Immigration status: Ministers reverse May-era student visa rules

Another bad legacy of former PM and Home Secretary May, fortunately being repealed:

International students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job, under new proposals announced by the Home Office.

The move reverses a decision made in 2012 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May that forced overseas students to leave four months after finishing a degree.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the change would see students “unlock their potential” and begin careers in the UK.

But campaign group Migration Watch called it a “retrograde” step.

The change will apply to international students in the UK – there were around 450,000 last year – who start courses at undergraduate level or above from next year onwards.

They must be studying at an institution with a track record in upholding immigration checks.

Under the proposals, there is no restriction on the kinds of jobs students would have to seek and no cap on numbers.

“If one needed evidence of a new approach to immigration within government, today’s announcement allowing all foreign students to stay for two years after graduation is just that,” the BBC’s home editor Mark Easton said.

“Where Theresa May introduced what she called a hostile environment around migration rules, with an ambition to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, Boris Johnson has promised to scrap that target and encourage the brightest and best to come and live and work in global Britain.”

Student Shreya Swamy, from India, says the proposal is “a great step forward” but it is “a sad day” for her as it has come too late to help students already in the UK.

She has just finished studying for a master’s degree at the University for the Creative Arts, in Kent and Surrey, and says she has “struggled so much” with the current rule giving her up to four months to look for work.

Jobs for international graduates “are close to nil”, she says, blaming their lack of experience.

“I have been through hell and back trying to figure out my career plan these past few months because it seems practically impossible to have one in the UK,” she says.

“I feel really helpless, and almost regret coming here to study because I’m going to end up going back home with a very expensive piece of paper.”

Chancellor Sajid Javid tweeted that the move was “about time”, adding that the government “should have reversed this silly policy years ago”.

Former universities minister Jo Johnson – who quit his brother’s government last week – tweeted that it was “success at last” after being involved in the cross-party campaign.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, welcomed the decision, saying it would benefit the UK economy and reinstate the UK as a “first choice study destination”.

“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26bn in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students,” he said.

But Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the decision was an “unwise” step that would “likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves”.

“Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here,” he added.

Others suggested that the overhaul of the rules should come in sooner so students who are due to graduate next year could be eligible for the visa.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Institute of Student Employers, said there was “ample time” for the new rules to be implemented for those who finish their studies in 2020.

How many international students stay in the UK?

Just over 450,000 international students are currently studying in UK universities.

Of these, almost two-thirds are from outside the EU, so will require a student visa to be in the country.

Between about 170,000 and 185,000 of these students graduate each year and, under current rules, they have four months to transfer to another visa – such as a work visa – or decide to continue studying.

In 2018, 6,300 individuals moved from student visas to skilled work visas, meaning they have officially been offered a job paying at least £20,800 in the first year.

A further 450 were granted “high-value migrant” visas, which are normally reserved for those with particular expertise in a field or those who have a set sum of money to invest in the country.

We also know that almost 40,000 student visas are extended each year, implying that a large number of graduates are continuing studies in the UK.

That still leaves more than 100,000 students not formally extending their visas – and we don’t have complete figures for how many of them leave the UK.

However, analysis of exit checks by the Office of National Statistics suggests that 97% of them were leaving on time.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Labour has always said graduates should be able to work here after their studies.

“It enables them to contribute to our economy, our universities and to research, and helps us to attract the brightest and best from around the world.

“It is a great pity that ministers have previously supported measures that did the opposite.”

‘International collaboration’

The government’s announcement coincides with the launch of a £200m genetics project at the UK Biobank, a charity and health resource that contains information and samples from 500,000 people.

The UK Biobank collected DNA samples and health questionnaire information from 500,000 British volunteers over several years and is now open to researchers from anywhere in the world who want to use those resources to develop new treatments for diseases.

The prime minister said projects of this kind wouldn’t be possible “without being open to the brightest and the best from across the globe to study and work” in the UK.

Mr Johnson said: “That’s why we’re unveiling a new route for international students to unlock their potential and start their careers in the UK.”

Britain had a “proud history” of being at the centre of international collaboration, he said, adding that it was “bringing together experts from around the globe to work in the UK on the world’s largest genetics research project”.

Source: Immigration status: Ministers reverse May-era student visa rules

Boris Johnson’s dramatic immigration u-turn leaves 2.5m uncertain of their future

Ongoing train wreck:

Less than a month after Boris Johnson officially became the UK’s prime minister, his government has announced changes to the status of EU citizens after the current deadline for UK withdrawal from the EU – October 31, 2019.

