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Home Office Housing Asylum Seekers in Areas of Far-Right Activity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

Byline Times investigates why hotel accommodation for those seeking asylum is being provided in areas facing hostility towards migrants

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A report into hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum – published by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) earlier this month – suggests that racist and far-right attacks on hotels housing asylum seekers could have been avoided “with better engagement and planning on the part of the Home Office and accommodation providers”.

The inspector found that many of the hotels were in areas with an active far-right presence, with one report stakeholder questioning the decision to use a hotel in an area which they knew to be an “unsafe place for people seeking asylum”. The Home Office justified the decision as the accommodation was needed quickly. 

This accusation is backed by exclusive analysis from Byline Times which has matched hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum with far-right activity and constituencies targeted by far-right electoral candidates.

The analysis examined far-right Telegram channels to identify where hotels were being targeted by groups such as Britain First and Patriotic Alternative. Having identified sites under attack, the history of far-right activity in the area, including during elections, was researched.

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Riots and Rallies

The Britain First and Patriotic Alternative Telegram channels included boasts that the far-right groups had launched attacks against hotels in numerous locations including Nottingham, Scarborough, Seacroft, Rotherham, Southampton, Folkestone, Newcastle, Salford, Epping Forest and Wigan.

The locations had a history of far-right activity that ranged from racist and Islamophobic graffiti, to far-right rallies and threats, as well as attacks on hotels.

Perhaps the most prominent hotel location was Rotherham – a target for anti-Muslim, far-right activity since the 2014 sentencing of gangs responsible for grooming and sexually exploiting 1,400 girls

Far-right groups used the race and religion of the perpetrators to whip up Islamophobia. The movement’s exploitation of horrific abuse led to numerous assaults on the local Asian community including attacks on mosques, while the group Yorkshire’s Finest looked for opportunities to carry out attacks on Asians and Muslims to give themselves a militant image. Rotherham’s Muslim community were forced to set up a Guardian Group to protect people from racist attacks. 

There is little doubt that the Home Office was aware of the troubled history of the town. 

Rotherham is probably the most obvious example of far-right activity taking place before hotels for asylum seekers were housed in the area. But it is one of many. 

In Nottingham, where a hotel was targeted by Britain First, far-right activists had taken part in a march in 2020, with neo-Nazi flags on display.

Numerous hotels in the Yorkshire town of Scarborough were 'visited' by both Patriotic Alternative and Britain First – the seaside resort was the target of a far-right march in 2018, while police investigated far-right “Runic” graffiti earlier this year. 

Another Yorkshire town, Seacroft, was a target of the Yorkshire branch of Patriotic Alternative. The group gathered outside a hotel where they condemned the Government for housing people “from half the world away” repeating the racist 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory which falsely claims that white people are becoming a minority in the UK. In 2019, racist graffiti was sprayed on a house in Seacroft. 

Other examples of far-right activity in towns where asylum seekers are housed in targeted hotels are Southampton, where in 2015 an Eid event was cancelled due to far-right fears; and nearby Folkestone, where the Napier Barracks have long been a site of protest by far-right actors.

In Wigan, where Patriot Force has a petition to get a “migrant hotel” shut down, a far-right leader was jailed in 2018. 

Electoral Targets

Several hotel targets are in constituencies where far-right candidates stood in May’s local elections. Paving the way for those campaigns are often years of localised far-right activism – and a strategy of concentrating more resources into fewer seats for parties like For Britain and Britain First. 

Those areas include Epping Forest in Essex – long considered a hotbed for far-right activity. This year, the anti-Islam For Britain Party was standing two candidates, both of whom were prominent members of the now defunct British National Party (BNP).  

Standing for re-election was For Britain’s Julian Leppert. He has been accused of inciting racial hatred after he posted a video on YouTube titled The Epping Migrant Hotel Scandal. In the video, Leppert – who was lambasted by Epping Forest District Council for violating the councillors' code of conduct and made to attend equality and diversity training – says the hotel was housing “illegal immigrants” from “perfectly safe countries” to exploit “our benefits system” and they pose a “security risk to local people”.

Essex police debunked Leppert’s claims that petty crime had risen as a result of the arrival of people seeking asylum in the area. Leppert, who has also advocated for a whites-only enclave in the area, lost his seat.

The same hotel targeted by Leppert was 'visited' by members of Patriotic Alternative last February. The group said in a Telegram post: “Today we went to the... hotel in Epping with a clear message for the politicians housing hundreds of migrants there at our expense. We were never asked if we wanted all these economic migrants, adding to the strain on local services – and we don’t!” 

Britain First’s chief of staff stood as a candidate in Salford’s local elections. The region was reportedly home to two asylum seeker hotels, while six hotels were being used for Afghan refugees. Some of them were reportedly transported there with less than a day’s notice, for which the Home Office apologised, saying that the situation was “unprecedented” and that they had to “seek last minute accommodation for thousands of Afghans at short notice”. 

Members of a far-right party had gained access to one of the hotels and “harassed” residents.  

In a Britain First video posted on Telegram, two members can be seen entering the hotel and confronting a security guard. “Is this hotel holding illegal immigrants?” one of them says. “Who’s all the supplies for?”

Before the duo was escorted out of the hotel, the man said to the hotel staff: “You should hang your head in shame.”

This was far from the first incident of racism and xenophobia in the area. In the run-up to a rally of anti-Islam activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (known as 'Tommy Robinson') in 2019, graffiti stating “no blacks” was sprayed on the front door of a home just days after a 10-year-old boy and his father had moved in.  

REFUK (Reform UK), the successor to the Brexit Party, heavily targeted Bolton and Derby in the local elections, where the party had six councillors divided between two wards. Derby is home to several hotels housing asylum seekers. Among them was a hotel “exposed” by Britain First – a term the party uses to rally its base and stoke up anger. One of the responses to the video reads “disgusting”, while another user says “no more terrorism”.  

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration recommended that the accommodation provider and/or the Home Office should liaise with the local police force or other interested stakeholders to understand whether accommodating asylum seekers in a specific region will cause any issues with the local community.

The Home Office accepted the recommendation to “implement a system to record details of safeguarding issues identified in contingency asylum accommodation, including the accommodation site, issue of concern, and outcome”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and to suggest otherwise is wrong. Whenever we seek to use a hotel for asylum accommodation, we engage with the local police and other stakeholders to identify any community tensions. Reports of far-right activity or a threat to an asylum seeker is immediately reported to the Home Office and followed up to ensure action is taken to protect their safety”.

This article was updated at 6pm on 27 May to include a response from the Home Office

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Why Don’t We Know How Many People have been Convicted for Smuggling People Across the Channel?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

The Byline Intelligence Team used a range of methods to quantify how many convictions there have been for smuggling people across the Channel under this Government – but a lack of formal data raises transparency questions

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Breaking up the criminal gangs that smuggle people into the UK across the English Channel has been central to the Home Office’s ambition for its 'New Plan for Immigration' – which has now become law as the Nationality and Borders Act

But tracking the data on exactly how many have been arrested, charged and sentenced for crimes relating to smuggling migrant people into Britain is ​​– arguably – purposefully opaque.

