Dave Smith
Easter Roundup of Refugee News

Weekly News Review (March 23 – April 5)

Something good to start

Guardian: The welcome party: how a secret group of Kent residents is helping small-boat refugees

New Plan for Immigration                                       

Victoria Derbyshire: Mary Njoroge (link through Twitter)

Asylum seeker Mary Njoroge came to the UK (legally) in 2017 from Kenya where she was persecuted. She’s still waiting for her claim to be processed.  She’s been put up in a house, given £39 a week to live on, isn’t allowed to get a job, & isn’t allowed a TV.

 Independent: I came to Britain as an asylum seeker – Priti Patel’s cruel plans will punish refugees seeking safety

The government wants us to think that the UK faces an asylum crisis. It doesn’t. It is the government that is facing a crisis of empathy for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. After fleeing war and torture in Syria, I’ve been able to restart my life in the UK. I’ve had opportunities to rebuild, make friends, to really get to know the things that make the UK an incredible place to live.

Under new proposals announced today, these opportunities would be increasingly unlikely. After all, I wasn’t able to take one of Priti Patel’s “safe and legal routes” to the UK.

Sky News: New Home Office asylum seeker plans condemned as 'divisive' and won't stop people making desperate journeys

Home Office plans to make it much tougher for those who enter the UK illegally to claim asylum have been condemned as a "divisive policy", which will do nothing to stop people making desperate journeys.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would make "no apology" for ensuring those coming here illegally "will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally". But Bridget Chapman, who heads the Kent Refugee Action Network charity, said far from solving the problem, the new "deliberately divisive policy" seeks to "make people think that there are good refugees, who do the right thing and bad refugees, who don't do the right thing".


Independent: Patel’s plans to deport asylum seekers to EU won’t work, says Blunkett

The UK government’s plans to seek to deport asylum seekers to other countries are not workable and will end up costing the department more, former Home Office ministers and civil servants have warned.

Lord David Blunkett, who served as home secretary between 2001 and 2004 under Tony Blair, said there was not a “cat’s chance in hell” that the UK would manage to secure bilateral returns deals with EU nations. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum-plans-deport-eu-priti-patel-blunkett-b1823154.html

Guardian: So, Priti Patel, your asylum plans will help women? Let me introduce you to Gloria

When Priti Patel stood up in parliament last week to unveil her plans to overhaul the asylum system, she told us she was making all this effort not for votes, not to keep out foreigners, not to appease nationalists… but for women. With a plaintive tone, she observed that those we see in small boats out on the Channel are so often men and asked: “Where are the vulnerable women and children that this system should exist to protect?”

If the home secretary really wants to find them, I can introduce her to some of these women. Indeed, I could take her this week to meet a woman I know very well – I’ll call her Gloria.



Guardian: Priti Patel's asylum reforms will only deepen the despair of refugees

This week, the home secretary, Priti Patel, has set out a reform of the UK’s asylum system. And she’s right, the system does need an overhaul – but in ways very different to those she sets out.


Under the changes, people who travel to the UK to claim asylum will be assessed on the basis of how they entered the country, with those who arrive by “illegal” means no longer having the same entitlements as those who arrive via legal routes.


In my work as a rabbi, I often support people who have recently arrived in this country. They may have reached the UK in ways the government describes as illegal, but people fleeing persecution don’t have the luxury of choosing how they get to what they hope will be a safe haven. The proposed reforms lack compassion for the journey so many refugees have faced.



Guardian: Home Office: new deportation law may discriminate against ethnic minorities

The Home Office has admitted that a new immigration rule to criminalise and deport migrant rough sleepers may discriminate against ethnic minorities, including Asian women who have survived domestic violence.


An internal document outlines the department’s analysis of how the new power – which prompted widespread outrage when it came into force four months ago – would also indirectly affect at-risk groups, including people with disabilities.


The eight-page equality impact assessment, obtained by Liberty Investigates, accepts the potential of the rule to indirectly discriminate on the grounds of race, since some factors leading to homelessness disproportionately affect people from particular ethnicities. “The main reason Asian women give for being homeless is because of domestic violence,” the assessment states.




Immigration / asylum / refugees (UK)


Manchester Evening News: Ministers accused of breaking promises by placing '15 percent of asylum seekers' in Greater Manchester

Andy Burnham has hit out at Home Secretary Priti Patel for continuing to house ‘disproportionate’ numbers of asylum seekers in Greater Manchester - accusing the government of breaking a 2018 promise to disperse people more equally across the country. Currently the conurbation houses 15pc of the UK’s asylum seekers, at more than 6,000.


However in the coming weeks those who have been accommodated in hotels across the country during the pandemic will also be moved into housing - and of the 10,000 or so people in that position, leaders here say 3,000 are expected to be directly housed in the North West via outsourced government contracts. They believe that will further intensify placements of people in Greater Manchester boroughs, with no additional funding for services needed to support them.



Guardian: Home Office spends £13,354 per person on deportation flights

The cost of removing people from the UK by charter flight during the last three months of 2020 was £13,354 per person – more than 100 times than the average cost of a ticket on a scheduled flight, and a 11.5% increase on the same period in the previous year.


