Far right ‘infiltrating children’s charities with anti-Islam agenda’

As we have seen with the gilets jaunes, rightwing groups take advantage of opportunities to advance their messages and undermine some of the original motives of protesters or those concerned:

Rightwing groups including Ukip are attempting to “infiltrate” child protection charities to further an anti-Islam agenda, officials from the government’s counter-extremism programme believe.

Officers from Prevent said far-right figures were using voluntary groups to stir up tension in towns with historical problems of child sexual exploitation.

In Rochdale, a community group for child sexual abuse survivors, Shatter Boys, said it had been approached repeatedly by senior Ukip figures including Lord Pearson, who offered to introduce them to millionaire donors and fund an open-top bus to raise the alarm about grooming gangs.

Daniel Wolstencroft, the founder of Shatter Boys, said: “What they’re doing basically is grooming survivor groups and survivors of abuse. I think their fight is about Islam.”

Wolstencroft, who is an adviser to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, said Ukip in particular had attempted to “jump on the child abuse bandwagon” to further its own anti-Islam agenda.

Pearson’s offer of funding, made during a private lunch at the House of Lords, followed months of courting by the Ukip families spokesman, Alan Craig, who last year said Muslim grooming gangs had committed a “Holocaust of our children”.

Craig, who said paedophilia could be traced back “to Muhammad himself”, approached the Rochdale-based group on social media before attending one of its street patrols with a leading member of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA).

The Ukip leader, Gerard Batten, spoke at a rally in Rochdale organised by the DFLA last April. The DFLA has described the Greater Manchester town as being on its “hit list” for anti-grooming demonstrations.

The issue of child sexual exploitation by men of Pakistani heritage has become a key focus of Ukip under the leadership of Batten, who triggered a wave of senior resignations when he appointed the anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson as an adviser on grooming gangs.

How Ukip normalised far-right politics – video explainer

Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s former lead on child sexual abuse, said established charities were being “infiltrated by the far right who wish them to pursue a different agenda”.

Figures linked to the far right have also launched or promoted their own anti-grooming campaign groups in the past year, the Guardian has learned.

One of Robinson’s allies, Shazia Hobbs, launched an anti-grooming helpline at an event hosted by Pearson in parliament in December, which was attended by the For Britain leader, Anne Marie Waters.

Pearson was quoted after the event as saying: “If you touch this case, you immediately become an Islamophobe. Islam lies at the heart of this problem and most of this is a problem within Islam. We need to start talking about this openly.” Pearson and Ukip have not responded to requests for comment.

Another group, the National Anti Grooming Alliance & Helpline (NAGAH), was jointly set up by a member of the DFLA, John Clynch, last year after reports of a mass grooming gang in Telford, Shropshire.

Afzal, who prosecuted grooming gangs in Rochdale in 2012, described the NAGAH as “an alleged far-right front” that had been “created by the extreme right to further their own agenda”.

The NAGAH has attracted moral and financial support from Daniel Thomas, a close ally of Robinson, who is trying to raise £150,000 for the group with a charity boxing event.

The NAGAH’s co-founder Anthony Wood has described “Pakistani rape gangs” as “probably the biggest crime in this country’s history”.

Contacted by the Guardian, Wood said Clynch no longer worked for the NAGAH and that he had left the DFLA. Clynch has not returned a request for comment.

Wood said: “We are not far right at all, we are a community group … We have helped historic survivors, online cases, male survivors. It does not just focus on one area and we have stated this since day one.”

Thomas, who organises Robinson’s rallies, said there was “not a racist bone in the bodies” of those involved in the NAGAH and accused the media of “attempting to destroy a working class charity”.

Frontline Prevent workers said the issue of far-right groups infiltrating charities was “increasingly a concern” that had been raised with intervention providers across England.

Abdul Ahad, a Prevent officer in north-east England, said rightwing groups were using the grooming gangs issue to “appeal to people’s emotions”.

“It is a tactic they are trying to pursue. They can build up the relationship and trust and slowly but surely sink their claws in and then they’ve got them hook, line and sinker,” he said. “They then start spewing their [far-right] narrative before you know it. I know some charities have refused to have anything to do with the far right but it will be done very covertly and subtly.”

The number of people referred to Prevent over concerns about far-right activity rose by more than a third in the year to March 2018, accounting for nearly one in five of all cases.

Source: Far right ‘infiltrating children’s charities with anti-Islam agenda’

Crossing Divides: Has the UK changed its mind on immigration?