People smuggling across the Channel is not a specific offence and is therefore folded into data on other crimes by the Ministry of Justice. 

But the Byline Intelligence Team has used a combination of Home Office press releases, tweets, and written parliamentary questions to try and assess how many criminal gangs have been broken up.

Its analysis reveals that, between the December 2019 General Election and October 2021 (when the most recent data was shared with Parliament), there have been “more than” 400 arrests for offences related to migrant trafficking and 71 convictions relating to people smuggling.

However, this is not the full story. After all, it’s not clear what the “more than” relates to when ministers talk about more than 400 arrests. Is it 401? 422? 456? 

It is also not clear if those 71 convictions are solely for smuggling people seeking asylum via small boats across the Channel, or related to other forms of people smuggling such as trafficking individuals into criminal and sexual exploitation. 

Given the Government has pinned its New Plan for Immigration to a commitment to break up the gangs that smuggle migrant people into the UK from mainland Europe, this vagueness is concerning. How can we know if the plan will work, when there is a lack of clear data on how many smuggling gangs have been convicted?

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The Data

A parliamentary question by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell in January asked what steps the Home Office is taking to “tackle illegal migrant trafficking”. Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove said that, between July 2020 and October 2021, the Joint Intelligence Centre had taken down 17 small boat organised crime gangs and secured “over 400 arrests” leading to “nine convictions”. 

This appears to be the most up-to-date estimate of the extent of arrests of those involved in smuggling people seeking asylum across the Channel. Last November, this newspaper reported that nine people had been convicted for facilitation offences relating to small boat crossings that year, with sentences totalling over 17 years’ imprisonment.

Another route into discovering exactly how effectively the UK Government is tackling people smuggling is by looking at the Home Office’s press releases.

In July 2020, the department's press office reported that 11 people had been arrested in relation to illegally facilitating migrant crossings of the Channel. Two months later, in September 2020, three arrests were made as part of an international investigation into the smuggling of migrants into the UK by small boat. Two of those arrested were British. 

We can assume these form 14 of the “over 400” arrests referred to in Pursglove’s answer and therefore do not have to be counted separately.

A recent Home Office press release in May reported that five men had been sentenced for “smuggling people into the UK” during 2019. The men smuggled 35 people via vans, not boats. We added these five sentences to the nine convictions cited by Pursglove.

According to a Home Office tweet in December 2020, 57 people had been convicted of “people smuggling” that year. A Freedom of Information request by the Byline Intelligence Team to discover more about the cases mentioned in the tweet was refused on cost grounds. 

However, it is not clear if those 57 convictions are related to smuggling people who arrive into the UK via an irregular route across the Channel, or smuggling more broadly. This could include trafficking people into the UK from abroad for criminal and sexual exploitation, or people being smuggled to different locations within the UK for similar ends.  

So what do we know?

We know that there were nine convictions for smuggling people across the Channel between July 2020 and October 2021, thanks to Tom Pursglove’s parliamentary answer.

We know that five people were sentenced for smuggling people into the UK in vans in May 2022. That takes us to 14.

And we know that 57 people were convicted of “people smuggling” in 2020 – but we don’t know how many of those were for smuggling people seeking asylum across the Channel. 

All we can say is that between 14 and 71 people were convicted for people smuggling migrants across the Channel since this Government took elected office. 

This means that it is hard to hold the Government to account on its stated aim of stopping people smuggling asylum seekers across the Channel. Because, without firm data – and with the existing data too broad to disaggregate into different forms of people smuggling offences – the numbers we can collect are not accurate.

Questions therefore remain on just how many individuals are facing criminal sanction for smuggling migrant people across the Channel, despite it being the pillar of the Government’s plan for immigration.

The Home Office did not respond to a request to confirm the Byline Intelligence Team's findings.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Doubts Cast Over Home Secretary’s Claim that EU has Resettled Refugees in Rwanda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

The Home Office's evidence for the claim pointed to the UNHCR's Emergency Transit Mechanism – but this scheme differs from the UK's plans to resettle people who arrive in the UK 'illegally' to Rwanda

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Questions have been raised about the Home Secretary assertion to MPs that the European Union has resettled individuals in Rwanda. 

Speaking at a House of Commons debate on 19 April about the controversial plan to send people who enter the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda, Priti Patel defended the policy to the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry who had raised concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.

“Over 130,000 refugees have been resettled in Rwanda and, it is not just a safe country, but one where both the [United Nations refugee agency] UNHCR and the EU have resettled individuals,” Patel said. 

But there are questions around her claims.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Home Office asked for clarification on what the UK Government knows about the EU resettling migrant people to Rwanda.

In response, the Home Office said: “It is correct to say that UNHCR and the EU have worked together to resettle refugees to Rwanda, in particular through the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM)”.

To support this assertion, the Home Office shared an article from the UNHCR website titled 'ETM Rwanda: EU Support Helps UNHCR to Bring Fresh Hope to a Young Refugee'. However, the article shows profound differences between the support the EU provides the UNHCR with the ETM; and the proposal to resettle people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda where they can claim asylum and who will not be able to return to the UK once their asylum claim has been processed.

One is a scheme partly-funded by the EU that evacuates African refugees to a transit facility in Rwanda, where they can make decisions about their future and be resettled elsewhere. The other is a policy that sends migrant people from a place of safety in the UK to a country where they are unlikely to have any ties. 

There is no evidence cited by either the Home Office or the article it shared that the EU itself has resettled individuals in Rwanda.

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A Home Office press officer insisted to Byline Times that the EU “has a scheme” (providing funding to the ETM) to resettle refugees to Rwanda, from where they are free to move to a new home.

They also said the Migration and Economic Development Partnership resettles people who “enter the UK illegally” to Rwanda where they are not detained and where they can receive support, claim asylum or – as per the ETM – move elsewhere. The press officer pointed to a fact sheet on the partnership. 

The fact sheet explains that "people will have all their needs looked after while their asylum claims are being considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support in order to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts".

People who are "relocated" to the country "will be given a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation and healthcare". They are "free to leave" if they wish.

Sile Reynolds, head of asylum advocacy at Freedom from Torture, told Byline Times: "The Emergency Transit Mechanism is an urgent humanitarian evacuation programme, designed to move vulnerable and traumatised refugees from a situation of immediate danger, to a temporary transit location in Rwanda before they are ultimately resettled in Europe or North America.

"It could not be more different to the UK’s Rwanda scheme which moves refugees from a place of safety to one of danger and insecurity. This is nothing more than a cynical and cack-handed attempt to distract critics from the brutality and unfairness of the Rwanda scheme.”

The UNHCR has strongly criticised the agreement between the UK and Rwanda, saying that it "threatens the international refugee protection regime". Following a meeting with Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Geneva on 19 May, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi reiterated these concerns.

The Difference Between the ETM and UK's Rwanda Scheme

The Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) is a humanitarian solution introduced by the UNHCR to address the torture and exploitation of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. It helps evacuate people held in detention in Libya to a safe country such as Rwanda or Niger.

The article shared in the FOI response by the Home Office provides a case study of 18-year-old Beza Yimesgen, who was smuggled to Libya and endured human trafficking, rape and torture before being held in detention. Under the ETM, Beza was evacuated to Rwanda transit facility in Gashora. She is now set to be resettled by the UNHCR to Canada. 

