US and UK responses to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa

The US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has announced his decision to designate Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. This is in consequence to the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa. As a result, eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone who are currently residing in the United States may apply for TPS with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The designations mean that eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in one of those three countries) will not be removed from the United States and are authorised to work.

The UK Home Office have a different view. The Home Office does not consider it is appropriate to introduce a concession to grant leave because of the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone. The Home Office goes on to state that an individual should not be granted asylum soley on the grounds that they fear returning to a place where Ebola is prevalent.

However, the Home Office accepts that the outbreak has had a significant impact on the healthcare systems in the countries affected - diverting resources away from the treatment of non-Ebola related diseases. Therefore, a claim that a person may face a breach of Article 3 of the ECHR on return to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, based on serious illness should be carefully considered.

Syrian Refugees Welcome Here Demonstration

The Movement Against Xenophobia and the Syrian Solidarity Movement is to hold a demonstration outside the Home Office at 06:30 PM on Monday, 16 June 2014. The demonstration calls on the UK to dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees it pledged to take. The leaflet for the demonstration below, spread the word.

syria front refugees protest copysyria back refugees protest copy

UNHCR recommends suspension of forced returns to Mali

The UNHCR set out its new position regarding returns to Mali.

The UNHCR recommends the suspension of forced returns of nationals and habitual residents of Mali until the security and human rights situation has stabilised to the extent that it is safe to resume returns. The security in Mali deteriorated since the coup on 22 March 2012. This led to large scale displacements into neighbouring countries.

The position paper can be found here.

X-Rays of Children (Part Two)

Following the concerns raised by corporate partners of the UK Border Agency, such as Chief Medical Officer and the Children’s Commissioners (see our first blog on this subject here), the trail of dental x-rays for age assessment has been cancelled.

The agency was informed by the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) that the trail constitutes 'research' and that, as such, it requires the approval of a research ethics committee before it can proceed. No x-rays will take place until such time as we have the appropriate ethical approval. Given the questionable results of age assessment by use of x-rays we would hazard a guess that the agency will struggle to get approval.

More when we have it.

Chief Inspector and the Legacy Cases

The Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency is an independent assessor of the agency. Its role is to review the agency's procedures and report to the Home Secretary on its efficiency and effectiveness. Following an inspection, and submissions from stakeholders (such as the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association - who can be found here), a report is published identifying strengths and weaknesses of the agency. Further information on the Chief Inspector, and its most recent reports, can be found here.

The focus for the Chief Inspector is now turning to the agency's handling of the Legacy Cases.

The term 'Legacy Cases' relate to asylum applicants who applied before March 2007, had their application refused, subsequent appeals exhausted, but were not removed by the agency. The agency wanted to resolve the applicant's immigration status once and for all. The agency identified nearly half a million such cases and set themselves a 5-year deadline, ending on July 2011, to complete the review.

However, July 2011 came and went with a large number of cases yet to be resolved. The purpose of the inspection is to determine why the agency failed to meet their own deadline. There are applicants which, despite their best efforts, the agency was unable to locate but the large majority of outstanding cases remain in contact with the agency and most have legal representation. This means the agency has not performed efficiently or effectively in meeting their own deadline. The Chief Inspector will look to the reasons why that is the case and report on their findings.

Some stakeholders, such as ILPA, are also requesting that the Chief Inspector reviews their agency's handling of cases following July 2011. Before July 2011 the agency granted indefinite leave to remain to those they consider suitable for it, but after July 2011 they started issuing discretionary leave instead. It is argued that those applicants who are eligible for leave to remain should be given indefinite leave and not be prejudiced by the agency’s own delays. ILPA's representations (for members of ILPA) can be found here.

We'll update you when the report is published.

X-Rays of Children

The UK Border Agency are planning to restart x-rays of child asylum seekers in order to establish their age. This process was originally dropped over three years ago due to the health risks of those being screened.

Upon this announcement the medical profession, immigration lawyers, and the UK children's commissioner objected to the re-start of this process. The children's commissions said that this is 'a clear breach of the rights of vulnerable children and young people and may, in fact, be illegal'. It was also said that to x-ray children in such circumstances might also constitute assault.

The medical profession warned against the use of checks involving potential harm from ionising radiation when there was no intention of clinical benefits. Also, the scientific evidence suggests that it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to determine the child's age from an x-ray.

Alison Harvey, general secretary of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, said in a letter to the Border Agency: "Age is disputed with a frequency that gives rise to the most grave concerns, and despite official acknowledgement that you cannot date-stamp a child, the Home Office continues to pursue the chimera of certainty in this area, to the most grave detriment of children who are subjected to doubt, to disbelief, detention and denial of services and now, it is proposed, to irradiation."

More when we have it.

Biometric Cards for Asylum Claims

Those granted leave as a result of a successful asylum claim will start receiving Biometric Residence Cards. Currently such cards are issued for European nationals, and those on work or student permits.