Interesting survey results and analysis of the change:

Just over a quarter of nearly 1,500 people who took the Ipsos-Mori online survey felt it had a negative impact.

The findings are in line with other surveys suggesting Britain has changed from being generally negative about immigration before the Brexit vote.

In 2011, 64% of Britons told Ipsos-Mori immigration had been bad for the UK.

The results emerged as part of an international poll of nearly 20,000 people across 27 countries, between 26 November and 7 December last year.

It was undertaken as part of the BBC’s Crossing Divides season, which is bringing people together across lines of ethnicity, class, faith, politics and generation.

Ipsos-Mori graph showing the change in respondents' perceptions of immigration

Prof Rob Ford, who researches immigration trends at the University of Manchester, said such positivity surrounding migration into the UK would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

He said the reasons behind the trend remained unclear but that it mirrored what he had seen in other data.

“It’s at odds with what we’ve seen about [sentiment towards] migration in the past because immigration levels are still very high, so it’s not that the public is seeing more control over numbers,” he said.


A remarkable turnaround?

Analysis box by Mark Easton, home editor

It appears Britain has changed its mind about immigration and there are three important reasons why that might have happened:

  1. The Brexit vote itself may have led some to assume that the immigration issue has been dealt with and therefore it is not seen as such a risk.
  2. The national debate on immigration during elections and the Brexit referendum may have focused people’s minds on the social, practical and economic trade-offs involved in cutting migrant numbers, resulting in a more nuanced response to the issue.
  3. The millions of European migrant workers who came to the UK after 2004 initially caused something of a culture shock in neighbourhoods unaccustomed to immigration. Now many of those arrivals have integrated into society, put down roots, formed relationships and become a familiar part of the local scene. Any culture shock has probably dissipated as migrants have made friends and started families.

The polling suggests Britain is now among the most positive countries internationally when considering immigration, alongside Australia, the US and Sweden, where the numbers responding positively had also increased.

Prof Ford suggested the political environment could be a contributory factor, with opponents of Brexit and US President Donald Trump championing the benefits of inward migration.

UK statistics showed more low-skilled migrants from central and eastern Europe leaving than arriving, he said, while settled migrants such as white collar professionals, NHS staff and highly skilled workers had become more prominent in the media.

Polling results in other countries suggested attitudes to immigration were hardening.

In South Korea, the number of people telling Ipsos-Mori they felt it was beneficial had dropped to 11%, from 27% in 2011. In Japan – the least positive nation – just 3% of respondents said it had a beneficial impact, down from 17%.

Fewer than one-in-10 people told the survey immigration was beneficial in Colombia, Turkey, Russia and Hungary, although online polls are not representative in nations where significant numbers of people do not have internet access.

Source: Crossing Divides: Has the UK changed its mind on immigration?

The complete survey, including data on Canada, can be found here: Download the slides

Key immigration-related numbers for Canada:

  • Positive impact 42 %, Negative impact 27 % – slight increase from previous years
  • Percent friends same ethnic group, almost all/over half: 27/25
  • Percent friends same religious faith or beliefs, almost all/over half: 13/15
  • Percent friends have same views on immigration, almost all/over half: 15/19

Germany, New Zealand approaches to citizenship revocation for strip IS fighters – Statelessness

Both countries provide an exception for those who would be left stateless and appear to be applying that consistently unlike recent cases in the UK (Begum) and Australia (Prakash).

Starting with Germany:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for the Islamic State militant group of their citizenship, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

More than 1,000 Germans have left their country for war zones in the Middle East since 2013 and the government has been debating how to deal with them as U.S.-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from Islamic State in Syria.

About a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died, and the rest are believed to be still in Iraq and Syria, including some detained by Iraqi forces and U.S.-backed fighters in Syria. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, citing unnamed government sources, said three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalise Germans who take up arms for the Islamist group.

Such individuals must have a second citizenship, be adults and they would be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for Islamic State after the new rules go into effect.

The compromise ends a dispute over the issue between conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

Spokesmen for both ministers were not available to comment on the report.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured Islamic State fighters and put them on trial.

Germany said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access.

Last month Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

The case of Shamima Begum highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to a group determined to destroy the West.

Source: Germany to strip IS fighters of citizenship under certain criteria – report

New Zealand:

A New Zealand man detained in Syria after joining the Islamic State militant group will not be stripped of citizenship but could face criminal charges if he returns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

New Zealand is the latest of a number of countries, from Australia and Britain to the United States, forced to grapple with legal and security challenges in dealing with former members of a hardline group that had sworn to destroy the West.

