Shamima Begum loses fight to restore UK citizenship after supreme court ruling

Of note:

Shamima Begum, who fled Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in Syria, has failed to restore her British citizenship after the supreme court ruled she had lost her case.

The judgment on Friday from the UK’s highest court is a critical – and controversial – test case of the UK’s policy to strip the citizenship of Britons who went to join Isis and are being detained by Syrian Kurdish groups without trial.

Lord Reed, the president of the court, said its judges had decided unanimously to rule in favour of the home secretary and against Begum on all counts before it. That means the 21-year-old will not be able to re-enter the UK to fight her case in person and will not be able to have her citizenship restored while she is being detained in Syria.

“The supreme court unanimously allows the home secretary’s appeals and dismisses Ms Begum’s cross-appeal,” Reed said.

But the court did hold out the slender hope that Begum could have a final appeal against the decision to revoke her citizenship if she were ever to be in a position where she could properly instruct lawyers. However, her detention in a Syrian camp, where she is not able to communicate with her legal team, makes that unlikely.

UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Of note:

Scores of vulnerable asylum seekers, including suspected victims of trafficking, are scheduled to be deported this week as the home secretary Priti Patel ramps up removal operations ahead of Brexit.

Three flights this week, two to Germany and one to France, with possible transfers to Austria, Poland, Spain and Lithuania, are planned amid opposition from campaigners who say they have evidence that cases are being “rushed” through to avoid Patel’s own published policy on identifying trafficking victims.

The development comes days after Patel branded those calling for last week’s deportation flight to Jamaica to be stopped as “do-gooding celebrities”, a label that prompted victims of the Windrush scandal to describe the home secretary as “deeply insulting and patronising”.

Source: UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

UK: How anti-Semitic and how Islamophobic are local politicians?

Interesting and revealing analysis. Suspect similar patterns between urban and rural areas in most countries:

In October 2020, the UK’s human rights watchdog found Labour to be ‘responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination’. Last year, the Muslim Council of Britain called for an enquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Other critics have accused the latter of failing to tackle Islamophobia. The 2017 British Social Attitudes Survey showed that 33% of those who identify with the Conservative Party would describe themselves as somewhat racist, compared with 18% of those who identify with the Labour Party.

We set out to gather some evidence on the extent of bias by local politicians against their constituents, using a correspondence experiment. We sent ten thousand emails to councillors with a quick question, and randomised whether they came from a stereotypically Christian name (Harry or Sarah White), Jewish name (Levi or Shoshana Goldstein), or Muslim name (Mohammad or Zara Hussain). We kept the email short in order to minimise the burden placed on our busy objects of study.

Response rates were six to seven percentage points lower to the Muslim and Jewish names – a clear evidence of bias. We don’t however see more bias against Jewish names by Labour councillors. Neither do we see more bias against Muslim names by Conservative councillors. Such discrimination in the provision of services based on race or religion is against UK law.  This form of discrimination by councillors may have substantive impacts for constituents. For example councillors set policy on access to the limited supply of social housing, policies which have been documented to disadvantage ethnic minorities.

Note: Response rates are estimated after removing council fixed effects, and standardising residuals to a response rate equal to the sample average of 55 percent for whites. Bars represent 95 percent confidence intervals.

In total we received 5,093 responses to 9,994 queries sent, for a 51% response rate. This is almost identical to the response rate found by a survey of real requests to councillors, in which 51% received a response within two weeks. Amongst those who responded to our queries, the median time to response was 12 hours, and the median length of responses was 228 words.

Compared to the male Christian name (Harry White), response rates to Jewish names are 5-6% points lower, and 6-9% points lower to Muslim names. Response rates are marginally higher to the female Christian name (Sarah) than to the male Christian name (Harry). Response rates are also higher to Zara Hussain than to Mohammad Hussain.

Name or Religion?

We randomise each councillor to receive one of two email scripts. The first email script makes a simple request in line with basic councillor responsibilities – ‘I have a question about local services and was wondering if you could tell me when your surgery is held?’. The second request explicitly indicates the religion of the emailer – ‘I’m  interested in organising a sponsored  walk in the local area to raise money for [Christian Aid/Islamic Relief/Global Jewish Relief]. Could you advise me if I need to get some kind of permit?’.

The two email scripts can be seen as different levels of intensity of the treatment. The response rate for white names to the first email was 61%, and 45% to the second email. Bias in response rates is similar across the two types of emails. This suggests that the discrimination occurs based on the name of the sender alone. Due to the high volume and low cognitive effort of checking emails, by not replying, councillors may be acting unconsciously when exposed to non-Christian/minority group names. Alternatively, councillors may simply be consciously discriminating against minority constituents, irrespective of their degree of self-identity. Because the identity of the sender is present in the email address itself, councillors might choose to not even open the emails from names associated with minority groups.

