The Prime Minister has long made it a priority to update the law in this area but amid fears it could be sidelined by whoever replaces her she wants to get it through Parliament and onto the statute book.
A senior government source told The Sunday Times: “When she entered Downing Street, she promised action on domestic abuse as part of her commitment to tackling society’s burning injustices.
“She will make sure that she delivers on that promise by introducing the domestic abuse bill before she leaves office so there can be no backtracking on the issue by whoever succeeds her.”
The domestic abuse bill is expected to be introduced to the Commons on 16 July, just a week before Mrs May is expected to exit Number 10.
The proposed legislation will introduce a definition of domestic abuse to include “emotional” and “economic” abuse for the first time, and is aimed at making it easier to prosecute perpetrators and provide more support for victims.
It is one of a number of legacy issues the PM has undertaken since she confirmed a date for when she resigns, but the spending implications have caused tension with the Chancellor Philip Hammond.
It has led to Mrs May rebuking him in a veiled attack by pointing out she was still in charge of the country for the time being.
Whilst at the G20 summit in Tokyo she signalled she is determined to press ahead with her plans, including boosting the education budget by £27bn.
She told reporters: “Look, government is continuing. I’ve still got work to do as prime minister until I hand over to my successor.
“And I think it’s important that we continue to take decisions that are right decisions for this country.”
The PM was speaking after urging world leaders to do more on climate change after leading a meeting at the summit.
She called on the rest of the G20 countries to follow the UK’s lead by enshrining in law a commitment to be a net zero emitter of CO2 by 2050.
But instead they were only willing to agree a statement which committed them to the “irreversibility” of the 2015 Paris agreement and pledged the full implementation of its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Original article available here: //www.politicshome.com/news/uk/education/news/104941/theresa-may-use-final-days-office-pass-new-domestic-abuse-legislation
‘He was trying to cobble the money together’: Vulnerable people facing ‘extortionate’ fees to apply for immigration status
Disabled refugees paying hundreds to settle status under newly outsourced system
Abdul Farooq thought applying for leave to remain in the UK would be straightforward. The 56-year-old Manchester resident had been granted refugee status five years earlier after fleeing religious persecution. Now he wanted to secure his right to remain in the country with his family.
When he logged onto the online UK visa system, however, he realised the process could be far more complex – and costly – than he thought.
The Pakistani national, who was born without his right hand, had been told he simply had to book an appointment to submit the relevant documents within six weeks. But he was informed by the website that the last available slot was in London, at a cost of £780.
Fearful of not completing the process in time, Abdul, who works in a petrol station shop and lives with his wife and teenage son, desperately began to ask friends whether they could lend him money to help him meet the cost before his deadline.
His son-in-law, Suhail Raja, soon realised what was happening and intervened. He tried to book an appointment for Abdul, but was met with the same issue. Free visa appointments are only available in six UK locations, and none of them had available slots. The only option given was to attend a “premium” appointment more than 200 miles away in Croydon.
“We were checking the website around 20 times a day. There were no free appointments,” says Suhail, 33. “The only available appointments were in London, the premium ones, where they were charging £780.
“Abdul was trying to cobble £800 together, but I said you shouldn’t be doing that. I phoned and was waiting for 65 minutes. They said they couldn’t do anything and that I needed to check just after midnight when new appointments are put on the system. We tried that many times and still had no luck.”
They resorted to going to their local MP, at which point the Home Office eventually responded by offering Abdul an appointment in Manchester for 17 July. But this falls after the deadline for his application to be submitted, so the family is worried it will be refused.
Abdul is one of many foreign nationals in the UK to have encountered problems when trying to submit immigration applications.
While visa applicants could previously go to their local post office to provide biometric data such as fingerprints, this is no longer an option under the Home Office’s privatised visa system, which was outsourced to French firm Sopra Steria last November.
They must now attend one of just six “core centres” across the country which offer a free service, or another 51 which charge fees starting from £60.
Solicitors say applicants had been unable to book free appointments due to a lack of availability on Sopra Steria’s website, with some forced to travel hundreds of miles or pay high fees in order to submit their applications on time.
Cross-party MPs and lawyers have demanded an independent investigation into the newly privatised visa system amid warnings it is putting legal migrants at risk of being “thrown into the hostile environment”.
In another case, a Sudanese refugee family in Newcastle is having to question whether or not they can apply for citizenship after encountering barriers in the new system.
The family of five, which includes three children – two severely disabled – is facing the choice of either paying £300 for an appointment in Newcastle, or travelling over 140 miles – with two disability buggies – to attend a free one in Manchester.
Their legal advisor, Claire Hurst, from the Law Centre, said she had tried to find guidance on how to apply for disability exemptions, but to no avail.
“They haven’t applied yet because they were going to borrow the money to be able to apply from family and friends anyway, and they don’t have that kind of disposable income – they are recently settled refugees,” she added. “So they’re having to rethink whether they should go ahead. Or whether they should stagger the applications.”
Ms Hurst said that without citizenship the family, who have been in the UK for six years, is unable to travel abroad, meaning they can’t visit family, and that it could make life more complicated for the children, one of whom was born in Britain.
“Under this new system, people are having to question whether or not to apply for things they have every right to,” she added.
In another case, a seriously ill man in Edinburgh submitted his visa application and booked an free appointment in Glasgow, but due to ill health was unable to make the journey, so had to cancel it.
He and his wife could not find a way to contact the Home Office to ask whether they could get a disability exemption.
