Here’s your round-up of the immigration and asylum stories that made national headlines this week.
Slavery law enforcement
The Guardian has used Freedom of Information requests to establish that seven police forces have laid no charges under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 since it came into force. Section 2 of that Act makes it a criminal offence to arrange or facilitate the travel — defined to mean recruiting, transporting or transferring, harbouring or receiving a person, or transferring or exchanging control over them — with a view to that person’s being exploited (or so our excellent training course on the subject informs me).
Unlawful detention payouts
Unlawful detention cases have cost the government over £21 million in the past five years, according to official figures. Tory MP Andrew Mitchell – a campaigners against the iniquities of the immigration detention system – secured the statistics, which ran on the Mail website (although the story is by the Press Association). A look at the original question and answer does not make it any clearer whether this includes legal costs. I would assume not.
There has been a bit of public and media fatigue on Brexit since the early December breakthrough in talks, but behind the scenes work goes on. Not the least of it is firming up that initial agreement, including on citizens’ rights, and turning it into a formal withdrawal agreement for ratification. The BBC and Politico ran articles bringing us back up to speed.
Conservative MPs overwhelmingly oppose the continuation of free movement after Brexit, the Express reports, pointing to a poll commissioned by the respectable UK in a Changing Europe think tank.
A stateless Palestinian man “has been denied protection in the UK after the Home Office refused to accept he was originally from Palestine, despite advising him to return there on two occasions”, reports the Guardian in a piece funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Cynthia Orchard of Asylum Aid is quoted in the article. A follow-up story on the intervention of MPs, including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, ran the next day.
Also a follow-up is Tuesday’s story on doctors being denied Tier 2 (General) visas, which issue had been highlighted in last week’s i paper. The Guardian takes a slightly different angle to its rival paper, reporting that “seniors [sic] doctors from overseas who have been appointed to fill key roles in hospitals around the UK are being blocked from taking up their jobs by the Home Office because their NHS salaries are too low under immigration rules”.
And it’s the Guardian once more for this rumour that will excite EU citizens unimpressed at the prospect of forking over £72 to secure settled status. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is sympathetic to the idea that Brussels should cover the cost, according to Daniel Boffey’s “EU sources”.
The on-going row over whether free movement rights will come to an end during any Brexit transition period – the government is angling for March 2019 to March 2021 – makes the Sun. “EU politicians [possibly just Guy Verhofstadt] said there will be ‘no discussion’ about cutting off automatic residency rights for their citizens in 2019”, the paper worries. But in the same day’s Times we have “ministers… privately reassuring Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers that citizens of European Union countries arriving in Britain during a Brexit transition period will not have the automatic right to stay indefinitely”.
“Gay tests” decision
BBC News reports on an asylum judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union yesterday. The court held that “asylum seekers must not be subjected to psychological tests to determine whether they are homosexual”, the Beeb says. Nath has more detail in her post on the decision.
The Mail picks out of recent exam statistics the nugget that “white British children are performing worse at GCSE than children whose first language is not English”.