Dave Smith
Roundup of Refugee News (April 19-26)

Weekly News Review (19 – 26 April)

Asylum / refugees / immigration (UK)


Independent: Pregnant women and new mothers living in ‘damp, cockroach-infested’ asylum accommodation

Pregnant women and new mothers have been forced to live in damp, cockroach-infested asylum accommodation in what lawyers say is a breach of the law, The Independent has learned. 

The Home Office is facing legal action over its provision of accommodation to asylum-seeking women who have been placed in hotel rooms with shared bathroom facilities that are “manifestly inadequate” and present a risk to the women and their unborn and newborn babies.



Guardian: Witnesses to deaths in detention ‘deliberately’ deported from the UK

Scores of people who could be key witnesses to deaths in detention may have been “deliberately” deported before they could give evidence, it has been claimed. It has also emerged that the home secretary, Priti Patel, failed to address concerns from a coroner last year that the actions of her department could have undermined police investigations.



Guardian: Priti Patel’s detention policies found to breach human rights rules

A landmark court ruling has held the home secretary, Priti Patel, accountable for failures in ensuring that deaths in immigration detention centres are properly investigated. Two judges in the immigration court ruled on Wednesday that three of the home secretary’s detention policies breached human rights rules and that she could not frustrate or undermine inquiries into these deaths.



BBC News: Napier Barracks: Suicide attempts at 'unsafe' asylum-seeker camp

A former military barracks used to house asylum seekers was "squalid, ill-equipped" and "unsafe", the High Court heard. Six men who were housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, claim the accommodation breached their human rights.

Tom Hickman QC said an independent report found seven suicide attempts and seven incidents of serious self-harm. The Home Office argues that the use of the barracks is lawful.



Sky News: 'Serious error of judgement' to use Army bases in Kent and Wales to house asylum seekers

Using military barracks to house asylum seekers was a "serious error of judgement" after a major coronavirus outbreak at one site, an inspection has ruled. Conditions at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent and Penally Camp in Wales were "utterly unacceptable" and represented "serious failings on the part of the Home Office", chief inspector David Bolt said.



Independent: Home Office putting vulnerable asylum seekers at increased suicide risk in detention, doctors warn

The Home Office is putting vulnerable asylum seekers at heightened risk of suicide by placing them in immigration detention centres, mental health doctors warn. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) is calling on the government to allow potential detainees with a mental illness to remain in the community so they can access the treatment they need from the NHS, or risk a “significant deterioration” in their mental health.



Yorkshire Post: Asylum seekers deserve better than this inhumanity – Paul Blomfield

The Home Secretary recently said that our asylum system is broken. She is right, although it is perhaps worth remembering who has been running it for the last 11 years. However, it is broken, above all, for those who come to this country seeking refuge, and too often it breaks them. 

The Government’s new plan for immigration encapsulates the approach of Ministers, framing asylum seekers as the problem rather than addressing the problems they face, dehumanising those who seek the refuge provided under international law and the treaties to which we are proud signatories, and talking about them as illegal migrants.



Guardian: Out of thin air: the mystery of the man who fell from the sky

It was Sunday 30 June 2019, a balmy summer’s afternoon, and Wil, a 31-year-old software engineer, was lounging on an inflatable airbed outside his house in Clapham, south-west London. He wore pyjamas and drank Polish beer. As he chatted to his housemate in the sunshine, planes on their way to Heathrow airport made their final approach overhead. On his phone, Wil showed his housemate an app that tells users the route and model of any passing plane. He tested the app on one plane, and then held his phone up again, shielding his eyes from the sun and squinting into the sky.



Independent: EU countries rule out bilateral asylum deals in blow to Priti Patel’s immigration plans

In a major blow to Priti Patel’s immigration plans, EU countries have said they will not strike bilateral agreements with Britain to facilitate the deportation of refugees to Europe. New measures unveiled by the home secretary last month would see refugees who arrive in Britain via unauthorised routes denied an automatic right to asylum and instead forcibly removed to safe countries they passed through on their way to the UK, which are usually in the EU.



Housing Digital: People with insecure immigration status spending four years destitute

The average length of time someone with insecure immigration status spends destitute in Greater Manchester is four years, according to statistics compiled by the Migrant Destitution Fund GM. The fund gave its first grant in April 2020, and, of 249 people who applied to the fund between then and January 2021 and provided personal information, the average person had been destitute for four years and three months, while the longest period that a person had experienced destitution for was 26 years. Only 20 applicants had spent less than one year living in destitution.



Guardian: Concerns raised over legal advice for Vietnamese migrants deported from UK

Concerns have been raised over whether Vietnamese migrants who were forcibly removed from the UK on a Home Office flight may have been put on the plane in breach of the department’s own rules on access to legal counsel.



