UK: Immigration minister says sorry for Windrush generation’s treatment

Needed apology but informal (not in Parliament):

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes has issued a “heartfelt apology” to members of the Windrush generation and admitted that she felt “ashamed” of how the Home Office had treated them.

Nokes was addressing dozens of the Windrush generation at a meeting at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, south London, and told them that she had come to listen to their stories and find out about their experiences.

She has come under fire for issuing contradictory statements about whether or not employers would have to make additional checks on EU nationals post-Brexit in the event of no deal.

“The way I always learn best is by talking to people,” she told the members of the Windrush generation who had come to speak to her.

Several people told Nokes and the team of Home Office officials accompanying her about their experiences as a result of Home Office hostile environment policies which the Windrush generation became caught up in. At times the conversation became heated.

Nokes said: “It’s really important, it really matters to me that people have a chance to shout at me. It really is. I just feel really ashamed, that’s the honest truth.

“I feel ashamed the Home Office got it so badly wrong over a long period. I was going to say I have to say sorry but I want to say sorry. I’m really conscious that we have a massive piece of work to do.”

One woman from the Windrush generation told Nokes she had been thrown out of her council accommodation because of a lack of clarity about her immigration status.

“I have kids and grandkids here but the Home Office want to send me back,” she said. “I’m going blind but I’m scared to see a doctor because of my issues with the Home Office.”

The NHS is required to ask about patients’ immigration status and can refuse treatment to those deemed ineligible.

Nokes urged her to speak to the Windrush taskforce but she said she was too scared to do so.

“I don’t want anyone to feel scared,” said Nokes. “It’s stories like this that demonstrate to me that what went wrong went really horribly wrong. I will pick it up and do absolutely everything to help you.”

It emerged during the meeting that not all the applications for redress under the Windrush scheme had reached the government. A Freepost address has been provided for these applications but one person showed Nokes that his application had been sent back to him with a “return to sender” notice. Nokes promised to hand the application over personally to the right person.

Solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie of McKenzie Beute and Pope, who represents some members of the Windrush generation, and is a member of the Windrush Action Group, expressed concern at the low number of people who the Home Office said have been assisted by the Windrush taskforce to regularise their immigration status. There were 2,100 of them, according to the latest published statistics.

“That’s shockingly low,” McKenzie said. Officials declined to respond to her question about how many people the Home Office had brought back from the Caribbean who had been unlawfully removed but said they would be in touch about it.

Nokes apologised several times for treatment of the Windrush generation who had been invited to Britain to help rebuild the country after the second world war.

“We went out and asked for help. Help came. We have treated people shamefully since then. I would like to give everyone a heartfelt apology. We are here to help, we will help,” she said.

Source: Immigration minister says sorry for Windrush generation’s treatment

Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online

Interesting effort to leverage UK experience and expertise in prevention:

The federal government has tapped a U.K.-based company to attempt to “redirect” Canadians at risk of radicalization to violent extremism.

The Liberal government awarded Moonshot CVE a $1.5-million grant to develop a project called “Canada Redirect,” aimed at identifying extremist content online and pushing positive counter messaging at those seeking it out.

Micah Clark, Moonshot CVE’s Canada program director, said the idea is not to take down extremist propaganda, but to connect Canadians who are accessing it with alternative content.

Picture searching for white nationalist content on YouTube, only to be offered advertisements for counter radicalization and outreach resources in your “up next” playlist.

“Taking down accounts and trying to silence extremists online is a laudable goal, in one sense, but it doesn’t work with the logic of the internet … the fact that the internet grows in its own way,” Clark told the Star Tuesday.

“And so Redirect, the idea (is to) use the … logic of the internet, use the fact that people look for everything through a search engine, and try to use that to try and benefit people that may be at risk to radicalization to violence.”

According to Public Safety Canada, the redirect method has been deployed in a dozen countries since 2015. Moonshot CVE’s program would be a first for Canada.

The first challenge, Clark said, is identifying what extremist content Canadians are searching out.

Last month, Moonshot CVE provided the Star with a snapshot of the kind of right-wing extremist content Canadians are seeking out online — but that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has identified a growing white nationalist and right-wing extremist presence online in recent years. The internet is an important tool for any extremist ideology, to disseminate propaganda, build communities, and recruit adherents.

Clark said Moonshot CVE will not be focusing on any single extremist ideology, instead trying to connect counter messaging to any vulnerable Canadians at risk of radicalization.

