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Channel migrants sent 500 miles to notorious Dungavel centre in Scotland for asylum processing

Migrants who risk their lives crossing the English Channel are being sent to the Dungavel detention centre in Scotland for processing as the Home Office buckles under the rising numbers.

Dozens of Channel boat people have been sent to the notorious Dungavel immigration detention centre in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire in the last few weeks.

Until crossings rose to record levels those arriving on the Kent coast in the south of England were taken to short-term holding facilities in immigration detention centres close by.

The Dungavel immigration removal centre, which is usually used to hold failed asylum seekers before they are deported, is a 500 mile, eight hour bus journey from the landing sites.

There have been numerous calls to shut down the Dungavel Centre after reports of the medical and mental health of the inmates being affected by isolation amid incidents of violence and criminality.

“When I visited Dungavel on 14 October, I learnt that around 50 people who had crossed the Channel in small boats had been brought there for ’processing’”.

Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, told The Guardian:

“Staff said this was the second time it had happened in a month, but not before that.”

Alexander added: “I was profoundly shocked that the Home Office is putting people traumatised from a dangerous Channel crossing on a bus journey of over 500 miles immediately on arrival.”

A Home Office spokeperson stated: “People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach – rather than making dangerous journeys to the UK. That is why we will have rules in place to make asylum claims inadmissible where people have travelled through or have a connection to safe countries.”

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Climate depression is real. And it is spreading fast among our youth

If you are anything like me, you think of the climate emergency a lot. Possibly every waking hour. Perhaps you experience the psychological tension caused by feeling trapped between the truth of climate and ecological destruction on the one hand and inaction from world leaders on the other. I feel this tension myself, and as a parent and climate activist, I see it affecting young people especially hard.

We are in a growing epidemic of serious climate depression among young people. This is a crisis that cannot be solved by “positive messaging” any more than climate breakdown itself. Ultimately, the only thing that will help the mental and physical safety of every age group, including the young, is meaningful action from world leaders.

Global heating is a vise tightening on nearly every aspect of our planet, our society, and our minds, driven by the production of fossil fuels. Each gram of fossil fuel burned intensifies every manifestation of climate and ecological breakdown; there is no negotiating with physics. Without emergency-mode climate action, things will break. Lots of things. Big things. Eventually, everything.

The climate mental health crisis is already hitting those who have lost everything in worsening climate infernos. It’s already hitting farmers in Australia, India and elsewhere who face serious and sometimes insurmountable challenges growing food in a rapidly changing climate (which, incidentally, should be a climate wake-up call for anyone who eats). It’s hitting Indigenous and vulnerable communities, for whom climate breakdown is the culmination of centuries of colonial and social oppression. It’s hitting parents, who feel unable to protect their children; I sometimes cry while talking about climate breakdown when I think about my kids. And of course, it’s hitting young people.

A recent survey by a team of psychologists probed the climate anxiety felt by 10,000 young people aged 16-25 from countries in the global south and north. In the survey, 77% said “the future is frightening”, 68% feel sad, and 63% feel anxious. 39% feel “hesitant to have children”. This distress correlates with a belief that climate action from governments is inadequate. Additionally, mental distress increases with hotter temperatures, with 9,000 to 40,000 additional suicides projected by 2050 in the US and Mexico under a worst-case climate scenario due to excess heat alone.

Therapy can help people struggling with climate anxiety and depression; but since climate emotions are driven by real, intensifying, physical processes on Earth, therapy only treats the symptom. Something that helps me is being part of a vibrant community of activists. I could not handle the weight of this knowledge if I had to do so alone.

However, as everything gets worse – and unfortunately it will get worse – we’re all going to need more than friends, as important as they are. We’re also going to need a sense that, collectively, society is finally heading in the right direction, with emergency speed. Since climate breakdown is caused by fossil fuel production, meaningful action must include ending the fossil fuel industry rapidly, with binding, annual goals for industry contraction, and therefore emissions reduction.

One path would be to seize assets and nationalize the fossil fuel industry to ensure equitable distribution during the ramp-down; forge a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty for international coordination; enhance social safety nets to ensure stability during a period of rapid change; and implement a Green New Deal to create transition infrastructure as well as a deep sense of solidarity. Young people and teens must be included in climate decision-making. Voting ages should be lowered.

The Greek word neo means “young, new”. We can thus coin a word, neocide, meaning “the deliberate killing of young people and future generations”. The fossil fuel industry and the US government have known for half a century that fossil fuels would lead to catastrophic global heating that would be especially destructive to young people and future generations. After decades of lying and misleading the public, political and corporate leaders continue to delay action, leading to vast, irreversible, and accelerating losses throughout Earth’s ecosystems and life support systems. Of course this creates mental anguish for young people!

It is psychologically devastating to feel climate and ecological catastrophe closing in every day while watching those in power not only failing to act, but actively making things worse by expanding the fossil fuel industry. Instead of more empty words and distractions, humanity desperately needs real action. World leaders must orchestrate a rapid end to the fossil fuel industry, for the sake of us all – but especially for the sake of young people.