Evening Standard: Hundreds to be moved into Napier Barracks despite previous Covid outbreak

Hundreds more people are to be moved into Napier Barracks despite serious concerns over conditions, the PA news agency can reveal. The expected increase comes after nearly 200 cases of Covid were detected and dozens of residents had to be moved out to deal with the crisis earlier this year.



Guardian: Asylum seekers treated ‘in dehumanising way’ by UK host hotels

Thousands of asylum seekers accommodated in hotels in England have been subjected to “dehumanising treatment” during the pandemic, the Refugee Council has warned. The council revealed that one 14-year-old boy was sent to hospital after losing 3kg in body weight (just under 7lb) due to the poor quality of the food provided. 

A report by the council highlights the “unacceptable and unsustainable” conditions in hotels, including the negative impact on mental health, the lack of clothing and footwear, poor quality of food and exposure to racist abuse, with some stays lasting more than a year.



Guardian: Home Office sued by asylum seeker over baby’s death

A woman whose baby died is suing the Home Office for negligence over claims that staff at her asylum accommodation refused to call an ambulance when she was pregnant and bleeding.

In March, when she was 35 weeks pregnant, she experienced lower back pain and asked housing staff to call an ambulance. She claims they refused, and she was left in the housing reception for more than three hours, bleeding and in obvious pain.



Big Issue: Plans to deport rough sleepers could ‘put lives at risk’

Home Office rules that could let the UK Government deport migrants for sleeping rough will “put lives at risk”, say homelessness charities calling on authorities not to enforce them. Under amended immigration rules, non-UK rough sleepers may have their permission to remain in the country refused or cancelled on the grounds that they are sleeping rough on the streets.



Metro: Every refugee who has stayed in my spare rooms has felt like family

Five years ago, a young Syrian university student fled Aleppo, crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, made his way to Calais and then bravely traversed the English Channel into the UK – seeking asylum as soon as he arrived. A year later in May 2017, I welcomed him into my home for a stay of six to 12 weeks – but a couple of weeks in, invited him to stay indefinitely. He’s been living with me ever since. https://metro.co.uk/2021/04/20/ive-hosted-more-than-30-refugees-and-they-all-feel-like-family-14439345/


JRS: Being Human in the Asylum System

JRS UK report seeks to envisage a just and person-centred asylum system by bringing refugee experience and policy analysis into conversation with Catholic Social Teaching, against the backdrop of new, deeply troubling government proposals for an overhaul of the asylum system.




Asylum / refugees / immigration (international) 

Guardian: By demonising asylum seekers, Denmark reflects a panic in social democracy (opinion)

Denmark is the first European nation to insist that Syrian refugees should return to their home country because Bashar al-Assad’s regime is now in control and there is little conflict. It has revoked the residency permits of dozens of Syrian refugees and started detaining those it wants to deport. Yet it cannot actually deport anyone because it has severed diplomatic relations with Damascus. Assad’s regime is, apparently, despotic enough for Copenhagen to abjure relations but not so bad that Syria is unsafe for returning refugees.



Guardian: Biden walks back refugee admissions policy after outcry and will lift cap in May

Facing swift blowback from fellow lawmakers and aid groups, the White House on Friday said that Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor’s historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements. 

The number of refugees allowed to resettle in the US per year fell from 85,000 to 15,000 under former president Trump, whose hardline “America first” agenda frequently portrayed migrants as a security threat.



Guardian: More than 100 asylum seekers feared dead after shipwreck off Libya

At least 120 asylum seekers are feared dead after their rubber boat capsized in stormy seas off the coast of Libya while they were attempting to reach Europe, charities and the UN migration agency say. Dozens of bodies were spotted near a capsized vessel on Thursday, which had about 130 people on board, a rescue charity said.



Guardian: Greece accused of ‘shocking’ illegal pushback against refugees at sea

A lawsuit filed against the Greek state at the European court of human rights accuses Athens of a shocking level of violence in sophisticated inter-agency operations that form part of an illegal pushback strategy to stop the arrival of refugees and migrants.


Guardian: Nearly 17 child migrants a day vanished in Europe since 2018

At least 18,000 unaccompanied child migrants have disappeared after arriving in European countries including Greece, Italy and Germany. An investigation by the Guardian and the cross-border journalism collective Lost in Europe found that 18,292 unaccompanied child migrants went missing in Europe between January 2018 and December 2020 – equivalent to nearly 17 children a day. In 2020 alone, 5,768 children disappeared in 13 European countries.



AlJazeera: The EU efforts to repatriate Afghan asylum seekers are dangerous

Currently, there are around 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees across the globe. In 2020, Afghan refugees were the second largest group of asylum seekers in continental Europe, having fled Afghanistan for a variety of reasons including persecution, conflict, economic hardship, and climate induced displacement. Each person has a different reason, in many cases multiple reasons, for leaving in search of safety.

In late 2020, the European Union and the government of Afghanistan entered into negotiations to extend the “Joint Way Forward” – an informal agreement they signed in 2016 to facilitate the repatriation of Afghans who came to Europe to seek protection.