Some have come from war-torn countries, surviving bloodshed and losing their loved ones – where is our compassion, journalist Tasnim Nazeer writes
There is currently a worrying number of unaccompanied child refugees that are in urgent need of support and safe entry into the UK. Many unaccompanied child refugees are left in vulnerable circumstances, exposed to harmful situations such as trafficking and abuse and this is unacceptable.
It is heart-breaking to hear that child refugees in Dunkirk, France, are living in “filthy camps, in rain-soaked flimsy tents” and exposed to sexual exploitation as they share camps with large groups of older men. The poor conditions in which these children live in and the increased police violence are pushing children into vulnerable situations, at the hands of those who wish to abuse and exploit them. Leaving any child to wait in such dire circumstances for safe sanctuary is shameful.
The UK government should be taking immediate action to facilitate more funding, legal and safe entries for children and give them the support they need. As a mother myself, I have to question those in power who would not even keep their own children in such conditions for one minute, let alone days on end. Why are these children’s lives any different?
Lord Alf Dubs and his charity Safe Passage along with many other charities had sent an open letter to PM Theresa May urging the government for more places and adequate funding under section 67. The legislation of section 67 of the Immigration Act was proposed by Lord Alf Dubs and came into action on May 12th 2016. This act gave unaccompanied refugee children who were living in camps, on the streets of Europe access to a legal route to safety in the UK and has been a life changing move in the law to help child refugees to safety.
According to Safe Passage ‘councils and foster carers across the country have welcomed over 220 children under section 67, while organisations on the ground in Europe have worked tirelessly to ensure children are able to access this legal route’. However, the British government have only given 480 spaces for child refugees to gain sanctuary in the UK and thousands of other children coming into the country as refugees are either still waiting or may not even get a place.
The Home Office had announced that they would increase funding towards the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, who are currently left in limbo, yet the funding has still not been put in place at the time of writing. Frustratingly, children are left to fend for themselves whilst we wait for the government to follow through on their promises.
The UK has the capacity to provide these children with safe sanctuary and it is the responsibility of the government and whoever comes into power after PM Theresa May leaves to ensure that justice is served. The situation we are facing now is an injustice of human rights, as every child should have a system of support in place to have their right to safety. Children cannot be left trapped by our immigration system waiting on a life line from the British government.
In addition, many child refugees in Calais and in the UK have been preventedfrom being reunited with their family members, causing more distress and upset for all those involved.
The UK government has failed in showing compassion and humanity for these children and if they don’t act now I fear that more children will fall victim to disastrous consequences. Some child refugees have come from war-torn countries, surviving bloodshed and losing their loved ones. These children should not have to face any more turmoil in order to gain safe sanctuary which is why it is imperative that the government acts immediately to ensure that these children are brought to safety. Every child deserves to have a safe place to live with support, love and stability and I hope that these children will not have to wait any longer for a chance to rebuild their lives.
Original article available here: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/child-refugees_uk_5cfe6927e4b0da7434622756
The chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, has confirmed recommendations made by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) in Northern Ireland, nine years ago, still haven’t been implemented.
The CJI previously recommended that a properly funded Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service should be established as a matter of urgency – this has not yet happened.
Mr. McGuigan added: “Likewise, we have endorsed the practice of listing or grouping domestic offences together at court on a specific day, as piloted in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court since 2011, and support its roll out across Northern Ireland, in order to speed up the progress of domestic abuse cases and offer a more appropriate environment for victims attending court.”
This initiative has also not yet been put in place in Northern Ireland. Mr. McGuigan said there was “no excuse” for these failings.
His comments followed the publication of a CJI report on Wednesday, June 19th regarding how domestic violence and abuse is handled in Northern Ireland.
Mr. McGuigan said: “Domestic violence and abuse can occur in any relationship. It transcends gender, class, religion, race, age, disability and sexuality.
“Its destructive impact can have far reaching physical, emotional and mental implications for victims and those closest to them.
“In 2017-18 the police recorded the highest number of domestic abuse incidents to date with 29,913 incidents reported in Northern Ireland, which equates to one incident being reported approximately every 17 minutes.”
Mr. McGuigan stated the need for fresh legislation to create a new offence of domestic abuse has been accepted and the Department of Justice (DoJ), and other agencies, have undertaken work in preparation for this.
But without Stormont functioning, and in the absence of Westminster filling this void, the requisite legislation cannot be introduced.
Mr. McGuigan concluded by calling for progress on the issues raised in the inspection report to be made within the next six to nine months.
He said: “Sustained political and social pressure must be maintained in the coming weeks and months to ensure the issue of domestic abuse remains to the forefront of all our minds and improvements are delivered for the benefit of all victims.”
