Dr Tony Brauer works with refugees and asylum seekers not far from London. This blog is an attempt to share what he learns as he goes along, and he would welcome others sharing insights with him. You can drop Tony a line at info@zimbabweassociation.org.uk

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

Rough Guide to the Zimbabwe Country Guidance (EM and others)

The summary:

v     The EM judgment suggests that…..

v     …..the threat to those returning to Zimbabwe is less than it was,

v     …..but the level of threat is different in different places,

v     …..and may still be high for individuals with strong MDC histories, in some places.

v     If elections take place, the picture may change.

v     Immigration decisions still have to be based on credible evidence about individual circumstances.

v     If children are involved, their needs may play a significant part in any decision.

Learn more:

(Numbered references are to the judgment. If in italics (e.g.[1.10], the reference is to the opening statement of the judgment, which sets out the country guidance rules.)

Obviously, this is only a very rough guide to a complex document . The EM judgment is 143 pages long, and for some reason they choose to use words like exiguous and Panglossian which you’d normally only hear once in a lifetime.                     [275,246]

Remember I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not particularly stupid, and this may help you to get a handle on the judgment. Remember that country guidance becomes pretty powerful once it’s implemented.

Having said all that, some information seems reasonably clear.

Firstly, while RN predicted possible difficulties for anyone who wasn’t Zanu-PF, the new judgment (EM) sees a lot of people now being safe for return. A significant MDC profile remains the principal risk factor.                                                                  [1.1]

Secondly, there are regional variations. Although rural areas are seen as potentially dangerous, Matabeleland and Bulawayo are seen as reasonably safe, in general .  Bulawayo is seen as safe even for those with an MDC history.                       [1.2,1.6]

A teacher may be a special case anywhere.                                                        [1.10]

Harare is not seen as particularly problematic in political terms, but it is recognised that in high-population density areas, the “socio-economic situation” is more “challenging”; that is, it can be hard to make a living and lead your life.                [1.5]

Note that in all cases, individual circumstances must be taken into account, but if you are seen to lack credibility on one matter, you may be judged to lack credibility on everything. [1.3, 1.11]

Thirdly, the economy has improved so that many people returning can be expected to make a living in the informal economy. However, it is accepted that for some people, returning to certain environments might be “unduly harsh”. Relocating away from their habitual home might be required in some cases.  It’s not impossible that tribal discrimination could be a barrier to relocation.                                  [1.7,1.8,1.9]

The courts continue to have concern for the well-being of children. If the children are British born or lived here for a long-time, this may affect decisions made about their parents.                                                                                                                   [2,3]

On the impact of possible elections, the court has decided it can’t predict the future with any certainty. However, they don’t want to say that there is “a real risk of future ill treatment”. Nevertheless, if elections take place without certain safeguards being in place, their guidance would have to be re-evaluated.                                [264, 265]

Remember, please, that the tribunal’s decision only tells us part of the grounds on which claims will be decided in the future. It doesn’t tell us what action will be taken by the UKBA, which is part of the Home Office, and therefore part of the political system.

The law is one thing. Politics is another.

Stay informed.

So what might you do?

v     Check the original document for yourself.

v     Keep up with the news to see what the politicians are saying.

v     If you think your status is uncertain, you might like to ask yourself if you have a lawyer, and a friend who knows what to do if things get complicated.

v     Hope for the best, plan for what is possible.

v     Don’t panic. Plan.



To the Ministry of Justice, with love?

(January 2011)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

v        Legal Aid affects most asylum seekers, and the Government is looking for big cuts in the budget.

v        The consultation comes to an end on 14th February, Valentine’s Day.

v        Have you considered responding? If enough people raise a point, the government will have to consider it seriously.

v        It’s very easy to respond on-line…….

v        ….but for those who haven’t time to read everything, I’ve made a few suggestions.

Learn more:

I’ve selected some of the questions that may be of particular interest, and expressed a view. If you share the view, I think it would be reasonable to cut and paste it; but original statements are likely to be more highly valued.