Their solicitor, John Vassiliou of McGill & Co Solicitors, said the only option was to involve his local MP because there was “no other means of initiating meaningful dialogue with the Home Office about difficult issues”.
He said: “The Home Office have worked hard over the last few years to cut off all points of communication with the outside world. Their customer service contact centre is worse than useless. The call centre staff are simply unable to assist in any meaningful way with complex issues.
“There is no facility for lawyers to initiate direct contact with immigration officers. If you need to get something done these days you very often have to involve the MP.”
The issue was resolved after the local MP contacted the Home Office, but it required “a very large amount of time and stress”.
“At one point they were in discussions with the hospital about hiring a private ambulance to take him to Glasgow under medical supervision just so he could give his biometrics,” said Mr Vassiliou.
“These are not the type of conversations and stresses that people should be enduring while they are being treated in their hospital beds.”
Sopra Steria apologised for the “inconvenience” caused to Mr Farooq, saying it had experienced a surge in demand and subsequently increased capacity.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to those unable to access appointments, which have been subject to a higher than expected demand.”
They added that the department was working closely with Sopra Steria to ensure additional appointments are made available at existing sites across the UK.
Original article available here: //www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sopra-steria-immigration-fees-home-office-vulnerable-hostile-environment-a8968981.html
MPs and lawyers call for investigation into privatised visa system which allows firms to make millions
Exclusive: Cross-party politicians back demands for urgent review into Home Office partnership with French firm Sopra Steria following warnings legal migrants risk being ‘thrown into the hostile environment’
MPs and lawyers are demanding an independent investigation into the government’s newly outsourced visa system after it emerged private firms were raking in millions of pounds as vulnerable people are forced to pay “extortionate” fees and travel long distances to apply for UK status.
Cross-party politicians have backed calls for an urgent review into the Home Office’s partnership with French firm Sopra Steria following warnings legal migrants risked being “thrown into the hostile environment” after the visa processing service was outsourced to the company last November.
The Independent reported earlier this week that the new system – under which applicants must attend one of just six “core centres” across the country which offer a free service, or another 51 which charge a fee starting from £60 – was forcing people to travel hundreds of miles or pay high fees in order to submit their applications on time due to a lack of free appointments.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have since written to the National Audit Office (NAO) requesting that they conduct an investigation to provide parliament with a report on the operation of the contract.
In a letter to the watchdog, Labour MP Paul Blomfield said this would enable MPs to “scrutinise effectively the services provided by Sopra Steria, which thousands of our constituents will require”.
“I remain extremely concerned about [the firm’s] capacity and ability, particularly as we approach the inevitable increase in demand that will result from the ‘student surge’ period in September 2019 and applications for the EU Settlement Scheme,” said Mr Blomfield in the letter.
An NAO spokesperson said they had received the letter and would be “considering its contents carefully” in the coming days and deciding how best to respond to the concerns it raises.
The demands have been backed by the Law Society and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), which represent solicitors and barristers across the country. Both have previously raised concerns with the Home Office about their misgivings with the system.
Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society, said: “Given the problems which have been raised by us and by others it makes sense at this point for the operation to be subject to independent scrutiny. We are extremely concerned inconsistencies in the process could lead to unlawful or incorrect decisions for applicants.”
Cross-party politicians including shadow immigration minister Afzal Khan, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and Labour MP David Lammy have backed the demands.
While visa applicants could previously go to their local post office to provide biometric data such as fingerprints, they must now attend one of the six offices in the UK that offer a free service, located in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon.
There are another 51 centres, mainly based in local libraries, which charge a fee starting from £60. Sopra Steria also offers a “premium service” through a partner company called BLS, where appointments start at £200. The service made more than £2m between January and April 2019, according to data obtained through a freedom of information (FOI) request.
Solicitors said applicants had been unable to book free appointments due to a lack of availability on Sopra Steria’s website, with some forced to travel hundreds of miles or pay high fees – sometimes the premium option – in order to submit their applications on time.
In one case, a disabled Pakistani refugee in Manchester was repeatedly unable to book a free appointment for his leave to remain application due to a lack of availability. The only alternative offered to Abdul Farooq, 56, was to attend the premium lounge in London at a cost of £780.
His local MP Afzal Khan, said this was a ”laughably high sum” that his constituent ”just can’t afford”, adding: “UKVCAS appointments are compulsory, but too frequently entirely unavailable outside of London. Sopra Steria is putting profit above people, and the Home Office should urgently review its partnership with the company.”
In other cases, applicants have been met with a “maze of misinformation and misdirection” while completing the new online application forms provided by the firm, which lawyers said had led people to abandon the process or submit inaccurate applications, potentially leading to erroneous refusals.
Mr Davey of the Liberal Democrats said it was a “scandal” that private firms were “profiteering” from fees for visa applications, adding: “People who come to our country bring massive benefits for our economy and our society. We should welcome them, not set up huge financial barriers.”
Labour MP Ian Murray raised concerns about the fact that there is only one centre offering free appointments in Scotland, saying it “completely misunderstood the geography” of the country and that it was “just another example of the hostile environment” created by the Home Office.
Mr Lammy said it was a “national disgrace” that the visa system was being outsourced to private firms for profit, saying it created an “outrageous additional barrier” to an “often already systematically unfair” process.
“Many of those who cannot afford to pay exorbitant fees or travel vast distances have every right to remain in the UK. This grubby system is forcing them to endure all the indignities of the hostile environment,” he added.
