The Court of Appeal declares the Home Office policy of ‘removal without notice’ unlawful. The Home Office is reportedly planning to restrict judges from blocking deportations based on the risk of ‘inhuman’ or ‘degrading’ treatment. The House of Lords votes in support of family reunification post Brexit. The children’s commissioner warns that child asylum seekers are held for days without access to beds or showers and the British Red Cross criticises the “squalid conditions” in former military barracks converted into refugee camps. Newly released data reveals that thousands of victims of child trafficking have been denied the right to stay in the UK. According to new research asylum seekers are denied treatment by NHS for an average of 37 weeks.

A unanimous decision by the Court of Appeal published on 20 October declared the ‘removal without notice’ (RNW) policy that was suspended in March after a legal challenge unlawful. 40,000 people have been deported under the policy on a three to seven days’ notice. The court ruled on the grounds that the policy provided: ”no adequate opportunity – or, indeed, any opportunity at all – for the individual to take advice and lodge a judicial review challenging that decision before he or she is at risk of removal”, and declared it “arbitrary and thus, in any event, unlawful”.

Further, the Home Office efforts to deport asylum seekers under the Dublin III regulation has in the words of Home Secretary Priti Patel seen “last-minute legal claims” which “frustrate” removals. The Home Secretary is reportedly looking at ways to limit the blocking of deportations by restricting judges’ ability to interpret the risk of “inhuman and degrading treatment” under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has previously expressed the need to leave the ECHR following Brexit and the UK government is set to commission an independent review of the Human Rights Act which brought the protections of ECHR into domestic UK law. Simultaneously, the UK government is looking at adopting a definition of the risk of “inhuman and degrading treatment” under the government’s Fair Borders Bill, which should, according to a Whitehall source, prevent “ambiguity” and “reduce the scope for judges to answer philosophical questions”. Justice recently released its: ‘Response to the consultation on the departure from retained EU case law by UK courts and tribunals’.

 The Home Office has invested considerable efforts in the prevention of arrivals and is reportedly exploring the idea of using nets to prevent ‘irregular’ channel crossings. Meanwhile, the House of Lords on 21 October with a 320 to 242 majority reconfirmed its support of ensuring the legal access of children to join their families in the UK once the Brexit transition ends. Former Minister and co-chair-woman for the conservative party, Sayeeda Warsi stated: “Today I voted with my conscience not with my government. Commitment to humanitarian principles override party loyalty”. The amendment put forward by former child refugee Lord Dubs was undeniably right. The amendments of the governments immigration bill is now returned to the House of Commons.

 Kent County Council reached its capacity in August and announced it could not take in any more children and since the Home Office refers them to the Kent Intake Unit located within the port of Dover. Children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warns that the current system is leaving: “children who had survived a dangerous boat crossing, and may have slept rough for months or been trafficked, waiting almost 72 hours in a holding unit without access to showers or beds, waiting for social workers from another county to come and collect them”.

The British Red Cross and Human rights groups raise concern about the conditions in the camps Penally in Pembrokeshire, and Folkestone in Kent where former military barracks, surrounded by barbed wire and high fences, are used to house asylum seekers. Reacting to photos from the camps, Jennifer Blair of the Helen Bamber Foundation supporting refugees who have been victims of abuse called conditions “unsanitary and unsuitable” stating: “there’s a lack of privacy for showers and sleeping, and for survivors of rape and abuse that is unacceptable. The Welsh site in particular looks really rundown, with bunk beds and concerns over social distancing”. A resident of the Penelly camp told AYS: “putting us in a camp to make us feel like there was nowhere else for us to stay, that this was a last resort, it’s racist, it’s systematic, it’s anti migration, it’s everything…”

Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire was transformed in August from removal centre to a short-term detention facility for people crossing the channel. Now, interviews conducted by the organisation Movement for Justice over four weeks with 20 detainees reveal that people are denied legal advice until days before they are due to be deported and that victims of trafficking are not identified.

According to new data 4,695 individuals were recognised as foreign modern slavery victims in the UK between 2016-19. However, just 549 adults and 28 children were granted the status ‘discretionary leave to remain’ granting the temporary right to stay for victims of extreme hardship. While the Home Office refused to release information on the number of children in the total caseload, experts estimate it could be up to half based on recent referrals to the government system to identify trafficking victims.

 New research reveals that refugees, asylum seekers and others to whom the NHS deems “not ordinarily resident” are being denied treatment for an average of 37 weeks, despite suffering from serious conditions including cancer, heart problems or kidney failure.

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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.