What explains the bias?

Bias in response rates is largest against Jewish and Muslim names in the least densely populated rural locations, with small non-white populations (Figure 2). One reason for this could be that councillors in white areas are more likely to be white themselves. On average we see much lower bias by councillors with names estimated to be Jewish or Muslim (though these estimates are imprecise due to the small number of such councillors). There may also be other differences in the selection of candidates with different levels of unobserved racial and religious bias in rural and urban areas. Alternatively, councillors may respond to political incentives and be less likely to respond to minorities in locations where minority groups are a small proportion of the electorate.

We test responses to electoral incentives directly by showing the relationship between response rates and two measures of competition – the margin of victory at the last election and the number of days until the next election. We see now less bias in close elections. Finally, lower bias could be attributed to the degree of ‘contact’ councillors have with different minority groups. Councillors in more diverse urban locations may show less discrimination through an erosion of prejudice as described by the contact hypothesis, though we are unable to test this hypothesis directly.

Note: The top-left figure shows a binned scatterplot of response rates against population density, by whether the sender name was Christian or non-Christian. The top-right figure shows response rates against the non-white population share. The bottom-left shows the response rate against the winning margin of the elected councillor at the last election. The bottom-right shows the response rate by the number of days until the next election. Fitted lines are polynomial regressions of order three, with bars showing 95 percent confidence intervals. Population density and non-white population shares are calculated at the ward (sub-council) level from 2011 census data. On average there are three councillors in each ward. Population density is expressed as residents per hectare.

Conclusion

We find evidence for bias from local politicians in response to requests for basic information from ‘Jewish’ or ‘Muslim’ constituents. Despite the media narrative of anti-Semitism in the Labour party and Islamophobia in the Conservative party, our results suggest that both parties are equally discriminatory to both minority groups. This discrimination seems to occur based on names alone, and is unchanged by the explicit identification of religious identity. These effects are largest in rural areas (with low population density) and with small non-white populations. Councillors in such areas may have fewer opportunities for positive interactions with minority groups.

This work demonstrates that even access to basic services are susceptible to forms of discrimination, and that minority group members may struggle to be heard through this process. Reducing councilor bias could be attempted through training designed to reduce implicit prejudice. The leader of the Labour Party has announced the party’s commitment to undergoing this type of training, though more research is needed into the effectiveness of such training. Future studies may benefit from further investigating the process through which politicians engage with their community, and identify ways in which to reduce these biases.

Lee Crawfurd and Ukasha Ramli measure the responsiveness of elected local representatives to requests from putative constituents from minority religious groups. They find that response rates are six to seven percentage points lower to stereotypically Muslim or Jewish names, with Labour and Conservative councillors both showing equal bias towards the two. Their results suggest that the bias may be implicit and that it is lower in more dense and diverse locations.

Source: How anti-Semitic and how Islamophobic are local politicians?

David Feldman: The UK government should not impose a faulty definition of antisemitism on universities

On the risks of universities applying the IHRA definition of antisemitism:

We all know how the path to hell is paved. But it is a warning worth repeating for Gavin Williamson. The secretary of state for education intends to rid universities in England of antisemitism, but his intervention not only threatens to provoke strife and confusion – it also places academic freedom and free speech on campus at risk.

In October, Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt a particular definition of antisemitism: the “working definition” promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Williamson is not the first ministerto write to universities on this matter, but he has been more forceful than his predecessors. His letter demands action by Christmas, and threatens swingeing measures against refusenik institutions that later suffer antisemitic incidents. He threatens to remove funding and the power to award degrees from universities that do not share his faith in the efficacy of the IHRA working definition.

This is misguided, for a number of reasons. First, it misconceives the task universities face. As shown in a report released last week by Universities UK – Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education – structural racism in universities is profound, and racial harassment on campus is widespread. These are problems that universities must address. The imposed adoption of the IHRA working definition will not meet this challenge. It will, however, privilege one group over others by giving them additional protections, and in doing so will divide minorities against each other. For this reason alone, Williamson should pause and consider how best to protect students and university staff from racism broadly as well as from antisemitism.

Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings

Damning report:

The Home Office unlawfully ignored warnings that changes to immigration rules would create “serious injustices” for the Windrush generation, a report by the equalities watchdog says.

It found the “hostile environment” policy, designed to deter “irregular” migrants from settling, had harmed many people already living in the UK.

The Windrush generation came from the Caribbean to the UK from 1948 to 1971.