A Sopra Steria spokesperson said their locations were designed to give 78 per cent of applicants access to a centre within 50 miles and 62 per cent access to a centre within 25 miles.
They said they had expanded their capacity, with seven additional service points set to go live by July 2019, including a second core location in Manchester, in response to consumer demand.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to those unable to access appointments, which have been subject to a higher than expected demand.”
They added that the department was working closely with Sopra Steria to ensure additional appointments are made available at existing sites across the UK.
Migrants coming to the UK could face varying minimum salary thresholds depending on where they live under proposals put out for review by the home secretary, Sajid Javid.
The white paper on post-Brexit immigration policy, published in December, included a to-be-determined minimum salary threshold for high-skilled workers. The current minimum salary for most experienced workers coming from non-EU countries is £30,000.
Javid – after infighting within the cabinet over maintaining the current £30,000 threshold for all high-skilled migrant workers coming to the UK post-Brexit, as well as warnings from business, universities and social care – has asked the government’s chief migration advisers to review the levels before they come into force from 2021.
He has also asked the migration advisory committee to consider if there was a case for regional salary thresholds for different parts of the UK, which would be of particular interest to the Scottish government, after it previously warned the cap could cut eligible EU workers in Scotland by 85%.
Javid said: “It’s vital the new immigration system continues to attract talented people to grow our economy and support business while controlling our borders.
“These proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation, so it’s right that we consider all of the evidence before finalising them.
“That’s why I’ve asked independent experts to review the evidence on salary thresholds. It’s crucial the new immigration system works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.”
Last month, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, called on Javid to bring in flexible immigration rules for skilled workers after Brexit to avoid vacancies in certain industries.
Gove criticised the £30,000 salary threshold for immigrant workers, saying measuring whether someone qualified as skilled by their salary was not appropriate for all industries when he gave evidence at Holyrood’s rural economy committee.
Javid has asked the migration advisory committee to consider how future salary thresholds should be calculated; the levels of salary thresholds; whether there is a case for regional salary thresholds for different parts of the UK, and whether there should be exceptions to salary thresholds, for example because workers have newly started the occupation or because they work in an occupation in shortage.
The committee is expected to present its findings in January 2020.
The new immigration system would bring the end of free movement and EU citizens would be treated the same as non-EU citizens.
The white paper contains an additional proposal to try to alleviate concerns about the new system: a transitional measure, to run for an initial five years, for low-skilled workers earning less than the threshold. This would allow people with lower-paid jobs to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months, with a cooling-off period of a further 12 months to prevent people settling in the UK as a result.
Original article available here: //www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/24/sajid-javid-suggests-post-brexit-migration-salary-rules-could-vary-by-region
The Home Office is calling on an expert body to assess whether post-Brexit migration rules should be different in Wales.
It comes as part of a UK government consultation on a minimum £30,000 salary for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.
A review by a leading economist warned the salary threshold would hit Wales harder than the rest of the UK.
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to “review the evidence on salary thresholds”.
In December 2018, the UK government published its much-delayed plans for a new post-Brexit immigration system, including a 12 month consultation on the £30,000 threshold.
The Welsh Government commissioned Prof Jonathan Portes to consider the salary threshold’s possible impact on Wales.
The economics professor at King’s College London’s report called for the Welsh Government and businesses to press for a lower threshold, claiming £20,000 would “mitigate modestly” the potential impact.
He said “quite a few European migrants who are doing what you might call semi-skilled or medium-skilled jobs”, such as manufacturing, would be caught by the £30,000 threshold.
In a letter sent to the MAC on Monday, Sajid Javid MP asked the government advisers to consider whether the “salary thresholds are applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom or whether there is a need for greater regional variation.”
The home secretary added: “These proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation, so it’s right that we consider all of the evidence before finalising them.
“It’s crucial the new immigration system works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.”
The advisory committee is expected to produce its report by January 2020, whilst the new post-Brexit immigration system is set to be phased in from 2021.
It has already suggested the creation of a Wales-specific list of particular jobs aimed at plugging gaps in the labour market.
Workers applying for jobs which are on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) are effectively allowed to jump the immigration queue.
The Welsh Government’s Counsel General has already cautiously welcomed the idea of a Welsh SOL but said it “is not the answer” if the salary threshold is maintained.
Jeremy Miles told the assembly in early June: “We must have a fair migration policy in place, one which protects EU citizens who have made Wales their home and which ensures that our future labour market needs are met. Any salary threshold should be well below £30,000.
“We need to ensure that Wales is still seen as an attractive place to live and work, and that we are still a welcoming nation,” he added.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “A £30,000 threshold would not work for Wales and would hit our economy hard. Nurses, junior doctors, vets and a range of workers we need for our public services and industry will find it much more difficult and less attractive to come to Wales under these proposals.
“The immigration system should help our economy and people, not stifle it and limit its potential.”
Original article available here: //www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-48749468
LONDON: The UK is falling behind in the global race to engage with India because it has failed to adjust its strategy to fit India’s enhanced influence and power on the world stage, a new UK parliamentary inquiry report concluded on Monday.
‘Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties’, released to coincide with the first-ever India Day in the Houses of Parliament to mark the launch of UK-India Week 2019, called for a reset of ties through better visa and immigration policies for Indian tourists, students and professionals as it accuses the UK government of missed opportunities in the bilateral relationship.
“The UK is falling behind in the global race to engage with a rising India … The story of the UK’s recent relationship with India is primarily one of missed opportunities,” the report said.