Source: Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online

UK Home Office in ‘continuous state of disaster management’ amid surge in immigration u-turns

Does appear to be the case as the various articles I have shared or seen indicate:

The Home Office has been accused of operating in a “continuous state of disaster management” as an increasing number of erroneous immigration decisions are being overturned only once they are publicly exposed.

A number of recent news stories about individuals being refused entry to the UK or threatened with removal have prompted officials to reverse decisions within hours or even minutes news articles being published online or in print.

In the past two weeks alone, The Independent has reported on two such cases. Both in involved people being barred from entering the UK because officials were “not satisfied” they would return home. Both were reversed within 12 hours of the articles being published.

Experts have warned, however, that the speed at which the decisions are reversed following media coverage raises serious concerns about the accuracy and fairness of the Home Office’s decision-making process.

It amounts to a “popularity contest” in which only those able to access journalists can get their cases resolved, they said.

Among the cases overturned after reporting by The Independent was that of Yvonne Williams, the 59-year-old daughter of a Windrush generation immigrant who was served with a removal order despite her whole family being in Britain.

The decision to prevent six-year-old, UK-born Mohamed Bangoura from returning home to his mother following a holiday was also reversed, as was the case of Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, a 27-year-old Afghan man who was threatened with deportation despite having served in the British army.

Journalists reporting on these cases are usually contacted by either the individual themselves, charities supporting them or, increasingly, solicitors representing them. Immigration lawyers said media coverage was now often the only way to obtain a “fair and timely” resolution from the Home Office.

Chai Patel, legal director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said that while it was good for individual cases to get resolved, the process exposed a “completely dysfunctional” system which is “incredibly unfair” for those unable to get their cases in the media.

He added: “It shows how little faith or consideration immigration officials have in their own decision-making that they’re willing to reverse them in a matter of hours, minutes sometimes, of them getting a bit of bad publicity. And it’s seriously concerning that instead of having proper processes, we now have a popularity contest where, if you can get enough people to shout about your case, the Home Office will just change its mind.

“Many will never get their case in the press because it’s too sensitive, or they don’t have the contacts or the lawyers to get in touch with journalists and they don’t have communities building campaign groups around them.”

Mr Patel said each Home Office U-turn was an admission that there is no solution to the underlying problem whereby people are ”consistently – almost as a matter of course – given entirely unfair decisions that will destroy their lives until they’re lucky enough to get them turned around”.

Danielle Blake, a legal expert from the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), said it was a “big ask” for clients to willingly expose their personal circumstances to the world, but conceded that media exposure was often required to obtain a fair and timely resolution from the Home Office.

She added: “As advisers we come across many clients who are in the most desperate of situations. A lot of them are separated from their loved ones and have been for a very long time. All of this adds several months onto an already long and emotionally draining process. It’s very upsetting to think that for those who wish to keep their story private, they face being stuck on a never-ending merry-go-round of paying exorbitant Home Office fees, only to come up against a brick wall of non-communication.”

With Brexit on the horizon, campaigners raised concerns that an already “broken” system is going to be placed under even more pressure, with potentially disastrous implications.

Mr Patel said: “The Home Office can’t function with the number of applications made currently. It’s going to get a lot worse when the government has to develop an immigration system that includes EU nationals as well. Whatever happens, the pressure on the Home Office both in terms of future migration and dealing with the people here already is going to be huge. To prevent disaster they need to completely reform every part of the immigration system, because currently it is completely broken.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear since his first day in office that he wants a different approach to the immigration system which provides control, but is fair and humane. If evidence about a case comes to light then it will be considered by caseworkers, but solely because a case is covered in the media does not mean it will receive a favourable decision.”

Source: Home Office in ‘continuous state of disaster management’ amid surge in immigration u-turns

UK: Sajid Javid apologises to immigration applicants forced to give DNA samples

He almost appears to be the “Minister of Apologies” for the measures instituted under former Home Secretary and current PM May:

The home secretary has apologised to immigrants – including to Afghan nationals who worked for the British armed forces and Gurkha soldiers – who were forced to provide DNA samples under the government’s hostile environment agenda.

People seeking to live and work in the UK on the basis of a family relationship can choose to provide DNA to prove a relationship to support an application.

But Sajid Javid told the House of Commons that in June it became apparent that the provision of DNA evidence had been made a requirement and was “not simply a request” in a number of family visa applications.

