a move condemned by campaigners, they also had all financial support withdrawn.

      The private housing provider Mears, which is subcontracted by the Home Office, moved them from mainly self-contained apartments into hotels where residents and campaigners describe continuing difficulties with maintaining physical distancing.

      Mears said people were being “safely and appropriately” housed in accordance with health authority guidance, while a Home Office spokesperson said it was “totally incorrect” to suggest that there were problems with physical distancing.
      Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
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      Since then, outreach workers have identified increasing fear, stress and anxiety among this vulnerable population, who have no information about future housing arrangements and no money to top up their phones to continue communication with lawyers, or buy extra food, hand sanitiser or period products for women.

      A friend of the dead man said that since the move into the guesthouse, he had spoken of worsening flashbacks to torture he had experienced on his journey through Libya to the UK.

      Ako Zada, the director of Community InfoSource, an asylum housing charity, has been visiting hotel residents regularly. He said: “I’ve been shocked to see people so mentally unwell. They are worried about cleaning of shared areas, and they don’t know when they will be moving again because they keep getting told different stories.”

      Hotel residents have complained about the quality of food provided, the fact that windows cannot be opened, as well as the psychological isolation. A number of hotel workers have also contacted the Guardian to raise concerns about large numbers of asylum seekers congregating in enclosed areas.

      Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing said the “hotel asylum seekers” were being treated as “less than human”. “Many people, men and women are suffering from severe mental health conditions. The fact that Mears and the Home Office see fit to dump hundreds of people in hotels where there is no social distancing, people cannot keep their personal environment aired or hygienic, and have had their meagre card payment of £35 a week cut to £0 deserves further investigation.”

      Sabir Zazai, the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This tragic death must be a chilling reminder of the chronic vulnerabilities of those going through the complexities of the asylum system.”

      A Mears spokesperson said: “We are deeply sad to confirm the death of an asylum – seeker who had been in Mears-supported accommodation. Mears are working with the Home Office to contact the asylum seeker’s family before disclosing more information.”

      A home office spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident resulting in an individual sadly losing his life. It would be inappropriate to comment before all of the facts have been established and his family have been notified.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/11/syrian-man-dies-glasgow-fears-refugees-mental-health

    • Mears Group 2020 update: scandal-ridden landlord under fire from Glasgow to Gloucester

      At the start of 2019 we published a profile on Mears Group. The #Gloucester based housing repairs outsourcer had just won a £1.15 billion contract to run the refugee accommodation system in Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of the north of England.

      In the last year, refugee and housing campaigners have been keeping a close eye on Mears, with local resistance to its slum landlord practices emerging across the UK. This report just gives a quick update on some recent news on the company.

      Unless you live in one of the properties it manages, you may well not have heard of Mears. But it has quietly built up a small empire across the UK, primarily by taking over privatised housing services from local councils. Along the way it’s already clocked up a list of scandals from Glasgow down to Brighton, involving accusations of local government corruption and numerous alleged overcharging scams.

      The death of Adnan Olbeh

      Adnan Olbeh was found dead on 5 May 2020 in a Glasgow hotel where he had been placed by Mears Group under its management of the UK’s “asylum dispersal” scheme. He was 30 years old, from Syria. The cause of death is unclear, with any postmortem examination delayed by the corona crisis.

      What is known is that Adnan was one of hundreds of refugees recently evicted from their flats by Mears and other asylum landlords.

      The mass evictions were part of the Home Office’s coronavirus strategy. Often with just an hour’s notice, people were told to pack and leave their flats and moved into hotels. The logic behind this is not entirely clear, but it seems in line with other aspects of the government’s shambolic covid-19 response. “Social distancing” measures included people being transported four or five to a small van, stripped of cash support and facilities to cook for themselves, and instead being made to eat close together in hotel canteens — with food including the likes of undercooked chicken and mouldy bread.

      According to Smina Akhtar, interviewed by John Grayson for the Institute for Race Relations:

      “We have had lots of reports from people in the hotels about really awful food and poor conditions there. Adnan’s friend told me that his mental health really deteriorated in the hotel. A week before he died his friend asked the hotel to call an emergency ambulance because Adnan was in a terrible state. His friend went with him to the hospital but said that the staff there did nothing, they offered him no medication, and sent him back to his hotel.”

      According to Mears, in evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs select committee, it was acting on a directive from the Home Office.

      Mears’ Home Office contracts so far

      Adnan Olbeh’s death is one visible tragedy linked to the misery of the UK asylum system. Thousands more people live with the everyday effects of a housing system which “disperses” people into run-down slum housing in the country’s most impoverished communities.

      For Mears, this means a ten year profit stream. For Mears’ new tenants – rat infestations, broken boilers, collapsed ceilings, piles of rubbish, and environmental hazards of all kinds seem the norm.

      John Grayson of South Yorkshire Asylum Action Group (Symaag) has been documenting the “chaotic” and “failed” Mears contract in Yorkshire. In the past he reported on similar conditions under the last contract holder, G4S.

      So have Mears even managed to underperform the shambles of G4S’ housing management? It’s maybe too early to make a full comparison. But it doesn’t look like things have got off to a good start.

      G4S and others had complained bitterly about making losses on the former round of asylum housing contracts. To drive profits up, Mears started their own tenure by trying to slash the amounts they pay to the smaller landlords they rent from. In South Yorkshire, Mears offered landlords new contracts paying up to 20% less than G4S had done. Many refused to sign up in what John Grayson calls a “virtual landlords strike” which left Mears struggling to place the asylum seekers it was contracted to house.