The Samaritans offer support and advice to people feeling suicidal or vulnerable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their website is https://www.samaritans.org, email address jo@samaritans.orgor call free on 116 123

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Deporting ‘foreign criminals’ in the middle of the night doesn’t make us safer

Look at modern British history, and you’ll find that the “criminal” and the “immigrant” blur into one another in popular and official thinking. In Victorian England, crime was often blamed on Irish immigrants (“dangerous classes” were labelled with the Irish-derived name “hooligans”), and then on Jews from eastern Europe. These narratives neatly anticipated the way the spectre of “black criminality” was peddled by the press in postwar Britain, as well as contemporary narratives about Muslims and sexual abuse.

These entangled histories – where the racialised outsider, the criminal and the immigrant often refer to the same person or group – provide the backstory to more recent policies targeting “foreign criminals”. We should not be surprised, then, to learn that the Home Office is chartering two mass deportation flights to Jamaica and Nigeria/Ghana in a few weeks’ time – after a flight to Vietnam on Wednesday 28 July and one to Zimbabwe last week. And we can be sure that they will justify these mass expulsions by claiming that those booked on the flight are “dangerous foreign criminals” – a tried and tested formula.

Mass deportation charter flights were introduced under New Labour in 2001, and thousands of people have been expelled this way since. They were introduced, in part, to negate the possibility of protest – from deportees and others on public commercial flights – and they have been embroiled in wider diplomatic relations between the UK and receiving states. However, charter flights have become especially controversial in recent years.

The Covid pandemic slowed down deportations and compelled the release of most, but not all, immigration detainees. And yet those defined as criminals received little clemency. People with criminal records, along with those who crossed the Channel in boats, were kept in detention, regardless of the Covid risks. The UK continued to charter deportation flights for the former group. On the recent flight to Zimbabwe, this reportedly included people who had committed driving offences or worked with false documents.

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Immigration Rules

A collection of the current Immigration Rules

The Immigration Rules are some of the most important pieces of legislation that make up the UK’s immigration law. They are updated on a regular basis and all changes can be found in the Immigration Rules: statement of changes.

The rules are divided into different documents. The index page will help you find the part you need.

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New Plan for Immigration

Closed consultation

New Plan for Immigration

Summary

The New Plan for Immigration policy paper sets out the government’s intentions to build a fair but firm asylum and illegal migration system.

This consultation ran from
 to 

Consultation description

Continue reading “New Plan for Immigration”

‘There is absolutely systemic racism’: BAME headteachers share their views

Josephine Okokon, head of St Martins-in-the-Field high school for girls, LondonPhotograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

My race became an issue very early in my career as a teacher and I began to discover these subtle, covert barriers. I was often the only female teacher of colour and I soon began to see the white teachers getting more encouragement, more support and more mentoring than me. I was left to fend for myself.

Whenever I tried to put myself forward for promotion, I was told that I needed more experience but I’d look at the white teachers who had moved up and think, they’ve got the same, if not slightly less experience than me.

I always had to go over and above to show that I could do the job well. But even though I worked so hard, I still had to keep moving to different schools to make sure I didn’t get stuck.

It’s been incredibly frustrating and disappointing but I’ve taken pay cuts to get out of schools where I was told that I “didn’t fit the mould” or when I’ve found myself pushed towards pastoral roles instead of the academic route.

As I gradually worked my way up, I found that if there was any multicultural mix in the school at all, it stopped at the middle leadership. After that level, school governors are the ones making the recruitment decisions.

The only jobs I ever got at senior leadership level were when the governor panels were diverse: I never got the job if the panel was all-white – which almost all of the panels were. I sat in front of panel after panel of white men, hearing in their questions and the tone they used towards me that they couldn’t perceive that a black woman could do the job.

I began to be very strategic with my applications. I researched 26 deputy head jobs but, after visiting the schools and speaking with the senior leadership teams, there were only six I felt I even stood a chance of getting – purely because of my skin colour.

It was worse for headship roles. I looked at 23 jobs and, after researching each one, felt there were just four where my application would have been welcomed. I was offered two of those roles.

Funmi Alder, head of Bearwood primary school, BerkshireFunmi Alder. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian© Provided by The Guardian Funmi Alder. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

There is absolutely systemic racism in the teaching profession, which make it very hard to progress in your career. I know a disproportionate number of very good teachers of colour who would make amazing headteachers but seem to be stuck in middle leadership posts.

It doesn’t become easier when you become a headteacher. If anything, your position becomes more precarious because the higher you go, the more people have a problem with taking direction from those who don’t look like them. This is why new black headteachers have to work much harder than their white counterparts in developing relationships with staff with the sad reality being, that some will never accept you.

I’ve done my own research and found a disproportionate number of cases where a board of governors have decided to get rid of a perfectly competent black headteacher, perhaps because the area is gentrifying and they think a white head will attract a different class of parent. Governors are enormously powerful and largely unchecked. If they want to get rid of a head, they can.