A review into the scandal published by the Home Office on Thursday found that at least 449 demands for DNA were issued, including 51 to Gurkha soldiers.

Ministers have previously revealed that 1,150 Afghan nationals, including 700 family members and parents of those employed by UK government, have been relocated to UK under a scheme targeted by the mandatory DNA testing, although the exact number subject to the tests is unknown.

Yvette Cooper, Labour chair of the home affairs select committee, said: “The revelation that the Home Office has been unlawfully requiring DNA tests in hundreds of immigration applications is deeply troubling and, coming after the Windrush crisis, suggests that something has gone very wrong in the Home Office again.”

“Today I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those who have been affected by this process,” Javid said.

Javid said he had set up a new taskforce for anyone who felt they had been wrongly required to provide DNA evidence for an immigration application. But he added he would order a broader review into Home Office processes to ensure the department was “fit for the modern world”.

“I know that the immigration system is operated by many highly committed people but we must make sure that the structures and processes they use are fit for the modern world and fit for a new immigration system which we will be bringing in after we leave the European Union.

“I will be reviewing the structures and processes more broadly, the structures and processes that we have to ensure they [are] fair and humane. I will now consider what form that review will take.”

Javid said he had issued instructions that officials must not mandatorily seek DNA evidence and would be looking to reimburse any individual who experienced financial loss as a result of the problem. He said they would also be examining whether DNA had been illegally demanded in any other area of the immigration system.

The home secretary said the issue came to light over the summer and an internal review was immediately ordered. The review had finished but there was further work to to be done to establish the scale of the problem, Javid said.

“But regardless of the numbers of the people that have been affected, one case is one too many,” he said. “I’m determined to get to the bottom of how and why in some cases people can be compelled to supply DNA evidence in the first place.”

The majority of cases identified were part of a Home Office operation called Operation Fugal, which started in April 2016, to clamp down on alleged fraud in some family and human rights immigration applications.

Almost 400 letters sent as part of the operation incorrectly stated that the applicant had to provide DNA evidence and that not providing such information without a reasonable excuse would lead to their application being refused on suitability grounds.

Javid said 83 applications were refused, including seven solely for the failure to provide DNA evidence. A further six appear to have been refused for failure to provide DNA evidence where this was not the sole reason.

In addition, the home secretary said the illegal requirement to provide DNA had been applied to Gurkha soldiers and Afghan nationals who had worked for the UK government.

In January 2015, a scheme was expanded to allow adult dependant children of Gurkhas discharged before 1997 to settle in the UK, Javid said.

Guidance was published that stated DNA evidence might be required and that applications could be refused if that evidence was not provided without reasonable excuse within four weeks.

“This published guidance was wrong and has now been updated,” Javid said, adding that there were 51 cases identified where DNA evidence was requested from applicants at their own cost.

There were four cases from the same family who had their application refused solely because they did not provide DNA evidence.

In 2013, applications from Afghan nationals formerly employed by the UK government to resettle in the UK were welcomed. But the terms of the scheme included mandatory DNA testing for family groups paid for by the UK government, Javid said.

Investigations suggest that no one making an application under this scheme has been refused because they did not take a DNA test, he said. “Nonetheless mandatory testing should not have been part of this scheme and this requirement has now been removed,” the home secretary continued.

“In particular I would like to extend my apology to the Gurkhas and Afghans that have been affected. The two schemes I’ve described were put in place to help the families of those who have served to keep our country safe. I’m sorry that demands were made of them that should never have been.”

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: “Abuses like this don’t fall from the sky. Officials at the Home Office have been carrying out the government’s hostile environment policy, which is also what led to the Windrush scandal. People are being treated as guilty or illegal unless they can prove their innocence.

“We need a fair and robust immigration system, but the hostile environment isn’t it and the government should end it.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director, said: “The Home Office has once again been exposed as being a law unto itself. The home secretary needs to face up to the fact that problems in his department are systemic, chronic and deep-rooted.”

Source: Sajid Javid apologises to immigration applicants forced to give DNA samples

How The Jewish Left Learned To Stop Playing Defense And Fight Anti-Semitism

While I don’t follow the UK debates in detail, I found this commentary of interest:

It is no surprise that the British Labour party would ask an anti-Zionist to help fight anti-Semitism. Labor’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has long supported the Palestinian cause, and facing a long-running scandal over Jew hatred in Labor, it is natural that the British Left would turn to the Jewish Left. Indeed, Corbyn has long been friendly with Jewdas, the irreverent, non-Zionist left-wing group whose member, Annie Cohen, led an “interactive workshop” to “raise awareness of anti-Semitism” to a branch of Labor.

