Free Movement

Free Movement


The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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By Rock Cohen

I was asked by a Polish media outlet for comment in this Boris Johnson piece on renegotiation of EU free movement rules and the idea of quotas. Here’s what I said:

A quota for free movement of workers around Europe is impossible under the fundamental treaties of the European Union and would not be “free” movement at all. Renegotiation of one of the four fundamental freedoms that were the founding principles of the Union — people, goods, services and capital — is highly unlikely, and all the more so given that the UK’s governing party, the Conservatives, opted out of alliance with other centre right parties in Europe. Boris Johnson is right to say that the British electorate were misled to think that migration could be drastically reduced but he is guilty of a similar deception in suggesting that free movement of workers is negotiable.

As with the Conservatives’ “human rights plan” it is perhaps more accurate to this as a deliberate strategy for divorce.


The Home Office have started giving directions for the removal of failed asylum seekers to Mogadishu on Turkish Airline flights via Istanbul.

Anyone given such removal directions might ask the Home Office to reconsider whether they risk violating their human rights in the light of the announcement by Al Shabaab on 29.12.2013 that Somalis who have returned to their homeland from abroad “have been taught garbage and sins, and have lost [their] religion and are being used [to spread evil] ” and so “will be killed and fought against in the same manner” that al-Shabaab fights against the Somali government.  “They are working for the infidels, and since they are working for the infidels, they are the same as the infidels they are working for as far as we are concerned,” said Al-Shabaab commander Ali Mohamed Hussein, known as Ali Jesto. Continue Reading…

Richmond Mags dedicated immigration hearing centre from April

There are three courts at Richmond Mags being used for immigration hearings now but all five will apparently be used for immigration hearings from April. Meanwhile, the family court at Richmond is apparently moving to Hatton Cross, which has been seriously underused for immigration cases in recent months despite the growing waiting times for immigration appeals.

UPDATE: experience so far suggests that car users will be attempting to push their way to the front of the Richmond lists because parking here is not free. Be warned, anyone does that to me and I will make them *eat* their car keys.

Free Movement

I’m away until 20 June. This sign, down at the local harbour, says it all.

I’m not a big fan of this meme but I know a lot of people do find them funny…

Personally, I’m also a lot more defeatist than the maker of this parody. To my mind, the more liberals and lawyers make a fuss the more this enhances Grayling’s career prospects. Whether or not every aspect of the changes becomes reality, even trying strengthens his strongman position within his party. Ironically, perhaps the best hope for a reprieve for the justice system is that he gets promoted as soon as possible.

Recently installed outside RCJ

Recently installed outside RCJ

Sir John Thomas has given a further warning to solicitors and barristers acting in urgent injunction applications. The case is R (on the application of Rehman) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWHC 1351 (Admin). No names are named this time, at least not so far:

In the present case the explanation given for everything being done at the last moment is one where those concerned, following counsel’s clear and cogent advice, did try to satisfy the obligations of disclosure. It is deeply regrettable that because of the way in which that firm was organised and the commitments of counsel that the application was made late. We take this to be one of those rare occasions where something has gone wrong and we propose to take no further action. The other two matters we will deal with as soon as convenient.

The warning in this case is that where an application is made during court office hours, it will always be dealt with by the daytime duty judge. A further application to the out of hours judge should not be made. In this case the application was made at 4.30pm on the date of departure of a charter flight. The Claimant, solicitors and counsel must simply wait to hear:

We have been told by counsel that he did not know that this court always deals with applications submitted within court hours through the judge who is dealing with them in court hours. We wish to correct that misapprehension, because if it is not within the knowledge of counsel as experienced as he, it must be corrected. If the solicitors have not heard, they must wait. The court cannot be expected, if an application is filed as late as it was in this case, to respond immediately, but the solicitors must wait for that response before applying to the out-of-hours judge.

I confess this was news to me as well.

