Refugees in the UK


Report on refugee and asylum issues in the UK

September 2022

The change of Prime Minister this month has led to changes at the Home Office. The new minister, Suella Braverman, will have initially to deal with the question of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, the issue of which is still under judicial review. The hearings have started this week.  The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss has declared her support for the plan, indeed suggesting its extension to other countries.  An aide told the Mail on Sunday: “She’s determined to see the Rwanda policy through to full implementation as well as exploring other countries where we can work on similar partnerships.”  It would not seem likely that the new Home Secretary will mark much of a change from her predecessor.

Despite the legal challenge, the government plans to deport 19 people to Rwanda in the coming days. Information shared by charities indicates that six were trafficked or tortured, including one who was detained and beaten for eight weeks at a warehouse in the Libyan Desert.

Medical Justice have this week published “Who’s Paying The Price?: The Human Cost Of The Rwanda Scheme”, a comprehensive analysis of people targeted for removal to Rwanda which details medical evidence of the harm inflicted on them.  The charity says: “The policy is damaging in general for anyone, acutely so for such vulnerable torture and trafficking survivors who are already paying a high human cost even before any flights have taken off to Rwanda.”

As one of the side issues to the debate, the charity Freedom from Torture is directing public attention on to the airlines who are or are intending to facilitate the flights.

Another central element of the immigration plan – the setting up of new processing centres for asylum seekers – also appears to have stalled after the Ministry of Defence admitted to the Observer that, despite evaluating 100 different sites for the Home Office since January, it has yet to publicly identify a new one that might be used. The only site named so far as “asylum accommodation” – in Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire – was abandoned after the Home Office failed to move any asylum seekers there and the MoD withdrew from the plan.

The Observer has revealed that the government is considering reintroducing its notorious refugee pushback policy for use against small boats crossing the Channel.  Five months ago, after the heavily criticised policy was officially withdrawn by ministers, documents released under freedom of information laws suggest the government is reconsidering the tactic that has been blamed for drownings in Greece.

The numbers arriving in the country by boat continues to grow, to over 25,000 this year, given the good weather.  3,733 people crossed the Channel during the week to 28 August – twice as many for all of 2019.

Acceptances

What has been notable has been the large number of acceptances by the Home Office of asylum seekers’ claims.  New rules on inadmissibility have added to the time taken to process asylum seekers, but the proportion of acceptances in the long term remains high.

A large number of Albanians has, however been returned on the grounds that the country Is safe.  The government has been endeavouring to set up returnee agreements with other countries to facilitate repatriation; at present they have 5, the latest of which is with Pakistan.

By comparison with other European nations, the total number of asylum applications in the UK since 2012 has been 386,000, the 6th largest in Europe.

Outside of the refugee influx, more work visas have been issued to arrivals from India than any other nation (Ukraine is the next largest).

The Afghan emergency last year resulted in 16,000 nationals being brought over here.  Of these, 9000 are still living in hotel accommodation.

The total number of Ukrainian refugees now in the UK is 115,000.  Visas issued under the Family and Sponsorship schemes total 177,000.  For comparison, Germany has so far taken in 971,000 Ukrainians.  The UK government has, however, indicated that host households will have their “thank you” payments doubled to £700 per month.

AH


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Further threats to our human rights proposed


Suella Braverman, the attorney general, proposes further action to counter the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR

August 2022

The onslaught on the UK’s human rights continues apace. In a recent speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank, Ms Braverman argues for radical action to counter the influence of ECHR rules on UK legal affairs. This latest attack is almost certainly triggered by the decision of the European Court to prevent the deportation to Rwanda of a number of immigrants. This occurred almost minutes before the plane was due to take off from Boscombe Down airfield, a mile or two from where this is being written.

The government is evidently determined to reduce several key rights enjoyed by British people sometimes for centuries. A new act will make it harder to protest and gives the police and ministers greater powers to carry curtail them. The ability to seek judicial review is also to be curtailed. The ability to strike is to be subject to yet further restrictions. The Human Rights Act itself is to be abolished and replaced with a Bill of Rights which will be weaker. The weight of legislation, current or proposed, will together amount to a significant reduction in the ability of ordinary people to hold the government to account. We must also add sustained attacks on the BBC, its journalists and its funding, and the intention to sell off Channel 4 which are both seen as irritants.

We discussed in an earlier post, Ms Braverman’s dubious and we argued – quite inappropriate – attitude towards torture, echoing the arguments of Prof Posner of Chicago. We referenced an article in the Observer which showed that several of her claims about her career were of doubtful veracity: no record could be found for example of a supposed contribution to a legal text book. Her claims about the chambers she worked in were also questioned. She was one of the candidates to become Britain’s new prime minister.

In a review of her speech in the Guardian, she is quoted as saying:

[…] a culture where fringe campaign groups, purporting to champion rights, have claimed a moral high ground and have adopted an attitude of intolerance. Often with vastly inflated salaries and armed with a Newspeak dictionary, they have created mighty citadels of grievance across the public sector and made huge inroads into the private sector

Guardian, 11 August 20122, p5

She further claims that the UK now has a ‘rights culture’. One of the problems in discussing her comments and speeches is that few examples are given to illustrate the points she is making. She attacks the judiciary, the human rights community and is vociferous about ‘woke’ matters. She continues in office largely because of her loyalty to the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson. As Attorney General, she has to pursue a difficult balancing act. She is both law officer to the government and a member of the government, one of those peculiarly British positions which is fundamentally absurd but previous post holders have acquitted well. Ms Braverman has not, perhaps because of her loyalty to a prime minister who was forced to resign because of one scandal too many.

