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

UK: Culture wars now a proxy for political debate

UK perspective on culture wars and how they debase political debate and discussion:

Should those Shelbourne Hotel statues have remained in situ? Was Winston Churchill a great statesman or should he be viewed as a callous racist? Are the lyrics of Rule Britannia offensive or should Britons sing the patriotic number with pride? Are mandatory face masks a crude imposition on our basic civil liberties?

If you care about the answers to these questions you have – perhaps unwittingly – embroiled yourself in the latest instalment of the culture wars.

It seems nothing of late can escape our fervour for mud-slinging and social media spats over the cultural values we hold dear. Most recently the BBC has found itself at the epicentre of the tedious charade – with the broadcaster’s new director general, Tim Davie, reportedly believing the BBC’s comedy output is too one-sided and in need of a “radical overhaul”, thanks to its supposed left-wing slant (pray tell, what is a “right-wing joke”?).

For politicians, the answer to this question is an easy one

And only weeks earlier, when the BBC announced an orchestral-only version of Rule Britannia! would be played on the Last Night of the Proms, an almighty row was triggered over the propriety of the anthems lyrics (“Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” is the line that draws the most ire).

The BBC said the decision was due to the fact there will be no audience to sing along to the song (due to Covid-19 restrictions), while conflicting reports emerged that the conductor believed the lyrics to be inappropriate in view of Black Lives Matter protests.

In his first week on the job Davie reversed the decision and scrapped the orchestral-only version in favour of singers on the screen – in what has been gleefully described by right-wing pundit Dan Wootton as the “first major anti-woke move” by the new boss.

What is it with our inclination to reduce everything to a culture war? In the case of the Proms, what could have been a gentle dialogue about history, philosophy and patriotism is instead siphoned into a vituperative conflict between two groups: the anti-Woke brigade versus the enlightened progressives; the bleeding heart liberals versus the true patriots.

For politicians, the answer to this question is an easy one. The Proms was too good of a moment for Boris Johnson to pass up. Wading into the debate he said: “I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions and about our culture, and we stopped this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness”.

As the culture wars emerge as a proxy for political debate, Johnson was smart to capitalise on the row. He could signal his political values, bolster his conservative credentials (credentials that, so far, have been lacking throughout his tenure), all the while avoiding substantive discussion on his patchy track record in government.

That the culture wars can provide a compelling distraction from the substance of politics might be true but there is something more sinister going on. Johnson’s political primacy may so far leave a lot to be desired, but this is a sacrifice his electorate ought to make (he might argue). Rule Britannia may just be a song, but what the row symbolised was something far greater. Patriotism, British values, a history to be proud of – these things require protecting at all costs, and Johnson is the only man who can do it. The deluge of policy failings that might come along with this brave stance will have to be tolerated for the greater good.

Way of life

If you were to ask Johnson why he was so keen to make his case on Rule Britannia he might reply: this is not just politics at stake, but our very way of life.

The Remainer vs Leaver divide, which emerged in a meaningful way in 2015, has consolidated this notion that our politics and our cultural values are inseparable.

“Remainer” emerges not just as a position you might hold on the function of the European Union to the British State, but as shorthand for the exact person you want to present as: liberal, urban, a champion of multiculturalism, you name it. No matter that this has eradicated vast swathes of nuance from the political landscape of the Brexit vote – nuance is the enemy of the culture warriors.

As the battleground before the electorate has becomes songs at the Proms, or the cultural capital you gain by being a Leaver or a Remainer, we are witnessing in real time cultural arguments overtaking economics and policy “as the driving force of our political debate” (as Helen Lewis put it two years ago in the Financial Times).

It is unedifying at best, dangerously and myopically divisive at worst. But it seems the nation’s favourite pastime is simply too tempting (for politicians, pundits and the electorate alike) to pass up.

Source: Culture wars now a proxy for political debate

UK: Hostile environment has fostered racism and caused poverty, report finds

Of note:

The “hostile environment” policy has fostered racism, pushed people into destitution and wrongly targeted people who are living in the UK legally, a study has concluded.