“There are certain practical steps the government must take to reset its relationship with India, in particular making it easier for Indians to visit the UK and to work or study here,” it noted.
On the issue of visas , it expressed concern that India seems to face tougher norms than a non-democratic country like China.
“There is no excuse for the migration policies that have led the UK to lose ground in attracting Indian students and tourists – who not only contribute to our economy but build lasting bilateral ties.
“The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) should ensure that the goal of improving the overall relationship with India is woven into the broader government migration policy.
“Something has gone wrong, if it is more difficult for citizens of a strategically important democracy that shares our values, language and history to visit or study in the UK than those of an autocracy such as China,” the report said.
While the inquiry acknowledged that in all fundamental respects the UK is well placed to capitalise on a mutually beneficial relationship with India, it warned that the relationship between the two democracies is not fulfilling its potential because the right message is not going out to New Delhi.
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is time to reset this relationship. We cannot afford to be complacent or rely on historical connections to deliver a modern partnership,” it said.
The report followed the year-long “Global Britain and India” inquiry, launched by the House of Commons’ cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) in July last year to explore the India-UK relationship in the context of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union (EU).
Through a series of oral and written submissions from a diverse range of organisations and individuals working within the UK-India corridor, the influential parliamentary committee concluded that the UK must prioritise talks with India and do more to lay the groundwork for an eventual free trade agreement.
The Indian Ocean is identified as a vital arena for closer defence and security cooperation between the two countries.
“The FCO should take care to ensure that stronger economic ties with China are not at the expense of a deeper partnership with India,” it warned.
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative Party MP and Chair of the FAC, raised the issue of the UK government’s failure to formally apologise for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre during the British Raj in time for its 100th anniversary in April this year as an “important symbolic opportunity” which was missed.
He said: “As new powers challenge the structure of global trade and dispute resolution, we cannot miss the opportunity to partner with India. Trade, security, a shared commitment to the rules-based international system — these are all factors in our growing and evolving partnership.
“The government needs to make sure the UK is making its support for India clear, reawakening the ties between us and building bridges that are made to last.”
Asked to choose between Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, the two prime ministerial contenders battling it out to replace UK Prime Minister Theresa May, as the ideal candidate to implement the findings of the report, Tugendhat said, “Both of them can, having both been foreign secretaries and interacted with India closely. We need somebody who is able sit down with Prime Minister Modi and build a proper strategic relationship.”
Lord Jitesh Gadhia, the Indian-origin peer in the House of Lords who has clashed with Lord Norman Tebbit over the so-called cricket test of loyalty for the Indian diaspora in the UK, welcomed the “candid” report.
“This report proves that we have moved on from the Tebbit test to the Tugendhat test. While the previous test set in the 1990s was about proving your loyalty, this is rightly about maximising the potential of multiple identities,” said Gadhia, behind India Day in the Houses of Parliament.
The report’s findings are expected to feature heavily during the course of UK-India Week, organised by the UK-based media house, India Inc, which includes a high-profile Leaders’ Summit in Buckinghamshire, south-east England.
“UK-India Week 2019 will no doubt deliberate upon many of the issues flagged by this comprehensive inquiry, not least the need for Britain to prioritise talks with India across sectors and issues, and effectively press the reset button to unleash a truly winning partnership,” said Manoj Ladwa, the organiser of UK-India Week.
“Recent figures of Indian companies increasing investments in the UK and creating many thousands of new jobs, demonstrates loud and clear, that Brexit or no Brexit, India backs Britain. It is now for the UK to raise its game,” he said.
Alison Phipps accuses Home Office of ‘secret travel ban’ against visiting academics
One of Unesco’s chiefs has said she will no longer host any international conferences in the UK because of the Home Office’s “inept”, “embarrassing” and “discriminatory” visitor visa system.
Alison Phipps, the Unesco chair in refugee integration, has accused the government of operating in effect a “secret travel ban” by refusing visitor visas to academics – particularly those from Middle Eastern and African countries – even when they have full sponsorship to visit the UK and are visiting to take part in government-funded projects.
Another academic, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, a professor of migration and refugee studies at University College London, spoke of the frustration of inviting academics to attend a parliamentary event in March, which was co-sponsored by the House of Commons’ international development committee, only for most visas to be refused.
Mary Ryan, a research manager and the international development coordinator at the Glasgow Centre for International Development, has said there is “deep-seated concern” for the ability of UK research institutions to be globally relevant given the “perceived obstructive nature of visa processes”.
Phipps said: “I have taken a policy decision with my work as Unesco chair and with my project portfolio not to host any international conferences in the UK. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money and given the irresponsibility and erratic nature of UKVI decision-making, it’s the number one item on my risk register and we cannot, with any integrity, allow that kind of finance risks to the projects.”
Phipps is particularly frustrated by the refusal of the Home Office to issue visitor visas to academics taking part in the government’s own Global Challenges Research Fund – a five-year, £1.5bn fund that uses UK aid money for research on intractable global challenges.
“The fund’s purpose is to hire and pay overseas academics to work with the UK on a range of government-funded projects,” said Phipps. “But even though we’re using the government’s money for exactly the purpose we’ve been given it, academics we sponsor are turned down with no appeal rights.”
Temitayo Olofinlua, an academic, applied for a visa to come to Edinburgh from Nigeria for an European Conference on African Studies conference on 4 April. Despite submitting evidence of full sponsorship for her trip – as well as evidence of ties to her home, namely that she is married with children and a job – her application was refused.