Following the report, the head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, said the PSNI welcomed its publication, and the “small number of recommendations contained within it for the Police Service of Northern Ireland”.
“As a police service we are committed to putting victims’ needs at the heart of what we do and anything that can be done to improve their experience within the criminal justice system is a positive development,” she said.
Original Article available here: https://www.impartialreporter.com/news/17715686.criminal-justice-report-states-no-excuse-for-domestic-abuse-failings/
In this article, Sophie Barrett-Brown and Miglena Ilieva of Laura Devine discuss attitudes to immigration in Britain, and how the Conservative Party has failed to enforce their reductions
Recent Ipsos Mori polls suggesting that attitudes to immigration in Britain are softening could not have been more timely. As the Conservative Party prepares to choose the country’s next leader, the shift in attitudes marks an end to Theresa May’s legacy of attempting – and failing – to reduce net migration figures arbitrarily to the ‘tens of thousands’ as well as creating the now widely-known ‘hostile environment’ policy.
While the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has preferred to refer to ‘sustainable levels of net migration’ and the ‘compliant environment’, it seems clear that the UK is becoming less anxious about immigration.
It is notable that this shift in social attitudes has occurred while free movement remains very much intact and when there have been no significant changes to the current immigration system. Moreover, the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that net migration to the UK has remained largely stable since the second half of 2016, when attitudes towards immigration were comparatively more hostile, with immigration being one of the top reasons why people voted to leave the European Union.
Fewer EU migrants moving to the UK for work
Whilst net migration remains positive overall, EU net migration has been in steady decline since the referendum. In particular, the latest figures show that more nationals from the EU10 countries (including Poland – the largest source country of EU nationals in the UK), are continuing to leave the UK than arriving. As we have observed since 2016, the declining trend in EU migration reflects the personal choice of EU migrants, not the impact of any legal or policy changes; the UK is seen by EU nationals as a less desirable place to live, work and do business.
EU net migration has been in steady decline since the referendum
Of course there are also various other push and pull factors attracting EU nationals to return to, or remain in, other member states: the economies of many of these member states are growing, with higher levels of employment, wage growth and increased foreign investment, in contrast with the lower relative value of the pound and the UK’s crippling uncertainty around Brexit.
Non-EU migration impact
With the continued uncertainty around Brexit and declining EU migration, it is little wonder that statistics show that businesses are increasingly turning to migrants from outside the EU, via the Tier 2 sponsorship route to fill skills gaps in the UK. Latest Home Office figures demonstrate a 15% increase in the issue of Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship for skilled non-EU workers, with a particularly marked increase in the use of Tier 2 by the health and social care sector (up 62% in the year ending March 2019).
businesses are increasingly turning to migrants from outside the EU
However, with upfront costs for a typical 5-year sponsorship of a non-EU worker with a spouse and 2 children reaching over £18,000 in Home Office application fees and associated charges alone, in addition to meeting the minimum salary requirement (currently at least £30,000), small and medium-sized British businesses that are being disproportionately impacted, particularly those outside London and in certain industries.
Sectors such as manufacturing, social care, health, hospitality, leisure, and construction all rely heavily upon migrant talent, but can little afford the substantial costs of the Tier 2 system. Further, a significant proportion of their skilled workforce is not recognised as sufficiently ‘highly-skilled’ to qualify under the current Tier 2 regime which only permits certain degree-level roles. It is anticipated that services such as caring for the elderly or disabled, infrastructure, and food service, will continue to face skill shortages until at least the introduction of the new immigration system from 2021.
New immigration system
The main work route proposed in the government’s white paper is expected to remain similar to the current Tier 2 arrangements, with a number of modifications – including a reduction in the minimum skills threshold from RFQ 6 (degree level) to RFQ3 (A-level equivalent). Whilst such proposals are welcome and necessary, with no corresponding reduction in minimum salary thresholds (or fees) proposed, the route is likely to remain inaccessible to many employers experiencing skills shortages in the wake of Brexit – and again hardest hitting SME’s, certain sectors and regional businesses.
the route is likely to remain inaccessible to many employers experiencing skills shortages in the wake of Brexit
There is also a provision for lower-skilled migration in a new immigration category which will allow migrants leave of up to 12 months with no option to extend. As it often takes several months before an employee is fully trained in a job, many employers are expressing concerns that such short term arrangements are inadequate and insufficient in tackling the growing skills shortages and do not support the integration of such workers. There is currently a consultation and businesses are encouraged to make their views known.