The new home secretary, Priti Patel, has said that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on that day, then free movement will end immediately for all EU citizens in the UK.

This has caused much anxiety and confusion among the almost 3.5m EU citizens in the UK – 2.5m of whom have not yet registered for settled status, having been given a deadline of 2020 to get it done.

The previous government, led by Theresa May, made very different promises to these people. They were told that the UK wanted to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain … as early as we can.”. It appears that the new government has gone back on this promise.

EU citizens are still welcome to visit the UK for short trips without a visa. However, anyone planning to stay long-term after October 31 will be subject to proposed new rules if the UK leaves without a deal. So what is being planned by the new government in case of a no-deal for EU citizens?

Change of plan

Ending free movement on October 31 means that there would be no grace period for anyone who arrived after this date. A previous transition period was set to last until December 31, 2020. During this time, EU citizens arriving after Brexit day would enjoy the same rights as those who were there before.

Now, EU citizens would be subject to the planned new immigration system immediately.

The Department of Health has also said that after October 31, 2019, without a deal, NHS trusts will have to start to charge EU citizens for previously free treatment. This would mean NHS trusts would need to check the immigration status of EU citizens seeking treatment. This proposal has already been criticised by the British Medical Association. It would add more work to an NHS already under great strain.

Aside from anything else, the plan has been criticised for being impractical. The previous government admitted in January 2019 there needed to be some time between the end of freedom of movement and a new immigration system coming into force. This is because it would be difficult for employers, universities, landlords and others to distinguish between pre-exit residents and post-withdrawal arrivals. In particular, businesses have said it will make it difficult for them to recruit workers.

What do EU citizens need to do now?

The advice from the Home Office to EU citizens wanting to stay in the UK beyond October 31 is to apply for settled or pre-settled status under its EU Settlement Scheme. This has been officially open since March 30, 2019. However, there are some concerns about this, too.

Just over 1m applicants have already been granted settlement under this scheme. That’s approximately 30% of the eligible population.

For those who have already applied or who are in the UK before October 31, there should be no problem. However, there will probably be disruption for those who arrive after November 1. They will not be eligible to apply for settlement.

There will also be disruption for those who do not apply for EU settlement in time (and there is not much time left) and want to change jobs or move house after Brexit. Employers and landlords would be required to check these individuals’ immigration statuses, and it could be difficult to distinguish if they arrived before or after withdrawal.

There are serious concerns around certain groups of vulnerable individuals who will have most difficulty applying successfully for EU settlement, such as children without a passport, women in abusive relationships or those who simply cannot read English.

Of the approximately 3.5m EU citizens in the UK, there are still 2.5 million who have yet to apply for EU Settlement. It is unclear how many of them are vulnerable. I have previously highlighted that if large numbers of individuals become illegally resident after a certain cut-off date (for example, if free movement ends on October 31) anyone who does not have settled status but is still in the UK then could be illegal, and expelled automatically.

Furthermore, this could affect British citizens in the EU. The current arrangement for this group of approximately 1.3m people is based on reciprocity. But ending free movement on October 31 would mean British citizens in the EU would also lose their rights to stay in the EU. In the rush to end free movement as soon as possible, rights of British citizens in the EU seem to have been forgotten.

Another Windrush?

A leaked Home Office discussion document has already noted that it would be practically difficult to enforce an immediate end to free movement because of various complexities in establishing the system. In particular, it warned of a repeat of the Windrush scandal.

While the end to free movement will only become reality if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the newest deadline of October 31, the deadlock between the EU and the UK suggests a growing likelihood of no-deal – especially under Boris Johnson’s new government. It is cold comfort for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU that once again citizens appear to be the bargaining chips for negotiations between the EU and the UK.

Source: Boris Johnson’s dramatic immigration u-turn leaves 2.5m uncertain of their future

Ukip Might Not Get Votes – But Its Anti-Islamic Voices Have a Platform

On anti-Muslim attitudes in the UK and UKIP:

It seems tempting to ignore the election of Richard Braine, the new leader of the UK Independence Party. After all, its former leader Nigel Farage moved on to found the Brexit Party and much of Ukip’s support seems to have migrated there with him.

