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No sanctuary for migrants

…Undocumented migrants criminalised

UK immigration enforcement

When Moulay fled from torture in West Africa he did not apply for asylum but instead obtained a fake British passport and tried to blend in.

He was caught during a police stop and search, jailed on remand and sentenced to six months – with his wife and child put in detention.

Prison worsened his mental health problems and left him on the brink of suicide.

He said: “I tried attempting suicide on several occasions. I keep on having nightmares. When people talk to me, I sometimes cannot hear what they are saying. The noises of prison, people banging the doors, all run in my head – and my head wants to explode at that time. I get panic attacks all the time. I used to have flashbacks in the past, but prison made it worse for me.”

Moulay – who shared his story with criminologist Monish Bhatia – is one of hundreds of suspected undocumented migrants arrested every year by police in northern England.

Merging systems

Forces detain refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for a variety of immigration offences – with Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) agents sometimes even working out of police stations. The trend reflects what Bhatia, from Birkbeck College at the University of London, sees as the merging of the UK immigration and criminal justice systems in recent years.

He said: “Using a false passport, for example, used to be a civil offence but now it’s dealt with under criminal law. There are now 89 immigration-related offences on the statute books where a person can go to prison.

“The focus on the inherent ‘dangerousness’ of this group and re-classification of immigration breaches as serious criminal offences mean the system frequently resorts to imprisonment for what are non-violent offences.

“A lot of the people being targeted this way are really vulnerable. Some are asylum seekers, like Moulay, who have been too scared to make a formal claim. Under the hostile environment, state agencies have been drawn
into the bureaucracy and are now doing border control’s dirty work.”

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This year campaigners in Sheffield – the UK’s first designated City of Sanctuary – learned immigration arrests had soared from 67 in 2010 to more than 400 in 2013-2014. The spike followed the introduction of the hostile environment policy in 2012 – which delegated immigration enforcement to employers, schools, the health service and others.

Incentivised arrests

Big Issue North went on to submit similar Freedom of Information requests to other northern police forces.

They showed that in West Yorkshire there were 7,000 immigration-related arrests between April 2010 and March 2019 – with 614 in 2018-19.

Lancashire logged 2,113 arrests between 2010 and 2019 – including 240 in 2018-19. Cheshire Police made 1,244 arrests in 2011-2019 – with 112 in 2018-19.

Police in Merseyside made 1,100 immigration-related arrests between 2010 and 2019, with 112 in 2018-19.

Cumbria’s annual figures are normally in single digits, but peaked in 2013-14 with 40 arrests. Between 2010 and 2019 the force made 224 arrests for immigration offences. Greater Manchester Police did not respond to the FoI request, and North Yorkshire Police could not comply due to cost.

Some forces also admitted that immigration enforcement staff had spent periods based in police stations. ICE agents were stationed in several Sheffield custody suites throughout 2017, as well as several other locations in the area. ICE officers also worked in Carlisle police station in 2017, and two Merseyside police stations between 2017 and 2018.

The UK’s 19 ICE teams carry out various operations including raiding homes and businesses, breaking up sham marriages, and tracking down and arresting refused asylum seekers and people who have overstayed their visas. As recently as 2018, teams were being incentivised to compete on arrest numbers with cake and chocolates.

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In 2017 a Romanian Big Issue North vendor and his partner were arrested by ICE agents at a homeless camp in Sheffield and sent to Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

In February agents arrested and detained three long-standing South Yorkshire residents from Zimbabwe – including a learning-disabled man who had lived in Barnsley for 19 years. They were released following demonstrations and a petition.

As well as police, immigration agents work with HM Revenue and Customs, local authorities and other bodies and encourage tip-offs from the public. So far this year, more than 55,600 reports have been made to the Home Office’s immigration enforcement hotline. MPs have made 134 referrals this year and Barnsley Hospital Trust referred 91 people, according to a recent FoI request.

Councils as border control

In Sheffield the council has stated its opposition to the hostile environment, yet officers have been referring individuals who they find suspicious during housing inspections to the Home Office since 2014.

Campaigners would like the city to join 11 Labour local authorities – including Liverpool – which are actively opposing the government’s policies by refusing to share personal data of migrants with the Home Office over fears it could lead to deportations.

READ ALSO: Europe is telling gay asylum seekers they are not gay enough

John Grayson, of South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group – who uncovered Sheffield’s arrest numbers – said: “We have exposed the fact that Sheffield is not really a City of Sanctuary resisting government hostile environment policies.

“Sheffield City Council had in effect turned its council officers into border control guards.

‘The council should have known that to be homeless, destitute and living in slums and ‘not have all the approvals’ for residence in the UK is not unlawful or illegal.

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“Our protests have had a real effect on the council, however. They are now convening a meeting in January with asylum rights groups to draw up a strict protocol of how council officers should approach undocumented migrants in the city and stop any reporting to the Home Office and ICE.”

Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety at Sheffield City Council, said: “The council’s Private Sector Housing Team does not have a direct relationship with the UKBA and officers from the service do not check the immigration status of any tenant or individual as part of their role.

“The team works to ensure that vulnerable people are safe, free from harm and to address any illegal activity taking place in private sector housing. Their duty is to ensure that vulnerable people are safe and not being exploited, or put at risk

“However, if the service were to find that that a person is living in the UK without permission and is in a vulnerable situation, they would work with all key bodies and third sector organisations to support that vulnerable person to ensure that they are not being illegally exploited.

(www.bigissuenorth.com)

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Nigeria evacuates 160 stranded citizens from US

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

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