The Eu was one of the first bodies to fund the ETM when it was proposed, donating €12.5 million from the EU Trust Fund for Africa. The money helped the UNHCR to evacuate people such as Beza.

“The European Union and its member states are among the largest partners of UNHCR globally, but also to the Rwanda Operation,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, quoted in the article. 

“Their remarkable contributions to the ETM programme in Rwanda, as well as the generous resettlement pledges clearly demonstrate a genuine humanitarian commitment to the refugee cause. I would like to commend the EU for helping us make a new start, new hopes for these vulnerable refugees.”

The ETM evacuates people to a transit facility, like the one in Gashora, where the UNHCR can determine their refugee status and support them to either be resettled in a third country, return to their country of origin, or resettle in Rwanda. Of the 824 who have been received into the system, just over half have been resettled overseas and none have opted to remain in Rwanda.

The clue, however, appears to be in the name: transit facility. This is not a permanent home, but a place where people can start to determine their futures after abuse and violence while receiving medical and psychosocial support. 

Just over 50% of people evacuated to Gashora have moved on to Sweden; while 26.9% have gone to Canada. 17.7% were resettled in Norway; 3.8% in France; and 0.8% in Belgium. All the people evacuated to Gashora were from other African countries.

This seems very different from the EU resettling people seeking asylum in Rwanda, which would involve sending people who are from, or who have arrived into, an EU country to Rwanda permanently – rather than supporting evacuation efforts from Libya to a transit facility. 

It is also profoundly different to the policy agreed by the British and Rwandan Governments. 

The Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Britain and Rwanda allows the Home Office to transport people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes – such as small boats across the Channel – to Rwanda. Once they arrive in the central African nation, they are expected to apply for asylum in Rwanda or leave to go elsewhere. If their asylum claim is successful, they can remain in Rwanda – if not, they will be deported to their country of origin or apply for another form of leave to remain. 

The two policies are not the same – raising questions as to why the Home Office is using a different model as evidence to support the Home Secretary's claims that the EU has resettled refugees in Rwanda. 

The evidence provided by the Home Office does not suggest that the evacuations carried out under the ETM are anything like the resettlement policy introduced by the UK Government – or that the EU has itself resettled refugees to Africa.

“The Government is well aware that anyone transferred to Rwanda under the scheme will not receive anything like the healthcare, accommodation, trauma rehabilitation or durable solution offered through the ETM,” Sile Reynolds added.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Asylum Seekers Held in Hotels Struggling With Food-Related Poor Health, Report Finds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 7:28pm in

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration raises concerns about housing people seeking asylum in temporary accommodation

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A report into hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum found residents suffering from poor nutrition and diet, leading to new presentations of type 2 diabetes in young patients, poorly controlled type 1 and type 2 diabetes resulting in hospital admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis. 

It added that children are missing development milestones because of problems with nutrition. and are failing to thrive. 

Third sector organisations told inspectors that people seeking asylum and housed in hotels were also demonstrating obesity and raised BMI, pre-diabetes and poor mental wellbeing, iron deficiency anaemia, B12 and Folate deficiencies, Vitamin D deficiencies.

The health challenges undermine the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s claim that people seeking asylum risk dangerous journeys across the Channel because they want to stay in hotels.

The report was compiled by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI). The inspectorate’s future is under threat after Patel instigated an independent review into the quango, as part of a push to slim down the number of public bodies.

The Chief Inspector looked at hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum between May 2021 and November 2021. It found that by November, a total of 21,500 people were housed in 181 hotels, double the number than in May. The contracts for those providing accommodation had a combined value of £4.5 billion over 10 years. People in hotel accommodation receive food and essentials, as well as an £8 weekly allowance.

Due to widespread understanding that long-term hotel accommodation for people seeking asylum is not ideal, the Home Office had set a target to end hotel accommodation by May 2021. The inspector explained that “we found little credible evidence that the target to end the use of hotels as asylum accommodation by May 2021 would be met; 12 months later nobody believes the revised target of March 2022 is achievable”. 

It added that “a clear understanding of the situation which allows the creation of an effective strategy is an essential first step to tackling the huge challenges the Home Office faces”. 

"All families should have access to the food and housing needed to live healthy and secure lives," Interim Director of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Paola Uccellari told Byline Times. "Yet this Government continues to house people in unsuitable hotels for months and months, where poor, innutritious meals are putting children’s health at risk. What we’re seeing is heart-breaking - children being driven into hospital because this Government has denied them a healthy diet".

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Faulty Towers

While the inspector’s report acknowledges it is difficult to provide food in hotel accommodation that everyone would enjoy, interviews with third-sector organisations supporting residents raise the alarm on the health impact of a poor diet.

One response to the inspector explained how the hotel food was often “high in carbohydrates and low in vitamin content”. This led to people presenting with health conditions directly relating to poor nutrition, including type 2 diabetes, constipation and various vitamin deficiencies. People already living with diabetes were struggling to control their condition. 

The inspector also found that food was not always appropriate for children and babies, including food that was “overly spicy” and “unsuitable for children”. As such, they were “failing to thrive” and missing developmental milestones. Families were turning to food banks to ensure their children had enough to eat.

Other issues raised were the lack of culturally appropriate food, a lack of choice, and the disempowerment of not being able to cook for oneself. The report did note, however, that “menus that were on display at the sites appeared to be well balanced and showed that food options were rotated to create variety”. 85% of properties offered specialist meals, and 81% showed that different dietary needs were considered.   

Alongside the physical health impacts, inspectors were informed that people housed in hotels often struggled with the emotional impact of living in limbo – waiting to be moved from temporary accommodation to ‘dispersed accommodation’ such as a flat or a house. 

People housed in hotels told inspectors that the biggest challenge was “never knowing how long they will be in” the accommodation; that they are “worried” about how long they will be expected to stay before moving to a home; and that living in hotels is “not normal life”. 

This view was echoed by the accommodation providers, with one staff member telling the inspector that hotels are “not suitable for more than three months, especially for families”. 

While the pandemic had an impact on length of stay, even after restrictions were lifted the pace of moving people out of hotel accommodation and into flats or houses “continued to be slow”. One provider told the inspectors that “the problem isn’t with the place the people are in, it’s that we have to use hotels and it takes longer than it should to move them on”. 

Other issues raised in the report related to a lack of training for hotel staff, a lack of data sharing, and an unclear process when it came to setting up new sites for housing people seeking asylum. 

One stakeholder told the inspector: “Typically, no meetings between the Home Office and its contractors and local authorities were held to determine whether the health, wellbeing and social care needs of the households could be met at the locations in question before bookings of hotel rooms were made and placement of asylum seeker families undertaken”.

"It’s clear that Priti Patel’s asylum policy is failing families," said Uccellari. What we need are fair and fast asylum processes that allow people to live as part of our communities, get support, and move on with their lives".