But it would be a mistake to disregard Ukip. Its strongest impact was never in the parliamentary seats it failed to get, either in the House of Commons or the European Parliament. Rather, it made its mark by moving the conversation dangerously further to the right than was previously acceptable. Take, for example, the first controversy to emerge involving Mr Braine. Footage of a hustings for the leadership race showed him complaining some British towns and cities were effectively no-go areas for non-Muslims and calling for it to be a crime to hand out copies of the Quran under laws connected to violence.

Such virulent anti-Muslim sentiment underpins Ukip and has only become more intense over the years, despite claims that it wants to distance itself from the anti-Islamic views that shaped the leadership of Mr Braine’s predecessor, Gerard Batten. Mr Farage quit the party over the issue of Islamophobia and Mr Batten’s links to far-right activist Tommy Robinson. The footage of Mr Braine seems to indicate it’s a different face at the helm but the same message.

For a party that is arguably on the far-right of British politics, Ukip enjoys an outsized presence in terms of press coverage. The boisterous antics of the likes of Mr Farage boosted his popularity and was handsomely rewarded by a disproportionate amount of airtime on television, a radio show on a mainstream network and a platform with various media outlets.

But as oxygen has been given to such right-wing views in so much of the mainstream media, such voices and their radical views have become normalised.

Ukip began as a Eurosceptic party and leaving the EU was the issue that defined its purpose. It never found a critical mass to vote for it as a party – but it did manage to get a critical mass to take up its one issue. As a result, the Brexit referendum of 2016 happened. The turmoil that has unfolded since is significantly down to mainstream political parties not taking seriously how to provide leadership in an age where Ukip-style populist politics can make a difference.

Mr Farage has now moved on to another political force, one which yielded considerably more success in the recent European elections. But the Brexit Party could never have done so if Ukip had not existed in the first place. Ukip continues to tap into a minority of the British public’s sentiments – an unruly minority that seeks division in order to promote its agenda.

That agenda is increasingly not about leaving the EU, an issue that has been taken up by the Brexit Party, large parts of the Conservative party, and even significant pats of the Labour party. Ukip might deny it is an anti-Islamic party – but the issue of Islamophobia is increasingly shaping conversations both within its ranks and about it.

Since the Brexit referendum took place, it is the issue that has energised the remaining Ukip base like no other. Robinson, currently serving nine months in prison, was until recently serving as a political adviser to Mr Batten. Others, including Ukip candidates Mark Meechan and Carl Benjamin and Paul Joseph Watson, have been accused of racist, threatening language. Mr Watson founded the far-right conspiracy website Infowars which is known for promoting absurd conspiracy theories; he himself declared “Islam control” was needed rather than gun control.

The anti-Islam animus has been present within Ukip since its early days – but it now seems to have overtaken nearly all other considerations within the party today. Anti-Muslim sentiment is a problem that infests many parts of the political spectrum already, including within the ranks of the Conservative party, to the point where even the term Islamophobia is challenged.

Ukip is currently polling badly in the UK. But with anti-Muslim bigotry across Europe on the rise, history reminds us that insignificance at the ballot box doesn’t mean irrelevance elsewhere.

Source: Ukip Might Not Get Votes – But Its Anti-Islamic Voices Have a Platform

‘Jihadi Jack’ and the folly of revoking citizenship: Macklin

Understandably, Macklin is the most quoted expert on citizenship revocation:

The British government has just stripped Islamic State recruit Jack Lettsof his United Kingdom citizenship.

In one sense, the move was unsurprising. The U.K. has been the undisputed leader in reviving banishment as punishment for “crimes against citizenship,” deploying it primarily against those deemed threats to national security.

The country’s Home Secretary favours stripping citizenship of nationals already abroad, which has the convenient effect of circumventing legal accountability and human rights impediments to deportation.

The mildly surprising feature of the U.K.‘s decision is that it has opted to make Letts Canada’s problem. Letts is currently being held in a jail in northern Syria after being captured by Kurdish forces in 2017.

Letts’ father is a Canadian citizen and, therefore, his son is a Canadian citizen by descent. As a result, the U.K. can deprive him of citizenship without rendering Letts stateless because he will remain a citizen of Canada.

With limited exceptions, international law prohibits rendering people stateless, though the U.K. plays fast and loose on that front. It strips citizenship from those who are dual citizens as well those who are not, but whom the Home Secretary speculates could, in the future, possibly obtain citizenship from some other country.