Her case worker told her she had been refused because “I am not satisfied that you are genuinely seeking entry as a visitor … or that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.”
Olofinlua’s refusal was eventually overturned and she is in Edinburgh, attending the conference. But, she said: “It’s time to abandon the UK as host for international African Studies conferences. The organisers did everything to make this an inclusive event. But hostile Home Office policy has dampened this. Other countries require you to declare if you have ever been denied an entry visa.”
“Going through the experience has been tortuous,” added Olofinlua, who frequently travels and always kept to visa conditions. “I lost money. I lost valuable time, thanks to the tedious process of applying and re-applying, making the overnight visit to Lagos then standing hours in line.”
Other reasons for refusing visitor visas include fully funded academics told they could not support themselves while here. Others with children or important jobs in their home countries – such as Rev Rola Sleiman, the first woman to be ordained in the Middle East – being told their applications failed because, as with Olofinlua, it was thought they would not return home.
Frustrated by the frequency with which visas they applied for were refused, the Glasgow Centre for International Development recently asked its partners for information on visa denials for researchers from low and middle income countries (LMIC) coming to visit UK institutions.
They received 31 instances of visitor visas for academics being denied since 2017. “All visits were fully funded by grants or other funds; none relied on the personal funds of the visitor, and all were directly linked to ongoing research activities,” said Ryan.
“In each case, the denials impact the relationships our institutions have with colleagues in LMIC institutions,” said Ryan. “Several respondents commented on the embarrassing nature of having to share financial details with colleagues, the damage to the research partnerships of not being able to meet and the personal toll of managing international relationships with colleagues in the face of institutional obstructions. In several cases, there were significant financial losses due to flight cancellations and re-bookings,” said Ryan.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All immigration applications are considered on their individual merits and on the basis of the evidence available, in line with the immigration rules.
“We welcome international academics and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.”
Original Article available here: //www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/24/unesco-chair-blasts-discriminatory-uk-visitor-visa-system
This week, from the 24 to 28 June, is Safeguarding week where police, local councils, agencies and charities come together to raise awareness around abuse, how to recognise and report it and where to access help and support.
As part of the week of action, we’re looking behind the scenes and seeing what the roles of those who work at the very forefront of safeguarding involves.
Today’s blog comes from Rebecca Cobby, who works as a Domestic Abuse Coordinator here at North Yorkshire Police:
“My day starts with a review of the domestic abuse incidents that have happened overnight. We assess the risk, and decide what plans need to be put in place to safeguard that victim and the family.
“One of the first things we do is ask the victim what they want to happen. Domestic abuse can take many forms, but most of the time the abuse comes from a partner. So we need to establish, does the victim want to stay with that partner, and if that’s their choice, we try to help them manage that relationship and move it from being an abusive relationship to a healthy one. If they want it to end the relationship, we help the victim to manage that safely. Domestic abuse is not about anger, it’s about control. And if you end a relationship, the perpetrator is losing control, so we help people to think about how to end the relationship without putting themselves in danger.
“When it is a high-risk victim we might have to arrange a place in a refuge, or link with social services if there are children involved. Or if the victim is going to stay in the home, we may need to look at the security of the property – the locks on windows and doors – to make sure the abuser won’t be able to get back in.
“It may sound strange, but we even consider what arrangements can be made for any pets in the household – particularly dogs. Domestic abuse victims they can become very isolated, because perpetrators like to isolate their victim, and the family dog might be the only friend they’ve got. Being worried about a pet, and not wanting to leave them behind, can be a big consideration for some people, and if we want to help, we have to take all these practicalities into account.
“The police have more tools these days to tackle domestic abuse. For example we have the Domestic Violence Protection Notice and the Domestic Violence Protection Order. Using these tools, we can give victims some breathing space by preventing the abuser from molesting the victim or entering the property where they live for a certain period of time – usually 28 days. During this time, the victim can access support services without interference, and we may also make use of Clare’s Law.
“Clare’s Law is another name for the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. It was introduced by the family of Clare Woods, who was murdered by a partner with a record of violence against women. Under Clare’s Law you can ask the police whether your partner has been violent in the past, so you can decide whether or not you want to move forward with that relationship, or end it.
“Clare’s Law also allows for the police to let a person know if they are associating with someone who has previously been violent, so they can make an informed decision about what to do. It isn’t about splitting people up, it’s about providing information and options. In the end, people have a right to make their own decisions.
“We have done more than 100 Clare’s Law disclosures in the last two months. Clare’s Law applies to both women and men, but all the cases I have worked on have involved informing women about the offending history of their male partner. It is difficult, because if you’ve got a new boyfriend, and you’re in the honeymoon period, you may not want to hear that your partner has been in prison for violence, and that he punched his last girlfriend whilst she was holding their baby and broke her jaw. We don’t give names obviously, but we do give details of past behaviour, and it can come as a big shock. Sometimes people deny that their partner could ever behave that way, or believe it must have been the previous girlfriend’s fault. Sometimes they just tell us to get lost. But in other cases people decide it’s a risk they don’t want to take and they end the relationship.
“There are times when you know that there is abuse going on in a household, but the victim insists that no one is hurting them, or that they can handle it. It is really frustrating because you want to help, but people have the right to make their own decisions. We just try to make sure we give them every support and help when they need it.
