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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org(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.”
LGBTIQ refugee conference calls for end to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and high standard of proof sexuality policy
Rhetta Moran from RAPAR attended the African Rainbow Family's annual conference in Manchester on August 11th.
Read their press release calling for an end to sexual exploitation of LGBTIQ refugees and an end to the Home Office's policy of demanding a high standard of proof of sexuality.
Manchester will host again, the second LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee conference today [11th August], shining the light on the extent of active and subtle sexual and domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, modern day slavery and trafficking that exists in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community in the UK. Mostly perpetrated by people who owe them duty of care.
The conference will, following the #METOO movement, feature LGBTIQ refugee speakers telling their personal experiences of abuse, exploring how the hostile environment which seeks to deport as many people as possible in order to meet Home Office's set targets, such as in the Windrush Generation; has reinforced a high standard of proof sexuality policy in the Home Office leading to many LGBTIQs being refused asylum and highlighting the plight still faced by LGBTIQ people seeking asylum today.
In many countries, particularly in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal and violent attacks on LGBTIQ people are common. Many are forced to flee, some to the UK, after being publicly ‘outed’.
Gay people seeking asylum coming to the UK face significant barriers. The Home Office culture of disbelief has meant that it refuses to accept that any LGBTIQ seeking asylum are homosexual unless they provide ‘proof of sexuality’. This position is an extremely toxic shift towards high number of deportation following the ruling in 2010 which prohibits the Home Office from deporting LGBTIQ people seeking asylum on the grounds that they could ‘be discreet’ about their sexuality in their home country to avoid harm.
We know that the Home Office has and continues to illegally and forcibly deport many LGBTIQ people seeking asylum through its brutal charter flight methods.
'Experimental' data released by the Home Office in November 2017 for LGBT+ asylum cases (01/07/15 - 31/03/17) shows that over two third of 3,535 asylum applications made partly as LGBT+ were rejected.
2,379 clear LGBT+ claims were rejected, with only 838 approved.
The conference is being organised by African Rainbow Family (ARF), a charitable group that supports LGBTIQ people of African heritage and wider BAME in the UK. ARF works with the growing African LGBTIQ people seeking asylum and refugee communities including wider BAME who face harassment, hate crimes and discrimination.
It will see a call on the Home Office to abandon its ‘high standard of proof sexuality policy, which ARF says is demeaning, humiliating, dehumanising, cruel and a driver of the culture of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in their community.
Speakers will include:
Aderonke Apata, Founder of the ARF and a long-term campaigner on LGBTIQ asylum, who is also speaking at the conference, said:
"We are starting a cultural revolution which forms a platform to inspire LGBTIQ people seeking asylum to come forward, tell their experiences of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and let their voices to be heard in order for us to see consequences in terms of their perpetrators who owe them a duty of care to be brought to justice.
"The Home Office's high standard of proof policy drives a culture of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, modern day slavery and all forms of emotional, psychological and mental problems in the LGBTIQ people seeking asylum's community
"I ask that the Home Office drops their high standard of proof in sexuality policy as well as the wider asylum applications."
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
RAPAR raises concerns about new Immigration and Voluntary Returns “surgeries in the community”
RAPAR is querying the Home Office's new policy of introducing immigration and voluntary returns surgeries into the community.
We are currently gathering questions about voluntary returns to send to the Home Office. Questions already put forward, most of them from refugees and people seeking asylum, cover a range of concerns about voluntary returns – including asking how the Government can be sure that people being encouraged to “go home” can be truly safe.
The Home Office claims there are now 30 voluntary returns surgeries in the community including one in Manchester which is running twice monthly sessions at the Transformation Community Resource Centre in Longsight.
One of the aims of this initiative is to persuade refugees to return to their home countries under a Government scheme which offers up to £2,000 for people to “voluntarily” return.
Julie Ward, North West MEP, has added her voice to questions being raised by RAPAR about the surgeries which are also operating in London, Birmingham and Slough.
“This new development is very worrying and comes hot on the heels of an insidious government policy that used homelessness charities as a means to identify and deport EU migrants before Christmas. The Home Office has a duty to uphold international norms regarding the treatment of vulnerable people such as refugees and asylum seekers. This should mean ensuring adequate and tailored support for a range of options. By locating voluntary returns surgeries in community spaces government policy may appear to be more benign than it is.
“I am very concerned that taxpayers' money is being used in a targeted and unbalanced way, with an emphasis on persuading vulnerable people to return to the very places that they were forced to flee for good reason. We need to question why this is happening in an increasingly hostile and xenophobic environment with a Conservative government that has failed in its basic duty regarding unaccompanied child refugees, let alone wider issues appertaining to the asylum process.”
People seeking asylum have pointed out to RAPAR that the Home Office's voluntary returns service is already easily accessible and, if people want to take advantage of it, they can. There is no need for “community surgeries”.
Sanctuary seekers in the UK have been forced to flee their home countries because their lives were at risk and they are among the most vulnerable, impoverished and traumatised groups in our society. They should not be pressured into returning to a situation where their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, said: “People seeking asylum - and those who have decided to stay in the UK undocumented after their cases have been failed by the Home Office - are here because they feel they are still in danger. Completing a 'voluntary' return form in a 'community' setting does not alter that danger.
“We have asked the Home Office to explain how they can ensure people's safety if they return. The Home Office knows it cannot do this. Community immigration surgeries are not offering people a real and free choice. There is nothing 'voluntary' about 'voluntary' returns.”
RAPAR also questions how impartial and non directive advice about voluntary returns can be given by Home Office staff in community surgeries when they are employed by a Government department which has been charged with driving down net migration.
On Wednesday 28th February 2018, at 1pm, we will be outside the Transformation Community Resource Centre, Richmond House, 11 Richmond Grove, Ardwick, Manchester, M13 0LN to communicate to people who may use the surgery why there is no such thing as a ‘Voluntary’ Return.