In a statement published by the Home Office following the report’s publication, it accepted all the recommendations made by the ICIBI. A spokesperson told Byline Times: “The Chief Inspector positively concludes that asylum accommodation providers are delivering in line with contractual requirements. Work is already underway to address the report’s recommendations and reduce the use of hotels which are costing the taxpayer almost £5million a day. This includes creating a fairer asylum dispersal system and setting up reception centres as part of the New Plan for Immigration”. 

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‘Addicted to Exploiting Migrant Labour’: The Hidden Hostile Environment in the Fishing Industry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 7:22pm in

Post-Brexit immigration rules are pushing more and more foreign fishermen to the margins of an already exploitative system, reports Frankie Vetch

When Emmanuel* came to work in the UK, the conditions on the boat were the worst he had ever seen. Having grown up around fishing in Ghana, for him it was a way of life. But when he came to Northern Ireland in 2018, his positive perception of the industry was shattered. Emmanuel has since been registered as a victim of modern slavery. Now he can tell his story of how the UK immigration system drove him into human trafficking.

Like so many other fishermen, Emmanuel entered the UK on a transit visa; a loophole used by employers to bypass strict migration laws. When he flew the more than 3,000 miles from his home in Ghana, he was picked up at Belfast airport and taken straight to work on a boat. An experienced fisherman, Emmanuel was shocked to find the boat was not fit to go out to sea. He was even more surprised to learn that this is where he would have to live, eat, and sleep.

Despite his contract stating that he was assigned to one specific vessel, Emmanuel was quickly transferred to another. And then another. And then another. At times he would be transferred at midnight, not even knowing the name of the new vessel he was working on. Back home in Ghana, Emmanuel says he would have been given proper accommodation. Constantly living under the threat of being sent home or having his passport confiscated by his employer was psychologically damaging.

“You feel like you have been trapped on a boat where you don’t have any means to even say you want to leave,” he says. “You and your skipper only know what really happens on the boat.”

Fishing After Brexit

The UK’s strict post-Brexit immigration system is increasing the risk of exploitation for foreign fishermen. As part of the point-based system, most foreigners working in the UK must come on a skilled worker visa. Following lobbying from the industry, last April the Government opened up the visa to fishermen. But Byline Times can reveal that so far not a single visa has been granted to a fisherman.

Due to poor working conditions, long hours and low pay, fishing has become an unattractive occupation for young people in the UK. According to Alison Godfrey, deputy chief executive at the Fishermen’s Mission, “For a number of years, it has been hard to find Brits who want to fish. It is the most dangerous peacetime occupation. It doesn’t pay well and has long hours.”

With a decline in domestic and EU fishermen, the industry has become increasingly reliant on non-EEA workers like Emmanuel. According to a survey by the organisation Seafish – a government-funded body – around 35% of fishermen are not from the UK. Ghanaians and Filipinos represent the largest proportion of this figure.

Without access to skilled worker visas, fishermen enter the UK on a transit visa. These largely unregulated visas force workers to operate outside the UK’s territorial zone – meaning that any boat carrying transit visa workers should fish at a minimum of 12 nautical miles (the equivalent of around 14 miles) from domestic shorelines.

Sea conditions this far out are harsher, making it more dangerous for crews. And for fishing vessel owners in places like the west of Scotland, the shape of the coastline can make it difficult to even access these waters.

According to a new report by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the transit visa is not designed to be used for fishermen, but for seafarers transiting through the UK to board vessels operating in international waters. But the report says that for the last 15 years, the transit visa has been used to systematically exploit foreign labour.

Exploiting Migrant Labour

Byline Times spoke to several other Ghanaian fishermen who recounted similar experiences of exploitation.

Some of them worked for a company with a well-documented history of exploitation. The fishermen described being verbally abused, underpaid, and threatened with deportation while working off British coastlines. They say captains used racist abuse against them and described feeling threatened. Some were even physically attacked.

In the UK if you are over the age of 23 and are working 40 hours a week, the minimum wage is £1,520 a month. The fishermen, who were usually working well over 40 hours, had contracts for as little as £700 a month – but in practice they were sometimes paid even less. 

One fisherman, called James*, who still works in the UK, has been employed on vessels where there were no toilets or showers. Sometimes he has gone five days without a shower. Often the boats are small and dangerous to operate in bad weather. Despite these conditions, because he can only enter the UK on a transit visa, he must sleep and live on the boats that he is contracted to work on. The only time he can go ashore is to shop. With a family to feed back home, James has no choice but to continue working in the UK.

“It is so cold on board it can be minus one or two degrees, and you are living without a heater. If I had a visa, I could rent a house or a room and have heat,” he says.  

These experiences substantiate the concerns of experts that the immigration system is driving workers into exploitation. Due to the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies, the risk of being deported is significant for migrant fishermen. This plays into the hands of exploitative employers who wield the threat of deportation. According to the ITF report, by criminalising fishermen violating immigration rules, the Government is increasing their vulnerability to exploitation.

It was recently reported that P&O ferries had replaced 800 UK staff with a crew of foreign seafarers who are to be paid £1.80 an hour. It is this same under-regulated system that allows fishermen to be exploited.

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Vessels inside the territorial zone are meant to be regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Even within this area, there is confusion among public authorities about who is responsible for regulation. Those vessels fishing outside the zone are subject to International Maritime Law and in this largely unregulated environment, fishermen are at even greater risk of exploitation.

“Any suspected employment issue on a vessel will be investigated fully by the MCA and a surveyor will conduct checks on any vessel that reportedly holds victims of human trafficking,” the MCA says. “If there is evidence which supports the suspicion of modern slavery or human trafficking, the MCA will work with other enforcement agencies (the police, Border Force etc.) to ensure action is taken. The MCA is strongly committed to halting human trafficking and being a part of the solution to prevent modern slavery.”

Skilled worker visas should ensure employees are paid properly. Workers over the age of 25 are guaranteed a minimum salary of £25,600, which is more than double the £12,000 or less the Ghanaian fishermen we spoke to were earning.

The biggest barrier facing fishermen seeking to obtain a skilled worker visa is the English language test. Harry Wick, CEO of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation, believes the test is unnecessarily hard as it requires fishermen to write to a level that does not match the requirements of the job. Many foreign fishermen can speak good enough English and have enough specialist language knowledge to safely work on vessels. But to pass the test can take years of learning English. This is time and money many fishermen do not have.

A Culture of Silence

It is because of the experiences suffered by the likes of Emmanuel and James that Chris Williams, from ITF, is advocating for skilled worker visas to be opened to more fishermen and for the transit visa loophole to be closed.

Williams has worked with several fishermen who have been exploited and says, “UK legislation is enabling conditions for forced labour and modern slavery.” He added: “The fishing industry is addicted to exploiting migrant labour and underpaying them.”

Freedom of Information data obtained from the Home Office by Byline Times reveals that a minimum of six fishermen were referred to the UK’s modern slavery referral mechanism in 2021. Data obtained from Scottish and Northern Irish police forces indicates that there were five cases in those countries.

In 2022, there have been four cases referred to the Northern Irish police. The true scale is hard to gauge because of the dangerous repercussions facing those willing to speak out. Not many people are willing to take the risk that Emmanuel has for fear of being blacklisted by the industry or even physically attacked.

