There are 21 voluntary returns surgeries in the community in the UK, according to information sent to a RAPAR volunteer by the Home Office following a Freedom of Information request.
It took 10 months for our volunteer to obtain the information from the Home Office. The Home Office turned down our volunteer's initial Freedom of Information request, he then asked for an internal review but they still refused to send him the information.
He complained to the Information Commissioner's Office and, finally, after the ICO had looked at all the correspondence, the Home Office was directed by the ICO to send the list to our volunteer.
Read the full list of voluntary returns surgeries here
RAPAR's Community Development Lead and actor Maddie Wakeling is in court tomorrow (Monday September 9th) for campaigning against climate change.
Maddie, 22, was one of 16 people arrested on charges of obstructing a main road into Bristol city centre on July 17th as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest to publicise the climate crisis.
The environmentalists deny wilfully obstructing the highway . Although they agree they obstructed the road, they are all pleading Not Guilty because their actions were justified by the climate emergency. Maddie told the initial Bristol court hearing in July: "We have the right to act according to our consciences."
She took an active part in the successful four day Northern Rebellion closure of Deansgate last weekend and was at Manchester's Civil Justice Court to support anti fracking protesters.
Maddie works with RAPAR's Casework and Campaigns sections and, at the Northern Rebellion, she spoke about the growing number of "climate refugees" being driven out of their homes by catastrophic weather changes and the activities of multinational corporations.
In her role as RAPAR's Community Development Lead, Maddie co-ordinates RAPAR's Drama Group who recently performed their play "Through the Walls: An Incredible Weekfor the Banks" at HOME Manchester and The Met, Bury, during Refugee Week. They will be performing it again during Black History Month in October.
Maddie's acting work has included a part in Out of Kilter Theatre's "Small Histories", which toured North West venues recently. Last month, she and a friend took their KahloTheatre production "Life Between Yes And No" to the Edinburgh Fringe where it received a number of excellent reviews.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Rhetta Moran 07776264646
Kath Grant 07758386208
The Frack-Free Three - Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson, and Lee Walsh, protestors from the Frack-Free Lancashire campaign - were back in court for sentencing on Tuesday in a case centred round the right to protest.
All three had locked themselves together in July to delay access to the fracking site in Lancashire run by the company Cuadrilla. Ms Lawrie had also stepped out into the road to stop a lorry in August and, because of the wet roads, the lorry allegedly had to swerve into the path of oncoming traffic. No-one was hurt in the incident.
At a previous hearing, the campaigners had admitted breaching an order related to protests outside the site. They had been found not guilty of any criminal offences so today’s hearing was only about the breach of civil law.
The three were supported outside the court by comrades from a wide variety of environmental and community groups. Yesterday (Monday), people from the nearby Extinction Rebellion occupation in Deansgate marched to the court led by a samba band. A spokesperson said: “We made a democratic decision yesterday to start our march with a show of solidarity with the anti-frackers because they too are fighting big companies that make money without regard to the damage they are doing to our planet.”
A RAPAR spokesperson said fracking was destroying homes and communities around the world and will cause widespread disruption and displacement of people if it is allowed to continue.
“The number of ‘environmental refugees’ is rapidly increasing due to the activities of large companies and multinationals. RAPAR backs all activists protesting against companies like Cuadrilla. We also support the right to protest without the threat of arrest and imprisonment.”
In court, Adam Wagner, on behalf of Ms Lawrie and Mr Walsh, told the judge, Mr JHH Pelling, that his clients had been protesting against the controversial practice of fracking which contributes to global warming. He compared the protests with others, such as Peterloo and the campaign for women’s suffrage.
The latest earthquake at the Cuadrilla fracking site is said to have shaken houses five miles away.
Mr Wagner said all forms of peaceful protest are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. The case involved a large company using its substantial financial resources to prevent protests by seeking an injunction. Fear of such wide ranging orders could have a “chilling effect” on the right to protest.
Tom Roscoe, for Cuadrilla, spoke of the need to protect his client’s right to access the site. He saw no need for protestors to be walking on the carriageway when there is a footway alongside but the judge pointed out that the court could not insist that people use the pavement.
The judge ruled in favour of some variations to the court order so the new order will allow protestors to walk in the road for the purpose of protest, but not when it is deliberately being done to delay the Cuadrilla lorries.
He sentenced all three to four weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, on condition that they comply with the amended order. Ms Lawrie also received a two month suspended sentence for the separate incident in August.
The protestors were ordered to pay costs. These were later estimated as approximately £70k. The three people do not have the money to pay but anti fracking campaigners said afterwards that the possibility of protestors having costs awarded against them may well deter homeowners and people with other assets from taking part in future peaceful protests.