A freedom of information response obtained by the organisation No-Deportations stated that between October and December 2020 the Home Office spent £4.3m deporting 322 people on 23 charter flights – which amounts to £13,354 per deportee.



Guardian: Home Office revives plan to deport non-UK rough sleepers

The Home Office has quietly relaunched a controversial programme that uses councils and homelessness charities to obtain personal data that could lead to the deportation of non-UK rough sleepers.


Two charities and six councils have signed up to the scheme since it was relaunched six months ago, according to documents obtained by Liberty Investigates, a journalism unit of the human rights organisation Liberty.


When one charity was approached over its participation, it immediately deregistered from the programme, saying it wanted to avoid putting rough sleepers at risk.



Metro: Asylum seeker suicides aren’t officially recorded – but they deserve to be

Twelve years ago, I was travelling weekly to visit coroners’ offices all over the country, from Bristol to Bradford, Lewes to Leeds.  Leading a team of doctors at a charity that provides clinical and welfare help to survivors of torture who are rebuilding their lives in Britain, a lot of my work crosses over with the UK asylum system. I was struck by the number of recent local news stories I had seen reporting deaths of asylum seekers by suicide. I decided to probe further.



Independent: Asylum seekers being moved to areas ‘at risk of far-right attacks’

Asylum seekers are being placed in unsuitable housing where they are at risk of far-right attacks because Home Office contractors are “ignoring” warnings from local authorities.


The Independent has learned that UK councils that voluntarily house asylum seekers – known as “dispersal areas” – have withdrawn from doing so on the grounds that ministers are failing to “meaningfully engage” with them before placing people in their areas.



Independent: Home Office still plans to house 28 asylum seekers to a dorm at Napier Barracks despite Covid outbreak

The Home Office will not reduce the number of asylum seekers per dormitory at a controversial military barracks despite a major coronavirus outbreak that took place at the camp earlier this year, documents show.


Napier Barracks, in Kent, is currently housing 45 people but new residents are due to be moved there in the coming weeks. The Home Office has been using the site as asylum accommodation for six months, and plans to continue to do so until September.



Independent: Home Office ‘presenting opinion as fact’ on immigration issues, lawyers warn

Prominent barristers have accused the Home Office of misleading the public on immigration issues in the UK in breach of the civil service code and equating “child rapists” with “failed asylum seekers”.


Twelve sets of chambers and a number of independent barristers have submitted a complaint to the department about a press release published on the Home Office website on 20 March, entitled “Alarming rise of abuse within modern slavery system”, in which Priti Patel is quoted as stating that modern slavery safeguards are being “rampantly abused”.




 Immigration / asylum / refugees (international)


AlJazeera: ‘We have nothing’: Refugee camp fire devastates Rohingya, again

The last time Farida Begum saw her home turned into a smouldering ruin was some three and a half years ago. On that night, soldiers had arrived in the swampy Maungdaw district of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, killed her husband and torched their house.


 Begum, along with her son, managed to flee the Myanmar military’s crackdown against the Rohingya in late August 2017, which United Nations investigators found to have been executed with “genocidal intent”.



AlJazeera: Doubts simmer over EU plan to fund new refugee camps in Greece

A top European Union official is set to announce a 250-million euro ($295m) fund for new refugee camps to be built on Greece’s Aegean islands, but rights groups have warned the investment may do little to support those living in precarious conditions.




Guardian: Syrian refugee drops out of German parliament election after threats

A Damascus-born Syrian man running to become the first refugee to enter the German parliament has withdrawn his candidacy, citing personal threats and security concerns.



Guardian: Sicilian prosecutors wiretapped journalists covering refugee crisis

Sicilian prosecutors investigating sea rescue NGOs and charities for alleged complicity in people smuggling have wiretapped several Italian journalists covering the central Mediterranean migration crisis and allegedly exposed their sources.


Prosecutors in Trapani this month charged rescuers from charities including Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières with collaboration with people smugglers after thousands of people were saved from drowning in the Mediterranean.



Guardian: Desperate Burmese refugees flee to Thailand and India to escape crisis

Myanmar’s escalating crisis is spilling across its borders, as thousands of refugees seek safe haven in India and Thailand in the wake of the military coup and bloody crackdowns on anti-coup protesters.


Authorities in both countries have tried to block new arrivals, fearing that a steady flow may become a flood, if unrest spreading through Myanmar worsens..



AlJazeera: ‘No other home’: Refugees in Kenya camps devastated over closure

Terrifying, shocking, a rejection of humanity – these are just some of the words used by residents of Kenya’s two largest refugee camps to describe their fear and despondency over the news that the government is trying to have the settlements shut down imminently.


On March 24, Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i declared the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) had two weeks to come up with a plan for closing the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, which between them host some 410,000 people from more than a dozen countries, including Somalis, South Sudanese, Ethiopians, Tanzanians, Ugandans and Burundians.



Relevant national and world news


Guardian: Ethiopia: 1,900 people killed in massacres in Tigray identified

Almost 2,000 people killed in more than 150 massacres by soldiers, paramilitaries and insurgents in Tigray have been identified by researchers studying the conflict. The oldest victims were in their 90s and the youngest were infants.