How the UK immigration system hurts people: February 2021

About my monthly recaps

I’m spending 2021 doing a monthly running challenge to fundraise for the Join Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).

Read my blog post about why I’m fundraising for JCWI

Donate to my JustGiving page

As part of the fundraiser, I will be writing a monthly blog post on:

  • how the monthly running challenge went (on my running blog)
  • what happened in the world of UK immigration and asylum in the past month (here on Medium)

Past recaps

January 2021

Now let’s get to February 2021.

Continuing to deport people in a pandemic

Screwing over Hong Kong residents who are British citizens by subjecting them to the UK’s cruel family immigration policies

This one needs breaking down:

  • The UK opened up a visa route to BNO (British National Overseas)citizens from Hong Kong.
  • But there are an estimated 35,000 Hong Kong residents who actually have full British citizenship.
  • For these people to bring their family to the UK, they have to go through the family visa route, not the BNO one.
  • The minimum income requirement and higher applications fees for family visas means it’s more difficult for Hong Kong British citizens to move here with their families.

So while this government will proudly proclaim that they’re doing a good thing for people from Hong Kong, they’re still subjecting the cruel family immigration policies to the people there who happen to be British citizens.

Denying certain immigrant victims of domestic abuse access to help scheme

Basically, the government will only help immigrant domestic abuse victims if they are living in the UK on a partner visa.

Because apparently abuse is acceptable to them if someone is on another visa route.

Also worth mentioning this opinion piece from a frontline domestic violence worker describing her experience of having to turn away immigrant victims from receiving help:

Providing asylum seekers with inadequate meals…

If you were upset by the images you saw of food parcels given to students on free school meals, you should be upset by this, too.

…that get asylum seekers sick and send them to hospital

Treating asylum seekers like animals…

Quote from an asylum seeker:

“We felt like we were animals in a closed place…Mentally, problems became more difficult for all people because we’re scared of being in detention.”

I highly recommend reading this thread from an asylum seeker in the barracks accounting his experience.

Even doctors are calling out the unacceptable conditions:

…while paying a company £1 billion to keep asylum seekers in awful conditions

Keeping asylum seekers in the barracks when they clearly need to be shut down

Because of this, court decisions have to happen to get asylum seekers moved from there:

Denying asylum seekers in barracks medical treatment and limiting access to water, electricity, and heating

Making asylum seekers risk their lives to leave the UK because it treats them so horribly

All this horrible treatment of asylum seekers is intended to make asylum seekers leave the UK. Now they are doing just that.

The journey back is totally dangerous. There are just centimetres between the lorry and the ground. I could lose my arm, leg or my life. But in the UK I am losing my dignity.

Here’s a scary statement on the matter. Please take a moment to reflect on this.

Leaving asylum seekers in limbo for years

What limbo looks like:

Again and again, asylum seekers I spoke to described the depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts that result from months and years of their life on hold, their future hanging in the balance.

Also worth mentioning this stat from the following article. By the end of 2020, 46,800 asylum seekers were waiting more than 6 months for a decision on their claim.

Leaving refugees in limbo by still not restarting the refugee resettlement scheme a year after the pandemic started

Blocking asylum seekers from GP access

In the camp they play with us and send us from one person to another: the manager, to the supervisors, to the nurse. The nurse always said they would get me medicine, but that was just talk.

Forcibly returning an asylum seeker to Napier Barracks

Warning: disturbing video.

Denying that the asylum barracks were a “public health disaster”

Instead, immigration minister Chris Philip said using the camps were “good value for money” compared with hotels.

Once again, another admission by the Government that they just want to treat asylum seekers inhumanely.

Crowding them in housing which makes them more likely to get sick isn’t a money-saving strategy. It’s intentional abuse.

Housing asylum seekers in barracks deemed ‘not acceptable standard for accommodation’ 7 years ago…

A 2014 independent report said Napier Barracks should be demolished.

…and despite warnings from health officials in September 2020 that the barracks were unacceptable accommodation in a pandemic

Finally cleaning the barracks housing asylum seekers, but only because they were being inspected

Telling asylum seekers they will be reported to the Home Office if they go outside for more than 1 hour a day

Evicting an asylum seeker from her accommodation in freezing temperatures

She was evicted for apparently leaving the hotel she was at for more than 24 hours, which she denies.

She was eventually allowed to move back in, proving what a needlessly traumatising decision it was to evict her.