Rather, the surprise is that the Jewish Left is now in the business of offering anti-Semitism workshops.

For many years, the Left has responded to allegations of anti-Semitism defensively. The Left traditionally argues that claims of anti-Semitism are used cynically to delegitimize criticisms of the Israeli government.

I would know: I have made this argument many times.

Ours was a reactive analysis of anti-Semitism, which ceded the term to the Right and then frantically played defense, trying to stave off Leon Wieseltier’s or Abe Foxman’s assaults on this or that progressive figure.

But over the last five years, a younger, radical segment of the Jewish left has positively embraced the term “anti-Semitism” — along with fighting it.

These lefties, associated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), IfNotNow, and portions of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), put anti-Semitism at the center of their political practice. “We show up for ourselves,” IfNotNow’s principles announce. “We acknowledge the existence of anti-Jewish oppression, in the world and in ourselves.”

And indeed, the group regularly runs trainings on internalized anti-Semitism. This is startling and audacious, given that for decades, “self-hating Jew” has been the term of abuse right-wingers use for critics of the Occupation.

Moreover, these groups tell a clear, coherent story about what anti-Semitism is, a story that is fully compatible with non- or anti-Zionism and which fits Jews into the Left’s broader analyses of class, race and gender.

The Left can talk about anti-Semitism in part because of the surge of right-wing anti-Semitism, especially since Donald Trump’s election. White nationalists are chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” and George Soros has become the object of conservative conspiracy theories.

Such circumstances have eroded the link that the Right forged over the last half-century between anti-Semitism and Israeli politics.

When you ask a millennial to picture an anti-Semite, we imagine not a left-wing Muslim but an alt-right white man.

But the shift on the Left goes deeper than momentary politics, because it reflects a new theory and philosophy of anti-Semitism.

I first encountered that theory in April Rosenblum’s 2007 pamphlet, “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” which I read as a college student. Rosenblum argued that anti-Semitism had emerged from medieval Christianity, and that Jews provided ruling elites, whether in feudal Europe or under global capitalism, a convenient scapegoat for their crimes. She thus integrated thinking about anti-Semitism into the Left’s broader account of how power works across many axes of oppression.

Flash forward to 2017, when JFREJ released “Understanding Anti-Semitism: An Offering to Our Movement.” The document, which quotes Rosenblum, also extends her analysis: “Originating in European Christianity,” anti-Semitism has “functioned to protect the prevailing economic system and the almost exclusively Christian ruling class by diverting blame for hardship onto Jews.”

That is, Jewish middlemen make convenient targets for the rage of the oppressed. JFREJ also connects anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, showing how stereotypes about Jews and Muslims are parallel and intertwined.

In short, the document crafts a usable account of Jewish identity, one that places our history in a larger context of racial and economic exploitation and oppression.

Most notably, while JFREJ does take the standard line on Israel (“Criticisms of Israel and Zionism are not inherently or inevitably anti-Jewish), that gets only a page or two out of forty-four. They are consciously crafting a broader definition of anti-Semitism, one in which Israel politics are mostly a distraction. “Confronting antisemitism,” the pamphlet concludes, “is a necessary precondition for collective liberation.”

You can see the struggle between the two Left views of anti-Semitism playing out within an organization like JVP. The edited collection they released in 2017, “On anti-Semitism,” often seems at war with itself. Some of the essays emphasize the ephemerality of anti-Semitism, or the role of the Israeli government in exaggerating the problem of Left anti-Semitism and discrediting pro-Palestinian advocacy. One essay even declares that there is no anti-Semitism, strictly speaking, in the United States: anti-Jewish prejudice, sure, but no structural oppression of Jews.

On the other hand, many of the contributions of younger Jews were enthusiastic about fighting anti-Semitism, which they placed alongside homophobia, classism, and racism as a basic category of radical analysis. (It bears saying that much of the new theory of anti-Semitism comes from queer Jews and Jews of Color, who often do not enjoy the privileges of the white, mainstream American Jewry and who naturally speak the language of intersectional oppression.)

The JVP collection didn’t say much that was new, but it was fascinating as an index of the two, opposed impulses on the Left: to minimize the significance of anti-Semitism and to see it everywhere; to see it largely as ploy by the Israeli Right and to see it as fundamentally baked into Western civilization.