      In the North East, Mears had similar problems negotiating with G4S’ main sub-contractor Jomast – development company headed by Teesside multi-millionaire Stuart Monk. According to Grayson, this left over 1000 people stuck in hotels across West Yorkshire and Humberside in Wakefield’s “Urban House” temporary asylum accommodation over the winter. And, as he explained to us, the problem is by no means solved.

      “When Covid-19 arrived the whole asylum housing system was frozen in the Mears contract areas with around 400 people still in hotels and 270 in Urban House. Many people have now spent four months in Urban House, when they are only meant to stay there a few weeks. Urban House has appalling conditions which have been extensively documented in pictures and videos sent out from people resisting inside.”

      One thing Mears has achieved in Yorkshire is provoking a major local authority to come out against the contract. In January, as well as launching inspections of 240 Mears properties, Sheffield Council called on the Home Office to terminate the Mears contract and transfer asylum housing in the city directly to the council. This is only really a token gesture – the council has no say in national asylum policy. But it could be one move in a shift against the outsourced asylum housing system, if followed up elsewhere in the country.

      In Scotland, there is a strong solidarity network in support of refugee housing rights – including the Glasgow No Evictions campaign and groups such as the Unity Centre, Living Rent tenants union, and charity Positive Action in Housing. The main rallying point in 2019 was previous contractor Serco’s threatened “lock change evictions” of 300 of its tenants. Well aware of the opposition, Mears has so far tried to tread more carefully. It has promised not to carry out similar evictions, and set up a so-called “independent scrutiny board” to deflect criticism.

      In the North of Ireland, the PPR Project is one association monitoring and exposing conditions in Mears’ housing there.

      Milton Keynes mystery

      Before it turned asylum landlord, Mears’ big profit hope was getting more involved in the very lucrative business of housing development. One of its potential jackpots was a 50/50 joint venture with Milton Keynes council to redevelop seven major estates. The deal was valued at £1 billion, and branded as “YourMK”.

      But as of last year, the scheme was dead in the water. In July 2018, the council said it was putting the regeneration deal “on hold”. In October 2018, whistleblower allegations emerged that Mears had been overcharging Milton Keynes for repairs by up to £80,000 a month, with overall some £15 million “unaccounted for”. When we looked at Mears last February, the YourMK website had gone dead, with a page announcing that further information would be coming soon.

      The MK scandal still seems to be quietly brewing. In July 2019, the MK Citizen reported first of all that the regeneration scheme was definitively “scrapped”. But a couple of weeks later a second Citizen report corrected that YourMK was “not dead but dormant”, with the council and Mears “in discussions about whether it will remain the right partnership structure in future”.

      In May 2020, we haven’t seen any new announcements. The YourMK website is still down, and there is no official word on that supposedly missing 15 million. Where are the budding investigative journalists of Milton Keynes to get to the bottom of this?

      Booted out of Brighton

      Mears’ ten year housing maintenance contract with Brighton and Hove council finally came to an end on 31 May. Again, customer complaints came together with whistleblower revelations – and, yet again, the apparent disappearance of large sums of money.

      A council investigation found it had been overcharged by £500,000 by a plastering subcontractor hired by Mears. A second investigation was later opened into overcharging for electrical work.

      Mears will not be missed in #Brighton. And just before they left, in February 2020 their workers were balloting for strike action over pay and Mears’ plan to combine holiday and sick pay.

      Newham: Mears Cats

      In East London, Mears run 250 homes which are set for demolition as part of Newham Council’s “Regeneration Zone” in Canning Town and Custom House, E16.

      Like Milton Keynes, this is another overlong saga of a failing regeneration project leaving people stuck in poor housing. Back in 2011, Newham handed the properties to a private management company called Omega to let out on short term commercial tenancies. This was supposed to be a “temporary” arrangement before the bulldozers came in. Mears bought out the contract in 2014, and six years later are still in place. While the buildings are still owned by the council, Mears collect the rent and do the repairs – in theory.

      In reality, Custom House tenants speak of conditions that would be very familiar to anyone in Mears’ asylum accommodation in Sheffield or Glasgow. Months overdue repairs, water leaks, exposed asbestos, rat infestations and a “war” to get anything done – all whilst paying average rents twice as high as in directly run Newham council properties.

      Tenants have set up a vocal campaign group called Mears Cats, part of the Peoples Empowerment Alliance of Custom House, pushing to get their repairs done and for Newham Council to take direct responsibility. Boglarka Filler, one of the Mears Cats, told Corporate Watch:

      “Schemes such as the partnership between Mears and Newham Council have brought further misery to people already on the receiving end of austerity and insecure employment. Mears Cats are campaigning for better quality, cheaper housing for Mears tenants struggling to cope with disrepair and debts caused by high rents. We will take action to ensure that the Mears contract will not be renewed in Newham when it runs out in 2021, and that we get a fair deal next time.”

      Steady profits, feisty shareholders

      On a business front, Mears continues to turn a decent profit and pay out to its shareholders. Its last year (2018) annual results clocked operating profits up 4.7% (though revenue was 3% down), and shareholders pocketed a dividend up 3% on the year before.

      Mears has kept up its strategy of honing in on its “core” housing maintenance business. After buying up Mitie’s property division last year, it sold off its own home care wing.

      Most recently, Mears has said that it only expects a modest impact from the covid crisis. Housing is what is called “non-discretionary” spending – unlike foreign holidays or consumer fads, there is still demand for essential repairs in a downturn. The bulk of Mears’ income is locked in from long term contracts, largely with the public sector. As the company explained, 90% of its order book comes from public bodies and “the government has made a clear commitment that invoices will be settled quickly”.