Investors and Entrepreneurs
Despite the Brexit deadlock, the UK continues to attract significant interest from high net worth migrants under the Tier 1 Investor route, which allows individuals to move to the UK based on an investment of at least £2 million. This enables successful applicants to live in the UK without having to work (but being free to do so) and to potentially settle within two or three years of entering the route under its accelerated settlement provisions for those investing a minimum of £10 million or £5 million respectively.
The latest Home Office statistics show that Tier 1 Investor numbers continue to increase, reaching their highest levels since 2014 (when the investment sum required doubled from £1 million and applicant numbers plummeted) and remain dominated by applicants from China. This trend is expected to continue, particularly in light of the recent removal of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category (requiring £200,000 investment and job creation in a UK business) which will inevitably displace more affluent applicants into the Tier 1 Investor route.
The Home Office has replaced Tier 1 Entrepreneur with the new Innovator category, requiring endorsement from a limited number of ‘Endorsing Bodies’, the vast majority of which are tech-focused and operate closed schemes only open to applicants already participating in their accelerator programmes (and often requiring applicant to cede equity). Whilst some will certainly benefit from the scheme, many excellent business will be lost to the UK (particularly those of more established entrepreneurs) due to the much more limited scope of the replacement category.
There have long been calls for international students to be removed from the net migration data, however, they continue to contribute to the overall figures. The latest data shows that, like investors, non-EU students continue to view the UK as an attractive destination: 211,000 people arrived to carry out long-term study (predominantly at university level) – the highest recorded number since 2011.
So what next for the net migration target?
None of the current candidates to lead the Conservative Party has expressed an outward view of whether they will continue to stick to a specific figure. Given that last quarter’s data was the 37th time the government failed to deliver on its promise to bring net migration to the tens of thousands and with societal attitudes towards immigration turning the tide, now is the time to abandon this arbitrary figure once and for all and to instead focus on creating an open, inclusive and fair immigration system to best serve the country in a post-Brexit world.
Original Article available here: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/uk-immigration/67120/
Jonathan Thomas outlines four key lessons from recent history to illuminate the potential consequences of the government’s proposed immigration system. He concludes that the ending of freedom of movement represents the start of a significant new challenge for the UK in managing not only immigration, but also the public’s concerns over it.
With the ending of freedom of movement to the UK, the government’s White Paper proposals for the post-Brexit immigration system look to take back control – and to the future. But looking backward can be instructive. Taking a historical approach to the potential consequences of ending freedom of movement can help to illuminate the challenges, and indeed risks, of the UK’s plotted course.
The UK has its own history with ending freedom of movement, with the case of Commonwealth citizens in the 1960s. And examples abound of countries that, as the UK is now proposing, have tried to manage immigration through temporary stay regimes. Most instructive of all though may be the United States’ experience in seeking to regulate immigration from Mexico. Across a 70-year period US immigration policy has ranged from allowing relatively free, but temporary, movement for work, to total prohibition of such, accompanied throughout by a fluctuating enforcement approach. Across these examples, the consequences were often unexpected, sometimes counterintuitive, but all instructive as to how immigration policies can have a profound and lasting impact on a nation. From these experiences one can identify four key lessons for UK policymakers.
First is that greater immigration restrictions on well-established existing immigration flows can lead to an increased permanent lawful immigrant population, even if immigration flows themselves reduce. For those immigrants already in-country, increased immigration restrictions combined with a one-time offer to stay to those already here can convert some of what would have been circular migration into permanent stay. And for those immigrants not yet here, the UK’s current proposals pair greater restrictions on EU immigrants with easing of restrictions on non-EU immigrants, who compared with EU citizens have tended towards greater permanence once in the UK. So, while new flows from the EU will be curtailed, placing immigration restrictions on an existing labour immigration route, which many used on a circulatory basis, may cause migrants to switch into other routes into the UK which may actually favour more permanent settlement.
Second is that greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular migrant (overseas citizens who enter, stay and/or work without lawful permission) entry. The UK will remain open to visitors, tourists, workers and students from the EU. EU migrants will not be irregular as such on entry, but may become so through overstaying. This cannot therefore be effectively controlled at the border. The White Paper proposes temporary immigration routes to help business adjust to living without EU lower-skilled labour without resorting to irregular workers. But history suggests that temporary routes, unless rigorously enforced, themselves incentivise irregularity.
Third is that greater immigration restrictions applied to well-established existing immigration flows can lead to increased irregular immigrant stay, and therefore an increased irregular immigrant population. Immigration enforcement dynamics pose a particular challenge for the UK, seeking to restrict a long-established migration flow in circumstances where it will not meaningfully be able to control that flow on initial entry at the border, and reliant instead on in-country controls. The ‘hostile environment’ approach has significant limitations on the extent to which migrants no longer permitted to be in the UK can be practically controlled, in the sense of identified and tracked. The UK’s increasingly effective border control regime might actually compound the problem, incentivising migrants who become irregular to stay put, knowing their chances of re-entry, should they depart for a period, are increasingly slim.