The measures formally introduced by Theresa May while she was home secretary have also failed to achieve their key objective of increasing the numbers of people choosing voluntarily to leave the UK, according to the report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Instead, the policy has “severely harmed the reputation of the Home Office” and caused a climate of “policy paralysis” within the department, where officials remain in principle committed to the objectives of the hostile environment approach but are “increasingly uncomfortable about its practical implications”, the thinktank says.

“It is clear that despite the wide-ranging impacts of the hostile environment on individuals and communities, there is no evidence to suggest that it meets its primary objective to increase voluntary returns. The available evidence suggests that the hostile environment forces people into poverty and destitution, denying them rights to essential goods and services, but it does not necessarily encourage them to leave the UK in greater numbers,” the report says.

“Restrictions on access to benefits can force people without immigration status into destitution. There is evidence of malnutrition, cramped and substandard accommodation, and mental ill-health among undocumented migrant families unable to access public funds … The hostile environment does not appear to be working for anyone: for migrants, for the Home Office, or for the wider public.”

The number of people voluntarily returning to their country of origin has fallen considerably since 2014, when some of the key hostile environment measures were introduced. According to the research, around 12,000 more people without immigration status were voluntarily leaving the UK in 2014 than they were in 2018.

A series of measures have been introduced over the past decade aimed at making life harder for people who are unable to prove that they have the right to live in the UK. The hostile environment, since rebranded as the compliant environment, makes it harder for individuals without proof of their right to be in the UK to take up employment, rent property, open bank accounts, get driving licences, and access welfare and public services.

Employers, landlords and frontline workers are now frequently expected to conduct immigration checks, as well as immigration officials. This shift of responsibility has prompted “discrimination against people from minority ethnic backgrounds by leading to new forms of racial profiling,” according to the IPPR.

Healthcare workers have expressed unease at having to perform immigration checks on patients, the report states, and some patients with uncertain immigration status have been discouraged from seeking vital healthcare as a result of the policy.

“There is anger over what frontline workers are being asked to do. People in the NHS are already exhausted from the underfunded, under-resourced conditions, and they are overworked,” an NHS worker told IPPR researchers.

Amreen Qureshi, a researcher for the IPPR and the report’s lead author, said:“The hostile environment is a policy based on ideology, not evidence. Our report finds that it has forced people into destitution without encouraging them to leave the UK, highlighting both its poisonous impacts and its ineffectiveness.”

The report Access Denied, the Human Impact of the Hostile Environment – is the latest in a series of detailed and critical studies of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy, following damning reports by the public accounts committee, the home affairs select committee and the National Audit Office, among others.

Last year the high court found that the hostile environment’s rental checks, which require landlords to assess whether a prospective tenant is living in the UK legally, were racially discriminatory. On appeal, however, the measures were ruled justified.

An inquiry into the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of legal UK residents were classified as illegal immigrants and denied the right to work, rent property, access healthcare and benefits, also criticised the workings of the Home Office’s hostile environment.

The present home secretary, Priti Patel, has committed to implementing all the recommendations in the Wendy Williams Windrush review, including a requirement to commission “a full review of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy”, and to “develop a major programme of cultural change within the Home Office”.

The IPPR report is timely, since that review is expected to begin this autumn.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Windrush generation suffered unspeakable injustices and institutional failings spanning successive governments over several decades. The government is implementing the findings of the Wendy Williams review.”

Source: Hostile environment has fostered racism and caused poverty, report finds

Nesrine Malik: British hypocrisy is to blame for the deadly plight of migrants

Of note:

It is often argued that once it became clear that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting wasn’t going to tip the United States towards adopting national gun control laws, that was the moment the gun control argument was lost for good. The equivalent moment, as far as British and European attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers is concerned, was when the body of Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey, almost five years ago.

