Legal and policy updates August 2011
In this update:
- Commentaries highlighting the inconsistencies and ommisions in four UK Border Agency country specific Operational Guidance Notes;
- Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) launches new website;
- New UKBA Country of Origin Information reports on China and Zimbabwe, and Operational Guidance Note on Sudan;
- Unlawful detention case;
1) Commentaries on UKBA Operational Guidance Notes
The Still Human Still Here coalition has commissioned the Asylum Research Consultancy to produce commentaries on UKBA Operational Guidance Notes (OGN). The first four commentaries – on Afghanistan, Iran, Jamaica and Sri Lanka – were published this month.
The commentaries identify inconsistencies between the available country of origin information (COI) and the conclusions reached by the OGNs. It should be noted that the commentaries themselves should not be submitted as evidence in asylum cases. They should instead be used as a tool for identifying relevant Country of Origin Information.
The commentary suggests that several of the UKBA’s conclusions contradict the available COI: that “there is general sufficiency of protection [from violence] in Kabul”, for example. In other matters too, such as the internal relocation of refugees, the Border Agency is found to have not fully examined the available evidence. As well as this, some important issues – the situation of child refugees and the prevalence of blood feuds in Afghanistan – have been omitted from the OGN.
The commentary notes that several definitions are left incomplete in the OGN on Iran. For instance, it fails to mention that family members of perceived political opponents are at risk of political persecution. Likewise, although “Christian converts” are said to be at risk of persecution, “Christians” are deemed not to be at risk. The commentary also points out that the OGN’s conclusion that Kurds do not face a real risk of persecution for simply being Kurdish is not substantiated by evidence. Once more, the particular dangers faced by children were not considered.
The commentary provides evidence that contradicts the Border Agency’s contention that internal relocation is a reasonable alternative for most Jamaican asylum seekers. The UKBA’s coverage of issues such as LGBT persecution, domestic violence and gang violence is found to be insufficient.
The OGN on Sri Lanka reporting on the persecution of Tamils is found to be insufficient by the commentary. UKBA is also accused of reaching “vague and overly positive” conclusions, such as that “humanitarian agencies agree that the security situation with regard to paramilitaries has improved.” Some matters, like the return of failed asylum seekers and prison conditions, have not been considered in appropriate depth, and any discussion of LGBT rights has been completely omitted.
2) The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (The ILPA) has a new website
ILPA is a membership organisation of legal professionals working in all areas of immigration, asylum and nationality law. Its purpose is to improve the quality of legal advice and representation in these fields of law. They have a great new website.
If you are looking for legal advice on immigration, asylum or nationality law, the new ILPA website might help you find it. Although ILPA does not give legal advice, the website does have a list of legal professionals qualified to give legal advice. Just click on ‘Find Immigration Advice’, then ‘search the list now’.
The website also holds an extensive record of ILPA publications, information sheets, legal updates and policy briefings.
3. Country of Origin Information reports from UKBA on China and Zimbabwe, and UKBA Operational Guidance Note on Sudan
Summaries and links to the full reports are published on the NCADC World webpages. It is worth noting that a recent report by the Chief Inspector of UKBA highlighted – yet again – some serious problems in the use/misuse/underuse of country information by UKBA in determining asylum claims. Read about it here at the Free Movement blog, written by a top UK immigration barrister.
4. Unlawful detention case
Sino, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court), 25 August 2011.
The claimant, an Algerian asylum seeker, had been in immigration detention for 4 years and 11 months. The High Court judge considered whether during this time he had been unlawfully detained, and whether he was entitled to damages. Since November 2006 the Secretary of State had been trying to obtain an emergency travel document from the Algerian authorities so that the claimant could be removed.
The judge considered that when the claimant was detained there was no “realistic prospect of obtaining [the document] within a reasonable period.” Even if this was not clear at the time of detention, it should have become obvious to the secretary of state as the removal failed to progress. The judge accepted, therefore, that the claimant is entitled to damages for a period, if not all, of his detention.