Home Office handling of Windrush citizenship claims ruled ‘irrational’

More on Windrush:

The Home Office’s handling of some Windrush citizenship applications has been irrational and unlawful, the high court has ruled in a judgment that will prevent the department from refusing citizenship to Windrush-generation applicants due to minor, historical convictions.

The court was ruling on the case of Hubert Howard, who was repeatedly denied British citizenship over the course of a decade, despite having lived in the UK since he arrived from Jamaica at the age of three in 1960.

The Home Office sought to deny him citizenship, despite the 59 years he had spent continuously in the UK, because of a number of minor convictions, most of them committed in the 1970s and 1980s – none were serious enough to trigger a jail sentence. He was still fighting for naturalisation from his intensive care bed as he was dying in hospital in October 2019.

Source: Home Office handling of Windrush citizenship claims ruled ‘irrational’

A new Windrush is in the making. Its victims are the most vulnerable of young people

Of note:

Three years on, the individual tales of Windrush injustice still have the power to catch my breath. Men and women who moved to Britain as children decades ago, who found themselves banished from the UK for the remainder of their life after a holiday abroad, wrongfully arrested, detained and threatened with deportation, and denied life-saving care on the NHS. So many stories of the British state ruining black lives, but one stands out for its exquisite cruelty: that of Jay, the son of a Windrush immigrant.

Jay was born in the UK and taken into care as a baby. When he applied for a passport as a teenager he was told he did not have enough information about the status of his estranged mother. After his third unsuccessful application, the Home Office threatened to deport him to Jamaica and forced him to declare himself stateless. He was only able to secure a passport years later, after the Windrush scandal broke and his case received significant media attention.

Source: A new Windrush is in the making. Its victims are the most vulnerable of young people

UK Home Office: new deportation law may discriminate against ethnic minorities

Of note:

The Home Office has admitted that a new immigration rule to criminalise and deport migrant rough sleepers may discriminate against ethnic minorities, including Asian women who have survived domestic violence.

An internal document outlines the department’s analysis of how the new power – which prompted widespread outrage when it came into force four months ago – would also indirectly affect at-risk groups, including people with disabilities.

The eight-page equality impact assessment, obtained by Liberty Investigates, accepts the potential of the rule to indirectly discriminate on the grounds of race, since some factors leading to homelessness disproportionately affect people from particular ethnicities. “The main reason Asian women give for being homeless is because of domestic violence,” the assessment states.

Source: Home Office: new deportation law may discriminate against ethnic minorities

UK: Ten previous inquiries expose the real problem with the Race Commission’s findings

As all too often happens with inquiries:

Amid Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, Boris Johnson promised a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Announced in a Telegraph column(where else?) about Winston Churchill (who else?), it was clear even then that this was a weak response to a widespread problem.

The Commission’s remit was vague (with its sights on “inequality across the UK, not just that affecting the BAME community”), and those eventually charged with it had previously expressed reservations about the existence of institutional racism.

Yet the main problem was that previous inquiries, many set up by past governments using official data, had already exposed the racial disparities in the areas under the Commission’s remit: education, work, policing and health.

The information is already out there, but the recommendations from those reports have not been taken up. Last June, when the Commission was announced, I counted 375 recommendations to the government in ten different inquiries – from the 1999 Macpherson Report following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, to 2020’s Lessons Learned review into the Windrush scandal – which are yet to be implemented.

As my colleague Ailbhe Rea points out, the latest Commission’s findings were carefully briefed ahead of publication to achieve headlines suggesting institutional racism is “no longer” a problem in Britain.

The pre-publication stories focused on celebrations of Britain as a “beacon” of successful multiculturalism to Europe and the rest of the world, scepticism of the use of “institutional racism”, and success stories among certain ethnic minority pupils in educational attainment.

While there are clearly nuggets for the “war on woke” brigade to get their teeth into – the description of slavery as “not only being about profit and suffering” springs to mind – there are also recommendations that echo findings of aforementioned reviews.

For example, the 2017 Lammy Review into discrimination in the criminal justice systemanalysed disproportionate use of stop and search on black people, citing Northamptonshire Police Force’s enhanced scrutiny of the practice as a favourable case study. The Race Commission recommends greater scrutiny of the practice through body-worn video footage, with officers who have their cameras off providing a written reason to the individual who was stopped as well as their supervising officer (and “misconduct procedures” for serious instances of misuse).

Many of the Race Commission’s recommendations contradict its own headlines and implicitly accept the existence of systemic racism: the application of the Equality Act to potentially discriminatory “algorithmic decision-making” is just one example.