Q1 is possibly the trickiest.  It looks at what should or should not be covered by legal aid.

As far as asylum goes, asylum claims themselves seem to be fairly well protected [4.38 to 4.42 in the consultation document]. However, it also suggests that legal aid will not be available when asylum is seen as a lifestyle choice, rather than as a matter of urgent necessity.

I therefore have to disagree with Q1 on these grounds:

Let’s say you can only have legal aid if you have a genuine asylum claim. Let’s assume that it is impossible (in many cases) to decide fairly if the claim is genuine without legal aid. It then becomes impossible to make a fair decision on a marginal application on legal aid. This proposal therefore seems to lead only to confusion.

Q6 asks about the impact of the reforms on litigants – a group that presumably includes asylum seekers.  In my view

If lawyers are seeking to maintain their slice of a shrinking cake, standards could fall; but levels of performance by lawyers cannot be monitored by rates of referral to an ombudsman. It requires, as a minimum, professional monitoring and evaluation of written submissions made on behalf asylum seekers.

Q7  asks if the one point of access to legal aid should be a helpline  [4.270 onwards].

“Help lines” are often frustrating for the vulnerable, and frightening for the less confident. At a minimum, there must be a record of what advice was given, on what grounds, and that advice must be made available to the applicant (possibly with the collaboration of the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux).

Q13 suggests that if you have £1000 you should contribute £100, pretty much automatically. [5.6]

There is a huge difference between someone who has a job and has saved a £1000 towards a 55” TV, and someone who has no job and £1000 saved as the only safety net for their asylum seeking family.

Q48 asks about regulators and quality control.

Previous consultations on legal aid [example] suggest that the professions are very effective at representing themselves in consultations. Some people also believe that the professions regulate themselves perfectly well. This is not necessarily true. Nor is it safe to assume that everyone who is unhappy will complain. The government has a responsibility to actively monitor and evaluate the services on which they spend public money, even if it means critically evaluating lawyers.

Have a look for yourself. You might disagree with me, but I’d love you to have your say, and it’s there to be done.

So what might you do?

v     Read part or all of the consultation paper.

v     Go online and see how easy it is to respond to the consultation.

v     Make a difference.

v     If you agree with me, I think it would be OK to cut and paste what I’ve said, to let them know I’m not just one voice; but your own voice would be even better.


Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

Credibility is king (RT).

(December 2010)

The summary:

v                 Interpretations of the recent RT and others case have been quite diverse.

v                 Because it’s confusing, I won’t report all the different issues identified.

v                 The key one seems to me to be quite simple:

People whose evidence is considered generally credible by the UK courts are more likely to be believed on the question of whether they would be at risk in Zimbabwe.

v                 Judge for yourself. Let me know if you think I’m wrong.

Learn more:

As the judges acknowledged [3], their judgement in RT and others is unlikely to last very long because of the new Country Guidance that is coming up.

However, we might be very interested in one aspect of their judgement. The key question was, in my eyes, about credibility, and that may survive the new country guidance that is expected to emerge over the next few weeks.

Let’s look at the present circumstances.

Roughly speaking, under the current country guidance (RN), you have a claim for asylum if you wouldn’t be able to demonstrate your support for Zanu-PF if challenged at a road block (for example).

In the RT judgement, the judges liked part of the appeal argument [37]. They didn’t actually like the precise wording [37], even though I find it pleasingly clear.  The lawyer suggested that

“it is impermissible to require an appellant to actively profess a loyalty to a regime which he does not possess or otherwise lie to the authorities of the home country or other potential persecutors in order to avoid a condition of persecution.” [5]

You can’t, it seems, demand of somebody that they make themselves safe by telling lies to Zanu-PF to avoid a beating. However, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunals still have to make a judgement on your credibility.

This judgement seems to me to concern this: whether or not the tribunal believes you when you say you wouldn’t be able to persuade Zanu-PF without lying.

In my innocence, I am still quite confused, but the pattern of the court’s decisions reinforces this interpretation.

