• The (many) costs of border control

    I have recently finished writing up a four-year study of the UK immigration detainee escorting system. This fully outsourced form of border control has not been the subject of academic inquiry before. While there is a growing body of work on deportation, few people have studied the process and its organisation in person, while sites of short-term detention have similarly been overlooked.

    The escorting contract is run as two separate businesses: ‘in-country’, known (confusingly for those more familiar with the US) as ICE, and Overseas, also referenced as OSE. ICE includes 31 sites of short-term immigration detention, many of which are in ports and airports including four in Northern France around Calais and Dunkirk, and a fleet of secure vans and vehicle bases. Overseas officers enforce removals and deportations. While staff may be cross deployed for ‘operational needs’, and some people do move from one part to another over the course of their careers, ICE and OSE are managed separately and staff in each tend to view themselves as distinct from colleagues working for the other.

    The study took many years to arrange and then was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was one of the most taxing pieces of research I have ever done, and I am still recovering from it. A book about the project is currently in press and should be out later this year, with Princeton University Press. Here I explore some of the ‘costs’ of this system; in financial terms, in its impact on those employed within it, and on their communities. All these matters occur in the context of the impact of the system of those subject to it, as they are denied entry and forced to leave. As a researcher, I was also adversely affected by studying this system, but I shall leave reflections on that to a different piece.

    The current ten-year contract was awarded to Mitie, Care & Custody, in December 2017 at an estimated cost to the public of £525 million. Previous incumbents included Tascor, (part of the Capita group) and G4S. Like those competitors, Mitie holds many other contracts for a variety of public and private organisations. In their 2023 annual report, ‘Business Services’ (29%, £1172m) and ‘Technical’ Services (29% £1154m) provided the lion’s share of the company’s income, followed by ‘Central Government and Defence’ (20%, £828m). Profits generated by ‘Care & Custody’, which includes those generated by three immigration removal centres (Harmondsworth, Colnbrook and Derwentside) that are run under a different set of legal and financial arrangements, were not listed separately. Instead, they formed part of a general category of ‘Specialist Services’ made up of three other businesses areas: ‘Landscapes’, ‘Waste Management’ and, rather incongruously, ‘Spain’. Together, these four sets of contracts constituted just 10% of the company’s revenue (£411m) that year.

    The precise agreement that the Home Office signed for the services Mitie provides is hidden, like all contracts, under the veil of corporate confidentiality. But some information is available. The escorting contract, for instance, is subject to what is known as a ‘cap and collar’. This financial arrangement, which is designed to reduce exposure to financial risk for both parties, meant that during the pandemic, when the borders closed and the numbers detained in immigration removal centres dropped, that the company did not lose money. Despite detaining or deporting very few people, the collar ensured that staff continued to be paid as normal. Similarly, the cap means that Mitie is restricted in the additional costs they demand from the Home Office. The internal transportation of people under immigration act powers, for example, is paid for by ‘volume’, i.e. by the number of people moved within a daily requirement. Any additional movements that are requested that above that level generates profit for the company, but only within a set parameter.

    The cap and collar does not entirely protect Mitie from losing money. The contract includes a range of ‘service credits’, ie fines, which are applied by the Home office for cancellations, delays, injuries, and, escapes. The Home Office is also subject to small fines if they cancel a request without sufficient time for Mitie to redeploy the staff who had been assigned to the work.

    While a missed collection time (eg a person detained at a police station, who must be taken to an immigration removal centre) may incur Mitie a fine of £100, a delayed deportation would result in a fine ten times that sum, and a death ten times more again. These economic penalties form the basis of regular discussions between Mitie and the Home Office, as each side seeks to evade financial responsibility. They also shape the decisions of administrative staff who distribute detained people and the staff moving them, around the country and across the world. It is better to risk a £100 fine than a £1000 one.

    For staff, border control can also be considered in financial terms. This is not a particularly high paying job, even though salaries increased over the research period: they now hover around £30,000 for those employed to force people out of the country, and somewhat less for those who work in Short-term holding facilities. There is also, as with much UK employment, a north-south divide. A recent job ad for a post at Swinderby Residential Short-Term Holding Facility listed a salary of £26,520.54 for 42 hours a week; for two hours less work per week, a person could go to work in the nearby Vehicle base at Swinderby and earn £25,257.65. Down in Gatwick, the same kind of job in a vehicle base was advertised at £28,564.63. Both sums are well below the mean or median average salary for UK workers, which stand at £33,402 and £33,000 respectively. As a comparison, the salary for starting level prison officers, on band 3, is £32, 851, for fewer weekly hours.

    Under these conditions, it is not surprising to find that staff everywhere complained about their pay. Many struggled to make ends meet. As might be expected, there was a generational divide; unlike their older colleagues who were able to obtain a mortgage on their salary, younger people were often stuck either in the rental market or at home with their parents. Few felt they had many alternatives, not least because many of the sites of short-term holding facilities are in economically depressed areas of the UK, where good jobs are hard to come by. In any case, staff often had limited educational qualifications, with most having left school at 16.

    Border control has other kinds of costs. For those who are detained and deported, as well as their families and friends, these are likely to be highest of all, although they do not directly feature in my study since I did not speak to detained people. I could not see how interviewing people while they were being deported or detained at the border would be ethical. Yet the ethical and moral costs were plain to see. In the staff survey, for example, 12.35% of respondents reported suicidal thoughts in the past week, and 7.4% reported thoughts of self-harm over the same period. Both figures are considerably higher than the estimates for matters in the wider community.

    Finally, and this part is the springboard for my next project, there are clearly costs to the local community. When I first started visiting the short-term holding facility at Manston, near Dover, when the tents had only just gone up and the overcrowding had not yet begun, I was shocked at the size of it. A former RA base, it includes many buildings in various states of disrepair, which could have been redeveloped in any number of ways that did not include depriving people of their liberty. Perhaps it could have included affordable homes for those trapped in the rental market, as well as non-custodial accommodation for new arrivals, new schools, a hospital, perhaps some light industry or tech to employ people nearby. What would it take to work for a vision of the future which, in principle, would have room for us all?

    #UK #Angleterre #rétention #détention_administrative #renvois #expulsions #business #ICE #OSE #Overseas #Calais #ports #aéroports #Dunkerque #privatisation #migrations #réfugiés #coûts #Mitie #Tascor #Care_&_Custody #G4S #Harmondsworth #Colnbrook #Derwentside #home_office #Swinderby_Residential_Short-Term_Holding_Facility #Swinderby #Gatwick #travail #salaire #contrôles_frontaliers #frontières #santé_mentale #suicides #Manston

  • Complicit of data surveillance tools? Bordering and education data tracking tools

    The University of #Sheffield has recently introduced an attendance monitoring app which tracks the location of students. Attendance monitoring was introduced in UK universities in order to fulfill the requirements around international student monitoring for the purposes of Home Office visa issuing status. While attendance monitoring, now in app form, is couched in the language of student wellbeing, monitoring and now tracking actually reflect the imperatives of government immigration monitoring.

    #université #UK #Angleterre #frontières #surveillance #contrôles_frontaliers #Home_Office #app #hostile_environment #visas #géolocalisation #étudiants_étrangers #complicité

    • New tools available to support attendance monitoring

      New tools to support staff with attendance monitoring - following a successful pilot scheme - are being made available in the Faculty of Science.

      Staff across the Faculty will begin to use two tools to support attendance monitoring following a successful pilot undertaken in the previous academic year.

      The tools will support departments to efficiently collect attendance data in a transparent way that complies with UKVI and GDPR requirements, and supports greater consistency in the student experience across the University.

      The Digital Register app (used by students for data collection) will be supported by a new Attendance and Engagement Dashboard which shows - at a glance- where there may be attendance concerns, so that appropriate support can be offered to students.

      Dr Thomas Anderson, Director of Education in Chemistry, said: "It has been transformative for our administrative team in checking attendance of international students which they need to report for visa reasons - avoiding a great deal of paperwork and dealing with personal tutors directly. This has saved a significant amount of staff time.

      “The system has been excellent for easily being able to identify students at-a-glance who are serial non-attenders, allowing us to intervene before their situation becomes irrevocable.”

      More information about the tools are available on the web support pages. An online demo is also available that lasts just over two minutes.

      In preparation for teaching in semester one, lecturers should download the iSheffield app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store and look for the check in tile. Before each teaching event, a six-digit code will be accessible that lecturers will need to share with students. Students will then input this code into their sheffield app to register their attendance at their event.

      Jo Marriott, Deputy Faculty Director of Operations in the Faculty of Science, is overseeing the implementation of the tools in our departments and is keen to hear about your experiences as we move over to this new way of attendance monitoring. Questions, and details of any challenges you face, can also be directed to the wider development team at StudentProductTeam@sheffield.ac.uk


  • #Home_Office refuses to set up Ukraine-style visa scheme for Palestinians

    The government said it has ‘no plans’ to waive fees or tests to help Palestinians reunite with family in the UK.

    The Home Office is refusing to set up a Ukraine-style visa scheme to help Palestinians stranded in Gaza reunite with family in the UK.

    More than 25,000 people signed a parliamentary petition asking for the government to waive fees, salary thresholds and tests for Palestinians displaced by Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

    But the Home Office rejected the request in December, saying it had “no plans to introduce bespoke arrangements for people arriving from the region”.

    More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since Hamas killed 1,200 people on 7 October, according to figures from the Gaza health ministry. The United Nations estimates 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced.

    British nationals currently need to apply for visas for their Palestinian relatives through the existing family visa route if they wish to bring them to the UK. Only spouses, partners or children are eligible for visas through the scheme. Relatives such as grandparents, siblings or parents of adult children are not eligible in most cases.

    The Home Office charges £1,846 to apply to bring each family member to the UK, including dependents, and a further £1,560 healthcare surcharge for adults, or £1,175 for children.

    British nationals must also earn at least £18,600 to apply for a visa for a spouse or partner or £24,800 if they also have two children they want to bring over. This minimum income requirement is set to rise to £29,000 in spring. Partners or spouses also need to prove their knowledge of the English language to get a visa.

    The government waived all fees, salary thresholds and language tests under the Ukraine Family Scheme, which was set up within weeks of Russia’s invasion. The scheme allows people fleeing the war in Ukraine to join their family in the UK.

    It is free to apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme and eligibility is extended to parents, grandparents, adult offspring, siblings, and their immediate family members. About 71,400 visas have been issued under the scheme so far.

    Announcing the scheme in the Commons, the former Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time: “We are striking a blow for democracy and freedom against tyranny. Above all, we are doing right by the courageous people of Ukraine. We will help British nationals and their families to get out of Ukraine safely.”

    Some British-Palestinians have turned to fundraising in desperation to cover the fees for visas needed to bring their relatives to safety.

    Hadil Louz, a PhD student in human rights law at St Andrew’s in Scotland, is fundraising £30,000 to pay for visa and travel costs for her parents, one of whom has cancer, as well as her siblings and their children.

    “On Christmas Day, my family had to evacuate again from the overcrowded house they were staying at, responding to the Israeli evacuation calls in Nusirat, and are currently staying in a tent on a street in Deir Al-Balah, in the cold of the winter.

    “At the moment, their survival without food and shelter in Gaza is a very tangible threat on their lives,” she wrote on the fundraiser.

    A group of 80 British-Palestinian families wrote to foreign secretary David Cameron in December asking him to consider setting up a similar scheme for Palestinians, the BBC reported.

    “While acknowledging the complexities of each conflict, it is disheartening for us, as British citizens and UK residents, to witness the disparity in our government response,” it said.

    The lack of a scheme for Palestinians, the letter said, “stands in stark contrast to the swift and supportive actions taken in similar circumstances, such as in the Ukrainian conflict”.

    Palestinians in the UK “are currently feeling a profound sense of abandonment and neglect” as a result, it said.

    In its response to the petition, the government said its “approach must be considered in the round, rather than on a crisis-by-crisis basis”. It also rejected a second petition signed by more than 16,000 people to create a bespoke immigration route for Palestinian children on the same grounds.

    #réfugiés_ukrainiens #réfugiés_palestiniens #visas #UK #Angleterre #migrations #asile #réfugiés #inégalité_de_traitement #regroupement_familial #Palestine #Gaza #Ukraine

  • Sending asylum seekers to #Rwanda will cost £169k a person, says Home Office

    ‘Impact assessment’ of the illegal migration bill reignites bitter rows over the controversial scheme

    The cost of sending a single person seeking asylum to Rwanda could be nearly £170,000, according to government analysis, which has immediately reignited bitter rows over the controversial scheme.

    A long-awaited “impact assessment” of the illegal migration bill has conceded that ministers do not know the overall costs of implementing plans to detain and deport anyone who arrives in the UK by irregular means.

    The disclosure comes at the start of a pivotal week for the government’s flagship policy, which is meant to “stop the boats”, one of Rishi Sunak’s five key promises.

    Peers have already threatened to derail the bill when it returns to the upper chamber on Wednesday.

    On Thursday, the court of appeal is expected to rule on whether it is legal to deport people seeking asylum, including women and children, to Rwanda.

    Enver Solomon, the head of the Refugee Council, said the assessment failed to evaluate the true costs and consequences of the government’s proposed legislation.

    “If enacted in its current form, the bill would leave tens of thousands of refugees unable to access the protection they are entitled to under international law. It would cause hardship, cost billions of pounds, and do nothing to alleviate the current crisis and pressures within the asylum system,” he said.

    Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said the assessment examining the costs of the illegal migration bill showed the government would save at least £106,000 for every person deterred from entering the UK by irregular means.

    “Our impact assessment shows that doing nothing is not an option.

    “I urge MPs and peers to back the bill to stop the boats, so we can crack down on people smuggling gangs while bringing our asylum system back into balance,” she said.

    But the assessment also claimed that locating an individual to the central African country or another third country is estimated to cost £169,000, based on a previous government scheme.

    It said that “an estimated unit cost of £169,000 is found for relocating an individual … This cost will only be incurred for people who arrive in the UK illegally.” A Home Office source said the figure is based on a “theoretical exercise on costs under the bill”.

    The assessment said it is “not possible to estimate with precision the level of deterrence” the bill will have.

    It noted academic consensus is that there is “little to no evidence” policy changes deter people leaving their home countries and seeking refuge.

    Instead, shared language, culture and family ties were accepted to be “strong factors” influencing choice of final destination.

    The Home Office has refused to publish the payments agreed with the Rwandan government, citing “commercial sensitivities”, on top of a £140m payment handed over as part of a deal signed under Boris Johnson’s government.

    In passages that undermine the government’s plan to detain and deport everyone who arrives by irregular means, the assessment said constraints on capacity meant the illegal migration bill might only be applied to a proportion of arrivals.

    “This could lead to additional costs associated with bailing individuals and providing non-detained accommodation, a reduced deterrent effect observed and further process issues such as migrants absconding while not detained,” the report said.

    Braverman’s plan to house people seeking asylum on barges was called “unworkable” on Monday as she missed her own target for the first vessel to be in place.

    The Bibby Stockholm accommodation vessel, which would house about 500 people, was not yet in Portland Port, Dorset, despite the home secretary’s promise it would be in the dock a week ago.

    The release of the document came after peers threatened to delay the bill until after the government had published facts and figures showing the financial impact.

    The government awaits a court of appeal judgment on the legality of its plans to deport people seeking asylum including women and children to Rwanda.

    Organisations, including the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, have warned the proposals are in breach of international law and set a dangerous precedent for other countries in their treatment of people seeking refuge.

    Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the assessment was a “complete joke” and that the illegal migration bill could cost taxpayers billions more.

    “By its own admission, this failing Conservative government is totally clueless on how much this bill will cost or what the impact of any of its policies will be.

    “The few figures the Home Office has produced show how chaotic and unworkable their plans are. It suggests that if Rishi Sunak were actually able to deliver on his promise to remove every asylum seeker who arrives in the UK it would cost billions of pounds more even than the Tories’ broken asylum system today,” Cooper said.

    Shami Chakrabarti, the human rights barrister who has led criticisms of the bill in the Lords, compared the assessment to a press release. “Is this the much awaited document, so carefully prepared that it could not be published at any stage during such a contentious bill’s passage through the House of Commons?

    “The so-called impact assessment is about the length of a Home Office press release and similar in style and content. It’s all about deterrence but the financial and human costs are ‘untested’, the delivery plan still ‘being developed’ and international law is completely ignored,” she said.

    #coût #prix #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #UK #Angleterre


    ajouté à cette métaliste:

  • UK provided £3m to Turkish border forces to stop migrants, FOI reveals

    Investigation shows Home Office funds ‘return and reintegration assistance’ and provides equipment and training to Turkish police

    The Home Office has provided more than £3m in funding to Turkish border forces in the last year to prevent migrants reaching the UK, an investigation for the Guardian has found.

    Funding to Turkey’s border force operations has increased substantially from 2019, when £14,000 was given to Turkish police and coastguard for maritime border security training, according to documents obtained through freedom of information (FOI) requests. That figure rose to £425,000 in 2021-22 for training and equipment and up to £3m this year for “return and reintegration assistance”, training and personnel.

    The funding was diverted from the official development assistance (ODA) budget and delivered through Home Office International Operations, part of the department’s Intelligence Directorate.

    In addition to funding, the Home Office has also supplied Turkish border forces, including the National Police and the coastguard, with equipment and training. In June 2022, nine vehicles were handed over by the UK’s deputy high commissioner to the Turkish National Police on the border with Iran.

    Last year Turkey said it “turned back” 238,448 migrants at its eastern border with Iran. Video evidence seen by the Guardian shows cases of extreme violence and force used against Afghan migrants attempting to cross the border into Turkey. This includes the authorities firing live bullet rounds as people flee, including at the feet of children; beatings using rifle butts; robberies; humiliation tactics and pushing people back to the other side of the border.

    Mahmut Kaçan, a Turkish lawyer working on asylum and human rights abuses, said the deaths and pushbacks on the border began escalating two years ago. “The UNHCR never criticises or mentions what Turkey is doing at the border. They are complicit in the deaths of these people, as are the EU and other countries that are giving money to Turkey for border security.”

    A source with knowledge of the Home Office International Operations team said Turkey had become “a country of emerging importance [to the UK government] in the last two to three years and is now seen as strategically crucial to border securitisation”.

    “We offer our expertise and provide officials [locally] with evidence, showing the routes we think illegal migrants or gangs are operating along,” the source said. “It’ll probably be along the lines of: ‘This is a route smugglers and illegal migrants use to get to the UK, we need to do more to stop it.’ The Turkish government will then respond by saying: ‘This is what we need to be able to do that’, and then we fund it, basically.”

    The source added: “We don’t tend to hold local forces to account with any targets but certainly if we say: ‘We need to bolster X area of border security’, Turkey might respond by saying they need Y in order to boost border officer numbers and we’ll help them to do that.”

    Another source familiar with the work of the Home Office International Operations unit said: “Us paying for stuff like that builds our soft power credentials in other areas, such as possible returns agreements. It’s like a mini FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] inside the Home Office.”

    Sources added that Home Office operations overseas involved intelligence gathering through interviews with migrants who had arrived in the UK. Information from those interviews is then passed on to border forces locally to “put an operational plan in place to stop it”.

    Documents obtained through an FOI request also show that the Home Office has increased the number of its staff deployed to work at post, with sources from the FCDO saying Home Office staff now outnumbers diplomats working in Turkey.

    “The Home Office is seen by international partners as quite hostile, quite adversarial,” said a senior government source with knowledge of the department’s operations in Turkey. “The FCDO, on the other hand, is viewed as relatively collegiate and collaborative. In this context, there are obvious tensions in the approach and the culture among staff.”

    The department’s 2025 Border Strategy states that one of its key priorities is to “improve our use of upstream illegal migration countermeasures to prevent irregular entry into the UK”.

    It also stipulates the department will “prevent entry into the UK through improved border security and through work with source and transit countries to support them in addressing irregular migration challenges within their region”.

    Mary Atkinson, campaigns and networks manager at JCWI, said: “This government has shown that it will break international law to prevent people from exercising the fundamental human right to seek safety.

    “Whether on the border between Turkey and Iran, or those of France or Belgium, this government is covertly funding others to do its dirty work, while at the same time ramping up its xenophobic rhetoric against the few that do finally make it here.”

    In response to the findings of the investigation, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Like many other European states, the UK works tirelessly at home and abroad on a range of priorities, including tackling illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and modern slavery. This includes mutually beneficial close working with our operational counterparts in a range of partner countries, like Turkey, to tackle these and wider socially damaging issues.”


    #externalisation #contrôles_frontaliers #UK #Angleterre #Turquie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #renvois #réintégration #financement #aide_financière #militarisation_des_frontières #aide_au_développement #développement #coopération_au_développement #refoulements #push-backs #complexe_militaro-industriel #2025 _Border_Strategy #Home_Office

  • #Home_Office planning to house asylum seekers on disused cruise ships

    Exclusive: Ministers facing growing anger from Tory backbenchers over use of hotels in their constituencies

    The Home Office is planning to use disused cruise ships to house asylum seekers amid growing anger from Conservative backbenchers over the use of hotels in their constituencies.

    Ministers are looking at possible vessels including a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, the Guardian understands.

    During the Conservative leadership campaign last summer, Rishi Sunak proposed putting illegal immigrants on cruise ships moored around the country but was warned it could be illegal under the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights.

    Downing Street confirmed he had dropped the idea to use the ships to house asylum seekers, which critics said would amount to arbitrary detention, once he became prime minister last October.

    Sources suggested, however, that the cruise ships could be registered as hotels rather than detention centres to get around possible legal challenges.

    The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, is due to make an announcement on Wednesday regarding asylum accommodation amid speculation that it will include the use of boats and military barracks. It could also disclose plans to make use of a clause in the levelling up bill to force councils to accept large-scale accommodation for those seeking asylum.

    Multiple reports on Tuesday night suggested a plan to house asylum seekers on giant barges normally used for offshore construction projects could also be announced.

    The barges are built to house hundreds of people, although a government source told the Times that plans were at an “early stage” and had significant practical issues that needed to be addressed.

    The disclosure comes as the Home Office admitted nearly 400 hotels across the country were being used to accommodate more than 51,000 people at a reported cost of more than £6m a day.

    Sunak is under pressure to come up with alternatives as Conservative MPs, including members of his own cabinet, object to plans to move some people from hotels into former military bases.

    Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is expected to announce alternatives to hotel accommodation as soon as this week. They are expected to be used for new arrivals initially, rather than to rehouse people who are in hotels.

    The prime minister managed to face down a potentially big rebellion on Monday as up to 60 Tory MPs attempted to amend the new illegal migration bill by giving UK courts the power to ignore rulings by Strasbourg judges.

    Whitehall sources confirmed that the government had “in recent months” examined plans including using cruise ships from across the world, which could be brought to the UK and then used to house asylum seekers.

    The ships would be moored off the coast, emulating an approach by the Scottish government, which housed Ukrainian refugees in two 700-cabin ships. They were docked in Glasgow and Edinburgh and could hold 1,750 people each.

    Braverman said she would not rule out the use of former cruise ships when questioned in December by a House of Lords committee. “We will bring forward a range of alternative sites, they will include disused holiday parks, former student halls – I should say we are looking at those sites – I wouldn’t say anything is confirmed yet.

    “But we need to bring forward thousands of places, and when you talk about vessels all I can say is – because we are in discussion with a wide variety of providers – that everything is still on the table and nothing is excluded,” she said.

    It comes amid a Tory backlash over hotels in constituencies being used to house asylum seekers.

    Ministers had also drawn up plans to use two military bases that were identified to house asylum seekers earlier this year – RAF Scampton, the Dambusters’ base in Lincolnshire, and MDP Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex. But they are facing opposition from local Conservative politicians. Council leaders in Braintree are taking legal action to stop up to 5,000 people being moved to the site over the space of a year.

    James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, who is the local MP, wrote on his Facebook page that Wethersfield was inappropriate as an asylum camp because of “the remote nature of the site, limited transport infrastructure and narrow road network”.

    The local council in Scampton is seeking listed status for the Lincolnshire base, while historians and RAF veterans have written to the government asking for the plans to be halted.

    One government source, asked about the possible use of cruise ships, said ministers were working to end the use of hotels and bring forward a range of alternative sites for longer-term accommodation. But they would not discuss details of individual sites or proposals that could be used for bridging or asylum accommodation.

    A government spokesperson said: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being placed on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

    “We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options. The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.”

    #hébergement #asile #réfugiés #migrations #bateaux #bateaux_de_croisière #bateau_de_croisière #Angleterre #UK


    ajouté à la métaliste sur la Bibby Stockholm :

    ajouté à la métaliste #migrations et #tourisme :

    • Air force bases set to be used to house migrants as ministers hunt for cheaper alternatives to hotels

      The Government are reportedly also considering a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, as a possible site

      Migrants will be housed at two air force bases in a bid to cut down on the use of hotels and deter people from crossing the Channel on small boats, the immigration minister is expected to announce on Wednesday.

      #RAF_Scampton in Lincolnshire, the former home of the Dambusters and Red Arrows, and #RAF_Wethersfield in Essex are expected to be among the accommodation sites for asylum seekers confirmed by Robert Jenrick, despite local opposition.

      The announcement is being made with the aim of ending the use of hotels for migrants – a pledge the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made. More than 51,000 people are being housed in 395 hotels, according to the BBC, at an estimated cost of £5.6m a day. Holiday parks and student halls are not expected to be included on the initial list of new sites.

      The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has found himself at odds with his own government over plans to house asylum seekers at RAF Wethersfield, which is in his constituency.

      Braintree District Council is taking legal action against the Home Office in an attempt to secure an injunction against plans to house 1,500 migrants at RAF #Wethersfield.

      Veteran Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh has meanwhile raised concerns that using RAF Scampton to house asylum seekers could put at risk a £300 million investment plan for the site.

      A plan to turn a former RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse, in the constituency of Mr Sunak’s close ally Kevin Hollinrake, into a processing centre for asylum seekers, was meanwhile ditched under Liz Truss.

      During the Tory leadership contest last summer, the Prime Minister pledged to use “cruise ships” as part of efforts to “end the farce of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent every day on housing illegal migrants in hotels”.

      Downing Street did not respond to a question on whether that meant the prospect of using cruise ships has now been shelved.

      The Guardian reports that the Government was considering a former cruise ship from Indonesia, which would be moored in south-west England, as a possible site.

      According to The Sun, an announcement on nautical accommodation will be made in the coming days.

      There are reports ministers are said to be considering obtaining accommodation barges – typically used for offshore construction projects with only basic facilities – which could house hundreds of migrants who are currently in hotels.

      The plan is at an “early stage”, The Times reported, with ministers not yet decided on where the barge or barges will be stationed, though they are expected to be stationed at port, rather than at sea.

      A source told The Times the Government was aware of “significant practical issues” with these vessels, and it was not clear how safety would be dealt with, though a source told the newspaper: “It’s a row we’re prepared to have.”

      The Government is said to be keen on the idea as a way to discourage people from crossing the Channel and is pointing to countries like France housing refugees in floating vessels.

      Meanwhile, right-wing Tory rebel Jonathan Gullis said it would be “perfectly acceptable” to house asylum seekers in tents while they await for deportation, amid concerns about the cost of hotels.

      During a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, ministers were also urged to give “serious assurances” they will not return to the “barbaric days” of detaining children in immigration centres.

      Conservative former minister Tim Loughton led calls for the Government to confirm it would not place migrant children in indefinite detention if they come to the UK by unauthorised means.

      Centrist Tories were joined by MPs from across the political spectrum who are worried that a coalition government-era policy not to detain children could be overturned.

      The announcement comes after months of pressure from Tory MPs over the use of hotels for asylum seekers, at a cost of £5.6m a day.

      But it will also be a test of the Government’s ability to override local opposition to build new asylum sites.

      Plans for alternative sites have however triggered a backlash from some Tory MPs over now-abandoned plans to house asylum seekers in Pontins holiday parks in Southport and Camber Sands.

      #bases_aériennes #Scampton

    • Au Royaume-Uni, des #barges pour parquer les réfugiés qui traversent la Manche

      Le gouvernement britannique multiplie les annonces censées dissuader les migrants de traverser. La dernière innovation prévoit d’installer les demandeurs d’asile sur d’anciennes embarcations, dans les ports, le temps de leur procédure. Le premier ministre se targue d’avoir déjà fait baisser le nombre de passages depuis la France.

      LeLe feuilleton au Royaume-Uni se poursuit. Les exilé·es, qui en sont les actrices et acteurs principaux, ne sont pour autant jamais consulté·es. On parle d’elles et d’eux comme des « indésirables » qu’il faudrait éloigner, tantôt en usant de machines capables de générer des vagues en mer, tantôt en les parquant sur des ferrys hors d’usage en mer.

      Il y a eu ensuite l’accord non officiel signé entre le Royaume-Uni et le Rwanda, visant à acter le projet de sous-traitance des demandes d’asile à un pays tiers. Un accord décrié et vivement critiqué par les membres de la société civile, mais aussi des chercheurs et chercheuses, qui soulignaient combien cette externalisation venait saboter le droit d’asile.