The size of the irregular migrant population in the UK will also be more directly impacted by the consequences of Brexit. In the laissez-faire form applied in the UK, EU freedom of movement allowed a fluid immigration status, with few questions asked. No more. The one-off Settlement Scheme for those EU citizens already in the UK will instead set in stone their immigration status. And for those who for whatever reason are not able to access settled status, the status of being irregular in the UK will become more impactful to the migrant, more visible to society; greater immigration control may therefore paradoxically give the impression of the opposite.
Finally, an increasingly visible irregular immigrant population, accompanied by increased immigration enforcement, can give rise to greater public concern over immigration even where immigrant flows are reducing. Look at the US. Largely due to EU freedom of movement, the UK has had the luxury of not having to seriously grapple with irregular immigration. This is now coming to an end. Given UK public attitudes towards irregular migration, any spike in concern over this will likely be a deeply uncomfortable experience for politicians and the public alike. Media interest in irregular migration that has largely lain dormant during the EU immigration debate may well be reawakened.
This will focus attention on the practical challenges in the UK of achieving realistic and scalable in-country immigration controls. An even more hostile environment? A local area registration regime? A population-wide ID card scheme? Periodic ‘earned regularisations’ of status? Will any such measures assuage public concern over immigration or have quite the opposite effect?
The ending of EU freedom of movement thus heralds a challenging new era for the UK in managing immigration and the public’s reaction to it. And the White Paper only sets out the baseline; the policy which the UK will adopt in isolation, but with the possibility that trade deals may result in less controlled access to the UK for certain countries’ citizens.
The government needs to design its policy inputs accordingly, but also think about how to best manage the outputs. It should inject a dose of honest realism, coming clean about the complexities and unintended consequences of immigration policy, about the control that it does have, but also the practical limits to that control. It must also be honest about the trade-offs: it may not be realistic to have the degree of control over immigration that many people in the UK say they want, while at the same time keeping other aspects of society as those same people say they would like them.
Note: read the full report on which the above draws here.
Original Article available here: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/immigration-policy-history-lessons/
Children whose parents are divorced are more likely to get fat than those whose parents stay together, say researchers.
The weight gain is particularly marked in children whose parents divorce before they are six, the study found.
Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science analysed data on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002.
The authors say their findings back calls for better health support for families going through a break-up.
The paper suggests a range of reasons why children might put on weight after a divorce, both economic and non-economic.
- less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables
- parents having to work more hours, leaving less time to prepare nutritious food
- less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport
- parents with less time and energy to establish healthy eating habits in their children
- emotional problems leading to parents who overfeed and children who eat too much sugary and fatty food
The information on the children was collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which followed the lives of a representative UK-wide sample of children born at the start of the new millennium.
The children were surveyed at the ages of nine months, three years, five, seven, 11 and 14, although this particular study excluded the data collected at 14, as the researchers wanted to focus on the period before adolescence.
Of the children studied, 1,573 – or about one in five of the total – had seen their parents separate by the time they were 11.
The study also looked at the children’s heights and weights, ages and genders to calculate their body mass index (BMI) – a widely used measure of whether individuals are a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
The results showed that children of separated parents gained more weight during the 24 months after their parents separated, than children whose parents stayed together over the same period.
And children of separated parents were more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of the separation, the study found.
The paper says the results underscore the idea that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”.
The authors suggest that, as the study stopped when the children were 11, the data might underestimate the full extent of the children’s weight gain over time “because the magnitude of this association becomes stronger as the time since separation increases”.
The authors argue that efforts to prevent children at risk from gaining weight should start soon after separation.
“Intervening early could help to prevent, or at least attenuate, the process that leads some children to develop unhealthy obesity,” they write.
The study focused on the consequences of the first separation of children’s biological parents, so children whose parents were later reconciled were not included in the analysis.
The authors also controlled for socio-economic disadvantage.
The article is published in the journal Demography.
Original article available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48664323
The Home Office is undertaking a year-long engagement programme around the future skills-based immigration system.
The Home Office has today (Monday 17 June) published membership detailsof 5 advisory groups, established to deepen engagement between government and industry as the future skills-based immigration system is developed.
The department is undertaking a year-long engagement programme to hear the views of communities and gather expertise from businesses across the UK.
Over 100 events have been held since the start of the year, reaching almost 1,500 stakeholders.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:
I’ve already met hundreds of people and businesses to make sure our future immigration system works for every part of the UK.
