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Annual report 2013

Annual report 2013

It has been a busy year for me, for immigration law and for the Free Movement blog.

Me

I’ve cooked three Christmas dinners this year (turkey, quails, turkey, plus two nut roasts). My children are now aged 3 years old and 18 months old and my wife is back at work. Finding a balance between earning a self employed living and spending time with my family is a constantly shifting search for balance. I’ve moved chambers, which I would never have predicted at the beginning of 2013. HJT Training has moved more seriously into online training provision, which involved website-building, hiring actors, scriptwriting and filming.

It has been a busy year, particularly the last couple of months.

Immigration law

Turkey Portraint by Andrea Westmoreland
by Andrea Westmoreland

The Government unveiled their first and probably only immigration legislation. Suffice it to say here that it is very nasty indeed and will cause huge damage not just to the intended target of undocumented migrants but also to documented migrants, ethnic minorities and the social fabric of the country. The horrendous family immigration rules introduced in 2012 really started to bite in 2013 and there have been growing numbers of cruelly separated families given sympathetic reporting in local and national press – even, ironically, in The Daily Mail and other right-wing anti-immigration standard bearers, although notably only in cases involving white British victims. Appeals against family visit refusals were sort-of scrapped, although the retention of a human rights appeal may prove to have driven a coach and horses through that change. The human rights debate grew ever more damaging, although prisoner voting vied with ‘foreign criminals’ as the most poisonous issue here. At the end of the year, immigration judicial review cases were transferred from the High Court to the Upper Tribunal, a very clear downgrading of migrants and their rights by the legal establishment.

Looking through the blog archives, there are some flashes of inspiration and hope. The defiance of Southall Black Sisters was fantastic, Stephanie Harrison won the Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award, George the Poet was simply brilliant and there were some big legal wins against the Government, for example on the spouse minimum income rules and the unilateral termination of judicial review by the Home Secretary.

Free Movement blog

forum screenshotThe Forum launched in March 2013 and seems to have been a success: there are now coming up to 300 members and an email alert subscription system was recently introduced. I carried out a reader survey for the first time (some of the results here if you are interested). The look of the blog was revamped substantially (with further more minor adjustments to come in the New Year). I had to buy in technical help for the first time to move to a new, faster but more expensive server and to make changes to the software on which the blog runs.

Free Movement was rebranded as being written by barristers at Garden Court Chambers and several of my new colleagues have written excellent material and/or helped with the editing. I’d like to single out Bijan Hoshi for his selfless contribution in editing and uploading several blog posts by others, which is always time consuming, doesn’t get a byline and is often a little thankless.

Google analytics tells me that the blog received 959,066 page views in 2013 from 454,931 separate visits. Having never really looked at the detailed stats before I suddenly see some odd facts. The busiest time of day for the blog is around lunchtime, perhaps unsurprisingly. The most popular browser used by visitors was Chrome at 30%, with Internet Explorer next at 26% and Safari at 21%. 28% of visitors used mobile devices to read Free Movement and 19% of visitors used iPhones or iPads.

There were 245 new blog posts in 2013. That seems like a lot. Interestingly, three out of the top five most viewed posts were actually from earlier years, on New rules on long residence (August 2012), Family life as a parent: the new rules (August 2012) and Refusal but with no removal or appeal (February 2011). I think that perhaps tells us something about the legal problems faced by migrants in the UK. You can see a few other slightly random stats in the slightly odd automatic report that WordPress generates.

Looking ahead, I am toying with the idea of hosting online CPD training on Free Movement, perhaps on a subscription model.

What next?

The year ahead will be interesting. We’ll see what if any changes are made to the odious Immigration Bill. The awe-inspiring complexity of the non-sequentially structured Immigration Rules may finally become obvious to someone important. The Tories will probably end the appalling ‘will they won’t they’ speculation about leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (I think they won’t and it is just political bluster).

What else do you expect in immigration law and policy? Leave a comment below and see how your predictions panned out in a year’s time.

Colin Yeo
Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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