Dave Smith
Roundup of Refugee News (wb 17.5.21)

Weekly News Review (w.b. 17.5.21)

Asylum / refugees / immigration (UK)


Guardian: ‘A special day’: how a Glasgow community halted immigration raid

It was just after 9am on Thursday and he was finishing breakfast when the callout came. Kenmure Street’s “Van Man” – the activist who spent nearly eight hours squeezed underneath an immigration enforcement van to prevent the detention of two men on Glasgow’s southside – was on his bike in minutes.

“It’s not often you can catch raids in the act like this, but the southside has a lot of folks pulling together,” he said. “The only way that day could have ended was with our neighbours’ release; there were simply too many local people standing in the street for the police to have taken the van away. The strategy does work – and we want the world to understand that it was the people on the streets who won that victory, not the politicians.”


Independent: Priti Patel accused of breaking Geneva Convention with plans to deny asylum rights to refugees crossing Channel

Priti Patel has been challenged that her tough plans to deny asylum rights to vulnerable people crossing the Channel will break the Geneva Convention on refugees.

The controversy blew up as the home secretary admitted she had yet to secure any new “safe legal routes” with conflict zones, which she has promised as an alternative way to reach the UK.

Ms Patel was also unable to name a single EU country ready to take back asylum-seekers – after pre-Brexit agreements collapsed – saying “we are in discussions”.


Guardian: EU countries snub Priti Patel’s plans to return asylum seekers

Not a single European country has decided to support the UK government’s controversial asylum plans, with the UN on Saturday night criticising the proposals as so damaging they risked Britain’s “global credibility”.

Six weeks after the home secretary, Priti Patel, unveiled a sweeping immigration overhaul that included deporting migrants who enter the UK illegally to safe countries such as “France and other EU countries”, sources have said the Home Office has been unable to persuade any European state to sign up to the scheme.


Independent: Queen’s Speech: Asylum plans attacked as ‘cruel and unfair’

Government plans to overhaul the asylum system have been branded “cruel and unfair”, with campaigners arguing that they “slam the door in the face” of people who could be in urgent need of the UK’s protection.

Immigration reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday include proposals to refuse any asylum seeker who has passed through a safe country before reaching the UK the right to refugee status in Britain.

It confirms ministers’ intention to implement their New Plan for Immigration, unveiled in March, under which refugees which who arrive in the UK via unauthorised routes will be denied protection and instead regularly reassessed for removal to safe countries they passed through.


Guardian: Torture victims kept in solitary by Home Office for up to a year

The Home Office has pursued a policy of psychological brutality by locking up scores of torture survivors in solitary confinement for indefinite periods, according to fresh testimony from immigration detainees.

Interviews dictated from prison reveal some torture and trafficking victims have had to spend more than 23 hours a day in solitary confinement for periods of up to a year. Their accounts portray mental health breakdown, self-harm and suicide attempts after the Home Office opted to place detainees inside the prison network as part of its Covid measures.


Guardian: Cruel, paranoid, failing: inside the Home Office

For the thousands of people who end up on the wrong side of the Home Office each year, there is often a sudden moment of disbelief. This can’t be happening, people tell themselves. They can’t do this, can they?

For Ruhena Miah, a sales assistant born and raised in the West Midlands, this moment came when she received a letter saying that if she wanted to marry the man she loved, she would have to move to Bangladesh. For Tayjay Thompson, a young man convicted of a drugs offence when he was 17, it was when he was told he would be deported to Jamaica, a country he’d left as a toddler. For Monique Hawkins, a Dutch software engineer, it was when her application for a residency permit was rejected, despite the fact she had lived in the UK for 24 years. For Omar, a refugee from Afghanistan (who asked me not to use his real name), it was when he stepped off the plane at Heathrow and discovered that he was being taken to a building that looked to him very much like a prison.


Guardian: Iranian asylum seeker cleared of Channel smuggling charges

An asylum seeker jailed on smuggling charges for helping to steer a boat filled with migrants from France to England has had his conviction overturned at a retrial after spending 17 months in jail. Lawyers and campaigners say the verdict could lead to other migrants currently in jail on smuggling charges being freed, allowing the Home Office policy of prosecuting asylum seekers who play a role in piloting boats across the Channel to be challenged more widely.


Mirror: No10 defends detaining EU 'friends' in immigration 'prison' after arriving at Heathrow

EU citizens are our “friends and neighbours” Number 10 insisted today, amid reports that Spanish and Italian people arriving in the UK without the right papers had been held in detention centres. Downing Street defended the government’s border policies amid reports that EU citizens had been detained by officers after arriving at Heathrow airport without the correct paperwork.


Guardian: I fled Syria with just £12 … now I have my own restaurant in Soho

When Imad Alarnab, a Syrian chef, arrived in the UK as a refugee five years ago, he could barely afford to eat. Meals were regularly skipped and a Snickers bar could be eked out over a whole day to help him survive. On Monday, the 43-year-old father of three will be celebrating lockdown rules easing with a fairytale twist: Alarnab will be opening the doors to his very own central London restaurant.


Mirror: Refugee's inspiring journey from child asylum seeker to owner of posh London restaurant

A refugee who came to the UK in a lorry is now preparing to open an egg-based restaurant called 'Eggoland'.

Sohail Ahmad arrived in Kent at the tender age of 12 after travelling all the way from Afghanistan on a truck. Now aged 32, Sohail is preparing to open Eggoland in central London this summer, KentLive reports.


Independent: Government’s Windrush ‘engagement meetings’ are perpetuating hostile environment, activists say

The government’s Windrush engagement meetings are excluding those they are designed to help, activists and victims of the scandal have said. Home Office representatives are also failing to regularly participate in advisory events facilitated by grassroots organisations such as Windrush Lives, they add.


Asylum / refugees / immigration (International)


Guardian: ‘A scene out of the middle ages’: Dead refugee found surrounded by rats at Greek camp

At a desolate refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios earlier this week, a young man died alone in a tent. By the time the guards arrived on the scene, about 12 hours after the Somali refugee’s death, the body was surrounded by rodents.


Independent: France should suspend all immigration from outside EU for up to five years, Michel Barnier says

France should suspend all immigration from outside the EU for up to five years and push the bloc to toughen its external borders, Michel Barnier has said. The EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, who is thought to be considering a tilt at the French presidency, said the European Union’s external frontier had become a “sieve”.

“I think we have to take the time for three or five years to suspend immigration,” he told public broadcaster France 2.


Guardian: Indefinite detention of refugees is unlawful under international law, but Australia has quietly made it legal

In 2012, a person placed in immigration detention in Australia was held, on average, for less than 100 days. In 2021, that figure is 627 days – 20 months – the highest it has ever been. In 2012, fewer than 3% of people held in immigration detention had been there longer than two years. In January this year, that figure was 30%.


Relevant world news


Guardian: Rape is being used as weapon of war in Ethiopia, say witnesses

Thousands of women and girls are being targeted by the deliberate tactic of using rape as a weapon in the civil war that has erupted in Ethiopia, according to eyewitnesses.

In a rare account from inside the heavily isolated region of Tigray, where communications with the outside world are being deliberately cut off, an Ethiopian nun has spoken of the widespread horror she and her colleagues are seeing on a daily basis since a savage war erupted six months ago.


Guardian: Afghanistan: fighting resumes in south after three-day ceasefire for Eid

Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has resumed in the southern province of Helmand, officials said, ending a three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring sides to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.




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