Indefinite detention of man from deportation flight to Jamaica must end.
Manchester DJ Owen Haisley has been detained at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre for 28 days. It is nearly three weeks since his deportation to Jamaica was halted following the intervention of his MP and overwhelming public support – but he still remains at real risk of removal.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the 45 year old father of three to be released. Owen, a popular musician and community worker, has lived in the UK for more than four decades, arriving in this country when he was only four years old.
Owen's friend and campaigner Mike Burgess said that, on Thursday 7th February, a Pre-Action Protocol letter (PAP) was filed with the Home Office by Owen's solicitor.
The Home Office has not yet responded despite the efforts of both the solicitor and Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell. The Conservative MP for Macclesfield, David Rutley, has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid on behalf of Owen's young children, who have been left traumatised by this ordeal, and he has asked the Home Office to update Owen's family about the case.
Mike added: “Despite over 100,000 people signing a petition to stop Owen's deportation, plus cross party political support for his release, we are still entirely in the dark regarding Owen's future in the UK, due to a complete lack of communication from the Home Office. Owen remains detained indefinitely at Harmondsworth IRC - and our fight for justice continues.”
Speaking from Harmondsworth, Owen said he had been left in “a complete no-man's land”. Thanking his supporters, he said: ”It has been extremely difficult as I have been unable to update my kids on when they will next see me in person – something which I know has greatly affected their well-being.”
Tracey Udale, mother of Owen's children, described the children's devastation over the horrific ordeal their father had been through during the last 12 months - he was detained for five months, then released before being detained again.
Tracey added: “This week is half term for the kids and Owen was due to take the boys to see their grandmother in London. They are obviously very upset they are not able to do that. We are all desperate for news and pray that the Home Office will release Owen so he is able to return to Manchester to continue being the amazing dad that he is.”
Lucy Powell MP said that Owen's case was deeply troubling and went to the heart of the Government's “hostile environment” policy.
“I object to Owen being labelled as a 'foreign national'. Britain is his home, he has lived here for over 40 years and since he was four years old. He has never been to Jamaica since and has no family there. He has British children here, who need a dad. Since the moment I found out about Owen's detention and threatened deportation, I have been fighting for his right to remain.”
She said she had been chasing Ministers on a daily basis and would continue to fight for a positive outcome and Owen's release..
Owen's campaign is being supported by Manchester based human rights organisation RAPAR. Spokesperson Dr Rhetta Moran said that the hostile environment which had led to the violation of Owen's rights was now “fuelling the fires of racism” - 20 years after the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence and the calls for an end to institutional racism.
The atmosphere created by the hostile environment had produced the racist graffiti attack on an African family in Salford last week and Tommy Robinson's far right demonstration against media workers at the BBC at Media City tomorrow (Saturday).
But the response to Owen's petition, the outpouring of support for the family subjected to racist graffiti, and trade unionists' counter protest in solidarity with media workers “offers a vision for a 'peaceful and welcoming' future environment where racism and fascism are consigned to the dust bin of history.”
For more information please contact
Mike Burgess email@example.com(for Owen and Tracey)
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR 07776264646
Kath Grant, RAPAR Press Officer 07758386208
RAPAR member who was on the plane stopped by the Stansted protesters shocked by their conviction under anti terror laws
Rally at 5.30pm-6.30pm
St Peter's Square,
December 18th 2018
Manchester-based human rights organisation RAPAR will be at the city centre rally today (December 18th) to show support for the 15 peaceful protesters convicted under anti terror laws after they stopped a Home Office charter flight taking people seeking asylum in the UK to Africa.
A RAPAR member was on the plane protesters prevented taking off at Stansted Airport in March 2017. He was one of 60 refugees who were on the charter flight bound for Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone – he informed the escort officers that he did not come from any of those countries but was told that the country he was being sent to was near to his home country and that he could “get a bus”.
Our member, whose case had not been resolved, was one of the unlucky people on the flight which eventually left Stansted the following day. But the courageous action of the protesters prevented 11 people seeking asylum from being removed from the UK. The delay meant that those 11 people were able to access their lawyers and their removal was stopped.
RAPAR's member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was very shocked by the conviction at Chelmsford Crown Court which could see the 15 protesters facing life imprisonment.
Today is International Migrants' Day and there will be rallies throughout the UK and Ireland to protest about the conviction of the Stansted protesters. In Manchester, there will be a demonstration from 5.30pm-6.30pm in St Peter's Square and RAPAR urges everyone to attend.
The charges facing the Stansted 15 were unjust. Commenting on the use of anti terror laws against the Stansted 15, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg (who was released without charge) said: “Despite being imprisoned under terrorism laws by both Britain and America, I have no convictions. The Stansted 15 on the other hand are convicted terrorists in Britain today.