The concern is that the rhetoric and legislation which comes from it are becoming a danger. Human rights are seen as a threat. Quite how this ‘rights culture’ has damaged the interest of British citizens is never explained. She shares with Dominic Raab a dislike of protest, the judiciary and the European Court and they seek to weaken all of them, eagerly supported by the right wing press. Our system of government, imperfect as it is, is built on the notion of checks and balances. They seek to garner more power to themselves and, by more and more legislation, reduce the opportunity for challenge by protest or via the judiciary.

This post was written without using a Newspeak dictionary.

Are our human rights safe with the new Attorney General?


The appointment of Suella Braverman as Attorney General raises further fears for our human rights

May 2020

The Attorney General is an important legal post in the UK and is responsible for advising the Crown and the Government on legal aspects affecting their decisions.  They are not usually present in Cabinet meetings to preserve a degree of independence although the previous incumbent, Geoffrey Cox, did so because there were frequent matters to do with Brexit to discuss.  The appointment matters therefore and their views and opinions on issues such as human rights are important.

The new person in the role is Suella Braverman and she has strong legal credentials having been a barrister for seven years.  Her views on human rights are worrying however and are worth examinining.  In an article in the Daily Telegraph entitled: Britain is so obsessed with human rights it has forgotten about human duties (16 December, 2015) she sets out her thinking.

  • the mission (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) has failed.  She instances the lack of equality for women in the Islamic world, political authoritarians in Turkey, Hungary and Venezuela
  • the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay means the United States has lost credibility on civil liberties
  • the plight of millions of people belies the noble ambitions of the Universal Declaration.

She goes on to explain that the one reason for this is that Universal Declaration was never a treaty in the formal sense and never became international law.  Another reason is that the rights are ‘described in imprecise, aspirational terms which allow governments to interpret them in any way they see fit’.

And there are:

hundreds of international human rights – rights to work and education, to freedom of expression and religious worship, to non-discrimination, to privacy, to pretty much anything you might think important in a perfect world.  The sheer volume and array of rights imply an all-embracing protection.  This is impossible, because there will always be trade-offs in which some rights are sacrificed to uphold others.

She marries this with an approving comment about Prof. Eric Posner of Chicago who has written a book called Twilight of Human Rights in which he dismisses the value of these rights.  It is clear that Suella Braverman has taken his ideas on board since they crop up frequently in her writings and posts.  For example, the comment above about the sheer volume of rights is a Posner point as is the fact it was never a treaty.  But the significant and chilling example is the issue of torture.

Torture

Posner explains that a poor country has a choice or trade off.  So if the police are torturing its citizens to obtain confessions, then the state can decide to spend its entire budget in eliminating this practice by retraining and monitoring the police’s behaviour.  Then it would have insufficient funds to improve the medical care of its people.

Braverman puts it thus in an echo of Posner’s argument:

In Brazil, there have been several cases of the use of torture by the police in the name of crime prevention.  They justify this by putting a general right to live free from crime and intimidation above their rights and those who are tortured.  To wipe out torture, the government would need to create a robust, well-paid policing and judicial services to guarantee the same results.  The government might argue that this money is better spent on new schools and medical clinics, protecting wider rights to freedom of education and health.  These sorts of value judgements, inherent in the practical application of human rights (whether we agree with them or not), undermine their universality.

We should be horrified that someone who has been appointed to become our new Attorney General, one of the high legal offices of the land, promotes the view that there is some kind of trade-off as far as the use of torture is concerned.  She has clearly swallowed Prof Posner’s arguments without pausing for one moment to think of the moral issues or the fact that torture is neither efficient nor effective in getting to the truth.

The practice was abolished in Britain in the long parliament of 1640.  Yet here we have a barrister, a member of parliament and now a senior law officer, responsible for advising the government and cabinet, that, under some curious reasoning, it might be justifiable because the money might ‘better spent elsewhere’ rather than eliminating it.

Her other main complaint is about the judges.  She was a keen proponent of Brexit and in Conservative Home she says:

Restoring sovereignty to Parliament after Brexit is one of the greatest prizes that awaits us.  But not just from the EU.  As we start this new chapter of our democratic story, our Parliament must retrieve power ceded to another place – the courts.  For too long, the Diceyan notion of parliamentary supremacy has come under threat.  The political has been captured by the legal.  Decisions of an executive, legislative and democratic nature have been assumed by our courts.  Prorogation and the triggering of Article 50 were merely the latest examples of a chronic and steady encroachment by the judges.  Conservative Home 27 January 2020  [Dicey was a Whig jurist and wrote an important book on the British constitution]

Clearly, she and others in government are still smarting from the decision of the Supreme Court not to allow Boris Johnson to prorogue parliament.  In August, Prime Minister advised the Queen to prorogue Parliament from the end of 9 September until 14 October.  The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that this advice, (and the prorogation that followed), was unlawful and of no effect because it had the ‘effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the power of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions’.  Gina Miller has also left her mark.

A review of her comments and articles paints a worrying picture of someone who does not truly value human rights. They Work for You concludes that she consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights.  She voted against largely retaining the EU Charter on Fundamental Human Rights for example and for more restrictive regulation of Trade Union activity.

UPDATE:

This blog was written before Nick Cohen wrote about Braverman in the Observer.  It seems her career and claims of experience have been markedly exaggerated.  

UPDATE: 27 July 2022

Braverman stood as a candidate to become the prime minister of the UK following the resignation of Boris Johnson.  She did not make it to the final round however, failing to secure sufficient votes from fellow MPs.

UPDATE: 8 September 2022

She has been made the Home Secretary following Liz Truss’s appointment as the new Prime Minister on 6th.

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