It doesn’t much matter to the U.K., really. Once discarded, the former citizen might be executed by drone strike, transferred elsewhere for prosecution or persecution or detained indefinitely by non-state armed forces. Wherever they go, it won’t be back to Britain, and whatever happens to them, they are someone else’s problem. That’s what makes citizenship deprivation, in the language of the British law, “conducive to the public good.”

No espionage or treason

Why another country should bear sole responsibility for a citizen that the U.K. disavows is an interesting question. These are not classic instances of espionage or treason, where the historic narrative underwriting stripping citizenship was that the individual betrayed one state in the service of the other state.

Shamima Begum, a British citizen who joined the Islamic State as a 19-year-old in 2015, was not working for Bangladesh in Syria. Jack Letts was not a Canadian spy.

I speculate that the British government has, until Letts, traded on a tacit understanding that British Muslims with brown skin inherently “belong” less to the U.K. than to some other country where the majority of people are Muslims with brown skin — even if they were born in Great Britain and have never even visited the other country of nationality.

On this view, stripping citizenship merely sends the targets back to where they “really” come from. Citizenship deprivation thus delivers an exclusionary message to all non-white, non-Christian British citizens that their claim to U.K. membership is permanently precarious, however small the literal risk of citizenship deprivation.

Indeed, British legal scholar John Finnis explicitly flirted with a similar idea a few years ago by proposing the “humane” expulsion of all Muslim non-citizens from Britain.

The Letts conundrum

But Letts is white, his parents are middle class and Christian in upbringing (though secular in practice). His other country of citizenship, Canada, is also predominantly white and Christian in origin.

Canada is a staunch British ally, an important diplomatic and trading partner and a G7 member. Queen Elizabeth remains the formal head of state in Canada.

The illogical underpinning of citizenship deprivation now emerges clearly, shorn of implicit appeals to racism, Islamophobia and colonial arrogance. Letts is no more or less a risk to national security in Canada than the U.K. In no sense does Letts “belong” more to Canada than to the U.K., the country where he was born, raised, and that formed him.

The world is not made safer from terrorism when the U.K. disposes of their unwanted citizens in Canada, Bangladesh or anywhere else. The very phenomenon of foreign fighters testifies to that.

Claims that “citizenship is a privilege, not a right” or that the undeserving citizen forfeits citizenship by his actions is flimsy rhetoric intended to distract from the grubby opportunism that motivates citizenship revocation.

The U.K. does this not because it enhances the value of citizenship or makes the world safer from terrorism. It does it because it can.

If the British government thinks stripping citizenship is a good way for a state to respond to the challenges of national security, it must think it’s a good idea for all states. So imagine that Canada also had a citizenship revocation law. In fact, Canada’s Conservative government did enact such a law in 2014 (inspired by the U.K.), though it was repealed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in 2017.

Here is the scenario: Letts, ISIS foreign fighter, is a citizen of the U.K. and of Canada. Neither country wants to claim him. Each has the possibility of revoking his citizenship as long as Letts is not rendered stateless.

The result?

Race to the bottom

An arbitrary race to see which country could strip his citizenship first. To the loser goes the citizen — maybe Canada, maybe the U.K.

This every-state-for-itself race to the bottom is the antithesis of co-operation in a global struggle against radicalizaton and terrorism; one need not be schooled in game theory to recognize it as counterproductive parochialism. Once states contemplate the possibility of being on the receiving end of citizenship stripping, the tactic doesn’t look quite so clever.

Until now, the U.K. has targeted individuals whose other state of nationality lacked the resources or diplomatic heft to challenge the British practice under international law. Maybe it’s time for Canada to step up, and to work with other countries, to pressure the U.K. and other states to abandon citizenship revocation as a means of disavowing “bad citizens.”

The Letts case reminds us that citizenship revocation policies can bite back. Any country that seeks to dispose of their citizens in this way may some day be a disposal site for other countries. If human rights aren’t enough of a reason to abolish citizenship revocation, and undermining global co-operation isn’t enough either, perhaps self-interest can tip the balance.

Source: ‘Jihadi Jack’ and the folly of revoking citizenship

‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Of the many articles on Jack Letts, I picked this one, given the Conservative’s implementation revocation provisions is C-24. During parliamentary hearings on C-24 (and the subsequent repeal under the Liberals in C-6), the risk of “beggar the neighbour” approaches between countries was raised by Audrey Macklin among others.

So no surprise that it has happened, and from an overall security perspective, offloading a suspected terrorist to another government, does not increase security. That Britain did so, when Letts only has a formal connection to Canada, having been raised and grown-up in the UK, only makes it worse.

