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Study finds asylum judges fail to assist vulnerable appellants

Really interesting study, which should be carefully considered in the Immigration and Asylum Chambers. …There are clearly dangers to an overly rule-bound judicial approach, as conveyed by Conley and O’Barr’s (1988) description of ‘the proceduralist judge’ whose ‘high priority on maintaining procedural regularity’ (498) ‘may become condescending or sarcastic’ (500) and may present the law as ‘remote and inaccessible’ (502). Yet our findings raise concerns over the inequitable use of procedural discretion when it is afforded to judges. Substantive discretion – that is a judge’s freedom to reason and decide without encumbrance – is a different matter and a central requirement of judicial independence. We have demonstrated, however, that where…

15th August 2017 By Colin Yeo

How to correct a mistake in a Country Guidance case

What happens where the Upper Tribunal makes a mistake in a Country Guidance case? And in what circumstances will the Court of Appeal have jurisdiction to hear an appeal against an Upper Tribunal decision that has already been remitted to the First Tier Tribunal? Both of these interesting issues crop up in AA (Iraq) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 944 (11 July 2017). The Case of AA AA was an Iraqi who claimed asylum in the UK in 2009. His appeal has now been in the court system for over 8 years (and counting). The initial application was rejected and several appeals dismissed until…

14th August 2017 By Nick Nason

Article 3 and the extradition of a British national to Taiwan

The Supreme Court in the case of the Lord Advocate (representing the Taiwanese Judicial Authorities) (Appellant) v Dean (Respondent) (Scotland) [2017] UKSC 44 considered the first occasion on which Taiwan has sought to extradite a British national. On appeal from the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary (‘the Appeal Court’) the Supreme Court considered the correct test for Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (‘the ECHR’) within extradition cases and, in doing so, it reviewed the prison conditions that may reach the Article 3 threshold. This case may extend beyond extradition cases and could be useful guidance for other cases including…

11th August 2017 By Chris Desira

Syrians can now upgrade to full refugee status: new form issued

Particularly relevant to Syrians who were not granted formal refugee status and instead got the lesser status of Humanitarian Protection: This form is for people resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme or the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme who wish to request their status in the UK is changed from Humanitarian Protection to refugee status. Source: Request to change humanitarian protection status to refugee status – GOV.UK

10th August 2017 By Colin Yeo

Home Office inspectors release series of reports: highlights for lawyers

For some reason the Home Office has just released a swathe of inspection reports into a wide range of Home Office operations. In practical terms, this makes it impossible for the press to pick out more than one or two stories from the reports and it therefore very effectively reduces scrutiny. Usually I have nothing better to do than sit and read these reports when they are hot off the press (!) but 10 in two days seems excessive even to me I cannot stir myself to read all of them. It is almost as if there is something to hide somewhere in there. Nevertheless, I am going to confine…

14th July 2017 By Colin Yeo

New Refugee Action report slams inadequate, creaking asylum support system

After more than a decade since Limbuela, and three years after Refugee Action, Home Office policy continues to drive asylum seekers into destitution. The Refugee Action report, Slipping Through the Cracks, candidly outlines these failings of the asylum support system. This is hardly the first time these sorts of flaws have been exposed. The whole report features real stories and quotes from the asylum seekers let down by the process, and is well worth a read. The first problem is the decrease in support level over time. Rates used to be set at 70% of mainstream benefits. This meagre level seems princely compared to the current non-emergency (“Section 95”) support…

12th July 2017 By Paul Erdunast

Upper Tribunal rules it unsafe to return anyone to Libya

The violence in Libya has reached such a high level that substantial grounds are shown for believing that a returning civilian would, solely on account of his presence on the territory of that country or region, face a real risk of being subject to a threat to his life or person. This is the country guidance the Upper Tribunal gave in the case of ZMM (Article 15(c)) Libya CG [2017] UKUT 263 (IAC), overturning the earlier country guidance of AT and Others (Article 15c; risk categories) (CG) [2014] UKUT 318 (IAC). The Tribunal gave country guidance on the following issues: Is the Appellant at risk under Article 15(c) if returned to Libya?…