The Home Office said it was determined to “right the wrongs suffered” by them.

Labour said ministers should be “deeply ashamed” of the report’s findings.

An estimated 500,000 people living in the UK make up the surviving members of the Windrush generation.

They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971, but thousands were children who had travelled on their parents’ passports.

Because of this, many were unable to prove they had the right to live in the country when “hostile environment” immigration policies – demanding the showing of documentation – began in 2012, under Theresa May as home secretary.

This adversely affected their access to housing, banking, work, benefits, healthcare and driving, while many were threatened with deportation.

‘Shameful stain’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report found a “lack of organisation-wide commitment, including by senior leadership, to the importance of equality and the Home Office’s obligations under the equality duty placed on government departments”.

It added: “Any action taken to record and respond to negative equality impacts was perfunctory, and therefore insufficient.”

The report also said: “From 2012, this [hostile environment] agenda accelerated the impact of decades of complex policy and practice based on a history of white and black immigrants being treated differently.”

The EHRC recommended that, to ensure “measurable action”, the Home Office should enter an agreement with it by the end of January 2021, involving “preparing and implementing a plan” of “specific actions” to “avoid a future breach”.

This should apply to its immigration work “in respect of race and colour, and more broadly”, it said.

The Home Office has agreed to enter an agreement with the EHRC.

The commission’s interim chair Caroline Waters said: “The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history.

“It is unacceptable that equality legislation, designed to prevent an unfair or disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities and other groups, was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives.”

In a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said they were “determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation and make amends for the institutional failings they faced, spanning successive governments over several decades”.

They added that the department was already applying a “a more rigorous approach to policy making” and would “increase openness to scrutiny, and create a more inclusive workforce”.

It was also launching “comprehensive training” for all staff “to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in this country”, they said.

But Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said campaigners had “repeatedly warned the Home Office that their hostile environment policies would inevitably lead to serious discrimination and to the denial of rights, particularly for people of colour”.

He added that “successive home secretaries” had “ignored these warnings” before the situation hit the headlines in 2018.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Ministers must work urgently to rectify this, including getting a grip of the Windrush compensation scheme, which has descended into an offensive mess, piling injustice upon injustice.”

And shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who organised the cross-party letter referring the Home Office to the EHRC last year, said: “Black Britons were detained, deported, denied healthcare, housing and employment by their own government because of the colour of their skin.

“Since the scandal broke, the Home Office has only paid lip service to its victims. It must now urgently rectify this gross injustice.”

Source: Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings

UK Government suffers Lords defeats over #immigration bill

In the end, the government has the majority to pass these measures in the Commons:

The proposed legislation has passed its initial stages in the Commons – where Boris Johnson has a majority of 80.

But peers have now approved five amendments while scrutinising the bill.

They include keeping the current rules for unaccompanied child refugees after the end of the transition period, which sees them reunited with close relatives in the UK.

It is the second time the so-called Dubs amendment – presented by Labour’s Lord Dubs – has been approved by peers, but turned down by MPs.

Afterwards, Lord Dubs tweeted: “The Commons now needs to do the right thing by these uniquely vulnerable children and support the amendment.”

But Home Office Minister Baroness Williams said the UK had made a “credible and serious” offer to the EU agree new arrangements; and that it wouldn’t be right to undermine those negotiations through domestic legislation.

And a Home Office spokesperson added: “We have a long and proud history of providing protection to vulnerable children, and have presented a genuine offer to the EU on future reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”

The government also faced three further defeats on other amendments proposed to the bill:

  • Ensuring an inquiry into the impact of the bill on social care, especially staffing – passed by 304 votes to 224
  • Preventing Britons returning to the UK with their EU families from March 2022 facing financial conditions – passed by 312 votes to 223
  • An amendment granting EU children in care settled status in the UK – passed by 323 votes to 227
  • And another requiring the government to provide physical proof to citizens of their settled status – passed by 298 votes to 192

The legislation will now go back to the Commons for approval – but with a large government majority, the amendments are unlikely to remain.

Source: Government suffers Lords defeats over immigration bill

UK barrister mistaken for defendant calls for compulsory anti-racism training

One would hope that this would not occur in Canada:

The barrister who was mistaken for a defendant three times in one day at court has called for compulsory anti-racism training at every level of the UK legal system.

Alexandra Wilson, who specialises in criminal and family cases, put in a complaint on Wednesday and spoke of her frustration about the incident on Twitter. Her tweets, which quickly went viral, resulted in an apology by the head of the courts service in England and Wales.

Since tweeting about what happened to her, Wilson said she has been flooded by responses from other black and minority ethnic lawyers who have had similar experiences. She added the frequent occurrence of such incidents points to the failure of current training in the legal system that only focuses on unconscious bias or diversity.

