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

Free Movement Weekly Immigration Newsletter #11


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Welcome to the weekly Free Movement newsletter!

Last week, in the latest demonstration of confidence in its ability to forcibly send people to Rwanda, the government rolled out a new version of the voluntary returns guidance that provides for people to be returned to a third country (i.e. Rwanda) and not just their country of origin. The changes to new version 5 of the guidance were described as “updated to amend references to ‘voluntary returns’ to ‘voluntary departures’ in line with the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002” and “minor drafting changes have been made for clarification”.

Why they bothered trying to conceal the details of the changes is beyond me, as the Home Office then started phoning people the same day the guidance was published (last Monday) to try to convince them to take £3,000 to go to Rwanda without anyone having a clue what was happening.

Things then got very weird, as Migrant Help claimed that “a number of fraudulent calls” had been made to people from withheld numbers, where the caller had claimed to be from Migrant Help and was offering the person a voluntary return to Rwanda in exchange for £3,000.

Now, I am not well-versed in the ways of the scammer, but what exactly would a fraudster gain from doing this? These are people who do not have bank accounts or any disposable income. Is the purpose just to cause misery? The Home Office is already doing this so why would the scammers feel the need to do so? Where did these supposed scammers get the phone numbers of these people from? The whole thing is just utterly bizarre. The likelihood of it being some sort of internal error seems far more likely, but who knows if we will ever find out.

We did get a memorable quote from a Home Office spokesperson however, condemning the calls as “cruel”. Unlike what the Home Office is doing, which is the exact same thing but with the actual prospect of a flight to Rwanda at the other end.

We may have a Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 by the end of this week, as the Times has reported that government whips have asked all Tory peers to turn up for the next vote in the House of Lords on Wednesday (it is back in the Commons today [Ed: yesterday, newsletter goes out by email on Monday]). Otherwise it seems the Bill may be delayed until after Easter. 

It seems from an article in the Telegraph that discussed delays in any flight taking off due to legal challenges, that when the Bill receives Royal Assent the government may bring in force at least the legal proceedings sections of the Illegal Migration Act. These are the provisions from section 38 onwards that set out the timescales and other requirements to be met for legal challenges. 

My confidence in the roll out of e-Visas this year remains as low as ever, after learning of the existence of “merged identities” caused by Home Office databases, creating an enormous amount of difficulty for those affected. A good time to revisit Kuba’s article on systemic problems with digital proof of immigration status from last year. 

On Free Movement, we did a quick write up of Thursday’s statement of changes, the latest case where the Home Office (and Government Legal Department) were put on the naughty step, this really interesting citizenship case in the Court of Appeal (not Roehrig – we are publishing that tomorrow) and some concerning changes to who is deemed suitable for the quasi-detention asylum accommodation sites. 

We also published this timely and important article by MiCLU (Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit at Islington Law Centre) on how to effectively represent Albanian clients in the current legal framework. 

Read on for the rest of the week on Free Movement and elsewhere. 

Cheers, Sonia

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What we’re reading

Majority of Tory voters want Rwanda bill scrapped or watered down – iNews, 17 March

Madeline Gleeson & Theodore Konstadinides: The UK’s Rwanda policy and Lessons from Australia – UK Constitutional Law Association, 14 March

Care firm has overseas worker licence revoked by Home Office – BBC News, 13 March

Migrant care workers: how to stand up to exploitation: An FAQ guide from the Work Rights Centre – The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 15 March

Decision not to charge NI boat owners over alleged human trafficking of fishermen quashed – Belfast Telegraph, 14 March

EXCLUSIVE: Two ex-Tory donors to profit from £6.4million Home Office contract for Rwanda plan – The Mirror, 15 March

Home Office ‘just accepted’ £71m faulty IT system with awful data for years – iNews, 13 March

Date set for RAF Scampton High Court appeal against Home Office asylum seeker plans – Lincolnshire Live, 15 March

Nigerian woman speaks of slavery and rape in UK – BBC News, 14 March

Ibrahima Bah was sentenced to nine years for steering a ‘death trap’ dinghy across the Channel. Was he really to blame? – The Guardian, 12 March

Revealed: the secret algorithm that controls the lives of Serco’s immigration detainees – The Guardian, 12 March

Rotten food given to asylum seekers charity finds – BBC News, 12 March

Hotel Chain Voted UK’s Worst Makes Tens of Millions a Year from Housing Asylum Seekers in Harmful Conditions – Byline Times, 15 March

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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.