They allowed the asylum claim of RT who was seen as a credible witness [40-42].

In a second case (judged at the same time), the court decided that another hearing was unnecessary for DM. If I tell you that DM had claimed his father had been killed, which the court didn’t believe, and the father had been in the CIO for ten years, you can see why his account wasn’t held up as a model of all that is credible [47-49]. His asylum claim was refused.

The other two cases, SM and AM, [43-46, 50-52] were sent back to the Upper A&I Tribunal because there were general doubts about appellants’ credibility: time to decide if they could present themselves as Zanu-PF supporters without lying.

How to make sense of this? About the clearest statement I found of the position was this:

An Appellant who has been found not to be a witness of truth in respect of the factual basis of his claim will not be assumed to be truthful about his inability to demonstrate loyalty to the regime simply because he asserts that. The burden remains on the Appellant throughout to establish the facts upon which he seeks to rely.

[48 quoted from an RN Tribunal hearing.]

I think this is saying “You have to be able to show that you couldn’t defend yourself without lying, because the courts here can’t insist that you do.”

The new country guidance may change what you have to prove, but you’ll have to prove something. If you apply for asylum because you fear returning to Zimbabwe, it seems likely that you’ll be expected to demonstrate

a] that someone might have a go at you, and

b] that you would have to lie to them to avoid a beating.

And, of course, you will have to achieve credibility with the UK courts in your demonstration of these assertions.

So what might you do?

v     Check out whether what I’m saying makes sense.

v     Check out whether what you’re saying is credible.

v     Go through the first two steps again.

v     Imagine what you could say at a Zanu-PF road block which is both true and safe. If there isn’t anything, you may have a case.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.


Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

Campaigning and its consequences.

(November 2010)

The summary:

v                 People are worried about human rights in Zimbabwe.

v                 People are worried about forced returns.

v                 If you’re campaigning in the UK, will it help them in Zimbabwe?

v                 What effect might it have on your own life?

Learn more:

How can you not be worried about human rights in Zimbabwe?

Human Rights Watch (HRW), for example, are already deeply worried aboutthe run up to the next elections; but are there activities you can undertake here in the UK to help change the political climate in Zimbabwe?

There’s membership of organisations like HRW, Amnesty, the Zimbabwe Association itself, the Zimbabwe HR NGO Forum, and many others. Just google and you’ll see.

One of the questions you may ask yourself is: if I’m engaged in political activity here to support human rights in Zimbabwe, how will that affect me? The answer is not simple, but there are some pretty obvious possible impacts.

v     You influence the situation in Zimbabwe for the better.

v     If life becomes better in Zimbabwe, those who want to return may be able to.

v     If it’s safer, applications to remain in the UK based on fear of persecution will be less convincing.

v     If you are known to have challenged the Zimbabwe regime, you may be putting yourself at risk – but not necessarily in the way you expect.

It’s the last of these that could be a bit worrying.

Remember I’m not a lawyer, but you can look at my sources in the So what might you do? section below; and here’s my understanding of the issues.

If you have no history of campaigning, you may still be allowed refugee status (UNHCR 1951) or humanitarian protection (ECHR), if you’re genuinely at risk if you were to return. However, the courts are aware that some people might try to create a risk deliberately so that they can stay in the UK. If they think you’re acting “cynically” or in “bad faith”, your credibility is likely to be damaged, and this could effect the assessment of whether you are really at risk or not.

We take the view that it is important that it is appreciated (as the Court of Appeal itself said) that Danian does not open the door to all who undertake activities in this country, which may be regarded as hostile to the regime if taken at face value, to achieve a refugee status which they would not otherwise be able to achieve. While bad faith by itself cannot exclude from refugee status, it is undoubtedly a factor that can be taken into account in the stringent evaluation of such a claim.

Collins, Storey, Chaudhry [2002]UKIAT02245

(Danian is a case at the heart of this matter.)

We don’t want to discourage you from campaigning for human rights. However, if this creates a risk for you in Zimbabwe, and that risk is the basis for a fresh claim, please make sure you know what you’re doing.

