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Boris Johnson rows back on proposal to introduce amnesty for undocumented migrants

Boris Johnson

Government quietly scraps idea months after prime minister said it would be considered as improvement on ‘anomalous’ policy of deporting anyone without correct papers

A proposal floated by Boris Johnson to introduce an amnesty for undocumented migrants – which he previously said would help prevent another Windrush scandal – has been quietly scrapped by the government.

The prime minister, who initially advocated the idea when he was London mayor as an “earned amnesty” for illegal immigrants, reiterated his support for the move on becoming leader of the country last July, telling MPs that his government would consider bringing in such a policy.

However, when asked about the plans by Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan​ in a parliamentary question this month, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins appeared to shoot them down, saying the immigration rules “already provide for undocumented migrants to regularise their status”.

Ms Atkins said: “The government remains committed to an immigration policy which welcomes and celebrates people to the UK through safe and legal routes but deters illegal immigration.”

Campaigners said rowing back on the proposal would leave migrant workers without “vital protection”, which they said would be increasingly important after Brexit in order to prevent labour exploitation, and accused the prime minister of “posturing”.

Lucila Granada, chief executive of Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex), said: “Brexit is prompting a redesign of our immigration system. Undocumented people are at far greater risk of severe exploitation, including modern slavery offences. An amnesty for those without correct paperwork would provide vital protection.”

READ  IOM returns over 18, 000 migrants

Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, said he was “not surprised” that the prime minister appeared to be shelving the plan, adding: “He supported amnesty in words, but like all politicians he should be judged for his actions.

“Current policy on undocumented migrants is a failure. Politicians may like the sound of talking tough, but they’re ignoring the obvious reality that current policy hasn’t been working for years, while continuing to cause harm to many people.

“It’s long past time for a grown-up, realistic debate and policy on undocumented migrants rather than blustering and posturing.”

Sonia Lenegan, head of legal policy at the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, said: “As we have seen with Windrush, it is difficult for people to provide evidence of their life in the UK when the hostile environment is designed to ensure that those without status are unable to get the paperwork the Home Office expects to see.”

She added that she was concerned by the “lack of consideration” in these announcements for the people who would be affected by such an amnesty, saying: “Every time this is mentioned, hopes are raised before inevitably being dashed again.”

READ  Nigerian girl held captive in Lebanon cries for help

Mr Johnson first advocated the creation of an amnesty for illegal immigrants as London mayor in 2008, when he announced that his office would consider the feasibility of granting an amnesty to an estimated 400,000 people living illegally in the capital.

READ ALSO: It is time to change the definition of refugee

Eight years later, as foreign secretary, he called for an amnesty for undocumented immigrants who had lived in the UK for longer than 10 years, saying this would be the “economically rational” thing to do as it would allow them to start working lawfully and contributing tax income.

The day after he became prime minister in July 2019, Mr Johnson was asked by Labour MP Rupa Huq whether he was a “man of his word” on his previous support for an amnesty.

He answered: “I do think we need to look at our arrangements for people who have lived and worked here for a long time, unable to enter the economy, unable to participate properly or pay taxes, without documents.

“We should look at the economic advantage and disadvantages of going ahead with the policy that she describes and which I think she and I share.”

Mr Johnson described as “anomalous” the current policy of deporting anyone who “doesn’t have the correct papers, and who may have been living and working here for many years without being involved in any criminal activity at all”.

READ  Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

“And we saw difficulties that that kind of problem occasioned in the Windrush fiasco. We know the difficulties that can be caused,” he added.

While many welcomed his comments at the time, others responded with anger, describing the idea of introducing an amnesty as an “absurd proposal”.

Following the exchange in the Commons, a parliamentary petition was created, calling on ministers to “rule out” any prospect of granting an amnesty on illegal immigration, and has since garnered more than 35,500 signatures.

The Home Office was contacted but declined to comment.

(www.independent.co.uk)

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IOM assists border control on route linking Ethiopia, Kenya

IOM has helped to establish a new Border Control Post between Ethiopia and Kenya. Photo: Rahel Negussie/IOM

Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, Africa’s second largest country (by population) after Nigeria, is also one of the continent’s largest sources of international migrants.

Along its vast national circumference –some 5,311 kilometres, connecting Ethiopia to Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia– government control posts are limited. Lack of adequate staffing and modern technology impedes proper migration management, a matter of concern for national governments as well as for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At the start of this new year, IOM has helped open a new Border Control Post (BCP) between Ethiopia and Kenya. The post, at Neprumus in Ethiopia’s Dasenech district, straddles one of the 830-kilometer Ethiopia-Kenya frontier’s most frequented migratory routes, alongside a major route for Ethiopian migrants trying to reach South Africa. Ethiopians normally pass through Kenya into Tanzania, then travel further south.

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In March 2020, at least 60 Ethiopian irregular migrants were killed after being trapped in a lorry along this route. Hence, the urgent need for better and improved border control posts in the region.