“One day, as a nation, Britain will look back and ask itself 'What have we become?' Sadly, that day is not today.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said it was “intensely ironic” that all the refugee people on the Stansted 15 plane were being removed to one of three former British colonies – Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“As our refugee members often remark: 'We are here because You were there',” she said.
Dr Moran added: “This conviction is the latest attempt to criminalise public protest that RAPAR first detected - and successfully resisted - in 2010 in Bolton.
“Then, the State sought to prosecute anti-fascists for exposing and stopping the English Defence League from running amok in Bolton.
“Now, their use of anti-terror laws to criminalise young British citizens who take peaceful, direct, solidarity action with Refugees is the latest in a long line of backward and cynical moves on the part of the prevailing politico-legal elite.
“It demonstrates an abject failure to confront the fact that young British people are deeply and increasingly concerned about what the British State is doing in the name of its people.
“It is not the Protesters or the Refugees who are the dangerous ones here.”
RAPAR's Annual General Meeting took place on 30th October in the Friends Meeting House and was chaired by Barly Koyangbwa.
Nestor came safely out of Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre today. He has to report again next month.
Many thanks to Manchester Quakers, Manchester City of Sanctuary and other friends and supporters who came to Dallas Court to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nestor. Nestor is under threat of detention and removal from the UK despite the fact that he has lived in Manchester for 12 years. His case has been described as being caught up in a "whirlpool" of Home Office bureaucracy. Read more about Nestor's campaign here Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition and left supportive comments. They are greatly appreciated.
You can follow updates on Nestor's campaign and find out how you can help by visiting his campaign page.
CALL TO SOLIDARITY VIGIL
between 9 and 10am tomorrow morning,
19th July 2018
Outside Dallas Court
SALFORD, M50 2GF
The Home Office have rejected Nestor's application and told him to present at Dallas Court tomorrow morning. David and Branwen McHugh, longstanding members of the Central Manchester Quaker Meeting who worked with Nestor for several years on the boaz trust winter nightshelter project for destitute men write as follows:
"When Nestor first came to this country 11 years ago, there was an expectation that asylum seekers would show a commitment to their community, which he has obviously accepted and demonstrated. Such involvement inevitably leads to social and emotional attachments being formed. It seems that during this time he also had grounds for believing that his asylum claim might be successful and he would be allowed to stay here permanently, as he tells us that at one stage he was entitled to obtain a Visa, when historical applications or excepted for a limited period, but unfortunately the solicitor acting for him missed the deadline. A subsequent appeal appeal against the decision was then considered separately from his 'legacy papers' and refused. We feel strongly that after this length of time not only should Nestor be allowed to continue with the life he has established here but that he has proved that he would be an asset as a resident of the UK."
Please come and show your solidarity with Nestor. Please send messages of support to admin(a)rapar.org.uk
A Guinean man who has made his home in Manchester for the last 12 years has been caught up in a Home Office "whirlpool" of bureaucracy.
Nestor Sylla, who is vice-chair of RAPAR and is involved with other charitable organisations in the city, came to Europe at the age of 26 looking for his mother after the death of his father and the murder of his sister in Guinea.
Nestor did not find his mother but discovered new friends in Manchester who are now his family. He met Quaker Elizabeth Coleman through a hosting scheme for people who have come to the UK seeking asylum and have ended up destitute and homeless. Later, he helped Elizabeth and others run the Boaz Trust winter night shelter based at the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester.
Elizabeth, who is retired, said: “Nestor's home is England. He is like a son to me and has a lot to contribute to our society.” When Elizabeth was ill, Nestor visited her in hospital and was a vital carer for her when she was discharged.
Nestor also supports another friend and her five children, helping with homework, taking them to school and the dentist, and attending parents' evenings. He says: “All these people are now my only family.”
Nestor arrived in Europe looking for his mother, a French citizen who left the family home after the death of his father. His travel was paid for by a woman who said she was a friend of his mother's and a passport for him was arranged.
When he came to the UK, Nestor went to the job centre to find work and showed them his passport. He was accused of having a false travel document and was arrested and imprisoned in Strangeways but was cleared of the charge and released.
Nestor was advised to apply for asylum and his case was being considered under the old Legacy system but his immigration solicitor missed a Home Office deadline. His complaint against the solicitor was upheld.
Last year, Nestor was unlawfully detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick Airport – which featured in a BBC Panorama investigation and led to 10 members of staff being suspended.