      Faute de pouvoir encore les envoyer au Rwanda – l’accord a fait l’objet d’un recours devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH), puis devant la justice britannique fin 2022 –, le gouvernement a décidé plus récemment d’installer une barge au sud-ouest du pays pour y parquer les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile qui parviendraient à rejoindre le Royaume-Uni de manière irrégulière.

      L’objectif ? Dissuader les personnes exilées de tenter la traversée de la Manche, alors que le nombre de traversées n’a jamais été aussi élevé en 2022, et qu’un terrible naufrage survenu le 24 novembre 2021 ayant coûté la vie à au moins 27 migrant·es est venu souligner les défaillances du secours en mer.

      Satisfait des résultats de son « plan », le premier ministre britannique, Rishi Sunak, a annoncé l’installation de deux nouvelles barges pour l’accueil de demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile, d’une capacité de 500 personnes chacune, d’ici cet été. Le gouvernement entend ainsi réduire de moitié la facture correspondant à l’hébergement des migrant·es dans les hôtels du pays, qui s’élèverait à 6 millions de livres (soit environ 7 millions d’euros) par jour.
      Un « plan » qui fonctionnerait déjà

      La toute première barge, baptisée Bibby Stockholm, a fait l’objet d’une rénovation à Falmouth et sera installée au port de Portland, une petite île située au sud-ouest de Londres. Elle devrait accueillir 500 personnes pour un total de 200 chambres, et sera surveillée en permanence dans l’objectif de préserver la population locale, avancent les autorités.

      La barge aurait coûté, selon le journal The Times, près de 20 000 livres (soit 23 000 euros), et le dispositif coûterait « nettement moins cher que les hôtels », a affirmé Rishi Sunak. La ministre de l’intérieur britannique, Suella Braverman, avait déjà affirmé le souhait de freiner l’hébergement des demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile dans les hôtels, compte tenu du coût que cela engendrait « pour le contribuable ».

      Le 5 juin, le premier ministre a tenu un discours particulièrement dur à leur endroit, renvoyant dos à dos les difficultés économiques rencontrées par les Britanniques dans un contexte d’inflation et le coût de l’accueil des migrant·es.

      « Notre plan commence à fonctionner. Avant que l’on ne le mette en place en décembre, le nombre de personnes ayant traversé illégalement la Manche avait quadruplé en deux ans. Mais en cinq mois, les traversées ont baissé de 20 % par rapport à l’an dernier », a-t-il rassuré. Ce serait la première fois, insiste Rishi Sunak, qu’une baisse des arrivées serait observée sur la période de janvier à mai.

      « Je ne me reposerai pas tant que les bateaux ne sont pas stoppés », a-t-il poursuivi, indiquant utiliser « tous les outils à disposition » ; à commencer par la diplomatie, puisque le partenariat avec la France aurait permis d’empêcher 33 000 traversées en 2022, soit une hausse de 40 % des interceptions.

      L’accord signé avec l’Albanie en décembre dernier, pour réduire les migrations depuis « un pays sûr, européen », aurait lui aussi porté ses fruits. Alors que les Albanais·es représentaient un tiers des arrivées en small boats (lire nos reportages ici et là), Rishi Sunak se vante d’avoir ainsi fait baisser ce chiffre de près de 90 %, et d’avoir expulsé 1 800 ressortissant·es albanais·es en l’espace de six mois.

      « C’est bien la preuve que notre stratégie de détermination peut fonctionner. Quand les gens savent qu’en venant ici illégalement, ils ne pourront pas rester, ils ne viennent plus. »

      Pour « sortir » les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile du schéma classique d’hébergement dans les hôtels, le gouvernement compte par ailleurs se servir de lieux « alternatifs », comme des bases militaires situées à Wethersfield et à Scampton, où des centaines de personnes devraient être transférées d’ici à cet été, et 3 000 d’ici à l’automne. Celles et ceux restant dans les hôtels pourront être amenés à partager une même chambre avec plusieurs personnes, « lorsque c’est approprié ».
      L’externalisation toujours d’actualité

      « Et je dis à ces migrants qui protestent : ceci est plus que juste. Si vous venez ici illégalement, en quête d’une protection après avoir fui la mort, la torture ou la persécution, alors vous devriez pouvoir partager une chambre d’hôtel, payée par le contribuable, dans le centre de Londres. »

      À l’avenir, le gouvernement britannique mise aussi sur la réforme de la loi sur l’immigration et espère, une fois tous les recours en justice « terminés », pouvoir mettre en pratique la nouvelle loi sur la migration, qui permettrait de placer en détention toute personne arrivée illégalement sur le territoire, avant de l’expulser, soit vers son pays d’origine, soit vers un pays tiers comme le Rwanda, avec lequel un accord a été signé en ce sens.

      « Nous voulons que les choses soient claires, a martelé Rishi Sunak lors de son discours empli de fermeté. Je sais que ce sont des mesures difficiles. Et je ne m’en excuserai pas. »

      Dans un rapport rendu public le 11 juin, le comité mixte des droits de l’homme du Parlement britannique a exhorté le gouvernement à « ne pas enfreindre ses obligations légales envers les réfugiés, les enfants et les victimes de l’esclavage moderne », et à « jouer son rôle dans le système international de protection des réfugiés ». Invitée à répondre aux questions des membres de ce comité, la ministre de l’intérieur n’a pas donné suite.

      Le rapport final, qui contient une liste de recommandations telles que le respect effectif du droit d’asile ou du droit européen (comme les mesures de la CEDH), le non-recours à la détention des migrant·es et la protection des mineur·es non accompagné·es et autres publics vulnérables, appelle le gouvernement à répondre dans les deux mois.

      Celui-ci n’y répondra sans doute pas, considérant que la lutte contre la « migration illégale » est une priorité urgente pour laquelle tous les moyens sont permis.
      La société civile ne cesse de dire son inquiétude

      « Nous sommes profondément inquiets de voir que le gouvernement prévoit d’héberger un nombre grandissant de demandeurs d’asile dans des lieux totalement inadaptés à leurs besoins », avait dénoncé dans un tweet le Refugee Council, une organisation venant en aide aux personnes migrantes et réfugiées en Angleterre, réagissant à l’annonce de l’installation de la première barge.

      Sans compter la portée symbolique associée au fait de loger des personnes ayant traversé la Manche – et potentiellement d’autres eaux – à bord d’une embarcation qui, bien qu’elle soit à quai, ne peut que raviver le souvenir d’un parcours migratoire souvent dangereux et des vies que la mer emporte régulièrement, quand elle ne renforce pas le sentiment d’insécurité lié à une potentielle expulsion.

      Le Royaume-Uni a finalement réinventé le concept de « zone d’attente », mais pour les demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile. Reste à savoir dans quelle mesure leur liberté de circulation sera respectée ou non.

      Si le gouvernement britannique assure que la portée dissuasive de son discours et de ses mesures « fonctionne », il serait bon de se pencher sur les résultats concrets d’une telle politique, qui pousse les personnes exilées à davantage de précarité : celles qui n’osent effectivement plus tenter la traversée n’ont que la perspective des camps et de la rue pour horizon, à l’heure où l’État maintient une politique « zéro point de fixation » pour éviter que la jungle de Calais ne se reforme et où l’accueil des migrant·es est toujours plus décousu.

      Celles qui tentent toutefois de rejoindre le Royaume-Uni en small boat prennent de plus en plus de risques, partant désormais de communes plus éloignées des côtes anglaises pour éviter les contrôles et patrouilles des forces de l’ordre, dont les effectifs sont particulièrement présents aux abords des plages servant de points de départ.

      L’association Utopia 56, très présente sur le littoral pour venir en aide aux exilé·es, n’a d’ailleurs pas tardé à réagir aux annonces de Rishi Sunak. « Pourtant, ces quatre derniers jours, 1 519 personnes ont traversé la Manche et nos équipes ont reçu douze appels d’embarcations en détresse. Rishi Sunak, Gérald Darmanin, malgré les effets d’annonce, vos politiques violentes ne mènent à rien, sinon à pousser les personnes à risquer leur vie », a tweeté l’organisation le 14 juin.


    • Government quietly awards travel firm £1.6bn contract for asylum barges and accommodation

      Fury over astonishing sum to operate barges and run services to house asylum seekers in Britain

      An Australian travel firm previously slammed for its handling of Covid quarantine hotels has been quietly handed a £1.6bn contract covering the UK’s new asylum accommodation ships, The Independent can reveal.

      #Corporate_Travel_Management (#CTM) was put in charge of the lucrative two-year arrangement in February, weeks before the government revealed it would use a barge as its first offshore accommodation for asylum seekers.

      The contract was awarded directly to CTM without competition, and a lawyer with knowledge of the system said the government had pushed a wider deal originally drawn up for official travel “beyond what it was intended to be used for”.

      Ministers have repeatedly refused to detail the projected cost of Rishi Sunak’s controversial asylum vessels, while insisting they will be cheaper than using hotels that are currently costing £6m a day.

      This week, Suella Braverman told parliament’s Home Affairs Committee she could not predict the cost of the new Illegal Migration Bill, because there are “many unknown factors”.

      Three vessels so far have been announced, with a barge named the “Bibby Stockholm” due to arrive in Portland, Dorset later this month and a further two ships set for undisclosed locations.

      Richard Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset, said the public “should know how much is being paid” on the barge set-up and said the spending he was aware of so far was “alarmingly high”.

      “The point is this is taxpayers’ money,” he told The Independent. “This contract might actually be separate to what the ports are being paid.

      “Then on top of that, the police want money, the health authority wants money, of course the council wants money, and yet the government continues to insist that this is cheaper than hotels. The overall figure will be alarmingly high.”

      Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the Home Office has “serious questions to answer”.

      “The Tories are spending more and more taxpayers’ money on their total failure to fix the asylum backlog they have created,” she added.

      “This is an incredibly expensive contract with no clarity on whether proper procedures have been followed, and the barges come on top of costly hotels, not instead of them, because of the government failure to take asylum decisions or get any grip.”

      The CTM contract, published under the title “provision of bridging accommodation and travel services”, states that it has an estimated value of £1,593,535,200 over two years and could be extended beyond 2025.

      The Home Office refused to answer The Independent’s questions on what portion of the contract covers barges, and parts of official documents headed “pricing details” have been redacted in full because of “commercial interests”.

      John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This murky contract leaves taxpayers in the dark. The migrant crisis may require an urgent response, but bungled procurement has cost a fortune in recent years.

      “Ministers must ensure transparency and value for money when tendering services.”

      Answering a parliamentary question on the Bibby Stockholm in May, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it would be managed “by a specialist and experienced provider, which has a strong track record of providing this kind of accommodation”. He added that the provider had “managed two vessels [housing Ukrainian refugees] in Scottish ports for the past year”.

      On its website, CTM describes itself as “a global provider of innovative and cost-effective travel solutions spanning corporate, events, leisure, loyalty and wholesale travel”.

      The firm says it was established in Brisbane in 1994 and has since grown from a “two-person start-up into one of the world’s most successful travel management companies”, operating across Australasia, Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It has two UK offices in London and Manchester.

      The firm’s most recent financial report hailed record profits, having taken A$292m (£160m) in revenue over the last six months of 2022.

      A notice to its shareholders celebrated the new contract’s “significant impact” on financial growth, adding: “This work involves highly complex services and logistic support… CTM has both the experience and specialised knowledge to support this work.”

      The government placed the new barges under a pre-existing agreement with CTM for “travel and venue solutions”, which previously covered official bookings for conferences, flights, train tickets, hotels and vehicle hire for ministers and civil servants.

      A source familiar with the drawing up of the overarching framework accused the government of “pushing the scope beyond what it was intended to be used for”.

      “If products and services are outside scope there’s a procurement failure and the contract has been awarded without following the rules,” they told The Independent. “It doesn’t look like the right vehicle for this kind of contract and it looks like they’ve done it to minimise visibility.”

      The remit of CTM’s government work was widened during the pandemic and its general manager for northern England, Michael Healy, was made an OBE in the 2021 New Year honours list over the repatriation of British nationals stranded abroad during the Covid pandemic.

      A report by parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee found that the operation was “too slow and placed too much reliance on commercial providers”, but CTM was then handed a contract for operating quarantine hotels and mandatory testing.

      In a series of angry Google reviews that dragged the company’s rating down to 1.4 stars, one person called CTM “incompetent”, while another wrote: “Shame on the Tory government UK, on whoever decided to give them this contract.”

      Several MPs raised their constituents’ poor experiences in parliament, with one presenting a formal petition demanding compensation and saying the way the contract was awarded “avoided due process or competition”.

      CTM was later involved in operations to transport Afghans and Ukrainians to the UK, and operated two cruise ships used to temporarily house Ukrainian refugees in Scotland.

      That contract, which was also awarded without competition under the same framework as the new barges, covered two ships and hotels, and had an estimated value of £100m.

      CTM declined to comment and did not answer The Independent’s request for details of what the contract covered.

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow and requires us to look at a range of accommodation options, which offer better value for money for taxpayers than hotels. It is right that we explore all available options.

      “CTM was awarded the contract to deliver accommodation for the Home Office after an extensive procurement process and has a strong track record of providing this kind of accommodation.

      “We are pleased that they will be providing management for Bibby Stockholm, the two additional vessels announced by the prime minister, as well as bridging accommodation and travel services.”


    • Le “prigioni galleggianti”: il nuovo piano del Regno Unito per la prima accoglienza

      L’intervista a Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea, arrestata nei giorni scorsi durante una protesta

      Fanno discutere in UK, e non solo, le “prigioni galleggianti” volute fortemente dal primo ministro britannico Rishi Sunak e il ministro dell’Interno Suella Braverman. Una misura per risparmiare sul costo della prima accoglienza che ora prevede la sistemazione in albergo dei richiedenti asilo.

      “Bibby Stockholm” è il nome della chiatta marittima che per i prossimi 18 mesi sarà utilizzata dal governo britannico per “ospitare” fino a 506 richiedenti asilo uomini, tra i 18 e i 56 anni, in attesa che si concluda l’iter della domanda di accoglienza nel Paese.

      Abbiamo parlato del nuovo piano del governo britannico e della campagna “No floating prisons” in questa intervista a Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea. L’attivista il 18 luglio scorso è stata arrestata «per essermi fermata in strada davanti al Ministero degli Interni con un cartello che diceva ‘Refugees Welcome’ e ‘No all’Immigration Bill, No Floating Prisons‘», ha dichiarato Tigs Louis-Puttick 1.

      Nello stesso giorno la “Bibby Stockholm” attraccava nel porto di Portland.

      Il nuovo piano del governo britannico prevede la prima accoglienza di 500 persone richiedenti asilo in una gigantesca chiatta-alloggio ancorata in un porto nel Canale della Manica, violando la libertà di movimento e il diritto alla privacy.

      Il 5 aprile 2023 l’Ufficio degli Interni britannico (Home Office) ha annunciato l’avvio di un piano per “accogliere” le persone migranti su una gigantesca chiatta-alloggio (la Bibby Stockhom), che giacerà all’interno del porto dell’isola di Portland, nel Canale della Manica. Secondo quanto dichiarato, la decisione è stata presa per “(…) ridurre l’insostenibile pressione sul sistema d’asilo britannico e ridurre l’onere economico che pesa sui contribuenti, causato dall’aumento significativo degli attraversamenti del Canale della Manica” 2. Da quanto emerge dalle dichiarazioni ufficiali dell’Home Office, la Bibby Stockholm diventerà operativa da luglio per un periodo iniziale di 18 mesi, e ospiterà fino a 500 richiedenti asilo uomini, tra i 18 e i 65 anni. La chiatta giacerà in un’area cosiddetta “protetta” del porto, da dove sarà possibile uscire e accedere al centro abitato solamente tramite un servizio autobus dedicato. A bordo, sarà presente un servizio di lavanderia, un catering per i pasti e degli spazi comuni. Sebbene sarà permesso scendere e accedere terra ferma, al momento, per gli ospiti, non è prevista l’erogazione di alcun servizio relativo all’accoglienza al di fuori del porto 3.

      È più che evidente come, l’Home Office miri alla limitazione della libertà di movimento delle persone migranti, riducendola ai minimi termini. Secondo quanto stimato da The Independent lo spazio che ogni persona avrà a disposizione sulla chiatta sarà di appena 15 metri quadri, “la misura di un posto auto”.

      Richard Drax, esponente del partito Conservatore britannico, l’ha definita una “quasi-prigione”, dove le persone saranno lasciate “sedute a girarsi i pollici”. Secondo James Wilson, direttore dell’organizzazione Detention Action (che fornisce supporto all’interno dei centri di detenzione per l’immigrazione illegale), non è che “(…) una chiatta angusta e simile ad una prigione” 4. E, a ragion del vero, è lo stesso Home Office, in diverse dichiarazioni ufficiali, a dichiarare esplicitamente la propria intenzione di “minimizzare l’impatto sulle comunità locali”, come dichiarato nel comunicato stampa del 5 aprile 2023, e ribadito, a più riprese nella Scheda Informativa disponibile sul proprio sito ufficiale.

      Di fronte all’ennesimo scenario di un sistema d’accoglienza sempre più restrittivo e non curante dei diritti delle persone richiedenti asilo, c’è chi non è rimasto indifferente e, anzi, ha dato il via ad una vera e propria lotta per i diritti delle persone migranti. In un’intervista per Melting Pot, parla Tigs Louis-Puttick, fondatrice dell’ONG Reclaim The Sea, che, fornendo lezioni di nuoto e surf alle persone migranti, ha l’obiettivo di accrescere la loro qualità di vita, e aiutarle trasformare il mare da un evento traumatico a uno spazio di libertà e guarigione. A maggio, Reclaimthesea ha redatto una lettera aperta a Suella Braverman, Segretaria di Stato per gli Affari Interni, domandando l’abbandono del progetto, firmata da 706 individui e 91 organizzazioni e collettivi, tra cui Medici Senza Frontiere UK e Sea-Watch. Lo scorso 21 maggio, insieme all’ONG Europe Must Act, Reclaimthesea ha guidato una protesta di fronte all’Home Office, e dato il via alla campagna “No floating prisons” (No alle prigioni galleggianti), che comprende una serie attività ed eventi di protesta e sensibilizzazione.


      «Abbiamo deciso di chiamare la campagna di protesta No floating prisons per l’approccio generale che ne rispecchia il carattere di questi luoghi. L’attuale processo di ristrutturazione della chiatta prevede l’aumento dei posti da 220 a 500, il che vorrà dire stipare le persone in pochissimo spazio, violando la loro privacy e il diritto allo spazio personale. Il piano è che, direttamente al loro arrivo, le persone saranno sistemate sulla chiatta, che pare non sarà nemmeno attraccata alla terraferma. Inoltre, Portland è un porto chiuso, recintato, non si può entrare ed uscire liberamente. Le autorità potrebbero arbitrariamente decidere di negare il permesso a lasciare il porto e, siccome è un porto privato, non abbiamo controllo sulle decisioni delle autorità, ne possiamo essere certi che daranno informazioni».

      Sui rischi delle prigioni galleggianti, Tigs dice: «La quasi totalità delle persone migranti presenti nel Regno Unito, hanno dovuto affrontare un attraversamento in mare, che sia dalla Libia all’Italia, dalla Turchia alla Grecia o il Canale della Manica. Molti di loro, hanno vissuto qualche tipo di trauma legato al mare. Per ciò, l’idea di farli stare ancora in una barca equivale letteralmente a relegarli nel reale, fisico luogo del trauma. Inoltre, solo il 25% degli uomini e il 18% delle donne provenienti dall’Africa Orientale (area di provenienza di molti dei richiedenti asilo nel Regno Unito) sa nuotare. Dunque, se per qualsiasi motivo qualcuno dovesse cadere in acqua dalla barca o dal molo, rischierebbe seriamente la morte, anche per via delle temperature gelide. Infine, molti hanno vissuto momenti di prigionia nei loro paesi d’origine o nei paesi transito. Arrivano qui e ciò che li aspetta è praticamente un’altra prigione».

      La preoccupazione delle prigioni galleggianti è anche legata all’accordo tra Regno Unito e Rwanda, che prevede la ricollocazione permanente dei richiedenti asilo arrivati irregolarmente nel Regno Unito al Rwanda, affinché la loro domanda d’asilo venga esaminata lì 5. «E’ sostanzialmente una sala d’attesa per chi sarà portato in Rwanda, che non è un paese sicuro, poiché ci sono già tantissimi rifugiati e poche risorse. Come si può pensare di portare qualcuno, che per esempio viene dall’Afghanistan, in Rwanda? Cosa faranno lì? Tutto ciò è solo un’esternalizzazione in stile coloniale delle responsabilità del Regno Unito verso il diritto all’ asilo. Ci preoccupa davvero il fatto che queste persone, possano essere spinte al suicidio, perché capiranno che stanno aspettando solo di essere deportate».

      Infine, secondo Tigs «ciò che sta facendo il Regno Unito fa parte di una tendenza più ampia che sta nascendo in Europa, copiata da Grecia e Italia, quando tenevano le persone in quarantena su una nave durante la pandemia. Nel 2021 ho preso parte ad una missione di soccorso con Sea Watch, siamo arrivati al porto di Trapani con 200 persone a bordo, dopo 12 giorni di navigazione, e un’enorme nave ci stava aspettando, per trasferire le persone dalla nostra imbarcazione. Le persone non volevano andare. Volevano scendere a terra. Avevano paura di cosa avrebbero trovato, di restare in acqua, di sentirsi male».

      In conclusione, sebbene sia la prima volta che il Regno Unito decida di adottare un sistema del genere, tenere le persone migranti il più possibile segregate rispetto alla popolazione locale, riducendo il loro spazio vitale al minimo, operare a risparmio sull’accoglienza ed esternalizzare le frontiere non rappresenta alcuna novità. Al contrario, è solo l’ennesimo triste passo verso una tendenza consolidata, dei democraticissimi stati europei, di lavarsi le mani dal dovere di salvare vite umane, accogliere, e rispettare il diritto all’asilo.

      E’ possibile seguire la campagna e donare per sostenere la campagna contro le prigioni galleggianti e avviare un’azione legale contro lo stato britannico a questo link: https://tr.ee/74EHZPD4rz .


    • ‘Cabins slightly larger than a prison cell’: life aboard the UK’s barge for asylum seekers

      Home Office tour of asylum seeker Bibby Stockholm barge emphasises no-frills features including TVs that don’t work

      Each two-person cabin in the Bibby Stockholm barge, which is set to start accommodating asylum seekers imminently, has a small flat-screen television screwed to the wall opposite the bunk beds. Residents will not, however, be able to watch them because they have not been wired to anything.

      The timeline for the arrival of the first group of 50 asylum seekers has slipped from next week to “the coming weeks”, with the Home Office aiming to increase the number of occupants (or “service users”, as barge staff term them) to 500 by the autumn.

      Organising tours for journalists on Friday of the 222-cabin barge moored in Portland Port, Dorset, presented government officials with a PR conundrum.

      To underline that reliance on expensive hotel accommodation was being reduced, conditions needed to be shown to be less luxurious than hotels but not so austere that the barge could be classified as a floating prison.

      Officials have refused to provide any detail about the figures behind their assertion that the barge accommodation will be considerably cheaper than hotel rooms.

      When the facility finally opens, arrivals will make their way on to the barge via a gangplank, and through airport-style security. In line with the Home Office’s prevailing dislike of friendly murals and pictures, asylum seekers will be greeted by plain, undecorated walls, though a simple laminated A4 sheet stating “welcome” has been stuck on the wall of the reception room.

      Windowless corridors, narrow enough to trail your fingers along both walls as you walk through them, circle the perimeter of the barge, with about 50 rooms on the long edges. Empty of inhabitants, the very confined space feels clean and cool, with an atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of a faded cross-Channel ferry.

      Single-person cabins have been refitted with bunk beds to double the potential capacity of the vessel. Each cabin is slightly larger in size than a prison cell, a bit smaller than the most basic university accommodation, and is fitted with a shower and toilet, a cupboard, mirror, desk and (staff are keen to point this out as a positive feature) a window.

      There was a subtle difference in approach taken by the Home Office employees giving tours to journalists and the representatives of the firm subcontracted to manage the barge.

      Government officials were keen to emphasise the barge’s low-cost appeal, but staff working for the Miami-based Landry & Kling, which has been subcontracted by the Australian firm Corporate Travel Management (CTM) to run the vessel on behalf of the Home Office, wanted to highlight the “dignified” treatment that would be provided: a 24-hour snack bar, planned visits to local allotments, proposed walks and cycle trips for residents.

      Joyce Landry, the firm’s cofounder, valiantly described the Bibby Stockholm in an interview earlier this week with the Herald as “actually quite lovely”.

      In the centre of the barge there are two smallish outdoor areas where nets are soon to be installed to allow people to play volleyball or netball and possibly a very contracted form of football. There is a small gym with two running machines, and an education room with just eight seats.

      “The thing that puts this vessel above many others is that every room has a window. You won’t feel claustrophobic. The windows open, unlike in some hotels. There’s enough public space to have a sense of freedom and openness,” said a Landry & Kling staff member.

      The windows offer views of high metal fencing and naval works units. Whether or not residents, single men aged 18-65, who will be held here for up to nine months, will agree that there is a sense of freedom and openness is a moot point. Security staff are being trained to manage conflict on board.

      In the street by the port’s entrance local protesters have been displaying their anger about the barge all week, with some furious at the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers so close to the small tourist town, and others protesting that asylum seekers should not be held on barges at all.

      Landry has spent the past three nights sleeping on the barge to experience conditions. A windy night prompted staff to request extra tethering to fix the barge to the shore.

      Landry & Kling staff said the Home Office had requested that the TVs (previously used by construction workers recently accommodated on the barge) should not be wired up.

      The Home Office staff said they wanted “to promote socialisation” by forcing people out of their rooms to watch television together in the two communal TV rooms.

      But the presence of non-functioning TVs may also signal a determination by the Home Office to show that its latest solution for housing asylum seekers is merely “basic and functional” and will offer no frills to residents.

      Before it housed oil and construction workers, the Bibby Stockholm was used in the 2000s by the Netherlands to house asylum seekers. An Amnesty report from 2008 documented the psychological trauma experienced by residents.

      The rare Home Office tour of facilities was designed to showcase progress away from housing 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels at a cost of £6m a day to a cheaper alternative.

      However, plans have only been laid out for alternative accommodation for 3,000 people who they now hope will be moved to new, ex-military facilities and the barge by the autumn.


    • ‘No timeframe’ on delayed opening of Bibby Stockholm asylum barge

      Transport minister says barge in Portland going through final checks amid row over safety concerns

      A UK government minister has said he “cannot put a timeframe” on when the Home Office will open a controversial giant barge meant to house asylum seekers, which has been further delayed for checks.

      The initial plan had been to move people on to the Bibby Stockholm in Portland, Dorset, from this week, with numbers due to rise over the coming months until the vessel held about 500 men.

      Asked on Sky News when the barge would be available, the transport minister Richard Holden said: “It’s going through its final checks at the moment. It’s right that … whatever accommodation we provide is safe and secure as well. I can’t put a timeframe on it.”

      Asked if safety concerns were delaying the opening, he said: “It’s going through final checks at the moment. With anything you would want them to be properly checked out.”

      The Guardian reported on Monday that the first asylum seekers were due to be moved onboard the vessel on Wednesday but that seems to have been delayed further with the minister now unwilling to put a timeframe on the move.

      Asked if it would be delayed as long as the Rwanda policy had taken to implement, Holden added: “I can’t comment on the ongoing process of checks and things that have to take place but it is my understanding (it is) in its final checks.”

      Fears had been expressed that the barge could become a “floating Grenfell” and endanger the lives of vulnerable people who have fled hardship and war as it has not received the relevant safety signoff.

      About 40 claimants staying in other Home Office accommodation had received transfer letters saying they would be moved to the 222-cabin vessel in Dorset, Whitehall sources said.

      More than 50 national organisations and campaigners, including the Refugee Council, Asylum Matters and Refugee Action, have called the government’s plan “cruel and inhumane”. They said the vessel was “entirely inappropriate” and would house traumatised migrants in “detention-like conditions”.

      People are meanwhile expected to be moved this week on to another site that has become a focus for protest, the disused RAF base in Wethersfield, Essex.

      Local people who attended an event convened by the Home Office in the village complained on Monday night of coming away even more frustrated because of what they said was a lack of answers.

      “It was actually embarrassing. They didn’t pass a microphone around and it seemed to be really badly organised so people just ended up shouting to be heard,” said Michelle Chapman, of the Fields Association, a residents group involved in a campaign against the centre.

      “It ended up being quite heated and people just came away feeling frustrated. If there was one answer it was a pledge that they would not bring in any more than 50 people in one go, but there is still confusion here and genuine anxiety.”

      The meeting, held in the village hall, was addressed by senior police officers as well as Home Office officials. Local council officials were also present at the meeting, where Chapman said there was standing room only.