Mark Taylor, who traveled to Syria in 2014, told Australian broadcaster ABC from a prison in the Kurdish-run north that he expected to face time in prison if he returned to New Zealand.

Taylor’s joining the group was illegal and could have legal ramifications, Ardern said, but added that her government would provide him with a travel document to return, if possible.

“We have long had plans in place in the event that a New Zealand citizen supporting ISIS in Syria were to return,” Ardern told reporters, using an alternative name for the group.

“Mr Taylor only holds New Zealand citizenship and the government has an obligation not to make people stateless.”

Ardern said officials had identified that a small number of New Zealanders had joined IS, but declined to give an exact number.

New Zealand law allows revocation of citizenship only in limited situations, Ardern said, adding that the government could not render stateless anyone who did not have dual citizenship.Officials had told Taylor he would need to travel to a country where New Zealand has a diplomatic presence, such as Turkey, to receive an emergency travel document to return, said Ardern, adding that would be difficult as he is in detention.

In an interview aired on Monday, Taylor told the ABC that he had worked as a guard for the group for five years and had been detained in its prisons a number of times, such as after he accidentally leaked location details in a tweet in 2015.

He also appeared in an IS promotional video that year, calling for attacks on ANZAC Day celebrations in Australia and New Zealand.

Taylor told ABC he had witnessed executions while with the group and was sorry.

“I don’t know if I can go back to New Zealand, but at the end of the day it’s really something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.

In February, Britain said it was revoking the citizenship of 19-year-old Shamima Begum, who had left London with two school friends to join up when she was 15, but now sought to return with her newborn son.

Source: New Zealand Islamic State recruit will not be stripped of citizenship

 

Sajid Javid: difficult to strip Shamima Begum of UK citizenship

An important nuance to the UK’s citizenship revocation policy – must already have another citizenship, not just (theoretically) be able to obtain one:

Sajid Javid has indicated it could prove hugely difficult to strip Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship, telling MPs such action would not normally be taken against someone without another nationality and who was born in Britain.

Answering questions before the home affairs committee, Javid refused to discuss specifically the case of the 19-year-old, who travelled from east London to Syria to join Islamic State in 2015, but wants to return with her newborn baby.

But speaking more generally about the policy of stripping citizenship from UK nationals who are deemed a danger to the country, the home secretary said this action had never been taken if it would have left someone stateless.

“If an individual only has one citizenship, then generally the power cannot be used because by definition if you took away their British citizenship they would be stateless,” Javid said in answer to a question from the former Labour MP John Woodcock.

“I certainly haven’t done that and I am not aware that one of my predecessors has done that in a case where they know an individual only has one citizenship, as that would be breaking international law as we understand it.”

Last week, it emerged that the Home Office had written to Begum’s family to inform them an order was being made under the 1981 British Nationality Act, which allows the home secretary to remove someone’s citizenship if they are “satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.

A 2014 amendment to the Nationality Act allows UK citizenship to be removed if there are “reasonable grounds for believing” the person would be able to become a citizen of another country.

Asked about this by Woodcock, Javid stressed this could happen only if the person involved was a naturalised UK citizen originally from another country.

Javid said: “I have not deployed the power on the basis that someone could have citizenship to a second country. I’ve always applied it on the strict advice of legal advisers in the Home Office and more broadly in the government that when the power is deployed, with respect to that individual, they already have more than one citizenship.”

This measure had never seemingly been used, he added: “I have not used that power, and to the best of my knowledge none of my predecessors have used the power that was given in 2014.”

Begum’s family has stressed she does not have Bangladeshi citizenship, while Bangladesh has also said she does not, and will not be allowed into the country.

Assuming she does not have Bangladeshi nationality, it appears hard to see how Javid could enforce the order set out in the letter, which has prompted criticism that he was seeking to exploit populist feeling without proper attention to the law.

Javid was asked by the Labour MP Kate Green whether it was “morally right to export the problem” to Bangladesh, rather than deal with Begum through UK courts.

The home secretary argued that his priority had to be to protect the UK. Asked again if he thought this was morally suspect, he added: “I’m afraid I just don’t see it like that.”

He also confirmed that Begum’s baby would be a UK national, saying that children of British-born mothers had that right. However, he added, it would be “incredibly difficult” to assist the infant, as Begum was in a refugee camp in northern Syria.