Despite the global grief, the front pages, the renderings of Kurdi’s little body in paintings, his elevation into a symbol of a world that had lost its way, nothing happened. In fact, EU migration policies became even harsher. Last week, the British public was again moved when the body of a Sudanese migrant, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, was found on French shores, drowned after trying to make it to Britain. In the same time frame, another more fortunate migrant made it safely to Kent, and was immediately assaulted.

This duality lies at the heart of our attitudes towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees: an outpouring of grief one minute, a political pummelling the next. We like to think of ourselves as kind, and touched by the tragedy of specific cases, but we do nothing beyond expressing sympathy. We are horrified by the treatment of Windrush victims, but not the hostile environment and the policies that led to the scandal. We are haunted by the desperation of people who take treacherous and fatal journeys to the UK, but many of us are complicit in their fate by voting for politicians who pledge to make those routes “unviable”.

Source: British hypocrisy is to blame for the deadly plight of migrants

Home Office to scrap ‘racist algorithm’ for UK visa applicants

Of note and a reminder that algorithms reflect the views and biases of the programmers and developers, and thus require careful management and oversight:

The Home Office is to scrap a controversial decision-making algorithm that migrants’ rights campaigners claim created a “hostile environment” for people applying for UK visas.

The “streaming algorithm”, which campaigners have described as racist, has been used since 2015 to process visa applications to the UK. It will be abandoned from Friday, according to a letter from Home Office solicitors seen by the Guardian.

The decision to scrap it comes ahead of a judicial review from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which was to challenge the Home Office’s artificial intelligence system that filters UK visa applications.

Campaigners claim the Home Office decision to drop the algorithm ahead of the court case represents the UK’s first successful challenge to an AI decision-making system.

Chai Patel, JCWI’s legal policy director, said: “The Home Office’s own independent review of the Windrush scandal found it was oblivious to the racist assumptions and systems it operates.

“This streaming tool took decades of institutionally racist practices, such as targeting particular nationalities for immigration raids, and turned them into software. The immigration system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up to monitor such bias and to root it out.”

Source: Home Office to scrap ‘racist algorithm’ for UK visa applicants

Home Office urged to correct false slavery information in citizenship test

Citizenship guides are tricky matters to navigate.

Despite promising a revised guide in 2016, the Canadian government has yet to release what I understand to be a largely complete revision to Discover Canada (which despite some flaws, is a vast improvement of the fluffy A Look at Canada):

More than 175 historians have called on the Home Office to remove the history element of the UK citizenship test because of its “misleading and false” representation of slavery and empire.

The signatories say the official handbook, which the Life in the UK test is based on, creates a distorted version of history, which directly counters the values of tolerance and fairness it purports to promote.

In an open letter, the signatories, including 13 fellows of the British Academy, two past presidents of the Royal Historical Society and the director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, write: “The official handbook published by the Home Office is fundamentally misleading and in places demonstrably false … People in the colonies and people of colour in the UK are nowhere actors in this official history. The handbook promotes the misleading view that the empire came to an end simply because the British decided it was the right thing to do. Similarly, the abolition of slavery is treated as a British achievement, in which enslaved people themselves played no part. The book is equally silent about colonial protests, uprisings and independence movements.”

Source: Home Office urged to correct false slavery information in citizenship test

UK: Scrutiny over Huawei university ties increases after ban

As should happen in Canada:

The British government’s decision this week to ban Chinese technology giant Huawei from its national telecommunications infrastructure has prompted renewed scrutiny over Huawei’s links with universities in the United Kingdom and renewed calls for transparency in university dealings with the Chinese company.

The UK government announced on 14 July that the purchase of new Huawei equipment for high speed 5G networks will be banned at the end of 2020, and all Huawei equipment will be removed from UK 5G networks by 2027 following a review by the government’s National Cyber Security Centre. The United States and Australia have also banned Huawei from public contracts.

The United States has been lobbying its allies to exclude Huawei equipment on security grounds, arguing that the Chinese government can use Huawei as leverage to disrupt vital communications networks in foreign countries. Huawei has consistently denied it assists the Chinese government efforts to spy on mobile communications.

The decision was preceded by considerable debate on China’s influence, including on universities.