Genuine campaigners will, I hope, be respected; but I can’t help thinking that if it’s thought someone is trying to abuse the law, there could be quite a strong reaction.

So what might you do?

v     Join a reputable charitable organisation campaigning for human rights in Zimbabwe.

v     If you’re going to be prominent in the movement, make sure you understand how this might affect you.

v     As usual, we suggest you check with your legal adviser.

v     Have a look at the research options below.

Research

v     Have a look at the law on credibility, often referred to as section 8 .

v     Read up the original cases for yourself; we’ve provided links below.

1] In 1998, the UNHCR reported that

an asylum-seeker who deliberately sought to undertake activities whilst in the UK in order purely to create a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ could not be afforded the protection of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and 1967 Protocol: such a conclusion would follow regardless of whether the asylum-seeker’s activities had come to the attention of the feared authorities or whether his fear of persecution was ‘well-founded’ …

United Nations High Commission for Refugees

2] This decision of an Immigration Appeal Tribunal appears to have been reversed by the Court of Appeal:

Essentially what Danian decides is that in all asylum cases there is ultimately but a single question to be asked: is there a serious risk that on return the applicant would be persecuted for a Convention reason? If there is, then he is entitled to asylum. It matters not whether the risk arises from his own conduct in this country, however unreasonable. It does not even matter whether he has cynically sought to enhance his prospects of asylum by creating the very risk on which he then relies – cases sometimes characterised as involving bad faith. When I say that none of this matters, what I mean is that none of it forfeits the applicant’s right to refugee status, provided only and always that he establishes a well-founded fear of persecution abroad. Any such conduct is, of course, highly relevant when it comes to evaluating the claim on its merits, i.e. to determining whether in truth the applicant is at risk of persecution abroad. An applicant who has behaved in this way may not readily be believed as to his future fears.

Lord Justice Simon Brown [1999] EWCA Civ 3003

(This reference is not from the appeal itself, but seems to be well regarded as a summary.)

3] In the appeal itself, the issue of good faith was discussed thus:

“To establish a claim to asylum in this country as a political refugee an applicant must satisfy the Secretary of State that his political opinions are held out of genuine political conviction and have not been assumed for the purpose of founding the claim to political asylum.” This formulation of Millett LJ appears to contain a general requirement of good faith. However, the statement was made in the context of the case, in which there had been no political activity until arrival in the host country (and thus the case was a pure “bootstrap” application…); and the Lord Justice also stressed the bearing of in-country activities to the applicant’s credibility……..

Nourse, Brooke and Buxton [1999] EWCA Civ 3000

4] The Danian case was also discussed in 2006, but not in great depth, because the case was essentially about something else:

… a person who can voluntarily return in safety to the country of his nationality is not a refugee, notwithstanding that on a forced return he would be at risk.

Brooke, Laws and Staughton  [2006] EWCA Civ 401

Legal aid and the budget cuts

(October 2010)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

  • The UK government is looking for cuts of about 25% from most departments.
  • The Ministry of Justice appears to be in the process of bringing legal aid more directly under its control, and seeking cuts of £2bn out of a budget of £9bn. (The Guardian 10th August 2010)
  • The total cost of legal aid for immigration and asylum cases in 2009/10 was £90 million. (The Daily Telegraph 16th July 2010)
  • A not for profit legal support organisation (Refugee and Migrant Justice) supporting 13,000 migrants had to close because of changes in the way that legal aid is paid. (The Guardian 17th June 2010)
  • In the future, migrants may get a lot less support than they used to; if you’re going to need legal advice, make sure you know where you can get it.

Learn more:

Legal aid support for migrants last year was about three and a half times as much as was spent on legal aid for people getting divorced.

There’s likely to be a lot of different points of view about that. How should the legal aid pot be divided up?

The man who is chiefly responsible is the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke. Cuts towards legal aid in general have been described as  “brutal“.  Others point out that legal aid costs £38 per head of population in England and Wales (Scotland – £30), compared to £5 in Canada.