3rd July 2017 By Nath Gbikpi

An immigration lawyer reviews Paddington

In tribute to beloved author Michael Bond (1926-2017), who died yesterday, I am republishing this blog post reviewing the film Paddington, based on the character created by Bond. The blog post was originally published on 1 December 2014 and versions of it appeared in the New Statesman and Financial Times. Law is pretty abstract. Unlike the role of a doctor or a builder, that of a lawyer is difficult to explain to a young mind. When my children eventually ask me about what I do when I “work” (confusingly simultaneously a place I seem to go to and a thing I do at home; either takes me away from them) my plan is to…

29th June 2017 By Colin Yeo

In depth look at the new Home Office settlement policy for refugees after five years

In March 2017 the Home Office has announced a new policy of reviewing whether all refugees require protection at the end of a 5 year initial period of Refugee Status. This policy is effective for all existing and future applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) as a Refugee. This policy has now been effective for three months and, with Refugee Week upon us, it is a good opportunity to delve into it in greater detail. The application process Those recognised as refugees will usually be granted a period of 5 years limited leave. When that leave is due to expire they must apply for ILR. The Home Office gives…

22nd June 2017 By Chris Desira

Athens Refugee Legal Support Project: what is happening on the ground and how to donate

Image (c) Sarah Booker The pilot of the Athens Refugee Legal Support Project has now run for 2 months now. We work out of a community centre in Athens with the support of ILPA and Garden Court Chambers. Weekly reports from UK legal volunteers (solicitors, barristers, case workers) tell a similar story. The Greek asylum service is overburdened. Greek lawyers on the frontline are overstretched and the majority of refugees do not receive any advice or representation prior to receiving the initial decision on their asylum claim. If refused they can expect an excruciatingly long appeal process. To make matters worse, many reside in squats, unable to access accommodation from…

21st June 2017 By Free Movement

Should refugees claim asylum upon arrival in their first ‘safe’ country?

“Why don’t asylum seekers stop before they get here?” I have been asked this question many times. There are lots of safe countries on the way, so the argument goes. Why wait until they arrive in the UK to make their claim? They’re not going to get killed in France, after all. The insinuation is that the application for refugee status is cover for the real motive, probably economic, and the UK best serves those ends. With Refugee Week upon us, I wanted to explore this question. A numbers game Firstly, a few facts. During 2016, to the south, 123,370 people claimed asylum in Italy, and 85,244 in France. To…

20th June 2017 By Nick Nason

What is the legal meaning of “refugee”?

This week is Refugee Week. The Free Movement blog is about communicating complex legal issues in immigration and asylum law in a clear way so I have amended and republishing this blog post explaining what a refugee actually is in legal terms. I have also collected together some of our previous blog posts about asylum issues. I hope you find it useful and interesting! I am also making my refugee law ebook freely available for this week. The ebook is a detailed examination of refugee law as it is understood and practiced in the UK. Use code “refugeeweek” as you are making a purchase and a 100% discount will be…

19th June 2017 By Colin Yeo

UK unlawfully denies transfer to UK of refugees living for 18 years in Cyprus British Sovereign Base

R (Bashir) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 397 The British Sovereign Base Areas (“SBAs”) are small British-run areas on the Cyprus islands that survived the former colony’s independence. The Home Office has taken the position for a number of years that the Refugee Convention does not apply there. The Court of Appeal has unanimously held that in doing so, then-Home Secretary Theresa May acted unlawfully in denying refugees from the SBAs access to the UK. Background facts The claimants had been rescued from a fishing boat in the Mediterranean in 1998. They had been taken to one of the British Sovereign Base Areas in…

6th June 2017 By Thomas Beamont

Country guidance issued between hearing and promulgation will still bind tribunal