US lobbying extended to attempts to block local planning permission for a new £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) Huawei research hub on the outskirts of Cambridge, approved last month. Keith Krach, US under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said in advance of permission being granted that Huawei was “after the people and technology. They want to co-opt the researchers and talent from one of the most prestigious universities.”

Permission was granted on 24 June at a local district committee hearing, which, unusually for this type of local issue, was attended by ambassadors from a number of European countries who wanted to observe the proceedings.

Huawei announced on 26 June that the hub would specialise in fibre optics communications technology. Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said in a statement that it was not linked to recent US sanctions on Huawei. “Huawei began developing plans for this site more than three years ago, in 2017, so well before the subject of Huawei and 5G was raised in the UK.”

College group demands transparency

With considerable Huawei investment in Cambridge, a major technology hub, student groups in Cambridge have stepped up demands for more transparency in university dealings with Huawei, and China in general, particularly because of ethical concerns over the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Earlier this month the student union at Jesus College, Cambridge University raised “grave concerns” about the college’s ties to Beijing in a letter to the college head or ‘Master’, Sonita Alleyne.

The student union had called for a college commitment to accept no further funding or donations from Huawei and demanded an investigation into the college’s China Centre. The college accepted £155,000 in September 2019 from Huawei for a ‘two-year research cooperation’ under the centre, which resulted in a white paper on global telecommunications reform. Students said the white paper portrayed Huawei in a favourable light.

The paper attracted attention beyond the university, including from MPs on the UK’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which said the report from a prestigious university amounted to “reputation laundering” by Huawei.

Matthew Henderson, of the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank in London which focuses on open democracy, commented at the time: “It is deeply disturbing that Huawei has been able to buy itself a publication endorsed by Cambridge University.”

The China Centre’s website said its team “organises seminars and workshops, hosting speakers with a wide array of views”.

According to participants, the Huawei-funded report was based on a conference held at the centre and included representatives of Facebook Europe, Google, Vodaphone, Alibaba and international bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union, the OECD, the UN trade and development agency UNCTAD, as well as prominent figures such as former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd.

“We think the China Centre occupies an important role in [Jesus] College, and we are keen to work constructively with College to reform the Centre so that it better represents the values of financial transparency, academic freedom and political independence,” the student union letter said and called on Alleyne to commit to the centre hosting events on Chinese human rights abuses as well as the situation in Hong Kong.

College response

Alleyne said in an email to the college community, including alumni, that the college was beginning a review of some of its ‘historic collaborations’. “This includes our connections with China, some of which date back many years,” she said in the email dated 9 July and seen by University World News.

It includes the Jesus College China Centre as well as a separate UK-China Global Issues Dialogue Centre run by the college, which also receives Huawei funding.

Alleyne said the current two-year agreement between the Dialogue Centre and Huawei included a clause “enshrining academic freedom and free speech written into the research collaboration agreement. The Dialogue Centre owns all research results; Huawei cannot veto research findings, the publication of views or conclusions.

“We are cognisant of the rapidly changing situation in China, particularly in relation to human rights. At this crucial time, it is important that we as an academic institution remain committed to dialogue and intellectual discourse between China and the West.”

Jesus College has also revealed under a request under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act submitted by The Times newspaper that it had received £200,000 in September 2018 from China’s State Council – equivalent to the cabinet and headed by Premier Li Keqiang – for the separate UK-China Global Issues Dialogue Centre set up by the college at that time in collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing, which has also been a focus of the student union’s concerns.

The United States has also particularly focused its lobbying on technology transfer to China through Huawei tie-ups with universities.

Huawei Board Director William Xu said in a December blogpost: “We do get useful intellectual property out of some partnerships, but when this happens, the terms are clearly established. For instance, in all the collaborations between Huawei and European research institutes since 2018, only a small portion of resulting IP rights (IPRs) were exclusively granted to Huawei, while most resulting IPRs were exclusively granted to our partners or granted to both parties.”