      A Home Office spokesperson said that delivering accommodation on surplus military sites and vessels would provide cheaper and more suitable accommodation for those arriving in the UK in small boats.

      They added: “The first asylum seekers have now been accommodated at Wethersfield and we are working with stakeholders on a carefully structured plan to increase the number staying there in a phased approach.”


    • Transfer of asylum seekers to ‘floating coffin’ Bibby Stockholm postponed

      Nicola David of campaign group One Life to Live documents the reasons why Bibby Stockholm is being recognised as a potential death trap

      With the first asylum seekers due to step aboard Bibby Stockholm this week, the controversy surrounding the Home Office’s decision to contain people on the barge has further escalated. Serious safety questions are being raised about the barge’s setting, a berth at the Langham Industries-run Portland Port. As a direct consequence, the initial transfer of 40 vulnerable adults to Bibby Stockholm has been postponed. I calculate that delays to date have already cost the taxpayer over £3mn.

      This is the first time that asylum seekers are to be contained on a barge in the UK, and the scheme is already mired in misery. There were significant delays in dry dock, where rotten sections of the hull needed replacing. And my report found that keeping people on the barge won’t cost less than in hotels, which is the crux of the Home Office’s strategy.

      Now, I have found that the 47-year-old vessel has not yet passed fire safety checks, and there are grave concerns over serious and unresolved (and potentially unresolvable) safety and fire risks. There also appears to be confusion over which safety regulations will apply, given that the site straddles the sea and land and the engine-less vessel is effectively a hotel.

      Clear evidence is emerging that the decision to transfer vulnerable adults onto Bibby Stockholm was premature at best – and potentially negligent at worst. And politically, if safety concerns require the Home Office to significantly reduce the number of people on board, the cost per head would be a humiliating blow to the prime minister and home secretary, who are counting on large-scale containment sites such as this to put an end to the daily asylum seeker hotel bill.
      Bibby Stockholm: a disaster waiting to happen

      Bibby Stockholm was designed to hold 222 people in single cabins, but was recently reconfigured to hold 506 asylum seekers in multiple-occupancy rooms along with 40 resident staff. A further 20 staff will live off the barge; with some of these on duty, around 550 people could be on board at any time.

      This is 248% of the intended capacity – and more than the previous maximum of 472 asylum seekers held when the same vessel was used as an immigration detention centre in Rotterdam in 2005. I am also left wondering whether the barge’s insurers can have extended its cover to this permit this level of overcrowding, and whether they would refuse public liability claims for injury, death or damage from asylum seekers, staff or the port.

      Asylum seekers sharing small cabins will have “less living space than an average parking bay”, according to the Independent. The mayor of Portland, Carralyn Parkes, measured the cabins and found that those for two people averaged “about 10ft by 12ft”. This could lead to serious problems with exiting rooms, using corridors, and accessing fire exits – and it is not clear whether there are sufficient fire exits for the new, higher population.

      The width of the corridors on board is not publicly known, but following a tour of the barge the Guardian reported that they are “narrow enough to trail your fingers along both walls as you walk”. Given the excess numbers of people, this could result in deadly delays, bottlenecks, and trampling of fallen people.

      Bibby Stockholm has three floors and all of the corridors are configured in the same way. There are no external windows in the corridors, and in an emergency – particularly if smoke and/or dim lighting affect visibility – it is easy to imagine that people might become disoriented or be unable to locate the bow, stern, port or starboard sides. This could cause delays and increase panic.

      Factors that would impede escape

      Asylum seekers may have prior injuries relating to war, conflict or persecution, or may sustain injuries as direct result of an incident on the barge. In 2005, when a fire broke out at a Dutch detention centre in which 11 people died and 15 were injured, one man “suffered injuries to his neck, shoulders and chest when he fell from his bed … in panic after realising that the detention centre was on fire”. Either type of injury could impede escape in a major incident. Additionally, those suffering from the mental trauma of war, conflict or persecution may be less able to process evacuation and safety instructions.

      Local councillors who visited the barge on 27 July reported that there were also no lifejackets on the vessel. The windows on board can be opened, but it is understood that this is restricted and would not allow a person to escape in an emergency. Barge operator Landry & Kling also told journalists that there would be no fire drills on Bibby Stockholm.

      Any emergency would be further compounded by the presence of asylum seekers whose first language is not English, or who speak no English, and may struggle to understand verbal evacuation and safety instructions, especially in a state of panic.
      Access for emergency vehicles

      I am very concerned about the capacity of the small quayside compound, which could not possibly hold 550 people in an evacuation. To prevent asylum seekers leaving the site or walking around on the port, this compound is surrounded by a fence at least 15 feet high and is accessible only via two sets of locked gates. In a crush, people simply couldn’t get out. There is significant potential for a Hillsborough-like crush situation.

      The only way for emergency vehicles to access the vessel would be via this compound. Locked gates could be a problem; even with access, how would first-responders and ambulances get through large numbers of panicked people crowding into the enclosed area?

      Physical condition of Bibby Stockholm

      Bibby Stockholm was built in 1976. According to a recent FT article:

      “The hull was rotten … in places the steel hull had decayed to the point where it was dangerously thin, necessitating the replacement of entire sections … Bibby Stockholm was late out of Falmouth for good reasons, mostly age-related.”

      The repair work done at Falmouth may have fixed the localised problems, and the barge may (as the FT found) have passed its Lloyd’s inspections, but the rot and repairs may have undermined the overall structural integrity of the hull.

      This could leave the barge open to being adversely affected by extreme weather, including being knocked against the berth, or by the weight of the additional residents plus the commensurate additional furniture and stores.
      Complexity around safety

      The barge scheme straddles both water and land, rendering safety inspections and certification more complex and potentially confusing. At least five agencies are involved:

      Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
      The Maritime and Coastguard Agency
      Dorset Council, which regulates the safety of the barge
      The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which regulates the surrounding quayside
      Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

      Health and safety concerns

      In the week commencing 24 July, the HSE visited the berth at Portland Port. It found that “a lot” of work was still required to be done by both Bibby Marine and Landry & Kling, the US-based subcontractor for operations.

      Landry & Kling co-founder Joyce Landry has claimed in an interview in The Herald that “fears about the conditions on board have been caused by a lack of accurate information,” and that Bibby Stockholm is “actually quite lovely”.

      Mark Davies, head of communications and campaigns at the Refugee Council, expressed concern, saying:

      “Like most people in the UK, we believe people seeking asylum – the vast majority of whom are refugees fleeing unimaginable horrors – should be treated with decency, respect and humanity. These are values people in Britain hold dear.”

      A 27 July report in the Guardian, highlighting some of these safety concerns, includes a statement from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service which indicates that they are not yet satisfied with arrangements at the barge. They said they had “conducted visits to review fire safety arrangements on the Bibby Stockholm” and were continuing to liaise with other authorities “to ensure that appropriate fire safety measures under relevant legislation are in place”.
      Questions for the home secretary

      On 18 July it was reported that Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, has said:

      “For months, I have been asking for sight of the safety risk assessments that should have been done to allow the Bibby Stockholm to be used in Portland Harbour … But visibility or assurances that adequate safety risk assessments have been completed have not been received.”

      Loder has written to the home secretary Suella Braverman and transport minister Baroness Vere to ask that they either stop the scheme or provide the necessary safety risk assessments confirming that the vessel can cope with double the weight that it was designed to bear.

      In May 2023, a caller named Mark told David Lammy MP on LBC Radio: “What they are effectively doing here is they are creating a potential Grenfell on water, a floating coffin … If there is a fire, people will die. In this case, people won’t die from the smoke or the flames, they will die from the stampede.”
      A failure both of competence and humanity

      The Home Office announced its intention to create a series of asylum seeker containment sites last year, but failed at the first hurdle with the cancelled plans for Linton-on-Ouse. The RAF Scampton and RAF Wethersfield sites now have permission to push ahead with a judicial review. Regardless, Scampton has been delayed until October, since the Home Office has failed for five months to survey the accommodation buildings and to engage tradespeople.

      At Wethersfield (the only large-scale site to have received any asylum seekers so far) there are cases of tuberculosis, scurvy and scabies. Legal action on human rights grounds is certain to follow at all sites, involving misery for individuals and a burden for the public purse.

      The Home Office appears to be embarrassingly unable to set up and manage these sites, or to show any humanity towards deeply vulnerable people. It certainly cannot deliver value for money. It is time for the Home Office to hire more asylum caseworkers to process the shameful backlog, and to put an end to large-scale containment – before we start to see them shifting into concentration-like detention centres.


    • Bibby Stockholm: First asylum seekers to board UK’s controversial barge despite safety warnings

      Fire Bridges Union (FBU) have brand Bibby Stockholm a ’potential deathtrap,’ while leaked health document warns of a potential diphtheria outbreak.

      The first 50 asylum seekers will board the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge “imminently," the British government told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.

      The announcement comes just days after the Fire Bridges Union (FBU) raised concerns about overcrowding and fire exit access in a letter to the Home Secretary.

      The Bibby Stockholm, a 222-cabin barge moored off Portland port in Dorset, is anticipated to accommodate double its original capacity, with bunkbeds squeezed into single cabins.

      Narrow corridors, a lack of life jackets, and locked gates could create a “Hillsborough-type crush” and make it a “potential deathtrap,” the FBU warned.

      The evacuation point, a compound on the quayside, has been described by Dorset councillors as “completely inappropriate".

      “Firefighting operations on vessels such as the Bibby Stockholm provide significant challenges and require specialist training and safe systems of work. The diminished safety provisions only exacerbate our operational concerns,” Ben Selby, the assistant general Secretary of the FBU wrote.

      A leaked internal health document has also warned of the potential for “a significant outbreak” of diphtheria aboard the boat.

      It also highlighted the risk of the spread of a number of other infectious diseases including TB, Legionnaires’ disease, norovirus, salmonella, and scabies.

      The first group of asylum seekers was initially intended to arrive last Tuesday, but the date was pushed to this week amid health and safety concerns.

      The Home Office had already been forced to delay the first arrivals onto the vessel in order to carry out last-minute fire safety checks, after an intervention by health and safety officials.

      On Sunday, Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock said the opposition Labour Party would have “no choice” but to continue housing asylum seekers on barges if it forms the next government.

      The news comes amid a raft of new anti-migration measures including a huge increase in fines for landlords and employers who house or employ undocumented migrants, and the revival of plans to fly asylum seekers to Ascension Island.
      Floating prisons

      The move to house asylum seekers on the barge in “detention-like conditions” has been condemned by over 50 national organisations and campaigners for being “cruel and inhumane".

      “(This) floating prison is very quickly going to turn into an overcrowded camp like Manston,” a member of Action Against Detention and Deportations (ADD) told MEE, referring to the short-term facility in Kent that was dangerously overcrowded.

      “There’s also a concern about how this might affect deportation,” they said.

      “We know that the Home Office cuts a lot of different admin procedures where they can, any route they can go through to detain people easily, they will do so… having that number of people in unsafe conditions… is a big concern.”

      It is the first time a large floating structure has been used as long-term housing for asylum seekers in the UK. In 2008, Algerian national Rachid Abdelsalam died from heart failure aboard the Bibby Stockholm when it was deployed in the Netherlands.

      Reportedly, guards were warned of his deteriorating condition and treated his heart irregularities with cough syrup.

      In 2022, also in the Netherlands, a major typhoid outbreak aboard an ageing cruise liner infected 52 asylum seekers and saw 20 staff members hospitalised after raw sewage contaminated the drinking water.
      No basic protections

      In the same letter, the FBU also expressed concerns about the government’s plans to exempt asylum seeker accommodation from requirements for a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.

      In May this year, the Guardian reported the government plans to exempt asylum seeker accommodation from basic protections that govern HMOs in order to empty hotels of thousands of asylum seekers and transfer them to the private rented sector.

      The proposed changes would lift restrictions on electrical safety and minimum room sizes, and exempt landlords renting to multiple asylum seekers from requiring an HMO license for two years.

      “To strip away the very basic protections currently in place is appalling, allowing rogue landlords to house vulnerable men, women, and children in dangerous accommodation," a Refugee Council spokesperson told MEE.

      Care4Calais CEO Steve Smith told MEE that the plans treated asylum seekers as “second-class citizens.”

      “HMO licences exist for a reason,” Smith said.

      “Without them, people’s lives would be placed in the hands of unscrupulous landlords who are driven by money rather than providing safe and secure housing for tenants.”


    • First occupants of Bibby Stockholm barge taken onboard

      First asylum seekers to be housed on floating accommodation in Portland, Dorset, have arrived

      The first group of asylum seekers due to be housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, have been taken onboard.

      Buses were seen arriving at Portland on Monday morning as activists gathered at the entrance with “welcome” signs. About 50 asylum seekers are expected on Monday.

      The UK government wants to use barges and former military bases to accommodate some asylum seekers after the cost of housing them in hotels soared to £1.9bn pounds last year.

      Their arrival came amid confusion over the government’s immigration policies at the start of Rishi Sunak’s “small boats week”, during which the government is planning a series of eye-catching announcements.

      A Home Office minister indicated that up to 500 asylum seekers could be onboard by the end of the week. But No 10 appeared to suggest that the minister had misspoken. The same minister indicated that the Home Office was examining proposals to send asylum seekers to a UK territory in the south Atlantic. However, Whitehall sources said the proposal was not being pursued.

      The Bibby Stockholm was docked off the Dorset coast nearly three weeks ago and had been empty since due to health and safety concerns.

      The minister for safeguarding, Sarah Dines, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while only a small number of asylum seekers were expected to be housed on the barge at first, it could increase rapidly to its capacity of about 500.

      Pressed on whether all of them could be onboard by the end of the week, Dines said: “Yes, quite possibly it will be 500. We are hoping.”

      She said the increase in the number of people on the ship would be gradual, despite concerns from the Fire Brigades Union that the vessel “is a deathtrap”.

      Later, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “Numbers will increase over time as you would expect for any new asylum facility. My understanding is that the Bibby Stockholm has an upward capacity of 500. We are looking to [reach] that number over time – I don’t think we are aiming to do it by the weekend.”

      Dines also claimed that ministers were “looking at everything” when asked about headlines in national newspapers claiming the government was looking again at sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island.

      Whitehall sources have indicated the plans are not being pursued. The prime minister’s official spokesperson would not comment on “speculation”.

      Ministers have repeatedly said the barge will be better value for British taxpayers and more manageable for local communities – a claim challenged by refugee charities. There has been local opposition to the plan because of concerns about the asylum seekers’ welfare, as well as the potential impact on local services.

      The refugee charity Care4Calais said it had stopped 20 people from being forced to board the barge so far, with referrals coming in from hotels by the hour.

      “None of the asylum seekers we are supporting have gone to the Bibby Stockholm today as legal representatives have had their transfers cancelled,” Steve Smith, the charity’s CEO, said.

      “Among our clients are people who are disabled, who have survived torture and modern slavery and who have had traumatic experiences at sea. To house any human being in a ‘quasi floating prison’ like the Bibby Stockholm is inhumane. To try and do so to this group of people is unbelievably cruel.”

      More than 15,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel, official figures show.

      On Friday and Saturday 339 people made the journey after an eight-day hiatus amid poor weather conditions at sea, taking the provisional total for 2023 to date to 15,071.

      Amnesty International UK condemned using the barge to house asylum seekers. Steve Valdez-Symonds, the charity’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “It seems there’s nothing this government won’t do to make people seeking asylum feel unwelcome and unsafe in this country.

      “Reminiscent of the prison hulks from the Victorian era, the Bibby Stockholm is an utterly shameful way to house people who’ve fled terror, conflict and persecution. Housing people on a floating barge is likely to be re-traumatising and there should be major concerns about confining each person to living quarters the typical size of a car parking space.”

      The government hopes the use of the barge and former military bases to house asylum seekers will reduce the cost of hotel bills.


    • Bibby Stockholm: Asylum seekers describe life on barge

      Some of the first group of men to board the Bibby Stockholm have described their first 24 hours on the barge.

      One asylum seeker told the BBC it was like a prison and felt there wasn’t enough room to accommodate up to 500 people onboard, as the government plans.

      The Home Office says the barge will provide better value for the taxpayer as pressure on the asylum system from small boats arrivals continues to grow.

      Moored in Portland Port, Dorset, it is the first barge secured under the government’s plans to reduce the cost of asylum accommodation.

      Monday saw the first 15 asylum seekers board the Bibby Stockholm after a series of delays over safety concerns. It will house men aged 18 to 65 while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.

      An Afghan asylum seeker, whom the BBC is not identifying, said: "The sound of locks and security checks gives me the feeling of entering Alcatraz prison.

      “My roommate panicked in the middle of the night and felt like he was drowning. There are people among us who have been given heavy drugs for depression by the doctor here.”

      He said he had been given a small room, and the dining hall had capacity for fewer than 150 people.

      “Like a prison, it [the barge] has entrance and exit gates, and at some specific hours, we have to take a bus, and after driving a long distance, we go to a place where we can walk. We feel very bad,” the man added.

      There is 24/7 security in place on board the Bibby Stockholm and asylum seekers are issued with ID swipe cards and have to pass through airport-style security scans to get on and off.

      Asylum seekers are expected to take a shuttle bus to the port exit for security reasons. There is no curfew, but if they aren’t back there will be a “welfare call”.

      The Home Office has said it would support their welfare by providing basic healthcare, organised activities and recreation.

      The first group of men arrived on Monday. The Care4Calais charity said it was providing legal support to a further 20 asylum seekers who refused to move to Portland and are challenging the decision.

      On Tuesday, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffiths, said that moving to the barge was “not a choice” and if people choose not to comply “they will be taken outside of the asylum support system”.

      “Many of us entered Britain nine to 11 months ago, by airplane. Some of us applied for asylum at the airport. We did not come by boat,” the Afghan man said.

      "It has been two weeks since we received a letter in which they threatened that if we do not agree to go, our aid and NHS will be cut off.

      “There are people among us who take medicine. We accepted. We waited for two weeks and didn’t even have time to bring clean clothes.”

      Another man who boarded the vessel on Monday told the BBC he had arrived in the UK on an aircraft, had a wife still in Iran and had been in Britain for six months.

      The man - whom the BBC is not identifying - said he had eaten a “good” breakfast which included “eggs, cheese, jam and butter”.

      The government says it is spending £6m per day housing more than 50,000 migrants in hotels.

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “This marks a further step forward in the government’s work to bring forward alternative accommodation options as part of its pledge to reduce the use of expensive hotels and move to a more orderly, sustainable system which is more manageable for local communities.”

      “This is a tried-and-tested approach that mirrors that taken by our European neighbours, the Scottish government and offers better value for the British taxpayer,” they added.

      The Home Office says that by the autumn, they aim to house about 3,000 asylum seekers in places that aren’t hotels - such as the barge, and former military sites Wethersfield, in Essex, and Scampton, in Lincolnshire.


    • Moment Bibby Stockholm barge migrants are EVACUATED amid fears of Legionnaires’ disease - just DAYS after asylum seekers moved aboard in Dorset

      - All 39 asylum seekers onboard Bibby Stockholm barge were evacuated today
      - It comes after first 15 men boarded vessel in Portland, Dorset, just four days ago

      This the moment asylum seekers were driven away from the Bibby Stockholm after deadly legionella bacteria was found in the migrant barge’s water system.

      All 39 migrants onboard the controversial vessel were evacuated today - just four days after the first 15 men stepped onto it in Portland, Dorset - and are being moved to the same hotel, according to The Independent.

      A 40-seater coach, which had been shuttling migrants to and from Weymouth, was seen leaving today. Inside were two men sat in the middle who turned their faces away from onlookers at the port.

      Other footage of the Bibby Stockholm showed people arriving and leaving this afternoon - with ten people seen walking up a ramp and entering while others left.

      Routine tests of the barge’s water supply were reportedly carried out on July 25 but the results only came back when asylum seekers began boarding the barge on Monday, according to Sky News. The results showed levels of legionella bacteria ’which require further investigation’.

      Home Office sources say they were not made aware of the results until Wednesday, with further tests being carried out on Thursday.

      The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised the Government on Thursday evening to remove all six people that arrived on the Bibby Stockholm that day, but the Home Office decided to evacuate all 39 as a precaution.

      The harmful bacteria can cause a serious lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, which can happen when breathing in tiny droplets of water containing the bacteria.

      Although nobody onboard had shown symptoms of the disease, officials insisted that all migrants be disembarked while further assessments are carried out.

      A letter from the Home Office that was leaked to the Guardian has reportedly informed asylum seekers that they will be tested for Legionnaires diseases if they do begin to show symptoms.

      The migrants will be taken to hotels which are said to be far from Weymouth, where few rooms are available during the height of the school summer holidays.

      One Syrian migrant onboard the barge told MailOnline this afternoon that he had not been given any information and had not been told to leave. He said: ’The place is very empty but no one has said anything to us. We will have to wait and see, but it is worrying.’

      But the migrants were later told they would be evacuated. It comes after health officials ordered six new arrivals to be removed yesterday.

      Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick is said to be holding meetings to discuss the barge, which the Government hoped would house up to 500 migrants. Local councillors have vowed not to see the boat back in use.

      With a capacity of up to 506, the Government is still hoping that use of the Bibby Stockholm, together with former military bases, will help reduce the £6million a day it is spending on hotel bills for asylum seekers.

      But opponents have claimed the barge is unsafe and a ’floating prison’, while lawyers of some migrants due to board this week have successfully argued to allow them to stay in hotels.

      It was only four days ago that the first 15 men were taken onboard the vessel.

      Support workers, who have spoken to some on board, claimed the asylum seekers were not being kept informed about what was happening.

      Heather Jones, of the Portland Friendship Group which is supporting the migrants, said: ’I have had texts and phone conversations from some of them and they are still on board, they haven’t been evacuated yet.

      ’Nobody has told them anything. They have had to ask me what the problem is. One of them was really concerned because he had just drunk a glass of water and he was asking me if he was going to be OK.

      ’I told him it is probably a precautionary measure but they shouldn’t be hearing it from me.

      ’They don’t know where they are being taken to. Hopefully it will be back to the hotels where they have come from.’

      There was a small group of campaigners from Stand Up To Racism at the port entrance holding placards saying ’Legionella death trap’ and ’human rights’.

      Lynne Hubbard, from the group, said: ’The Home Office have admitted they carried on admitting asylum seekers on the barge even though they found out about legionella on Monday.

      ’They would have been drinking the water and showering in it. That shows pretty clearly what the Government thinks of asylum seekers and how much they value their lives. They are heartless.

      ’An asylum seeker in there we are in contact with told us to get in touch with his family in case he dies of Legionella. That’s how frightened they are.’

      A local Portland councillor slammed the health crisis as a ’farce’ this afternoon.

      Paul Kimbdr, an independent councillor, said he thought the outbreak would mean the end of the barge being used to house asylum seekers.

      ’I just can’t see it being back in use. It’s all been a bit of a farce really,’ he told MailOnline.

      A Home Office spokesman told MailOnline today: ’The health and welfare of individuals on the vessel is our utmost priority.

      ’Environmental samples from the water system on the Bibby Stockholm have shown levels of legionella bacteria which require further investigation.

      ’Following these results, the Home Office has been working closely with UKHSA (the UK Health Security Agency) and following its advice in line with long established public health processes, and ensuring all protocol from Dorset Council’s Environmental Health team and Dorset NHS is adhered to.

      ’As a precautionary measure, all 39 asylum seekers who arrived on the vessel this week are being disembarked while further assessments are undertaken.

      ’No individuals on board have presented with symptoms of Legionnaires’, and asylum seekers are being provided with appropriate advice and support.

      ’The samples taken relate only to the water system on the vessel itself and therefore carry no direct risk indication for the wider community of Portland nor do they relate to fresh water entering the vessel. Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person.’

      Mr Jenrick has previously described the barge as ’perfectly decent accommodation’, but asylum seekers who have spent four nights onboard have contrasting views.

      While one Afghan compared it to the former US maximum security prison Alcatraz, others have said it was ’cramped but comfortable’ with lots of facilities.

      MailOnline understands that the legionella bacteria is believed to have come from the pipes on the vessel – with tests of the water at point of entry coming back with no indication of legionella.

      Six asylum seekers arrived on the barge yesterday, and the UK Health Security Agency last night advised the Home Office to remove this group.

      Home Office sources have insisted that the removal of everyone was a ’further temporary precaution’ aimed to ’reduce the health risk as much as possible’.

      The Home Office is now awaiting the results of follow-up tests which have been carried out on the water system by Dorset Council environmental health officers.

      The UK Health Security Agency will then provide additional advice.

      Sources added that it was not unusual to identify legionella bacteria in warm water systems, which is why they are often subject to regular testing in buildings.

      A Dorset Council spokesman said: ’Dorset Council’s environmental health team and Public Health Dorset are advising the Home Office and its contractors, alongside the UK Health Security Agency and NHS Dorset, following notification of positive samples of Legionella bacteria in the water system on the Bibby Stockholm barge.

      ’No individuals have presented symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, and there is no health risk to the wider community of Portland.’

      It is understood that the Home Office is managing the search for alternative accommodation for the asylum seekers.

      Dr Laurence Buckman, former chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, told GB News today: ’If you’re unlucky and your immunity isn’t really tip-top, there is a risk that you will get legionella pneumonia and die from it.

      ’It’s potentially treatable but of course you have to diagnose it first. It lives in water supplies. It lives in sink traps, so a U-bend of a sink will be a problem, and it lives in air conditioning units.

      ’That’s why we have what are called ’scrubbers’ in air conditioning units to wipe out the legionella before the air gets blown onto other people, and why hospitals that get legionella in their sinks have a really big problem. At worst, they have to take the sinks out and replace them and the pipework that goes with them.’

      Steve Smith, chief executive of the charity Care4Calais, said: ’We have always known our concerns over the health and safety of the barge are justified, and this latest mismanagement proves our point.

      ’The Bibby Stockholm is a visual illustration of this Government’s hostile environment against refugees, but it has also fast become a symbol for the shambolic incompetence which has broken Britain’s asylum system.

      ’The Government should now realise warehousing refugees in this manner is completely untenable, and should focus on the real job at hand - processing the asylum claims swiftly, so refugees may become contributing members of our communities as they so strongly wish.’

      Meanwhile Fire Brigades Union general secretary Ben Selby said the outbreak suggested it was ’only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’

      He said: ’The Fire Brigades Union warned the Home Secretary that forcibly holding migrants on this barge was a huge health and safety risk.

      ’This outbreak of Legionella suggests that it’s only a matter of time before either lives are lost or there is serious harm to a detainee.’

      And Alex Bailey, a spokesman for the No To The Barge campaign group, told MailOnline: ’This has become Fawlty Towers at sea.

      ’This was inevitable because of the poor advance planning and preparation, the rush and people in power with little knowledge and pushing the experts to break the rules.

      ’This is just another example of the incompetent way our Government has approached this scheme from start to finish. Robert Jenrick promised the country Bibbly Stockholm was safe. That is not the case.’

      Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ’Across the country, most people want strong border security and a properly managed and controlled asylum system so the UK does its bit alongside other countries to help those who have fled persecution and conflict, while those who have no right to be here are swiftly returned.

      ’Under this Government, we have neither as gangs are undermining our border security and the asylum system is in chaos.’

      And Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said: ’The presence of life-threatening bacteria onboard the Bibby Stockholm is just another shocking revelation that we’ve seen unfold over the past few weeks. This Government’s punitive policies and deliberate neglect of the asylum system is not just cruel, it’s dangerous.’

      Yesterday the Home Office denied the barge was a ’floating prison’ and insisted that those onboard would be ’free to come and go as they want’.

      Gardening in nearby allotments and hiking tours of the area are among the activities which could be offered to those onboard.

      Security measures include 18 guards trained to military standard who work around the clock.

      In total, about 60 staff including cooks and cleaners will be on board the barge run by Landry and Kling, a sub-contractor of Corporate Travel Management (CTM) which also managed vessels in Scotland housing Ukrainians.

      Spaghetti with meatballs, roast turkey, Irish stew and beef pie are on the sample menu to be served in the canteen by Dubai-headquartered offshore firm Connect Catering Services, alongside breakfast and a selection of snacks available 24 hours a day.

      The gym, equipped with treadmills and weights, is still awaiting delivery of rowing machines and exercise bikes. Volleyball, basketball, netball and football can all be played in one of two outside courtyards.

      Most of the 222 bedrooms have twin bunk beds, with cupboard space, a desk, en-suite bathroom, heating and windows which open. But there are also 20 larger rooms which would sleep four people, and two rooms housing six people.

      The bedrooms all have televisions which the operator was told to disconnect but were too costly to remove so can be used only as monitors.

      Instead, residents will be encouraged to socialise or watch programmes and films in one of four communal TV rooms, and can also learn English in a classroom and worship in a dedicated space. A small number of laptops are also available and there is Wi-Fi throughout the barge.

      #maladie #légionellose #maladie_du_légionnaire #évacuation

    • Asylum seekers say Bibby Stockholm conditions caused suicide attempt

      Thirty-nine people who were briefly onboard write to Suella Braverman describing their fear and despair

      Thirty-nine asylum seekers who were briefly accommodated on the Home Office’s controversial Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset have said conditions onboard were so bad that one was driven to attempt suicide.