      Through the lockdown, Mears has said it is only carrying out only emergency repairs. Although workers complain they are still being sent on unnecessary jobs without “social distancing” in place, or called in just to sit in company offices.

      Less positive for management, there are new rumbles from rebellious shareholders. Back in 2018 one of the two biggest shareholders, a German investment manager called Shareholder Value Management (SVM) successfully pushed out the company’s long-term chairman. At the latest AGM in June 2019, the other big investor also threw its weight around.

      PrimeStone Capital, a Mayfair based investor which owns over 13% of Mears’ shares, tried to get two new nominees on the board of directors against management’s wishes. The shareholder rebellion was narrowly defeated. In a statement, PrimeStone explained it was unhappy that “the company’s revenues and profit have remained flat despite its strong market position and growth prospects [while] average net debt has doubled”.

      It argued that:

      “Mears’ underperformance is predominantly due to a lack of strategic, commercial and financial experience on the board. The current board has a strong concentration of directors with a background in social housing, health & safety and charities.”

      Mears’ profit-hungry management guarantee shareholder payoffs by squeezing their repair costs to the bone. The outcome is the lived experience of their tenants across the UK. But, for some shareholders, they’re still not doing enough.

      Students and shirts

      Despite its well documented failings, Mears continues to win new contracts – for example, a new housing development project in North Lanarkshire, and a housing maintenance and repairs contract with Crawley council.

      Another sideline is its student housing offshoot Mears Student Life, so far with just two complexes in Dundee and Salford.

      Mears also likes a bit of football. In May 2019 the League One side Rotherham United confirmed it had extended its contract to emblazon the company’s classy red and black logo on its away kits for the 2019/20 season.

      Flowers left for Adnan Olbeh

      https://corporatewatch.org/mears-group-2020-update-scandal-ridden-landlord-under-fire-from-glas

    • From Sudan to the #Park_Inn: the tragic story of a migrant’s killing

      A mass stabbing in Glasgow in June revealed the plight of asylum seekers crammed into hotels during lockdown

      On the last Friday of June, at about midday, Badreddin Abadlla Adam left his room at the Park Inn hotel in Glasgow, walked down to reception, and stabbed six people. The 28-year-old, an asylum seeker from Sudan who had been placed in the hotel as part of the UK government’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic, stabbed and seriously injured three other residents, two staff members and a policeman who arrived on the scene. Adam was shot dead by armed officers shortly afterwards.

      The incident, which took place as Scotland was still under stringent lockdown, was initially reported by some media outlets as a potential terrorist attack, although police later dismissed this explanation. It was immediately seized on by rightwing activists, to claim that the country was threatened by an influx of “illegal” immigrants.

      Instead, the Park Inn incident has highlighted the increasingly precarious situation of people who seek a safe haven in the UK, even as the government proposes more severe measures to deter them. Adam is one of three asylum seekers who have died in Glasgow since the start of the pandemic, a series of events that has shocked the city, and left campaigners and politicians calling for a public inquiry.

      At the end of March, B, a 30-year-old Syrian who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity, was one of several hundred asylum seekers in Glasgow who unexpectedly received a knock on the door. He had been sent to Scotland’s largest city after arriving in the UK the previous autumn. Glasgow hosts about 10% of the 35,000 people who claim asylum in the UK each year, under a policy known as dispersal. Like other recent arrivals, B was living in his own small apartment; a two-room space in a hostel. He had his own bathroom, and he had privacy.

      At the door, however, was an employee of Mears Group, the Home Office contractor that manages asylum accommodation in Glasgow. “They said, ‘you need to get ready,’” B told the Observer, “‘you’re being moved to a hotel because of coronavirus.’” Across the city, hundreds of others were receiving the same call, as Mears abruptly moved about 350 asylum seekers – for the most part, recent arrivals who were living in temporary accommodation – into six hotels. Parliament heard in June that many received little or no notice, and that among them were pregnant women and survivors of trafficking and torture.

      In theory, this was a decision taken to ensure people’s safety during the pandemic. But, B said, when he arrived at his new accommodation, a bed and breakfast in the city centre, he found a “horrible situation”. More than 100 people had suddenly been thrust into communal living, sharing washing facilities and queueing for meals. Before, most had been receiving the standard asylum support payment of £37.50 a week, but because food was being provided, this was halted by the Home Office.

      “We didn’t have freedom,” B said. “We had no money, we couldn’t choose when to eat or what to eat, and nobody could tell us how long we would be there.” B was also concerned that social distancing was more difficult than in his previous home.

      Throughout April, the hotel population grew to more than 500 as asylum seekers continued to be sent to Glasgow. J, a young Iranian who arrived in the city that month, told the Observer – also on condition of anonymity – that while at first he found it a relief to be somewhere safe after a “painful” journey to the UK, the accommodation soon came to feel like a “stylish prison”. Both interviewees said that food sometimes arrived undercooked, and that this led to protests by residents.

      “We had so many people ask us, ‘when will this change?’” said Selina Hales, director of Refuweegee, one of several local charities that provided additional food parcels to hotel residents. “People were in a totally controlled environment and one of the main frustrations was the isolation.” A spokesperson for Mears told the Observer that meals were in line with NHS nutrition guidelines, and rated “good” in a survey of residents. They added that there were no recorded cases of Covid-19 in hotels during lockdown.

      According to the two asylum seekers, however, the fear and uncertainty prompted by this new situation began to take its toll on people’s mental health; B said that some of his friends were reminded of their experiences of being detained, either in the countries they had fled or on their journeys to the UK. “You could see people starting to unravel,” said Jack Macleod, 21, who worked for several months serving food to residents of the six hotels. Housing and welfare managers, employed by Mears, were available on site, but according to Macleod, many asylum seekers he spoke to felt abandoned.