“Supporting the establishment of modern and efficient BCPs will facilitate safe and orderly migration of citizens, enhance the relationship between bordering countries, provide protection, and increase the political and socio-economic stability between Ethiopia and Kenya,” explained Kederalah Idris, IOM’s Better Migration Management (BMM) Project Officer.

IOM is also supporting Ethiopia’s Immigration, Nationality, and Vital Events Agency (INVEA) with training to enhance the capacity of immigration officers, and at the same time supplying infrastructure and office equipment, computers, and generators to establish new border control posts.

“Strengthening BCP will play a great role in facilitating safe movement of community members to neighbouring Kenya and will create job opportunities for the community. In addition, it will have a big contribution in facilitating regular migration, while monitoring irregular movements,” said INVEA Director-General, Mujib Jemal, during his opening speech. He also recognized IOM and the zonal administration’s efforts in facilitating the opening of the BCP.

READ  Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

At stake is more than improved border efficiency. IOM sees hope for improved trade benefiting the regional economy and raising livelihoods for some 48,000 people living in the Dasenech District.

Health checks are also being integrated into the BCP, which is a timely development given that COVID-19 continues to affect the nation. As of 18 January, there has been 131,546 confirmed cases in Ethiopia leading to 2,033 deaths. Against this COVID-19 backdrop, IOM looks forward to these new controls reducing mobility restrictions and facilitating movement of goods, services and skills. Beyond commerce, IOM also views BCPs as vital for protecting people from falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers.

Plans are to open more BCPs in the Pagag, Kurmuk, and Fefrer border towns in Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, and Somali regions, bordering South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia respectively.

During the inauguration attended by representatives from IOM and senior officials from INVEA, IOM Ethiopia received a ‘Certificate of Recognition’ from the Ethiopian authorities for the support to strengthening Ethiopia’s border management and control efforts.

READ  IOM sets up pineapple processing factory in Nigeria

The establishment of this important BCP is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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Amid 2020 pandemic IOM supported over 2,500 migrants with voluntary return from Greece

Dudu and his family taking some selfie pictures before departing to Georgia. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM
A family from Iraq receiving transportation assistance from IOM to the airport in Athens. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM

Athens – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the voluntary return of some 2,565 people from Greece to their home countries in 2020, in coordination with the Greek authorities and respective countries’ diplomatic representatives.

Amid hardships and challenges induced by COVID-19 in the past year—including mobility restrictions and closed borders—many migrants living in Greece expressed interest in returning voluntarily to their home countries.

“It is extremely important to be able to continue offering the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration support during this challenging period, as for many migrants, COVID-19 posed additional challenges to their stay in the EU,” explained Gianluca Rocco, Chief of the IOM Mission in Greece.

The 2,565 Returnees from Greece through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme originated from 46 countries, with the largest contingent (734 migrants) coming from Pakistan. This was followed by Georgia (529 migrants), Iraq (489), Afghanistan (188) and Iran (163). Thirty per cent of migrants assisted were males between the ages of 22 and 29.

READ  IOM returns over 18, 000 migrants

The number of returns fluctuated throughout 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, from 868 in the first quarter to 300 per month at the end of the year.  Since launched in Greece in 2010, IOM’s AVRR programme has assisted more than 50,000 people to voluntarily return to their home countries.

In 2020, IOM developed initiatives to overcome challenges, mitigate negative impact on migrants and ensure that Ministry of Health protocols were applied to all without discrimination. IOM medical teams provided assessments and medical examinations, including COVID-19 testing. In addition, relevant information was communicated through online outreach activities, and the dissemination of leaflets and posters to migrant communities. In parallel, helplines operating in 13 languages supported remote counselling as needed.

“We worked intensively with the Greek authorities and the Embassies of countries of origin to develop new cooperation mechanisms to overcome mobility restrictions and make the returns possible, particularly for the most vulnerable,” said IOM’s Rocco.

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IOM Greece also established an Online Scheduling Appointment (OSA) platform through which potential beneficiaries were able to book counselling appointments online.

When commercial flights were not available, IOM organized charter flights to Georgia and Iraq for 433 people in total in close collaboration with all relevant actors in Greece and the two destination countries.

Prior to their departure from Greece, migrants who applied for AVRR had the opportunity to access temporary accommodation facilities including the Open Centre for migrants (OCAVRR) in Athens.  IOM also provided a cash grant to cover returnees’ initial basic expenses after their departure.

Upon return, 1,008 migrants who qualified under the programme for in-kind reintegration assistance were able to use the support to set up small businesses (individually or in partnership), training programmes, temporary accommodation, job placements, medical support and material assistance.

IOM reiterates the importance of promoting the systematic inclusion of reintegration assistance as a force for stability in communities of return and as a bridge between migrant return and sustainable development.

READ  Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

Download here for a snapshot view of the programme’s main 2020 highlights.

The project “The implementation of assisted voluntary returns including reintegration measures and operation of Open Center in the Prefecture of Attica for applicants of voluntary return (AVRR/OCAVRR)” is 75 per cent  co-funded by European Funds (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund) and 25 per cent by Greek National Funds.

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

READ  UN closes migrant centre in Libya over safety fears

“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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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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