He noted that even before Huawei arrived on the scene, “universities had a long experience of collaborating with industry. Huawei is one of countless companies engaged in partnerships with universities worldwide. We follow well-established and extremely common practices whenever we initiate collaborations with universities. Even the institutions – primarily US ones – that suspended their relationship with our company are well aware of this; their decision to stop working with us was not the result of Huawei doing anything improper.”

He added: “Although our ultimate focus remains commercial, our interest in basic sciences in many areas now converges with universities’ efforts to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. In the coming years, it is only natural that collaboration between Huawei and universities will become increasingly routine.”

Huawei and other universities

Last year the UK’s University of Oxford said it would no longer accept funding from Huawei, but 17 British universities currently receive funding from the Chinese company. These include Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Centre, Imperial College London and the universities of Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol, with several of them declining to reveal the amount of funding.

The demand for greater transparency and opposition to some types of deals have highlighted some funding deals. In February the London School of Economics (LSE) approved a three-year project on the leadership in the development of 5G technology funded by Huawei.

The NGO openDemocracy said it had obtained access to internal documents that showed the university would receive £105,000 from Huawei for the research, although it is unclear whether it is now going ahead after some academics at the institution raised questions, with some of them concerned the institution had approached Huawei rather than the other way around.

The internal documents state that the LSE has been “chasing” philanthropic funding from China, which is already a source of funding for research. “China and East Asia, in general, will be an important philanthropic market for LSE,” it said.

In May Imperial College London announced a new five-year collaboration with Huawei, with the Chinese company funding a new £5 million technology hub at the university. Huawei will provide the 5G indoor wireless network and AI Cloud platform at one of Imperial’s new campuses.

Ian Walmsley, provost of Imperial College London, said: “Huawei’s expertise in wireless technology will help our researchers, students and partner enterprises to lead the next generation of digital innovations.”

“Imperial, like other UK universities, has received support from Huawei for high-quality and open research for several years, and we are continuing this work,” a spokesman at Imperial College London said. “Such funding continues to be subject to the college’s robust relationship review policies.”

But former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, a high-profile opponent of Huawei’s involvement in UK infrastructure, called the Imperial-Huawei deal “deeply worrying and dangerous”.

“This is a perfect example of how the Chinese strategy is to use their money to insert their influence in the world’s intellectual thought process,” he said.

In November last year the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee said in a report that countries including China were seeking to influence universities. Funding and investment agreements could, for example, include “explicit or implicit limits” on what subjects could be discussed, while institutions had also been pressured not to invite certain speakers, or not to disseminate certain papers, the report A Cautious Embrace: Defending democracy in an age of autocracies found.

“We heard alarming evidence about the extent of Chinese influence on the campuses of UK universities,” the committee said.

Need to manage risk

Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, said in a report released on 9 July by the UK-based think tank Higher Education Policy Institute: “All universities must think through, and rapidly adopt, a risk management strategy for any dealings with China. This should cover all areas of intellectual enquiry. It should spell out clearly and without naivety the risks, and opportunities, of doing work with China and on China. It should also offer some ideas on how to manage issues such as demands from Chinese partners.

“They need to be ready to say no to demands or issues from China that they feel violate their own values, but ensure they do this in a neutral and respectful way,” he said in the report on UK Universities and China.

In the same report, Rana Mitter, director of the University of Oxford China Centre, noted pressures from China for some universities to accept restrictions when they sign agreements.

“Voices from China’s establishment imply that they can easily take their students elsewhere,” he said.

However, he also noted: “The number of first-tier academic environments in the world is not that large. Chinese access to the higher education sector in the UK is welcome, but it is not a right, nor simply a consumer good to be accepted or rejected at will.”

Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

Interesting survey. Whether the issues are with Prevent itself or more generalized attitudes towards Muslims and media coverage is unclear:

The UK government has long maintained that radicalisation is a problem in universities and that Prevent, the national counter-terror programme, is an essential means of tackling it. Yet recently the Office for Students reported very little such activity: in 2017-18, only 15 referrals were made by universities to Channel in England (the Prevent rehabilitation programme), and it is unlikely that all 15 were found to be terrorism-related.