The biometric data will be taken as early as possible during the asylum claim. The idea is that these details will be taken while the applicant’s claim is under consideration to ensure that, as far as possible, when a decision is made on a case, the UKBA is able to serve the BRP with the other grant documentation.

The requirement to enrol for the biometric will be explained at the asylum interview and the applicant will be given a letter explaining how to have the biometrics taken at a Front Office Service, usually a Post Office.

This requirement is also being rolled out for anyone now applying for a Refugee Travel Document. There is a fee, in addition to the travel document fee, when applying for the BRP at this stage.

Forced Returns of Tamils to Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Watch has asked the UK government to halt deportations of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. The UK Border Agency's Operational Guidance Note fails to make reference to the return of Tamils despite accepting torture is widespread. Those individuals forcibly removed on passenger flights are not met by British Embassy staff and their situation thereafter is not monitored.

The Human Rights Watch documented eight recent cases of arrest, severe torture, rape and interrogation upon return, supported by medical evidence. Following this report Freedom of Torture also called on the UK government to stop all forcible removals of Tamils to Sri Lanka.

A copy of the Human Rights Watch report can be found

Unaccompanied children returned from the UK to France

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, revealed that the UK Border Agency have been returning unaccompanied children to France. This occurred within 24 hours of arrival and to those who did not register an asylum claim on entry. Once returned to France, there is little or no administrative trace of the children.

She went on to reveal that this was detailed in a document entitled the 'Gentleman’s Agreement’ by UKBA staff as part of a pack providing details of the policies and procedures guiding the operations around entry. The policy has been operational between April 1995 and August 2011 and was ended due to the intervention of Atkinson.

It doesn't sound very gentlemanly to us.

For further information click here.

UKBA Language Analysis in asylum cases. UKBA Language Analysis in Asylum Cases

Dr John Campbell, Head of Department of Sociology an Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS] produced a report concerning the UK Border Agency's [UKBA] use of Language Analysis in asylum cases.

The UKBA states that the purpose of their analysis is to properly determine the place of origin for asylum seekers. Dr Campbell spent time examining the process, the procedures, as well as linguists' claims of being experts.

Dr Campbell concludes that the process is not objective and is fundamentally political. It is based on flawed assumptions about language, and on subjective, rather than objective, criteria. There is also very little empirical evidence to support language analysis.

It is an invaluable read for anyone dealing with asylum cases. The full report can be found

Article 1F of the Refugee Convention and Discretionary Leave

Article 1F excludes certain individuals from full refugee status, and the protections that come with that status. Those excluded include:

  • Persons who have committed a crime against, peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity;
  • Persons who have committed a serious non-political crime; or
  • Persons guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

From 02 September 2011 a person that falls under this exclusion but who cannot be returned because of potential breaches to their Article 3 human rights protection will be granted a new restrictive discretionary leave on the following basis:

  • the leave will be issued for a maximum of 6 months at any one time;
  • there may be conditions restricting employment or occupations in the UK including restrictions on the individual working / volunteering a particular regulated / professional field.
  • there may be conditions prohibiting education;
  • there may be residence restrictions;
  • there may be conditions requiring the person to report at regular intervals;
  • there may be restrictions on the individual working / volunteering a particular regulated / professional field.

The full guidance can be found by clicking here.

The UKBA and Country Reports

The UKBA is responsible for considering asylum applications. In order to do so effectively they must fully take into account relevant information from the applicant's application and evidence, and then review it in conjunction with available country of origin information, as well as other relevant factors.

The UKBA’s department called the Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) collates and summarises information on countries giving rise to asylum claims in the UK. It was the use of those reports that the Independent Chief Inspector investigated between October 2010 and May 2010. The ICI concluded:

  • The UKBA needs to adopt a consistent approach to the use of COIS reports;
  • 17% of decisions demonstrated a selective use of COI reports or contained assertions which the full range of country information did not support;
  • the information in the COI reports was sometimes used selectively or otherwise inappropriately in decision making;
  • COI was also included selectively in statements of policy with the risk that case owners could make decisions without taking into account all available evidence;
  • there was no consistent coordination of the various COI documents produced by the Agency; and
  • in the absence of a COI report, case owners operated very different approaches to researching COI and there was no mechanism to pool obtained knowledge.

The ICI said that the reports play a vital part in ensuring that decision makers are equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate information about conditions in other countries, but improvements needed to be made, and we wholeheartedly agree.

The full report can be found here.

Asylum: Right to Work

UPDATE: As a result of losing their challenge to ZO (Somalia) the UKBA is changing the immigration rules to allow asylum seekers who made asylum claims before 05 March 2007 (and are being Read More...

Treatment of a homosexual asylum seekers

The UK Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) ruled, to compel a homosexual person to return to their country of origin and pretend... Read More...

Protection of gay asylum seekers

The Home Secretary to-be Theresa May promoted the Conservative Party's "Contract for Equalities", and stated:

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