      A three-page letter sent to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, also sets out the asylum seekers’ fear and despair at being trapped on the barge and appeals to her to help them in their search for safety and freedom in the UK.

      They describe the barge as “an unsafe, frightening and isolated place” but said that as law-abiding people they were fearful of not obeying Home Office instructions. The asylum seekers described the barge as “a place of exile” and said the conditions were “small rooms and a terrifying residence”.

      Some of the asylum seekers have told the Guardian they are too traumatised to return to the barge in Portland.

      According to the letter some people fell ill on the barge.

      The letter says: “Also in a tragic incident one of the asylum seekers attempted suicide but we acted promptly and prevented this unfortunate event. Considering the ongoing difficulties it’s not unexpected that we might face a repeat of such situations in the future.

      “Some friends said they even wished they had courage to commit suicide. Our personal belief is that many of these individuals might resort to this foolishness to escape problems in the future.”

      They said they were the last people to be informed about the legionella bacteria found on the barge and announced by the Home Office on 11 August.

      They said their brief stay on the barge had led to a deterioration in their mental health. “Currently we are staying in an old and abandoned hotel. The sense of isolation and loneliness has taken over us and psychological and emotional pressures have increased significantly.”

      The letter to Braverman concludes with a plea to consider their situation as a priority. “We are individuals who are tired of the challenges that have arisen and no longer have the strength to face them.”

      An Iranian asylum seeker among the 39 has vowed never to return there. He said many of the other men who spent a few days onboard felt the same way.

      “If I had had to stay even one more day on the barge I would have had suicidal thoughts. When I got on to the barge the smell and the stench of seawater was overwhelming,” he said.

      “I developed stomach pains and felt dizzy but I was too scared to refuse to get on. Being on the barge made us feel like criminals and second-class citizens.”

      He added that nobody from the Home Office properly explained the legionella situation to them. “I had to search on Google to find out what it is. Everyone who was on the barge are now all together in one hotel. A few people are coughing and everybody is afraid. When I was having a shower on the barge the water was burning my eyes.

      “Being on that barge will always be a horrific memory in my brain. It’s a completely unfit place. We’re all feeling very upset but are even more upset that the Home Office want to return us to this horror show.

      “I want to ask a question of the people who made the decision to put us on the barge. ‘Would you put a member of your family there even for one day?’ We came to the UK to escape persecution but are facing more persecution here.”

      In response to the letter the Home Office said: “We are following all protocol and advice from Dorset council’s environmental health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS, who we continue to work closely with.

      “Further tests are being conducted and we intend to re-embark asylum seekers only when there is confirmation that the water system meets relevant safety standards. The safety of those onboard remains the priority.”
      Bibby Stockholm timeline

      Monday 7 August: The first group of asylum seekers, all men, are taken to the barge by the Home Office. Some lawyers successfully challenged their clients being put onboard. New arrivals said they were shocked by the high walls of the barge, which felt like a ‘floating prison’ and the overwhelming stench of seawater onboard.

      Tuesday 8 August : The reality of life onboard the barge starts to be understood by the men. “My feeling about this ship is negative,” said one. “Right now my strongest feeling is of being humiliated and captured. The government takes revenge on every useful brain and heart. What I mean by revenge is that the British government intends to cover up its political and economic failures by using asylum seekers as an excuse.”

      Thursday 10 August: By this time all the agencies involved with the barge were aware that tests had confirmed legionella onboard the barge on Monday. Dorset council said its officials informed barge contractors the same day they received the test results and that a meeting was held on Tuesday with officials including one from the Home Office. The men continued to shower and use water taps onboard, oblivious to any potential risks to their health.

      Friday 11 August: At 1.54pm the men started seeing messages on social media “that there is a disease problem on the barge and we will need to evacuate”. At about 2pm a text was received that the asylum seekers believed to be from staff onboard the barge telling them not to use the showers for two hours as the shower heads needed to be replaced. At 5pm, a copied text was received from the Home Office describing the bacteria found on the barge and informing the men that they would be leaving the barge at 7pm by bus.

      Saturday 12 August: Relocation to a “disused” hotel. The men begin to process the despair their experience on the barge had left them with. Some said previously they had put their trust in the Home Office to provide them with safety after fleeing danger in their home countries but their time on the barge has destroyed that. “All our hopes are gone. We think now the Home Office is not there to help us. It abandons us to uncertain destiny. The barge has sabotaged hope, trust. Morale among us is at zero.”


    • Home Office Faces Legal Challenge Against ‘Appalling’ Use of Bibby Stockholm Barge to House Refugees

      “Human beings do not belong in barges or camps. The correct way to house people is to house them in communities.”

      A Labour mayor has launched a legal challenge to Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s use of the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate around 500 male asylum-seekers at Portland Port in Dorset, without obtaining planning permission.

      Carralyn Parkes is a Portland Town Councillor and Mayor of Portland, bit is acting in a personal capacity as a local resident. Dorset Council and Portland Port Limited have backed the claim as “interested parties”, meaning that they will have the opportunity to make submissions, file evidence and participate in the case.

      It comes after a deadly legionella strain was found onboard the Bibby Stockholm. It was detected on the first day people boarded on 7 August, with officials evacuating all 39 people onboard that day, the Guardian reported.

      Parkes is asking the Court to declare that the Home Office’s use of the barge as asylum accommodation is capable of constituting ‘development’ under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and therefore that it may amount to a breach of planning control and possible enforcement action by Dorset Council.

      Her claim argues that the Home Office is attempting the ‘technical wheeze’ of using a boat as asylum accommodation in order to circumvent normal planning rules, which would apply if the barge was instead installed on land.

      As a result, local residents’ ability to raise objections to the barge and its use in Portland, via their local authority, is “severely hampered”, her legal team says. It also places the barge outside the reach of “important” legal protections such as limits on overcrowding.

      Carralyn Parkes told Byline Times: “In the 21st century, it’s appalling to think that we’ve even considered housing the most vulnerable people in the world on a barge. The accommodation is wholly unsuitable.

      “If the government had put this through a planning procedure, I’m convinced it would have been denied, as the port is a closed area.”

      She added that infrastructure in Portland is “stretched to breaking point” while the barge was originally produced for 220 people. “Now they’re talking about 500 people. It’s completely overcrowded and there’s no fire safety certificate,” Parkes said.

      “It’s just terrible to think that our country would do something like this to vulnerable people, and to ride roughshod over communities…Human beings do not belong in barges or camps. The correct way to house people is to house them in communities.”

      “Portland is not averse to housing asylum seekers. It’s the actual conditions of housing asylum seekers on the barge that is appalling.”

      Asked if she thought the legal challenge stood a strong chance, she said: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it’s a chance of being successful. I’m a private individual taking this on board. It’s a huge and daunting task to take on the whole mechanism of the state, the Home Secretary and the Home Office.”

      While she is launching the legal challenge as a private individual rather than a Labour mayor, she added she had support from Labour colleagues locally.

      Parkes also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its environmental impact assessment duties. An appraisal branded “inadequate” by campaigners was only conducted after asylum seekers had been moved onto the barge, and several months after the Home Office had declared its intention of using the barge for that purpose.

      The claim also argues that the Home Office has not complied with its Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, which includes prohibition on discrimination on the basis of race, and a duty to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic (such as race), and those who do not.

      Parkes and her team argue that the Equality Impact Assessment, conducted only days before the barge came into use, is “woefully inadequate” as it fails to consider the impact of the barge’s operation in radicalising far-right extremism, or the equality impact of segregating rather than integrating asylum seekers into communities.

      A spokesperson for Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors said: “Our client is taking a brave stand against the Home Office’s attempts to circumvent important planning rules and protections to use the Bibby Stockholm barge to accommodate vulnerable asylum seekers.

      “She is asking the Court to rule that proper procedures should be followed and that local people and authorities should be given the opportunity to have their say.”

      Carralyn Parkes is represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors. She is continuing to crowdfund to cover her legal costs and to cover the risk that costs are awarded against her. So far Parkes has raised more than £20,000.

      The next step is for the defendant, the Home Office, and the Interested Parties (Dorset Council and Portland Port Limited) to respond. If they wish to do so, the deadline is 4 October. After that the Court will make a decision on whether Parkes has permission for her judicial review.


    • Bibby Stockholm gets ‘satisfactory’ test results for legionella

      Results revealed in FoI data follow other tests that found unsatisfactory levels of the bacteria on barge

      The Bibby Stockholm barge has had “satisfactory” test results for legionella, after tests initially found the presence of the potentially deadly bacteria, the Guardian has learned.

      The Home Office, which hopes to hold hundreds of people seeking asylum on the barge in Portland, received the most recent legionella results on 4 September and government sources said they were not planning to make the results public. The Guardian obtained the results in freedom of information data from Dorset council.

      In these most recent results, all the water samples tested for legionella were deemed “satisfactory”, although some of the bacteria were identified in two of the samples. In three previous sets of tests, at least some of the samples tested were found to be “unsatisfactory” for legionella.

      The worst results related to samples from 9 August, two days after asylum seekers were briefly put on the barge. They were removed after just four and a half days. In these results, eight of the 11 samples taken were unsatisfactory and three were borderline. Some of the bacteria found was the deadliest strain, legionella pneumophila serogroup 1.

      A second freedom of information request, to Cornwall council, revealed that the barge was not inspected for legionella while in Falmouth for checks and repairs before it was moved to Portland.

      A third freedom of information request revealed that the Home Office has used water safety risk assessments for the Bibby Stockholm that are more than six years out of date. The Home Office said a more up-to-date risk assessment had subsequently been signed off.

      Apart from the legionella bacteria found on the barge, concerns have been raised about planning, fire safety and plumbing breaches. Legal actions are under way relating to these issues.

      A spokesperson for the Home Office barge contractor CTM confirmed that repairs to the plumbing were under way after an inspection by Wessex Water found failings.

      In media interviews on Wednesday, the home secretary, Suella Braverman, said “various procedures” needed to be completed before people could return to the Bibby Stockholm but that government had done “really well” with its work on the barge.

      Beyond Borders Totnes & District, an organisation that is supporting some of the men taken off the barge, said none wanted to return there. “They found the barge intolerable and claustrophobic. It is utterly prison-like,” a spokesperson said.

      The Home Office said: “We are pleased to confirm that the latest tests have shown that there are no health risks from legionella on the Bibby Stockholm, with individuals set to return to the barge in due course.

      “The welfare of asylum seekers is of paramount importance. It is right we went above and beyond UK Health Security Agency advice and disembarked asylum seekers as a precautionary measure whilst the issue was investigated.”

      Home Office sources added that an agreed programme of work including a complete flush and chlorination of the water had been undertaken and that a water control plan was in place with regular water testing to continue.


  • #Air_Partner: the Home Office’s little-known deportation fixer

    International travel megacorp #Carlson_Wagonlit_Travel (#CWT) holds a £5.7 million, seven-year contract with the Home Office for the “provision of travel services for immigration purposes”, as it has done for nearly two decades. However, a key part of its work – the chartering of aircraft and crew to carry out the deportations – has been subcontracted to a little-known aviation charter outfit called Air Partner.


    Digging deeper into Air Partner, we found a company which has been quietly organising mass deportations for the Home Office for years. We also learnt that:

    It likely arranged for the airline #Privilege_Style to carry out the aborted flight to #Rwanda, and will seek another airline if the Rwanda scheme goes ahead.
    It has organised deportation logistics for the US and several European governments.
    It is currently one of four beneficiaries of a €15 million framework contract to arrange charter deportations for the European Coast Guard and Border Agency, #Frontex.
    The company grew off the back of military contracts, with profits soaring during the ‘War on Terror’, the Arab Spring, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Its regular clients include politicians, celebrities and sports teams, and it recently flew teams and fans to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
    Air Partner was bought in spring 2022 by American charter airline, Wheels Up, but that company is in troubled financial waters.

    Air Partner: Home Office deportation broker

    In Carlson Wagonlit’s current contract award notice, published on the EU website Tenders Electronic Daily, the “management and provision of aircraft(s) charter services” is subcontracted to Air Partner – a detail which is redacted in documents on the UK government’s procurement site. In other words, when the Home Office wants to carry out a mass deportation flight, the task of finding the airline is delegated to Air Partner.

    The contract stipulates that for each charter flight, Air Partner must solicit bids from at least three potential airlines. Selection is on the basis of value for money. However, the contract also states that “the maximum possible flexibility “ is expected from the carrier in terms of dates and destinations. The winning bidder must also be morally comfortable with the work, although it is not clear at what point in the process a first-time deportation airline is fully informed of the nature of the task.

    The contract suggests that airlines like #Privilege_Style, #Titan_Airways, #Hi_Fly and #TUI, therefore, owe their entry into the UK deportation business to Air Partner, which effectively acts as gatekeeper to the sector. Meanwhile, #Carlson_Wagonlit books the tickets, oversees the overall operation, arranges deportations on scheduled flights, and liaises with the guards who physically enforce the expulsion (currently supplied by the company that runs Manston camp, Mitie, in a Home Office escorting contract that runs until 2028).

    The latest deal between the Home Office and Carlson Wagonlit was awarded in 2017 and runs until 31st October 2024. It is likely that Air Partner makes money through a commission on each deportation flight.

    Flying for Frontex

    Yet Air Partner isn’t just the UK government’s deportation dealer. Its Austrian branch is currently one of four companies which organise mass expulsions for the European Coast Guard and Border Agency, Frontex, in a €15 million framework contract that was renewed in August 2022. A framework contract is essentially a deal in which a few companies are chosen to form a pool of select suppliers of particular goods or services, and are then called upon when needed. The work was awarded without advertising, which Frontex can do when the tender is virtually identical as in the previous contract.

    Frontex organises deportation charter flights – either for multiple EU states at a time (where the plane stops to pick up deportees from several countries) – or for a single state. The Agency also arranges for individuals to be deported on regular commercial flights.

    Air Partner’s work for Frontex is very similar to its work for the Home Office. It sources willing aircraft and crew, obtains flight and landing permits, and organises hotels – presumably for personnel – “in case of delays”. The other beneficiaries of the framework contract are #Air_Charter_Service, #Professional_Aviation_Solutions, and #AS_Aircontact.

    Air Charter Service is a German company, sister of a Surrey-based business of the same name, and is owned by Knightsbridge private equity firm, #Alcuin_Capital_Partners. Professional Aviation Solutions is another German charter company, owned by #Skylink_Holding. Finally, Norwegian broker AS Aircontact is a subsidiary of travel firm #Aircontact_Group, ultimately owned by chairman #Johan_Stenersen. AS Aircontact has benefited from the Frontex deal for many years.

    The award was given to the four companies on the basis of lowest price, with each bidder having to state the price it was able to obtain for a range of specified flights. The companies then bid for specific deportations, with the winner being the one offering best value for money. Air Partner’s cut from the deal in 2021 was €2.7 million.

    The contract stipulates the need for total secrecy:

    [The contractor] Must apply the maximum discretion and confidentiality in relation to the activity… must not document or share information on the activity by any means such as photo, video, commenting or sharing in social media, or equivalent.

    The Frontex award effectively means that Air Partner and the other three firms can carry out work on behalf of all EU states. But the company’s involvement with deportations doesn’t stop there: Air Partner has also profited for years from similar contracts with a number of individual European governments.

    The company has done considerable work in Ireland, having been appointed as one of its official deportation brokers back in 2005. Ten years later, the Irish Department of Justice was recorded as having paid Air Partner to carry out a vaguely-described “air charter” job (on a web page that is no longer available), while in 2016 the same department paid Air Partner €240,000 for “returns air charter” – government-speak for deportation flights.

    Between August 2021 and February 2022, the Austrian government awarded the company six Frontex-funded deportation contracts, worth an estimated average of €33,796.

    The company also enjoys a deportation contract with the German government, in a deal reviewed annually. The current contract runs until February 2023.

    Finally, Air Partner has held deportation contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has been involved in deporting Mexican migrants to the US as far back as the early 2000s.1
    Relationship with the airlines

    In the first half of 2021, 22 of the EU’s 27 member states participated in Frontex flights, with Germany making far greater use of the ‘service’ than any other country. The geographic scale of Air Partner’s work gives an indication of the privileged access it has as gatekeeper to Europe’s lucrative ‘deportation market’, and ultimately, the golden land of government contracts more generally.

    For example, British carrier Titan Airways – which has long carried out deportations for the Home Office – only appears to have broken into this market in Germany and Austria in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As Corporate Watch has documented, other airlines such as Privilege Style, #AirTanker, #Wamos and #Iberojet (formerly, #Evelop) regularly run deportation flights for a number of governments, including the UK. We can assume that Air Partner’s relationships with the firms are key to these companies’ ability to secure such deals in new markets.

    Some of these relationships are clearly personal: #Alastair_Wilson, managing director of Titan Airways, worked as trading manager for Air Partner for seven years until he left that firm for Titan in 2014. By 2017, Titan was playing a major role in forcible expulsions from the UK.

    The business: from military money to deportation dealer

    Air Partner’s origins are in military work. Founded in 1961, the company started its life as a training centre which helped military pilots switch to the commercial sector. Known for much of its history as Air London, it has enjoyed extensive Ministry of Defence deals for troop rotations and the supply of military equipment. Up until 2010, military contracts represented over 60% of pre-tax profits. However, in recent years it has managed to wean itself off the MOD and develop a more diverse clientele; by 2018, the value of military contracts had dropped to less than 3% of profits.

    The company’s main business is in brokering aircraft for charter flights, and sourcing planes from its pool of partner airlines at the request of customers who want to hire them. It owns no aircraft itself. Besides governments and wealthy individuals, its current client base includes “corporates, sports and entertainment teams, industrial and manufacturing customers, and tour operators.”

    Its other source of cash is in training and consultancy to government, military and commercial customers through three subsidiaries: its risk management service Baines Simmons, the Redline Security project, and its disaster management sideline, Kenyon Emergency Services. Conveniently, while the group’s main business pumps out fossil fuels on needless private flights, Kenyon’s disaster management work involves among other things, preparing customers for climate change-induced natural disasters.

    Despite these other projects, charter work represents the company’s largest income stream by far, at 87% of the group’s profits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of this is from leasing large jets to customers such as governments, sports teams and tour operators. Its second most lucrative source of cash is leasing private jets to the rich, including celebrities. Finally, its freight shipments tend to be the least profitable division of its charter work.

    The company’s charter division continues to be “predominantly driven by government work”.2 It has been hired by dozens of governments and royal families worldwide, and almost half the profits from its charter work now derive from the US, although France has long been an important market too.

    Ferrying the mega-rich

    Meanwhile, Air Partner’s work shuttling politicians and other VIPs no doubt enables the company to build up its bank of useful contacts which help it secure such lucrative government deals. Truly this is a company of the mega-rich: a “last-minute, half-term holiday” with the family to Madeira costs a mere £36,500 just for the experience of a private jet. It was the first aircraft charter company to have held a Royal Warrant, and boasts of having flown US election candidates and supplying George W Bush’s press plane.3

    The “group charter” business works with bands and sports teams. The latter includes the Wales football team, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid, while the Grand Prix is “always a firm fixture in the charter calendar”.4 It also flew teams and fans to the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.5

    Crisis profiteer: the War on Terror, the Arab Spring & Covid-19

    Air Partner has cashed in on one crisis after the next. Not only that, it even contributes to one, and in so doing multiplies its financial opportunities. As military contractor to belligerent Western forces in the Middle East, the company is complicit in the creation of refugees – large numbers of whom Air Partner would later deport back to those war zones. It feeds war with invading armies, then feasts on its casualties.

    The company reportedly carried at least 4,000t of military supplies during the first Gulf War. The chairman at the time, Tony Mack, said:

    The Gulf War was a windfall for us. We’d hate to say ‘yippee, we’re going to war’, but I guess the net effect would be positive.6

    And in its financial records over the past twenty years, three events really stand out: 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’, the Arab Spring, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

    9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror was a game changer for the company, marking a departure from reliance on corporate customers and a shift to more secure government work. First – as with the pandemic – there was a boom in private jet hire due to “the number of rich clients who are reluctant to travel on scheduled services”.7

    But more significant were the military contracts it was to obtain during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. During the occupation of Afghanistan, it “did a lot of freighting for the military”,8 while later benefiting from emergency evacuation work when coalition foreign policy came to its inevitably grim conclusion in 2021.

    It enjoyed major military assignments with coalition forces in Iraq,9 with the UK’s eventual withdrawal resulting in a 19% drop in freight sales for the company. At one point, Air Partner lamented that its dip in profits was in part due to the temporary “cessation of official hostilities” and the non-renewal of its 2003 “Gulf contracts”.

    9/11 and the aggression that followed was a boon for Air Partner’s finances. From 2001-02, pre-tax profits increased to then record levels, jumping 85% from £2.2 million to £4 million. And it cemented the company’s fortunes longer-term; a 2006 company report gives insight into the scale of the government work that went Air Partner’s way:

    … over the last decade alone, many thousands of contracts worth over $500m have been successfully completed for the governments of a dozen Western Powers including six of the current G8 member states.

    Two years on, Air Partner’s then-CEO, #David_Savile, was more explicit about the impact of the War on Terror:

    Whereas a decade ago the team was largely servicing the Corporate sector, today it majors on global Government sector clients. Given the growing agenda of leading powers to pursue active foreign policies, work levels are high and in today’s climate such consistent business is an important source of income.

    Profits soared again in 2007, coinciding with the bloodiest year of the Iraq war – and one which saw the largest US troop deployment. Its chairman at the time said:

    The events of 9/11 were a watershed for the aviation industry…since then our sales have tripled and our profitability has quadrupled. We now expect a period of consolidation… which we believe will present longer term opportunities to develop new business and new markets.

    It seems likely that those “new markets” may have included deportation work, given that the first UK charter deportations were introduced by the New Labour government in 2001, the same year as the invasion of Afghanistan.

    Another financial highlight for the company was the 2011 Arab Spring, which contributed to a 93% increase in pre-tax profits. Air Partner had earlier won a four-year contract with the Department for International Development (DfID) to become its “sole provider of passenger and freight air charter services”, and had been hired to be a charter broker to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Crisis Centre.

    As people in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia took to the streets against their dictators, the company carried out emergency evacuations, including for “some of the largest oil companies”. A year later, it described a “new revenue stream from the oil & gas industry”, perhaps a bonus product of the evacuation work.

    Finally, its largest jump in profits was seen in 2021, as it reaped the benefits of converging crises: the pandemic, the evacuation of Afghanistan, and the supply chain crisis caused by Brexit and the severe congestion of global sea-shipping routes. The company was tasked with repatriation flights, PPE shipments, and “flying agricultural workers into the UK from elsewhere in Europe”, as well as responding to increased demand for “corporate shuttles” in the UK and US.10 Pre-tax profits soared 833% to £8.4 million. It made a gross profit of approximately £45 million in both 2021 and 2022. The company fared so well in fact from the pandemic that one paper summed it up with an article entitled “Air Partner takes off after virus grounds big airlines”.

    While there is scant reporting on the company’s involvement in deportations, The Times recently mentioned that Air Partner “helps in the deporting of individuals to Africa and the Caribbean, a business that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic”. In a rare direct reference to deportation work, CEO Mark Briffa responded that it:

    …gives Wheels Up [Air Partner’s parent company] a great opportunity to expand beyond private jets…It was always going to be a challenge for a company our size to scale up and motor on beyond where we are.

    Yet Briffa’s justification based on the apparent need to diversify beyond VIP flights looks particularly hollow against the evidence of decades of lucrative government work his company has enjoyed.

    When asked for comment, a spokesperson from the company’s PR firm TB Cardew said:

    As a policy, we do not comment on who we fly or where we fly them. Customer privacy, safety and security are paramount for Air Partner in all of our operations. We do not confirm, deny or comment on any potential customer, destination or itinerary.

    The parent company: Wheels Up

    Air Partner was bought in spring 2022 for $108.2 million by Wheels Up Experience Inc, a US charter airline which was recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company calls itself one of the world’s largest private aviation companies, with over 180 owned or long-term leased aircraft, 150 managed fleet (a sort of sharing arrangement with owners), and 1,200 aircraft which it can hire for customers when needed.

    In contrast to Air Partner, its new owner is in deep trouble. While Wheels Up’s revenues have increased considerably over the past few years (from $384 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2022), these were far outweighed by its costs. It made a net loss in 2021 of $190 million, more than double that of the previous year. The company attributes this to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, with reduced crew availability and customer cancellations. And the situation shows no sign of abating, with a loss of $276.5 million in the first nine months of this year alone. Wheels Up is responding with “aggressive cost-cutting”, including some redundancies.

    #Wheels_Up is, in turn, 20% owned by #Delta_Airlines, one of the world’s oldest and largest airlines. Mammoth asset manager Fidelity holds an 8% share, while Wheels Up’s CEO #Kenneth_Dichter owns 5%. Meanwhile, the so-called ‘Big Three’ asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street each hold smaller shareholdings.

    Among its clients, Wheels Up counts various celebrities – some of whom have entered into arrangements to promote the company as ‘brand ambassadors’. These apparently include Jennifer Lopez, American football players Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, Joey Logano, and Serena Williams.

    Given Wheel’s Up’s current financial situation, it can be safely assumed that government contracts will not be easily abandoned, particularly in a time of instability in the industry as a whole. At the same time, given the importance of Wheels Up as a brand and its VIP clientele, anything that poses a risk to its reputation would need to be handled delicately by the company.

    It also remains to be seen whether Wheels Up will use its own fleet to fulfil Air Partner’s contracting work, and potentially become a supplier of deportation planes in its own right.
    Top people

    Air Partner has been managed by CEO #Mark_Briffa since 2010. A former milkman and son of Maltese migrants, Briffa grew up in an East Sussex council house and left school with no O or A levels. He soon became a baggage handler at Gatwick airport, eventually making his way into sales and up the ladder to management roles. Briffa is also president of the parent company, Wheels Up.

    #Ed_Warner OBE is the company’s chair, which means he leads on its strategy and manages the board of directors. An Oxbridge-educated banker and former chair of UK Athletics, Warner no doubt helps Air Partner maintain its connections in the world of sport. He sits on the board of private equity fund manager HarbourVest, and has previously been chairman of BlackRock Energy and Resources Income Trust, which invests in mining and energy.

    #Kenny_Dichter is founder and CEO of Air Partner’s US parent company, Wheels Up. Dichter is an entrepreneur who has founded or provided early investment to a list of somewhat random companies, from a chain of ‘wellness’ stores, to a brand of Tequila.

    #Tony_Mack was chairman of the business founded by his parents for 23 years and a major shareholder, before retiring from Air Partner in 2014. Nowadays he prefers to spend his time on the water, where he indulges in yacht racing.

    Some of Air Partner’s previous directors are particularly well-connected. #Richard_Everitt, CBE held the company chairmanship from 2012 until 2017. A solicitor by training, prior to joining Air Partner Everitt was a director of the British Aviation Authority (BAA) and chief executive of National Air Traffic Services (Nats), and then CEO of the Port of London Authority (PLA). Since leaving the PLA, he has continued his career on the board of major transport authorities, having twice been appointed by the Department of Transport as chair of Dover Harbour Board, a two-day per week job with an annual salary of £79,500. He also served as a commissioner of Belfast Harbour.

    One figure with friends in high places was the Hon. #Rowland_John_Fromanteel_Cobbold, who was an Air Partner director from 1996 to 2004. Cobbold was the son of 1st Baron Cobbold, former Governor of the Bank of England and former Lord Chamberlain, an important officer of the royal household. He was also grandson of Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton and governor of Bengal, and younger brother of 2nd Baron Cobbold, who was a crossbench peer.

    #Lib_Dem peer #Lord_Lee of Trafford held significant shares in Air Partner from at least 2007 until the company was bought by Wheels Up in 2022. Lord Lee served as parliamentary undersecretary for MOD Procurement under Margaret Thatcher, as well as Minister for Tourism. In 2015 the value of his 113,500 shares totalled £446,000. His shares in the company were despite having been Lib Dem party spokesman on defence at the time. Seemingly, having large stakes in a business which benefits from major MOD contracts, whilst simultaneously advocating on defence policy was not deemed a serious conflict of interest. The former stockbroker is now a regular columnist for the Financial Times. Calling himself the “first ISA millionaire”, Lee published a book called “How to Make a Million – Slowly: Guiding Principles From a Lifetime Investing”.

    The company’s recent profits have been healthy enough to ensure that those at the top are thoroughly buffered from the current cost of living crisis, as all executive and non-executive directors received a hefty pay rise. Its 2022 Annual Report reveals that CEO Mark Briffa’s pay package totalled £808,000 (£164,000 more than he received in 2021) and outgoing Chief Financial Officer Joanne Estell received £438,000 (compared with £369,000 in 2021), not to mention that Briffa and Estell were awarded a package in spring 2021 of 100% and 75% of their salary in shares. Given the surge in Air Partner’s share price just before the buyout, it’s likely that the net worth of its directors – and investors like Lord Lee – has significantly increased too.