Wealthy Britons step up citizenship shopping to thwart Brexit

Not surprising:

The number of British entrepreneurs looking to “buy” citizenship from countries offering visa-free access to the European Union has risen sharply, investment migration firms say, as prospects of a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the bloc darken.

Investment immigration firm Astons said it had seen a 50% and 30% year-on-year increase in interest from clients seeking Cypriot or Greek citizenship respectively this quarter, less than four months before UK passport-holders are likely to lose their rights to freedom of movement across the EU.

Henley & Partners also reported a rise in requests for advice on investment migration applications to Malta, Portugal, Austria and several Caribbean islands, which offer a range of residency rights, visa-free travel to the EU and citizenship to investors in local business or property.

Citizens of certain Caribbean sovereign states including St. Lucia and St Kitts & Nevis also enjoy preferred access to the EU, thanks to close ties with EU members as a result of historic, diplomatic and modern trade agreements.

“This isn’t about tourists. This is the UK high net worth community that have a constant need to travel to and spend significant time in the EU,” said Henley & Partners director Paddy Blewer.

“This is investment migration as a volatility hedge and a component in a high net worth portfolio value defence strategy,” he said, adding that volumes of client engagement were higher now than immediately after the 2016 Brexit vote.

Interest in additional citizenships is rising even as the European Commission examines possible steps to curb EU states selling passports and visas to wealthy foreigners, due to concerns it can help organised crime groups.

Cypriot residency can be secured in two months with a 300,000 euro ($351,870) property purchase. Securing citizenship takes six months and requires a minimum property investment of 2 million euros.

Reuters reported in December how some donors to Britain’s ruling Conservative Party had sought Cypriot citizenship including hedge fund manager Alan Howard.

“Both Cypriot and Caribbean investments are proving very popular … primarily driven by high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) from the UK who have an eye on the future and life after Brexit,” said Astons spokesman Konstantin Kaminskiy.

CARIBBEAN DREAM

Henley & Partners said its volume of engagement with clients seeking alternative citizenship or residence by investment climbed 40% in the first quarter of 2020 versus Q1 2019, before flattening during the COVID-19 lockdown in Q2.

But interest has rallied since July 1, with a 15% year-on-year increase in engagement to Sept. 10, as the end of the Brexit transition phase nears.

Henley & Partners’ Blewer said clients were increasingly drawn to Caribbean citizenship applications – which is likely to give them better travel access to the EU than Britain – but which have a lower minimum investment and a quicker approval process.

Saint Lucia citizenship, offering visa-free travel to 146 countries, can be obtained in around four months for a minimum investment of 76,152 pounds, data supplied by Astons showed.

For less than 40,000 pounds more, investors can obtain citizenship of St. Kitts & Nevis – and visa-free travel to 156 countries – in around 60 days.

In contrast, Malta offers citizenship in exchange for around 1 million pounds of investment, but the process takes up to 14 months.

Portugal, meanwhile, typically processes investment migration applications in three months but only grants EU residency to investors and visa-fee travel to just 26 countries.

“With HNWIs, time is often more important than what is essentially a small fluctuation in cost and many are looking to secure additional citizenship as fast as possible in the pandemic landscape,” Arthur Sarkisian, managing director of Astons, said.

EU authorities are under pressure to clamp down on investment migration programmes by member states.

Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament from Germany’s Green party, said these kind of citizenship sales “posed a serious threat to EU security and the fight against corruption” in the bloc.

“EU passports and visas are not a commodity. Money must not be the criterion for citizenship and residence rights in the EU,” he said.

Source: Wealthy Britons step up citizenship shopping to thwart Brexit

EU immigration: two fifths of firms won’t reallocate roles to Britons

Yet more aftereffects from Brexit:

Nine out of 10 UK businesses believe the recruitment of EU nationals plays an important role in their UK operations, but despite potential losses of EU employees, two fifths of businesses do not plan on reallocating roles to Britons.

According to a report released today by immigration law firm Fragomen, 41% of respondents said they would not replace low-skilled workers with new hires, opting instead to move work overseas, scale down production, do less business in the UK or to automate more. And 39% of employers plan to do the same for high-skilled roles that may be lost to the new immigration system.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK government is set to overhaul the UK immigration system on 1 January 2021, ending the free movement for European citizens.

Fragomen, which surveyed 502 UK businesses, found that 70% of employers have concerns about the prospect of new immigration policies coming into effect. Only 20% of UK employers fully understand how the new policies will impact their recruitment and less than 60% have offered support to employees in applying for settled status in the UK.

