This is your weekly digest of immigration and asylum stories that have appeared in major news outlets (as distinct from specialist information, which you’ll always find on Free Movement already). I’ve been posting this on Monday mornings, but am going to try writing it on Fridays instead as I think that might be a better time to look back on the week’s news. It’s also going to be a bit less structured/formal, and therefore hopefully more readable. As always, feedback is welcome!
I say “the week’s news”, but obviously with Christmas there’s been a big break since the last round-up. One of the more entertaining stories of the holidays was the gloss gradually coming off the government’s triumphant announcement that blue passports are back. The Sun loved it, but the Times noticed that the old, “iconic” document was more black than blue. The Home Office issued a detailed rebuttal but was tripped up by its own website, as Faisal Islam of Sky News discovered in this entertaining thread.
Home Office current advice on obtaining your first adult passport: “Follow the process if the last passport you had was an old black or blue passport”
Home Office rebuttal blog on passports: “it has never been black” pic.twitter.com/dKHfZHtyA5
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) January 2, 2018
The serious point, though, is that the same Home Office which can’t get a handle on the colour of passports is the department in charge of issuing millions of passport-like documents to EU citizens. They say that the settled status application process is going to be radically simplified, though (shameless plug for our piece on the topic).
Student visa pilot
Speaking of simplification, another story that came down prior to Christmas was that a pilot scheme for easier student visa applications is being extended. Brandon Lewis plugged it in the Times. Worth a look if you do Tier 4 and haven’t seen it already.
Volunteer border guards
Per the Mail on New Year’s Eve: “Bizarre plan is launched to enlist ‘Dad’s Army’ of volunteers to help Border Force protect ports from illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists”.
Giving little training but huge powers to volunteers and requiring them to interview exhausted travellers plus inspect thousands of different types of travel document. What could possibly go wrong with that? https://t.co/9X3KCg53IF
— Colin Yeo (@ColinYeo1) December 31, 2017
Let’s see what happens with this one.
Stressed border guards
A couple of days later, BuzzFeed popped up with an investigation into morale among existing border staff. “Perhaps we should consider rebranding to ‘Border Farce’”, one unhappy official is reported as saying, and it gets no cheerier from there.
On Tuesday several outlets (see e.g. the Mirror) reported on potential fines for airlines every time a passenger skips border controls. Apparently it happens 1,000 times a year.
I don’t know why it’s only hit the headlines now – the consultation has been open since early November – but the new angle might be the response of the Airport Operators Association. It says that a fine of £50,000 is “proportionate, given the numbers of passengers involved” – some 268 million. By my careful calculations, that makes “misdirected” passengers 0.00037% of the total.
This was also on Tuesday, in the Guardian: apparently “the first successful UK prosecution involving minors” under the modern slavery legislation. The charity Unseen gets a namecheck for its part in the investigation of three Vietnamese nail bar owners.
The first Home Office horror story of 2018 was reported in the Times and Evening Standard: “James Geale, 36, says he has lived legally here for almost 10 years but is now fighting to stay in the country after the Home Office rejected his application for indefinite leave to remain because of late paperwork”.
You probably read about the High Court rough sleeping case in early December (our write-up here). Natalie Bloomer of Politics.co.uk has a neat follow-up contrasting the Home Office’s evidence in that case, that there are people “intent on rough sleeping”, to the line on homelessness the government recently took in public.
That’s it for this week – but don’t miss Colin’s review of 2017.