“Working with other agencies is a big part of safeguarding work, and there is a huge amount of effort goes into tackling domestic abuse, from the police and from others. We have a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference two or three times a week which involves a lot of different organisations including the police, adult social care, children’s social care, the Independent Domestic Abuse Services charity and representatives from the mental health team, the prevention team, the early help team, education and housing. It’s very comprehensive, but it has to be, because keeping people safe isn’t just the responsibility of the police. It’s all of us. We all need to understand the risks in a particular case, what safeguarding plans are in place, and what each agency will be doing to help that victim and that family.
“There’s a lot more openness about domestic abuse now, and I think that’s a really good thing. TV has helped. If you look at recent story lines in Coronation Street and the Archers for example, they have covered different aspects of domestic abuse and it brings the issue out in the open. People watch these programmes and say, “That happened to me. I’m being controlled like that.” Or sometimes they see their own situation reflected on TV and realize that that things don’t have to be that way. They can do something about it. Years ago society swept domestic abuse under the carpet. People knew about it, but it wasn’t spoken about. Now if you know your neighbour or your friend is in a domestic abuse situation, you are much more likely to tell somebody or take action.
“I talk to hundreds of victims about bad relationships and if it happens to you, you can feel very isolated and alone. You don’t know who you can trust and how you are going to get out of it. It’s important to remember that domestic abuse is not acceptable and we can stop it. But we do need you to tell us. You just need to give us the word.
“Domestic abuse is a challenging area of policing. You have to be compassionate, friendly, and earn people’s trust. You can’t judge and you can’t be shocked. You’ve got to be prepared to have difficult, direct, even intimate, conversations. It isn’t for everyone and it can be hard. It’s a heavy workload but very important and at times you do feel responsible for the actions people take.
“I really enjoy what I do. It can be very frustrating, but it can also be very satisfying. I feel very honoured because people let me into their lives at a really difficult time, and they trust me, and they talk to me. You can’t dictate to people what to do, but you can give them information, options and support. And when you see someone you’ve worked with going into a new relationship, and it’s a positive relationship, you think, yeah. I’ve played a little tiny part in making that relationship good. That’s very rewarding.”
Original Article available here: //northyorkshire.police.uk/news/safeguarding-week-2019-the-role-of-a-domestic-abuse-coordinator/
It’s a sparkling Saturday afternoon in Bella Vista, in Sydney’s Bible belt. The people who live here have faith and money: the streets are immaculate and the houses are huge. Outside one house, a pile of household items is all that blights the row of manicured lawns. As is typical in suburbs like this, there are signs of life, but nobody on the street.
Nobody except for a slight man in an oversized white singlet, leaning into a car. As I approach, he waves. “My son’s selling his car, so I’m taking off the most valuable part of it,” laughs Rob Sanasi, triumphantly waving an eTag above his head.
We walk into the house at the bottom of the drive to find a tall, elegant blonde woman and two twenty-somethings milling around the kitchen, joking and making plans for the weekend. This is the house Rob shares with his wife, Deb, and their two adult children.
Deb puts on the kettle and Rob brings out the biscuits, one of which has already been partially enjoyed. “Oh, nice,” he says apologetically. “Someone graciously put that one back there.”
Deb guffaws from behind the kitchen counter. “You don’t want to feel the guilt of taking a whole one!”
Rob shrugs, smiling. “Yeah, it’s the quirk in this family.”
As the kids wave their goodbyes, new biscuits are found and tea is poured. Then we sit down together at the kitchen table to talk about Rob and Deb’s history of domestic abuse.
Rob begins his story in 2006. It was a bad time: his business was failing, his family life was falling apart. “Deb and I were … well, when I say Deb and I were fighting, I was fighting more, but it looked like we were fighting. I remember driving along on the M2 and I was in a bad way. Actually, that day, I thought: this is probably going to be my last day.”
Rob, a devout Christian, thought about driving his car into a tree. Then he put on a recording of a church minister addressing a large auditorium. “And he just said something … It was, ‘Do you love your children?’ And I answered in the car, ‘Yeah, of course I do.’ And then he said, ‘Would you die for them?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I would.’ And he said, ‘Well, this is Australia, and you’ll probably never have to die for your children, but if you’re willing to die for them, why won’t you change for them?’ And when I heard that, I just thought, ‘Wow’.” At that moment, Rob says, he realised he had to seek counselling.
Deb shakes her head. “Can I interject? The reason that Rob went into counselling was I went into the workforce. The control had been very strong in our relationship, but actually neither of us really realised to what degree Rob was controlling me, until I did something that he couldn’t control. Within three weeks of me starting that job, Rob had a nervous breakdown. He lost 15 kilos, he was having anxiety and panic attacks, he became addicted to Xanax, he was suicidal. That’s what drove him into counselling. He was a mess.” Rob nods quietly.
During their first session, Rob says his counsellor asked him a series of questions. “Do you raise your voice, do you yell, do you throw things, do you call your wife names, do you swear, do you bash things – not her, but things – and it was kind of tick, tick, tick,” Rob remembers. “And then he went to a filing cabinet in his office, and pulled out an A4 piece of paper with a preprinted ‘Cycle of Violence’ on it, and he whacked that on the table and he said, ‘That’s what you do. This is what we call domestic violence.’
“So that was the first session. And he said, ‘Take that with you and discuss it with your wife.’ So I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s a very good idea, right?’”
Rob wasn’t physically violent, but he behaved like a typical perpetrator: he constantly criticised and bullied his wife, tried to stop her from working, made it hard for her to see family and friends, and kept total control over their bank accounts. The bullying and criticism wasn’t always overt; sometimes Rob would use humour to demean Deb. But it was always sending the same message: he was more important than her, and she was there to serve him. The only thing that wasn’t typical about Rob was that he had sought counselling without being forced.