Our advisory groups will provide invaluable expertise and representing the views of businesses, employers and vulnerable people.
We are delivering on the referendum result by ending free movement and establishing a system to designed to attract talent to the UK, not based on where people are from.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
As we leave the EU, getting the new immigration system right is a high priority for businesses.
Employers have welcomed this opportunity to provide extra evidence to the Home Office, to help design an immigration system which both restores public confidence and meets the needs of our economy.
These sessions have been frank and constructive, and we hope the detailed feedback provided is reflected in final details of the new system.
The 5 groups are:
- Employers’ Advisory Group – consisting of groups representing major employers across the UK
- Education Sector Advisory Group – made up of groups representing universities and colleges
- Crossing the Border Advisory Group – composed of organisations representing the aviation, maritime and rail sectors
- National Advisory Group – consisting of groups representing organisations from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
- Vulnerability Advisory Group – made up of organisations representing vulnerable individuals
The new immigration and borders system will be implemented in a phased approach from 2021.
Proposals include scrapping the annual cap on the number of visas issued for skilled workers and widening the skills threshold to include people with qualifications equivalent of A levels.
The new skills-based system will also remove the resident labour market test for high-skilled workers and introduce a route for temporary workers at any skills from low-risk countries, allowing them to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months.
Full details are available in the government’s White Paper.
Original article available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-publishes-details-of-immigration-advisory-groups
The school admissions code in England is to be changed to make it easier for families escaping domestic abuse to switch schools, says the Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
He wants vulnerable children to get a school place “as quickly as possible”.
Mr Hinds says more needs to be done for 1.6 million children who have needed support from social workers.
But the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield warned of political “paralysis” in delivering such changes.
In a speech on tackling disadvantage at the Reform think tank, Mr Hinds highlighted that there was no “simplistic” stereotype about who was likely to underachieve in school.
White British pupils were among the lowest achievers, while those who spoke English as a second language were likely to get above-average results.
- Domestic violence families ‘should have priority over school places’
- Education spending now skewed towards disadvantaged, says IFS
- DFE funding claims ‘exaggerated’ says statistics watchdog
Mr Hinds showed the scale of the success of disadvantaged pupils in London, who were twice as likely to get into top universities than their counterparts in other parts of England.
Young people in big cities were more likely to get good results – while those in coastal areas were particularly likely to underachieve.
He called for attention for 1.6 million children who were not in care, but who were classified as being “children in need” and whose families had been supported by social workers during the past three years.
These pupils had high levels of absenteeism and exclusion, and were likely to get much lower exam grades.
“We need to improve the visibility of this group, both in schools and in the system as a whole,” said Mr Hinds.
The move to improve access to schools for families affected by domestic violence follows a report in March by two charities – Hestia and Pro Bono Economics.
This called for children forced to move home to be given priority over school places.
The education secretary also responded to calls for more school funding from candidates in the race to become the new Conservative party leader and prime minister.
Theresa May, in her last days in office as prime minister, is also believed to be considering announcements over education spending.
“It’s a good thing that education has been such a prominent topic in the leadership debate,” said Mr Hinds.
“Part of that is about resourcing – but not only.”
Mr Hinds has been under pressure from school leaders who have complained about worsening budget shortages.
“I have been making the case for investment in education – it has a unique role in its reach,” he said, arguing that it was vital to social cohesion, social mobility and economic productivity.
But Mr Hinds said that the budget needed for schools would keep changing as extra demands emerged, such as for special needs.
“We will always want to do more,” he said.
Implementing any announcements will depend on the outcome of the Conservative leadership contest – and Mr Hinds said he would be ready to serve under Boris Johnson, if he became prime minister.
But he warned strongly against calls for Parliament to be suspended to allow Brexit to be pushed through – describing it as a “dangerous” idea and the opposite of taking back control.
Ms Longfield, England’s commissioner for children, warned that arguments over Brexit meant that “government itself has ground almost to a halt”.
She said the lack of political activity meant the prospect for these disadvantaged youngsters “remains wretched”.
The children’s commissioner said funding decisions had not been taken and promises “to get a grip of tackling childhood vulnerability” were likely to be “delayed again”.
Original Article available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48665613
Domestic Abuse: Committee of MPs and Lords urge Government to protect migrant women in forthcoming Bill
In a report published today (14 June), MPs and Lords support better for protection for women reporting domestic abuse, including the creation of a firewall between support services and immigration control.
Members of the Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) campaign – a coalition of more than 30 organisations – welcome recommendations by the Joint Committee of MPs and Lords examining the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which echo their call for migrant women reporting domestic abuse to be protected and supported as victims, before any consideration of immigration status.