I have some worries about the new narrative of anti-Semitism. For many white Jews, I think, it is all too convenient to rediscover our own oppression at a moment when our whiteness and privilege make us increasingly uncomfortable.

The liberal interest in Steve Bannon’s alleged anti-Semitism seemed to me very odd: no one in the Trump administration is talking of deporting Jews or banning circumcision, after all.

This is not a critique of JFREJ or IfNotNow, both of which aim to be intentional and careful about race; it is rather my nervousness about how this new narrative circulates in the broader culture.

I have seen too many Facebook declarations to the effect of “I’m not white, I’m Jewish” to be entirely comfortable with re-emphasizing Jewish oppression.

Nonetheless, I think that a broader, proactive analysis of anti-Semitism is the better of the two options for the Left.

Our longstanding defensive posture on anti-Semitism largely failed, for obvious tactical reasons. It was fundamentally reactive, it allowed our opponents to set the terms of the debate, and it meant we were constantly apologizing for perceived faults.

The new Left approach to anti-Semitism, by contrast, puts the Right on the defensive. It is positive and aggressive.

Moreover, it offers Jews a usable identity in the age of Trump: a story in which the struggle for social justice is not merely a Jewish value, but a necessity for Jewish survival.

Source: How The Jewish Left Learned To Stop Playing Defense And Fight Anti-Semitism

Third of British people wrongly believe there are Muslim ‘no-go areas’ in UK governed by sharia law

No great surprise in the divide between the cities and other areas:

Almost a third of British people now believe the myth that there are “no-go zones” where non-Muslims cannot enter, according to a report warning of mounting intolerance.

Research by Hope Not Hate found that economic inequality was driving hostility towards Muslims, immigration and multiculturalism, particularly in post-industrial and coastal towns.

“These areas also voted strongly for Leave in the referendum and, ironically, may well suffer most under a hard Brexit – making them a ripe target for the far and populist right,” the group said.

“In effect, two Britains have emerged, with a more confident, diverse, liberal population now concentrated in our cities. The implications of this for Brexit, for the Labour Party, for politics in general, and potentially aiding the rise of a far-right movement, could all be profound.”

The research comes following an increase street protests by far-right groups including the anti-Islam Democratic Football Lads Alliance and supporters of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson.

A 2018 YouGov survey of more than 10,300 people showed that attitudes towards Muslims had been hardening in Britain in the wake of Isis-inspired terror attacks and grooming scandals where the majority of suspects have been of Pakistani heritage.

It found that the perception of Islam as a threat was moving into the mainstream, with 32 per cent of respondents believing that there are “no-go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”.

The view was shared by almost half of people who voted Leave in the EU referendum, and 47 per cent of Conservative voters.

The “no-go zones” theory, which is spread by global far-right pundits online has been widely debunked and where there have been isolated incidents of “Muslim patrols”, suspects have been arrested and condemned by local Muslim leaders.

The most infamous group, called the Sharia Project, was headed by Siddhartha Dhar, an acolyte of Anjem Choudary who later joined Isis in Syria.

In the YouGov poll, a small majority felt that there was an increasing amount of tension between the different political and demographic groups in the UK.

Almost a third thought Islamist terrorists “reflected a widespread hostility to Britain from among the Muslim community”, including two thirds of Leave voters.

Hope Not Hate’s research mapped data from the YouGov poll across parliamentary constituencies to create a heat map of different attitudes.

Overall it showed that liberal attitudes are most concentrated in areas like major cities where diversity is a normal part of everyday life, and the population tends to be better educated, younger and enjoying greater opportunities.

Meanwhile, the greatest concern about immigration and Islam was found particularly in post-industrial towns and coastal areas, where populations are less diverse.

Researchers documented a “halo effect” where cities with large Muslim populations are surrounded by predominantly white British areas with more hostile views.

“Where non-Muslims live, work and socialise with Muslims, these interactions are likely to reduce prejudice,” the report said. “But if people witness rather than experience super diversity, existing prejudices can be reinforced.”

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, warned of a growing cultural divide between increasingly educated, diverse and multicultural metropolitan populations and those living in smaller towns.

“Communities with the greatest anxiety to immigration and multiculturalism are also the ones which has lost most through industrial decline,” Mr Lowles said.

“These communities had failed to see any benefit in globalisation and were, if anything, going backwards … the Brexit vote was, in the eyes of many, those in the left behind communities getting their revenge.