At first, Rob kept the piece of paper to himself. “And then eventually I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just bring it out casually’, you know. But when I brought it out, things got a lot worse. Because then Deb realised what was going on. It’s kind of like the scales fell off our eyes – both of us.”
I ask Deb what it was like for her to see that piece of paper. “I remember actually what Rob said to me. He said, ‘What’s going on in our relationship is domestic violence, and the type of violence that I’m using on you is called emotional abuse, which means I don’t bash you with my fists, I bash you with my emotions, to keep you under control.’”
That shocked Deb. As she understood it, domestic violence was “the guy that goes down the pub on a Friday night and comes home and beats up his wife … it doesn’t happen in suburbs like where I’m from.” (As Deb has since discovered, she wasn’t the only anomaly in her suburb – or even her street. Later she told me that the items I’d seen on the lawn next door belonged to her neighbour, who had dumped them there before fleeing her violent husband.)
Now, after almost 10 years and much intense counselling, Rob and Deb are happily married, and both counsel domestic abuse victims and perpetrators: Deb in private practice, and Rob more informally, with abusive men who seek him out for advice.
Deb says one thing stands out about abusers: it’s as if they’ve studied some kind of domestic abuse handbook. “They all have the same tactics. So, for example, they may not come out and say, ‘I don’t want you seeing your friends, or having hobbies, or being around your parents,’ but they’ll just make it hard. Like, ‘What do you want to see them for? I don’t think they’re good for you.’ And eventually women go it’s just all too hard, because they don’t want the fight. So that’s how it starts over time … And then your world gets smaller. And then if the perpetrator becomes your main frame of reference, which is what happens, it’s very much like a cult. Because you’re essentially getting your main input from him.’”
“It’s like you go to abuse school,” Rob says. “They all do it.”
Speak to anyone who’s worked with survivors or perpetrators and they’ll tell you the same thing: domestic abuse almost always follows the same script. It’s a truly confounding phenomenon: how is it that men from vastly different cultures know to use the same basic techniques of oppression?
That’s something we’ve only recently begun to investigate. Domestic abuse may be as old as intimacy, but we only really started to understand it after the first women’s refuges opened in the 1970s. When women in their thousands fled to these makeshift shelters, they weren’t just complaining about black eyes and raging tempers. They told stories of unfathomable cruelty and violence, and what sounded like orchestrated campaigns of control. It became clear that, although each woman’s story was individual, the overarching narratives were uncannily alike. As one shelter worker said at the time, “It got so I could finish a woman’s story halfway through it. There was this absolutely eerie feeling that these guys were sitting together and deciding what to say and do.”
In the early 1980s, researchers noticed something else extraordinary: not only were the stories of victims uncannily alike, they also resembled the accounts of a seemingly unrelated group of survivors: returned prisoners of war. It may seem odd to start a book about domestic abuse with a story from the cold war. But this is where our modern understanding of domestic abuse really begins: in a small town on the border of North and South Korea.
A sophisticated new weapon called ‘brainwashing’
On 24 September 1953, the Korean war was officially over, and Operation Big Switch was underway. In the back of open-built Russian trucks, 23 American POWs were being driven to a prisoner exchange complex in the village of Panmunjom, on the North–South Korean border. The atmosphere at the complex had been electric with anger for months, as American prisoners returned from North Korean camps with shocking stories of cruelty. But on this day, as the trucks drew closer, American observers noticed that something about these prisoners was different. They looked tanned and healthy, and were dressed in padded blue Chinese uniforms, each pinned with Pablo Picasso’s dove of peace.
As the trucks screeched to a halt, the prisoners laughed and shook hands with their captors. “See you in Peiping, old man,” said one, as they climbed down off the trucks. Turning to the shocked crowd who had gathered to greet them, the POWs clenched their fists and shouted, “Tomorrow, the international Soviet unites the human race!” Then, instead of walking over to their countrymen, they turned the other way and defected to communist China.
These shocking defections were just the tip of the iceberg. In the North Korean camps, American POWs had cooperated with the enemy to an unprecedented extent. Not only did they inform on their fellow prisoners; hundreds of POWs gave false confessions to atrocities, and made radio broadcasts extolling the virtues of communism and condemning western capitalism. Never before had captured soldiers betrayed their country so flagrantly.
For America, this was the stuff of nightmares. What could have driven their men to align with this diabolical creed? Frantic newspaper reports described how the communists had bewitched the American POWs with a sophisticated new weapon called “brainwashing”: a method of mind control that could render a man’s brain a blank slate and implant new thoughts, memories and beliefs. This wasn’t a fringe conspiracy theory: it was the earnest belief of people in the highest positions of government, including the head of the CIA. By the mid-1950s, hysteria over brainwashing was at fever pitch.
Albert Biderman, a social scientist with the US Air Force, was not convinced. He thought “brainwashing” sounded like a lot of propaganda, and not much science. As paranoia peaked in Washington, the air force – similarly unpersuaded – despatched Biderman to uncover the real reason so many well-trained American airmen had cooperated with the communists.
The chart of coercion
After extensive interviews with returned POWs, Biderman’s suspicions were confirmed: their compliance was not won using an esoteric new technique; instead, the Chinese communists who ran the North Korean camps had used age-old methods of coercive control. These methods were based “primarily on simple, easily understandable ideas of how an individual’s physical and moral strength can be undermined”. There was nothing new about them, but nobody had ever seen them used in war before. That’s why the American soldiers were so unprepared to resist.
