Today it has been reported that under new plans by the government, migrants from the EU and beyond that are considered “unskilled” will not be entitled to visas into the UK. Employers are being encouraged to focus on keeping staff instead of hiring ‘cheap labour’ which from the view of job progression for UK citizens looks to be a plus. But will it create job security or leave employers wanting for staff leaving gaps in industries?
A tweet on the subject from this morning read “I have a postgrad qualification. I have a mum with dementia in a care home. I could not do the “low skilled work” the carers show my mum & others in the unit. They are amazing people with a unique set of skills I cannot equal”. And she’s quite right, what quantifies low skilled work? And without anyone in the care industries or indeed, construction or surveying industries from abroad, can the British population fill the gaps the absence of workers will create?
Just because we have 1.29 million unemployed (as of December 2019) does not mean the gaps will be filled easily or that people want to do ‘low skilled’ work which can be construed as low paid. The difference is our unemployed want a livable wage. For people from low economy areas in the EU and beyond, our minimum wage is more than they’d expect in their own country.
Rejecting migrant workers who work hard at jobs we in this country take for granted, for example, fruit pickers would be detrimental. Though the job can be seen as tiring, having an early start and long hours, it provides us with nutritious food and is carried out in a wide-open space with fresh air. Unlike migrant workers, many would not see the benefit of working in this environment. And this is where the problem lies.
Particular sectors are taken for granted in this country and low paid doesn’t always mean low skilled. Fruit pickers aside, what about those who process food, prepare the food, cook the food? None of these jobs are unskilled by any means. Let’s revisit that tweet mentioned previously. Would you know how to care for someone with Dementia or other cognitive disorders? Would you know how to cut an animal carcass to separate the best cuts of meat? Would you know how to sort the meat by its quality? By disqualifying people with these skills, surely money will be wasted on hiring the 1.29 million unemployed in these sectors and training them to have the skill of someone from the EU or otherwise with this knowledge already?
In any case, the new points system appears to leave a lot to be desired, considering 21% of EU migrants are in factory and construction industries despite there being a need for a £23,000 salary minimum to gain points.
It can be argued that industries that pay workers minimum wage but are in high demand will struggle unless they increase their wage. In comparison, the point system states that a PHD is needed in a relevant field to the job or related to STEM, despite 9% of EU migrants being STEM professionals and 7% being STEM associate professionals which will generally be higher paid jobs but in less demand.
I recently wrote an article on the current situation pertaining to migration, specifically the Windrush generation and how everybody has the basic human right to liberty and personal security. You would think this includes the right to legal representation. However, to read today that not only will people be deported for petty or historic crimes without access to representation, but these people have lived in this country a majority of their lives is horrifying. Considering the fallout from the Windrush scandal is still resonating with a lot of migrant communities in this country, you’d think lessons have been learned by now. Yet here we are, deporting people on tentative grounds again. The move was made despite a court order citing mobile phone outages prevented the potential deportees from gaining legal counsel. Between not knowing how many have been ejected and how many are even under legal circumstances, it is astounding that there is such a blatant disregard for the lives of immigrants especially those from the commonwealth. To quote famed actor Hugh Grant in the past week it’s “hate actually”. The quotes were made regarding the MailOnline stating a black woman was only hired in a high up position at John Lewis to appear diverse, and he’s not wrong. Hate seems to be a somehow unifying factor considering not so long ago we relied on the same people we are persecuting to fill jobs and contribute to our economy. So what changed? How did the values of the Tommy Robinsons and his EDL cohorts become part of legislation and laws?
Article three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everybody has a right to life, liberty and personal security. Migrants from all over Europe, Africa and Asia have put, and are putting themselves and their families through hell in order to grasp this ideal. As basic as this right should be for everybody, regardless of race, creed, or religion they clearly do not find it in their own countries otherwise, why would they go through all that trouble? People in these areas suffer from poverty, corruption, persecution, (genocide in some) or generally want a better life for themselves.
The Italians, Spaniards, Irishmen and other migrants to America got their “American dream” in the 1930s and ’40s. They lived relatively normal lives building their communities in pursuit of their dream of a better life. After all, people from all over had already been living in America since the 1800s. What are these modern migrants doing that are any different?
The Windrush generation came to this country to work on our railways, in our hospitals, drive our busses and more. They built lives here, married, had children – whole communities were built here by their generation. They wanted their part in the dream of a better life for themselves and their children and by the very definition of the act in the declaration, they absolutely have the right. Even if they are not being persecuted in their own country or their personal security is not at risk, they have a right to try and better their lives. Maybe there are no appropriate opportunities where they come from, maybe there is abject poverty, or they just want a better education for themselves and their children.
Those who do come here to train as nurses and doctors and other medical professionals not only better themselves and the living standards of any possible children they may have or will have, they improve the country and society.
It can be argued that although the number of nurses registered have remained about the same there is still not enough to cover the amount of people needing medical care. Stats have shown that in the past 10 years 17,000 hospital beds have been cut.
Myriam Cadinouche came to the UK to study for her PHD and was instead, wrongly accused of being in the country illegally. Her passport was seized along with her documents. This caused her health to decline meaning she did not have the means to carry on with her studies after the error was rectified. It seems that without just cause, vulnerable members of society are targeted and suffer ordeals which in some cases could lead to deportation.
These are the ones who come over here with a dream. What about the ones who come out of pure desperation, the ones who will suffer if they remain in their own country? These are the people most at risk. They would rather risk life and limb, cross cold choppy seas in rubber dinghies than suffer the consequences of being in their country of origin.
They would rather be trafficked in a shipping container and made to work long hours for less than this countries living wage. Think about that for a second. Think about a person in this country maybe yourself or someone you know who is on minimum wage. Now imagine getting half or less than half of that. Would you give everything up or risk everything to make a better life for yourself? This creates a situation where predatory gangs exploit these people’s desperation and make a profit from people’s lives. Recently, 39 Vietnamese people were found dead in a shipping container having just entered a port in Essex. The driver was found guilty of manslaughter, human trafficking and immigration offences. Justice was served for the poor victims families with his conviction however will this affect the gangs on the other end of the trafficking? They will surely keep sending people no matter how many lose their lives trying.
‘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.
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: https://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: https://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: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/24/unesco-chair-blasts-discriminatory-uk-visitor-visa-system
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: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unqualified-immigration-adviser-sentenced