“Views are hardening and the target of their anger is increasingly Muslims, Islam and the political establishment.”

He said a sense of loss of hope and abandonment by the government was translating into hostility towards the political system.

“Political parties will not reduce anxiety or even hostility to immigration and multiculturalism by cracking down on immigration alone,” Mr Lowles added.

“It is about rebuilding these communities, equipping their young people with the skills that will enable them to compete more effectively in the modern global world and – fundamentally – giving them a sense of hope in the future.

Source: Third of British people wrongly believe there are Muslim ‘no-go areas’ in UK governed by sharia law

Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, and British Anti-Semitism

Speaks for itself:

A year ago, the late Philp Roth invited Salman Rushdie to give the Newark Public Library’s annual Philip Roth Lecture. Delivering the lecture in September of this year, as scheduled, Rushdie took the opportunity to eulogize Roth, to speak of Roth’s influence on his own work, and to comment on a particular conversation that made a lasting impression:

“My most vivid memory [of Roth] is of a conversation in London in the mid-1980s, at a dinner in the house in Chelsea where he was living with Claire Bloom, [whom he would later marry]. He spoke of his desire to return to America because of his growing dislike of British anti-Semitism, and the irritation caused by the accompanying British refusal to admit that there was such a thing as British anti-Semitism, and their desire to explain to Philip that he had probably made some sort of cultural misunderstanding.

I have been thinking again about what Philip perceived all those years ago, because the British Labor party is presently in the throes of a dispute about the widespread anti-Semitism within its ranks, a problem the existence of which the party leadership has appeared to minimize or even deny until quite recently, and which, even now, has not been firmly dealt with. . . .

I told [Roth] that evening about my only personal experience of anti-Semitism. One summer when I was young, before I had published anything, and when I was not even slightly fashionable, I was somehow invited to a fashionable rooftop party in London, at which I was introduced to a designer of extremely fashionable hats named Tom Gilbey, whose work, I was told, was often featured in Vogue. He was quite uninterested in meeting me, was curt to the point of discourtesy, and quickly went off in search of more fashionable party guests.

A few minutes later, however, he came back toward me at some speed, his whole body contorted into a shape designed to convey embarrassment and regret, and offered the following apology. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “you probably thought I was very rude to you just now, and actually, I probably was very rude, but you see, it’s because they told me you were Jewish.” The explanation was offered in tones which suggested that I would immediately understand and forgive. I have never wanted so much to be able to say that I was in fact Jewish. . .”

Source: Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, and British Anti-Semitism

Britain’s immigration detention: how many people are locked up?

Some interesting background and numbers:

Immigrants can be detained at any time. The Home Office casts its net widely: anyone deemed not to have the right to reside in the UK can be detained and deported. Those who do not have legal representation, who do not speak English and who are newly arrived in the UK are least able to challenge a Home Office decision to detain them.

More than 27,000 people were detained in 2017, according to the most recent figures. Detention is now a significant part of the UK’s immigration enforcement efforts, but locking up immigrants without a time limit is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The power to detain was created in the 1971 Immigration Act – however, it was not until the Labour government under Tony Blair that the detention estate expanded to become what it is today.

In 2000, detention centres could hold 475 people, with another 200 or so held under immigration powers in prisons. Capacity has now expanded to about 3,500 spaces.

How does it happen?

Some people are detained as soon as they arrive by Home Office officials stationed at airports and ports. Others can be detained after living in Britain for many years when they try to renew work, family or study visas.

The Guardian survey found 15% were detained at a Home Office reporting centre, where immigrants must attend regular appointments while their applications are processed. They can find themselves starting the day queuing to see a bureaucrat and ending the day in a small cell with a stranger.

Others were apprehended during dawn raids at their home addresses, after rough sleeping, found working illegally or while making applications for leave to remain.

The 2007 UK Borders Act introduced “automatic deportation” for some ex-offenders, which has been an important factor in the expansion of the detention population. Guardian research found more than half of respondents were detained at the end of a prison sentence.

Where does this happen?

Detainees are held in eight detention centres and two ‘short-term holding facilities’, where they can stay for up to a week. One is run by Her Majesty’s Prison service, but the rest are contracted out to outsourcing firms G4S, Mitie, Serco and US-owned GEO Group.

Most are exclusively for men, while Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire is the only centre designed to hold women.

Foreign national offenders can also be detained in mainstream prisons, typically after serving their criminal sentence. In 2017, 1,691 people were held under immigration powers in prisons.