      “People would come and talk to me,” said Macleod, “they would say ‘this place is making me really depressed’. The only thing I could say, because I’m not a counsellor, is ‘just try and hold on’.” Eventually, Macleod said, he left the job – a minimum-wage role he applied for via an agency when he lost his previous job at the start of the pandemic – because he felt he was being forced into the role of ad hoc social worker.

      Many asylum seekers suffer abuse before they reach the UK, and the Observer spoke to several people who work with refugees in Glasgow who described how the hotel conditions exacerbated some people’s existing psychological trauma. “We got used to hearing people express suicidal thoughts,” said Dylan Fotoohi, a Glasgow-based activist who helped organise food distribution during lockdown, and has since co-founded the campaign group Refugees for Justice. The spokesperson for Mears said all residents had access to mental health support through a dedicated NHS team. During lockdown, however, this team was stretched as members were seconded to hospital coronavirus wards.

      On 5 May, Adnan Olbeh, a 30-year-old Syrian, was found dead in his room at McLays guest house, one of the six hotels. According to friends, Olbeh had been detained and tortured in Libya, on his journey to Europe, and was complaining of flashbacks. In response, the Scottish Refugee Council – the country’s leading refugee charity – sent a letter to the UK home secretary asking for urgent action to “lessen the risk of further tragedies” in the hotels. There was no reply. The Observer has seen a copy of this letter, dated 14 May, but a spokesperson for the Home Office said they did not receive it.

      It was not until the stabbings in June – six weeks after Olbeh’s death – that some people began to be moved out of the hotels: the Park Inn was evacuated soon after the incident, and many of the residents were later rehoused in apartments. But why did the Home Office and its contractor find it necessary to put so many there in the first place? In public statements, Mears has said that it was partly for health and safety reasons: housing people together reduced the number of trips across Glasgow that staff had to make during lockdown, and made it easier for health workers to visit asylum seekers.

      Another possible reason is that it was running out of places to house people. Since 2012, asylum accommodation has been outsourced to a set of private contractors, but the system has been beset with problems: a report by the National Audit Office in July found that “providers had struggled to establish their supply chains, resulting in poor performance, delays and additional costs”.

      One particular pressure point is in the provision of what’s known as “initial accommodation” – the temporary housing that people who have no means to support themselves are placed in when they arrive in the UK. Mears, one of the UK’s largest private social housing providers, took over the contract that covers Glasgow in September last year, from the outsourcing giant Serco. Within weeks, it was facing a shortage of accommodation.

      In response, the company began renting serviced apartments – short-term lets, normally used by tourists and visitors to the city – on the open market. On 22 April, a spokesperson for Mears Group told the Scottish news website the Ferret that it had been using these short-term lets, and that it had been forced to move people into hotels because of “restrictions on the property market” brought by the pandemic.

      The spokesperson stressed that this decision was taken to ensure the “safety and wellbeing” of the asylum seekers, but was such a move really in people’s best interests? A condition of the Home Office housing contract is that providers must be “proactive” in identifying the needs of vulnerable people in their care – yet Mears’s account of whether it carried out adequate checks before moving people into hotels has been inconsistent.

      During the summer, parliament’s home affairs committee held hearings on the UK government’s response to the pandemic. In written evidence supplied to the committee on 10 June, Mears Group stated that it “risk assessed which service users it was appropriate to move, taking into account health advice”. At a press conference on 25 June, however, the company’s chief operating officer John Taylor described the move as a “blanket decision”. Once people were in hotels, he said, “it became obvious that there were vulnerabilities and that the hotel setting isn’t appropriate for some people”. The company then backtracked a few hours later, saying it held “discussions” with asylum seekers prior to deciding whether to move them. The Home Office also says that Mears held a meeting with each person before deciding whether or not to move them.

      In its report, published on 28 July, the home affairs committee advised that asylum seekers “should not have been moved to new accommodation during the pandemic without justified and urgent reasons for doing so, or without a vulnerability assessment demonstrating that the move could be made safely”. A spokesperson for the Home Office told the Observer that the department was conducting an evaluation of asylum accommodation and support services in Glasgow during the pandemic. On 24 August, however, Glasgow’s seven MPs walked out of a meeting with the Home Office, in protest at what they said was a refusal to commit to publish the evaluation, or share its results with them. In an open letter, the MPs stressed their dismay and anger at the “mistreatment” of people who were “unceremoniously shunted, at very short notice, from safe, secure serviced accommodation into hotel rooms, for an indefinite period, with no money and no control”.

      Within hours of the stabbings at the Park Inn, the incident attracted the attention of rightwing activists. “Horrible tragedy in a Glasgow hotel housing illegal immigrants,” tweeted the Brexit party leader Nigel Farage. “All over the UK, hotels are filling up with young men who are coming across the Channel every day. It is a massive risk to our wellbeing.”

      Farage’s comments were immediately condemned by a range of politicians, including Scotland’s justice minister. But throughout the pandemic, Farage has used his platform to encourage a sense of crisis around asylum, describing the recent rise in boat journeys across the Channel as an “invasion” and publishing short films on social media in which he claims to “investigate” the use of hotels across the country to house migrants. Members of the fascist group Britain First have also tried to exploit the issue, forcing their way into several hotels in England, confronting and intimidating residents on camera.

      All this, combined with the government’s own tough talk on migration, gives the impression that the UK is experiencing an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers. Yet although there was a slight increase in asylum claims last year, they fell sharply in the first six months of 2020. While more than 2,000 people crossed the Channel in boats during this period – a phenomenon that has dominated the headlines – arrivals by other routes dropped from 8,455 to 4,850, according to the head of UK Visas and Immigration.