Is the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) bound to take into account a Country Guidance (CG) case that is issued by the Upper Tribunal after the date of the FTT hearing, and after the date the FTT judge signs the determination, but before that determination is promulgated? The short answer, in general, and for the very unfortunate appellant in NA (Libya) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 143, is yes. Timeline The Libyan appellant in this case had been refused asylum and appealed against the decision to the tribunal. The appeal was heard by the FTT and allowed. The decision was made on the basis of information…

26th May 2017 By Nick Nason

Coruscating criticism by President of Home Office behaviour in refugee family reunion case

To summarise, figuratively the Secretary of State does not have a leg upon which to stand either factually or legally. These were the words used by Mr Justice McCloskey, president of the Upper Tribunal, in the judicial review case of Mohamed Al-Anizy. Needless saying, he was not very impressed by the Secretary of State´s behaviour, in this case in relation to her application (or, rather, non-application) of its guidance on family reunion for refugees. Background of the case The Applicant, Mr Al-Anizy, is a husband and father of four children, aged between 3 and 10 years old. The family are Kuwaiti Bidoons. The Kuwaiti authorities issued a warrant of arrest…

19th May 2017 By Nath Gbikpi

Home Office unlawfully relies on Albania guidance for five years

LC (Albania)  v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 340 The Home Office has relied on outdated guidance to determine asylum applications from Albanian nationals, the Court of Appeal has held. The judgment in LC (Albania) will have far-reaching effects for those people denied protection under bad law over a number of years. The judgment also reiterates the approach to be taken when considering the future behaviour of asylum applicants if they return to their home country. Asylum claims based on sexuality Guidance for determining asylum applications on sexuality identity grounds was articulated in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v SSHD [2010] UKSC 31 (“HJ (Iran)”)….

12th May 2017 By Thomas Beamont

Help needed with research project: “Vicarious Traumatisation: The Impact on Solicitors Working with Traumatised Asylum Seekers”

Vicarious or secondary traumatisation refers to the emotional impact of bearing witness and engaging in an empathic way with traumatic material. As a solicitor or caseworker, working with asylum seekers and refugees can be extremely rewarding, but also very emotionally demanding. This electronic research project (conducted by Line Rønning, a psychology student from the University of Copenhagen and Jocelyn Blumberg, clinical psychologist at the Traumatic Stress Clinic, Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust), aims to explore the hypothesis that despite training in maintaining a professional distance and an objective stance, solicitors and caseworkers working with trauma survivors may experience vicarious traumatisation. This may be due to bearing witness and engaging…

12th May 2017 By Colin Yeo

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada guidelines on cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression

1.1 The purpose of this Guideline is to promote greater understanding of cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and the harm individuals may face due to their non-conformity with socially accepted SOGIE norms. This Guideline addresses the particular challenges individuals with diverse SOGIE may face in presenting their cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) and establishes guiding principles for decision-makers in adjudicating cases involving SOGIE. 1.2 This Guideline applies to all four divisions of the IRB, namely, the Immigration Division (ID), the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD), the Refugee Protection Division (RPD), and the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). 1.3 This Guideline applies to…

8th May 2017 By Colin Yeo

Home Office application to delay Calais Jungle child asylum case refused by tribunal

In an oral decision in the case of R (on the application of AO & AM) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (stay of proceedings – principles) [2017] UKUT 168 (IAC) given on 28 March 2017, the Upper Tribunal refused the Secretary of State’s application to stay the Judicial Review proceedings of AO and AM, two unaccompanied minors previously in the Calais Jungle, and who had been refused their transfer to the UK under the expedited Dublin III process. In the decision Mr Justice McCloskey, President of the Upper Tribunal, offers very useful and interesting guidance on the principles to be followed in applications to stay proceedings pending…

3rd May 2017 By Nath Gbikpi

Update from first volunteers for Athens Legal Support Project

A few months ago a group of UK volunteer immigration lawyers, together with the support of ILPA (Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association) set up the Athens Legal Support Project, a 4 month pilot to run from 10 April through to July 2017 to provide legal advice and support to refugees and Greek lawyers in Athens. A few weeks ago we launched our JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Athenslegalsupportpilotproject and have had the most incredible response and support. In the last 3 weeks alone we have raised over half our target already. Our first volunteers, Julia Lowis and Jo Bezzano, have just returned from Athens, and with our first blog. Please continue to support us….