Conservative leader Scheer did not include citizenship issues when he unveiled his immigration policy a few months ago:

The Conservatives on Sunday renewed their condemnation of the Liberal government’s position on citizenship rights for terrorists, following news that U.K. officials had stripped former ISIL member Jack Letts — known as “Jihadi Jack” — of his British citizenship.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus did not commit to overturning a policy introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 that would prevent Canada from making a similar move, but said the Liberal government must fight to keep Letts out of the country. 

“The idea that anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed is naïve and dangerous to the safety of Canadians,” Paul-Hus said in a statement on Sunday. Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Sunday confirmed reports that the United Kingdom had revoked Letts’ citizenship, saying in a written statement that Canada was “disappointed” by the move, and accusing Britain of trying to “off-load their responsibilities.”

The move means that if Letts is deported, he would become the sole responsibility of Canada.

The issue might have set off a behind-the-scenes diplomatic row between the two countries, according to media reports and private emails from Canadian consular officials unearthed by the National Post. It could also refuel debate over whether Ottawa should be allowed to revoke dual citizens of their status as Canadians if convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by British media, is being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The longtime U.K. resident, now 24 years old, converted to Islam at a young age and eventually left the country to join the extremist organization, eventually settling in the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2017.

His entire family are dual British-Canadian citizens, including his father, John Letts, who was born in Ontario, and his U.K.-born mother, Sally Lane.

In June, Letts’ parents were found guilty of funding terrorism after they wired their son money in a bid to help him escape an ISIL-controlled region of Syria.

The court heard that a member of Letts’ mosque in the U.K. had warned the parents that their son might have been radicalized, and that they should take away his passport as a way to protect him. But Letts and Lane reportedly ignored the advice and bought him a plane ticket to Jordan in 2014 for a “grand Middle East adventure,” according to one recollection of events.

According to media reports, Letts became known to authorities after a spate of violent Facebook posts, in which he said he would “happily kill each and every one” of the members of a British military regiment of which a former schoolmate was a member.

There is no clear evidence whether Letts personally carried out any violent acts during his time with ISIL.

Citing private emails from Global Affairs Canada, the National Post reported last October that Canadian consular officials had been in contact with Letts’ parents for months. The officials went as far as to discuss possible escape routes for Letts out of Syria, and assured his parents they were “working diligently on your son’s file,” according to the emails.

But their tone shifted abruptly in early 2018, the emails show, leading the family to believe that British officials had struck down those efforts behind closed doors.

The diplomatic spat could refuel a long-standing debate in Canada. Because international law prevents governments from making anyone “stateless,” only people with two passports can have their citizenship stripped.

In 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper amended the Citizenship Act to allow Canada to strip the status of any dual citizen who is found guilty of terrorism, among other things. The Liberal government under Trudeau reversed that decision in a bill that passed through the Senate in 2017.

Some experts say efforts by Britain are counterproductive and run afoul of human rights laws.

“I think there’s a real question here as to whether Britain is violating international law by doing this, and whether Canada could seek to hold the U.K to account,” said Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said moves to render people stateless can in turn stymie efforts to snuff out terrorist organizations.

“If you are serious about global co-operation in combatting terrorism, you would realize that citizenship stripping is inimical to that,” she said. 

Trudeau is due to meet the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, at a Group of Seven meeting in France that starts on Aug. 24.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto earlier this month. The two ministers discussed Letts during the visit, yesterday’s statement from Goodale’s office said.

“While we are disappointed in their decision, we do not conduct tit-for-tat diplomacy. Canada and the U.K. continue to work closely together on a number of issues, including the situation in Hong Kong,” the statement added.

Source: ‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Sensible commentary by Doug Saunders:

The Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka have not only brought horror to the island’s tiny, impoverished Christian community and threatened an end to the country’s decade of unsteady peace. They’ve also struck fear in the governments and security agencies of many countries, including Canada, which have been struggling to deal with a steady trickle of their citizens seeking to return home from Syria and Iraq.

We don’t know whether reports are true that two or more of the Sri Lankan terrorists had gone to Syria to fight with the terrorist army that calls itself Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh), and returned after that organization’s self-proclaimed caliphate was crushed and defeated last year. It is clear, however, that the attacks are linked to a desire among some of that organization’s former fighters to bring revenge to their own countries.

There are currently several hundred European, U.S. and Canadian alleged IS fighters being held in northern Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (the number of Canadians may be as low as 10). Whether they should be returned to their home countries is the subject of an intense international debate.