So what can we expect?

Refugee and Migrant Justice had to close, according to its chairperson, because of

late payment of legal aid by up to two years, not inefficiency or even lack of income: RMJ staff have performed a minor miracle in cutting costs to live with a fall in income per client of over 40%. Late payment has an unequal impact on charities because they cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap.

According to Kenneth Clarke, it was “not a question of any late payments, RMJ were paid what was due however they did not make the efficiency savings that other providers did.” However, he doesn’t appear to have mentioned that, on occasion, it has been reported, the Legal Services Commission has failed to make its monthly payments to service providers because of weaknesses in its own financial management.

So will the services continue to be provided?

In theory the European Charter of Fundamental Human Rights (article 47) assures us that “Legal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice;” but the charter is probably not enforceable.

The MoJ’s Director-General of Finance has said that “many savings will have to be made quickly within the first 12-24 months”.  The date set for announcing the cuts is October 20th.

Make your own mind up, but I wouldn’t bet on quality legal aid services to migrants becoming any easier to find in the near future.

So what might you do?

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.

The Right to Work

(original August 2010; updated September 2010)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

  • IF you have a fresh claim for asylum
  • AND if you have been waiting more than 12 months for a FIRST decision on the fresh claim
  • THEN you may be allowed to seek employment
  • BUT only in an occupation in which there is a structural shortage of qualified workers
  • AND you will still have to seek permission from the Home Office.
  • BUT you may be eligible for asylum support.

Learn more:

new ruling, referred to as “ZO”, was issued by the Supreme Court, and someamendments to the immigration rules arose from this.

It hasn’t meant that you can just go out and get a job, even if  the circumstances apply to you, but it does mean that it might be worth applying to the Home Office for permission.

Indeed, Vitalis Madanhi, a solicitor has argued that

“the Secretary of State for the Home Department is obliged to grant permission to work, in accordance with Rule 360 of the Immigration Rules, if a decision at first instance has not been taken within one year of the presentation of a subsequent application for asylum (fresh asylum claim), and this delay cannot be attributed to the applicant.”

UKBA’s implementation of the ruling says that you must have made your original application before 5th March 2007 and have already submitted a fresh claim; and the UKBA response became operational on the 9thSeptember 2010.

However, what sort of job would you be allowed to take? Only one in “shortage occupations”, it would appear.

The “shortage occupations” seem to be mostly those for which you need a UK professional qualification, or three years experience (probably in the UK). For many asylum seekers, this may seem to say “In the past, we wouldn’t let you work. Now we will let you work, if you have relevant work experience. But you haven’t.”

But do take a look at the list for yourself. For some people it may be possible.

Interestingly, in the Refugee Council’s comments , they say that “It also means that those who have made a fresh asylum claim are eligible for asylum support rather being left destitute.” We haven’t yet been able to check this out, but you might like to look at the UKBA page on the subject.

The Refugee Council has also issued a guidance sheet.

So what else might you do?

  • If you meet the conditions, you should be able to apply for a right to work from the 9th September 2010. Judging by their previous record, it may take some time for decisions to be forthcoming, and the permissible jobs are tightly defined, but some people may be able to take advantage of the ruling.
  • Be aware that UKBA aim to clear all the relevant cases by summer 2011. Your circumstances might change again when your application has been assessed.
  • Check with the CAB if you are now entitled to asylum support. (We’ll try to find out more and let you know later.)

A footnote: If you really want an insight into the UKBA perspective, have a look at their Equality Impact Assessment (EIA). This keeps repeating that

“We do not consider this policy to be an appropriate tool to mitigate this risk and therefore consider any such discrimination of this nature to be outside the scope of this EIA.”

If you can explain how this differs significantly from “the policy will perpetuate inequalities, but we don’t really care”, please let me know.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.

5 year leave to remain

(August 2010)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

  • If you have 5 year leave to remain, you need to re-apply in the month before your leave is due to end.
  • This is the letter that we understand will be sent by UKBA: and our thanks to them for helping with transparency and preparation. Credit where credit is due.