28th April 2017 By Nicola Braganza

Supreme Court refuses damages to refugee wrongly prosecuted for illegal entry

Shortly after Christmas in 2009, a young woman from Somalia flew into Stanstead and claimed asylum. She had just turned 18. As later accepted by the Home Office, she had experienced severe depredations in her home country. This included her rape at the age of six in the presence of her disabled mother, and the murder of both of her parents. She fled Somalia in 2008, initially to Yemen, where she spent the next year. She was eventually able to fly to Europe with the help of an agent, who provided a British passport to facilitate her entry into the UK. After claiming asylum, the young woman from Somalia was…

26th April 2017 By Nick Nason

Report finds refugees made homeless when granted refugee status

There is an excellent report out today by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees about the problems faced when a refugee is granted refugee status following an asylum claim. Essentially, central government asylum support and accommodation is immediately terminated and local authority support takes time to become available. This leaves many refugees homeless and destitute just as they are finally recognised as a refugee. The report recommends: The creation of a National Refugee Integration Strategy, to be overseen by a specially appointed cross-departmental Government Minister for Refugees. More than doubling the so-called move on period from Home Office support, the time given to newly recognised refugees to find new…

25th April 2017 By Colin Yeo

New case on children seeking entry under the Dublin Regulation

Official headnote: (I) The question of whether the Secretary of State has made a decision on the exercise of the discretionary power in Article 17 of the Dublin Regulation is one of fact which will be determined on the basis of evidence, direct or inferential. (II) Article 17 is an integral part of the Dublin regime. The suggestion that the Article 17 discretion falls to be exercised only where the family reunification criteria in Article 8 are not satisfied is misconceived. (III) Article 17 has a role in circumstances where one of the overarching values of the Dublin Regulation, namely expedition, is not being fulfilled in the procedures and systems…

21st April 2017 By Colin Yeo

Please donate: crowdfunding campaign for the Athens Legal Support Project for refugees

Much needed and important project: Our urgent priority is to fund Greek interpreters. We need 2 interpreters per day for the 3 month duration of the project. At a cost of about €70 per day, we need to raise in the region of £9,000. Any funds remaining will be put towards flights, accommodation and subsistence for volunteer lawyers, the costs of which will be kept to a minimum, but allowing £450 per lawyer for the duration of the project amounts to £11,000. ILPA is also assisting to fund accommodation. I have already made my donation.

18th April 2017 By Colin Yeo

Rare and worrying insight into asylum casework at the Home Office

After that, targets increased to the point that almost everything became subservient to the end-decision. We were set a target of 220 “units” a year. Only an interview or a decision would count as a unit – any casework would not. If I had to call social services because I was concerned about a child, it didn’t count towards this target. It might be an afternoon’s work to do all the right referrals, but ultimately this wouldn’t be credited. That sort of work was disincentivised. If you wanted to do the right thing, you would have to take the productivity hit and risk performance management procedures, ultimately with the threat…

10th April 2017 By Colin Yeo

Iraqi asylum fresh claim refusal overturned by Upper Tribunal

Official headnote: A proper reading of the Upper Tribunal’s decision in AA (Article 15(c)) Iraq CG [2015] UKUT 544 (IAC) reveals the importance of making findings of fact regarding P’s circumstances, in order properly to apply the country guidance in that case. A finding that P cannot currently be returned, owing to a lack of particular travel documentation, will not be determinative of P’s claim to international protection if P faces a real risk of serious harm, otherwise than (solely) by reason of P’s lack of such documentation. If the use of the letter “P” is supposed to make this clearer, more intelligible and communicate the meaning better to the general public, it…

24th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Detention of Dublin asylum seekers held to be unlawful