    What really is the difference between the people smugglers vilified daily by right-wing rags, and deportation merchants like Air Partner? True, Air Partner helps cast humans away in the opposite direction, often to places of danger rather than potential safety. And true, smugglers’ journeys are generally more consensual, with migrants themselves often hiring their fixers. But for a huge fee, people smugglers and deportation profiteers alike ignore the risks and indignities involved, as human cargo is shunted around in the perverse market of immigration controls.

    In October 2022, deportation airline Privilege Style announced it would pull out of the Rwanda deal following strategic campaigning by groups including Freedom from Torture and SOAS Detainee Support. This is an important development and we can learn lessons from the direct action tactics used. Yet campaigns against airlines are continuously being undermined by Air Partner – who, as the Home Office’s deportation fixer, will simply seek others to step in.

    And under the flashing blue lights of a police state, news that an airline will merely be deporting refugees to their countries of origin – however dangerous – rather than to a distant African processing base, might be seen as wonderful news. It isn’t. Instead of becoming accustomed to a dystopian reality, let’s be spurred on by the campaign’s success to put an end to this cruel industry in its entirety.
    Appendix: Air Partner Offices

    Air Partner’s addresses, according to its most recent annual report, are as follows:

    - UK: 2 City Place, Beehive Ring Road, Gatwick, West Sussex RH6 0PA.
    - France: 89/91 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris & 27 Boulevard Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris.
    - Germany: Im Mediapark 5b, 50670 Köln.
    - Italy: Via Valtellina 67, 20159 Milano.
    - Turkey: Halil Rıfatpaşa Mh Yüzer Havuz Sk No.1 Perpa Ticaret Merkezi ABlok Kat.12 No.1773, Istanbul.


    1 Aldrick, Philip. “Worth teaming up with Air Partner”. The Daily Telegraph, October 07, 2004.

    2 “Air Partner makes progress in the face of some strong headwinds”. Proactive Investors UK, August 27, 2021.

    3 Aldrick, Philip. “Worth teaming up with Air Partner”. The Daily Telegraph, October 07, 2004.

    4 Lea, Robert. “Mark Briffa has a new partner in aircraft chartering and isn’t about to fly away”. The Times, April 29, 2022

    5 Ibid.

    6 “AirPartner predicts rise in demand if Gulf war begins”. Flight International, January 14 2003.

    7 “Celebrity status boosts Air Partner”. Yorkshire Post, October 10, 2002.

    8 Baker, Martin. “The coy royal pilot”. The Sunday Telegraph, April 11, 2004.

    9 Hancock, Ciaran. “Air Partner”. Sunday Times, April 10, 2005.

    10 Saker-Clark, Henry. “Repatriation and PPE flights boost Air Partner”. The Herald, May 6, 2020.

    #avions #compagnies_aériennes #Home_Office #UK #Angleterre #renvois #expulsions #business #complexe_militaro-industriel

    via @isskein

  • Firm managing hotels for UK asylum seekers posts bumper profits

    Three directors of #Clearsprings_Ready_Homes share dividends of almost £28m, as profits rise sixfold

    A company contracted by the UK Home Office to manage hotels and other accommodation for asylum seekers increased its profits more than sixfold last year, with its three directors sharing dividends of almost £28m.

    Clearsprings Ready Homes has a 10-year contract to manage asylum seeker accommodation in England and Wales, a mix of hotel accommodation that the #Home_Office says is costing it more than £5m a day, and shared housing.

    Clearspringsboosted its profits from £4,419,841 to £28,012,487 to the year ending 31 January 2022, with dividends jumping from £7m to £27,987,262.

    It has been reported that the home secretary, Suella Braverman, allowed numbers to increase at Manston, the Home Office’s processing centre in Ramsgate, Kent, instead of moving people to hotels. However, hotel use is still high. Home Office accommodation providers get better terms on their contracts once the asylum seeker population rises above 70,000, as it has been for more than a year.

    Asylum seekers in hotels receive just over £1 a day, £8.24 a week, to buy essentials.

    Clearsprings’ latest annual accounts provide a buoyant financial forecast for the company in its Home Office contract, which runs until September 2029.

    The annual accounts report states: “Demand for accommodation has remained high, contingency including hotels has increased.”

    The reportadds that turnover and operating profits were boosted this year by an increase in the number of people seeking asylum. It says: “The number of arrivals per year is expected to continue at a high level for the foreseeable future. Due to the long-term nature of the contract and the pre-agreed rates the price risk is considered minimal.”

    Graham O’Neill, the policy manager at the Scottish Refugee Council, condemned the steep rise in profits for #Clearsprings and said public money could be better used.

    “The Home Office is effectively passing billions of the Treasury’s monies for asylum accommodation to private bodies with no plan to grip this. Much of this money ends up as bumper profits and dividends for private companies, directors and shareholders.

    “By definition this profit is not going where it should: into good social housing in communities, into local services so they may support refugees and local people. It is blindingly obvious that this is neither sustainable nor in the public interest. We need swift high-quality asylum decisions and public monies for public good into communities; not into private profit and dividends. The new PM [Rishi Sunak] needs to grip this as that is the solution.”

    Clearsprings and Home Office have been approached for comment.


    #business #accueil #privatisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #UK #Angleterre #hôtels #hébergement #dividendes #profit #prix #coût

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • ‘Crazy invasive technology’ : UK faces legal challenge for GPS tagging of migrants

    A complaint has been filed by the anti-surveillance advocacy group Privacy International against the U.K. #Home_Office, which is rolling out #GPS tracking devices for migrants entering the country through irregular routes. Privacy International says the practice is excessive, unlawful and threatens the fundamental rights to privacy to which everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled.

    “These are just individuals who are seeking a new life in the U.K.,” said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer at Privacy International. “And so the necessity of surveilling them and monitoring in this way is highly questionable, and I question the effectiveness of it as well.”

    The devices, which are bulky ankle bracelets of the same type that have been used in the criminal justice system for decades, monitor migrants’ movements 24/7. Anyone who is on immigration bail in the U.K. can be tagged, for an unlimited amount of time.

    The Home Office unveiled a new 12-month pilot to experiment with tagging people arriving on small boats in June, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said migrants couldn’t be allowed to simply “vanish” into the country. The Home Office have said they intend to use the tags to stop migrants bound for offshore detention centers in Rwanda from disappearing — despite absconding rates being as low as 1% in 2020, according to a Freedom of Information request by Migrants Organise.

    Privacy International argues that the practice of tagging migrants lacks the proper safeguards that are in place when the devices are used in the criminal justice system. They add that the devices can be inaccurate as well as intrusive. The privacy rights charity filed complaints with the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Forensic Science Regulator.

    Privacy and migration advocates say the Home Office can use the location data to check up on migrants who claim to remain in the U.K. on the basis of family ties with the country — to assess whether they really do visit their relatives. They also say the surveillance measure leaves migrants traumatized, stigmatized and — in some cases — housebound, afraid to engage with the outside world.

    The use of GPS tagging on migrants has already been trialed extensively in the U.S., under a program known as “Alternatives to Detention,” which has been expanded under President Joe Biden. The U.S. government argues that placing people under electronic surveillance is kinder and less brutal than imprisonment, and keeps more people out of immigration detention centers. But immigrants in the U.S. say the tags are dehumanizing.

    “You feel like you’re in prison again,” a U.S. asylum seeker told us in May. He described crying “tears of joy” when the bracelet was removed from his body after three months’ wear.

    The argument that the tags are a humane alternative to detaining migrants has been mirrored in the U.K.’s policy, according to Audibert. But, she says, it’s a false premise: “Every alternative to detention in the criminal justice system has never reduced prison numbers. It has just expanded the size of the population that was controlled.”

    The Home Office recently expanded the criteria for who is eligible to be tagged to include anyone who arrives in the U.K. via irregular routes, such as small boats — a practice which is now a criminal offense in the country. Earlier this month, a report in the Guardian revealed that the Home Office was rolling out new “facial recognition smartwatches” to migrants as a complement to the ankle tags. The smartwatches, though removable, require migrants convicted of a criminal offense to scan their face up to five times per day to ensure they’re still wearing them.

    The Home Office, in a statement, emphasized the tags will be used on “foreign national criminals” but made no mention of its pilot scheme to also tag asylum seekers with GPS ankle bracelets.

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “Since August 2021, the Home Office has successfully tagged over 2,500 foreign criminals, reassuring victims that their perpetrators cannot escape the law and will be removed from the U.K. at the earliest opportunity. Since January 2019, the Government has removed over 10,000 foreign criminals.”

    The use of GPS tracking has severe effects on the mental health of the wearer, according to research by Monish Bhatia, a criminology lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. He describes, in a report published last year, how many people who are tagged experience it as imprisonment and punishment. They say the tag makes them feel like criminals, and that they have to live with the stigma if their tag is spotted.

    The tag means they’re often reluctant to engage with their community and do everyday activities like playing sport for fear of revealing their tag, and can end up isolating themselves, in a form of self-inflicted house arrest, because they do not want to be tracked.

    Bhatia argued the practice of tagging had no use other than to wield power over asylum seekers and minority groups. “It’s purely for control — and it is discriminatory. I’ve called it racial surveillance on more than a few occasions and I’ll stick with that term to describe this technology,” he said.

    The U.K. has in recent years rolled out a massive program of surveillance and technology to try to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to the British taxpayer. Audibert described how the GPS policy forms part of this strategy of deterrence and is part of the Home Office’s overall intention to stop migrants from making dangerous journeys across the water in small, fragile vessels.

    “They’re pouring millions of pounds into this crazy invasive technology,” said Audibert, who described how most migrants had no interest in breaching their bail conditions. “It’s criminalizing people that aren’t criminals in the first place.”


    #surveillance #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #données #données_personnelles #UK #Angleterre #géolocalisation


    Et parallèlement l’Union européenne...
    EU’s Frontex Tripped in Its Plan for ‘Intrusive’ Surveillance of Migrants

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Asylum seekers will be put in huge holding centres that can house up to 8,000 applicants under #Home_Office plans

    - Home Secretary #Priti_Patel wants to deter asylum seekers crossing the Channel
    - More than 10,000 migrants have already arrived via the Channel this year
    - A record 482 migrants made the 21-mile journey in a single day last week
    - Ms Patel wants to house asylum seekers in centres with up to 8,000 people


    #UK #Angleterre #centres_pour_réfugiés #centres_fermés #asile #migrations #réfugiés #New_Plan_for_Immigration #plan #encampement

  • Revealed: shocking death toll of asylum seekers in Home Office accommodation

    FoI response shows 29 people died – five times as many as lost their lives in perilous Channel crossings.

    Twenty-nine asylum seekers have died in #Home_Office accommodation so far this year – five times as many as those who have lost their lives on perilous Channel small boat crossings over the same period.

    The Guardian obtained the figure in a freedom of information response from the Home Office, which does not publish deaths data. The identities of the majority of those who died have not been made public and the circumstances of their deaths are unclear.

    Many asylum seekers are in the 20-40 age group and are fit and healthy when they embark on what are often physically and emotionally gruelling journeys to the UK.

    One of the most recent deaths was that of Mohamed Camera, 27, from Ivory Coast. He was found dead in his room in Home Office accommodation in a north London hotel on 9 November.

    Camera had been complaining of back pain shortly before he died and had travelled through Libya en route to the UK. He had recently arrived from Calais on a small boat.

    One of his friends who travelled from Calais with him told the Guardian: “He was a nice, sociable person. He was smiling when we reached the UK because he believed that now he was going to have another life.”

    A Home Office spokesperson confirmed the death and officials said they were “saddened” by it.

    Another man, 41-year-old Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah Alhabib, who fled war-torn Yemen, was found dead in a Manchester hotel room on 6 August.

    Alhabib travelled on a small boat with 15 other people from Yemen, Syria and Iran. After they were picked up by Border Force, Home Office officials detained a group 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 who was in the boat with Alhabib told the Guardian at the 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.”

    An inquest jury found on 30 November that the death of Oscar Okwurime, a Nigerian man, as a result of a subarachnoid haemorrhage was considered “unnatural” and that neglect contributed to his death.

    The Scottish Refugee Council has called for all 29 deaths to be fully and independently investigated. In September, a group of Glasgow MPs also called for a fatal accident inquiry into three deaths that occurred in the city.

    The people who died were Mercy Baguma, from Uganda, who was found dead with her toddler by her side, Adnan Olbeh, from Syria, and Badreddin Abadlla Adam, who was shot dead by police, after he stabbed six people including a police officer.

    Meanwhile, those who lost their lives in the Channel included Abdulfatah Hamdallah, a young Sudanese refugee, as well as a family of five – Rasul Iran Nezhad, Shiva Mohammad Panahi and their children Anita, nine, Armin, six, and 15-month-old Artin, who drowned trying to cross to the UK in October 2020.

    Clare Moseley, the founder of the Care4Calais charity, said: “It’s shameful that more refugees die here in the UK, in Home Office accommodation, than do so in Calais or trying to cross the Channel. Refugees are the world’s most resilient people. Many have crossed the Sahara desert and made it through the hell of Libya, facing unimaginable hardship to get this far. But the way we treat them in this country is cruel.

    “Our government doesn’t give them the basics of life like adequate food and clothing. It locks them up in military barracks and keeps them isolated and depressed in hotels. It keeps them under constant threat of deportation, instead of processing their asylum applications promptly.”

    Graham O’Neill, the policy manager for the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “After the recent tragedies in Glasgow we are not shocked many have died in the UK asylum support system.”

    He added that there was no Home Office public policy on deaths or support for funeral costs or repatriation of the body, nor any discernible learning process to prevent sudden or unexplained deaths. “The Home Office must rectify this and home affairs select committee and the chief inspector ensure they do,” he said.

    A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are always saddened to hear of the death of any individual in asylum accommodation. This can be for a number of reasons, including natural causes or as the result of a terminal illness.

    “The health and wellbeing of asylum seekers has and always will be our priority. We will continue to work closely with a range of organisations to provide support to those that need it and where necessary we will always cooperate fully in any investigation into the cause of an individual death.”

    The revelation comes as a high court judge ruled on Monday that the Home Office was in breach of its duties to protect the human rights of asylum seekers against homelessness.

    Judge Robin Knowles also found the Home Office was responsible for wholesale failure to monitor and implement a £4bn contract awarded to several private companies over a 10-year period leading to unlawful delays in provision of accommodation.

    Freedom of information responses from the Home Office obtained by the Scottish Refugee Council found that, between January and March 2020, 83% of Home Office properties to accommodate asylum seekers had defects and 40% of the defects were so serious that they made the properties uninhabitable.

    The defects were identified by the Home Office’s own inspectors.

    #décès #morts #UK #logement #hébergement #Angleterre #asile #migrations #réfugiés #2020 #statistiques #chiffres

  • Cast away : the UK’s rushed charter flights to deport Channel crossers

    Warning: this document contains accounts of violence, attempted suicides and self harm.

    The British government has vowed to clamp down on migrants crossing the Channel in small boats, responding as ever to a tabloid media panic. One part of its strategy is a new wave of mass deportations: charter flights, specifically targeting channel-crossers, to France, Germany and Spain.

    There have been two flights so far, on the 12 and 26 August. The next one is planned for 3 September. The two recent flights stopped in both Germany (Duesseldorf) and France (Toulouse on the 12, Clermont-Ferrand on the 26). Another flight was planned to Spain on 27 August – but this was cancelled after lawyers managed to get everyone off the flight.

    Carried out in a rush by a panicked Home Office, these mass deportations have been particularly brutal, and may have involved serious legal irregularities. This report summarises what we know so far after talking to a number of the people deported and from other sources. It covers:

    The context: Calais boat crossings and the UK-France deal to stop them.

    In the UK: Yarl’s Wood repurposed as Channel-crosser processing centre; Britannia Hotels; Brook House detention centre as brutal as ever.

    The flights: detailed timeline of the 26 August charter to Dusseldorf and Clermont-Ferrand.

    Who’s on the flight: refugees including underage minors and torture survivors.

    Dumped on arrival: people arriving in Germany and France given no opportunity to claim asylum, served with immediate expulsion papers.

    The legalities: use of the Dublin III regulation to evade responsibility for refugees.

    Is it illegal?: rushed process leads to numerous irregularities.

    “that night, eight people cut themselves”

    “That night before the flight (25 August), when we were locked in our rooms and I heard that I had lost my appeal, I was desperate. I started to cut myself. I wasn’t the only one. Eight people self-harmed or tried to kill themselves rather than be taken on that plane. One guy threw a kettle of boiling water on himself. One man tried to hang himself with the cable of the TV in his room. Three of us were taken to hospital, but sent back to the detention centre after a few hours. The other five they just took to healthcare [the clinic in Brook House] and bandaged up. About 5 in the morning they came to my room, guards with riot shields. On the way to the van, they led me through a kind of corridor which was full of people – guards, managers, officials from the Home Office. They all watched while a doctor examined me, then the doctor said – ‘yes, he’s fit to fly’. On the plane later I saw one guy hurt really badly, fresh blood on his head and on his clothes. He hadn’t just tried to stop the ticket, he really wanted to kill himself. He was taken to Germany.”

    Testimony of a deported person.

    The context: boats and deals

    Since the 1990s, tens of thousands of people fleeing war, repression and poverty have crossed the “short straits” between Calais and Dover. Until 2018, people without papers attempting to cross the Channel did so mainly by getting into lorries or on trains through the Channel Tunnel. Security systems around the lorry parks, tunnel and highway were escalated massively following the eviction of the big Jungle in 2016. This forced people into seeking other, ever more dangerous, routes – including crossing one of the world’s busiest waterways in small boats. Around 300 people took this route in 2018, a further 2000 in 2019 – and reportedly more than 5,000 people already by August 2020.

    These crossings have been seized on by the UK media in their latest fit of xenophobic scaremongering. The pattern is all too familiar since the Sangatte camp of 1999: right-wing media outlets (most infamously the Daily Mail, but also others) push-out stories about dangerous “illegals” swarming across the Channel; the British government responds with clampdown promises.

    Further stoked by Brexit, recent measures have included:

    Home Secretary Priti Patel announcing a new “Fairer Borders” asylum and immigration law that she promises will “send the left into meltdown”.

    A formal request from the Home Office to the Royal Navy to assist in turning back migrants crossing by boat (although this would be illegal).

    Negotiations with the French government, leading to the announcement on 13 August of a “joint operational plan” aimed at “completely cutting this route.”

    The appointment of a “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” to oversee operations on both sides of the Channel.

    The concrete measures are still emerging, but notable developments so far include:

    Further UK payments to France to increase security – reportedly France demanded £30 million.

    French warships from the Naval base at Cherbourg patrolling off the coast of Calais and Dunkirk.

    UK Border Force Cutters and Coastal Patrol Vessels patrolling the British side, supported by flights from Royal Air Force surveillance planes.

    The new charter flight deportation programme — reportedly named “Operation Sillath” by the Home Office.

    For the moment, at least, the governments are respecting their minimal legal obligations to protect life at sea. And there has not been evidence of illegal “push backs” or “pull backs”: where the British “push” or the French “pull” boats back across the border line by force. When these boats are intercepted in French waters the travellers are taken back to France. If they make it into UK waters, Border Force pick them up and disembark them at Dover. They are then able to claim asylum in the UK.

    There is no legal difference in claiming asylum after arriving by boat, on a plane, or any other way. However, these small boat crossers have been singled out by the government to be processed in a special way seemingly designed to deny them the right to asylum in the UK.

    Once people are safely on shore the second part of Priti Patel’s strategy to make this route unviable kicks in: systematically obstruct their asylum claims and, where possible, deport them to France or other European countries. In practice, there is no way the Home Office can deport everyone who makes it across. Rather, as with the vast majority of immigration policy, the aim is to display toughness with a spectacle of enforcement – not only in an attempt to deter other arrivals, but perhaps, above all else, to play to key media audiences.

    This is where the new wave of charter flights come in. Deportations require cooperation from the destination country, and the first flight took place on 12 August in the midst of the Franco-British negotiations. Most recently, the flights have fed a new media spectacle in the UK: the Home Office attacking “activist lawyers” for doing their job and challenging major legal flaws in these rushed removals.

    The Home Office has tried to present these deportation flights as a strong immediate response to the Channel crossings. The message is: if you make it across, you’ll be back again within days. Again, this is more spectacle than reality. All the people we know of on the flights were in the UK for several months before being deported.

    In the UK: Yarl’s Wood repurposed

    Once on shore people are taken to one of two places: either the Kent Intake Unit, which is a Home Office holding facility (i.e., a small prefab cell complex) in the Eastern Docks of Dover Port; or the Dover police station. This police stations seems increasingly to be the main location, as the small “intake unit” is often at capacity. There used to be a detention centre in Dover where new arrivals were held, notorious for its run-down state, but this was closed in October 2015.

    People are typically held in the police station for no more than a day. The next destination is usually Yarl’s Wood, the Bedfordshire detention centre run by Serco. This was, until recently, a longer term detention centre holding mainly women. However, on 18 August the Home Office announced Yarl’s Wood been repurposed as a “Short Term Holding Facility” (SHTF) specifically to process people who have crossed the Channel. People stay usually just a few days – the legal maximum stay for a “short term” facility is seven days.

    Yarl’s Wood has a normal capacity of 410 prisoners. According to sources at Yarl’s Wood:

    “last week it was almost full with over 350 people detained. A few days later this number
    had fallen to 150, showing how quickly people are moving through the centre. As of Tuesday 25th of August there was no one in the centre at all! It seems likely that numbers will fluctuate in line with Channel crossings.”

    The same source adds:

    “There is a concern about access to legal aid in Yarl’s Wood. Short Term Holding Facility regulations do not require legal advice to be available on site (in Manchester, for example, there are no duty lawyers). Apparently the rota for duty lawyers is continuing at Yarl’s Wood for the time being. But the speed with which people are being processed now means that it is practically impossible to sign up and get a meeting with the duty solicitor before being moved out.”

    The Home Office conducts people’s initial asylum screening interviews whilst they are at Yarl’s Wood. Sometimes these are done in person, or sometimes by phone.

    This is a crucial point, as this first interview decides many people’s chance of claiming asylum in the UK. The Home Office uses information from this interview to deport the Channel crossers to France and Germany under the Dublin III regulation. This is EU legislation which allows governments to pass on responsibility for assessing someone’s asylum claim to another state. That is: the UK doesn’t even begin to look at people’s asylum cases.

    From what we have seen, many of these Dublin III assessments were made in a rushed and irregular way. They often used only weak circumstantial evidence. Few people had any chance to access legal advice, or even interpreters to explain the process.

    We discuss Dublin III and these issues below in the Legal Framework section.
    In the UK: Britain’s worst hotels

    From Yarl’s Wood, people we spoke to were given immigration bail and sent to asylum accommodation. In the first instance this currently means a cheap hotel. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Home Office ordered its asylum contractors (Mears, Serco) to shut their usual initial asylum accommodation and move people into hotels. It is not clear why this decision was made, as numerous accounts suggest the hotels are much worse as possible COVID incubators. The results of this policy have already proved fatal – we refer to the death of Adnan Olbeh in a Glasgow hotel in April.

    Perhaps the government is trying to prop up chains such as Britannia Hotels, judged for seven years running “Britain’s worst hotel chain” by consumer magazine Which?. Several people on the flights were kept in Britannia hotels. The company’s main owner, multi-millionaire Alex Langsam, was dubbed the “asylum king” by British media after winning previous asylum contracts with his slum housing sideline.

    Some of the deportees we spoke to stayed in hotel accommodation for several weeks before being moved into normal “asylum dispersal” accommodation – shared houses in the cheapest parts of cities far from London. Others were picked up for deportation directly from the hotels.

    In both cases, the usual procedure is a morning raid: Immigration Enforcement squads grab people from their beds around dawn. As people are in collaborating hotels or assigned houses, they are easy to find and arrest when next on the list for deportation.

    After arrest, people were taken to the main detention centres near Heathrow (Colnbrook and Harmondsworth) or Gatwick (particularly Brook House). Some stopped first at a police station or Short Term Holding Facility for some hours or days.

    All the people we spoke to eventually ended up in Brook House, one of the two Gatwick centres.
    “they came with the shields”

    “One night in Brook House, after someone cut himself, they locked everyone in. One man panicked and started shouting asking the guards please open the door. But he didn’t speak much English, he was shouting in Arabic. He said – ‘if you don’t open the door I will boil water in my kettle and throw it on my face.’ But they didn’t understand him, they thought he was threatening them, saying he would throw it at them. So they came with the shields, took him out of his room and put him into a solitary cell. When they put him in there they kicked him and beat him, they said ‘don’t threaten us again’.” Testimony of a deported person.

    Brook House

    Brook House remains notorious, after exposure by a whistleblower of routine brutality and humiliation by guards then working for G4S. The contract has since been taken over by Mitie’s prison division – branded as “Care and Custody, a Mitie company”. Presumably, many of the same guards simply transferred over.

    In any case, according to what we heard from the deported people, nothing much has changed in Brook House – viciousness and violence from guards remains the norm. The stories included here give just a few examples. See recent detainee testimonies on the Detained Voices blog for much more.
    “they only care that you don’t die in front of them”

    “I was in my room in Brook House on my own for 12 days, I couldn’t eat or drink, just kept thinking, thinking about my situation. I called for the doctors maybe ten times. They did come a couple of times, they took my blood, but they didn’t do anything else. They don’t care about your health or your mental health. They are just scared you will die there. They don’t care what happens to you just so long as you don’t die in front of their eyes. It doesn’t matter if you die somewhere else.” Testimony of a deported person.
    Preparing the flights

    The Home Office issues papers called “Removal Directions” (RDs) to those they intend to deport. These specify the destination and day of the flight. People already in detention should be given at least 72 hours notice, including two working days, which allows them to make final appeals.

    See the Right to Remain toolkit for detailed information on notice periods and appeal procedures.

    All UK deportation flights, both tickets on normal scheduled flights and chartered planes, are booked by a private contractor called Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). The main airline used by the Home Office for charter flights is a charter company called Titan Airways.

    See this 2018 Corporate Watch report for detailed information on charter flight procedures and the companies involved. And this 2020 update on deportations overall.

    On the 12 August flight, legal challenges managed to get 19 people with Removal Directions off the plane. However, the Home Office then substituted 14 different people who were on a “reserve list”. Lawyers suspect that these 14 people did not have sufficient access to legal representation before their flight which is why they were able to be removed.

    Of the 19 people whose lawyers successfully challenged their attempted deportation, 12 would be deported on the next charter flight on 26 August. 6 were flown to Dusseldorf in Germany, and 6 to Clermont-Ferrand in France.

    Another flight was scheduled for the 27 August to Spain. However, lawyers managed to get everyone taken off, and the Home Office cancelled the flight. A Whitehall source was quoted as saying “there was 100% legal attrition rate on the flight due to unprecedented and organised casework barriers sprung on the government by three law firms.” It is suspected that the Home Office will continue their efforts to deport these people on future charter flights.

    Who was deported?

    All the people on the flights were refugees who had claimed asylum in the UK immediately on arrival at Dover. While the tabloids paint deportation flights as carrying “dangerous criminals”, none of these people had any criminal charges.

    They come from countries including Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Kuwait. (Ten further Yemenis were due to be on the failed flight to Spain. In June, the UK government said it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia to use in the bombardment of the country that has cost tens of thousands of lives).

    All have well-founded fears of persecution in their countries of origin, where there have been extensive and well-documented human rights abuses. At least some of the deportees are survivors of torture – and have been documented as such in the Home Office’s own assessments.

    One was a minor under 18 who was age assessed by the Home Office as 25 – despite them being in possession of his passport proving his real age. Unaccompanied minors should not legally be processed under the Dublin III regulation, let alone held in detention and deported.

    Many, if not all, have friends and families in the UK.

    No one had their asylum case assessed – all were removed under the Dublin III procedure (see Legal Framework section below).

    Timeline of the flight on 26 August

    Night of 25 August: Eight people due to be on the flight self-harm or attempt suicide. Others have been on hunger strike for more than a week already. Three are taken to hospital where they are hastily treated before being discharged so they can still be placed on the flight. Another five are simply bandaged up in Brook House’s healthcare facility. (See testimony above.)

    26 August, 4am onwards: Guards come to take deportees from their rooms in Brook House. There are numerous testimonies of violence: three or four guards enter rooms with shields, helmets, and riot gear and beat up prisoners if they show any resistance.

    4am onwards: The injured prisoners are taken by guards to be inspected by a doctor, in a corridor in front of officials, and are certified as “fit to fly”.

    5am onwards: Prisoners are taken one by one to waiting vans. Each is placed in a separate van with four guards. Vans are labelled with the Mitie “Care and Custody” logo. Prisoners are then kept sitting in the vans until everyone is loaded, which takes one to two hours.

    6am onwards: Vans drive from Brook House (near Gatwick Airport) to Stansted Airport. They enter straight into the airport charter flight area. Deportees are taken one by one from the vans and onto Titan’s waiting plane. It is an anonymous looking white Airbus A321-211 without the company’s livery, with the registration G-POWU. They are escorted up the steps with a guard on each side.