      Rather, the increased use of hotels is due to a combination of the pandemic and a housing system that was already struggling to cope. While many hotels were hired by local authorities and government housing contractors during lockdown – both for asylum seekers who had nowhere else to live, and rough sleepers, some of whom may also come from migrant backgrounds – their use as temporary asylum accommodation was already on the rise. According to a recent briefing by the House of Commons library, shortly before lockdown, about 1,200 asylum seekers were being housed in “contingency accommodation” such as hotels or short-term lets, because of shortages.

      At the same time, delays in processing asylum claims – which mean people spend more time in state-provided housing, putting further pressure on space – have soared: about 40,000 people currently wait more than six months for a decision on their claim, an increase of 75% compared with a year ago. In an attempt to deal with the backlog, the Home Office is now considering outsourcing the asylum interview process to private contractors. Today, about 9,500 asylum-seekers are being housed in 91 hotels across the UK. The government has also modified several disused military barracks to accommodate new arrivals, in conditions exposed in the Observer last week as “squalid”. A Home Office spokesperson said that the use of former military sites “will ease our reliance on hotels and save the taxpayer money”.

      Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, is worried that the use of mass accommodation will become the norm. “We are deeply concerned about this shift in asylum housing policy,” he said. “People have come here for protection, and need to be supported to rebuild their lives, not pushed to the margins.”

      Alison Phipps, a professor at the University of Glasgow and an expert in refugee integration, shares Zazai’s concerns. “People are arriving from situations where they’ve lived in fear,” she said, “and the question should be, how do you put people as quickly as possible in a situation where they can live in safety and be able to integrate? You can’t do that when you put people in managed facilities that are separate from the population. It’s not far from a prison regime.”

      In Glasgow, several hundred people are still being housed in three city hotels, which Mears has said will continue until at least the beginning of next year. Some residents have now been there for more than five months. “Hotels are never a long-term solution,” the company acknowledged, explaining that it is still having difficulty finding alternative accommodation in the city. The hardship asylum seekers face was emphasised once again in August, when Mercy Baguma, 34, from Uganda, was found dead at home next to her severely malnourished child. The circumstances of her death are still unclear – Baguma was reportedly seeking asylum, although she was not being housed in one of the hotels – but on 20 September, Glasgow’s MPs called for a public inquiry into all three deaths.

      “We take the wellbeing of everyone in the asylum system extremely seriously,” said the Home Office spokesperson. “These deaths are deeply tragic and our thoughts are with the families of these individuals.”

      Currently, Scotland’s police complaints body is conducting an investigation into the use of firearms at the Park Inn. But this will not examine what caused Badreddin Abadlla Adam to attack people, or whether his actions could have been prevented. At the Park Inn, he was quiet and withdrawn until the night before the stabbings, when he threatened his neighbour for playing music too loudly. “He never came to anybody’s attention,” one witness told the Daily Record, explaining that Adam had become so frustrated at his situation that he’d asked to be allowed to return to Sudan. Residents of the Park Inn, several of whom were left traumatised by the attack, were offered counselling by Mears after being moved; a group of them handed a thank-you card to police officers a few days later.

      An inquiry, said Phipps, would be “about justice”. “The people of Glasgow, just like the people who were seriously injured in the attacks, and the hotel staff whose lives have changed radically over the last few months, deserve to know why it was that people were hothoused in this way, and why people are still living in accommodation that they have repeatedly said is bad for them.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/18/from-sudan-to-the-park-inn-the-tragic-story-of-a-migrants-killing

  • UNIS cancels all courses in 2020

    The management at UNIS has carried out a thorough analysis of what “new” normal situation we can aim for this fall. An important element of this analysis has been safety. UNIS will make every effort to ensure that those already present at the institution can be here with minimal risk of Covid-19 infection. UNIS’s corporate social responsibility is also emphasized in this context.

    The management has therefore decided that no ordinary admission to any scheduled courses for summer and autumn 2020 will be conducted. In other words, these courses are cancelled. The main emphasis for the remainder of 2020 will be to attend to the students and staff already at UNIS today, as well as the admission of a small number of individual students (guest master- and guest PhD students) who may come to Svalbard and perform fieldwork for their theses in a safe manner.

    The risk of Covid-19 infection is kept at such a low level that it is likely that we can keep UNIS open throughout the fall semester. This will enable us to continue our research activities and mentoring graduate and post-graduate individual students who are developing a research career at UNIS, as well as carrying out important development tasks at the institution.

    UNIS manages a portfolio of research projects of about NOK 40 million in 2020. We will do our very best to ensure progress on our research deliveries. The same applies to securing long time series with observations for monitoring climate, environment and natural hazards. This must be done within infection protection measures at any given time.

    We will strengthen our HSE work with a health care worker in a one-year temporary position to ensure training in – and compliance with – infection protection measures, and to provide training and follow-up for staff and students. As long as we have no Covid-19 infection on the island, the room for manoeuvre is greater than what we utilize today. Opportunities for switching between home office and work office in the Svalbard Science Centre will be assessed on an ongoing basis. This assessment becomes possible with a professional health worker at the institution.

    Despite these challenging times, UNIS will continue to contribute to important education in -and research on – Arctic conditions in the year ahead. And we will continue to contribute to the social development of Longyearbyen and Svalbard in line with the overall goals of Norwegian Svalbard policy. Among other things, we will further develop the Arctic Safety Centre so that we can offer relevant education in Arctic safety, practical courses for the local business community and be a competence centre for the local community in Longyearbyen.