Al Chodor and Others (C-528/15) In a highly significant judgment the CJEU has shown, in effect, that the Home Office has unlawfully detained hundreds or even thousands of individuals seeking international protection. The background facts The Al Chodor family are Iraqi nationals. They travelled to the Czech Republic and were subject to a police check in May 2015. During their police interview, they stated that they had fled Iraq via Turkey to Greece. They had continued their journey and were stopped by police in Hungary, where they made an asylum application. The Czech Foreigners Police Section was of the view that they posed a serious risk of absconding whilst in the…

23rd March 2017 By Thomas Beamont

Syrian refugees to be properly recognised as refugees at last

In a Ministerial Statement made today, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that Syrian refugees resettled to the UK will formally be recognised as refugees rather than been granted the lesser status of “humanitarian protection”: The decision to grant Humanitarian Protection was the right one at that time. However, while Humanitarian Protection recognises the need an individual has for international protection, it does not carry the same entitlements as refugee status, in particular, access to particular benefits, swifter access to student support for Higher Education and the same travel documents as those granted refugee status. Furthermore, we recognise that this policy is at odds with what happens to those Syrians who…

22nd March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Impact of judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU in cases X.Y.Z., A.B.C. and Cimade and Gisti

Not exactly a pithy title but looks interesting from ECRE: The study intends to examine the extent of implementation of asylum-related judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter ‘the CJEU’) and their impact on relevant asylum policies across the EU. It also looks at the role national authorities and the judiciary play in ensuring the application of CJEU case law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (hereinafter ‘the EU Charter’). In particular, the study aims to: ● Assess the national legislative and policy impact of the selected CJEU judgments; ● Identify national and EU-level guidance documents as well as national jurisprudence which interpret…

16th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Scarring evidence in asylum cases

“The Tribunal’s conclusion was… that [in order to fabricate an asylum claim] the appellant had allowed himself to be anaesthetised and then branded with a hot metal rod”  – Elias LJ, KV (Sri Lanka) In this area of law, it is sometimes hard to live with the reality of what human beings can do to one another. It is trite to say that the white heat of a traumatic experience can be lost in the cold sterility of judicial evaluation. But it bears repeating that judges who specialise in immigration and asylum law are human beings, too. They have the capacity to become inured to the sea of trauma and…

15th March 2017 By Nick Nason

Evidential issues in trafficking cases: UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Looks very interesting and potentially useful for evidence-based judging of these complex cases. With thanks to colleague Louise Hooper for flagging it up. The Case Digest has analysed 135 cases from 31 jurisdictions. It benefited from the input from experts from all parts of the globe. Trafficking in persons is a victim-centred crime, complex by its nature and requiring a constellation of circumstances in order to establish it. As a result, such cases present particularly complex evidential issues, many of which hinge upon the particular nature of this covert crime and the behaviour of victims, whose testimony is often the central piece of evidence. The Case Digest aims to serve…

14th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Home Office ends policy of automatic settlement for refugees after five years

The Home Office has announced a new policy of reviewing whether all refugees require protection at the end of a five year initial period of leave. The policy appears to be effective immediately for all refugee settlement applications, including for refugees already resident in the UK and who were expecting to qualify automatically for settlement. Because refugees, employers and colleges can no longer assume a refugee will qualify for settlement, it will be harder for refugees to find work, commit to educational courses or simply settle down and rebuild their lives. Combined with the cuts to English language classes for refugees, one is left with the impression either that the…

9th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Ukrainian prison conditions breach Article 3 but draft evaders can still be sent back says Upper Tribunal

Official headnote: 1. At the current time it is not reasonably likely that a draft-evader avoiding conscription or mobilisation in Ukraine would face criminal or administrative proceedings for that act, although if a draft-evader did face prosecution proceedings the Criminal Code of Ukraine does provide, in Articles 335, 336 and 409, for a prison sentence for such an offence. It would be a matter for any Tribunal to consider, in the light of developing evidence, whether there were aggravating matters which might lead to imposition of an immediate custodial sentence, rather than a suspended sentence or the matter proceeding as an administrative offence and a fine being sought by a…

9th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

The Lounani case: when can a member of a terrorist group be excluded from refugee status?

