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

Free Movement Weekly Immigration Newsletter #9


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Welcome to the weekly Free Movement newsletter!

It was Frantic Maths Day on Thursday and while in the midst of it all I went to look at my write up of the last statistics release from November last year. It was quite a jolt to see that I had written there that two people had died in the Channel the day before, as the same thing had happened this time. On Wednesday it was reported that at least one person died and two more were missing. On Sunday the news got worse as a boat with 11 children were in a boat that sank in France, and one of them, a seven year old girl died. These deaths will continue as long as the UK makes it almost impossible for people to get here via any other route. 

The National Audit Office’s report on the government’s spending on the Rwanda plan was released last week, I wrote it up for Friday but missed an interesting point made in Ian Dunt’s substack. This is that the £120 million bonus that Rwanda will receive once 300 people have been sent there does indicate that the government considers this a benchmark for success. And that figure of 300 would obviously not make the slightest impact in the size of the backlog of people waiting for a decision or to be admitted to the asylum system. So what exactly, beyond cruelty, is the point?

Former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week. One thing he mentioned that I was unaware of is that there is a (presumably) substantive hearing taking place in relation to Manston asylum processing centre on 21 and 22 March, in which the ICIBI as an organisation is an interested party. Definitely one to keep an eye out for. 

Permission has also been granted in a judicial review challenging the use of RAF Wethersfield as asylum accommodation. The full hearing will take place from 23 to 26 July. The Helen Bamber Foundation published a report in December detailing the “irreparable and profound harm” caused by the site and last week the Guardian reported that in January there had been two suicide attempts that resulted in hospitalisation of the men affected. 

Also on Rwanda, report stage for the Safety of Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords starts today, and this is where they will start voting on amendments. Ping pong is apparently going to start in the week commencing 18 March. No update on how Rwanda’s legislative changes are proceeding.

Colin’s webinar on the Bill and the Illegal Migration Act 2023 is tomorrow morning (Ed: too late – it was this morning!) so you have less than 24 hours to book. I have been going through the slides this morning and it has really helped me with my understanding of it all (and I didn’t think I had much left to learn on all of this!). It is going to be an action packed and highly informative session.

In other Free Movement news, we have updated our visit visa course  for members, to take into account recent changes to the immigration rules. We have also published an in depth look at the recent changes to the Ukrainian routes and I wrote up the latest case where the Court of Appeal had to tackle an extremely poorly written First-tier Tribunal decision.

For the rest on Free Movement as well as everything else I have spotted over the past week and thought you might be interested in, do read on below. 

Oh, and don’t worry, I am on the case with those ICIBI reports published en masse on Thursday in the most cynical of moves, but won’t be dropping them all on you at once – watch this space!

Cheers, Sonia

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What we’ve been reading

The UK Is GPS-Tagging Thousands of Migrants – Wired, 27 February

David Neal’s sacking shows why independent inspectors need more powers – Institute for Government, 23 February

The statelessness of Shamima Begum – Prospect Magazine, 29 February

Border deaths, the criminalisation of people arriving on ‘small boats’, and the unjust imprisonment of Ibrahima Bah – Institute of Race Relations, 1 March

My View: A therapeutic intervention for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children – Foundations What Works Centre for Children & Families, 1 March

‘Withdrawing asylum claims doesn’t make the person disappear’: What’s happened to the people removed from the Home Office waiting list? – Sky News, 29 February

Foreign Office grants Indefinite Leave to Remain to mother of British Embassy workers in Kabul and agrees to pay indemnity costs – Garden Court Chambers, 29 February

Human Rights Committee to visit Rwanda – Joint Committee on Human Rights, 22 February

Former BA employee allegedly orchestrated £3m immigration scam from Heathrow check-in desk – The Guardian, 27 February

Criminalised for Seeking Asylum: the conviction of Ibrahima Bah – Public Interest Law Centre, 1 March

Ten changes to make the ICIBI more effective – David Neal, 27 February

Wednesday briefing: How a sacked official blew the whistle on new lows in the asylum system – The Guardian, 28 February

The asylum backlog: Job done? – Institute for Public Policy Research, 28 February

50,000 asylum seekers trapped in ‘never-ending limbo’ by Home Office, think tank says – The Big Issue, 28 February

RNLI-Border Force row reveals ‘chaos’ in maritime rescue before Channel tragedy – The Guardian, 3 March

‘Pretty dodgy’: alarm over suspect care agencies granted Home Office licence to act as visa sponsors – The Observer, 3 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.