    And when we have put behind us all the challenges we now face, we have all become effective users of digital meeting places, which will save a great deal of time and improve the quality of life for busy families and contribute to a better climate with less travel activity.


    https://www.unis.no/unis-cancels-all-courses-in-2020
    #septembre_2020 #rentrée_2020 #rentrée_universitaire #coronavirus #covid-19 #université #Norvège

    • Cambridge University moves all lectures online until summer 2021

      Institution first to announce virtual teaching for next academic year.

      https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1db0d69bd86163f5b01f53c52c99135281479521/0_8_3500_2101/master/3500.jpg?width=605&quality=45&auto=format&fit=max&dpr=2&s=23e323cfc52f4f17

      Cambridge has become the first university to set out measures for the full 2020-21 academic year, announcing that it will move all “face-to-face lectures” online for the duration. The institution added that it was “likely” social distancing would continue to be required.

      The university said lectures would continue virtually until summer 2021, while it may be possible for smaller teaching groups to take place in person if it “conforms to social-distancing requirements”.

      A spokesman said: “The university is constantly adapting to changing advice as it emerges during this pandemic. Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the university has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year.

      “Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social-distancing requirements. This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning, but as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus.”

      All teaching at the university was moved online in March. Exams are being carried out virtually.

      It comes after the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator, urged universities not to promises students that everything will return to normal in the autumn term if this is not the case.

      Addressing a virtual education select committee on Monday, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive at the OfS, said students should be told what kind of experience they will receive in advance of accepting offers.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/19/cambridge-university-moves-all-lectures-online-until-summer-2021

      #Cambridge #UK #Angleterre

    • A #Cambridge, la didattica a distanza sarà pratica consueta fino al 2021

      A partire dal lockdown, il dibattito sulla didattica online è diventato un argomento bollente, specie se, anche da Oltremanica, arriva una notizia che fa chiacchierare tutto l’Internet e preoccupare gli studenti: l’Università di Cambridge proseguirà i corsi a distanza fino al 2021.

      Insieme a Oxford, Cambridge si piazza in cima alla classifica degli istituti scolastici più prestigiosi e ambiti d’Inghilterra, ma al momento si leva una preoccupazione comune a tutti gli studenti: «come faremo a restare al passo con i corsi?» L’Università risponde che, con gli assembramenti banditi, per non avvantaggiare la trasmissione del virus, la didattica online è la sola risposta per incontrarsi (virtualmente) a tu per tu con compagni di classe e professori. I dubbi, però, restano. Migliaia di giovani si chiedono cosa ne sarà della loro formazione, delle prospettive di carriera, che, soprattutto nel Regno Unito, sono legate ai risultati accademici, alle presentazioni a braccio in auditorium e ai lavori di gruppo.

      L’ateneo non cede e invia una mail all’intero corpo studenti: «Poiché è altamente probabile che un rigido distanziamento sociale sarà richiesto per tutto il prossimo anno accademico, per il 2020 e 2021 non ci saranno lezioni faccia a faccia». Arene online dai sedili vuoti, insieme a tutorial e talk di professori soli e in diretta streaming proseguiranno da schermo a schermo. Sopravvivono le lezioni individuali, che peraltro sono fra i motivi che incoronano Cambridge e Oxford fra gli atenei più rinomati del sapere internazionale: solo due studenti in un’aula desolata, di fronte a un professore alla giusta distanza, si potranno incontrare. Tutto il resto viaggerà attraverso il web.

      «Cambridge è il primo ateneo inglese ad adottare una misura così drastica. Nei giorni scorsi sia l’università di Manchester che Anglia Ruskin avevano annunciato che avrebbero spostato le lezioni online, ma solo nel primo term (da ottobre a dicembre): e si tratta di istituzioni che non hanno il prestigio di Cambridge e che comunque assicureranno il normale svolgimento dei seminari (che nelle università inglesi coprono il 50 per cento dei corsi e coinvolgono non più di 10-15 studenti per volta)» - riporta il Corriere della Sera. Anche le altre università del Regno seguiranno Cambridge? Intanto gli studenti iniziano a chiedere il rimborso delle rette, che Oltremanica ammontano a una media di circa 10.500 euro all’anno fino a toccare picchi di 20mila.

      Questa decisione attraversa la Manica e raggiunge la terra ferma d’Europa. In Italia si discute tantissimo del ritorno in classe, dalle scuole primarie alle Università, l’argomento è caldissimo e la voce si spacca in due fazioni: quella dei genitori, che si schiera dalla parte della riapertura, a confronto con quella del Governo, che invece resta irremovibile sull’idea di sfruttare la tecnologia fino a contr’ordine. Così il dibattito sulla didattica online scalda gli animi - tant’è che Nottetempo ha già pubblicato l’ebook di Federico Bertoni Insegnare (e vivere) ai tempi del virus - lanciando discussioni di carattere sociale e psicologico, discussioni sull’uguaglianza e sulla possibilità di «esserci» - stavolta non online, ma all’interno della società in una più ampia prospettiva di crescita formativa.

      https://www.elledecor.com/it/lifestyle/a32613312/didattica-online-cambridge-university

  • Home Office releases 300 from detention centres amid Covid-19 pandemic

    Release follows legal action that argues Home Office is failing to protect immigration detainees.

    The Home Office has released almost 300 people from detention centres in the last few days because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

    The speed and scale of the release is unprecedented in recent years. Detainees and charities estimate that more than a quarter of those currently locked up have been set free.