Not providing asylum seekers with devices or sufficient internet access during a pandemic where everything is moving online

Creating conditions that led to 197 Covid cases at Napier Barracks and blaming the asylum seekers

The total number of cases at Napier barracks near Folkestone, Kent, is equal to more than 50% of its resident population at its peak of 380.

Turns out housing 28 people in a room together during a pandemic was a really, really bad idea.

And yet the Home Secretary still said she would use military barracks for asylum seeker housing.

The Home Secretary also blamed the asylum seekers for breaking the rules.

Within accommodation for asylum seekers, people do mingle, and it is a fact — when we look at what happened in Napier Barracks three weeks ago, people were also not following the rules.

A reminder again, 28 people to a room.

Denying people of British citizenship because of ridiculous residency conditions

Watch the video in the tweet below. This person has been in the UK since she was 2 months old, but was denied citizenship because she was out of the country for too long in the last 5 years. (She studied abroad.)

Living here her entire childhood means nothing.

Oh, and they kept her £1,300 application fee.

Asking EU citizens for evidence of their proof of status at the UK border when they shouldn’t be

There was a very similar story last month about this, and there will keep being stories like this until the EU Settlement Scheme deadline on 30 June this year.

To be clear, UK border officers should not be asking for EU citizens for proof of status until after the deadline.

Other services asking EU citizens for proof of status when they shouldn’t be

It’s not just at the border. People are being denied jobs and housing because of proof of status issues.

Forcing EU citizens to stay in the UK during Covid or they will lose their residency rights

The EU Settlement Scheme states that if you have pre-settled status and are out of the UK for more than 6 months in a 12 month period, you lose the ability to apply for settled status.

In other words, once you live in the UK for 5 years, you either have to leave or try another immigration route (one which isn’t free).

These rules were made before we were in a pandemic, and the Home Office is refusing to change them.

This means anyone who returned to the EU (for more than 6 months) so they could be with family during a very isolating time will have lost their right to stay in the UK.

Still letting EU citizens become criminalised overnight despite lack of awareness of EU settlement scheme

I wrote last month about JCWI’s report showing how 1 in 7 EU citizen care workers were unaware of the EU Settlement Scheme.

This month the London Assembly wrote a letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan expressing their concerns about informing all EU citizens to apply before the 30 June deadline.

All EU citizens won’t apply because they don’t know about it or don’t know they need to.

This means their stay in the UK becomes unlawful on 1 July, and this Government is perfectly happy to let that happen.

UK MPs reporting their own constituents to the Home Office

Ask your elected representative for help, and you might get detained.

Using an algorithm to determine whether a marriage might be a sham

The Home Office was forced to scrap one of their racist algorithms last year that prioritised visa applications from white people.

So they’ve now decided to create what will ultimately be another discriminatory algorithm, and traumatise couples that include a nationality they don’t like.

Detaining thousands of potential trafficking victims

Ministers have been accused of failing to protect survivors of modern slavery after new data revealed more than 2,000 people recognised by the government as having indicators of trafficking were placed in detention during a 21-month period.

Making NHS immigrant workers pay thousands in visa fees

Shantel has no choice but to work assiduously because there are visa fees to pay, of which she estimates to have paid over £15,000 in her life.

How much clapping do we need to do exactly to stop charging such insane fees?

Detaining refugee children illegally

It’s illegal to detain a child for more than 24 hours, yet this was the case for 80 unaccompanied children between April and September 2020.

Unlawfully denying someone’s refugee status

Someone was ruled a refugee. The Home Office refused to recognise them as such. The Court of Appeal ruled that doing so was unlawful.

This whole story takes place over 27 years.

Offering vaccine amnesty to unauthorised immigrants but refusing to end the hostile environment

The Government has said it would not check the immigration status of people getting Covid vaccines (and thus not report unauthorised immigrants to the Home Office).

Of course, after 9 years of hostile environment policies, people very understandably do not trust what the Government says.

Not vaccinating a 1 million+ population is a huge public health issue. They could create trust by scrapping hostile environment policies which target unauthorised immigrants, but no. Hating on immigrants comes before public health.

Planning to take fingerprints from asylum seekers even though it will lead to self-harm

Similar measure was swiftly abandoned nine years ago — after refugees slashed their fingertips to prevent evidence being taken.

Denying children support because of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition

This isn’t ‘news’; it’s long-established policy. But I wanted to mention this article from Kate Osamor MP because it draws attention to a very important issue.