Calling the draft Domestic Abuse Bill a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the needs of migrant women, the Committee also urged that a new statutory definition should recognise a broader range of abusive behaviour, including perpetrators using insecure immigration status as a form of coercive control.
Acknowledging that migrant women experiencing domestic abuse had been effectively excluded from the draft Bill, and that this was not compliant with domestic and international human rights laws, the Committee also recommends strengthening protections against discrimination through a duty on public authorities to protect the rights of all victims of domestic abuse. They recommend this duty should mirror the language of the Istanbul Convention – the ‘gold standard’ treaty for combatting violence against women and girls.
SUMW campaigners welcomed the acknowledgement that migrant women with no recourse to public funds are effectively barred from accessing refuges and other support services. However, campaigners warned that the Government must do more to safeguard migrant women and calls for the Bill to remove no recourse to public funds restrictions for all survivors of domestic abuse.
Lucila Granada, Director Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) said:
“At LAWRS we are very concerned about the growing number of women who choose not to report because of the lack of protection and anti-migrant attitudes. It is shameful that women facing abuse also fear the agencies that are there to support people at risk.
“For the past two years, the #StepUpMigrantWomen coalition has urged Government to listen to the survivors and to the expert specialist and human rights organisations. We now urge them to listen to their own peers and to take responsible steps and follow the Committee’s recommendations to protect migrant women. We need a firewall, we need safe reporting, we need specialist support for women exiting violence, but with a dead-end road women won’t be able to come forward. A ‘NRPF label’ should not trap women in abuse.”
Marchu Girma, Director Women for Refugee Women said:
“At Women for Refugee Women we see how asylum-seeking women struggle to find protection from domestic violence and abuse. We see time and again the barriers that women with no recourse to public funds face in accessing services and reporting crime. I was glad to be able to give evidence to the committee and remind them that protection must be needs based, not status based.
“We therefore welcome the statement from the committee that the bill is ‘currently a missed opportunity to address the needs of migrant women who have no recourse to public funds’ and that the committee recognises the need for ‘action to help this most vulnerable group of individuals’. We hope that action will indeed follow and that this will now be addressed by the government. Women’s lives are at stake.”
Andrea Simon, End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“The Committee are absolutely right to highlight that the Government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Bill has neglected the situation and urgent needs of migrant women and children who do not have secure immigration status.
“Currently women’s support services really struggle to provide beds and other help for these women and their children because they are not entitled to housing and welfare support. We also know that women in this situation are facing widespread discrimination, and appallingly, often treated as immigration offenders before victims of abuse.
“This shames us as a society – when we put immigration enforcement before the lives of women and children. The Government must now take this opportunity to show it is listening and bring forward legislation that will protect ALL victims of domestic abuse equally.”
Zehrah Hasan, Liberty said:
“We welcome the Committee’s robust recommendations today, which would embed vital protections for migrant women in the Domestic Abuse Bill. Legislating for a ‘firewall’ between trusted public services and immigration enforcement is vital to ensure that all survivors and people with insecure immigration status can report crimes without fear.
“We urge the Government to implement these recommendations and go further still – by ensuring migrant women with no recourse to public funds can access safe accommodation, security and support. Without these comprehensive protections for migrant women, this Bill will be a missed opportunity that prioritises immigration control over public safety.”
Karla McLaren, Amnesty International UK’s government relations manager, said:
“The Committee has clearly listened to migrant survivors of domestic abuse and is rightly urging the Government to offer proper and equal protections in the Domestic Abuse Bill.
“The Government now has an opportunity to make this Bill the landmark piece of legislation it should be, through enshrining protection without discrimination, ensuring safe reporting, and by providing life-saving access to refuge and public funds for all survivors, wherever they are from.”
Jane Gordon, Sisters For Change said:
“Sisters For Change welcomes the Joint Committee’s recommendation of an additional clause in the Bill imposing a non-discrimination duty on public authorities when dealing with victims of domestic abuse that reflects Article 4(3) of the Istanbul Convention.
The UK Government has existing international legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to combat violence against women without discrimination and to provide protection and support to all women, including refugee women, women seeking asylum, migrant women and stateless women.”
Step Up Migrant Women
Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) – a coalition of more than 30 organisations, including the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Southall Black Sisters, Amnesty International UK, Sisters For Change, IMKAAN, Liberty and End Violence Against Women Coalition – is urging the government to ensure equal protection for migrant, refugee and BAME women survivors of domestic abuse who often slip through the gaps because of their particular experiences of violence.