Begum left the UK along with two schoolfriends. Her case was thrust back into the spotlight last week when she declared her wish to return for the sake of her child in an interview with the Times.

Source: Sajid Javid: difficult to strip Shamima Begum of UK citizenship

UK: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting


Canadian police forces also struggle with recruitment of visible minorities:

The question that needs to be asked is not “are the Metropolitan police institutionally racist?”, or “why does black and minority ethnic recruitment for the police still lag so far behind the diversity of London as a whole?” It should simply be: “Why do young black and minority ethnic people reject the Metropolitan police as a career choice?”

This week, marking 20 years since the landmark Macpherson report on institutional racism in the police, the Met said it would take 100 years for the force to mirror the wider diversity of London and will remain disproportionately white. Why?

The answer can be found in the experiences of black and minority ethnic communities of the police, which continues far too often to be marked by incivility, suspicion and distrust. The continued disproportionate use of stop and search and the vanishingly low numbers of stops that result in a substantive charge, never mind conviction, cements in young black consciousness an underlying enmity – a feeling that the police are “other”.

From those new recruits who manage to overcome this feeling of alienation, I’ve heard how the recruitment process can often make BAME individuals feel unwelcome.

Those who make it to become serving officers also experience a continued canteen culture which, while muted in its vocal expressions of racism compared with 35 years ago when I joined, nevertheless still has subtle ways of excluding BAME staff as well as LGBT officers. There has been significant progress both in terms of the initial recruitment and promotion of female officers, but this has not been mirrored for BAME staff. Promotion for black, Asian and minority ethnic officers continues to take longer, and come up against more obstacles than for white colleagues. As recently as 2008, I set up a mentoring and coaching programme to raise promotion rates for BAME officers, which had some early successes. Unfortunately, when I tried to extend the programme, the initiative was rubbished by senior officers.

Access to further and specialist training, and hence jobs with special squads, is holding BAME officers back: selection continues to be based on who you know rather than what you can do. That means the police service is missing out on talented individuals who could contribute to specialist teams, and help reduce the impression, for example, that responders are less careful about the safety of BAME suspects.

This depressing picture reflects a failure to fully engage with the Macpherson message that “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping disadvantages minority ethnic people”.

This week Cressida Dick, the force’s head, claimed the Met is not institutionally racist: “I don’t feel it is now a useful way to describe the service and I don’t believe we are,” she said. “I simply don’t see it as a helpful or accurate description.”

But in saying this, the commissioner is effectively rejecting the reality of the unconscious bias that certainly exists. She is also fostering the unhelpful idea that naming the problem amounts to a slur on individuals. This failure to recognise discrimination where it exists has stymied the progress that the Met could and should have made, both in its attitude to the general public and to BAME recruits and officers. It has sabotaged attempts to bring the Met into the 21st century, and will continue to do so.

Only when discrimination – whether implicit or explicit, wilful or unwitting – is recognised can it start to be addressed. And only when it is addressed will the daily experience of black and minority ethnic Londoners encourage them to join the police to create a virtuous upward spiral of respect, acceptance and diversity.

Source: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting

7 UK Parliamentarians, In Protest Of Jeremy Corbyn, Leave Labour Party

The ongoing saga of Labour not being able to address antisemitism, as the Conservatives flail on Brexit. Sad:

Seven members of Britain’s Parliament quit the main opposition Labour Party on Monday, accusing its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, of letting anti-Semitism flourish and failing to support a plan to hold another referendum on Brexit.

“This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision,” Luciana Berger, one of the seven legislators who have resigned, told reporters at a press conference Monday.

“I am sickened that Labour is now perceived by many as a racist, anti-Semitic party,” said parliamentarian Mike Gapes, adding that “prominent anti-Semites” were readmitted to the party.

The party’s leader has long faced accusations of either being an anti-Semite or tolerating anti-Semitism. Berger said the party has failed to address a strain of anti-Semitism within its ranks and has become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Gapes also accuses the party’s leadership of being “complicit in facilitating Brexit.” The former Labour members have said the United Kingdom’s imminent withdrawal from the European Union will trigger economic, political and social distress in the country.

“We’ve taken the first step in leaving the old tribal politics behind and we invite others who share our political values to do so too,” said Chuka Umunna, another of the politicians ditching Labour. “We invite you to leave your parties and help us forge a new consensus on a way forward for Britain.”

