More than 40 human rights organisations condemn a significant expansion of monitoring and surveillance measures for people on immigration bail by the Home Office – a step taken with no consultation process or parliamentary debate. Following growing protests the Home Office has abandoned plans to deport a 22-year-old with severe mental and physical challenges who was jailed on doubtful charges of stealing a friends mobile phone. With services at a breaking-point, Kent county council is refusing to accept any more unaccompanied children.

A new policy by the Home Office introduces 24-hour GPS monitoring of people on immigration bail and expands the government agency’s surveillance powers to collect, store and access this data indefinitely via a private contractor. Human rights organisations condemn the measures that have been taken without any consultation process or parliamentary debate. Rudy Schulkind, from Bail for Immigration Detainees stated: “This regressive and authoritarian policy is wholly inappropriate in a country that claims to uphold the right to liberty”, and further noted: “It is no wonder the government did not formally announce it and has tried to evade scrutiny.” The measures target foreign nationals facing deportation after criminal convictions of a minimum of 12 months, and significantly expands current selection on discretionary basis to make monitoring mandatory for thousands of people regardless of the severity of their crimes or considered risk of flight. Schulkind warns that: “Victims of human trafficking sometimes commit crimes as a result of their being trafficked, such as those enslaved on British cannabis farms, and face deportation and GPS tracking as a direct result”.

Following public demonstrations in London and Glasgow and calls from more than 100 public figures including former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Labour peer Alf Dubs and numerous MPs, the Home Office has abandoned its decision to deport 22-year old Osime Brown. Diagnosed with autism, depression, PTSD and a heart condition, Brown was sentenced to five years for robbery, attempted robbery and perverting the course of justice for stealing a friend’s mobile phone, despite the accused and others denying he committed the crime. After his release from prison, Brown was facing deportation to Jamaica – a country he left at the age of four and where he has no friends, family or support network. According to the boy’s mother, Joan Martin, he did not understand the implications of his threatened deportation and had asked her if there was a bus he could take back to the UK if he were sent to Jamaica. According to a Home Office spokesperson: “In order to protect the public it is right that foreign nationals, convicted of crimes with prison sentences of 12 months or more, are automatically considered for deportation under the 2007 Borders Act”. However, on 15 June, Martin could celebrate the abandoned deportation of her son stating: “I will respond with love because we know no other way. Thank you for allowing my son to stay in his home and in the only country he has ever truly known. We are grateful. This goes to show that you can respond in a dynamic and just way. God bless you.”

After recent legal action against the Home Office and warnings of the lack of capacity, Kent county council is refusing to accept any more unaccompanied children. The council leader, Roger Gough stated: “Reluctantly, from Monday 14 June we will no longer be able meet our statutory duty to safely care for the children we support and can therefore accept no further new UASC arrivals until sufficient transfers have been made outside of Kent bringing our numbers back to safe levels”. Kent has nearly double the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in care that the government deems safe.

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 Photo: (CC) Jeff Djevdet, February 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.