Immigrants do not have access to public funds, which means immigrant children do not have access to public funds.

I knew that. But what I didn’t know is that the Government has allowed children with no recourse to public funds to access free school meals — but only for the duration of the pandemic.

This showcases the utter ridiculousness of NRPF: the Government agrees to feed children, regardless of immigration status, during a global crisis. But if you’re going through a personal crisis while the world isn’t, too bad.

Hardship doesn’t become hardship when a bunch of other people experience it, too. If someone needs help, we help them, whether it’s one family or the entire nation.

Raising immigration appointment prices in the middle of a pandemic with no notice

Sopra Steria, who are contracted to take biometrics (a photograph and fingerprints) for visa and citizenship applications, put their minimum appointment price up to £71.50.

That’s only up by about £2, but it’s worth noting that:

  • this is for an appointment that used to be done for free at the post office before Sopra Steria took over
  • the Home Office already charges you £19.20 for biometrics, so you are needlessly paying extra for something you already paid for
  • it’s very rare people find appointments at the bottom end of the scale — they more often cost hundreds of pounds

Making an asylum seeker suicidal after granting asylum status and then revoking it 6 days later

This quote from the asylum seeker sums up what needs to be said about the Home Office:

In my country, they torture you with machetes and knives, in this country it is with letters and a pen.

Continuing to break promises to Windrush victims

The Home Office said it would fast track payments of £10,000 to Windrush victims at the end of last year.

Long story short, they haven’t, and in cases where they have, it’s meant making claimants fight tooth and nail to get that compensation.

Read the thread.

Unlawfully charging £1,012 for children to register as British citizens (when the process only costs the Home Office £372)

The Court of Appeal upheld it was unlawful for the Home Office to charge such a high fee.

The Home Office haven’t stopped charging this fee 10 days later, so I guess it’s not a priority to stop doing illegal stuff.

Still planning to build an immigration detention centre instead of affordable housing

This was in my January recap, but this month I saw an article where North West Durham MP Richard Holden says what a great idea this is because of all the jobs the detention centre will create.

This is the most depressing quote from the MP:

The confirmation that the project will create 200 jobs and bring millions to our local economy is fantastic — having dealt with the pandemic for a year, it is welcome news that our local economy will be boosted.

‘Fantastic’ and ‘welcome news’ are not terms that should be associated with creating an institution that destroys human lives.

Sexually harassing asylum seekers

Conducting immigration raids that inflict needless harm

The Home Office invades people’s homes and places of work to find immigrants without legal status to deport, but in most cases the raids don’t result in deportations.

Between 2015 and 2019 there were 44,225 raids on private homes resulting in just 7,578 people deported. There were also 190 raids carried out on care homes resulting in just 37 care workers removed from the UK.

They rather deport a care home worker than regularise their status.

Breaching the human rights of an asylum seeker by evicting him

Unlawfully limiting access to lawyers for immigration detainees in prison

Planning to move asylum seekers into squalid conditions

It’s not just the military barracks that are bad. Take a look at the photos in this article:

Creating the conditions that allow immigrant domestic workers to be exploited

Not providing a clear answer as to how employers should handle EU citizens who have not applied to the Settlement Scheme by the 30 June deadline

The Government’s response shows that they know how unreasonable it is to make thousands of people ‘illegal’ overnight. But it’s all part of their tough-on-immigration stance they must put on for their voters.

Planning immigration detention units for women (despite the Home Office previously promising otherwise)

Reminding children of immigrants that their citizenship is conditional

The Supreme Court ruled that Shamima Begum, stripped of her UK citizenship in 2019, will not be allowed to return to the UK to argue her case against this.

The article below summarises the details of the case, but the real takeaway here is that citizenship is conditional for people who are also, or have the ability to be, a citizen of somewhere else. (In other words, immigrants and their children).

That’s absolutely terrifying.

I also learned in this article that citizenship deprivation wasn’t really a done thing before 2010. It’s almost like an immigrant-hating right-wing political party came to power then.

Angry? Disgusted? Ashamed? Then donate

If you are in any way appalled at what you just read happens in a single month in the world of UK immigration, please consider donating to my fundraiser for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

They’re doing the important work to both help those affected by the system, and help end the abuses of the system.

Donate to my JustGiving page

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Content Designer. Runner. Immigrant. I write about things related to all 3.

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Lauren Tormey

Lauren Tormey

Content Designer. Runner. Immigrant. I write about things related to all 3.