The seven lawmakers will remain in Parliament as the new, more centrist “Independent Group.” They support a Final Say referendum — a second poll after citizens voted for Brexit in 2016 — which they say should take place days before the withdrawal from the E.U.

In a statement, the group said the Labour Party has abandoned its progressive values and now pursues policies that could weaken national security and destabilize the British economy for ideological objectives.

“For a Party that once committed to pursue a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect, it has changed beyond recognition,” the group said. “Today, visceral hatreds of other people, views and opinions are commonplace in and around the Labour Party.”

In response, Corbyn said he was dismayed the members of Parliament are leaving the party. “I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945.”

He added, “The Tories are bungling Brexit while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan.”

Other prominent Labour members also expressed their dismay.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called it a “desperately sad day,” despite agreeing that the public should be allowed to relitigate Brexit and that anti-Semitism needed to be addressed within the party.

Khan and other members of the party worry that the split will lead to a Conservative government.

“We shouldn’t splinter in this way,” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC. “It is better to remain in the party, fight your corner.”

But Conservatives used the announcement as a chance to denounce the Labour Party and Corbyn himself.

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis accused Labour of becoming “the Jeremy Corbyn party.” He said, “We must never let him do to our country what he is doing to the Labour Party today.”

Nigel Farage, who helped lead the country’s Brexit campaign, also weighed in on Twitter, saying, “This moment may not look very exciting but it is the beginning of something bigger in British politics #realignment.”

Source: 7 UK Parliamentarians, In Protest Of Jeremy Corbyn, Leave Labour Party

Third of Britons believe Islam threatens British way of life, says report

Not surprising:

More than a third of people in the UK believe that Islam is a threat to the British way of life, according to a report by the anti-fascist group Hope not Hate.

The organisation’s annual “State of Hate” report, which will be launched on Monday, argues that anti-Muslim prejudice has replaced immigration as the key driver of the growth of the far right.

In polling conducted by the group in July last year, 35% of people thought Islam was generally a threat to the British way of life, compared with 30% who thought it was compatible. Forty-nine per cent of those who voted Conservative in the 2017 general election thought it was generally incompatible, and 22% of Labour voters agreed.

Nearly a third (32%) said they thought there were “no-go areas” in Britain where sharia law dominated and non-Muslims could not enter. Almost half of Conservative voters (47%) and those who voted to leave the EU (49%) believed this was true.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/feb/2019-02-17T14:35:21/embed.html

The report said that while polling showed that attitudes towards Muslims in Britain had improved between 2011 and 2016, the terror attacks in the UK in 2017 had had a negative impact on perceptions.

In a separate poll of more than 5,000 people in August 2018, 30% said they would support a campaign set up by local residents to stop proposals to build a mosque near where they live. Twenty-one per cent say they would still support the campaign if either side became violent, because the matter was so serious.

Among the issues in the report is that of leftwing antisemitism. Hope not Hate said that while extreme antisemitism and Holocaust denial were less common, there were many examples of “conspiratorial” antisemitism and the use of antisemitic tropes, “especially in relation to supposed Jewish power”.

The report points to research that found an increase in antisemitic Google searches in the UK. It found that 5% of UK adults did not believe the Holocaust happened and 8% said the scale of the Holocaust had been exaggerated.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/feb/2019-02-17T14:36:44/embed.html

The report’s authors said a large group was involved in “denying a problem exists and dismissing the issue as a rightwing and Zionist smear”. It concluded that the Labour party was still not doing enough to tackle antisemitism.

“The family history of so many members of the British Jewish community includes first-hand experience of persecution. Many people in the Jewish community therefore identify with a sense of the precariousness of their safety, where material security and educational attainment are not seen as guarantors of security and safety,” it said.

“The inability of the Labour party leadership to understand and acknowledge this experience is particularly chilling when the Labour party and the left in general hold values of equality and antiracism as core to their identity.”

The report also found that while the numbers arrested for terror-related offences in 2018 was down on the previous year, there was a growing threat of far-right terrorism, which came both from organised groups such as National Action and from lone actors who are radicalised over the internet.

The group warned that there could also be a rise in support for Islamist extremist group Al-Muhajiroun following the release of one of its founders, Anjem Choudary, from prison.

“Our latest polling also reveals a disturbing level of anti-Muslim prejudice and discourse running through society, with a third of people saying they believe there are Muslim-run no-go zones, and rising antisemitism on the left, which we have exposed in a new investigation,” said Nick Lowles, the chief executive of Hope not Hate.