The SUMW Coalition believes that the Domestic Abuse Bill must:
· offer a system of full confidentiality, protection and support for all migrant women who report their abuse, regardless of their immigration status. This policy must apply to all statutory services, including the police and GPs;
· make specialist organisations led by and for migrant and black and minority ethnic women – which have had their services decimated by funding cuts – a central part of tackling domestic abuse and violence;
· recognise the gender inequality underlying domestic abuse and the disproportionate impact on women and girls;
· ensure refuge provision becomes a statutory obligation backed by national ring-fenced funding;
· ensure all migrant women at risk of experiencing abuse have access to public funds and routes to regularise their immigration status independent of their perpetrator.
Original Article availblae here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/domestic-abuse-committee-mps-and-lords-urge-government-protect-migrant-women
Biggest shake up of divorce laws in 50 years aimed at reducing conflict and supporting children and families.
- Cross-party support for landmark government bill as it enters the Commons today
- Ministers want to end unnecessary ‘mudslinging’ and allow divorcing couples to move forward amicably
Divorcing couples will soon no longer have to make allegations about each other’s conduct, after a landmark bill was introduced by Justice Secretary David Gauke today (13 June 2019).
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to make divorce less acrimonious – reforming our 50-year-old divorce laws – to ensure the process better supports couples to move forward as constructively as possible.
The government has acted to make sure that when a relationship regrettably breaks down, the law doesn’t stir-up further antagonism but instead allows couples to look to the future and focus on key practical decisions – such as how best to cooperate in bringing up children.
Today’s news comes after Ministers pledged to bring forward new legislation following significant support for reform from across the family justice sector and from those with personal experience of divorce.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other.
By removing the unnecessary mudslinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible.
I’m proud to introduce this important legislation which will make a genuine difference to many children and families.
Margaret Heathcote, Chair of Resolution, the family justice professionals group, said:
We’re delighted that the government is introducing legislation which will help reduce conflict between divorcing couples.
Every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in line with our Code of Practice. However, because of our outdated divorce laws, they’ve been working effectively with one arm tied behind their backs.
These proposals have the support of the public, politicians, and professionals. We therefore call on MPs and members of the House of Lords to pass this Bill without unnecessary delay, and end the blame game for divorcing couples as soon as possible.
Current law demands proof that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. It forces spouses to evidence this through alleged conduct such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or face at least two years of separation, even in cases where a couple has made a mutual decision to part ways.
Consultation responses, which included feedback from family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce, highlighted that this requirement can set the scene for acrimony and conflict – damaging any prospect of reconciliation and harming the ongoing relationship between parents in particular.
Therefore the government’s reforms remove conflict flashpoints that exist in the current process and introduce a minimum overall timeframe, encouraging couples to approach arrangements for the future as constructively and cooperatively as possible.
Specifically, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will:
- Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (couples can opt to make this a joint statement).
- Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down.
- Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order may be made, allowing greater opportunity for reflection and, where couples cannot reconcile and divorce is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.
The Bill seeks to align the ethos underlying divorce law with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children in particular.
Notes to editors
- The government published its response to the public consultation, Reducing Family Conflict: reform of the legal requirements for divorce, on 9 April 2019.
- Current divorce law requires people seeking divorce to give evidence of one or more of five facts to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; three are based on ‘fault’ and two are based instead on a period of separation.
- The 5 facts are: adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce) and 5 years’ separation (otherwise). These are summary versions of the facts.
- The behaviour fact, for example, which was an issue in the case of Owens v Owens, is sometimes called ‘unreasonable behaviour’ but is actually ‘that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent’.
- Separation-based facts are effectively unavailable to those who cannot afford to run two households before resolving their financial arrangements on divorce
- At present, where both parties agree, the court can dissolve the marriage after the couple have lived apart for a minimum 2 years. Where one spouse disagrees, the other spouse will either have to wait to be separated for 5 years before a divorce is granted or may instead obtain a divorce if they demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that their spouse has committed adultery or that they have behaved in such a way that the party cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. Desertion is rarely relied upon. The legal definitions of the facts can be found in section 1(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973
- Data shows that out of every 5 divorce petitions over the last 3 years, close to 3 rely on conduct facts and 2 on separation facts. Between 2016-18, the behaviour fact accounted for nearly half of all petitions (46.4%, or 47.1% when combined with the adultery fact). In 2018, 118,000 people petitioned for divorce in England and Wales.
- The ability to contest a divorce is rarely used (in less than 2% of cases). The Bill removes the possibility to contest a divorce but all divorce applications could still be challenged on the bases of jurisdiction, the legal validity of the marriage, fraud or coercion and procedural compliance.
- The current law does not require any minimum period of time to elapse before granting the decree nisi (conditional order of divorce). Between 2011 and 2018, around one in ten cases reached decree nisi within 8 weeks, and 3 in 10 cases between 9-13 weeks. It is expected that without the introduction of a minimum timeframe, the average time would reduce as online divorce is extended.