Representatives of the UK fishing industry were reluctant to acknowledge there is a problem with exploitation. One Democratic Unionist Party MP, who represents a constituency with a large fishing community in it, when asked if there was a problem with exploitation of non-EEA fishermen said: “No not at all. Definitely not. Not even hinted at.”

Emmanuel believes that he was lured into trafficking through the transit visa system. A skilled worker visa would have ensured that he was paid above the minimum wage, received paid leave, and that he was assigned work he was contracted to do.

Because of his experiences, Emmanuel has given up fishing to work in the construction industry. He is not alone. Others back in Ghana are reluctant to work on UK fishing vessels at a time when the industry desperately needs skilled foreign labour.

“This experience has changed my perception of fishing, which back home is a noble profession”, Emmanuel told Byline Times. “I learnt my trade in fishing, so everything about me is fishing. But since coming to the UK and going through this I don’t want to go back to fishing. The people that work in the fishing industry in this country only think about profit, they don’t think about you.”

*Not his real name

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Ukrainian Child Refugees in Limbo as Visa Applications Deferred

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 11:28pm in

Sasha has been waiting two months for his visa to come to the UK – but new rules say children travelling without their parents are only eligible under the Homes for Ukraine scheme if reuniting with a parent or legal guardian in the UK

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Sasha and his parents spent the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hiding in a basement as shells rained down on their village just outside Kyiv. 

Under fire, their options were limited. Sasha’s father needed to stay in Ukraine and fight – men aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country. His mother couldn’t leave her seriously ill parents, one of whom was dying from cancer. Eventually, they made the most painful decision any parent can take. They hugged 15-year-old Sasha goodbye, and sent him away with his aunt Nataliia.

“Soldiers and tanks came to our village”, Nataliia told Byline Times. “We packed a bag and got on a train to Kyiv. When we arrived at the capital city, it was crowded, there were so many people trying to get out. We didn’t even want a seat, just to get on a train to the border. We were staying in the open air, sleeping in the station. We ended up travelling to Ternopil – a journey that normally takes three hours, instead it took all night. From there, we got the last two seats on a bus to the Polish border”.

Nataliia becomes tearful when she describes how the pair of them arrived in Poland. “We didn’t know where we were going, the driver just said they would find a road that was acceptable,” she explained. “Finally we got there, we had to sleep under the open sky. It was night time. It was so dark and so cold”.

While Nataliia and Sasha moved from town to town in Poland, eventually travelling to France, Laura in England was applying to be a host for the Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

The scheme was launched by the Government to match vulnerable refugees with host families in the UK. Within days of the scheme being set up, thousands of families offered to open their doors to people in urgent need. 

Nataliia and Sasha were matched with Laura on 19 March. But nearly two months later, they remain in France, waiting for their visas to arrive. They speak to Laura every day, who has been doing everything in her power to get them to the UK.

Now they have been told that visas for minors who are travelling without their parents – even if they are travelling with a recognised legal guardian – have been ‘paused’. The three of them have no idea when this pause will be lifted, if at all. 

With each day that goes by, the desperation grows. Some days Sasha barely lifts his head up from his pillow. He misses his parents, his friends, his school. Hope seems to slide further away.

Trapped by Bureaucracy

Nataliia and Sasha first applied for a Homes for Ukraine visa in March. Then the wait began – and the desperate search for paperwork that would allow the pair to come to safety in the UK.

In order to allow Sasha and his aunt to come to the UK under the scheme, the family needed to provide proof that his parents had entrusted him to Nataliia. They were told to upload a copy of his mother’s passport, to guarantee that he had her permission to travel. Next they learnt that the passport copy was not sufficient. In order to get the visa, a new set of official documents were required showing that Nataliia was Sasha’s legal guardian. 

Back in Ukraine, Sasha’s father travelled between the frontline and a lawyer’s office to get the documents Nataliia needed, while his wife cared for her ailing parents. This was not easy – nor was it cheap. The documents needed to be paid for and translated before they could be provided to the Home Office.

With the documents in place, Sasha and Nataliia thought the path to the UK was clear. Then everything fell apart. In order to safeguard minors from traffickers, the Home Office announced that visas for minors travelling alone or with adults who are not their parents were ‘deferred’. The pause means that many children have no safe route into the UK from Ukraine. 

In despair, Laura contacted her local MP who explained that “essentially, no visas are being approved for unaccompanied minors (even with legal guardianship document) unless we can prove that the parents are unable to travel”. The MP advised that Sasha’s parents provide evidence that his grandparents are sick and that is why his mother has remained in Ukraine. 

However, a letter seen by Byline Times from the Ukrainian Embassy in London suggests this advice is not correct and that Sasha and Nataliia should be able to come to the UK with the documents they have already provided.

The letter, dated 11 May, states: "Hereby we confirm that the permission signed by the parents and certified by notary authorities or City Council in Ukraine, the Guardianship Service, is sufficient for travel minors out of Ukraine during martial law in Ukraine".

It added that children over the age of 16 can travel from Ukraine, and that the Ukrainian authorities "don't block visa applications for unaccompanied minors".

Further correspondence between Laura and her MP revealed there is no data sharing between the UK Home Office and Ukraine’s Government, and so the UK “cannot certify the legal guardianship documents”. The two governments are apparently working to resolve this.

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While there are important safeguarding concerns for minors at risk of trafficking and exploitation, families like Sasha’s are now stuck in limbo, living day-to-day in refugee accommodation and waiting for answers that never seem to come.

Sasha becomes more quiet and withdrawn every day. “He is very sad,” Nataliia told Byline Times. “He speaks to his mother every day and to his father when he can”. 

Nataliia is grateful to women like Laura, and to the many people who helped her and Sasha as they travelled through Poland and to France. “We met a lot of good people and are helped by many kind people,” she explained. 

But her frustration at the delays and the lack of communication from the UK Government is clear. “It’s 56 days of waiting, of not unpacking our bags because we go to bed at night with hope for the morning,” Nataliia said. “We do not get information and I can’t understand what more we can do or what more papers we can provide. It does not help my nephew”. 

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Risk to LGBTIQ Asylum Seekers Ignored in Home Office Rwanda Plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/05/2022 - 1:25am in

The Home Office has published its equality impact assessment into plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda – but campaigners are concerned that it fails to account for the risks to LGBTIQ people, reports Sian Norris

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Gay and lesbian people seeking asylum via irregular routes and relocated to Rwanda will not experience indirect discrimination, the Home Office claims, despite evidence of ill-treatment of the LGBTIQ community by Rwandan police and wider society.

The Home Office’s Equality Impact Assessment into its Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda acknowledges that ill-treatment of gay and lesbian people is “more than one-off” but argues that the equality impact is "neutral" rather than "negative". Homosexuality is legal in Rwanda, but remains taboo and there is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. 

"The Government should clarify, as a matter of urgency, the precise level of mistreatment of LGBTIQ people it finds acceptable," Sonia Lenegan, Legal and Policy Director at Rainbow Migration, told Byline Times.

The controversial proposal, announced last month by Home Secretary Priti Patel, would send people seeking asylum who arrive via irregular routes such as small boats across the Channel to Rwanda, rather than granting them asylum in the UK. Once they are deported from the UK, the individual would have to claim asylum in Rwanda where they would be expected to remain.