“Important information regarding your leave to enter or remain in the UK as a refugee or a person with humanitarian protection

Our records indicate that you were granted five years’ limited leave to enter or remain in the UK, either as a refugee or a person granted humanitarian protection. Your leave to enter or remain will soon expire and you should contact the UK Border Agency to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

The application form SET (Protection Route) and more information about how to apply is available on the UK Border Agency website

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/applicationforms/settlement/set_protection_routle_form.pdf

Please send in your application in the month before your leave is due to end. The form has been designed with the applicant in mind and to be straight forward. However, if you need help use a qualified advisor listed with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), an approved immigration law practitioner, registered with the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, ILPA, or the local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Please include all your dependants living in the UK on your application form, including those born in the UK since you were granted leave to remain. It is in your interest to apply in time (i.e. before the expiry date of your leave) to ensure the speedy resolution of your case and the continuation of your leave.

You will keep your access to benefits and permission to work while your application is being decided. The UK Border Agency will send you a letter to confirm receipt of your application.” (Crown copyright)

  • The three routes to find a qualified advisor recommended in the letter are
  • OISC
  • ILPA
  • CAB

Learn more:

Firstly, we think UKBA has done a very reasonable job of making the process clear and accessible, and your local support group should also be able to access information on this.

However, it appears that underneath the velvet, you have no guarantee that your leave will be extended. Because of this, you might like to see if the reasons you were given 5 year leave to remain still apply; and if you are in any doubt, seek professional help.

There is also one very strange question on the form: “5.7 Have you or any dependants who are applying with you ever engaged in any other activities which might indicate that you may not be considered to be persons of good character?”

I’ve asked a judge, a professor, and a priest, amongst others, and none thought they could honestly say “No”. Whoever you are, there is probably someone who doesn’t consider you to be a person of good character.

But if you answer it “Yes”, you will almost certainly be complicating your life.

We wouldn’t mind seeing this question challenged in court as being unreasonable.

What else might you do?

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.

At risk of deportation:

families and consultation

(August 2010)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

  • The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA has talked about the need for a sensitive approach to the deportation of families from the UK.
  • The Refugee Council in a consultation response to the UKBA has talked about the part that the voluntary sector can play in “helping people to navigate the asylum process”.
  • It may not be advisable for individuals under threat to wait until the last minute. Seek to get your local support group involved in helping you to work out your options.
  • At the same time, this is an opportunity to make sure the UKBA raises its standards; so how should local support groups respond?

Learn more:

John Vine, the Chief Inspector, wrote that

There was limited evidence that an individual action plan existed for each family which took account of the family’s welfare needs and arrangements for them to return home. Family Removals: A Thematic Inspection January – April 2010 p.3

and

It is vital that the detention and removal of families is handled effectively and sensitively, taking into account the individual circumstances of each case. I am concerned therefore to have found significant weaknesses in current procedures, specifically no clear individually tailored plans for families throughout their contact with the UK Border Agency, poor compliance in the completion of health and welfare documentation . Family Removals: A Thematic Inspection January – April 2010 p.2

The Refugee Council wrote that

We believe having a voluntary sector case worker supporting someone throughout their application would lead to a smoother and fairer process, reducing costs overall….. We accept that those without protection needs, for whom return is safe and logistically possible, will need to engage with the options and that a voluntary departure may well be a preferable option for people in that situation. Refugee Council summary draft response to the UKBA consultation: Reforming asylum support January 2010

So, as a local support group, with concerns about the security of some of our families, what can we do to ensure that if a family are going to be forced to leave the UK, they do so with dignity, and with a full understanding of the choices they can make? (We’re assuming that all legal processes against the deportation have been exhausted.)

One difficult choice is whether to go for voluntary return, in which case there may be a reasonable package of support; but if you do this, does it mean you’ve given up on using every other legal means of staying?