Less than a quarter of those held in prison have access to legal representation, according to research by Bail for Immigration Detainees, a charity which assists with detainees’ bail applications.

A spokesperson from BiD said: “If any British citizen, anywhere in the world, was kept – without warning – in prison after they had finished serving a criminal sentence there would, rightly, be uproar. Yet the British government routinely holds foreign nationals in exactly that manner.”

Who are the detainees?

The nationality of those held in detention changes over time, depending on global migration flows. The Guardian survey found Nigeria and Algeria were most commonly represented among our responses, while Home Office open data for the second quarter of 2018 showed that South Asian countries made up the largest proportion of detainees.

Detainees are overwhelmingly male – women made up just 15% of the total detention population in 2017.

The government announced it would end indefinite detention of immigrant families with children in 2010, while detaining unaccompanied children for more than a day was banned in 2014. As a result, the number of children in the system fell from 240 at the start of 2010 to just 22 in the most recent Home Office figures.

However, unaccompanied children may still be detained during criminal cases and escorted during returns. Families are still detained together in “exceptional circumstances”. The Guardian survey uncovered multiple examples of children being detained in adult facilities.

How long do they stay locked up?

The UK is the only country in Europe with no statutory time limit on detention. While most are held for days or weeks, the Guardian survey uncovered several cases where a detainee was held in excess of two years.

Indefinite detention has been a key criticism of UK immigration policy. In 2015, the first ever parliamentary inquiry called for a 28-day time limit on detention. The Guardian survey found the vast majority of detainees are not told how long they will be held for or when they will be deported.

The Shaw report found that more than half of detainees were ultimately released back into the community, posing questions about the use of taxpayers’ money to pursue lengthy periods of detention.

How much does it all cost?

The Home Office has paid a handful of private contractors hundreds of millions of pounds to run the UK’s immigration removal centres, but no one knows for certain just how profitable the industry is.

The Home Office’s annual report and accounts for 2017-18 states detention costs of £108 million in the year ending 31 March 2018, while the Shaw report says it costs £85.92 per day to hold someone in detention.

Commercial confidentiality agreements mean the Home Office and outsourcing companies are not obliged to publish detailed financial information about immigration detention centres in the UK.

Earlier this year Mitie won what is believed to be the largest immigration detention contract ever awarded, valued at more than half a billion pounds. The contract will cover a range of services and it is not known how much of this is for management of removal centres.

The profitability of detention facilities has proved to be a contentious issue for the contractors.

A Guardian investigation last year pointed to a 20.7% profit margin at G4S-owned Brook House in 2016, while at Tinsley House, the margin was 41.5%.

Source: Britain’s immigration detention: how many people are locked up?

ICYMI: Sajid Javid ‘taking UK down dangerous road’ by expanding citizenship stripping

Further undermining of citizenship through expanded revocation beyond terror or treason:

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, is taking the UK down a “very dangerous road” with plans to expand powers to strip dual citizens of their British citizenship, a leading human rights group has warned.

Suspected terrorists have previously had their UK citizenship taken away – most often while they are abroad – and the move does not require prior approval from a judge or parliament.

In his speech at the Conservative party conference, Javid proposed extending the reach of the power to cover serious criminals, citing child grooming gangmasters as an example.

Corey Stoughton, acting director of Liberty, the human rights and civil liberties group, said: “The home secretary is taking us down a very dangerous road. Few will sympathise with the people this power has been used against – but making our criminals someone else’s problem is not responsible, effective policymaking. It’s the government washing its hands of its responsibilities.

“Accepting citizenship stripping as a legitimate punishment could see us all sleepwalking into a future where the list of ‘serious’ crimes gets ever longer and the government uses this extreme measure more and more frequently. Banishment belongs in the dark ages and has no place in the UK in 2018.”

From 2010 to 2015, 33 people were stripped of their British citizenship, all of them dual nationals, on terrorism grounds. Figures for 2015 onward have not been made available.

Javid has made tackling child sexual exploitation a key issue for his department. He recently announced an extra £21.5m to help investigators who say they are facing a “constant uphill struggle” to track down offenders.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any British citizen may be deprived of his or her citizenship if the secretary of state is satisfied that it would be conducive to the public good. It is a power used for extreme and exceptional cases.

“Deprivation on conducive grounds can be used where individuals pose a threat to national security, or have been involved in war crimes, serious and organised crime and unacceptable behaviours such as extremism or glorification of terrorism.”