    On the plane there are four guards to each person: one seated on each side, one in the seat in front and one behind. Deportees are secured with restraint belts around their waists, so that their arms are handcuffed to the belts on each side. Besides the 12 deportees and 48 guards there are Home Office officials, Mitie managers, and two paramedics on the plane.

    7.48AM (BST): The Titan Airways plane (using flight number ZT311) departs Stansted airport.

    9.44AM (CEST): The flight lands in Dusseldorf. Six people are taken off the plane and are handed over to the German authorities.

    10.46AM (CEST): Titan’s Airbus takes off from Dusseldorf bound for Clermont-Ferrand, France with the remaining deportees.

    11.59AM (CEST): The Titan Airways plane (now with flight number ZT312) touches down at Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airport and the remaining six deportees are disembarked from the plane and taken into the custody of the Police Aux Frontières (PAF, French border police).

    12:46PM (CEST): The plane leaves Clermont-Ferrand to return to the UK. It first lands in Gatwick, probably so the escorts and other officials get off, before continuing on to Stansted where the pilots finish their day.

    Dumped on arrival: Germany

    What happened to most of the deportees in Germany is not known, although it appears there was no comprehensive intake procedure by the German police. One deportee told us German police on arrival in Dusseldorf gave him a train ticket and told him to go to the asylum office in Berlin. When he arrived there, he was told to go back to his country. He told them he could not and that he had no money to stay in Berlin or travel to another country. The asylum office told him he could sleep on the streets of Berlin.

    Only one man appears to have been arrested on arrival. This was the person who had attempted suicide the night before, cutting his head and neck with razors, and had been bleeding throughout the flight.
    Dumped on arrival: France

    The deportees were taken to Clermont-Ferrand, a city in the middle of France, hundreds of kilometres away from metropolitan centres. Upon arrival they were subjected to a COVID nose swab test and then held by the PAF while French authorities decided their fate.

    Two were released around an hour and a half later with appointments to claim asylum in around one week’s time – in regional Prefectures far from Clermont-Ferrand. They were not offered any accommodation, further legal information, or means to travel to their appointments.

    The next person was released about another hour and a half after them. He was not given an appointment to claim asylum, but just provided with a hotel room for four nights.

    Throughout the rest of the day the three other detainees were taken from the airport to the police station to be fingerprinted. Beginning at 6PM these three began to be freed. The last one was released seven hours after the deportation flight landed. The police had been waiting for the Prefecture to decide whether or not to transfer them to the detention centre (Centre de Rétention Administrative – CRA). We don’t know if a factor in this was that the nearest detention centre, at Lyon, was full up.

    However, these people were not simply set free. They were given expulsion papers ordering them to leave France (OQTF: Obligation de quitter le territoire français), and banning them from returning (IRTF: Interdiction de retour sur le territoire français). These papers allowed them only 48 hours to appeal. The British government has said that people deported on flights to France have the opportunity to claim asylum in France. This is clearly not true.

    In a further bureaucratic contradiction, alongside expulsion papers people were also given orders that they must report to the Clermont-Ferrand police station every day at 10:00AM for the next 45 days (potentially to be arrested and detained at any point). They were told that if they failed to report, the police would consider them on the run.

    The Prefecture also reserved a place in a hotel many kilometres away from the airport for them for four nights, but not any further information or ways to receive food. They were also not provided any way to get to this hotel, and the police would not help them – stating that their duty finished once they gave the deportees their papers.

    “After giving me the expulsion papers the French policeman said ‘Now you can go to England.’” (Testimony of deported person)

    The PAF showed a general disregard for the health and well-being of the deportees who were in the custody throughout the day. One of the deportees had been in a wheel-chair throughout the day and was unable to walk due to the deep lacerations on his feet from self-harming. He was never taken to the hospital, despite the doctor’s recommendation, neither during the custody period nor after his release. In fact, the only reason for the doctor’s visit in the first place was to assess whether he was fit to be detained should the Prefecture decide that. The police kept him in his bloody clothes all day, and when they released him he did not have shoes and could barely walk. No crutches were given, nor did the police offer to help him get to the hotel. He was put out on the street having to carry all of his possessions in a Home Office issue plastic bag.
    “the hardest night of my life”

    “It was the hardest night of my life. My heart break was so great that I seriously thought of suicide. I put the razor in my mouth to swallow it; I saw my whole life pass quickly until the first hours of dawn. The treatment in detention was very bad, humiliating and degrading. I despised myself and felt that my life was destroyed, but it was too precious to lose it easily. I took the razor out from my mouth before I was taken out of the room, where four large-bodied people, wearing armour similar to riot police and carrying protective shields, violently took me to the large hall at the ground floor of the detention centre. I was exhausted, as I had been on hunger strike for several days. In a room next to me, one of the deportees tried to resist and was beaten so severely that blood dripping from his nose. In the big hall, they searched me carefully and took me to a car like a dangerous criminal, two people on my right and left, they drove for about two hours to the airport, there was a big passenger plane on the runway. […] That moment, I saw my dreams, my hopes, shattered in front of me when I entered the plane.”

    Testimony of deported person (from Detained Voices: https://detainedvoices.com/2020/08/27/brook-house-protestor-on-his-deportation-it-was-the-hardest-night-of).

    The Legal Framework: Dublin III

    These deportations are taking place under the Dublin III regulation. This is EU law that determines which European country is responsible for assessing a refugee’s asylum claim. The decision involves a number of criteria, the primary ones being ‘family unity’ and the best interests of children. Another criterion, in the case of people crossing borders without papers, is which country they first entered ‘irregularly’. In the law, this is supposed to be less important than family ties – but it is the most commonly used ground by governments seeking to pass on asylum applicants to other states. All the people we know of on these flights were “Dublined” because the UK claimed they had previously been in France, Germany or Spain.

    (See: House of Commons intro briefing; Right to Remain toolkit section:

    By invoking the Dublin regulation, the UK evades actually assessing people’s asylum cases. These people were not deported because their asylum claims failed – their cases were simply never considered. The decision to apply Dublin III is made after the initial screening interview (now taking place in Yarl’s Wood). As we saw above, very few people are able to access any legal advice before these interviews are conducted and sometimes they are carried out by telephone or without adequate translation.

    Under Dublin III the UK must make a formal request to the other government it believes is responsible for considering the asylum claim to take the person back, and present evidence as to why that government should accept responsibility. Typically, the evidence provided is the record of the person’s fingerprints registered by another country on the Europe-wide EURODAC database.

    However, in the recent deportation cases the Home Office has not always provided fingerprints but instead relied on weak circumstantial evidence. Some countries have refused this evidence, but others have accepted – notably France.

    There seems to be a pattern in the cases so far where France is accepting Dublin III returns even when other countries have refused. The suspicion is that the French government may have been incentivised to accept ‘take-back’ requests based on very flimsy evidence as part of the recent Franco-British Channel crossing negotiations (France reportedly requested £30m to help Britain make the route ‘unviable’).

    In theory, accepting a Dublin III request means that France (or another country) has taken responsibility to process someone’s asylum claim. In practice, most of the people who arrived at Clermont-Ferrand on 26 August were not given any opportunity to claim asylum – instead they were issued with expulsion papers ordering them to leave France and Europe. They were also only given 48 hours to appeal these expulsions orders without any further legal information; a near impossibility for someone who has just endured a forceful expulsion and may require urgent medical treatment.

    Due to Brexit, the United Kingdom will no longer participate in Dublin III from 31 December 2020. While there are non-EU signatories to the agreement like Switzerland and Norway, it is unclear what arrangements the UK will have after that (as with basically everything else about Brexit). If there is no overall deal, the UK will have to negotiate numerous bilateral agreements with European countries. This pattern of expedited expulsion without a proper screening process established with France could be a taste of things to come.

    Conclusion: rushed – and illegal?

    Charter flight deportations are one of the most obviously brutal tools used by the UK Border Regime. They involve the use of soul-crushing violence by the Home Office and its contractors (Mitie, Titan Airways, Britannia Hotels, and all) against people who have already lived through histories of trauma.

    For these recent deportations of Channel crossers the process seems particularly rushed. People who have risked their lives in the Channel are scooped into a machine designed to deny their asylum rights and expel them ASAP – for the sake of a quick reaction to the latest media panic. New procedures appear to have been introduced off the cuff by Home Office officials and in under-the-table deals with French counterparts.

    As a result of this rush-job, there seem to be numerous irregularities in the process. Some have been already flagged up in the successful legal challenges to the Spanish flight on 27 August. The detention and deportation of boat-crossers may well be largely illegal, and is open to being challenged further on both sides of the Channel.

    Here we recap a few particular issues:

    The highly politicised nature of the expulsion process for small boat crossers means they are being denied access to a fair asylum procedure by the Home Office.

    The deportees include people who are victims of torture and of trafficking, as well as under-aged minors.

    People are being detained, rushed through screening interviews, and “Dublined” without access to legal advice and necessary information.

    In order to avoid considering asylum requests, Britain is applying Dublin III often just using flimsy circumstantial evidence – and France is accepting these requests, perhaps as a result of recent negotiations and financial arrangements.

    Many deportees have family ties in the UK – but the primary Dublin III criterion of ‘family unity’ is ignored.

    In accepting Dublin III requests France is taking legal responsibility for people’s asylum claims. But in fact it has denied people the chance to claim asylum, instead immediately issuing expulsion papers.

    These expulsion papers (‘Order to quit France’ and ‘Ban from returning to France’ or ‘OQTF’ and ‘IRTF’) are issued with only 48 hour appeal windows. This is completely inadequate to ensure a fair procedure – even more so for traumatised people who have just endured detention and deportation, then been dumped in the middle of nowhere in a country where they have no contacts and do not speak the language.

    This completely invalidates the Home Office’s argument that the people it deports will be able to access a fair asylum procedure in France.


    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #UK #Angleterre #Dublin #expulsions #renvois #Royaume_Uni #vols #charter #France #Allemagne #Espagne #Home_Office #accord #témoignage #violence #Brexit #Priti_Patel #Royal_Navy #plan_opérationnel_conjoint #Manche #Commandant_de_la_menace_clandestine_dans_la_Manche #Cherbourg #militarisation_des_frontières #frontières #Calais #Dunkerque #navires #Border_Force_Cutters #avions_de_surveillance #Royal_Air_Force #Opération_Sillath #refoulements #push-backs #Douvres #Kent_Intake_Unit #Yarl’s_Wood #Bedfordshire #Serco #Short_Term_Holding_Facility (#SHTF) #hôtel #Mears #hôtels_Britannia #Alex_Langsam #Immigration_Enforcement_squads #Heathrow #Colnbrook #Harmondsworth #Gatwick #aéroport #Brook_Hous #G4S #Removal_Directions #Carlson_Wagonlit_Travel (#CWT) #privatisation #compagnies_aériennes #Titan_Airways #Clermont-Ferrand #Düsseldorf

    @karine4 —> il y a une section dédiée à l’arrivée des vols charter en France (à Clermont-Ferrand plus précisément) :
    Larguées à destination : la France

    ping @isskein

    • Traduction française :

      S’en débarrasser : le Royaume Uni se précipite pour expulser par vols charters les personnes qui traversent la Manche

      Attention : ce document contient des récits de violence, tentatives de suicide et automutilation.

      Le Royaume Uni s’attache à particulièrement réprimer les migrants traversant la Manche dans de petites embarcations, répondant comme toujours à la panique propagée par les tabloïds britanniques. Une partie de sa stratégie consiste en une nouvelle vague d’expulsions massives : des vols charters, ciblant spécifiquement les personnes traversant la Manche, vers la France, l’Allemagne et l’Espagne.

      Deux vols ont eu lieu jusqu’à présent, les 12 et 26 août. Le prochain est prévu pour le 3 septembre. Les deux vols récents ont fait escale à la fois en Allemagne (Düsseldorf) et en France (Toulouse le 12, Clermont-Ferrand le 26). Un autre vol était prévu pour l’Espagne le 27 août – mais il a été annulé après que les avocat-es aient réussi à faire descendre tout le monde de l’avion.

      Menées à la hâte par un Home Office en panique, ces déportations massives ont été particulièrement brutales, et ont pu impliquer de graves irrégularités juridiques. Ce rapport résume ce que nous savons jusqu’à présent après avoir parlé à un certain nombre de personnes expulsées et à d’autres sources. Il couvre :

      Le contexte : Les traversées en bateau de Calais et l’accord entre le Royaume-Uni et la France pour les faire cesser.
      Au Royaume-Uni : Yarl’s Wood reconverti en centre de traitement de personnes traversant la Manche ; Britannia Hotels ; le centre de détention de Brook House, toujours aussi brutal.
      Les vols : Calendrier détaillé du charter du 26 août vers Düsseldorf et Clermont-Ferrand.
      Qui est à bord du vol : Les personnes réfugiées, y compris des mineurs et des personnes torturées.
      Délaissé à l’arrivée : Les personnes arrivant en Allemagne et en France qui n’ont pas la possibilité de demander l’asile se voient délivrer immédiatement des documents d’expulsion.
      Les questions juridiques : Utilisation du règlement Dublin III pour se soustraire de la responsabilité à l’égard des réfugiés.
      Est-ce illégal ? : la précipitation du processus entraîne de nombreuses irrégularités.

      “cette nuit-là, huit personnes se sont automutilées”

      Cette nuit-là avant le vol (25 août), lorsque nous étions enfermés dans nos chambres et que j’ai appris que j’avais perdu en appel, j’étais désespéré. J’ai commencé à me mutiler. Je n’étais pas le seule. Huit personnes se sont automutilées ou ont tenté de se suicider plutôt que d’être emmenées dans cet avion. Un homme s’est jeté une bouilloire d’eau bouillante sur lui-même. Un homme a essayé de se pendre avec le câble de télé dans sa chambre. Trois d’entre nous ont été emmenés à l’hôpital, mais renvoyés au centre de détention après quelques heures. Les cinq autres ont été emmenés à l’infirmerie de Brook House où on leur a mis des pansements. Vers 5 heures du matin, ils sont venus dans ma chambre, des gardes avec des boucliers anti-émeutes. Sur le chemin pour aller au van, ils m’ont fait traverser une sorte de couloir rempli de gens – gardes, directeurs, fonctionnaires du Home Office. Ils ont tous regardé pendant qu’un médecin m’examinait, puis le médecin a dit : “oui, il est apte à voler”. Dans l’avion, plus tard, j’ai vu un homme très gravement blessé, du sang dégoulinant de sa tête et sur ses vêtements. Il n’avait pas seulement essayé d’arrêter le vol, il voulait vraiment se tuer. Il a été emmené en Allemagne.

      Témoignage d’une personne déportée.

      Le contexte : les bateaux et les accords

      Depuis les années 1990, des dizaines de milliers de personnes fuyant la guerre, la répression et la pauvreté ont franchi le “court détroit” entre Calais et Dover. Jusqu’en 2018, les personnes sans papiers qui tentaient de traverser la Manche le faisaient principalement en montant dans des camions ou des trains passant par le tunnel sous la Manche. Les systèmes de sécurité autour des parkings de camions, du tunnel et de l’autoroute ont été massivement renforcés après l’expulsion de la grande jungle en 2016. Cela a obligé les gens à chercher d’autres itinéraires, toujours plus dangereux, y compris en traversant l’une des voies navigables les plus fréquentées du monde à bord de petits bateaux. Environ 300 personnes ont emprunté cet itinéraire en 2018, 2000 autres en 2019 – et, selon les rapports, plus de 5000 personnes entre janvier et août 2020.

      Ces passages ont été relayés par les médias britanniques lors de leur dernière vague de publications xénophobiques et alarmistes. Le schéma n’est que trop familier depuis le camp Sangatte en 1999 : les médias de droite (le plus célèbre étant le Daily Mail, mais aussi d’autres) diffusent des articles abusifs sur les dangereux “illégaux” qui déferleraient à travers la Manche ; et le gouvernement britannique répond par des promesses de répression.

      Renforcé par le Brexit, les mesures et annonces récentes comprennent :

      Le ministre de l’intérieur, Priti Patel, annonce une nouvelle loi sur l’asile et l’immigration “plus juste” qui, promet-elle, “fera s’effondrer la gauche”.
      Une demande officielle du Home Office à la Royal Navy pour aider à refouler les migrants qui traversent par bateau (bien que cela soit illégal).
      Négociations avec le gouvernement français, qui ont abouti à l’annonce le 13 août d’un “plan opérationnel conjoint” visant “ à couper complètement cette route”.
      La nomination d’un “Commandant de la menace clandestine dans la Manche” pour superviser les opérations des deux côtés de la Manche.

      Les mesures concrètes se font encore attendre, mais les évolutions notables jusqu’à présent sont les suivantes :

      D’autres paiements du Royaume-Uni à la France pour accroître la sécurité – la France aurait demandé 30 millions de livres sterling.
      Des navires de guerre français de la base navale de Cherbourg patrouillant au large des côtes de Calais et de Dunkerque.
      Des Border Force Cutters (navires) et les patrouilleurs côtiers britanniques patrouillant du côté anglais soutenus par des avions de surveillance de la Royal Air Force.
      Le nouveau programme d’expulsion par vol charter – qui aurait été baptisé “Opération Sillath” par le ministère de l’intérieur.

      Pour l’instant, du moins, les gouvernements respectent leurs obligations légales minimales en matière de protection de la vie en mer. Et il n’y a pas eu de preuves de “push backs” (refoulement) ou de “pull backs” illégaux : où, de force, soit des bateaux britanniques “poussent”, soit des bateaux français “tirent” des bateaux vers l’un ou l’autre côté de la frontière. Lorsque ces bateaux sont interceptés dans les eaux françaises, les voyageurs sont ramenés en France. S’ils parviennent à entrer dans les eaux britanniques, la police aux frontières britannique les récupère et les débarque à Douvres. Ils peuvent alors demander l’asile au Royaume-Uni.

      Il n’y a pas de différence juridique entre demander l’asile après être arrivé par bateau, par avion ou de toute autre manière. Cependant, ces personnes traversant par petits bateaux ont été ciblées par le gouvernement pour être traitées d’une manière spéciale, semble-t-il conçue pour leur refuser le droit d’asile au Royaume-Uni.

      Une fois que les personnes sont à terre et en sécurité, le deuxième volet de la stratégie de Priti Patel visant à rendre cette voie non viable entre en jeu : systématiquement faire obstacle à leur demande d’asile et, si possible, les expulser vers la France ou d’autres pays européens. En pratique, il est impossible pour le Home Office d’expulser toutes les personnes qui réussissent à traverser. Il s’agit plutôt, comme dans la grande majorité des politiques d’immigration, de faire preuve de fermeté avec un spectacle de mise en vigueur – non seulement pour tenter de dissuader d’autres arrivant-es, mais peut-être surtout pour se mettre en scène devant les principaux médias.

      C’est là qu’intervient la nouvelle vague de vols charter. Les expulsions nécessitent la coopération du pays de destination, et le premier vol a eu lieu le 12 août en plein milieu des négociations franco-britanniques. Plus récemment, ces vols ont alimenté un nouveau spectacle médiatique au Royaume-Uni : le Home Office s’en prend aux “avocats militants” qui font leur travail en contestant les principales failles juridiques de ces renvois précipités.

      Le Home Office a tenté de présenter ces vols d’expulsion comme une réponse immédiate et forte aux traversées de la Manche. Le message est le suivant : si vous traversez la Manche, vous serez de retour dans les jours qui suivent. Là encore, il s’agit plus de spectacle que de réalité. Toutes les personnes que nous connaissons sur ces vols étaient au Royaume-Uni plusieurs mois avant d’être expulsées.

      Au Royaume-Uni : Yarl’s Wood réaffecté

      Une fois à terre en Angleterre, les personnes sont emmenées à l’un des deux endroits suivants : soit la Kent Intake Unit (Unité d’admission du Kent), qui est un centre de détention du ministère de l’intérieur (c’est-à-dire un petit complexe de cellules préfabriquées) dans les docks à l’est du port de Douvres ; soit le poste de police de Douvres. Ce poste de police semble être de plus en plus l’endroit principal, car la petite “unité d’admission” est souvent pleine. Il y avait autrefois un centre de détention à Douvres où étaient détenus les nouveaux arrivants, qui était connu pour son état de délabrement, mais a été fermé en octobre 2015.

      Les personnes sont généralement détenues au poste de police pendant une journée maximum. La destination suivante est généralement Yarl’s Wood, le centre de détention du Bedfordshire géré par Serco. Il s’agissait, jusqu’à récemment, d’un centre de détention à long terme qui accueillait principalement des femmes. Cependant, le 18 août, le ministère de l’intérieur a annoncé que Yarl’s Wood avait été réaménagé en “centre de détention de courte durée” (Short Term Holding Facility – SHTF) pour traiter spécifiquement les personnes qui ont traversé la Manche. Les personnes ne restent généralement que quelques jours – le séjour maximum légal pour un centre de “courte durée” est de sept jours.

      Yarl’s Wood a une capacité normale de 410 prisonniers. Selon des sources à Yarl’s Wood :

      “La semaine dernière, c’était presque plein avec plus de 350 personnes détenues. Quelques jours plus tard, ce nombre était tombé à 150, ce qui montre la rapidité avec laquelle les gens passent par le centre. Mardi 25 août, il n’y avait plus personne dans le centre ! Il semble probable que les chiffres fluctueront en fonction des traversées de la Manche.”

      La même source ajoute :

      “Il y a des inquiétudes concernant l’accès à l’aide juridique à Yarl’s Wood. La réglementation relative aux centres de détention provisoire n’exige pas que des conseils juridiques soient disponibles sur place (à Manchester, par exemple, il n’y a pas d’avocats de garde). Apparemment, le roulement des avocats de garde se poursuit à Yarl’s Wood pour l’instant. Mais la rapidité avec laquelle les personnes sont traitées maintenant signifie qu’il est pratiquement impossible de s’inscrire et d’obtenir un rendez-vous avec l’avocat de garde avant d’être transféré”.

      Le ministère de l’Intérieur mène les premiers entretiens d’évaluation des demandeurs d’asile pendant qu’ils sont à Yarl’s Wood. Ces entretiens se font parfois en personne, ou parfois par téléphone.

      C’est un moment crucial, car ce premier entretien détermine les chances de nombreuses personnes de demander l’asile au Royaume-Uni. Le ministère de l’intérieur utilise les informations issues de cet entretien pour expulser les personnes qui traversent la Manche vers la France et l’Allemagne en vertu du règlement Dublin III. Il s’agit d’une législation de l’Union Européenne (UE) qui permet aux gouvernements de transférer la responsabilité de l’évaluation de la demande d’asile d’une personne vers un autre État. Autrement dit, le Royaume-Uni ne commence même pas à examiner les demandes d’asile des personnes.

      D’après ce que nous avons vu, beaucoup de ces évaluations de Dublin III ont été faites de manière précipitée et irrégulière. Elles se sont souvent appuyées sur de faibles preuves circonstancielles. Peu de personnes ont eu la possibilité d’obtenir des conseils juridiques, ou même des interprètes pour expliquer le processus.

      Nous abordons Dublin III et les questions soulevées ci-dessous dans la section “Cadre juridique”.
      Au Royaume-Uni : les pires hôtels britanniques

      De Yarl’s Wood, les personnes à qui nous avons parlé ont été libérées sous caution (elles devaient respecter des conditions spécifiques aux personnes immigrées) dans des hébergement pour demandeurs d’asile. Dans un premier temps, cet hébergement signifie un hôtel à bas prix. En raison de l’épidémie du COVID-19, le Home Office a ordonné aux entreprises sous-traitantes (Mears, Serco) qui administrent habituellement les centres d’accueil pour demandeurs d’asile de fermer leurs places d’hébergement et d’envoyer les personnes à l’hôtel. Cette décision est loin d’être claire, du fait que de nombreux indicateurs suggèrent que les hôtels sont bien pires en ce qui concerne la propagation du COVID. Le résultat de cette politique s’est déjà avéré fatal – voir la mort d’Adnan Olbeh à l’hôtel Glasgow en avril.

      Peut-être le gouvernement essaie de soutenir des chaînes telles que Britannia Hotels, classée depuis sept ans à la suite comme la “pire chaîne d’hôtel britannique” par le magazine des consommateurs Which ?. Plusieurs personnes envoyées par charter avaient été placées dans des hôtels Britannia. Le principal propriétaire de cette chaîne, le multi-millionnaire Alex Langsam, a été surnommé « le roi de l’asile » par les médias britanniques après avoir remporté précédemment à l’aide de ses taudis d’autres contrats pour l’hébergement des demandeurs d’asile.

      Certaines des personnes déportées à qui nous avons parlé sont restées dans ce genre d’hôtels plusieurs semaines avant d’être envoyées dans des lieux de “dispersion des demandeurs d’asile” – des logements partagés situés dans les quartiers les plus pauvres de villes très éloignées de Londres. D’autres ont été mises dans l’avion directement depuis les hôtels.

      Dans les deux cas, la procédure habituelle est le raid matinal : Des équipes de mise-en-œuvre de l’immigration (Immigration Enforcement squads) arrachent les gens de leur lit à l’aube. Comme les personnes sont dans des hôtels qui collaborent ou assignées à des maisons, il est facile de les trouver et de les arrêter quand elles sont les prochains sur la liste des déportations.

      Après l’arrestation, les personnes ont été amenées aux principaux centres de détention près de Heathrow (Colnbrook et Harmondsworth) ou Gatwick (particulièrement Brook House). Quelques-unes ont d’abord été gardées au commissariat ou en détention pour des séjours de court terme pendant quelques heures ou quelques jours.

      Tous ceux à qui nous avons parlé ont finalement terminé à Brook House, un des deux centres de détention de Gatwick.
      « ils sont venus avec les boucliers »

      Une nuit, à Brook House, après que quelqu’un se soit mutilé, ils ont enfermé tout le monde. Un homme a paniqué et a commencé à crier en demandant aux gardes « S’il vous plaît, ouvrez la porte ». Mais il ne parlait pas bien anglais et criait en arabe. Il a dit : « Si vous n’ouvrez pas la porte je vais faire bouillir de l’eau dans ma bouilloire et me la verser sur le visage ». Mais ils ne l’ont pas compris, ils pensaient qu’il était en train de les menacer et qu’il était en train de dire qu’il allait jeter l’eau bouillante sur eux. Alors ils sont arrivés avec leurs boucliers, ils l’ont jeté hors de sa cellule et ils l’ont mis en isolement. Quand ils l’ont mis là-bas, ils lui ont donné des coups et ils l’ont battu, ils ont dit : « Ne nous menace plus jamais ». (Témoignage d’une personne déportée)

      Brook House

      Brook House reste tristement célèbre après les révélations d’un lanceur d’alerte sur les brutalités quotidiennes et les humiliations commises par les gardes qui travaillent pour G4S. Leur contrat a depuis été repris par la branche emprisonnement de Mitie – dont la devise est « Care and Custody, a Mitie company » (traduction : « Soins et détention, une entreprise Mitie »). Probablement que beaucoup des mêmes gardes sont simplement passés d’une entreprise à l’autre.

      Dans tous les cas, d’après ce que les personnes déportées nous ont dit, pas grand chose n’a changé à Brook House – le vice et la violence des gardes restent la norme. Les histoires rapportées ici en donnent juste quelques exemples. Vous pouvez lire davantage dans les récents témoignages de personnes détenues sur le blog Detained Voices.
      « ils s’assurent juste que tu ne meures pas devant eux »

      J’étais dans ma cellule à Brook House seul depuis 12 jours, je ne pouvais ni manger ni boire, juste penser, penser à ma situation. J’ai demandé un docteur peut-être dix fois. Ils sont venus plusieurs fois, ils ont pris mon sang, mais ils n’ont rien fait d’autre. Ils s’en foutent de ta santé ou de ta santé mentale. Ils ont juste peur que tu meures là. Ils s’en foutent de ce qui t’arrive du moment que tu ne meures pas devant leurs yeux. Et ça n’a pas d’importance pour eux si tu meurs ailleurs.
      Témoignage d’une personne déportée.

      Préparation des vols

      Le Home Office délivre des papiers appelés « Instructions d’expulsion » (« Removal Directions » – Rds) aux personnes qu’ils ont l’intention de déporter. Y sont stipulés la destination et le jour du vol. Les personnes qui sont déjà en détention doivent recevoir ce papier au moins 72 heures à l’avance, incluant deux jours ouvrés, afin de leur permettre de faire un ultime appel de la décision.

      Voir Right to Remain toolkit pour des informations détaillés sur les délais légaux et sur les procédures d’appel.

      Tous les vols de déportation du Royaume Uni, les tickets qu’ils soient pour un avion de ligne régulier ou un vol charter sont réservés via une agence de voyage privée appelée Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). La principale compagnie aérienne utilisée par le Home Office pour les vols charter est la compagnie de charter qui s’appelle Titan Airways.

      Voir 2018 Corporate Watch report pour les informations détaillées sur les procédures de vols charter et les compagnies impliquées. Et la mise-à-jour de 2020 sur les déportations en général.