I’ve also spoken to a lot of heads of colour who have decided to move on because the governors have made their position so uncomfortable. I know of cases where the heads have chosen to leave despite having really good Ofsted reports, because the governors have made ill-founded criticisms then gone off on fishing expeditions among the teaching staff, to find other faults to lay at the head’s door. The problem is that these heads have had to sign non-disclosure agreements, so they’re not allowed to talk about it.

Anne Hamilton, headteacher at the Evelina hospital school, LondonAnne Hamilton. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian© Provided by The Guardian Anne Hamilton. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

When I was doing my national professional qualification for headship (NPQH), my mentor – a white head – told me she didn’t know where I could get a headship. Now, why did this white woman imply that I would never be a head? I had got on to this prestigious course and she had been chosen as my mentor. It was her role to give me everything I needed to do a good job when I became a head, not to tell me to give up.

If I’d listened to her, I would still be a deputy head instead of a head entering her 10th year with a number of outstanding Ofsted reports behind her. Even as things were, it took me at least 15 years longer to be a head than it would have done, had I not been black.

When I was a teacher, the leadership of every school I taught in, bar one, was entirely white – as was the teaching staff. I found this meant my voice wasn’t heard when discussions about the school were made and I wasn’t offered the opportunities to progress in my career that my caucasian teacher peers were.

I had to keep moving schools to move up and avoid becoming like so many colleagues of colour, who have got stuck as teachers when their ambition was to go further.

Becoming a head hasn’t been the end of the problems. I’m convinced my race has a big part to play in that.

It’s never explicit racism but as a person of colour, I’m attuned to the micro-aggressions: the signs of the lack of respect, the lack of trust. The subtle undermining, challenging, second-guessing and constant questioning. The requirement for me to apply pressure to get anything done.

Ross Ashcroft, headteacher, Cherry Oak primary school, Birmingham

One clear example of unconscious bias is the number of times I have turned up to greet a visitor in reception in a suit and tie, and they presume I’m a teaching assistant.

Almost every non-white leader of education I know, has had the same experience numerous times. But I don’t know of a single white leaders in education who have ever been mistaken for a teaching assistant; not once.

I’ve been accused many times of being too aggressive, when I know that I haven’t been but that it’s an easy racial slur to throw at a person of colour. I’ve even had an executive head say to me, when I didn’t agree with him about something, “This is why your kind don’t make it in leadership roles.”

Going for headship interviews as a candidate of colour is a difficult and upsetting experience. I’ve often been told that I didn’t get the job because the governing board said I “wasn’t the best fit” or that “they weren’t sure whether they could work with me” despite me scoring top marks in all the tasks and having no areas identified for improvement in the interviews.

I’ve spent pretty much my whole career in pastoral, behavioural and safeguarding. It wasn’t what I necessarily wanted but being nudged or pushed towards these specialisms is a common theme among teachers of colour, especially black men. I can only assume that’s because BAME men are inherently thought of as being intimidating and confrontational. It means we often end up being glorified bouncers rather than teachers.

Because we’re given these non-academic specialisms, the knock-on effect is that we can hit a brick wall when applying for headships because most senior leadership roles require specialist experience in curriculum areas.

Appearance is also a hard one for teachers of colour. Very early in my career I was asked by my manager if I thought having canerows in my hair was “appropriate or professional”. These were professionally done, in straight lines and not patterned. I asked another member of staff who was also a teacher, with bright pink hair, a nose piercing and several visible tattoos, if management had ever asked her about professionalism. She said that they hadn’t, ever.

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THE NATIONALITY AND BORDERS BILL: BENEFITTING PEOPLE SMUGGLERS AT THE EXPENSE OF REFUGEES

“On Thursday the 9th of December, the Nationality and Borders bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. The Nationality and Borders bill that Patel introduced in July 2021[1] aims to stop the criminal gangs those who smuggle people to the UK via irregular routes. In particular, the bill aims to stop irregular channel crossings from occurring, which have risen sharply since 2019.[2] The passing of the bill follows months of debate and criticism. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, for example debated the new plan for the immigration system at the Justice and Home affairs’ hearing on the 27th of October 2021[3]. In addition to the need to stop smugglers, Patel emphasized the need to stop those who “elbow” others aside by paying people smugglers to come to the UK.[4] However, in this blog post I will argue that the Nationality and Borders bill will not significantly impact the people smugglers business models. The bill will instead make the people smugglers’ business more profitable. I will also argue the bill will push people into attempting more dangerous routes, which will result in the demand for the people smugglers to increase.  