It has been much-criticised by migrant rights groups and is already facing a legal challenge. The assessment was published as the Government announced its intention to tell the “First Illegal migrants … of impending removal to Rwanda”.

Human rights organisations have identified numerous incidents of the LGBTIQ community facing violence and discrimination. Such violence comes from the state itself, with police using laws designed to protect public morality to target LGBTIQ people. 

In September last year, Rwandan authorities rounded up and arbitrarily detained more than a dozen gay and transgender people, sex workers, street children in the months before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. They were accused of “not representing Rwandan values”. 

Activists have also noted increasing acts of violence against the LGBTIQ community in Rwanda, along with calls to incite violence, and a growing interest in excluding the community from constitutionally guaranteed rights.

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The equality impact assessment recognises that transgender women seeking asylum are at risk of indirect discrimination should they be relocated to Rwanda. The report states that trans people, particularly trans women, experience ill treatment such as arbitrary arrests and detention as well as degrading treatment. It therefore recommends that these factors should be “carefully considered” when assessing whether a person seeking asylum should be resettled. 

The assessment also examines whether people who are married or in a civil partnership will face direct or indirect discrimination as a result of the policy, and found no evidence to suggest they would. There is no legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Rwanda.

"The equality impact assessment accepts that LGBTIQ people in Rwanda are subject to abuse, yet the Government intends to send them there regardless," said Lenegan.

The equality impact assessment looks at a range of protected characteristics, including sex, race and age.

In terms of sex, the majority of people who make irregular journeys into the UK are men, meaning they will be most impacted by the policy. The assessment notes that women are at risk of gender-based violence in Rwanda, but that this is not systematic and the Rwandan Government is encouraging women to report incidents of domestic and sexual abuse. As such, the assessment believes the impact on women’s equality is “neutral”. In contrast, the United Nations sees gender-based violence seen as prevalent and serious. 

Further, the US State Department has identified that Rwanda’s Government has not met the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking in the country, although notes that it is making efforts to do so. The Home Office states that the risk of trafficking is “lower” for urban refugees and that women and girls are not at “real risk” of it. The UK’s ambassador for human rights, Rita French, thinks differently: last year she expressed her disappointment that Rwanda “did not support the UK recommendation to screen, identify and provide support for trafficking victims”. 

Paola Uccellari, Interim Chief Executive at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "As we said in April, the Government's Rwanda scheme should have no place in our asylum system. No-one seeking safety in the UK should face deportation to a country half way around the world, but the fact we now know Priti Patel plans to ship LGBTIQ people, trafficking and torture survivors to Rwanda, shows us just how depraved these plans are".

A Deterrent?

The Home Secretary has claimed the proposal to resettle people seeking asylum in Rwanda will deter people from making dangerous journeys across the Channel into the UK.

This notion of the policy as a deterrent is repeatedly mentioned in the equality impact assessment. When it comes to impact on young men, who are more likely to be affected by the policy, the assessment notes that “as one of the policy’s key aims would be to deter individuals from undertaking dangerous small boat journeys, and younger adult individuals are more likely to have used this method of entry, we consider any disadvantage to the 18-39 cohort to be justified as a proportionate means of achieving the policy’s aim, which is to discourage dangerous journeys to reach the UK”.

But the idea that the Rwanda policy could work as a deterrent is undermined by a previously published equality impact assessment into the UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration. That assessment, reported on by this paper, admitted that measures to “increase security and deterrence” could encourage people to “attempt riskier means of entering the UK”. It also stated that “evidence supporting the effectiveness of this [security and deterrence] approach is limited”. 

There is also limited evidence that people seek asylum in the UK based on Government asylum policy – instead people migrate to countries where they speak the language or where there are existing family or community links. 

Since the start of the year, more than 8,000 people have attempted to arrive in the UK via small boats across the Channel, despite numerous policy announcements intended to deter people from taking irregular routes. That this number is three times more than in the same period last year, it would seem the deterrent approach is not working.

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American history as imagined in liberal political philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/05/2022 - 7:59pm in

I was reading a book on migration ethics recently – I may write a review later 1 — and it reminded me how a certain picture of the normal liberal state and its place in the world figures in a lot of political philosophy. Although the normative arguments are supposedly independent of historical facts, history is to be found everywhere, but only in a highly selective version that reflects the dominance of the United States within the discipline and the prominence of prosperous white liberals as both the writers of the important texts and as the readers and gatekeepers. 2 Their assumptions about the world and the US place in it shine through and form a "common ground" that is presupposed in much of this writing.3

In this vision, all the world is America 4 — though not one that corresponds to the actual history of the US — and the rest of the world mostly consists of little proto-Americas that will or should get there in the end (thereby echoing Marx’s dictum that the more developed country shows the less developed one a picture of its own future). This imaginary, but also not-imaginary, state is a sort-of cleaned-up and aspirational version of the actual one, cleansed of embarrassing details that are mere contingencies that detract or distract from what US liberals suppose to be its real essence or telos. Crucially, it is also considered as a basically self-contained entity, where all the important relationships are ones among people on the territory.5 It is an association of free and equal persons that has simply arisen on virgin soil. Both the actual United States and other countries fall short of this model, of course, but with time and good will wrinkles and carbuncles will be removed. 6

Now nobody believes that actual United States is anywhere near where its supposed essence directs it, so proponents of the model have certainly conceded its gross and deep injustice. But I think that what they take that great and deep injustice to be and the necessary mode of its correction, is both revealing and problematic. In brief, the apparently wise and noble vision of "the Founders" is soiled by the great uncorrected "anomaly" (henceforth the Anomaly) of race and the bringing to full citizenship and equality of the United State’s black citizens. In this narrative, then, slavery, the Civil War, Lincoln, Reconstruction, the struggle for civil rights and Martin Luther King all loom large and the central political task is overcoming that legacy of civic exclusion and subordination so that all take their place as full American citizens, recognizing one another as equal members of the Republic.

Corresponding to this is a characterization of White Supremacy (though this term is rarely used explicitly) as the domination of White Americans over Black Americans, with White Supremacy conceived of as being overcome once true civic equality is realized. (On the Left there is a variation of this story in which race is an epiphenomenon of class and in which the Anomaly is overcome once black and white recognize their commonality as American workers.) 7 Anyone who consumes the liberal output of Hollywood will also recognize the narrative in innumerable movies, but Selma is a recent example. The narrative of essential purity contaminated by the Anomaly explains some of the angrily defensive reactions to the New York Times‘s 1619 Project.

Now the narrative isn’t exactly false: the struggles of black Americans for equality are of very great historical importance: those who fought and fight for civil rights were and are heroic. They really did make immense sacrifices against racism and injustice, something that is rather diminished in a narrative that has them as redeeming the essential goodness of the very polity that brutally oppressed them and in large measure continues to do so. The trouble is that the bordered national and historical frame that the narrative is set in leaves so much else out of the picture, most significantly, perhaps, three things: first, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, overwhelmed by the aggressive imperial expansion of the original white settler-colonists; second, the fact that black Americans have another commonality that is tacitly suppressed in the focus on US citizenship, namely with the African diaspora elswhere in the Americas that also results from the Atlantic slave trade; third the fact that White Supremacy was not simply directed at black Americans but also had as its antagonist — and not just in the United States — immigrant workers from China, India and other Asian countries (and more recently from Latin America).