      Concernant le vol du 12 août, des recours légaux ont réussi à faire sortir 19 personnes de l’avion qui avaient des Instructions d’expulsion ( Rds ). Cependant, le Home Office les a remplacées par 14 autres personnes qui étaient sur la « liste d’attente ». Les avocats suspectent que ces 14 personnes n’ont pas eu suffisamment accès à leur droit à être représentés par un-e avocat-e avant le vol, ce qui a permis qu’elles soient expulsés.

      Parmi les 19 personnes dont les avocat.es ont réussi à empêcher l’expulsion prévue, 12 ont finalement été déportées par le vol charter du 26 août : 6 personnes envoyées à Dusseldorf en Allemagne et 6 autres à Clermont-Ferrand en France.

      Un autre vol a été programmé le 27 août pour l’Espagne. Cependant les avocat-es ont réussi à faire retirer tout le monde, et le Home Office a annulé le vol. L’administration anglaise (Whitehall) a dit dans les médias : “le taux d’attrition juridique a été de 100 % pour ce vol en raison des obstacles sans précédent et organisés que trois cabinets d’avocats ont imposés au gouvernement.” Il y a donc de fortes chances que Home Office mettra tous ses moyens à disposition pour continuer à expulser ces personnes lors de prochains vols charters.

      Qui a été expulsé ?

      L’ensemble des personnes expulsées par avion sont des personnes réfugiées qui ont déposé leur demande d’asile au Royaume-Uni immédiatement après leur arrivée à Dover. La une des médias expose les personnes expulsées comme « de dangereux criminels », mais aucune d’entre elles n’a fait l’objet de poursuites.

      Ils viennent de différents pays dont l’Irak, le Yemen, le Soudan, la Syrie, l’Afghanistan et le Koweit. (Dix autres Yéménis devaient être expulsés par le vol annulé pour l’Espagne. Au mois de juin, le gouvernement du Royaume-Uni a annoncé la reprise des accords commerciaux de vente d’armes avec l’Arabie Saoudite qui les utilise dans des bombardements au Yemen qui ont déjà coûté la vie à des dizaines de milliers de personnes).

      Toutes ces personnes craignent à raison des persécution dans leurs pays d’origine – où les abus des Droits de l’Homme sont nombreux et ont été largement documentés. Au moins plusieurs des personnes expulsées ont survécu à la torture, ce qui a été documenté par le Home Office lui-même lors d’entretiens.

      Parmi eux, un mineur âgé de moins de 18 ans a été enregistré par le Home Office comme ayant 25 ans – alors même qu’ils étaient en possession de son passeport prouvant son âge réel. Les mineurs isolés ne devraient légalement pas être traités avec la procédure Dublin III, et encore moins être placés en détention et être expulsés.

      Beaucoup de ces personnes, si ce ne sont toutes, ont des ami-es et de la famille au Royaume-Uni.

      Aucune de leurs demandes d’asile n’a été évaluée – toutes ont été refusées dans le cadre de la procédure Dublin III (cf. Cadre Légal plus bas).

      Chronologie du vol du 26 août

      Nuit du 25 août : Huit des personnes en attente de leur expulsion se mutilent ou tentent de se suicider. D’autres personnes font une grève de la faim depuis plus d’une semaine. Trois d’entre elles sont amenées à l’hôpital, hâtivement prises en charge pour qu’elles puissent être placées dans l’avion. Cinq autres se sont simplement vus délivrer quelques compresses au service des soins du centre de détention de Brook House. (cf. le témoignage ci-dessus)

      26 août, vers 4 heure du matin : Les gardiens récupèrent les personnes expulsables dans leurs cellules. Il y a de nombreux témoignages de violence : trois ou quatre gardiens en tenue anti-émeute avec casques et boucliers s’introduisent dans les cellules et tabassent les détenus à la moindre résistance.

      vers 4 heure du matin : Les détenus blessés sont amenés par les gardiens pour être examinés par un médecin dans un couloir, face aux fonctionnaires, et sont jugés « apte à prendre l’avion ».

      vers 5 heure du matin : Les détenus sont amenés un par un dans les fourgons. Chacun est placé dans un fourgon séparé, entouré de quatre gardiens. Les fourgons portent le logo de l’entreprise Mitie « Care and Custody ». Les détenus sont gardés dans les fourgons le temps de faire monter tout le monde, ce qui prend une à deux heures.

      vers 6 heure du matin : Les fourgons vont du centre de détention de Brook House (près de l’Aéroport Gatwick) à l’Aéroport Stansted et entrent directement dans la zone réservée aux vols charters. Les détenus sont sortis un par un des fourgons vers l’avion de la compagnie aérienne Titan. Il s’agit d’un avion Airbus A321-211, avec le numéro d’enregistrement G-POWU, au caractère anonyme, qui ne porte aucun signe distinctif de la compagnie aérienne. Les détenus sont escortés en haut des escaliers avec un gardien de chaque côté.

      Dans l’avion quatre gardiens sont assignés à chaque personne : deux de part et d’autre sur les sièges mitoyens, un sur le siège devant et un sur le siège derrière. Les détenus sont maintenus avec une ceinture de restriction au niveau de leur taille à laquelle sont également attachées leurs mains par des menottes. En plus des 12 détenus et 48 gardiens, il y a des fonctionnaires du Home Office, des managers de Mitie, et deux personnels paramédicaux dans l’avion.

      7h58 (BST) : L’avion de la compagnie Titan (dont le numéro de vol est ZT311) décolle de l’Aéroport Stansted.

      9h44 (CEST) : Le vol atterrit à Dusseldorf. Six personnes sont sorties de l’avion, laissées aux mains des autorités allemandes.

      10h46 (CEST) : L’avion Titan décolle de Dusseldorf pour rejoindre Clermont-Ferrand avec le reste des détenus.

      11h59 (CEST) : L’avion (dont le numéro de vol est maintenant ZT312) atterrit à l’Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne et les six autres détenus sont débarqués et amenés aux douanes de la Police Aux Frontières (PAF).

      12h46 (CEST) : L’avion quitte Clermont-Ferrand pour retourner au Royaume-Uni. Il atterrit d’abord à l’Aéroport Gatwick, probablement pour déposer les gardiens et les fonctionnaires, avant de finir sa route à l’Aéroport Stansted où les pilotes achèvent leur journée.

      Larguées à destination : l’Allemagne

      Ce qu’il est arrivé aux personnes expulsées en Allemagne n’est pas connu, même s’il semblerait qu’il n’y ait pas eu de procédure claire engagée par la police allemande. Un des expulsés nous a rapporté qu’à son arrivée à Dusseldorf, la police allemande lui a donné un billet de train en lui disant de se rendre au bureau de la demande d’asile à Berlin. Une fois là-bas, on lui a dit de retourner dans son pays. Ce à quoi il a répondu qu’il ne pouvait pas y retourner et qu’il n’avait pas non plus d’argent pour rester à Berlin ou voyager dans un autre pays. Le bureau de la demande d’asile a répondu qu’il pouvait dormir dans les rues de Berlin.

      Un seul homme a été arrêté à son arrivée. Il s’agit d’une personne qui avait tenté de se suicider la veille en se mutilant à la tête et au coup au rasoir, et qui avait saigné tout au long du vol.
      Larguées à destination : la France

      Les expulsés ont été transportés à Clermont-Ferrand, une ville située au milieu de la France, à des centaines de kilomètres des centres métropolitains. Dès leur arrivée ils ont été testés pour le COVID par voie nasale et retenus par la PAF pendant que les autorités françaises décidaient de leur sort.

      Deux d’entre eux ont été libérés à peu près une heure et demi après, une fois donnés des rendez-vous au cours de la semaine suivante pour faire des demandes d’asile dans des Préfectures de région eloignées de Clermont-Ferrand. Il ne leur a été proposé aucun logement, ni information légale, ni moyen pour se déplacer jusqu’à leurs rendez-vous.

      La personne suivante a été libérée environ une heure et demi après eux. Il ne lui a pas été donné de rendez-vous pour demander l’asile, mais il lui a juste été proposé une chambre d’hotel pour quatre nuits.

      Pendant le reste de la journée, les trois autres détenus ont été emmenés de l’aéroport au commisariat pour prendre leurs empreintes. On a commencé à les libérer à partir de 18h. Le dernier a été libéré sept heures après que le vol de déportation soit arrivé. La police a attendu que la Préfecture décide de les transférer ou non au Centre de Rétention Administrative (CRA). On ne sait pas si la raison à cela était que le centre le plus proche, à Lyon, était plein.

      Cependant, ces personnes n’ont pas été simplement laissées libres. Il leur a été donné des ordres d’expulsion (OQTF : Obligation de quitter le territoire francais) et des interdictions de retour sur le territoire francais (IRTF). Ces document ne leur donnent que48h pour faire appel. Le gouverment britannique a dit que les personnes déportées par avion en France avaient la possibilité de demander l’asile en France. C’est clairement faux.

      Pour aller plus loin dans les contradictions bureaucratique, avec les ordres d’expulsion leurs ont été donnés l’ordre de devoir se présenter à la station de police de Clermont-Ferrand tous les jours à dix heures du matin dans les 45 prochains jours (pour potentiellement y être arrêtés et detenus à ces occasions). Ils leur a été dit que si ils ne s’y présentaient pas la police
      les considèrerait comme en fuite.

      La police a aussi réservé une place dans un hotel à plusieurs kilomètre de l’aéroport pour quatres nuits, mais sans aucune autre information ni aide pour se procurer de quoi s’alimenter. Il ne leur a été fourni aucun moyen de se rendre à cet hôtel et la police a refusé de les aider – disant que leur mission s’arretait à la délivrance de leurs documents d’expulsion.

      Après m’avoir donné les papiers d’expulsion, le policier francais a dit
      ‘Maintenant tu peux aller en Angleterre’.
      Temoignage de la personne expulsée

      La police aux frontières (PAF) a ignoré la question de la santé et du
      bien-être des personnes expulsées qui étaient gardées toute la journée.
      Une des personnes était en chaise roulante toute la journée et était
      incapable de marcher du fait des blessures profondes à son pied, qu’il
      s’était lui même infligées. Il n’a jamais été emmené à l’hôpital malgré les
      recommendations du médecin, ni durant la période de détention, ni après
      sa libération. En fait, la seule raison à la visite du médecin était initialement d’évaluer s’il était en mesure d’être detenu au cas où la Préfecture le déciderait. La police l’a laissé dans ses vêtements souillés de sang toute la journée et quand ils l’ont libéré il n’avait pas eu de chaussures et pouvait à peine marcher. Ni béquilles, ni aide pour rejoindre l’hotel ne lui ont été donnés par la police. Il a été laissé dans la rue, devant porter toutes ses
      affaires dans un sac en plastique du Home Office.
      “La nuit la plus dure de ma vie”

      Ce fut la nuit la plus dure de ma vie. Mon coeur était brisé si fort que j’ai sérieusement pensé au suicide. J’ai mis le rasoir dans ma bouche pour l’avaler ; j’ai vu ma vie entière passer rapidement jusqu’aux premières heures du jour. Le traitement en détention était très mauvais, humiliant et dégradant. Je me suis haï et je sentais que ma vie était détruite mais au même temps elle était trop précieuse pour la perdre si facilement. J’ai recraché le razoir de ma bouche avant d’être sorti de la chambre où quatre personnes à l’allure impossante, portant la même tenue de CRS et des boucliers de protéction, m’ont violemment emmené dans le grand hall au rez-de-chaussée du centre de détention. J’étais épuisé puisque j’avais fait une grève de la faim depuis plusieurs jours. Dans la chambre à côte de moi un des déportés a essayé de resister et a été battu si sévèrement que du sang a coulé de son nez. Dans le grand hall ils m’ont fouillé avec soin et m’ont escorté jusqu’à la voiture comme un dangerux criminel, deux personnes à ma gauche et à ma droite. Ils ont conduit environ deux heures jusqu’à l’aéroport, il y avait un grand avion sur la piste de décollage. […] A ce moment, j’ai vu mes rêves, mes espoirs, brisés devant moi en entrant dans l’avion.
      Temoignage d’une personne déportée (de Detained Voices)

      Le cade légal : Dublin III

      Ces expulsions se déroulent dans le cadre du règlement Dublin III. Il s’agit de la législation déterminant quel pays européen doit évaluer la demande d’asile d’une personne réfugiée. Cette décision implique un certain nombre de critères, l’un des principaux étant le regroupement familial et l’intérêt supérieur de l’enfant. Un autre critère, dans le cas des personnes franchissant la frontières sans papiers, est le premier pays dans lequel ils entrent « irrégulièrement ». Dans cette loi, ce critère est supposé être moins important que les attaches familiales. Mais il est communément employé par les gouvernements cherchant à rediriger les demandes d’asile à d’autres Etats. Toutes les personnes que nous connaissions sur ces vols étaient « dublinés » car le Royaume-Uni prétendait qu’ils avaient été en France, en Allemagne ou en Espagne.

      (Voir : briefing à l’introduction du House of Commons ; Home Office staff handbook (manuel du personnel du ministère de l’intérieur ; section Dublin Right to remain .)

      En se référant au règlement Dublin, le Royaume-Uni évite d’examiner les cas de demande d’asile. Ces personnes ne sont pas expulsées parce que leur demande d’asile a été refusée. Leurs demandes ne sont simplement jamais examinées. La décision d’appliquer le règlement Dublin est prise après la premier entretien filmé ( à ce jour, au centre de détention de Yarl’s Wood). Comme nous l’avons vu plus haut, peu de personnes sont dans la capacité d’avoir accès à une assistance juridique avant ces entretiens, quelquefois menés par téléphone et sans traduction adéquate.

      Avec le Dublin III, le Royaume-Uni doit faire la demande formelle au gouvernement qu’il croit responsable d’examiner la demande d’asile, de reprendre le demandeur et de lui présenter la preuve à savoir pourquoi ce gouvernement devrait en accepter la responsabilité. Généralement, la preuve produite est le fichier des empreintes enregistrées par un autre pays sur la base de données EURODAC, à travers toute l’Europe.

      Cependant, lors des récents cas d’expulsion, le Home Office n’a pas toujours produit les empreintes, mais a choisi de se reposer sur de fragiles preuves circonstantielles. Certains pays ont refusé ce type de preuve, d’autres en revanche l’ont accepté, notamment la France.

      Il semble y avoir un mode de fonctionnement récurrent dans ces affaires où la France accepte les retours de Dublin III, quand bien même d’autres pays l’ont refusé. Le gouvernement français pourrait avoir été encouragé à accepter les « reprises/retours » fondés sur des preuves fragiles, dans le cadre des récentes négociations américano-britanniques sur la traversée de la Manche (La France aurait apparemment demandé 30 millions de livres pour aider la Grande-Bretagne à rendre la route non viable.)

      En théorie, accepter une demande Dublin III signifie que la France (ou tout autre pays) a pris la responsabilité de prendre en charge la demande d’asile d’un individu. Dans la pratique, la plupart des individus arrivés à Clermont-Ferrand le 26 août n’ont pas eu l’opportunité de demander l’asile. A la place, des arrêtés d’expulsion leur ont été adressés, leur ordonnant de quitter la France et l’Europe. On ne leur donne que 48h pour faire appel de l’ordre d’expulsion, sans plus d’information sur le dispositif légal. Ce qui apparaît souvent comme quasi impossible pour une personne venant d’endurer une expulsion forcée et qui pourrait nécessiter des soins médicaux urgents.

      Suite au Brexit, le Royaume-Uni ne participera pas plus au Dublin III à partir du 31 décembre 2020. Puisqu’il y a des signataires de cet accord hors Union-Européenne, comme la Suisse et la Norvège, le devenir de ces arrangements est encore flou (comme tout ce qui concerne le Brexit). S’il n’y a d’accord global, le Royaume-Uni devra négocier plusieurs accords bilatéraux avec les pays européens. Le schéma d’expulsion accéléré établi par la France sans processus d’évaluation adéquat de la demande d’asile pourrait être un avant-goût des choses à venir.
      Conclusion : expéditif – et illégal ?

      Évidemment, les expulsions par charter sont l’un des outils les plus manifestement brutaux employés par le régime frontalier du Royaume Uni. Elles impliquent l’emploi d’une violence moralement dévastatrice par le Home Office et ses entrepreneurs ((Mitie, Titan Airways, Britannia Hotels, et les autres) contre des personnes ayant déjà traversé des histoires traumatiques.

      Car les récentes expulsions de ceux qui ont traversé la Manche semblent particulièrement expéditives. Des personnes qui ont risqué le vie dans la Manche sont récupérées par une machine destinée à nier leur droit d’asile et à les expulser aussi vite que possible, pour satisfaire le besoin d’une réaction rapide à la dernière panique médiatique. De nouvelles procédures semblent avoir mises en place spontanément par des officiels du Ministère de l’Intérieur ainsi que des accords officieux avec leurs homologues français.

      En résultat de ce travail bâclé, il semble y avoir un certain nombre d’irrégularités dans la procédure. Certaines ont déjà été signalées dans des recours juridiques efficaces contre le vol vers l’Espagne du 27 août. La détention et l’expulsion des personnes qui ont traversé la Manche en bateau peut avoir été largement illégale et est susceptible d’être remise en cause plus profondément des deux côtés de la Manche.

      Ici, nous résumerons quelques enjeux spécifiques.

      La nature profondément politique du processus d’expulsion pour ces personnes qui ont fait la traversée sur de petits bateaux, ce qui signifie qu’on leur refuse l’accès à une procédure de demande d’asile évaluée par le Home Office.
      Les personnes réfugiées incluent des personnes victimes de torture, de trafic humain, aussi bien que des mineurs.
      Des individus sont détenus, précipités d’entretiens en entretiens, et « dublinés » sans la possibilité d’avoir accès à une assistance juridique et aux informations nécessaires.
      Afin d’éviter d’avoir à considérer des demandes d’asile, la Grande-Bretagne applique le règlement Dublin III, souvent en employant de faibles preuves circonstancielles – et la France accepte ces demandes, peut-être en conséquence des récentes négociations et arrangements financiers.
      De nombreuses personnes expulsées ont des attaches familiales au Royaume-Uni, mais le critère primordial du rapprochement familial du rêglement Dublin III est ignoré
      En acceptant les demandes Dublin, la France prend la responsabilité légale des demandes d’asile. Mais en réalité, elle prive ces personnes de la possibilité de demander l’asile, en leur assignant des papiers d’expulsion.
      Ces papiers d’expulsions (« Obligation de quitter le territoire français » and « Interdiction de retour sur le territoire français » ou OQTF et IRTF) sont assignées et il n’est possible de faire appel que dans les 48 heures qui suivent. C’est inadéquat pour assurer une procédure correcte, à plus forte raison pour des personnes traumatisées, passées par la détention, l’expulsion, larguées au milieu de nulle part, dans un pays où elles n’ont aucun contact et dont elles ne parlent pas la langue.
      Tout cela invalide complètement les arguments du Home Office qui soutient que les personnes qu’il expulse peuvent avoir accès à une procédure de demande d’asile équitable en France.


  • UK Deportations 2020: how BA, #Easyjet and other airlines collaborate with the border regime

    The Home Office’s deportation machine has slowed during the corona crisis, with hundreds of people released from detention. But a recent charter flight to Poland shows the motor is still ticking over. Will things just go “back to normal” as the lockdown lifts, or can anti-deportation campaigners push for a more radical shift? This report gives an updated overview of the UK deportation system and focuses in on the role of scheduled flights run by major airlines including: #BA, Easyjet, #Kenya_Airways, #Qatar_Airways, #Turkish_Airlines, #Ethiopian_Airlines, #Air_France, #Royal_Jordanian, and #Virgin.

    On 30 April, with UK airports largely deserted during the Covid-19 lockdown, a Titan Airways charter plane took off from Stansted airport deporting 35 people to Poland. This was just a few days after reports of charter flights in the other direction, as UK farmers hired planes to bring in Eastern European fruit-pickers.

    The Home Office’s deportation machine has slowed during the corona crisis. Hundreds of people have been released from detention centres, with detainee numbers dropping by 900 over the first four months of 2020. But the Poland flight signals that the Home Office motor is still ticking over. As in other areas, perhaps the big question now is whether things will simply go “back to normal” as the lockdown lifts. Or can anti-deportation campaigners use this window to push for a more radical shift?
    An overview of the UK’s deportation machine

    Last year, the UK Home Office deported over seven thousand people. While the numbers of people “removed” have been falling for several years, deportation remains at the heart of the government’s strategy (if that is the term) for “tackling illegal immigration”. It is the ultimate threat behind workplace and dawn raids, rough-sleeper round-ups, “right to rent” checks, reporting centre queues, and other repressive architecture of the UK Border Regime.

    This report gives an overview of the current state of UK deportations, focusing on scheduled flights run by major airlines. Our previous reports on UK deportations have mainly looked at charter flights: where the Home Office aims to fill up chartered planes to particular destinations, under heavy guard and typically at night from undisclosed locations. These have been a key focus for anti-deportation campaigners for a number of reasons including their obvious brutality, and their use as a weapon to stifle legal and direct resistance. However, the majority of deportations are on scheduled flights. Deportees are sitting – at the back handcuffed to private security “escorts” – amongst business or holiday travellers.

    These deportations cannot take place without extensive collaboration from businesses. The security guards are provided by outsourcing company Mitie. The tickets are booked by business travel multinational Carlson Wagonlit. The airlines themselves are household names, from British Airways to Easyjet. This report explains how the Home Office and its private sector collaborators work together as a “deportation machine” held together by a range of contractual relationships.

    Some acknowledgements

    Many individuals and campaign groups helped with information used in this report. In particular, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants shared their valuable research and legal advice, discussed below.

    We have produced this report in collaboration with the Air Deportation Project led by William Walters at the University of Carleton in Canada, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Corporate Watch received funding from this project as a contribution for our work on this report.

    Names, numbers

    First a quick snapshot of deportation numbers, types and destinations. We also need to clear up some terminology.

    We will use the term “deportations” to refer to all cases where the Home Office moves someone out of the country under direct force (for scheduled flights, this usually means handcuffed to a security “escort”). In the Home Office’s own jargon, these are called “enforced returns”, and the word “deportation” is reserved for people ejected on “public policy” rather than “immigration” grounds – mostly Foreign National Offenders who have been convicted by criminal courts. The Home Office refers to deportations carried out under immigration law euphemistically, calling them “removals” or “returns”.i

    As well as “enforced returns”, there are also so-called “voluntary returns”. This means that there is no direct use of force – no guard, no leg or arm restraints. But the term “voluntary” is stretched. Many of these take place under threat of force: e.g., people are pressured to sign “voluntary return” agreements to avoid being forcibly deported, or as the only chance of being released from detention. In other cases, people may agree to “voluntary return” as the only escape route from a limbo of reporting controls, lack of rights to work or rent legally, or destitution threatened by “no recourse to public funds”.

    In 2019, the Home Office reported a total of 18,782 returns: 7,361 “enforced” and 11,421 “voluntary”.ii
    These figures include 5,110 “Foreign National Offenders” (27%). (The Home Office says the majority of these were enforced returns, although no precise figure is provided.)
    There is a notable trend of declining removals, both enforced and “voluntary”. For example, in 2015 there were 41,789 returns altogether, 13,690 enforced and 28,189 “voluntary”. Both enforced and voluntary figures have decreased every year since then.
    Another notable trend concerns the nationalities of deportees. Europeans make up an increasing proportion of enforced deportations. 3,498, or 48%, of all enforced returns in 2019 were EU citizens – and this does not include other heavily targeted non-EU European nationalities such as Albanians. In 2015, there were 3,848 EU enforced returns – a higher absolute figure, but only 28% of a much higher overall total. In contrast, EU nationals still make up a very small percentage of “voluntary” returns – there were only 107 EU “voluntary returns” in 2019.
    The top nationalities for enforced returns in 2019 were: Romania (18%), Albania (12%), Poland (9%), Brazil (8%) and Lithuania (6%). For voluntary returns they were: India (16%), China (9%), Pakistan (9%).

    We won’t present any analysis of these figures and trends here. The latest figures show continuing evidence of patterns we looked at in our book The UK Border Regime.iii One key point we made there was that, as the resources and physical force of the detention and deportation system are further diminished, the Border Regime is more than ever just a “spectacle” of immigration enforcement – a pose for media and key voter audiences, rather than a realistic attempt to control migration flows. We also looked at how the scapegoat groups targeted by this spectacle have shifted over recent decades – including, most recently, a new focus on European migration accompanying, or in fact anticipating, the Brexit debate.

    Deportation destinations

    Home Office Immigration Statistics also provide more detailed dataiv on the destinations people are “returned” to, which will be important when we come to look at routes and airline involvement. Note that, while there is a big overlap between destinations and nationalities, they are of course not the same thing. For example, many of those deported to France and other western European countries are “third country” removals of refugees under the Dublin agreement – in which governments can deport an asylum seeker where they have already been identified in another EU country.

    Here are the top 20 destinations for deportations in 2019 – by which, to repeat, we mean all enforced returns:

    It is worth comparing these figures with a similar table of top 20 deportation destinations in the last 10 years – between 2010 and 2019. This comparison shows very strongly the recent shift to targeting Europeans.

    The Home Office: who is targeted and how

    As we will see, the actual physical business of deporting people is outsourced to private companies. The state’s role remains giving the orders about who is targeted for arrest and detention, who is then released, and who is forced onto a plane. Here we’ll just take a very quick look at the decision-making structures at work on the government side. This is based on the much more detailed account in The UK Border Regime.

    The main state body responsible for immigration control in the UK is the Home Office, the equivalent of other countries’ Interior Ministries. In its current set-up, the Home Office has three divisions: Homeland Security, which runs security and intelligence services; Public Safety, which oversees the police and some other institutions; and Borders, Immigration and Citizenship. The last of these is further divided into three “directorates”: UK Visas and Immigration, which determines visa and asylum applications; Border Force, responsible for control at the frontiers; Immigration Enforcement, responsible for control within the national territory – including detention and deportations. Immigration Enforcement itself has an array of further departments and units. Regular restructuring and reshuffling of all these structures is known to bewilder immigration officers themselves, contributing to the Home Office’s notoriously low morale.v

    At the top of the tree is the Home Secretary (interior minister), supported by a more junior Immigration Minister. Along with the most senior civil servants and advisors, these ministers will be directly involved in setting top-level policies on deportations.

    For example, an enquiry led by then prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw into the Yarl’s Wood detention centre revolt in 2002 has given us some valuable insight into the development of modern Home Office deportation policy under the last Labour government. Then Home Secretary Jack Straw, working with civil servants including the Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Omand, introduced the first deportation targets we are aware of, in 2000. They agreed a plan to deport 12,000 people in 2000-1, rising to 30,000 people the next year, and eventually reaching 57,000 in 2003-4.vi

    Nearly two decades later, Home Secretary Amber Rudd was pushed to resign after a leak confirmed that the Home Office continued to operate a deportation targets policy, something of which she had denied knowledge.vii The 2017-18 target, revealed in a leaked letter to Rudd from Immigration Enforcement’s director general Hugh Ind, was for 12,800 enforced returns.viii

    As the figures discussed above show, recent austerity era Conservative governments are more modest than the last Labour government in their overall deportation targets, and have moved to target different groups. Jack Straw’s deportation programme was almost entirely focused on asylum seekers whose claims had been refused. This policy derived from what the Blair government saw as an urgent need to respond to media campaigns demonising asylum seekers. Twenty years on, asylum seekers now make up a minority of deportees, and have been overtaken by new media bogeymen including European migrants.

    In addition, recent Home Office policy has put more effort into promoting “voluntary” returns – largely for cost reasons, as security guards and detention are expensive. This was the official rationale behind Theresa May’s infamous “racist van” initiative, where advertising vans drove round migrant neighbourhoods parading “Go Home” slogans and a voluntary return hotline number.

    How do Home Office political targets translate into operations on the ground? We don’t know all the links, but can trace some main mechanisms. Enforced returns begin with arrests. One of the easiest ways to find potential deportees is to grab people as they walk in to sign at an Immigration Reporting Centre. 80,000 migrants in the UK are “subject to reporting requirements”, and all Reporting Centres include short-term holding cells.ix Other deportees are picked up during immigration raids – such as daytime and evening raids on workplaces, or dawn raids to catch “immigration offenders” in their beds.x

    Both reporting centre caseworkers and Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) raid squads are issued with targets and incentives to gather deportees. An Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) report from 2017 explains how reporting centre staff work specifically to deportation targets. The inspector also tells us how:

    Staff at the London Reporting Centres worked on the basis that to meet their removal targets they needed to detain twice the number of individuals, as around half of those detained would later raise a barrier to removal and be released from detention.