By proclaiming those who arrive in the UK to be ‘economic migrants’, the government is misrepresenting people arriving in the UK by irregular routes. Patel has insisted that 70% of those who came to the UK via irregular routes are single male economic migrants and are therefore not genuine asylum seekers.[5] However, there is no evidence to support Patel’s claim, and there is also no evidence to suggest that those who can afford to pay people smugglers are not vulnerable. But we do have evidence that almost 70% of those who come to the UK are likely to be vulnerable people. According to the Refugee Council [6], 2/3rds of those entered the UK via irregular routes have lodged asylum claims and have been successful, accounting for appeals. In addition according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford [7], “a majority of asylum claims (including those of people who arrived in the UK by small boat) are ultimately successful” and according to the Home Office’s own immigration figures between year 2017-2019 almost 59% of those who claimed asylum in the UK were successful in their claim.[8] The Home Secretary was asked on the 17th of November, to correct the record by several members of the House of Commons, but she refused to do so.[9]  It is also worth mentioning that asylum seekers are not allowed to work nor take any paid jobs while waiting for the Home Office to make a decision on their cases[10]. The waiting time is on average between 6 months to a year – thought it can be even longer. Therefore, claiming that they are economic migrants makes little sense given that there is no economic opportunity for them as they are legally not allowed to work or make any money for a significant period of time: 

The current government position is that, generally, asylum seekers are not allowed to work. They can only apply for permission to work if: 

they have waited over 12 months for an initial decision on their asylum claim or for a response to a further submission for asylum; and
they are not considered responsible for the delay in decision-making.
It is therefore incorrect to simply label those arriving in the UK to claim asylum, whether by boat in the Channel or otherwise, as being ‘illegal’ economic migrants. 

The Nationality and Borders bill also aims to introduce tougher sentences for people smugglers, from a previous maximum of 50 years in prison to life in prison, with the aim of discouraging people-smugglers from engaging in the activity[11]. However, the likely effect of this change is that people-smugglers will charge people more because they will be forced to take more risks. [12] As a result of this risk, traveling to the UK through irregular means would become more expensive, rather than impossible. Indeed, the position of the Joint Council of the Welfare of Migrants is that people smugglers are the only people who will be celebrating this bill because they will charge more to vulnerable people, and more people will be needing them in order to get to the UK.[13] These arguments are supported by research in multiple border regions. According to a study in 2007 by Cornelius, and Salehyan on the border between US-Mexico,[14] for example, tightening borders and increase surveillance will not deter illegal entry nor stopping people smugglers from smuggling people to the country. The study showed how South American migrants were forced into taking more dangerous routes to enter the US. As a result, between 1996 to 2006 there were more than 4,065 known migrants’ fatalities – mostly caused by dehydration and hypothermia as routes became longer and more dangerous. Second, although the use of people smugglers was widespread in the 1980s, the use of professional people smugglers rose in 1993. ‘Coyotes’ were used to pick up migrants because of the difficult routes, the people smugglers were started issuing more fraudulent documents, and most importantly the people smugglers were tripling their fee for their service.[15]  The strategy in the Nationality and Borders bill is pretty similar to what USA has tried years ago which, according to the study above, failed to deter either illegal entry or stop people smugglers from their facilitation.  

Imposing tougher restrictions on one type of border crossing may decrease numbers of crossing on those routes, but it will increase the number of crossings through other channels. This is clear in the case study of the US / Mexico border but also for sea borders. According to a study by UNHCR, for example, the number of land crossing between Turkey and Greece for the year 2012 were 30,438. After 2012, Greece increased its border patrol by 1881 officers to police the land crossing between Turkey and Greece and built a border fence along the land border with Turkey. As a result, the number of land crossings for the year 2014 decreased dramatically to only 1,903. However, the number of sea crossing increased from 3,646 in 2012 to 43,518 in 2014 (see Figure 1) . The effect of these bordering efforts in terms of total crossings was non-existent, yet it forced people into attempting riskier journeys. Indeed, the UNHCR the report stated that there were “more deaths at sea in the Mediterranean recorded in 2016 than ever before. 5,096 refugees and migrants were reported dead or missing at sea last year”  and according to the UNHCR as a result of there being no safe route “people continued to move but undertook more diversified and dangerous journeys, often relying on smugglers because of the lack of accessible legal ways to Europe.”[16]  

Patel understands these policies are unlikely to deter illegal entry. For example, she admitted in the Justice and Home Affairs Committee hearing that “when you are trying to clamp down in one area, you see displacement elsewhere” and she also said, “we are all grown enough to understand that.” [17] It is clear from the Greek example that, when you restrict access to routes, there will be an increase of usage of other routes. At the same hearing Patel also stated that “part of the issue [is that] we see the number of channel crossings has increased from the end of 2019-2021, this is because the other routes like lorries and flights routes are quite restricted due to Covid.” In other words, closing off current routes will – according to Patel herself – likely result in smugglers shifting to alternative (likely more dangerous) routes. The government’s own impact assessment [18] stated the measures in the bill to discourage refugees to claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive, and the objective to deter illegal entry and stopping people endangering their lives by taking these risky journeys is ‘limited’. 

There are also strong concerns about the workability of the new immigration plan. The bill requires significant international co-operation and agreement which, following Brexit especially, is not available at the present time.[19]  In just this year, for example, 25,700 people entered the UK through the English Channel by small boats and only 5 have been removed from the UK. This is because of challenge that the UK has faced as a result of the Brexit deal. The UK is currently struggling to return asylum seekers to any European country given that the Dublin Regulation III no longer applies to the UK. At the moment and in the future, it is very unlikely to see any agreement between EU and the UK to allow the UK to return people back to their countries. According to a report by The Independent, turning boats back to France and removing those who are coming via irregular routes to safe European countries – which form a main part of the bill – are unworkable because there are no bilateral agreements between the EU and the UK.  