Some have suggested stripping them of their citizenship – which was a legal option, rarely if ever applied, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government – thus making them the responsibility of some other country. Others wonder why we should be responsible for investigating and trying Canadians who allegedly have committed grave crimes abroad; in other circumstances, they’d be tried and sentenced in the place where their crimes took place.

But they are, ultimately, our problem. They aren’t foreign – almost all the Canadians accused are Canadian citizens born here to Canadian families, and their radicalization took place here, in the dark corners of Canadian society. To attempt to dump them on another country, or on a poor and struggling Kurdish-led Syrian democracy movement that has already been betrayed by Canada and its allies, would be both immoral and dangerous.

There are good reasons why nobody is eager to see them returned. The probability of any returned foreign fighter committing violence is low – a 2015 study found that only 0.2 per cent of returned fighters, or one in 500, had been charged with terrorism offences. The return of IS fighters has not produced the wave of attacks that many had anticipated. But the few who do maintain their violent commitments are noted, in the words of a study published last year by the United Nations Security Council, for their “increased lethality, both as attackers and as attack planners,” making them responsible for “some of the most lethal terrorist attacks.”

But the flaw in the citizenship-stripping approach becomes apparent when you take a close look at those who have dual citizenship, and would therefore be eligible.

Typical of them is Syrian detainee Jack Letts, who holds both Canadian and British citizenship. Neither Canada nor Britain wants him back. Political leaders in both countries have suggested revoking his citizenship – and thus dumping his case, and the considerable security and justice costs associated with his case, on the other country.

As a result, he waits in Syria. If he is guilty of atrocities or war crimes – and simply being a member of IS could qualify as one – neither country is willing to expend the investigative and judicial resources to prove it and bring him to justice. If he is innocent, as he claims, neither country is willing to try to clear him.

The Kurds have made it clear that they do not want hundreds of people such as him on their hands. Ilham Ahmed, a leader of the Kurdish-led SDF, says it is straining their resources just to hold people such as him. “We have provided the support we can by arresting them and detaining them in prisons, but who is going to take them to court?” she told the Financial Times. “Who is going to [be] carrying out the prosecution?”

Another horrific news story this month illustrated the risk of not taking these people back. Germany is currently trying a 27-year-old woman from Lower Saxony known as Jennifer W. for allegations that she, as an IS “morality policewoman” in Syria, tortured a 5-year-old Yazidi slave girl to death. Prosecutors consider themselves lucky to have found a phone containing what they say are incriminating messages.

If kept in Syria or foisted on another country, she would never have been charged. Trials such as hers are expensive, difficult and risky, but the expense is necessary, and the risk would be greater if these people were left at large. Some of them may be the world’s worst people, but they are our people. If they are truly to be brought to justice, or at least kept under watch so they pose less danger, it is far more likely to happen here.

Source: Canadian extremists returning from Syria are a big problem – but they’re our problem

Brexit fallout: UK’s Johnson woos ‘best and brightest’ immigrants

But will they come?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled plans on Thursday for a new fast-track visa to encourage the “best and brightest” of the world’s scientists to emigrate to Britain.

The announcement came as the impending Brexit — a cause championed by Johnson — will see much European Union research funding cut off and place the immigration status of many European researchers at risk.

“To ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world,” Johnson said.

The new fast-track immigration route would be targeted towards engineering, technology, and other sciences, the government said.

Research, business sectors support plan

New provisions would remove the requirement of having a job offer before arriving, and would allow an immigrant‘s dependents to access the UK labor market. It would also remove the limit on the number of applicants vying for the Tier 1 Exception Talent visa.

Business and universities hailed the move, as leading institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge have voiced concerns about the impact Brexit could have on their researchers and talent pool.

The 2018-2019 academic year saw a significant drop in applications to British universities from EU students.

Johnson, who has frequently expressed anti-immigrant views, is also seeking to introduce an Australian-style immigration system based on points awarded for higher education qualifications, language competency and other specialized skills.

Source: Brexit fallout: UK’s Johnson woos ‘best and brightest’ immigrants

Islamic TV channel that called gay people ‘insane’ and ‘worse than animals’ breached Ofcom regulations

Reprehensible commentary, as it would be for any religious station and religion:

An Islamic TV station which has aired programmes calling homosexuality “insane” and gay people “worse than animals” could be stripped of its UK broadcasting licence after breaching Ofcom regulations.