    ICE raid teams are set monthly priorities by national and regional commanders, which may include targeting specific nationalities for deportation. For example, the Home Office has repeatedly denied that it sets nationality targets in order to fill up charter flights to particular destinations – but this practice was explicitly confirmed by an internal document from 2014 (an audit report from the director of Harmondsworth detention centre) obtained by Corporate Watch following a Freedom of Information legal battle.xi

    Day-to-day deportation and detention decisions are overseen by a central unit called the National Removals Command (NRC). For example, after ICE raid officers make arrests they must call NRC to authorise individuals’ detention. This decision is made on the basis of any specific current targets, and otherwise on general “removability”.

    “Removability” means the chance of successfully getting their “subject” onto a plane without being blocked by lack of travel documents, legal challenges and appeals, or other obstacles. For example, nationals of countries with whom the UK has a formal deportation agreement are, all other things being equal, highly removable. This includes the countries with which the UK has set up regular charter flight routes – including Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana, and more recently Jamaica and a number of EU countries. On the other extreme, some nationalities such as Iranians present a problem as their governments refuse to accept deportees.

    The Home Office: “arranging removal” procedure

    A Home Office document called “Arranging Removal” sets out the steps Immigration Enforcement caseworkers need to take to steer their “subject” from arrest to flight.xii

    On the one hand, they are under pressure from penny-pinching bosses keen to get the job done as quick and cheap as possible. On the other, they have to be careful not to make any mistakes deportees’ lawyers could use to get flights cancelled. Immigration Officers have the legal power to order deportations without the need for any court decision – however, many deportations are blocked on appeal to courts.

    Here are some of the main steps involved:

    Removability assessment. The caseworker needs to assess that: there are no “casework barriers” – e.g., an ongoing asylum claim or appeal that would lead to the deportation being stopped by a court; the detainee is medically “fit to fly”; any family separation is authorised correctly; the detainee has a valid travel document.
    Travel Document. If there is no valid travel document, the caseworker can try to obtain an “emergency travel document” through various routes.
    Executive approval. If all these criteria are met, the caseworker gets authorisation from a senior office to issue Removal Directions (RD) paperwork.
    Risk Assessment. Once the deportation is agreed, the caseworker needs to assess risks that might present themselves on the day of the flight – such as medical conditions, the likelihood of detainee resistance and of public protest. At this point escorts and/or medics are requested. A version of this risk assessment is sent to the airline – but without case details or medical history.xiii
    Flight booking. The caseworker must first contact the Airline Ticketing Team who grant access to an online portal called the Electronic Removal Form (ERF). This portal is run by the Home Office’s flight booking contractor Carlson Wagonlit (see below). Tickets are booked for escorts and any medics as well as the deportee. There are different options including “lowest cost” non-refundable fares, or “fully refundable” – the caseworker here should assess how likely the deportation is to be cancelled. One of the options allows the caseworker to choose a specific airline.
    Notice of removal. Finally, the deportee must be served with a Removal Directions (RD) document that includes notification of the deportation destination and date. This usually also includes the flight number. The deportee must be given sufficient notice: for people already in detention this is standardly 72 hours, including two working days, although longer periods apply in some situations.

    In 2015 the Home Office brought in a new policy of issuing only “removal window” notification in many cases – this didn’t specify the date but only a wide timeframe. The window policy was successfully challenged in the courts in March 2019 and is currently suspended.


    The electronic booking system is run by a private company, #Carlson_Wagonlit_Travel (#CWT). CWT is also in charge of contracting charter flights.

    Carlson Wagonlit has been the Home Office’s deportation travel agent since 2004, with the contract renewed twice since then. Its current seven year contract, worth £5.7 million, began in November 2017 and will last until October 2024 (assuming the two year extension period is taken up after an initial five years). The Home Office estimated in the contract announcement that it will spend £200 million on deportation tickets and charters over that seven year period.xiv

    Carlson is a global #business travel services company, i.e., a large scale travel agent and booker for companies and government agencies. Its official head office is in France, but it is 100% owned by US conglomerate #Carlson_Companies Inc. It claims to be active in more than 150 countries.

    A report on “outsourced contracts” by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration gives us some information on CWT’s previous (2010-17) contract.xv This is unlikely to be substantially changed in the new version, although deportation numbers have reduced since then. The contract involved:

    management of charter flights and ticketing provision for scheduled flights for migrants subject to enforced removal and escorts, where required, and the management of relationships with carriers to maintain and expand available routes. […] Annually, CWT processed approximately 21,000 booking requests from Home Office caseworkers for tickets for enforced removals. Some booking requests were for multiple travellers and/or more than one flight and might involve several transactions. CWT also managed flight rescheduling, cancellations and refunds. The volume of transactions processed varied from 5,000 to 8,000 per month.

    The inspection report notes the value of CWT’s service to the Home Office through using its worldwide contacts to facilitate deportations:

    Both Home Office and CWT managers noted that CWT’s position as a major travel operator had enabled it to negotiate favourable deals with airlines and, over the life of the contract to increase the range of routes available for enforced removals. (Para 5.10).

    The airlines: regular deportation collaborators

    We saw above that Home Office caseworkers book flight tickets through an online portal set up and managed by Carlson Wagonlit Travel. We also saw how CWT is praised by Home Office managers for its strong relationships with airlines, and ability to negotiate favourable deals.

    For charter flight deportations, we know that CWT has developed a particular relationship with one charter company called Titan Airways. We have looked at Titan in our previous reports on charter flight deportations.

    Does the Home Office also have specific preferred airline partners for scheduled flights? Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy question to answer. Under government procurement rules, the Home Office is required to provide information on contracts it signs – thus, for example, we have at least a redacted version of the contract with CWT. But as all its airline bookings go through the intermediary of CWT, there are no such contracts available. Claiming “commercial confidentiality”, the Home Office has repeatedly information requests on its airline deals. (We will look in a bit more depth at this issue in the annex.)

    As a result, we have no centrally-gathered aggregate data on airline involvement. Our information comes from individual witnesses: deportees themselves; their lawyers and supporters; fellow passengers, and plane crew. Lawyers and support groups involved in deportation casework are a particularly helpful reference, as they may know about multiple deportation cases.

    For this report, we spoke to more than a dozen immigration lawyers and caseworkers to ask which airlines their clients had been booked on. We also spoke to anti-deportation campaign groups including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, who have run recent campaigns calling on airlines to refuse to fly deportees; and to the trade union Unite, who represent flight crew workers. We also looked at media reports of deportation flights that identify airlines.

    These sources name a large number of airlines, and some names come up repeatedly. British Airways is top of the list. We list a few more prominent collaborators below: Easyjet, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian. Virgin Airlines is the only company to have publicly announced it has stopped carrying deportees from the UK – although there have been some questions over whether it is keeping this promise.

    However, the information we have does not allow us to determine the exact nature of the relationship with these airlines. How many airlines appear in the CWT booking system – what determines which ones are included? Does CWT have a preferential arrangement with BA or other frequent deportation airlines? Does the Home Office itself have any direct interaction with these airlines’ management? How many airlines are not included in the CWT booking system because they have refused to carry deportees?

    For now, we have to leave these as open questions.

    British Airways

    We have numerous reports of British Airways flying deportees to destinations worldwide – including African and Caribbean destinations, amongst others. Cabin crew representatives in Unite the Union identify British Airways as the main airline they say is involved in deportation flights.

    The airline has long been a key Home Office collaborator. Back in 2003, at the height of the Labour government’s push to escalate deportations, the “escort” security contractor was a company called Loss Prevention International. In evidence to a report by the House of Commons home affairs committee, its chief executive Tom Davies complained that many airlines at this point were refusing to fly deportees. But he singled out BA as the notable exception, saying: “if it were not for […] the support we get from British Airways, the number of scheduled flight removals that we would achieve out of this country would be virtually nil”.xvi

    In 2010, British Airways’ role was highlighted when Jimmy Mubenga was killed by G4S “escorts” on BA flight 77 from Heathrow to Angola.

    Since 2018, there has been an active calling on BA to stop its collaboration. The profile of this issue was raised after BA sponsored Brighton Pride in May 2018 – whilst being involved in deportations of lesbian and gay migrants to African countries where their lives were in danger. After winning a promise from Virgin Airways to cease involvement in deportations (see below), the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) have made BA the main target for their anti-deportation campaigning.

    The campaign has also now been supported by BA cabin crew organised in the union Unite. In December 2019 Unite cabin crew branches passed a motion against airline scheduled flight deportations.xvii

    Kenya Airways

    We have numerous reports from caseworkers and campaigners of Kenya Airways flying deportees to destinations in Africa.

    The typical route is a flight from Heathrow to Nairobi, followed by a second onward flight. People deported using this route have included refugees from Sudan and Somalia.


    We have numerous reports of Easyjet flying deportees to European destinations. Easyjet appears to be a favoured airline for deportations to Eastern European countries, and also for “third country” returns to countries including Italy and Germany. While most UK scheduled deportations are carried out from Heathrow and Gatwick, we have also seen accounts of Easyjet deportations from Luton.

    Qatar Airways

    We have numerous reports of Qatar Airways carrying deportees to destinations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Qatar Airways has carried deportees to Iraq, according to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), and also to Sudan. (In March 2019 the airline suspended its Sudan route, but this appears to have been restarted – the company website currently advertises flights to Khartoum in April 2020.xviii) Other destinations include Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and Uganda. The typical route is from Heathrow via Doha.

    Turkish Airlines

    We have numerous reports of Turkish Airlines carrying deportees. The typical route is Heathrow or Gatwick to Istanbul, then an onward flight to further destinations including Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), Turkish Airlines has been one of the main companies involved in deportations to Iraq. A media report from June 2019 also mentions Turkish Airlines carrying someone being deported to Somalia via Istanbul.xix In August 2017, a Turkish Airlines pilot notably refused to fly an Afghani refugee from Heathrow to Istanbul, en route to Kabul, after being approached by campaigners – but this does not reflect general company policy.xx

    Ethiopian Airlines

    We have reports of this airline deporting people to Ethiopia and other African countries, including Sudan. Flights are from Heathrow to Addis Ababa. In April 2018, high-profile Yarl’s Wood hunger striker Opelo Kgari was booked on an Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa en route to Botswana.

    Air France

    Air France are well-known for carrying deportees from France, and have been a major target for campaigning by anti-deportation activists there. We also have several reports of them carrying deportees from the UK, on flights from Heathrow via Paris.

    Royal Jordanian

    According to IFIR, Royal Jordanian has been involved in deportations to Iraq.

    Virgin Airlines

    In June 2018, Virgin announced that it had ceased taking bookings for deportation flights. Virgin had previously been a regular carrier for deportations to Jamaica and to Nigeria. (NB: Nigeria is often used as a deportation transit hub from where people are subsequently removed to other African countries.) The announcement came after the Windrush scandal led to the Home Office apparently suspending deportations to the Caribbean, and following campaigning by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) – although Virgin claimed it had made the decision before being contacted by the campaign. A Virgin statement said:

    we made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have already informed the Home Office. We believe this decision is in the best interest of our customers and people, and is in keeping with our values as a company.xxi

    But there are doubts over just how much Virgin’s promise is worth. According to a report by The Independent:

    The airline had agreed to deport a man to Nigeria […] a day after announcing the decision. The only reason he wasn’t removed was because the Home Office agreed to consider new representations following legal intervention.xxii

    Do airlines have a choice?

    In response to its critics, British Airways has consistently given the same reply: it has no choice but to cooperate with the Home Office. According to an August 2018 article in The Guardian, BA says that it has “a legal duty under the Immigration Act 1971 to remove individuals when asked to do so by the Home Office.” A company spokesperson is quoted saying:

    Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law. We are not given any personal information about the individual being deported, including their sexuality or why they are being deported. The process we follow is a full risk assessment with the Home Office, which considers the safety of the individual, our customers and crew on the flight.xxiii

    The last parts of this answer fit the process we looked at above. When booking the flight, the Home Office caseworker sends the airline a form called an Airline Risk Report (ARA) which alerts it to risk issues, and specifies why escorts or medics are needed – including an assessment of the likelihood of resistance. But no information should be shared on the deportee’s medical issues or immigration case and reasons for deportation.

    But is it true that an airline would be breaking the law if it refused a booking? Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants have shared with us a legal opinion they received from law firm Duncan Lewis on this issue. We summarise the main points here.

    The law in question is the Immigration Act 1971, Section 27(1)(b)(iii). This states that, when issued the correct legal order by the Home Office, the “owner or agent of a ship or aircraft” must “make arrangements for or in connection with the removal of a person from the United Kingdom when required to do so [by appropriate Removal Directions]”. It is an offence to fail to do so “without reasonable excuse”.

    The offence is punishable by a fine, and potentially a prison sentence of up to six months. As a minor “summary only” offence, any case would be heard by a magistrates’ court rather than a jury.

    In fact many airline captains have refused to carry deportees – as we will see in the next section. But there are no recorded cases of anyone ever being prosecuted for refusing. As with many areas of UK immigration law, there is simply no “case law” on this question.

    If a case ever does come to court, it might turn on that clause about a “reasonable excuse”. The legal opinion explains that the airline might argue they refused to carry a deportee because doing so would present a risk to the aircraft or passengers, for example if there is resistance or protest. A court might well conclude this was “reasonable”.

    On the other hand, the “reasonable excuse” defence could be harder to apply for an airline that took a principled stand to refuse all deportations as a general rule, whether or not there is disruption.

    Again, though, all this is hypothetical as the Home Office has never actually prosecuted anyone. Virgin Airlines, the first company to have publicly stated that it will not fly deportees from the UK, so far has not faced any legal comeback. As reported in the press, a Virgin spokesperson explained the company’s position like this:

    We’ve made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have informed the Home Office. We always comply with the law and would continue to comply with legislation; however, we have ended our contractual agreement to carry involuntary deportees.xxiv

    Due to our lack of information on Home Office agreements with airlines, it’s hard to assess exactly what this means. Possibly, Virgin previously had an outstanding deal with the Home Office and Carlson Wagonlit where their tickets came up on the CWT booking portal and were available for caseworkers, and this has now ended. If the Home Office insisted on contacting them and booking a ticket regardless, they might then be pushed to “comply with the law”.

    Above we saw that, according to evidence referred to in a report of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, in 2003 the majority of airlines actually refused to carry deportees, leaving the Home Office to depend almost exclusively on British Airways. Even in this context there were no prosecutions of airlines.

    This is not an uncommon situation across UK immigration law: much of it has never come to court. For example, as we have discussed in reports on immigration raids, there have been no legal cases testing many of the powers of ICE raid squads. To give another example, on numerous occasions campaigners have obstructed buses taking detainees to charter flights without any prosecution – the Stansted 15 trial of protestors blocking a plane inside the airport was the first high-profile legal case following an anti-deportation action.

    Even if the government has a legal case for prosecuting airlines, this could be a highly controversial move politically. The Home Office generally prefers not to expose the violence of its immigration enforcement activities to the challenge of a public legal hearing.


    We want to conclude this report on an upbeat note. Deportations, and scheduled airline flights in particular, are a major site of struggle. Resistance is not just possible but widespread and often victorious. Thousands of people have managed to successfully stop their “removals” through various means, including the following:

    Legal challenges: a large number of flights are stopped because of court appeals and injunctions.
    Public campaigning: there is a strong tradition of anti-deportation campaigning in the UK, usually supporting individuals with media-focused and political activity. Common tactics include: media articles highlighting the individual’s case; enlisting MPs and appealing to ministers; petitions, letters of support; mass phone calls, emails, etc., to airlines; demos or leafletting at the airport targeting air crew and passengers.
    Solidarity action by passengers: in some high-profile cases, passengers have refused to take their seats until deportees are removed. This creates a safety situation for the airline which may often lead to the pilot ordering escorts to remove their prisoner.
    Direct action by detainees: many detainees have been able to get off flights by putting up a struggle. This may involve, for example: physically resisting escorts; taking off clothes; shouting and appealing to passengers and air crew for help. Unless the deportee is extremely strong physically, the balance of force is with the escorts – and sometimes this can be lethal, as in the case of Jimmy Mubenga. However, pilots may often order deportees off their plane in the case of disruption.

    There are many reports of successful resistance using one or more of these tactics. And we can also get some glimpses of their overall power from a few pieces of aggregate information.

    In a 2016 report, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration revealed one telling figure. Looking at the figures for six months over 2014-15, he found that “on average 2.5 tickets were issued for each individual successfully removed.”xxv Some of this can be put down to the notorious inefficiency of Home Office systems: the Inspection report looks at several kinds of coordination failures between Home Office caseworkers, the escort contractor (at that point a subsidiary of Capita), and Carlson Wagonlit.

    But this is not the biggest factor. In fact, the same report breaks down the reasons for cancellation for a sample of 136 tickets. 51% of the sampled cancellations were the result of legal challenges. 18% were because of “disruptive or non-compliant behaviour”. 2% (i.e., three cases) were ascribed to “airline refusal to carry”.

    Where there is resistance, there is also reaction. As we have discussed in previous reports, one of the main reasons prompting the development of charter flights was to counter resistance by isolating deportees from passengers and supporters. This was very clearly put in 2009 by David Wood, then strategic director of the UK Border Agency (Home Office), who explained that the charter flight programme is:

    “a response to the fact that some of those being deported realised that if they made a big enough fuss at the airport – if they took off their clothes, for instance, or started biting and spitting – they could delay the process. We found that pilots would then refuse to take the person on the grounds that other passengers would object.”xxvi

    For both deportees and supporters, charter flights are much harder to resist. But they are also very expensive; require specific diplomatic agreements with destination countries; and in some cases (Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka) have been blocked by legal and political means.xxvii The Home Office cannot avoid the use of scheduled flights for the majority of deportations, and it will continue to face resistance.

    Annex: issues with accessing airline information

    We will expand a bit here on the issues around obtaining information on the Home Office’s relationships with airlines.

    Under UK and EU public sector procurement rules, central government departments are obliged to publish announcements of all contracts valued over £10,000, including on the contractsfinder website. However, there is no publicly available information on any contracts between the Home Office and specific airlines. This is legally justifiable if the Home Office has no direct contractual agreements with airlines. It has a signed contract with Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), which is published in a redacted form; and CWT then makes arrangements with airlines on a per-ticket basis.

    The Home Office certainly has knowledge of all the tickets booked on its behalf by CWT – indeed, they are booked by its own employees through the CWT maintained portal. And so it certainly knows all the airlines working for it. But it has refused all requests for this information, using the excuse of “commercial confidentiality”.

    There have been numerous attempts to request information on deportation airlines using the Freedom of Information Act.xxviii All have been refused on similar grounds. To give one standard example, in December 2018 A. Liberadzki requested statistics for numbers of removals carried out by British Airways and other scheduled airlines. The response confirmed “that the Home Office holds the information that you have requested.” However, it argued that:

    “we have decided that the information is exempt from disclosure under sections 31(1)e and 43(2) of the FOIA. These provide that information can be withheld if its disclosure would have a detrimental effect on the Home Office and its ability to operate effective immigration controls by carrying out removals or would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any persons (including the public authority holding it).”

    In April 2019 Kate Osamor MP put similar questions to the Home Secretary in parliament.xxix She received the same reply to all her questions:

    “The Home Office does not disclose the details or values of its commercial contracts. Doing so could discourage companies from dealing with the Home Office.”

    Of course this answer is blatantly false – as we just saw, the Home Office is legally obliged to disclose values of commercial contracts over £10,000.


    #rapport #corporate_watch #compagnies_aériennes #British_Airways #avions #renvois #expulsions #asile #migrations #déboutés #sans-papiers #UK #Home_Office #résistance #Jimmy_Mubenga

    ping @isskein @karine4 @reka

  • Home Office rejects Human Rights Committee’s call for a time limit to immigration detention

    The #Home_Office has rejected the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee’s recommendation to introduce a time limit on immigration detention, despite the overwhelming cross-party support.

    #rétention #asile #migrations #réfugiés #détention_administrative #UK #Angleterre #Home_Office #durée #durée_indéterminée

  • Le « #115 » devra bientôt transmettre la liste des réfugiés qu’il hébergement

    Le gouvernement planche sur un projet qui renforce l’#échange_d’informations entre les associations d’#hébergement_d’urgence et l’office de l’immigration.

    Le ministre de l’intérieur, Christophe #Castaner, et la ministre chargée de la cohésion des territoires, Jacqueline Gourault, préparent une instruction interministérielle visant à renforcer l’échange d’informations entre la plate-forme d’urgence pour les sans-abri (115) et l’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII).

    D’après le projet de texte, non encore publié et que Le Monde s’est procuré, le gouvernement veut relancer la dynamique de la « #circulaire_Collomb » du 12 décembre 2017. Celle-ci avait provoqué une levée de boucliers des associations d’hébergement et de solidarité parce qu’elle essayait d’organiser le #contrôle du statut administratif des migrants qui se trouvent dans l’hébergement d’urgence. Le Conseil d’Etat, saisi par les associations, avait d’ailleurs encadré sa mise en œuvre.

    Un an et demi après, le projet d’instruction entend généraliser la transmission d’informations entre le 115 et l’OFII. Le premier devra ainsi « communiquer mensuellement à l’OFII la liste des personnes hébergées dans un dispositif d’hébergement d’urgence », qu’il s’agisse de demandeurs d’asile ou de réfugiés. Des réunions devront ensuite se tenir au niveau des départements, entre l’OFII et le 115, « sous l’autorité du préfet », pour examiner leur situation. L’idée étant notamment de mieux orienter ces personnes migrantes vers des dispositifs d’hébergement dédiés.

    Jusque-là, la circulaire Collomb prévoyait que les préfectures envoient des équipes mobiles dans les structures d’hébergement d’urgence afin de recueillir ces informations. Mais les visites étaient conditionnées à l’accord de l’hébergeur et au consentement des personnes. « Ça a marché doucement », constate un cadre de l’administration.

    #hébergement #OFII #tri #surveillance #préfecture #fichage #France #asile #migrations #réfugiés #demandeurs_d'asile

    L’idée étant notamment de mieux orienter ces personnes migrantes vers des dispositifs d’hébergement dédiés.

    –-> mmmhhh... certainement !
    #tri ?

    #équipes_mobiles #équipe_mobile

    via @isskein
    cc @karine4

    • Et en #Angleterre...

      Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers

      #Home_Office accused of turning ‘outreach workers into border guards’ as emails reveal new scheme targeting non-UK homeless.

      The Home Office has drawn up a secret programme using homelessness charities to acquire sensitive personal data that could result in the deportation of non-UK rough sleepers, the Observer can reveal.

      A chain of emails from senior Home Office officials from December 2018 to May 2019 also shows that the clandestine programme ignores European privacy laws by passing rough sleepers’ sensitive personal information directly to the Home Office without their consent.

      The scheme, which is still in a trial phase, is seen by charities and campaigners as the latest manifestation of the Home Office’s much maligned “hostile environment” policy. A previous plan to deport EU rough sleepers was defeated 18 months ago when the high court deemed it unlawful and discriminatory.

      But the Home Office, apparently undeterred, has rolled out a remarkably similar new scheme which, according to an internal email, will lead to “enforcement in some cases” – deportation – and targets “non-UK” and non-EEA (European Economic Area) rough sleepers, which after Brexit will include EU nationals.

      Gracie Bradley, policy and campaigns manager for the human rights charity Liberty, said: “It’s disgraceful that the Home Office, local authorities, and charities are attempting to turn trusted homelessness outreach workers into border guards. Homelessness charities must refuse complicity in the hostile environment.”

      A spokesman for the Public Interest Law Centre, which won the high court case, said: “It’s now clear the Home Office – with the Greater London Authority, local councils and some homelessness charities – is trying to resurrect this discriminatory policy under a different guise.”

      The correspondence reveals that some refugee charities have already been asked to forward cases to the programme, called the Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS), and at least one has agreed. Emails also reveal that homeless charity St Mungo’s has attended meetings with the Home Office to discuss allowing outreach workers to enter a homeless person’s data into RSSS without their consent.

      An email, dated 10 April 2019 from a Home Office official, confirmed the scheme “provides a single point of contact for LAs [local authorities] to receive rapid immigration status checks on non-UK national rough sleepers”. It also explains why it wants to bypass privacy laws: “A system relying on consent to comply with the GDPR [EU General Data Protection Regulation] would be vulnerable to individuals withdrawing consent.”

      Another email, dated 18 February 2019 to GLA officials, shows that targeting homeless individuals would be prompt, saying “immigration [status] checks are completed on rough sleepers within 24 hours of a referral”.

      Obtained through freedom of information requests from Liberty, the correspondence says the scheme is spearheaded by the lead officer for previous immigration enforcement operations and will be “utilised to resolve the non-EEA national rough sleepers situations”. The emails also chronicle Home Office frustration that the programme is still in the test phase because of a failure to agree a data-sharing deal with charities and local authorities.

      The emails show significant opposition from charities with “push back” from several including St Mungo’s and migrants advocacy group Praxis, who warn of “reputational risks” for groups linked to the scheme. According to one email, Praxis raised several concerns, including that the scheme risked “poorly made decisions”, was unnecessary and that it was “unclear if RSSS referral would make detaining and removal of rough sleepers at their reporting appointments more likely”.

      The charity raises fears that the programme will be primarily geared at removing rough sleepers. “There appear to be no immigration decision-makers in the RSSS, just immigration officers. The culture embedded in the RSSS seems to be one of enforcement,” it said in an email sent on 3 May 2016.

      Even as the scheme was conceived, fears existed that it would be controversial. One email, sent on 18 December 2018, from a GLA officer to the Home Office, cites a “possibility of bad press surrounding the RSSS and there needs to be a clear line on what this team is and how it can help ensure no one dies on the streets”.

      Although some emails show that sharing information with the Home Office could help prioritise a person’s case and ensure homelessness charities offered the right support, Bradley said referrals will likely result in immigration enforcement action.

      She said ministers should be concentrating on combating the root causes of homelessness rather than targeting rough sleepers. “Consent and data protection should also be at the heart of our interactions with public institutions,” she added.

      The Public Law Interest Centre spokesman added: “Despite its name, the new RSSS offers no ‘support’ to homeless migrants living in the UK. It is an ‘hostile environment’ measure in all but name.”

      A St Mungo’s spokesperson said the charity had met Home Office staff “to find ways to respond more quickly” to non-UK cases. “In particular, we are seeking to ensure people who may use the service do so based on informed consent and legal advice from a registered immigration adviser,” they added.

      A Home Office spokesman said the RSSS was set up “to help resolve the immigration status of non-UK nationals sleeping rough, either granting lawful status or providing documentation. This enables individuals to access support or assists them in leaving the UK where appropriate.” He added: “The service prioritises support work on outstanding cases and helps to resolve status issues.”

      A London mayoral spokesperson said: “Heavy-handed enforcement is not the solution to rough sleeping and our services will have no part in it. We have made absolutely clear to the Home Office that we do not support their approach or any other that victimises people sleeping rough.”

      The latest homelessness figures show 8,855 people were seen sleeping rough in London during 2018-19, 18% higher than the previous 12 months.

      #SDF #sans-abri #UK

    • Les associations refusent que le « 115 » transmette la liste des réfugiés hébergés

      Vingt-neuf associations ont déposé, lundi 9 septembre, un recours devant le Conseil d’État pour demander la #suspension d’une mesure obligeant les gestionnaires d’hébergements d’urgence à transmettre à l’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (#OFII) la liste des réfugiés et demandeurs d’asile qu’ils hébergent.


  • #métaliste de #campagnes de #dissuasion à l’#émigration

    Une analyse de ces campagnes par #Antoine_Pécoud

    "Campagnes de dissuasion massive", article de Antoine Pécoud et #Julia_Van_Dessel :

    Un entretien avec des représentants de l’ODM (Suisse, maintenant SEM) et de l’OIM sur le lien entre cinéma et campagnes de dissuasion à la migration :


    Le gouvernement chante contre l’immigration illégale (#USA/#Etats-Unis —> #Amérique_centrale) : (2014)

    L’organisme de contrôle des frontières se sert des #radios centraméricaines pour diffuser anonymement des chansons censées dissuader la population d’immigrer vers les Etats-Unis.


    En #Guinée , l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations contrôle des frontières et les âmes :
    #OIM #IOM #organisation_internationale_contre_les_migrations

    Toujours l’OIM, mais en #Tunisie :

    Et au #Cameroun , OIM, as usual :

    Au #Sénégal, avec le soutien de l’ #Espagne (2007) :

    Campagne #aware_migrants, financée par l’ #Italie :

    Une campagne de l’ #Australie
    #Etats-Unis #film
    Il y a aussi la campagne #No_way :

    Financée par l’#Allemagne, une campagne en #Afghanistan :

    Les campagnes de la #Suisse :
    notamment dans les #Balkans mais aussi en #Afrique_de_l'Ouest (#Cameroun, #Nigeria)

    Campagne des #Etats-Unis :

    Une campagne du #Danemark :

    En #France :
    Traversées de la #Manche par des migrants : les associations “révoltées” par une publicité du gouvernement

    Les campagnes de dissuasion au #Nigeria , ça vaut 40 mio d’euro...


    Au #Mali :
    TAMADENW logbook of a theatre show in Mali

    Cyprus to launch SMS campaign to stem migrant arrivals

    #campagne #migrations #vidéos

    ping @isskein @_kg_ @reka