Biderman established that three primary elements were at the heart of coercive control: dependency, debility and dread. To achieve this effect, the captors used eight techniques: isolation, monopolisation of perception, induced debility or exhaustion, cultivation of anxiety and despair, alternation of punishment and reward, demonstrations of omnipotence, degradation, and the enforcement of trivial demands. Biderman’s “Chart of Coercion” showed that acts of cruelty that appeared at first to be isolated were actually intricately connected. It was only when these acts were seen together that the full picture of coercive control became clear.
In Biderman’s chart, there was no category for physical abuse. Though it was frequently used, actual violence wasn’t “a necessary nor particularly effective method” to gain compliance, and the more skilled and experienced interrogators avoided it. They only needed to instil the fear of violence, which they did with “vague threats, and the implication that they were prepared to do drastic things”. The Chinese communists were not like the Germans or the Japanese – they didn’t want to just brutalise their prisoners or work them to death. They wanted to control their hearts and minds.
When Biderman released his findings, people were incredulous. Could people really be manipulated so easily? Was he sure there was not something he had failed to detect? But Biderman was adamant: “Probably no other aspect of Communism reveals more thoroughly its disrespect for truth and the individuals,” he wrote, “than its resort to these techniques.”
In the 1970s, when women began fleeing to newly opened shelters, they spoke about being isolated from friends and family, instructed on how to behave, degraded, manipulated, sexually violated and threatened with death. Physical violence was common, and could be sadistic in its extremes, but survivors insisted it was not the worst part of the abuse – and some were not physically abused at all. In her groundbreaking book Rape in Marriage, Diana Russell presented two lists side by side: Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, and the common techniques of domestic perpetrators. The lists were virtually identical. The only difference was that whereas captors in North Korea deployed the techniques tactically, husbands appeared to be replicating the system of coercive control unconsciously.
In 1973, Amnesty International included Biderman’s Chart of Coercion in its report on torture, declaring these techniques the universal tools of torture and coercion. As Harvard psychiatrist and trauma specialist Judith Herman would later write, “The [coercive] methods that enable one human being to enslave another are remarkably consistent.” In situations of domestic abuse, the effect of coercive control is the same: the perpetrator becomes “the most powerful person” in the victim’s life, and their psychology is “shaped by the [perpetrator’s] actions and beliefs”. Domestic perpetrators don’t need physical violence to maintain their power – they only have to make their victims believe they are capable of it. This threat is particularly effective, wrote Herman, when it is directed towards loved ones: “Battered women, for example, frequently report that their abuser has threatened to kill their children, their parents, or any friends who harbor them, should they attempt to escape.” This atmosphere of threat is enough to “convince the victim that the perpetrator is omnipotent, that resistance is futile, and that her life depends upon winning his indulgence through absolute compliance”.
Today, we know that that the techniques common to domestic abuse match those used by practically anyone who trades in captivity: kidnappers, hostage-takers, pimps, cult leaders. What this reveals is that there is nothing uniquely weak, helpless or masochistic about victims of domestic abuse. Faced with the universal methods of coercive control, their responses are no different from those of trained soldiers.
This is an edited extract from See What You Made Me Do, by Jess Hill, published by Black Inc.
Original Article from the Guardian alailable here: //www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/24/its-like-you-go-to-abuse-school-how-domestic-violence-always-follows-the-same-script
Man ordered to pay compensation to victims
A man who offered unregulated immigration advice and services in exchange for payment in excess of £11,000 from refugees he met in social centres was yesterday (20 June 2019) sentenced to 8 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay compensation to his victims in full, a total cost of £11,507.
Eugene Byass, 49, of no fixed address, was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court after pleading guilty to eight counts of providing unqualified immigration advice and services between November 2015 and late December 2017.
Mr. Byass met the victims at community and refugee centres in the Nottingham area where he offered assistance with their immigration issues. He was not qualified as an Immigration Adviser and his business, B & L Legal Consultancy was unregulated.
The offences, against vulnerable refugees and immigrants, took place at his offices in Vernon House, Friar Lane, Nottingham and later the Concord Business Centre, Nottingham Road, New Basford, Nottingham.
In sentencing HHJ Burgess said: “Over 22 months you acted as an Immigration Adviser. You were not qualified or registered. People who seek immigration advice are vulnerable, they cling on to people who say they can help. These are serious matters, people deserve proper representation.”
Speaking about the decision, Deputy Immigration Services Commissioner, Dr Ian Leigh, said: “This is not a technical or victimless crime, Eugene Byass was advising vulnerable people who could not handle their immigration cases on their own. They trusted him and he betrayed that trust. I urge people to check with the appropriate regulatory body, such as the OISC, to confirm their adviser is qualified.”
Notes to the Editor
The OISC has reissued this press release. The original press release made references which may have implied that Mr Byass was convicted of Fraud Act offences or acted in a fraudulent way. The OISC would like to make clear that Mr Byass neither admitted nor was convicted of any Fraud Act offences. The OISC apologises for any inconvenience which may have been caused.
The OISC is an independent public body, established under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, to regulate the provision of immigration advice and services in the UK.
For further media information contact Cornelius Alexander, OISC Corporate Communications Officer on 0207 211 1617.
Original article available here: //www.gov.uk/government/news/unqualified-immigration-adviser-sentenced