Dave Smith
Weekly Roundup of Refugee News 2.3.21

Asylum / refugees / immigration (UK)

Observer: Revealed: Priti Patel U-turn on end to detention for refugee women

A new network of immigration detention units for women is being quietly planned by the Home Office, contrary to previous pledges to reform the system and reduce the number of vulnerable people held.  

An initial detention centre, based in County Durham on the site of a former youth prison, will open for female asylum seekers this autumn.


BBC: Gay Ugandan asylum seekers 'in danger if sent home'

Same-sex liaisons are illegal in Uganda. People convicted of homosexual acts can be sent to jail for the rest of their lives. Some gay Ugandans survive by staying under the radar and live a shadowy half-life, presenting a straight face to the world. Others manage to leave their homeland, seeking asylum where they won't be persecuted for being who they are.


Guardian: People smugglers could get life sentences under new rules, says Home Office

People smugglers could be handed life sentences under plans to ramp up penalties in an effort to stop migrants crossing the Channel. At present, the maximum sentence for people smuggling is 14 years in prison. The Times reported that Priti Patel wants to lengthen jail terms because of her concerns that the average sentence received is three years.


Guardian: Asylum seekers 'subjected to sexual harassment' in government hotels

The Home Office has been urged to investigate the network of hotels holding thousands of asylum seekers following allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation and claims that staff have been paid significantly below the minimum wage.


Independent: Home Office to ‘accelerate’ movement of asylum seekers from hotels to long-term accommodation

The Home Office is planning to “accelerate” the movement of asylum seekers out of hotels and into long-term housing. A letter sent to NGOs by the department states that people seeking asylum who are currently in hotels will start being “decanted” out of the accommodation as part of a process called Operation Oak.


Guardian: Covid cases among asylum seekers at Napier barracks higher than thought

A former military barracks being used to house asylum seekers has had at least 197 positive cases of Covid-19 this year alone, far higher than previously thought, the most senior civil servant at the Home Office has revealed. This is equal to more than 50% of its resident population at its peak of 380.


Guardian: Concerns raised over 'squalid' Serco asylum seeker housing in Derby

A council is arranging an urgent inspection of asylum seeker accommodation in Derby after concerns were raised about conditions there.


Photos of the property seen by the Guardian show part of the kitchen ceiling missing, rubble in the base of a shower, cracked and missing tiles, rusted pipes and plaster missing from walls where wallpaper has peeled off. The garden is strewn with litter and discarded furniture.


Independent: Home Office denies Farage claim group of asylum seekers who arrived in Dover ‘all had Covid’

The Home Office has refuted a claim by Nigel Farage that a group of asylum seekers who arrived in Dover on Saturday had “all tested positive” for coronavirus. The former Brexit Party leader inaccurately stated 12 individuals on board one vessel were found to be infected with Covid-19.


Independent: Lack of access to lawyers for immigration detainees being held in prison is unlawful, High Court rules

The legal aid provision for immigration detainees held in prisons is unlawful, the High Court has ruled, after it emerged a man was unable to access a lawyer for 10 months and had to represent himself.


Foreign Policy: Britain Doesn’t Have a Refugee Crisis, So It Created One

Faced with a modest trickle of rickety boats washing up on British shores in the months before Brexit and since, Britain’s government has begun to stoke an ugly culture war by linking asylum with danger and chaos. For a country that seeks to rebrand itself post-Brexit as an outward-looking champion of the rules-based international order, and a prime minister who seeks to distance himself from the recently unseated U.S. president and his xenophobia, it is a parochial and authoritarian turn.


Asylum / refugees / immigration (international)

Guardian: ‘Help and you are a criminal’: the fight to defend refugee rights at Europe's borders

At the offices of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group in Budapest, András Léderer and his colleagues have a map on which they track every asylum seeker – man, woman or child – who has been physically pushed back by police from the Hungarian border and into the forests of Serbia.

The pushbacks are illegal under international law. Yet it is Léderer and his fellow human rights activists who could face arrest and a jail sentence if they went to the border to witness what is happening there.


Guardian: Woman who set herself on fire in Lesbos refugee camp charged with arson

A pregnant Afghan woman who was severely injured when she set herself on fire in a refugee camp on Lesbos has been formally charged with arson and destruction of public property after giving testimony to a prosecutor from her hospital bed.

The 26-year-old, who has been granted refugee status and is due to give birth next week, was told she would face trial for her actions and be unable to leave Greece. She has not been publicly identified.


CNN: Why Britain's anti-immigration politicians are opening the doors to thousands of Hong Kongers

Eighteen months ago, Malcolm was at the vanguard of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. Today, he is applying for asylum in the United Kingdom, and separated from his family in Hong Kong where he feels he can longer visit.


Relevant world news

Channel 4 News: Amnesty accuses Eritrea and Ethiopia of committing atrocities together

It wasn’t so long ago that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for ending a conflict with Eritrea. Today Amnesty International released a report accusing both the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments of working alongside each other to commit atrocities.


Good news!

The National: Former refugee who fled Taliban aims to make election history

A MAN who was forced to flee the Taliban in Afghanistan when he was a teenager could become the first former refugee to win an election in Scotland. Abdul Bostani, who has lived in Glasgow for more than half his life, is standing as the SNP candidate in the city council’s Partick East/Kelvindale by-election.