C-573/14 Lounani (Grand Chamber, 31st January 2017) A person applying for protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention can be excluded from its provisions under certain circumstances. As the Court of Justice of the European Union explained in B and D in 2010, these circumstances include those guilty of committing terrorist attacks. But what of those who merely assist in the organisation of a terrorist group? The Lounani case widens the kind of acts which will trigger an exclusion. Whilst the parameters remain unclear, those who have merely provided assistance to those committing terrorist attacks may be excluded under the provisions. The background facts Mr Lounani left Morocco in 1991. He travelled…

9th March 2017 By Thomas Beamont

New Home Office country information note on women in Egypt

Being female does not on its own establish a need for international protection. In general, the level of violence and discrimination against women in Egypt will not in most cases amount to a real risk of persecution or serious harm. The onus is on the woman (or girl) to demonstrate that she would be personally at risk of gender-based violence. Source: Egypt: country policy and information notes – GOV.UK

8th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

The UK response to the Syrian refugee crisis – Commons Library briefing

This Commons Library briefings looks at the Government’s work to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by the end of this Parliament, under its Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme. It has also committed itself to resettling up to 3,000 vulnerable children currently in the Middle East and North Africa, and 350 unaccompanied children already in Europe (including Syrian nationals). Source: The UK response to the Syrian refugee crisis – Commons Library briefing – UK Parliament

6th March 2017 By Colin Yeo

Children should be treated as children while their age is properly assessed

In this case an asylum seeker asserted he was a child. The local authority treated him as an adult while his age was assessed, contrary to the Age Assessment Guidance by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. No cogent reason was given for departing from the guidance and the failure to follow it was held to be unlawful. For background see earlier blog post: Important new age assessment guidance published Source: S, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Croydon & Anor [2017] EWHC 265 (Admin) (24 February 2017)

3rd March 2017 By Colin Yeo

The Curious Case of the Eritrean Country Guidance

‘[I]t has to be said, Asmara does not feel like the capital of a country generating asylum applications with a 85% grant rate’ (sic)  –   Informal Home Office report of UK visit to Eritrea, 9-11 December 2014 In 2014, nationals of Eritrea were the second largest group of asylum seekers in the European Union. Thousands of Eritreans continue to reach the UK each year. The contents of guidance used by the Home Office to determine such claims and the manner in which that guidance is compiled is therefore of crucial importance, impacting directly on many lives. Executive reversal In March 2015, the Home Office reversed aspects of its position…

14th February 2017 By Nick Nason

The Recognition of Refugees Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the UK: An Overview of Law and Procedure by Allan Briddock

The article deals with people claiming asylum in the UK on the basis of a well-founded fear of persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). Although the UK is a country that respects and actively promotes SOGI rights, the UK does not always provide adequate protection to those who come to the UK in need of refuge. For many years, people persecuted because of their SOGI were not considered a member of a particular social group and were therefore not afforded international protection pursuant to the 1951 Refugee Convention. This began to change in 1999 in the House of Lords decision of Islam and Shah and in…

8th February 2017 By Colin Yeo

Telling the story: A psychological review on assessing adolescents’ asylum claims

Sounds very interesting and topical: Given-Wilson, Z., Herlihy, J., Hodes, M (2016). Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, Vol 57(4), Nov 2016, 265-273 Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) are separated from caregivers, have often been exposed to significant additional past and ongoing adversities, and seek protection from war, organised violence or persecution in a new country. Obtaining a more secure legal position by achieving recognition of the asylum claim and legal rights may involve arduous interviews with officials who appear disbelieving. Assessing a minor’s claim to asylum is an important and difficult task. UASC often arrive with little “proof” or documentation to justify their claims and can only provide their account in making…

7th February 2017 By Colin Yeo
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