Peace TV, which is available as a digital channel on Sky, also called for magicians to be killed and said underage girls being married off was “no problem at all”.

The Dubai-based channel may now be taken off air in the UK after watchdog Ofcom found four of its programmes had breached regulations on inciting crime, hate speech and abuse.

One show, called Strengthening Your Family, The Valley of the Homosexuals, said homosexuality was “a very unnatural type of love that is energised by the influence of [Satan]”. The programme, which aired in March 2018, also made reference to gay people dying “from a disease they contracted because they are homosexual”.

Presenter Imam Qasim Khan told viewers: “Men marrying men, being on television in front of our children, kissing each other in the mouth, walking down the street, hugging and kissing – this society has gone insane.”

He added: “Even an animal that is defiled by Islam, the pig – as nasty and corrupted and contaminated as a pig is – you never see two male pigs that are trying to have sex together. That’s insanity. These are animals. Human beings are supposed to be dignified, they’re thinking beings.”

The channel also broadcast a programme in November 2017 with a scholar discussing execution for those who practise magic, or sahir.

“The correct reliable and majority opinion is that the punishment for a sahir is that the person should be killed,” said scholar Shaikh Ashfaque Salafi. “I want to make it clear that the magician’s art or the practice of magic cannot be forgiven by way of repentance.

“To save his life he may seek repentance and get away with it, but at the first opportunity when he has a dispute with someone, he will use his magic skills.

“For that reason, for the benefit of all, it is better to cut it out from its roots.”

Ofcom recorded two further breaches: one where a programme said those who left Islam should be punished by death and a second where it was said girls under 18 getting married was “no problem at all”, even if local laws forbid it.

A fifth programme was investigated and found not to be in breach.

But Lord Production, which holds the licence for Peace TV, said all its programming was based on Islamic teachings.

It disagreed with Ofcom’s suggestion that Imam Khan’s views constituted hate speech arguing that he did not “call for violence or punishment of homosexuals” and that his aim was to “outlaw the practice of homosexuality itself”.

The company further defended its programmes by saying they were “derived from a particular religious viewpoint, of which its viewers would be aware, and that such programming includes advice to those viewers as to how to lead their lives”.

It added: “It should therefore not be surprising if, at times, such advice causes offence to different sections of the public.”

The controversial channel, founded in 2006, is banned from broadcasting in India and Bangladesh.

Ofcom said it will now consider possible sanctions but, under section three of its own code, it does reserve the right to ban broadcasters that repeatedly promote “crime, disorder, hatred and abuse”.

Source: Islamic TV channel that called gay people ‘insane’ and ‘worse than animals’ breached Ofcom regulations

We must talk about Palestine – without being antisemitic

Worth noting:

It’s hard to write or talk about antisemitism and the Labour party’s handling of it without descending into deep despair, and not just at the mirror the sorry tale is holding up to the whole of our society, which seems to be becoming less tolerant, more racist and less safe for minorities. This is having greater consequences than the Labour leadership can imagine. In particular, it is stifling the ability of commentators and decision-makers to talk sensibly about the real issues in Palestine.

My mother is Palestinian. These issues are deeply personal; we still have family in the West Bank. I am very worried that, at this critical juncture in the history of the region, activists, parliamentarians and journalists feel that they cannot speak out for fear of being branded as antisemitic. My plea is that we must speak more about Palestine, not less, and in this current climate it is something members of both houses of parliament have confided that they are more fearful than ever to do.

Source: We must talk about Palestine – without being antisemitic

Worried UK employers call for changes to proposed immigration reform

Echoes earlier concerns by the business community:

A coalition of British industry groups and education bodies, worried by the prospect of Brexit worsening skills and labour shortages, has called for the next prime minister to relax proposed reforms of the immigration system.

The #FullStrength campaign said on Wednesday it had written to both Boris Johnson, frontrunner to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, and his rival, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, calling for the government they would lead to lower the salary threshold proposed in draft immigration legislation from 30,000 pounds to 20,000.

In December, Britain set out in a policy paper the biggest overhaul of its immigration policy in decades, ending special treatment for European Union nationals.

Concern about the social and economic impact of immigration helped drive Britain’s 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.

#FullStrength brings together bodies including London First, techUK, the British Retail Consortium, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, UKHospitality, the Federation of Master Builders and Universities UK. Collectively they represent tens of thousands of businesses and employ millions of workers across all sectors and regions of Britain.