On the first of these, the place of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the story, there is either silence or the the thought that it was all a long time ago and we can’t unpick it now (and certainly not without causing great injustice in the present). And maybe that’s right, at least to the extent that claims to resources on the part of indigenous populations have to both settle the thorny and contested question of who counts as indigenous,8 and to upset the lives that have been blamelessly built by many in the very places that indigenous people used to hold. Hence various attempts by philosophers to address the supercession of historical injustice. 9 But it is one thing to think that we cannot roll the clock back and quite another to deny the exclusionary claims of past holders of territorial and property rights while asserting very strong claims for oneself against people now characterized as non-citizens and hence as “outsiders” but who may well include descendants of past holders. Anyway, my purpose here is not even to begin to settle these questions of restitution, compensation and the like — which many people have worked on — but to note how little the issue features compared to other intrusions of historical detail into the central texts of liberal political philosophy.

The second omission, in some ways more interesting to me, is that of the black diaspora. It is interesting because of what neglect of it implicitly erases. The Anomaly is that there exists on the territory of the supposedly liberal-democratic state a group of people who have been wrongfully excluded from the civic status of equal citizenship and so the "solution" is to turn them into (or to recognize them as) regular citizens alongside other Americans. Presented like this, the Anomaly is a problem that is purely internal to the liberal democratic state and the "solution" is the re-establishment of a kind of normality that is consonant with the alleged essence of the political community. Perhaps this re-establishment also involves some kind of compensation in recognition of historical injustice, and perhaps it does not, but either way the goal is to bring it about that the hitherto excluded are brought to a position where they have a set of rights and duties towards the other members of that political community that are more extensive to those owed to "outsiders". Indeed, the primacy of these "internal" rights and duties over external ones is presupposed by the assumption that the state or nation is the privileged site of co-operation for all its inhabitants.

However, alongside the commonality that black Americans share with those who live within the state that they inhabit is another history, that of all the descendants of those forcibly brought to the Americas by Europeans, some of whom ended up in the United States, others in Brazil, elsewhere in Latin America or in the Caribbean. That the descendants of the victims of this legacy of forced kidnapping, transportation, rape and murder ought to, in the first instance, be bound by ties of civic equality to the children of their kidnappers and exploiters (and others, of course) rather than to their fellow victims who contingently ended up behind other borders, may have something to recommend it given that we live in a world of bordered national states, but it is surely an argument that deserves to be set out in the open rather than something that disappears behind a theory’s founding assumptions. Too often I have read some white American migration theorist arguing that "we", ie the set of American citizens, ought to protect poor black Americans from labour competitition from immigrants, but why are those poor black Americans part of a "we" that excludes a "they" of whom other descendants of slavery are a part? (Commonality with one’s fellow victims beyond borders is also something that bears on the indigenous case.)

The third omission is the failure to notice that the United States (like other white settler states such as Canada and Australia) has historically pursued policies of racial exclusion to preserve white supremacy that have little to do with the dominance of whites over black Americans. 10 The chief exhibit here is the Chinese Exclusion Act and related measures at the end of the 19th century and the subsequent making explicit by leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt of an approach that saw the United States as part of a group of white countries determined to preserve racial dominance against the threat of labour competition from Asia. These days, if work on migration ethics mentions these measures at all it is as another unjustified "anomaly" that disgraces the constititional liberal state which really ought not to discriminate in matters of immigration. This rather neglects the fact that such measures of racial exclusion were not unjust deviation from the state’s legitimate exercise of the right to control its borders but rather the central motive to getting immigration control started in the first place.11 Moreover, while the focus of racial anxiety has shifted its location somewhat, the central motive behind restrictionism remains the worry that the white core of America may be overwhelmed by the undesirable other: nowadays "Mexican rapists" instead of Chinese labourers and "prostitutes".

The centrality of the Anomaly in the historical imagination of liberal political philosophy and the pretence that White Supremacy would be defeated once civic equality for all, irrespective of race, is realised within the borders of a liberal constitutional state that remains free to restrict immigration obscures much from view that we ought to take seriously if we oppose both inequality and racism. First, there are consequences for the realization of civic equality within the state. Historically, the creation of a national citizenship and pressure to conform the the expectations of what a citizen is like has not worked well for indigenous people and their children. In the present, the equal status of citizens who look and sound like the people that the state is trying to keep out is often compromised as they and their families suffer the consequences of aggressive immigration enforcement.12 But in focusing on equality within the state taken as a discrete unit, as a little world unto itself, the methodological nationalist gaze simply fails to notice that White Supremacy both historically and in the present is maintained by keeping the non-white Other (Chinese labourers then, Central Americans now) on the outside. Liberals caught in an epistemic frame that is limited to citizens within borders can therefore complacently congratulate themselves on their anti-racism, because they favour equal status of all irrespective of race, while upholding in practice a system of white dominance. To my mind the lessons ought to be that we cannot easily separate questions of equality among citizens from the unequal statuses that are produced by nationality and bordering and that in doing political philosophy we cannot easily escape from the contingent unjust histories that have deposited particular people in the places where they now are.

[Many thanks to the friends who gave me feedback on drafts of this post]

  1. It was Michael Blake’s Justice, Migration and Mercy, (Oxford University Press, 2021).?

  2. As as British person I’m aware that we could tell a similar story about Britain, racism, exclusion etc as I refer to here and we could even find examples of historical amnesia and selection in the work of British political philosophers to illustrate the point (perhaps David Miller, and see for example Lorna Finlayson’s "If This Isn’t Racism, What Is? The Politics of the Philosophy of Immigration" Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 94 (1):115-139 (2020)). But US institutions are so dominant within the discipline that it is American historical narratives of self-congratulation, messianism, guilt, anxiety that loom largest.?

  3. Olúfémi O. Táíwò discusses Stalnaker’s notion of common ground as presupposed in conversation in his new Elite Capture (Pluto/Haymarket, 2022). It is "a shared resource that participants in a conversation use to build and perform social interactions." "When we act in social contexts, we treat the information in the common ground as if it were true…." Elite Capture pp 40–41.?

  4. See what I did there??

  5. Most liberal political philosophy therefore resembles the approach that Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Shiller have called "methodological nationalism". See e.g. their "Methodological nationalism and beyond: nation-state building, migration and the social sciences", Global Networks 2, 4 (2002) pp. 301–34. In political philosophy, both Alex Sager and Speranta Dumitru have been prominent in challenging the assumption of methodological nationalism. See e.g Alex Sager, "Methodological Nationalism, Migration and Political Theory", Political Studies. 2016;64(1): pp. 42–59 and Speranta Dumitru, "Qu’est-ce que le nationalisme méthodologique : Essai de typologie". Raisons politiques, 54, 9-22.?