Despite a clear lack of evidence of radicalisation in universities, Prevent training continues for staff. Indeed, a major new report of a three-year study of Islam on campus shows that almost 10% of all students believe there may be some risk on their campus. Our research reveals that Prevent reinforces negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims: 20% of students believe that Islam is not compatible with British values; among those supportive of Prevent, the figure rises to 35%.

This project, led at Soas University of London by myself and Dr Aisha Phoenix, with Professor Mathew Guest (Durham), Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster) and Assistant Professor Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry), is the largest data set yet collected about Islam on campus. In total, 2,022 students attending 132 universities answered a detailed online survey. We also collected and analysed 140 hours of interviews from six campuses.

Our research finds that Prevent discourages discussion about culture, identity and religion – especially, but not exclusively, about Islam. Students and staff are discouraged from raising concerns about Prevent. They self-censor their discussions in order to avoid becoming the object of suspicion and are sometimes discouraged from exploring, researching or teaching about Islam. They see this as a counterproductive policy in the light of the perceived need for securitisation to fight terrorism, which trumps all other human rights.

On the other hand, 59% of students said they’d never heard of Prevent, yet many of those then expressed opinions about it, from an apparently non-existent knowledge base. When students are kept ignorant, this creates a democratic deficit: the student population should be fully informed about Prevent, about perceived and actual risk, about the facts and figures, and encouraged to debate these issues. Honesty and clarity are urgently required.

There’s so much more that the campus offers. The university population is religiously and culturally diverse, and despite the secular tone of the modern campus, most of our student sample believe that religion is an important source of moral values. Almost 70% of Muslim students and 56% of Christian students believe that university provides a valuable opportunity to develop their faith in new ways. And 79% of Muslim students believe that the university experience should encourage critical thinking about matters of faith.

Source: Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

UK: Home Office ‘uses racial bias’ when detaining immigrants

Of note. Haven’t seen comparative Canadian analyses but may have missed:

Black people are detained significantly longer than white people inside the UK’s immigration detention system, prompting fresh claims of “institutional racism”.

Although the Home Office does not record ethnicity data for detainees, analysis of nationalities of those recently held within the immigration detention estate found that citizens from countries with predominantly black and brown populations are held for substantially longer periods than those from predominantly white countries.

New data, released by pressure group Detention Action, found that during 2019 90% of Australian nationals were released before spending 28 days in detention compared with 40% of Jamaican nationals and 60% of Nigerian nationals.

Bella Sankey, director of the group, said that the disparity indicated a racial bias in the approach of the Home Office. “Our immigration detention and deportation systems are institutionally racist,” she said. “Indefinite detention was invented as part of an explicit government effort to reduce black and brown migration to the UK.”

Sankey added: “In 2020 black people are detained in wildly disproportionate numbers and for longer periods than white people. We urgently need a universal time limit on detention to end this endemic dehumanisation.”

The UK is the only European country that does not impose a time limit, with some held for years before being released. A parliamentary committee is one of many groups demanding that ministers introduce a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

The new analysis found that of 44 Canadians detained, 40 were released from immigration detention within seven days compared with 17 of 100 Zimbabweans.

The Home Office uses detention centres to hold people before they are deported for immigration offences or released into the community. Although they are meant to be used sparingly, around 24,000 people were held in detention centres last year.

In a report issued last Wednesday, auditors also pointed out that the Home Office has not changed its estimated size of the illegal population for 15 years, and that nearly two-thirds of immigration enforcement detainees are released from detention without removal.

Source: Home Office ‘uses racial bias’ when detaining immigrants

#COVID-19 UK: Reduction in Overseas Students Revealed in Immigration Statistics

No surprise. Broadly consistent with other countries:

On 21st May 2020, the government released its ‘Immigration statistics, year ending March 2020’, and it confirmed what those in the world of academia already knew; that there was a sharp drop in the number of international students when the lockdown took hold at the end of March. While the publication was not intended to provide a full analysis of the impact of Coronavirus on the immigration system, it did find a significant fall in applications for study visas in March 2020; it states, “in March 2020, Tier 4 visa applications fell significantly when compared to March 2019, in particular for Chinese nationals, and likely related to COVID-19. At the same time, the number of Tier 4 (sponsored study) visas issued in the first quarter of 2020 increased by 84&#x c;ompared with the same quarter in 2019, although there were falls towards the end of March 2020”.