He was detained despite having submitted a Further Leave to Remain application and having proof of postage and delivery. When his solicitor applied for bail, the Home Office misled the judge saying a decision would be made on the case by July 21st 2017 and, because of this assurance, Nestor remained in detention at Brook House. He was finally released the following month after it became apparent that the Home Office had not even looked at the application.
Earlier this year, the Home Office wrote to Nestor rejecting his application because they said he had used the wrong form. He enlisted the support of his MP Lucy Powell to show that the correct form had been used. The Home Office then claimed they had not received an application, despite the fact that they had also written to Nestor advising him that his fee waiver application, which is included in the Leave to Remain application, had been accepted. RAPAR asked how the Home Office had rejected a Leave to Remain application and accepted a fee waiver request on a document they claimed not to have received.
One solicitor has described the Home Office as having Nestor in a “whirlpool” of bureaucracy. RAPAR believes there are many queries over this case which have not been answered satisfactorily. Last week, the Home Office rejected Nestor's Leave to Remain application and have said he must now leave the UK or risk detention and removal.
“Nestor has been unjustly treated and unlawfully detained. The Home Office has made numerous errors and is not answering an important request for information,” Elizabeth says.
A RAPAR spokesperson said: “Nestor is a refugee who came to this country when his life had been threatened and he had lost his immediate family. On arrival in the UK, he was wrongfully criminalised and remanded in prison for several months. Yet, despite all this, he has led an exemplary life volunteering for organisations like the Red Cross and Mustard Tree, as well as RAPAR and the Boaz night shelter. He has helped care for Elizabeth and the children of his friend Marie and all these people are now his family.
“In their refusal letter, the Home Office says Nestor can go back to Guinea – where his life was at risk and his sister was murdered – and suggests that people whose immigration status is 'precarious' should not be making close personal relationships in the UK.
“Is it the Home Office's position that people who have fled death threats, torture and persecution should be making preparations to return to their home country while they are seeking asylum and safety in the UK? That I have cared for people while living here? Does the Home Office expect that a person can spend 12 years in a country and not form attachments to others and they form attachments to me?”
English language tests preventing medical professionals from practising in the UK as NHS struggles to survive
Launch of research at 12pm on Wednesday 16th May at Rusholme Health Centre, Walmer Street, Manchester, M14 5NP.
Hundreds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and laboratory technicians are being prevented from working in a struggling NHS because of the current English language tests set by the General Medical Council (GMC) and other professional bodies.
A campaign launched through RAPAR - Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration - is growing by the day with over 500 medical professionals already signed up to it. There is also increasing support from the wider general public and a 38 Degrees Petition has been put together.
One of the campaign founders, Dr Hiba Alzamzamy, spoke at a national demonstration in support of the NHS last month. Research about the English language tests put together by her campaign group will be launched at Rusholme Health Centre in Manchester on May 16th - the day before an NHS Skills, Retention and Recruitment conference in the city.
The campaign is backed by Dr Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester's Medical School, who says:” At a time when the NHS is really desperate for extra staff it is strange that there is a failure to recognise the contribution that refugees and other medical professionals from outside the UK can make.
“”These are highly skilled professionals and we need to help them to start their lives again – this will in turn help the NHS at a time of great need.”
The campaign is calling on the GMC and other bodies to return to more realistic and appropriate English language tests. Doctors who passed the previous language test are currently working successfully in the NHS. But now highly qualified doctors – many of whom have been forced to flee their home countries for humanitarian reasons – are being stopped from using their skills and expertise.
Four years ago, the GMC raised its already high score for doctors in the International English Language Examination Testing System (IELTS) even further and they are now considering whether to raise it yet again.. The exam tests general knowledge of English language and includes topics such as archaeology, jam making and current affairs – much of it irrelevant to the kind of terminology used by medical professionals. In response to concerns, the GMC has now introduced an Occupational English Test (OET) in addition to the IELTS.
There is little information about the new OET which originates from Australia and is almost triple the cost of the IELTS. The new test is still in its early stages in the UK and it is not yet known if it will be fit for purpose. In addition, there is still the problem of the unrealistically high barrier of the IELTS.
Nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other medical professionals are having similar problems with the levels being set by their own professional councils for the English language tests.
Dr Alzamzamy explains: “Most of the professionals in our campaign have studied and gained their qualifications overseas on courses which have been delivered primarily in English. We are highly skilled people who want to help patients at a time when the NHS is in crisis. We acknowledge that communication is an essential element in securing patients' safety but the new test level is not a bar to ensure safety, it is a barrier preventing us from practising our profession.
“The English language test level now set by the GMC is unrealistic and very demoralising. Years of study and sheer hard work are going to waste.”
For more information please contact: Dr Hiba Alzamzamy at medicalprofessionalsuk(a)gmail.com