- The average period to the final decree is much more varied, as some parties take a long time to make financial arrangements before they apply for the final decree. We will retain the current minimum period of 6 weeks before a final decree can be applied for.
- The divorce will not be automatic at a fixed date at the end of the minimum timeframe, but will require the applicant to continue to affirm their decision to seek a divorce. This keeps the important safeguards of the existing process.
- Parallel changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership which broadly mirrors the legal process for obtaining a divorce.
- The proposed legislation will not cover other areas of matrimonial law such as financial provision. Financial provision on divorce is handled in separate proceedings and the court has wide discretion to provide for future financial needs.
- For more information please contact MOJ press office.
Original article available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/end-to-divorce-blame-game-moves-closer
A sobering selection of real-life tales illustrate the maddening network of rules and regulations that applicants to remain in the UK must navigate
Who Should Get to Stay in the UK (BBC Two) was not, alas, an amusing parlour game allowing one to strike through the names of those who are already here and whom one would prefer to kick out. (I have a list to hand, running from close family members, through personal nemeses, on to anyone mounting a leadership challenge and ending with all homeopaths.) It was the rather more sobering consideration of who, out of the 700,000 people from outside the EU who apply to remain here every year, the Home Office – operating via a network of rules and regulations so byzantine and in such constant flux that experts in the field describe themselves as “unsure of the law on any given day” – deems fit to stay.
The opening episode (the first of three) focused on four representatives of the main routes in. Valeriya, a 27-year-old Russian on her fifth student visa, has been given £200,000 from her father (“We are millionaires, not billionaires”) to start her own fashion business in order to qualify for an entrepreneur’s visa. Thirty-year-old Rashed developed Crohn’s disease while he was here as a student and has now outstayed his visa by five years while being treated on the NHS (for free, although this is technically in contravention of current rules). He has been refused leave to stay and is appealing on humanitarian grounds, because if he returns to his native Bangladesh he will not be able to access the treatments that keep him alive. Dillian, from Trinidad and Tobago, has already been shot once because of his status as a known gay man and is applying for asylum here. Ajmal is Scottish and applying for work visas for three Indian chefs who have the expertise he needs to expand his high-end restaurant and takeaway business.
The frustrations are legion. If, as the CEO of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Satbir Singh notes, the question of who is allowed in, is as often as not, an economic one, why is Ajmal hamstrung in his efforts to recruit three people who would, in effect, create more than 50 local jobs? He has tried for three years to find people with the requisite skills within the UK, but is barred from looking elsewhere because, although chefs are on the list of workers of whom we have a recognised shortage, anyone having anything to do with takeaway food is not. “Current legislation is … restrictive sometimes to the point of absurdity,” says his lawyer delicately. “All I’m looking for,” says Ajmal, speaking for anyone dealing with bureaucracy, “is a basic measure of common sense.”
Sometimes it is the clients who make life difficult for themselves. Valeriya can’t put a workable business plan together and Dillian (“A bit of a Walter Mitty character,” his lawyer says wearily) can’t stop overcomplicating his life story and distracting from the fact of his shooting and assured persecution if he is sent home.
But whatever the apparent factors in these decisions, the programme’s weaving together of personal stories and expert commentary gradually shows the more intangible mechanisms at work. Access to the UK depends on a strange brew of political expediency (who is the government pandering to and when); racism (in all its myriad and subtle hues, staining every layer of society and the institutions guarding and shaping it); economic considerations (including the duty to protect finite resources against chancers, so that they are there for the people who fund them); and human compassion. The brew’s toxicity rises and falls according to which elements are in the ascendant.
At the same time, the show made points rarely heard in mainstream discussions of immigration. Barrister Colin Yeo noted that the dominant narrative is of immigrants gobbling up an unfair share of some notional national pie, when what they actually do is increase the size of the pie itself. Others pointed out that there is no equivalent to the presumption of innocence in immigration law; each case stands on its own merits and is subject to laws so complex that how they are applied often looks like no more than whim.
Among the subjects here, justice appeared to be largely done in the end. Rashed and Dillian are staying. The Migration Advisory Committee showed a small measure of common sense and advised removal of the takeaway restriction. And Valeriya is waiting to hear if the Home Office reckons the UK needs another fledgling fashion business from someone with a lot of clothes but no plan. Rashed has had further surgery since filming, which suggests a death sentence was indeed averted. Sip your brew and wonder what it cost to save him, or what it would have cost us to send him back to die.
Original article available here: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jun/13/who-should-get-to-stay-in-the-uk-review-immigration