“Meanwhile, while the banned terror group National Action has finally been destroyed by the authorities, there is a growing threat of violence from the younger neo-Nazis emerging in their wake. There are justified concerns that the police response to these rising threats, especially against MPs, has fallen short. We believe a very real threat remains from terrorism carried out by lone actors, too, radicalised over the internet.

“Added to this febrile mix is the release of Anjem Choudary and many of his network’s leading figures, likely to regalvanise their supporters and provide yet another seedbed for the far right to grow their support, too. We cannot wait for a traditional, united, far-right umbrella organisation to emerge before we act. We need to start connecting the dots now.”

Source: Third of Britons believe Islam threatens British way of life, says report

UK citizenship tests: Gangs help cheating candidates pass

When then CIC revised the citizenship test in 2009, one of the issues identified was that there was only one test in circulation, which resulted in the answers being memorized in a “song” with the a, b, c or d in correct order. CIC then switched to having different versions of the test to reduce this cheating.

The “cheating fee” appears to be more than the £1,206 citizenship fee:

Gangs are helping foreign nationals cheat their UK citizenship application test with the use of earpieces, a BBC investigation has revealed.

For a fee of up to £2,000, criminals secretly listen in and, via a hidden earpiece, give the answers to those taking the Life in the UK test.

Such an operation was secretly filmed by a BBC journalist, who was given help to pass.

The test is failed by about one in five would-be British citizens.

The Home Office said it took any cheating “extremely seriously”.

A pass in the test, which assesses candidates’ knowledge of UK laws, history and society, is usually required as part of the process to secure UK citizenship or indefinite leave to remain.

The number of applications for citizenship made by EU nationals rose by 32% last year and the BBC heard some were paying criminals to cheat the Life in the UK test, as anxiety grows over citizenship rights post-Brexit.

One woman told the BBC she decided to cheat after failing first time around, saying she “felt so much panic” about her situation.

Over the past year, nearly 150,000 people have sat the test, which consists of 24 multiple-choice questions.

The test, which is taken on a computer and has a pass mark of at least 18 correct answers, is supposed to be held under strict exam conditions.

Administration of the tests is outsourced by the government. There are 36 testing centres in the UK.

BBC researchers were able to access organised cheating when they went undercover at training academies in and around London, where candidates take classes to prepare for the test.

Masoud Abul Raza runs the Ideal Learning Academy in east London.

He was filmed telling an undercover researcher that he could guarantee a pass.

“You have to spend nearly £2,000. This is the business, it’s completely hidden. But you are getting a result,” he said.

Mr Abul Raza and his gang later provided the undercover researcher with a hidden two-way earpiece, linked wirelessly through a Bluetooth connection to a concealed mobile phone with an open line. This meant the gang outside could hear the audio feed of the test questions and provide the answers.

“Everything will be arranged. He will give you the answer,” Mr Abul Raza told the undercover journalist.

Tony Smith, the former director general of the UK Border Force, was shown the secretly recorded footage and described it as “clear and blatant cheating by an organised crime gang”.

“One would hope that the standards will change significantly so that the public can be assured that people going through this process are genuinely entitled to stay in this country,” he said.

The Home Office said test centres were required to put in place stringent measures to prevent cheating, including searches of candidates to ensure no electronic devices enter the test room.

“Unannounced visits” are also carried out to audit these processes.

But the BBC’s undercover researcher was not searched or told to hand over all electronic devices.

He sat the test, giving the answers provided to him, and within minutes of it ending he had received the pass certificate required to apply for citizenship and a UK passport.

Despite being caught on camera, Mr Abul Raza denied cheating, maintaining he only organises legitimate training.

However, he is not the only one profiting from cheating the system.

The BBC heard reports of other training academies doing the same thing, with the same method of cheating having been used at testing centres around the UK.

At the English Language Training Academy (ELTA) in east London, Ashraf Rahman told the BBC’s undercover researcher that he had arranged cheating in Birmingham and Manchester, as well as London.

“I’ve been here for five years and no-one gets caught,” he said.

Mr Rahman later denied he arranged cheating, claiming he was just discussing what others did.

ELTA denied cheating took place on its premises and said Mr Rahman was not an employee.