Ian Robinson, partner at Fragomen, said: “We are rapidly moving closer to a new immigration system which will mean huge changes for businesses across the UK, but it is clear that a vast majority of employers are not prepared. The end of free movement for EU citizens is a fundamental change to the UK’s relationship with the EU and businesses will need to rethink how they staff their organisation and run their operations”.

“The report clearly demonstrates businesses are unprepared for the changes, with the IT, hospitality and construction sectors most concerned about new policies. Understandably, the global pandemic has made long-term planning difficult but all business with EU employees need to take immediate steps to assess their business to understand how the new immigration policies will impact their staffing and what the associated costs of the new system will be to your company. There is still time, but employers must act now.”

Despite government efforts to promote the scheme, 22% of UK employers do not know where to find information in order to support their EU employees ahead of the deadline, while three in 10 did not fully understand the cost of the new immigration system.

Fragomen surveyed 502 people working in human resources and global mobility across a range of sectors and company sizes.

There has been some discussion about the UK introducing a Displaced Talent Mobility programme to enable UK employers to sponsor skilled people who are forcibly displaced. Asked what business would do if such a visa was introduced, 73% of employers said they would actively look for or consider opportunities to sponsor candidates from this talent pool.

Marina Brizar, UK director of Talent Beyond Boundaries, which helps displaced people move internationally for work by leveraging their professional, said: “Talent shortages will affect the future of the UK’s economy and society, so developing new and creative solutions to address shortages is essential.

“The globally forcibly displaced population should be part of the solution through Displaced Talent Mobility. It is encouraging that this model is being seriously considered and enthusiastically embraced by the policymakers and the business community.”

Source: EU immigration: two fifths of firms won’t reallocate roles to Britons

Home Office immigration unit has ‘no idea’ – MPs

Another apparent weakness in Home Office policy and management:

The Home Office has “no idea” what its £400m-a-year immigration enforcement unit achieves, meaning it is unprepared for Brexit, MPs have warned.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee said a lack of diversity at the top of the department also risked a repeat of the Windrush scandal.

Its policies may be based purely on “assumption and prejudice”, it warned.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it used a “balanced” approach to maintain “a fair immigration system”.

The Home Office’s 5,000-strong Immigration Enforcement directorate, and other parts of the system, have been repeatedly reorganised since being branded “unfit for purpose” 15 years ago by the then home secretary.

The latest massive changes will come in January to deal with the end of freedom of movement.

In the highly critical report, the influential committee said officials were reliant on “disturbingly weak evidence” to assess which immigration enforcement policies worked, and why.

Officials had no idea how many people are living illegally in the UK, no idea what their impact was on the economy and public services – and no means of countering claims that could “inflame hostility”.

“We are concerned that if the department does not make decisions based on evidence, it instead risks making them on anecdote, assumption and prejudice,” said the MPs.

“Worryingly, it has no idea of what impact it has achieved for the £400m spent each year.”

The MPs said the the department showed too little concern over failures.

It risked a repeat of the Windrush scandal in which people with a right to be in the UK were treated as illegal immigrants because the Home Office had lost records of their status or did not believe the evidence they provided.

“The significant lack of diversity at senior levels of the department means it does not access a sufficiently wide range of perspectives when establishing rules and assessing the human impact of its decisions,” said the MPs. “Professional judgement cannot be relied upon if an organisation has blind spots, and the Windrush scandal demonstrated the damage such a culture creates.”

From January, unless the UK reaches a deal with Brussels, it will no longer be part of a system that obliges EU members to take back some migrants who have no right to be in another state.

But the MPs said they had been provided with “no evidence” that the Home Office had begun discussions “internally” or with EU nations over how to prepare for the possible impact of that change.

“Without putting new arrangements in place successfully,” warned the MPs, “There is a real risk that EU exit will actually make it more difficult to remove foreign national offenders and those who try to enter the country illegally.”

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “The Home Office has frighteningly little grasp of the impact of its activities in managing immigration.

“It accepts the wreckage that its ignorance and the culture it has fostered caused in the Windrush scandal – but the evidence we saw shows too little intent to change, and inspires no confidence that the next such scandal isn’t right around the corner.

In response to the report, a Home Office spokeswoman said: “We have developed a balanced and evidence-based approach to maintaining a fair immigration system.

“Since 2010, we have removed more than 53,000 foreign national offenders and more than 133,000 people as enforced removals.

“On a daily basis we continue to tackle those who fail to comply with our immigration laws and abuse our hospitality by committing serious, violent and persistent crimes, with immigration enforcement continually becoming more efficient.”

Source: Home Office immigration unit has ‘no idea’ – MPs