Family and General - Call for evidence - deadline 19th June 2015

15.06.12 - JCWI - call for docs

Modern Slavery Bill - Overseas Domestic Workers

ILPA Briefing for the Modern Slavery Bill can be found alongside the Kalayaan briefing here. The ILPA briefing covers:

Lords’ Amendment 45: Legal Aid for Victims of Slavery, Servitude and Forced labour
Lords’ Amendments 46 to 57 Child Trafficking Advocates in particular Lords amendment 47, to which ILPA is opposed
Lords’ Amendment 72: Overseas domestic workers and the Home Secretary’s motion to disagree and proposed amendments in lieu

A debate on Lord Hylton’s amendment restoring to domestic workers the right to change employers is taking place tomorrow. There is still time (just) to let your MP know your views before the debate.

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.

UKBA Change of Address

The UKBA are providing a facility whereby individuals, and their legal representatives, are able update contact details online via their website.

This facility is only available for those living in the UK or for those whose applications were made in the UK. The UKBA will send an acknowledgement of receipt and, so long as further information is not required, will update their records within 72 hours.

This facility can be found by clicking here.

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: Update

The Bill continues its passage through the House of Lords with the Third Reading scheduled for 27 March 2012. Following this reading the Bill will be discussed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords during which both Houses will try to settle some of the disputes.

Focusing on immigration legal aid, the amendments so far include:

to make a provision for legal aid for victims of trafficking for immigration and damages / compensation against traffickers;
to include power for the Government to bring back, or add new, areas of legal aid scope back into the bill;
to provide legal aid for exceptional cases where it is necessary to prevent specific injustice;
to retain legal aid for child / vulnerable young people in proceedings including immigration;
to retain legal aid for applications based on Article 2 of the ECHR;

The timetable for settling disputes will be mid-April. After which the Government will ignore everything that the House of Lords tabled and go approve the Bill without any amendments.

More when we have it!

Tier 1 Post Study Work

The Home Secretary announced the most recent Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules. That Statement confirmed the Tier 1 Post-Study Work route will close on 06 April 2012. Any applications received by the UK Border Agency before that date will remain valid and will be considered under the Post-Study Work rules.

The Government justified this change by pointing to the difficulties UK national graduates are having when trying to access the labour market, and that any available vacancies should be priorities for them. Perhaps feeling a little guilty about these changes, the Government also introduced a new Tier 1 route for graduate entrepreneurs, commencing on 06 April 2012, and new provisions for graduates who have an offer for a skilled job to switch into Tier 2, also commencing on 06 April 2012.

If you are unsure how these changes will affect you please do not hesitate to contact us.

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

Justice Hale on the Legal Aid Cuts

Brenda Hale, Justice of the Supreme Court of the UK, gave a opening speech at the Law Centres Federation Annual Conference 2011 which she used as platform to advise against the upcoming legal aid cuts.

She explained that the adversarial legal system that we have relies on the parties to the proceedings to present and prepare their own case. She highlighted the constitutional principle of access to justice and that legal aid is service which the state owes to its citizens as a matter of principle.

There was also the false economy argument, in that by continuing to provide legal aid allows a little advice to solve an individual’s problem(s) at the earliest opportunity without the need for court intervention. A few letters and a bit of advice can also save the government potentially more money than they are trying to save with the legal aid cuts as it avoids further issues developing. For example, a person with employment issues, if left unresolved, would then have housing and debt issues. By solving the employment issues it prevents those secondary issues developing.

The government accepts that the cuts will have a disproportionate impact upon women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities - therefore they accept that it will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

This is just a brief summary of Justice Hale’s speech. As I have no why given her speech the justice it deserves click here to read it in full.

Tier 4 Sponsors, Highly Trusted Sponsorship Guidance

On 18 July 2011 the UKBA published proposed criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) under Tier 4. Following comments on that proposal the UKBA published new guidance covering:

  • Sponsorship, including the date by which sponsors must apply for HTS;
  • What happens to those sponsors who don't apply for HTS, or who fail;
  • Details of the transitional arrangements;
  • Details of the educational oversight of the HTS;
  • Reducing the sponsor ratings to 'A' and 'Highly Trusted'.

Sponsors who need to apply to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) must have done so by Friday 9 September 2011 otherwise they can no longer sponsor new students.

Details of the guidance can be found on the UKBA website by clicking here.

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

The Legal Aid Bill aims to cut funding to legal aid and for some areas, such as immigration cases, remove funding for them completely. The Bill went through the Public Bill Committee on 06 September 2011.

There was no discussions relating to the removal of funding for immigration cases, and it appears that many want to avoid the word 'immigration' completely. That said, there was acceptance that there may be 'advice deserts' where some areas will have no to specialist lawyers. The closure of the RMJ and the IAS were highlighted as examples of that.

The Minister pointed out that immigration tribunals 'are designed to be user-friendly and interpreters are provided free of charge' as a way of countering the restriction to legal aid in such cases. He went on to make a point that legal aid will be retained for 'domestic violence immigration cases, cases before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and immigration detention cases, including advocacy before the tribunal.'

The full debate and written submissions from concerned organisations, individuals and companies can be found here.

Also, if you're interested how a bill for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law, is presented for debate click here.

Online Visa Applications

From 10 September 2011 all visa applications from the following countries must be made using the electronic online application system found at Visa4UK site:

  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia

From 11 September 2011 the same applies for the following countries:

  • Bahrain
  • Qatar
  • Kuwait
  • United Arab Emirates

Paper applications will no longer be accepted.

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.

Further Submissions (fresh asylum claim)

The UKBA office (further submissions unit) where you must serve your further submissions amounting to a fresh asylum application has moved to a new building in Liverpool.

The new building is located at:

The Capital Building
6 Union Street
L3 9AF

The phone number to book appointments to hand in further submissions will change to 0151 213 2411 and to cancel appointments already booked will change to 0151 213 2413.

For those that know, the further submissions unit was notoriously difficult to get on the phone. Let's hope these changes make the (not very practicable system) a little easier.

Driving license rules tightened for those with temporary leave

Those with temporary leave to remain in the UK will no longer be able to apply for driving licences, under new government rules.

Is Legal Aid under threat?

The Government has announced its review of legal aid in a written ministerial statement to Parliament yesterday by Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke.

Tier 1: Changes

Between 19 July and 30 July 2010, the UK Border Agency are prioritising work to implement the government's new policy on an interim immigration limit. It may have an impact on sponsor licensing and applications. Read More...

Points Based System

If you have been refused permission to enter or stay in the UK under the Points-Based System because you failed to meet a requirement in the policy guidance which is not part of the immigration rules we strongly recommend you contact us, or any other qualified immigration lawyer, to request a review of your case immediately.

English Language Requirement

Leading lawyers, Rabinder Singh QC and Aileen McColan, advising Liberty say that making spouses pass English language tests could be discriminatory and could amount to a breach of the right to family life under the Human Rights Act. They sight Read More...

Child & Family Detention

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, faces fresh embarrassment today over a new Home Office postponement of the pledge to end the detention of children in immigration removal centres. Read More...

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