    The release comes in the wake of a legal action launched last week which argued that the Home Office had failed to protect immigration detainees from the coronavirus outbreak and failed to identify which detainees were at particular risk of serious harm or death if they do contract the virus due to their age or underlying health conditions.

    It called for the release of all those who are particularly vulnerable and for all detainees to be tested, along with the suspension of all new detentions. The action warns even a short delay could have “catastrophic consequences”.
    Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
    Read more

    It is believed that more than 900 people are currently in immigration detention.

    The Home Office provided a response to the legal action to the high court out of hours on Friday. After receiving the Home Office submissions, Mr Justice Swift made an order on Friday night that a half-day hearing should be held next Wednesday to determine whether or not to grant the emergency measures requested in the legal challenge by the charity Detention Action and a vulnerable detainee who suffers from hypertension, which experts say doubles the risk of death if Covid-19 is contracted.

    As part of the legal action, the public health expert Prof Richard Coker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has provided an expert report warning that prisons and detention centres provide ideal incubation conditions for the rapid spread of the coronavirus, and that about 60% of those in detention could be rapidly infected if the virus gets into detention centres.

    Coker’s report was commissioned by Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who have embarked on what is thought to be the first legal action against the government relating to the coronavirus outbreak.

    The UK government issued guidance stating that if there was a significant outbreak of Covid-19, “cohorting” should be used to put all those infected together behind locked doors in prisons, detention centres, young offender institutions and secure units.

    Many of those in detention have arrived from high-risk countries such as Iran, China and Italy. Some are forced to share rooms, and a “lock-in” regime prevents many from leaving their cells during the night.

    Emma Ginn, director of the detention charity Medical Justice, said that those still in detention were scared of contracting the virus.

    “We are getting harrowing calls from seriously ill clients describing their fear of the virus spreading in the centres and feeling powerless in response. The distress in their voices is palpable and there is little we can do to console them,” she said.

    Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said:”Our landmark legal challenge has already forced a response from the home secretary. We are delighted the high court has now ordered a hearing for next week and we’ll be pressing for a robust review of all detentions. In the midst of a global pandemic, administrative detention puts those interned in grave danger. And maintaining detention when the evidence from Prof Coker is that detention centres act as ‘epidemiological pumps’ puts us all at unnecessary risk.”

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “Immigration enforcement is responding to the unique circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak and following the latest guidance from Public Health England. This includes providing soap and cleaning materials to all detainees. Decisions to detain are made on a case-by-case basis and kept under constant review, but our priority is to maintain the lawful detention of the most high-harm individuals, including foreign national offenders’’

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/21/home-office-releases-300-from-detention-centres-amid-covid-19-pandemic?

    #détention_administrative #rétention #UK #Angleterre #asile #migrations #réfugiés #coronavirus #centres_de_rétention_administrative

    • High court rejects call to free 736 detainees at risk from coronavirus

      Judges say Home Office has addressed dangers in immigration detention centres.

      The high court has rejected calls to free hundreds of immigration detainees who, lawyers and human rights activists say, are at risk from Covid-19 while behind bars.

      The ruling, following a hearing over Skype on Wednesday, was handed down in response to an urgent legal challenge from Detention Action.

      The legal action asked for the release of hundreds of detainees who are particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death if they contract the virus because of particular health conditions, and also for the release of those from about 50 countries to which the Home Office is currently unable to remove people because of the pandemic.

      The two judges – Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench division, and Mr Justice Swift – came down strongly on the side of the Home Office and highlighted the range of measures already being implemented by the home secretary, Priti Patel.

      These included the release of more than 300 detainees last week, ongoing assessments of the vulnerability of individual detainees to the virusand a range of “sensible” and “practical” steps the Home Office is taking to make detention centres safer, such as single occupancy rooms and the provision of face masks for detainees who wish to wear them.

      “It seems likely that the arrangements already in place by the secretary of state will be sufficient to address the risks arising in the majority of cases,” the judges said, adding that “the present circumstances are exceptional”.

      The court hearing on Wednesday heard that 736 people are still being detained in the UK, while 350 have been released in recent days. It was also confirmed that detainees in three detention centres have displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

      The Home Office previously confirmed to the Guardian one case of Covid-19 on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire, which mainly houses women.
      Million undocumented migrants could go hungry, say charities
      Read more

      The court heard that in a second centre - Brook House, near Gatwick airport - one detainee who had displayed symptoms was reportedly serving food to other detainees just before he fell ill.

      Chris Buttler, representing Detention Action and also representing a detainee who lawyers say is at greater risk from Covid-19 because he suffers from high blood pressure, told the court that expert evidence suggests the virus “will run rampant” through detention facilities.

      He argued that the home secretary was acting unlawfully and falsely imprisoning many detainees because removals are no longer possible to 49 countries and it is difficult to remove people to many others.

      He said that the Home Office was a “glaring exception” to the government’s moves to suppress Covid-19 and that leaving people in detention would further burden the already overstretched NHS when they get sick.

      “The home secretary is arguably falsely imprisoning some clients who there is no realistic risk of removing,” Buttler told the court.

      Lisa Giovannetti QC, representing the Home Office, told the court: “Government accepts all reasonable steps should be taken to shield people in high-risk categories and we have been proceeding on that basis. I can’t claim the system is perfect but it’s a reasonable one.”

      She said reviews to identify the most vulnerable detainees were under way and this process is due to be completed imminently, adding that numbers in immigration detention have fallen substantially from 1,200 in January to 736 now.

      As part of Detention Action’s case, the public health expert Prof Richard Coker, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, provided an expert report warning that prisons and detention centres provide ideal incubation conditions for the rapid spread of the coronavirus, and that about 60% of those in detention could be rapidly infected if the virus gets into these locked facilities.
      Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
      Read more

      Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who brought the case, said: “This litigation has brought about the release of hundreds of detainees, preventing many from suffering serious harm.