The bill also requires internal cooperation within UK institutions, which is currently also unlikely. For example, Frank Ferguson from the Crown Prosecution Service, stated[22] “It is right that those who exploit and profit from the desperation of others – or put lives at risk through controlling or driving overcrowded small boats or confined lorries – are considered for prosecution.” But in term of asylum seekers and refugees Ferguson mentioned, “we also have a duty to consider the public interest in prosecuting passengers, who often have no choice about their method of travel, for offences that can usually be better dealt with by removal.”  

In the end, the Nationality and Border Bill is unlikely to dismantle people smugglers’ business models, instead it will do exactly the opposite. The bill also pushes more people into the hands of people smugglers. The people smugglers will also charge more to vulnerable people because they will take more risks. Shutting down one route will open other routes for people who need to come to the UK, but these are likely to be even more dangerous than those currently used. If the government really wants to stop people smugglers and stop people from attempting dangerous journeys across the channel, it should instead provide safe legal routes for those seeking asylum in the UK. 


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Distraught father of nurse Petra Srncova, 32, demands answers

‘Brilliant and dedicated’ children’s hospital worker Petra Srncova, 32, was last seen after she finished a shift on November 28.

Police were called to a park minutes away from her London home on Sunday after children out playing discovered her body. 

Scotland Yard said Czech-born Miss Srncova’s death was ‘unexplained’ but initial inquiries suggested it was not suspicious.

Her distraught father Petr last night demanded answers and questioned if officers had done enough to find his daughter. He tearfully told a TV station in the Czech Republic that London police claimed ‘they were doing everything they could… but I didn’t believe it’. He added: ‘They reassured me that the 20-member team is dealing with it and they are doing everything they can to find out the truth.’

He said he had been told there were no signs of an attack on his daughter’s body, but a post-mortem examination is yet to be completed. He added that he had not eaten for ten days with worry and was now braced to attend his daughter’s funeral and escort her ‘on her last trip’.

Martin Hosek, of the Czech embassy in London, urged police to continue investigating what happened. 

Visiting the park in Camberwell to lay flowers, he said: ‘I’m here to pay tribute because it’s always very tragic when a young and promising woman is found [dead], especially in a foreign country. We hope the police will thoroughly investigate the case because the reason for the death is still unclear. We have full trust in the police.’

Miss Srncova left the Evelina hospital in central London at 7.45pm on November 28. Police said she withdrew money from a cashpoint before travelling home by bus and was last seen in the area at 8.22pm.

Her flatmate last night said she arrived home, but headed back out after taking a bath.

He assumed she may have taken a last-minute trip or was staying with friends. But he added that she had been ‘withdrawn and suffering from several health problems’. A concerned hospital colleague raised the alarm on December 3 after Miss Srncova failed to turn up for work.

aying tribute, an NHS worker said on Facebook: ‘You were brilliant, dedicated and skilled and we wish it had been a different ending.’

Neighbours said Miss Srncova moved into the block of flats almost three years ago.

Her MP, Labour’s Harriet Harman, also laid flowers at the scene and said: ‘It’s just very sad. Whatever happened, a young woman has lost her life and it’s a cause for absolute sadness and grief for her family – and a cause for concern for the local community.’

A man arrested in connection with Miss Srncova’s disappearance last week was released on bail over the weekend pending further inquiries.

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Treat us like human beings, say Afghan refugees who have received lack of support from authorities

Hamid Hakimi, a former interpreter for the British military, says he fears for his pregnant wife who is acutely depressed because of the isolation they feel in the remote part of Scotland.

Some newly-arrived Afghan refugees regret fleeing the Taliban and certain death because of a lack of support from UK authorities, i has learned.

People who fled Afghanistan amid the takeover by the extremist militant group say their fears for loved ones who they had to leave behind has also made starting a new life in Britain extremely difficult.

i has been told by several Afghan refugees who worked for the British government and military in the country that they have been moved to unsuitable accommodation or left to languish in bridging hotels.

One couple, who are expecting a baby, were moved at short notice to the remote town of Wick in the Scottish Highlands, which does not have a mosque or a halal food store.

Hamid Hakimi, 26, a former interpreter for the British armed forces, said he is having to take a costly two and half hour bus journey to Inverness to stock up on halal food once a month.

But his main concern is for his wife, Maryam Orfani, 19, who is 12 weeks pregnant and suffering with acute depression which she says is because she feels isolated from friends and family who were also evacuated to the UK and are now at least an eight-hour journey away.

“One week I took her to the A&E department at a hospital three nights in a row. She fell over, she wasn’t eating or drinking, she was dehydrated and they gave her liquids,” he said.

Still struggling to keep food down after her hospitalisation, Ms Orfani has lost 1.5st since arriving in the UK despite her pregnancy.

“I’m scared of what will happen to my child if I continue to live in that situation, I really need peer support,” said Ms Orfani. “There is no one around me [aside from my husband] to speak to or share my concerns with and this is giving me such a difficult time, it’s giving me depression.”

A Government spokesperson said:

“The Government has undertaken the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety.