Source: UK citizenship tests: Gangs help cheating candidates pass

The Great British Race to Get a Second Passport

Good overview:

For the vast majority of British citizens who oppose a no-deal Brexit, the state of play in Parliament is dismaying. Although many members of Parliament are resolutely opposed to the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union come March 29, the reality remains that no deal is their default option: Should Prime Minister Theresa May be unable to find support for her withdrawal agreement—which, by every indication, will be the case—Britain will have no choice but to leave the EU on the severest of terms.

Among the most vulnerable in this scenario are the 1.3 million British citizens currently living in Europe. They would have only a year and change to reorganize their lives, until December 2020, when the Brexit transition period ends and their rights to remain expire. A number of advocacy groups have joined together in a coalition called British in Europe in order to raise awareness and lobby lawmakers. But so far these groups—including the Brexpats, Bremain in Spain, RIFT(Remain in France Together), BRILL (British Immigrants Living in Luxembourg), and others—have struggled like everyone else to move the needle. For its part, the EU has encouragedmember states to “take a generous approach to the rights of UK citizens in the EU, provided that this approach is reciprocated by the UK.” Whether the U.K. will ultimately reciprocate, seeing as the free movement of people was a lightning rod of the Brexit referendum, is far from guaranteed.

Even if the British government fails to retain access to Europe, however, British citizens living at home and abroad may be able to find a way on their own. The solution: a second passport. Across the English Channel lies an obscure but inviting matrix of citizenship and residency laws that, for some, promises to keep alive the freedom to live and work throughout the continent. And in a nation where 48 percent of voters, or 16 million individuals, voted to stay in the EU, the opportunity to do so—albeit in a different form—is sure to be appealing.

Of the British citizens living in Europe, 310,000 are in Spain, 280,000 are in Ireland, 190,000 are in France, 107,000 are in Germany, and 64,000 are in Italy—followed by a significant drop-off to a smattering in other countries around the continent. Fortunately for these British citizens, and for the handful living elsewhere, passports are not particularly difficult to come by (at least compared with other parts of the world). And seeing as the number of British citizens with dual EU nationality increased by 159 percent in the year after the referendum, many have already realized how to escape a fate they did not choose.

Roughly speaking, second passports can be obtained in three ways: organically, financially, or ancestrally. The organic route to the passport is perhaps the most difficult as it requires lengthy naturalization processes. Ireland, for example, which saw a staggering 497 percent increase in new citizenship for British people in the pre- and post-Brexit years of 2014 to 2015 and 2016 to 2017, requires applicants to prove residency for five of the past nine years. France, which has seen a 226 percentincrease, is even stricter, with the same five-year residency requirement plus proficiency in French, proof of integration, and a citizenship test. Germany, which has seen a remarkable 835 percent increase in citizenship for Brits, is stricter still, with requirements of six years of residency, language proficiency, a citizenship test, and an integration course. Although the British government estimates that 900,000citizens are “long-term residents” of another EU country, it is by no means a given that all or most of them will meet their host country’s naturalization criteria. And while marriage can offer a bit of a shortcut, restrictions still apply—Ireland requires three years of marriage, France requires four with three spent in the country, and Germany requires two years of marriage along with three years of residency. For the British citizens who have suddenly been struck by the possibility of no deal, meeting requirements and spouses will be a tall task.

For a murky few, however, a much easier path is available in the form of “golden passports.” This is the financial route to citizenship, a backdoor into the EU that can be accessed through foreign direct investment for five-, six-, or seven-digit sums, often coming in the form of real estate purchases. The BBC has the figures: On the lower end, Croatian passports will cost 13,500 euros. On the higher end, a Luxembourg or Slovenian passport can cost upwards of 5 million euros. For price tags in the middle, wealthy people can get away to Greecefor a quarter of a million euros, Spain for a half a million euros, Malta for a million euros, Cyprus for 2 million euros, and more. However, the elitism and corruptibility of the golden passport scheme hasn’t gone unnoticed, and only a few months after a report from Global Witness and Transparency International detailed the more than 6,000 unaccounted new citizens, 100,000 new residents, and 25 billion euros gained through golden passport programs, the European Commission launched its own inquiry into the peculiar “investor citizenship” arrangements. The results of that inquiry were released last week and made the case for tougher security checks, more rigorous residency requirements, and better transparency. And although they did not go nearly as far as some had hoped, the very fact of the report’s existence suggests that the golden backdoor will eventually be closed.