      “Hundreds more remain in detention in terrible conditions. Though we are disappointed with the ruling today, this action has clearly focused the minds at the Home Office on vulnerable individuals they usually wilfully neglect.”

      Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: “While the high court declined to grant our interim relief tonight, our litigation has already forced major and rapid concessions from the government: 350 people released from detention in the past week; an undertaking to proactively review the detention of all those held under immigration powers according to updated guidance and with a view to further significant releases; and a very strong presumption against any new detentions for people facing removal to around 50 countries.

      “The government has also been forced to issue new guidance on hygiene standards in detention and to accept that detention poses high risks to those with Covid-19-relevant underlying health conditions.

      “We will monitor the implementation of all these guarantees and continue to hold the government to account.”

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome the court’s decision. Immigration Enforcement is responding to the unique circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak and following the latest guidance from Public Health England. The safety of detainees and staff is of vital importance.

      “Decisions to detain are made on a case-by-case basis and kept under constant review, but our priority is to maintain the lawful detention of the most high-harm individuals, including foreign national offenders.’’

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/26/high-court-rejects-call-to-free-736-detainees-at-risk-from-coronavirus?

    • Immigration detention

      The Home Office has already released around 350 people from immigration detention. But a senior official told the Home Affairs committee of MPs on 18 March:

      there is no plan to have a wholesale systematic release from our immigration removal centres.

      An urgent legal challenge by the charity Detention Action aimed at securing the release of all immigration detainees was rejected by the High Court on 25 March. The charity says that the Home Office has made various commitments to safeguard the wellbeing of detainees:

      Enhanced screening, identification and monitoring of those at risk or showing symptoms of Covid-19, particularly for this with underlying health conditions.
      Ensuring that persons at increased risk from Covid-19, and persons who are symptomatic, are provided with facilities to self-isolate in single-occupancy rooms and are provided with individualised care plans
      A review of cleaning practices within detention centres to ensure compliance with Public Health England guidance
      Provision of anti-bacterial cleaning materials to detainees, upon request
      The introduction of social spacing measures in communal areas
      The production of specific guidance to explain in clear terms how to reduce the risk of an outbreak of Covid-19

      Detention Action’s director, Bella Sankey, adds that the department has given “an undertaking to proactively review the detention of all those held under immigration powers according to updated guidance and with a view to further significant releases”. There is also a “very strong presumption against any new detentions for people facing removal to around 50 countries”, including Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Albania.

      The Home Office says that “the vast majority of detainees still in immigration removal centres are foreign national offenders”.

      With many countries closing their borders and flights unavailable, immigration judges may be receptive to the argument that removal is no longer imminent and grant bail accordingly.
      https://twitter.com/FranckMagennis/status/1239534663221284864?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E12

      https://twitter.com/BIDdetention/status/1246069190395486210?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E12

      As of 26 March, visits to immigration removal centres were no longer possible.
      Bail reporting suspended

      The Home Office website now says:

      Following Public Health England’s advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), the Home Office has decided that reporting as a condition of immigration bail should be temporarily deferred while it reviews how frequently people should report. You will receive an SMS text message soon with details of your next reporting date.

      This follows widespread reports of those on bail receiving texts about the suspension of reporting requirements. Those can now be taken as officially confirmed.
      Voluntary removals

      The Voluntary Returns Service Communications and Engagement Team circulated an update on its operations on 20 March:

      …we are currently experiencing difficulties that mean that we cannot currently support assisted returns for people who require a level of assistance upon return from the United Kingdom. We are experiencing infrastructure and other issues that make it difficult to impossible to offer that level of support at this time.

      We have therefore made a very difficult decision to cease offering assisted returns at this time.

      We will continue to register an interest from people who wish to return, and to offer other levels of support to help as many people as we possibly can. Where we can arrange flights, get travel documents etc we will continue to do this, and we are very happy to talk to people to see what help we can offer on an individual basis.

      The widespread cancellation of flights has obvious ramifications for enforced returns as well, but at time of writing we have no information about whether there will be any general suspension of removals.

      https://www.freemovement.org.uk/coronavirus

  • Greenpeace included with neo-Nazis on UK counter-terror list | UK news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/17/greenpeace-included-with-neo-nazis-on-uk-counter-terror-list
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d1e1e2f90d669248c56ddf0fde46c3b3e2760c6d/162_805_3813_2288/master/3813.jpg?width=1200&height=630&quality=85&auto=format&fit=crop&overlay-ali

    A counter-terrorism police document distributed to medical staff and teachers as part of anti-extremism briefings included Greenpeace, Peta and other non-violent groups as well as neo-Nazis, the Guardian has learned.

    The guide, produced by Counter Terrorism Policing, is used across England as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalisation scheme designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence.

    Last week, police said documents uncovered by the Guardian that listed the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) alongside far-right extremists and jihadists were a local error.

    But the list of groups viewed as a potential concern contained in the new 24-page document includes Extinction Rebellion. It also includes Greenpeace – among whose supporters are Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Joanna Lumley – and the ocean pollution campaigners Sea Shepherd, whose supporters include Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. Also included is Stop the Badger Cull, which is backed by Sir Brian May, the Queen guitarist.

    Apprenez à repérer un terroriste.
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1fa7dbc9c0115d6a074b565ed920dd16b3c82e19/39_52_2326_933/master/2326.jpg?width=620&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=40fccf4cc027b275af063f

    #répression #anti-terrorisme (terrorisant)