“There is a huge cross- government effort underway to secure permanent homes for Afghan families to allow them to settle and rebuild their lives, and to ensure those still temporarily accommodated in hotels have access to healthcare, education, essential items, benefits such as Universal Credit and employment opportunities.”

“Councils have been given integration funding of £20,520 per person over three years to support those starting a new life in the UK, with additional funding for children entering education and to ensure people can access healthcare.”

Compounding her mental health is the fact that her father – who worked for the coalition forces – and other family members are stuck in Afghanistan, frequently moving homes to evade retribution from the Taliban.

They have attempted to contact Highland Council about being moved from their current home, which is so damp that the wallpaper they put up has fallen off, to another local authority.

Despite their efforts, including a letter from Ms Orfani’s midwife to the council stating that relocating them to somewhere where they have peer support would reduce both her and her unborn child’s “vulnerability”, they claim the council has rejected to support such a move.

Instead, they have allegedly been told to use their own money to move elsewhere, but Mr Hakimi cited the lack of prospects in the town. He has attempted to apply for a handful of available jobs, including as a temporary Christmas worker at Tesco, but has so far been rejected.

Despite the likelihood that he would have been killed by the Taliban because of his work with the British military, Mr Hakimi said the couple had at one point unsuccessfully begged to be sent back to Kabul.

“In Afghanistan, we might die in one year or in a month, but in Wick we die every day,” he said.

“We helped the British government, that’s why they brought us here. We put our lives in danger and our families lives in danger. Then we lost everything because we worked for them. They should treat us like human beings.”

In response to the claims about their housing situation, Highland Council said it did not comment on individual cases.

Another former interpreter, who was also brought to the UK under the government’s Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), said he had been told he and his family will be moved from affordable temporary housing in London to private-rented accommodation.

He fears this will swallow up the majority of their allowance until he is able to find work, with £240 a month currently going towards energy bills because they were placed on an unfixed tariff. Despite trying to contact a caseworker – which are assigned from councils to refugees who have been moved into the community – to express his concerns, he said they had been “unresponsive”.

“If I knew I’d end up in the situation I’m in now, I would not have come here. I would rather stay there with my family, be it that the Taliban would kill us, because being here is difficult every minute,” he said. “I spend all of my time thinking about my future, and the future of my children.”

In response, his local authority said refugees were given priority for council homes, alongside other groups, but a lack of stock meant that some would be placed into temporary accommodation before being able to access social housing.

Nasima Karimi, 33, a former HR officer at the British embassy in Kabul, said she had been living with her mother in a bridging hotel since arriving in the UK on 25 August.

Having yet to be assigned a caseworker, she said she did not know who to turn to with her concerns and had no knowledge of when she might be moved into longer-term accommodation.

Her brother and sister were not evacuated, despite the house they shared with Nasima and her mother previously being attacked by the Taliban and the threat they face for their indirect association with the British government.

“I’m thankful for being evacuated, but the safety doesn’t mean I’m ok. We do not feel good. We have a lot of worries and anxieties for my siblings,” she said.

“My mother is ill, I want to get a job and pursue my education but now I have to look after my mother alone because no-one else is here to help me. I don’t have any opportunities here.”

Refugee Action said it was aware of Afghans being sent to “places that do not easily support their integration”, as well as a lack of support being offered to those in bridging hotels.

“Refugees need to be matched carefully to places and environments where they have family links, friendship and employment prospects,” said Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding.

“The Government is not investing enough in the support to people in hotels, understanding their needs and finding the right new homes for them. This will inevitably lead to isolation and distress for the families involved.”

Refugee Council said the speed at which evacuation efforts took place before and after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, as well as the sheer number of refugees, meant some considerations may not be being made when matching people to homes.

“At the moment, [the Home Office] has got thousands of people in hotels, they’re trying to move them into local authorities as quickly as they can and the main consideration is matching the size of the family unit to the size of available accommodation,” said head of advocacy, Andy Hewitt.

A government spokesperson said: “The Government has undertaken the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety.

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The UK still isn’t honouring its debt to Afghans left behind to the mercy of the Taliban

The UK government’s chaotic handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan in August has been laid bare by the withering testimony of whistleblower Raphael Marshall to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab faces fresh criticism that he reacted too slowly to the crisis, though he has today hit back on the BBC that the hours he spent considering cases of Afghans was in fact a “swift turnaround” given the need to balance security and humanitarian needs.

But it’s not Raab’s delays back in the summer that are concerning many people right now, it’s the ongoing delays to the launch of the promised Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which was meant to help 5,000 people to come to the UK within a year. So far not a single one has, because the scheme hasn’t even started.

It’s worth noting the reasons ex-Foreign Office staffer Marshall gave to MPs for why he took the brave step of exposing the dysfunction he had witnessed: he didn’t expect internal reviews would produce meaningful reform of crisis response structures or of “the resettlement of Afghan friends of the UK”.

Remember that at the height of the crisis, as it was accused of abandoning many vulnerable people, the Government unveiled the new resettlement scheme to prove it had a longer term commitment to those left behind. It promised to bring “up to 20,000 people to come to the UK over a period of years”, many of them women, LGBT people and democracy campaigners.