There are also proposals that run against the “war on woke” narrative. For example, the development of a pilot to divert offences of low-level Class B drug possession – which disproportionately affect ethnic minority young people – into public health solutions.

Yet the evidence-heavy, action-light history of reviews into British racism suggests these may be patchily enacted or left to exist only on paper – forever buried beneath headline-hungry right-wing virtue signalling.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

Source: Ten previous inquiries expose the real problem with the Race Commission’s findings

British Government’s ‘Gaslighting’ Report on Racism Says Slavery Had Some Upsides

Not a great headline if a government wants to demonstrate awareness and sensitivity to racism. More denial of systemic barriers and bias, including how the report was released:

Last summer, after George Floyd’s killing sparked mass anti-racism demonstrations around the globe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnsonasked a dedicated team to investigate and report back on racism in the U.K.. On Wednesday, they came back with their findings—that institutional racism no longer exists, and that the slave trade had some upsides.

The report, published by the British government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, has been branded as “gaslighting” and “an insult” by anti-racism activists. While the study went as far as admitting that Britain is not yet a “post-racial country,” it lauds the country’s race relations as “a model for other white-majority countries.”

“Put simply, we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities,” it says. “The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.”

The report went on to say that other factors—such as geography, socio-economic background, culture, family influence, and religion—had “more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today show on Wednesday, the chairman of the commission, Dr Tony Sewell, explained his questionable findings further, saying: “No-one denies and no-one is saying racism doesn’t exist… We found anecdotal evidence of this. However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn’t there, we didn’t find that.”

Perhaps the low point of the report is when it appears to find some benefits of the African slave trade—an atrocity in which Britain very much led the way. The government report chirpily states: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.”

The report also criticized anti-racism campaigners, dismissing Black Lives Matter and related demonstrations as the “idealism” of “well-intentioned young people” that risks “alienating the decent centre ground” of British politics. The commission condemned what it described as an “increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination.”

The report has, predictably, received an extremely bad reaction from anti-racism advocates. Rehana Azam, the national secretary of the GMB trade union, said: “Only this government could produce a report on race in the 21st century that actually gaslights Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic people and communities. This feels like a deeply cynical report that not only ignores Black and ethnic minority workers’ worries, but is part of an election strategy to divide working class people and voters.”

David Lammy, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and shadow Justice Secretary, described the report as “an insult to anybody and everybody across this country who experiences institutional racism.” He added: “Boris Johnson has just slammed the door in their faces by telling them that they’re idealists, they are wasting their time. He has let an entire generation of young white and Black British people down.”

Prof Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said: “It’s complete nonsense. It goes in the face of all the actual existing evidence. This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain. This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

To make matters worse, HuffPost reported that selected journalists were not briefed about the report in advance—including Britain’s only race correspondent, The Independent’s Nadine White. White was sent an emailshowing that the commission asked for briefings on their report on racial disparities be sent to a “tight list of journos” only.

Institutional racism in Britain has been under the spotlight in recent weeks after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s allegation that the royal family expressed concerns about how dark their baby’s skin would be. Harry said racism in the British media was a “large part” of why he left the country, adding: “Unfortunately, if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society.”

Source: British Government’s ‘Gaslighting’ Report on Racism Says Slavery Had Some Upsides

Asma al-Assad risks loss of British citizenship as she faces possible terror charges

While I don’t support revocation of citizenship in general, if the UK continues to believe in revocation, certainly Asma al-Assad is a legitimate candidate:

The British wife of Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, is facing possible terrorism charges and the loss of her British citizenship after the Metropolitan police opened a preliminary investigation into claims she has incited, aided and encouraged war crimes by Syrian government forces.

Asma al-Assad, 45, who was born and educated in London before becoming Syria’s first lady in 2000, is being investigated in response to legal complaints alleging her speeches and public appearances in support of the Syrian army implicate her in its crimes, including the use of chemical weapons.

Ten years into Syria’s ongoing civil war, the country’s military has been accused of deliberately attacking civilians, using starvation as a weapon of war and subjecting populations to rape and sexual violence, among other breaches of international humanitarian law.

Two UN commissions have concluded the regime has repeatedly deployed chemical weapons against civilians.

The Guardian understands the Met’s war crimes unit began its inquiries into Asma al-Assad earlier this year and is determining if there is enough evidence to launch a full investigation.

Source: Asma al-Assad risks loss of British citizenship as she faces possible terror charges

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.