The final path to a second passport, the ancestral option, emerges as both the least demanding and the least expensive. For some countries, such as Italy and Ireland, the generous principle of jus sanguinis invites anyone who can prove their ancestral ties to the country (with birth or citizenship records in a direct line of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparents) to claim a passport of their own. It is difficult to determine just how many people actually qualify, and in some cases those eligible may not even know. But the eagerness among many to find out is eminently clear: Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs reported a twofold increase at the same time that one Italian law firm reported a tenfold increase in pre- and post-Brexit passport applications.

The ancestral option offered by other countries, however, has the much darker dimension of reparations and restorations for some of the most heinous offenses in the history of Europe. This variety of ancestral passports begins with allocations for Soviet exiles and their descendants, offered by Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. So far, these states have not reported much traffic, but this is quite likely to change given the 25,000Baltic men and women who came to Britain in the 1940s and the thousands more who came in the decades after.

For Germany and Austria, where descendants of the victims of the Third Reich are also offered citizenship, applications have surged. In pre- and post-Brexit years, new Austrian citizenship among Brits has risen 112 percent. The number of applicants to Germany’s specific reparations program has swelled even more, by an astounding 1,500 percent. While Poland offers the same program to Soviet and Nazi victims, exiles, and their descendants, it has been somewhat less popular, seeing only a 100 percent increase in citizenship.

Going back even further in the timeline of Europe’s atrocities, Spain and Portugal offer citizenship to Sephardic Jews who are descendants of victims of the 15th-century Inquisition, the mass exile of Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula that began in 1492. (Somewhat controversially, however, passports are not granted to Muslims whose Moorish ancestors suffered the same fates.) Since Spain and Portugal extended this offer, some 10,000 special passports have been granted—with an eightyfold increase in British-based applications in the months following the referendum.

Proactive though some European states are, one glaring absence in the list of victim and ancestral passports cannot be overlooked: colonies. It remains the case across Europe that the victims of colonization and their descendants are marginalized in the accounting of Europe’s faults as no major reparations program, citizenship-based or otherwise, is offered. And even though reparations for some do exist, many victims and their family members have been rightfully reluctant to seize the opportunity. Shortly after the referendum, Harry Heber, an 85-year-old Austrian-Jewish refugee, told the Guardian, “The proposition of seeking sanctuary in the very place that murdered my relatives absolutely appalls me.”

UK: Sadiq Khan demands plan to charge EU nationals to stay in UK changed

Bringing the London perspective to the UK immigration debate:

Sadiq Khan has written to the government to demand changes to its planned post-Brexit immigration policy, saying that forcing long-established EU nationals to pay fees to stay showed ministers had not learned the lessons of Windrush.

In a letter to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, the Labour mayor said the wider immigration policy, including plans to restrict immigration to people earning above £30,000 a year, would badly damage London’s economy.

Khan has been a critic of Theresa May’s Brexit plans. He also differs from official Labour policy on the subject, supporting a second referendum.

In the letter, Khan said the immigration white paper, published just before Christmas, was disappointing in content and tone. “The promised ‘new conversation on immigration’ is off to a poor start,” he wrote.

The mayor criticised the £65 fee millions of EU nationals will need to pay to apply for so-called settled status, likening it to errors that saw some members of the Windrush generation targeted for immigration enforcement when they could not prove their status.

“There are hundreds of thousands of young people who were born in the UK or, like the Windrush generation, brought here as young children, who are prevented from participating in the economic, social and political life of the UK by the prohibitive cost of applying for leave to remain or citizenship,” Khan wrote.

“While the previous home secretary rightly waived fees for the Windrush generation, the government clearly has not learnt the wider lessons. There are many others still at risk from the same policies that led to the Windrush generation experiencing discrimination, destitution, and deportation.

“The Home Office now faces the unprecedented task of registering 3.4 million EU citizens resident in the UK. Many people will find this process inaccessible and unaffordable. As a matter of fairness, the government should waive the settled status fee for EU nationals and their families who were resident in the UK before the referendum took place.”

Khan also argued that the plan to restrict immigration to skilled people with salaries of £30,000 or more “simply won’t allow London to continue to grow its economy and provide crucial public services”.

The mayor added that the official “shortage occupation list”, which would help people move to the UK to take roles that need to be filled, should be expanded to assist the needs of London, and possibly devolved to the city.

Jasmine Whitbread, the head of London First, a grouping of leading employers in the capital, said a decision to reduce the minimum salary to the London living wage, currently £20,155, would “avoid a recruitment cliff-edge, keep the UK open to a range of skills, and ensure workers are decently paid”.

Source: Sadiq Khan demands plan to charge EU nationals to stay in UK changed