The fall in student numbers follows record increases in 2019

The clear reduction in student numbers is all the more jarring given that the sector has seen a boom in international students in recent years, helped in large part by the reversal of Theresa May’s student immigration policy which required students to depart only four months after completing their studies. According to Government data, in the year ending September 2019, sponsored study visas increased by a not inconsiderable 13&#x (;258,787 students), of which 86&#x w;ere for university education.

UK universities planning for a return of students

There is no doubt that UK academic institutions have been hit hard by COVID-19, not least because of the large black hole which now exists in place of the regular supply of domestic and international student fee revenue. According to a recent analysis by London Economics for the University and College Union, it is expected that UK universities will see a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. Of this £2.6 billion is from domestic students and the remainder from international students. It is clear; therefore, how important overseas students are to UK universities and positive and reassuring that plans are now in place to allow some students to return to campus-based learning.

Some UK universities are planning to reopen from June 2020 with a range of essential measures to ensure the safety of staff and students being put place. Smaller class sizes and an increase in the number of online lectures will become normal from the middle of this year. While not all universities have a plan to reopen yet and are instead waiting for clarity from the government before reopening, some have mature plans almost ready to go. The University of Wolverhampton, for example, will be offering a “full digital suite of course material”, and will prioritise the opening of building openings over time. The university’s vice-chancellor Geoff Layer stated, “We will be looking at a gradual return to certain buildings being open and we will develop a plan which prioritises which parts can open first. It won’t be ‘we’re all back’. Social distancing has to be part of what we do, so I’d imagine we would be opening selected spaces over time”.

At Birmingham City University some, but not all, of the 2019-20 cohort of students will be returning for lessons from June 2020. The 2020-21 intake will start their courses in September 2020 with a new set of COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect the wellbeing of students and teachers in place. The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Philip Plowden, says that students will be returning to the campus “on a limited basis”, and that changes are being made to the way in which buildings are utilised to ensure adherence with social distancing. Professor Plowdon believes that this partial reopening is essential to allow students who are reliant on-campus facilities to complete their courses; “Our priority for this year is to ensure that every student gets the qualifications for which they are working, or are able to make progress towards getting those qualifications. Our absolute priority is the safety of our staff and students and all of our decisions continue to be made with the safety of our community in mind.”

Even if academic institutions won’t be back to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, the confidence and boost to sentiment, not to say, cash flow, will be warmly welcomed by the sector.

Those universities which are not reopening in June 2020 will no doubt be watching those that do with considerable interest, not only to see whether it can be done but also to understand the measures which they too will need to put in place in the near future. It is also likely that international students will be watching to see how safe UK universities are over the next few weeks in anticipation of resuming their own studies in September 2020. As such, UK learning institutions can do much to inspire confidence in prospective overseas students by responding effectively now.

Returning students will be required to self-isolate

Anyone arriving in the UK from the 8th June 2020, including those holding a Tier 4 study visa, will be required by law to self-isolate. They will be asked to provide an address for where they will be in quarantine and will face fines of up to £1,000 and random spot checks. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee these additional measures put in place by the government will be lifted by September 2020 for the start of the new academic year, hence it is best to plan for an earlier arrival.

Wrapping up

The impact of COVID-19 on the UK’s education sector will be remembered for many years, but hopefully, with time, students from overseas will be able to continue their studies in earnest. Global events such as this allow us to truly appreciate the wonderful opportunities provided by the overseas study. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, our immigration specialists look forward to helping international student clients and their families over the coming months to return to the UK to resume their studies.

Source: COVID-19: Reduction in Overseas Students Revealed in Immigration Statistics