This is where we’d hope local support would help people to assess their chances of staying. The basic options are set out in the UKBA advice on voluntary schemes, which points out that they are independently administered by the International Organisation for Migration. There is also a page – a short page – on enforced removal.

You might also like to see what the National Coalition of Anti-deportation Campaigns has to say on the subject.

It is worth remembering that if it does come to arrest and deportation, you have the right to legal representation (see our  blog on the subject), and that if the police are involved they are not there to support the UKBA but to ensure fair play. The Chief Inspector noted that “one arrest took only 27 minutes. There was no explanation for the packing period having been curtailed.” Section 5 of his report gives further understanding of the process, and of what is now expected of the UKBA.

In conclusion, if there is a risk, be prepared for it.

What else might you do?

  • To repeat ourselves, if there is a risk, be prepared for it.
  • We hope that local support organisations are aware of the advice of the Chief Inspector and the Refugee Council.
  • Get in touch with any support group you know, and see what they’re doing.
  • Have a look at No-one is illegal: campaigning against deportation or removal. Thanks to the people of Manchester and the north-west for putting this together.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.

May I have my passport back

please?

(August 2010)

Have we got this right?

This is a co-operative effort. I’ll tell you what I think.

You put me right and keep me up to date.

And remember…..

Always consult carefully before acting.

The summary:

  • The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA doesn’t seem to be tremendously impressed with the way UKBA handles complaints, nor with the way it responds to MPs’ enquiries.
  • If you have had difficulty getting your passport back after you’ve been granted leave to remain, you may agree with the Inspector
  • You might be pleased to know that we’re going to try to do something about it.
  • Please let us know if this has affected you, or you share our concern.

Learn more:

We’ve spoken to people who should know, and they say that getting your passport back from the UKBA can be a big problem; and it seems that your MP may not be able to offer much effective support.

In his report, the Chief Inspector told us that only 5% of MPs were very satisfied with the quality of responses from the UKBA. 32% were satisfied, 27% were dissatisfied. 9% were very dissatisfied.

We believe that

  • if you submit your passport as evidence for an application for asylum purposes, you are entitled to have the passport returned promptly, most certainly if you have been granted leave to remain.
  • If you have any difficulty, your MP should be able to get a sensible answer from the UKBA within 48 hours.

We believe this because

In practical terms, someone who is now entitled to work might get a job as a care worker, but they can’t start because it’s hard to get your CRB check or a driving licence without your passport.

In emotional terms, the sense of identity is dependent on how the world sees you. If you are a Zimbabwean citizen resident in the UK, you are entitled to have your Home Office permit and your passport; then you know where you stand.

In legal terms, the passport is probably owned by the government that issued it, but does not the primary right to possession rest with the individual named in it, rather than the UKBA?

In our particular case, we tried going through our local MP, who happens to be a member of the Cabinet. It took three weeks to get a reply from UKBA, and the reply took us no further.  As the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA wrote in Lessons to Learn:

The UK Border Agency has yet to provide compelling evidence that it is truly using complaints and issues raised by MPs in correspondence as a real driver to improve its overall service and behaviour. As yet there is no systematic analysis of the reasons behind complaints, and no evidence that, for example, complaints about an issue such as lost documents are used to overhaul procedures and practice across the Agency. (Lessons to learn: The UK Border Agency’s handling of complaints and MPs’ correspondence A Thematic Inspection: October 2009 – January 2010 John Vine p.4 )

Working for UKBA is probably not easy, but we think it’s time for a change, and this is, as far as we can discover, a simple logistical matter. We think they’d feel better for getting it right, as well as the people they are serving.

So what might you do?

  • If you’ve had difficulty getting your passport back promptly after you have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you might like to get in touch with us.
  • If you have an MP who has been supportive and helpful, let us know who it is.
  • If you are a member of an organization who shares our concerns, we’d love to hear from you. Changes come when a lot of voices are heard singing the same song.

Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. It is intended only to draw your attention to issues that may be of interest to you, and to sources where you can obtain further information. The responsibility for how this information is used does not lie with the author or the publisher. Always seek professional advice where necessary.