Home Office sources insist that the scheme will be “coming soon” and that the UK is further ahead than almost any other country, many of which have offered no settlement scheme at all. But with claims that some of those left behind have already been murdered for links to Britain, many will think a sense of urgency is missing.

Critics point out that Priti Patel’s new Nationalities and Borders Bill makes it even harder for Afghans who feel they can’t wait for ‘safe routes’ to attempt other ways to get to the UK. Which is why there is an onus on getting this new route from the Whitehall design stage and into reality.

As it happens, prisons minister Victoria Atkins, who was actually given the title “Minister for Afghan Resettlement” this summer, will be in the Commons today to update MPs.

But she is set to be delivering a statement on the Ministry of Justice’s drugs strategy for British jails, not on the continuing misery of those left behind in Afghanistan. Many of whom believe that Taliban rule means their country is itself now a living prison.

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Biden returns land to Texas family after it was seized by Trump for border wall

The land of a family in Texas that was seized earlier this year for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border will be returned by the Joe Biden administration.

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Biden returns land to Texas family after it was seized by Trump for border wall

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar  4 hrs agoLike14 Comments|21


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The land of a family in Texas that was seized earlier this year for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border will be returned by the Joe Biden administration.a body of water: File: An unfinished section of a border wall that former US president Donald Trump tried to build  - AFP via Getty Images© AFP via Getty Images

File: An unfinished section of a border wall that former US president Donald Trump tried to build- AFP via Getty Images

For several years, the Cavazos family has been fighting the federal government for their land, passed on to them before the Rio Grande river became an international border, in South Texas.

The Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit representing the family, tweeted on Tuesday that their client Eloisa Cavazos had her land returned “after fighting against the government’s seizure and border wall construction since 2018.”

“Now that we have successfully stopped the construction of a needless and wasteful border wall on their property, Ms Cavazos and her family will be able to continue their quiet and fulfilling life beside the Rio Grande,” the group added.

The family had battled against the Bush and Obama administrations to preserve their 6.5-acre property, but when Donald Trump pushed to erect a border wall, the Cavazos family delayed court proceedings.

They were hoping to end a years-long fight during Mr Biden’s tenure after he pledged to not construct the wall.

In April a federal judge ruled that the administration could take “immediate possession” of their land.

Months later, however, the US government decided to return the Cavazos family their land after reaching an agreement.

“I would like to thank my cousin, Rey Anzaldua, my brother, Alfredo Cavazos, and my sister, Baudilia Rodriguez for their continued support and tireless efforts through the process of redeeming our family’s land these past four years resulting in this unbelievably positive outcome,” Ms Cavazos said in a statement to CNN.

Mr Biden suspended the construction of the former president’s border wall project upon taking office.

He plans to return more than $2bn (£1.5bn) that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall.

“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the Office of Management and Budget had said in June.

The US government has built walls and other barriers along the 3,200-km-long international border for decades to eliminate some of the easier routes of avoiding checkpoints.

Mr Trump, during his tenure, set aside almost $15bn (£11.3bn) for the construction of a “virtually impenetrable” wall.

Despite facing pushback from rights activists, the Republican president had built 725km of the wall, moving quickly and waiving requirements for environmental reviews and mediation.

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MPs reject bid to stop ‘pushback’ of migrant boats from endangering lives

MPs have voted down a bid by parliament’s human rights committee to make it illegal for immigration officers to attempt to “push back” migrant boats in the English Channel in a way which would endanger lives.

The pushback proposal, which would involve Border Force boats physically turning back dinghies heading from France to the UK, is one of a set of hardline measures in Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill designed to make it tougher for asylum seekers to make their claims in Britain.

Efforts by MPs to tone down the bill failed on Tuesday evening, and it is now set to complete its passage through the House of Commons on Wednesday.

An amendment banning the use of maritime enforcement powers “in a manner that would endanger lives at sea”, tabled by the chair of the human rights committee Harriet Harman, was defeated by a margin of 235 votes to 313.

And MPs rejected by 233-318 a second amendment which would have stopped Ms Patel from prosecuting and jailing for up to four years refugees who arrive in the UK by illicit means.

Other amendments were not put to a vote, including calls for safe routes for asylum seekers to reach the UK or to create a new “humanitarian visa” allowing them to enter Britain from France for the purpose of having their claims processed.

After clearing the Commons on Wednesday, the controversial bill – which also includes new powers to strip individuals of their British nationality without informing them – faces further challenge in the House of Lords.

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Barbados to build slavery museum after cutting ties with British monarchy

Barbados is to build a transatlantic slavery museum with the largest collection of British slave records outside the UK, the island’s prime minister has announced days after the country cut ties with the monarchy to become a republic.

The facility, designed by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, will include a research institute dedicated to telling the story of slavery and its global impact.

It is expected to be situated at Newton Slave Burial Ground in Christ Church, just outside of the capital Bridgetown, which is the largest and earliest slave burial ground discovered in Barbados. Sir David will also design a memorial commemorating these victims.