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said citizenship stripping was discriminatory against minority communities. “Stripping dual nationals of British citizenship is inherently discriminatory and risks creating yet another ‘hostile environment’ not for illegality but for Britain’s many minority communities,” she said.

“The Conservatives’ inability to learn from past mistakes beggars belief, even when mealy mouthed apologies are barely dry on the page. Why not punish Britons according to their crimes rather than their origins?”

In his conference speech, Javid said: “The home secretary has the power to strip dual citizens of their British citizenship. It is a power used for extreme and exceptional cases. It should be used with great care and discretion – but also determination.

“In recent years we have exercised this power for terrorists who are a threat to the country. Now, for the first time, I will apply this power to some of those who are convicted of the most grave criminal offences. This applies to some of the despicable men involved in gang-based child sexual exploitation.”

Source: Sajid Javid ‘taking UK down dangerous road’ by expanding citizenship stripping

Sajid Javid is right – the British citizenship test is a bad pub quiz. So what is he going to do about it?

Good comments on the UK citizenship test and the “values” question that apply more broadly than the UK:

Speaking at his party’s conference this week, the home secretary Sajid Javid criticised his own government’s British citizenship test, describing it as like “a pub quiz” that is not fit for its intended purpose.

Javid is not the first to realise this. In 2013, I published what is still the only comprehensive report into the citizenship test, in which I criticised it in those terms – and this was discussed in parliament. So it is pleasing to see my campaign for changing the test has the home secretary on board.

It’s about time. The test is a key part of the immigration system for permanent settlement. Over 2 million tests have been sat since it launched in 2005. Immigrants sit a multiple choice exam with 24 randomly selected questions and must get 18 or more correct to pass the exam. It costs £50 for each attempt – and one person was known to take it 64 times.

The test’s intended purpose is to help confirm that an immigrant has successfully integrated into British society. This might be thought best achieved by checking for any criminal record or tax arrears over an extended residency period (which are also part of the process), but the test is supposed to add something extra beyond this. And here it categorically fails.

If you pour over the roughly 3,000 facts covered by the test questions, including about 280 historical dates spread over 180 pages, it is difficult to see what practical use the citizenship test has. Its handbook does not say how to contact emergency services, register with a GP or report a crime. There is no mention of 999 or of how many MPs sit in the House of Commons. But you must know how many elected representatives sit in the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Stormont in Northern Ireland. The handbook requires memorising the height of the London Eye and the age of Big Ben. And while you must know about starting a free school, there is no mention of the national curriculum.

Unsurprisingly, the test is regularly seen as the test for British citizenship that few British citizens can pass, with many migrants seeing it as an opportunity by the Home Office to extract increasingly more expensive fees through a test of random trivia meant to make more fail.

Instead of ensuring new and old citizens were coming together, my research found the test was actually moving them apart – and doing more harm than goodat confirming integration.

In June this year, a House of Lords select committee on citizenship and civic participation agreed with me, endorsing seven of my recommendations, including the need for a new test and an advisory group engaging with the public to close the gap between public expectations and what any such test should cover. While Javid’s remarks acknowledge the citizenship test’s problems that the Lords select committee and I raised, it is unclear what he proposes to do about it. He says the test is not enough, but then promises to bring in “a British values test” as something new.

My concern arises from one difference that I have with the home secretary: I have sat the citizenship test and know it firsthand. If Javid examines the test, he will see that it already does ask immigrants about “the liberal, democratic values that bind our society together”. So if he wants the UK citizenship test to do this, the good news is it already includes it.

It would be a mistake to rush towards launching a new values test or revising the current one without engaging with the public. There are concerns about immigration and how well it is managed that have remained strong for several years. An edict based on guesswork won’t build confidence, especially for those most anxious about immigration levels. One problem shouldn’t lead to something worse.

Now is the time to foster healing for a country divided many different ways beyond the Remain and Leave split. An advisory group, preferably led by a naturalised British citizen who understands the process firsthand, could play an important role in bringing citizens together to discuss what British values we have, what they mean to people and how they can help rebuild a post-Brexit immigration system. Such work could be done over a few months, serving as a useful means for fostering confidence while dispelling immigration myths that might remove some of the toxicity from the debate and move the conversation on.

But it would take courage to make such a new start – and we can only hope such a plan is in mind.

Source: Sajid Javid is right – the British citizenship test is a bad pub quiz. So what is he going to do about it?