Given the flood of applications that accompanies many charter flights, it seems quite possible that a daytime duty judge will simply not be able to deal with every application before take off. This apparently absolute bar on approaching the out of hours judge could conceivably lead to cases simply not being dealt with in time.

A few weeks ago David Cameron suggested that private landlords should be required to check the immigration status of tenants. Now, lo and behold, the measure is to be included in a new Immigration Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech. This such a Bad Idea it is difficult to know where to start to explain why. Perhaps the clearest way to put it is to say that it is Good News for we immigration lawyers, and therefore Very Bad News for everyone else.

Employers who employ immigrants who do not possess permission to work are already given criminal or civil penalties if they fail to check their employee’s immigration status and keep copies of the relevant documents. The UK Border Agency (or whatever it is called this week) issues lists of defaulting employers, presumably in order to name and shame them. Fines remain uncollected, though, as the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency revealed in a report last year. It is almost as if the fines aren’t the point…

The effects of this pernicious policy are difficult to ascertain and I am unaware of good quality research on the issue. Certainly none seems to have been commissioned by the Government. Evidence-based policy-making remains a New Labour pipe dream. There are reports of jobseekers from ethnic minorities finding that they have to change their name to get an interview and the policy must surely have made employers nervous of employing anyone who looks or sounds like they might be an immigrant. One black British man bravely made a stand against this snooping and was sacked for his troubles.

Like other immigration lawyers I have drafted several legal opinions on whether a particular person does or does not have permission to work. The UK Border Agency often misunderstand the effect of their own laws and the problem of ‘magically’* extending leave to enter or remain under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 is renowned. Immigration status really is not easy to ascertain, even for immigration lawyers, and there is even an odd mechanism whereby the UK Border Agency can retrospectively declare that you were here illegally even though you thought you were – and certainly looked like you were – legally present.

And now, with David Cameron seemingly playing the role of Gary Cooper in High Noon, private landlords will also be deputised as agents of border control. Will there also be civil penalties of up to £10,000? Most of the employers targeted by the UK Border Agency seem to have been very small ethnic minority businesses anyway, not the giants who can afford such fines. Will there be an equivalent provision allowing criminal charges to be brought against a landlord who knowingly rents to a person without lawful immigration status? Will defaulting landlords be subject to similar ‘naming and shaming’? Will landlords be subjected to UK Border Agency inspections and raids to ensure they are complying with their state imposed immigration status snooping, as already are small businesses? There is no detail yet to the proposed Bill so these questions cannot yet be answered.

There has been speculation about whether the change would require a register of private landlords. My own view is that it would not. There is no equivalent register of employers, for example, and the Baroness Scotland case showed that any level of employer-employee relationship can attract a fine. To be sure, if this were a rational and well thought out policy then a register would be a prerequisite. The policy is instead about intimidation, about pressuring migrants and ethnic minorities (“but you look foreign!”) by indirect means and providing justification for nasty UK Border Agency raids.

Essentially, this is an example of the Government attempting to introduce continental style internal immigration controls but without continental style universal identity cards. Instead, even the UK Border Agency has no idea about a person’s immigration status, as the pre-Christmas Capita fiasco revealed, when British citizens and other long term lawful residents suddenly received text messages telling them to leave the UK immediately, based of course on appalling UK Border Agency record keeping.

I’m sorry to say that for we immigration lawyers, the proposed change will be good for business. These days, everyone needs an immigration lawyer: not just immigrants with complex cases but almost any immigrant or their sponsor plus employers and universities. Soon landlords will be added to the list. It is as if the UK Border Agency secretly loves us. So, I end with an offer. If you are one of the 25% of Tory MPs (hat tip to Sue Lukes) who is a private landlord, you know where to find me if you need an immigration advice. Assuming you won’t just be turfing out any tenant who *might* be foreign.

*i.e. invisible except to immigration lawyers, and even then we might be wrong if an application is later declared invalid.