Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Free Movement Weekly Immigration Newsletter #1


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We’ve decided to turn the text of Sonia’s weekly email newsletter introduction into a blog post. It’s too good for us not to share with blog readers as well as newsletter subscribers. If you want the newsletter promptly and straight to your inbox on Mondays at 12pm then you’ll still need to subscribe. But we’ll also now be posting it to the main blog on Tuesday afternoons. So here we go…

Hi everyone!

I am still not quite gremlin free, hence things being a little delayed and looking a little different this week. First things first, there are only four spots left on our March 2024 OISC level one ‘Learn immigration law’ course, which I will be teaching. We only launched the course last week and most of the places have already been booked so do get onto it quickly if you have been thinking about signing up. We will sort out some new dates shortly.

Last week doesn’t really count, so this one is the actual beginning of 2024. The House of Commons is back, with the increase to the immigration health surcharge and the Safety of Rwanda Bill both progressing this month. It has just been confirmed that the Rwanda Bill will have its committee stage next week.

Over the weekend, Lizzie Dearden published an article on what has been happening with the chaotic withdrawal of asylum claims, where she has spoken to people inside the Home Office as well as to a person caught up in the process. Apparently those decision makers who met targets received gift vouchers (this rings vague bells of a similar system with Home Office Presenting Officers – anyone remember?) and those who didn’t were subjected to performance management. In the meantime, those on the receiving end include people who do not speak English as well as those who were living in Home Office accommodation but have been accused of absconding from it.

The whole thing is an absolute mess, and the examples of cases that should not have been withdrawn just keep coming, and will no doubt continue to do so. Our previous coverage on this issue includes this from Colin in June (archived link as we have since updated that one), me in August and this briefing from Nadia O’Mara in July. Last week I wrote up the latest “statistics on illegal migration” published by the government in support of their (bizarre given their own numbersclaim that the backlog had been cleared. I discussed withdrawals again in there and looked at how the backlog had actually been reduced (mainly through withdrawals and questionnaires). As ever, if there are any developments on the issue of withdrawals that people want the rest of the sector to know about, then do get in touch.

The Big Issue have continued their coverage of refugee evictions, spending a day with a frontline organisation working to help those put out onto the streets after getting their status.

On Free Movement, on Monday Alex Piletska gave us an update on where we are with the immigration health surcharge increase and how to beat it, as well as debunking the myth that applications can only be made 28 days early. Last week Colin wrote his review of 2023 and look ahead to 2024. I have been quite sceptical about the duty to remove in the Illegal Migration Act ever been brought into force without some substantial carve outs, but Colin’s theory that it may be used by the government to set a trap for Labour is an interesting one. Although frankly if that trap means that Labour has to repeal the Act then it won’t be all bad.

Alex Schymyck wrote up the most recent false imprisonment case for us where, following an unlawful certification decision, the Home Office was ordered to pay £20,000 in damages to the claimant for 60 days of detention. I also wrote up the Senior President of Tribunals annual report for 2023 which reported significant numbers of appeals against EU Settlement Scheme and deprivation of citizenship decisions. Apart from that, the Tribunals seem to have spent far too much of their valuable time over the past year on busy work preparing for legislation that is not yet in force (Nationality and Borders Act 2022 as well as the Illegal Migration Act 2023).

Cheers, Sonia

What we’ve been reading

Portland barge: Asylum seekers helping homeless charities – Dorset Echo, 7 January

Rishi Sunak had significant doubt over Rwanda plan, papers suggest – BBC News, 6 January

DfE mulls boost to international recruitment – TES magazine, 5 January

Travellers will not need to show passports to enter UK in new trial – The Independent, 4 January

Spanish woman removed from UK after returning from Christmas holiday – The Guardian, 7 January

‘We are the talk of the town’: the refugee-led Glasgow charity helping women caught up in asylum system – The Guardian, 7 January

Statistics watchdog to investigate Sunak’s claims about clearing asylum backlog – Independent, 3 January

Small boat arrivals in UK likely to rise in 2024, says Border Force officials’ union– The Guardian, 1 January

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Picture of Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.