Earlier this week, Prince Charles acknowledged the “atrocity of slavery” in speech given at the inauguration of Barbados’ new president Dame Sandra Mason, who replaced the Queen as head of state.

Announcing the plans for the museum, prime minister Mia Mottley said: “This week Barbados set out on a new part of the journey. The most important gift we can give of our people and our children at this time is that sense of confidence and understanding of who we are.”

Describing it as a “labour of love”, Ms Mottley said the project is scheduled for completion by 2025 at the latest and expected to be partially funded by entities beyond the Barbados government.

The museum will include public displays of original manuscripts, legers and photographs and other materials along with a large climate-controlled open storage section, major events spaces, with anticipated research partnerships between the Caribbean’s University of the West Indies (UWI) with US academic institutions Harvard University and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

Ingrid Thompson, chief archivist at the Barbados Archives Department, said: “As we engage with these records and unearth the many stories in the current format and future state, it is believed that on the heels of republicanism a new national consciousness will emerge among our people which can only be done to the benefit of all.”

The department holds slavery records dating back to 1635 which will soon be digitised for preservation purposes.

By tapping into the heritage economy, it is hoped that this will lead to economic development, creation of expansive job opportunities for Barbadians in sectors ranging from cultural tourism to technological innovation.

Sir David said: “This project is really at the heart of why I was inspired to become an architect. That stories, structures and monuments that really define our worlds, which have been devoid of stories of people of the diaspora of Africa, need in the 21st century to emerge.”

Dr Kevin Farmer, deputy director of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, said: “This allows us a space to pay homage to our ancestors, to acknowledge their sacrifice as part of an invidious system of forced migration that changed the world and their enduring legacy for future generations is of critical importance to the continued construction of national identity in this age of republic.”

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Barbados to build slavery museum after cutting ties with British monarchy

Barbados is to build a transatlantic slavery museum with the largest collection of British slave records outside the UK, the island’s prime minister has announced days after the country cut ties with the monarchy to become a republic.

The facility, designed by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, will include a research institute dedicated to telling the story of slavery and its global impact.

It is expected to be situated at Newton Slave Burial Ground in Christ Church, just outside of the capital Bridgetown, which is the largest and earliest slave burial ground discovered in Barbados. Sir David will also design a memorial commemorating these victims.

Earlier this week, Prince Charles acknowledged the “atrocity of slavery” in speech given at the inauguration of Barbados’ new president Dame Sandra Mason, who replaced the Queen as head of state.

Announcing the plans for the museum, prime minister Mia Mottley said:

“This week Barbados set out on a new part of the journey. The most important gift we can give of our people and our children at this time is that sense of confidence and understanding of who we are.”

Describing it as a “labour of love”, Ms Mottley said the project is scheduled for completion by 2025 at the latest and expected to be partially funded by entities beyond the Barbados government.

The museum will include public displays of original manuscripts, legers and photographs and other materials along with a large climate-controlled open storage section, major events spaces, with anticipated research partnerships between the Caribbean’s University of the West Indies (UWI) with US academic institutions Harvard University and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

Ingrid Thompson, chief archivist at the Barbados Archives Department, said: “As we engage with these records and unearth the many stories in the current format and future state, it is believed that on the heels of republicanism a new national consciousness will emerge among our people which can only be done to the benefit of all.”

The department holds slavery records dating back to 1635 which will soon be digitised for preservation purposes.

By tapping into the heritage economy, it is hoped that this will lead to economic development, creation of expansive job opportunities for Barbadians in sectors ranging from cultural tourism to technological innovation.

Sir David said: “This project is really at the heart of why I was inspired to become an architect. That stories, structures and monuments that really define our worlds, which have been devoid of stories of people of the diaspora of Africa, need in the 21st century to emerge.”

Dr Kevin Farmer, deputy director of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, said: “This allows us a space to pay homage to our ancestors, to acknowledge their sacrifice as part of an invidious system of forced migration that changed the world and their enduring legacy for future generations is of critical importance to the continued construction of national identity in this age of republic.”

Read more

Advertising migrant Channel crossings on social media ‘should be a specific crime’

Cruel people traffickers who advertise to would-be migrants on social media should be targeted under a crackdown, Labour says tonight

The Government’s plan for tackling the smuggling gangs sending people on perilous journeys across the English Channel should include moves to stop them promoting voyages on sites like Facebook and Tik-Tok, ministers will be told.

Labour has tabled an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill, which returns to the Commons on Tuesday, that would “criminalise those who promote the deadly crossings online”.

It would make it an offence to advertise, including on social media, “services designed to facilitate these dangerous journeys”.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “If the Government is serious about tackling the criminal gangs that are profiting from putting people’s lives at risk, it must not keep ignoring the way they are luring vulnerable people in online.

“Sophisticated criminal gangs are using social media to advertise perilous crossings for their own profit and the policing and intelligence response is failing to keep up.

“The Government should back Labour’s amendment this week to criminalise those who promote and glamourise these dangerous crossings online.”

When Theresa May was Prime Minister in 2018, she told EU chiefs that people traffickers were using Facebook to sell desperate migrants trips to Europe.

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