Their joint letter said more than 60% of all jobs in the UK currently fall under the proposed 30,000-pound salary threshold, highlighting the risk in setting the future level too high for vital services such as health and social care.

The coalition also wants the government to extend the temporary work route for overseas workers from one year to two years, revise the sponsorship model to make it easier for firms of all sizes to bring in the overseas talent they need, and reinstate the two-year, post-study visa for international students to work in Britain post-graduation.

“Without the ability to access international talent, many of our world-class sectors are at significant risk,” the joint letter said.

“As the UK prepares to leave the EU in the near future, it is imperative that the government puts in place measures that will avoid employers facing a cliff-edge in recruitment, and works towards building a successful economy that is open and attractive.”

Johnson has pledged that Britain will leave the EU with or without a transition deal on Oct. 31 if he becomes prime minister, while Hunt has said that he would, if absolutely necessary, go for a no-deal Brexit.

Source: Worried UK employers call for changes to proposed immigration reform

UK: Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report

Of note. Likely varies within the different Muslim communities:

The Muslim community in Britain shuns women who have been to prison while forgiving convicted men, “no matter what they’ve done”, according to a report.

Female former prisoners told researchers, Muslim experts in the criminal justice system, that they suffered a “conspiracy of silence” after being released from jail, having to hide or move away in order to not bring shame on their families.

“Our situation is made that much more worse because we are women and within our community being a woman caught up in crime is one of the most unacceptable things that can happen to a family, regardless of the reasons. There is a more forgiving attitude towards Muslim men who offend,” say the former convicts in a foreword to a report by the Muslim Women in Prison rehabilitation project, which calls for a “cultural shift in the community’s approach to women’s criminality and also a fundamental shift in the institutions in their treatment of Muslim women”.

The Muslim Women in Prison project worked with 55 women on their release from HMP New Hall and Askham Grange, two Yorkshire jails, helping them reconnect with their families – or to start a new life if that was impossible.

One woman, speaking at the launch of the report in Bradford on Monday, described how her family would make her hide upstairs if they had visitors, following her release from prison five years ago after serving seven and a half years of an indeterminate public protection sentence.

In a film made to accompany the report, the mother of one jailed woman said that Muslim men could be convicted of “10 crimes – they could even kill someone” and they would be accepted back into the community, while her daughter and others were ostracised.

The report describes how women of Islamic faith serve an “unfair community sentence” upon release, when they are shunned by their community – “in contrast to the liberal and sympathetic treatment that Muslim men are often given”.

The authors, Sofia Buncy and Ishtiaq Ahmed, say that “izzat” (honour) plays a disproportionate role in British Muslim life: “Defamation of the family name, particularly by a female going to prison, can be the ultimate calamity on the good name, status and the social standing of the family.

“This can potentially result in marginalisation of the family by others – people no longer wanting to associate with them. Worse still, people may not wish to sustain existing or new marriages ties into the family, thus ruining family aspirations.”

One father told them: “What would people say if we took her back? I have other daughters of marriageable age. Who would want to ask for their hand knowing she lives in the house?”

One client at Bradford’s Khidmat Centre, where Muslim Women in Prison runs its resettlement programme, said: “People are usually very unforgiving if you’re a Muslim woman coming out of prison. A lot of the time we are cut off by family and community so no one else wants to bother with us either. Men are just able to come back out and fit in no matter what they have done.”

Other women told researchers that the Islamic faith was “sometimes unjustifiably used to maintain family norms and traditions which are based more on cultural and patriarchal constructs”.

Imran Hussain, a Bradford Labour MP who is the shadow justice minister, hailed the report as “groundbreaking”.

“It’s fine civil servants in London writing their reports about different communities … but this is a report where communities themselves take ownership of some very difficult and complex situations,” he said.

But Julie Siddiqi, a veteran campaigner, said the “elephant in the room” was that Muslim community leadership was still very male-dominated. She said: “If we are talking about community-led solutions, if we think that one-third of mosques don’t even have a space for women to pray, we have a long way to go … Unless we change the leaders in our communities, this work isn’t really going to get embedded properly.”

The proportion of prisoners in England and Wales who are Muslim has increased from 8% in 2002 to 15% in 2018, despite Muslims making up 5% of the general population. The proportion of Muslim women in jail increased from 5.2% in March 2014 to 6.3% in March 2017, when there were 251 incarcerated, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Source: Muslim community shuns women released from prison, says report