  6. The relationship between the liberal state in ideal political philosophy and actual states has, of course, long been a topic of controversy, on which see for example Charles Mills’s classic article "Ideal Theory as Ideology" (in Peggy DesAutels and Margaret Urban Walker, eds., Moral Psychology: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), pp. 163-81). On the one hand people will say that something like Rawls’s well-ordered society (as an example among others) is a purely philosophical construct to enable the discussion of abstract principles, on the other hand critics have long suggested that Rawls, Dworkin et al are merely parochial rationalizers of something like existing states. Personally, I think that claims of purity are often belied by the intrusion of actual facts into the discourse, most notably facts concerning civil rights but also, for example, Dworkin’s discussions of workfare programmes in his Sovereign Virtue. In our conversations with students, moreover, there’s often an implied "we" and a shared social and political context against which classroom argument takes place. But I also think that the "merely" of the parochial rationalization attack vastly overstates that case. Anyway, here I’m in the business of noticing which bits of reality and history intrude and which don’t, and suggesting that this might be symptomatic of something.?

  7. A proper academic article making the points of this blogpost might look through the works of, say, John Rawls, and note how often the Anomaly, Martin Luther King, Lincoln etc are mentioned compared to the lacunae outlined here and then look at later work by others in journals such as Philosophy and Public Affairs. The answer for Rawls himself is that even the Anomaly gets rather thin engagement, though one can extrapolate from his concerns with topics such as civil disobedience. Later work could include Elizabeth Anderson’s Imperative of Integration (Princeton 2010) and Tommy Shelby’s brilliant Dark Ghettos (Harvard 2016) (which both shows how much can be done to address racial injustice from within a Rawlsian paradigm but also stays firmly rooted within the boundaries of the nation state).?

  8. On which, see Nandita Sharma, Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Migrants and Natives (Duke 2020) pp. 46­–50.?

  9. The key reference here is Jeremy Waldron’s "Superseding Historical Injustice", Ethics , Oct., 1992, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Oct., 1992), pp. 4-28. For reasons why past injustices in the acquisition of territory might not necessarily impugn the justice of later holdings see Lea Ypi "A Permissive Theory of Territorial Rights" European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):288-312 (2014).?

  10. The key text here, which will transform your thinking (guaranteed!) is Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge University Press: 2008).?

  11. As Sarah Fine has pointed out, race and discrimination are central to popular discourse on immigration but almost absent from philosophical discussion of it, despite the roots of modern immigration control in the desire to discriminate on grounds of race. See her “Immigration and Discrimination” in Fine and Ypi eds Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership (Oxford, 2016).?

  12. See, for example, the work of Amy Reed-Sandoval, such as her Socially Undocumented (Oxford, 2020).?

St Michael’s Greek

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/05/2022 - 9:25am in

St Michael’s Greek Orthodox Church. Built post WWII, after another influx of Greek migrants. Tens of thousands fled here as refugees from the Greek Civil War (1946-49) and found steady factory/warehouse work in the Inner West. Camperdown.

25 Afghan Men Claiming Asylum in UK on Sexuality Grounds Refused Since 2017

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

An investigation by Sian Norris with the Byline Intelligence Team explores the vulnerability of LGBTIQ people looking for a safe home in Britain

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A total of 25 men seeking asylum in the UK from Afghanistan on the grounds of sexuality had their claims refused after the Home Office updated its guidance in 2017 to say it was safe for LGBTIQ people to live in the country if they did not “seek to cause public outrage”.

A Freedom of Information request by the Byline Intelligence Team found that, while 25 people were refused asylum, none had been subsequently deported. 

The data provided covered refusals between 1 February 2017 and 31 December 2020, and returns between 1 February 2017 and 30 June 2021. 

The revelation comes as LGBTIQ and migrant rights activists have expressed concerns about the Government’s plan to send people seeking asylum in the UK who travel via 'irregular' routes to Rwanda, where they will be able to claim asylum.

Rwanda’s record on LGBTIQ rights has been criticised. The Government’s own record on LGBTIQ rights has also been under fire in recent months, with it having to cancel the first ever global Safe To Be Me conference after 100 rights organisations announced that they would boycott the event. 

In 2017, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that gay Afghans could be returned to their home country, despite the LGBTIQ community facing legal and social discrimination. 

Even after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Home Office guidance from October 2021 said that deporting LGBTIQ Afghans presents “no real risk of harm”, although the Government stopped enforcing returns to the country following the UK’s withdrawal. 

Previous Home Office guidance recognised that while LGBTIQ Afghan people were at risk from their families, the country’s laws and insurgent Taliban forces, “a practising gay man who, on return to Kabul, would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution”.

This suggested an expectation that gay people should hide their sexuality in order to survive in Afghanistan – and appeared to contradict a 2010 Supreme Court ruling which stated that "to compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is”.

Sarah Cope, who runs a support group for LGBTIQ women seeking asylum called Rainbow Sisters, told Byline Times that refusals for people claiming asylum on the basis of sexuality are often linked to a lack of understanding of LGBTIQ people’s experiences.  

“Many of the women we work with are from countries where being gay or transgender is criminalised, and so they have not had a chance to live openly, to have a relationship and so on,” Cope said. “They might not even have told anyone about their sexuality. But the Home Office expects everyone to be out and proud and going to gay bars and on dating apps, and that people will come to court to testify they have been in a relationship with the claimant.”

Cope also said that sexuality is not dependent on being in a relationship, and yet LGBTIQ people seeking asylum are often disbelieved because they are single or have had a partner.

“It seems like if you’re not in a relationship with a person of the same sex, then your identity isn’t really valid, you’re not really gay,” she told Byline Times. “If someone was straight, you wouldn’t say they don’t have a sexuality because they aren’t in a relationship.”

Last October, 29 LGBTIQ Afghans arrived in the UK. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stated: “The UK is playing a world-leading role in supporting the departure of persecuted Afghans from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

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The Global Picture

Between 2015 and 2020, a total of 10,230 people claimed asylum in the UK on the basis of sexuality. Of these, more than half (6,078) were refused. 

Appeals were lodged in 5,379 of the decisions, and 3,045 appeals were dismissed. 

“People are told they can relocate, go and live in a different part of the country from where they came from to avoid discrimination,” said Sarah Cope, explaining what happens when a claim is refused. “But first of all, if there are no safe places in your home country, the same issues are going to rise up again and again.”

LGBTIQ women experience specific barriers, Cope added.

“They may be from countries where women don’t have a lot of power," she said. "A female stranger who arrives in a new part of a country may face questions about why she is there and where she came from before. She may be questioned about being single. There’s a real cultural blindness about the issues LGBTIQ women may experience when forcibly returned.”

She also warned how a lack of understanding of trauma from the Home Office can lead to people having their claim refused. 

“If a claimant’s story has any inconsistencies then that becomes a reason to reject them,” she told this newspaper. “If you’re recovering from trauma, which many of these women are, then you might struggle to recall or express certain things that have happened.

"A lot of people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexuality may also have had bad experiences with state forces and the police in the home country, meaning they find the Home Office interviews very difficult.”

The majority of people claiming asylum on the basis of sexuality were from Pakistan (2,450) and Nigeria (898). A total of 624 people claimed asylum on the basis of sexuality from Uganda, along with 1,084 people from Bangladesh, and 511 from Iran. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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