Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Campsfield Detainees Exploited as Cheap Labour

Detainees at the Campsfield House immigration prison in Oxfordshire are being "exploited for cheap labour" due to staff cuts, the Oxford and District Trades Union Council has revealed. The rejected asylum seekers, who are locked up for lengthy periods pending their deportation, are being paid £5 for six-hour shifts of cleaning and kitchen work.

Campsfield is run by Global Expertise in Outsourcing (GEO), formerly known as Wackenhut, a company notorious for being at the centre of all manner of inmate-abuse scandals in the States. GEO are one of the many US companies that have spread their tentacles around the world running prisons for profit in a number of countries.

As part of their project to screw as much profit out of Campsfield as possible, the company has cut back on both staffing levels and educational, recreational and other provisions at the centre. Over the past year, GEO has sacked education workers, nursing staff have departed, staff turnover has increased, the welfare officer has left and in September, the chaplain was suspended. This is just another attempt to that last drop of blood from the same stone.

For the full story see Corporate Watch's latest news

IOM Introduces New Bribe For Refugees to Return Home

The well known anti-migration front organisation International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has launched a new programme called 'Return and Rebuild', providing extra 'support' for refugees returning to war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq under its so-called Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP). [see Corporate Watch's Latest News]

The IOM originated as a 'tough love' alternative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is at the forefront of western government's efforts to stem the tide of their unwanted economic migrants. IOM runs a number of what are effectively concentration camps around the world to hold some of these migrants until they can be returned to their countries of origin. One of these was the notorious detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru mentioned in the post of Tuesday, 29 July 2008.

The VARRP scheme is open to any asylum seeker with a pending application as well as those whose applications have failed and who have already lost there appeals or who are awaiting a decision. The applicant must agree to sign a waiver stating "“the IOM has no responsibility for me and my dependents once I return [country of origin] and I hereby release IOM from any liability in this respect" and agree not to return to the UK for atleast 5 years. In return they are provided with "targeted payments" to help provide them with equipment for starting up a small business or to start an educational course. As such, IOM are just another deportation agency, except this one has carrots as well as the usual sticks.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Gambia Refuses to Accept Deportees

Everyday around the world thousands of so-called 'illegal' immigrants are forcibly repatriated. Many are carried on regular charter flights next to holiday makers [XL was one such company, the loss of which will not be mourned in some quarters], others are carried on special one off charters used for mass deportations. One such flight on Friday 18th from Spain to Banjul in Gambia carrying 103 migrants was forced to return to Spanish territory in the Canaries as “(t)he Gambian authorities were not ready to receive the migrants in that short time,” according to Kebba Touray, Gambia’s ambassador to Spain.

Gambia, a former British colony whose thin sliver of territory juts into French-speaking Senegal, is one of a string of West African states which have signed immigration accords with Spain allowing the repatriation of illegal migrants. The carrot used by Spain, which is in the front line of European Union efforts to stem a tide of African job-seekers trying to reach Europe to seek a better life, to secure these agreements [part of the Fortress Europe project] is a pledge of future development aid for the West African governments who sign up.

Madrid repatriated several thousand West African migrants last year, with the returning migrants escorted by police to try and prevent protests from the forcibly returned migrants. These agreements also allow for European Union planes and warships to regularly patrol in West African countries' territorial waters to intercept the migrants trying to reach European shores. Hundreds drown in these risky voyages in flimsy, open boats as they try to avoid these military patrols.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Council of Europe Question UK 'Fast Track' Deportation Policy

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in a new report has claimed that changes in Britain's asylum and immigration controls could breach human rights legislation. And that “(i)mprovements must be introduced to strengthen effective respect for the rights of asylum-seekers and immigrants in the United Kingdom.” It also recommended "drastically limiting" the policy of "administrative detention" (internment to you and me) of migrants, and proposed a maximum time limit for detentions.

The report added that "(t)he UK authorities should consider regulating the so-called 'Detained Fast Track' by introducing special legislation fully in compliance with the standards laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights", and that "(t)his type of detention should in particular be forbidden for vulnerable persons, such as unaccompanied minors, for whom alternative measures should be provided."

The Home Office have of course rejected the criticism. Their response, which was included in the report said that "(t)he government has no wish to detain people any longer than is required and this is particularly true in the cases of families with children. However, there are occasions where detention is prolonged as a consequence of attempts to frustrate the removal process."

So that means there will not be any change in UK detention policy any time soon despite the Council of Europe's criticisms.

UK To Sign The UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child

The BBC has revealed that the UK government is to sign the UN Convention
On The Rights Of The Child in full. The Convention obliges signatory
countries to "take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is
protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis
of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's
parents, legal guardians, or family members."

For the past 17 years the UK has retained an opt-out the convention's "best
interest" rule, allowing child migrants and asylum seekers to be locked up
for weeks or months without judicial scrutiny. The change will force the UK
Border Agency to put migrant children's welfare first in deciding whether to
detain or deport them. This, together with the 'Child M' case, should mean
that the end of routine internment of migrant children in the UK.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

An End To The Internment Of Children In The UK?

An eight-year-old Iranian boy, known only as Child M for legal reasons, who
has been locked up at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre with his
family since July 15, was released from custody on Thursday in response
to the launching of High Court proceedings against the Home Office
challenging the legality of his detention. His lawyers are currently seeking
a judicial review,arguing that his detention was unlawful under English
common law and under the Human Rights Act.

The child came to the UK in 2007 with his mother and other members of his
family on holiday to recover from the death of his father. Whilst in the UK, a
photocopy of The Satanic Verses was found in their house and reported to
the Iranian authorities, who issued an arrest warrant for his mother. The
family then claimed asylum, but the Home Office subsequently refused
them leave to stay and issued a order for their deportation back to Iran.

If successful, this court case would result in a landmark decision that could
see the end of the routine detention of minors, and hence their families, in
UK immigration centres in future.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

No Place For Children

Throughout its years in government - from Tony Blair's famous "Education,
education, education" speech to the more recent "Every Child Matters"
programme - Labour has
claimed to champion the needs of the younger
generation. For the 2,000 children who are sent to UK immigration detention
centres every year, however, these claims ring hollow.

These children are torn from their homes, their communities and their friends,
locked up for an indeterminate length of time, and denied adequate education
and health care. Their only crime is to have parents who have applied for
asylum in the UK.

This week the New Statesman launches a major campaign, No Place for
Children, which calls for an end to the practice of detaining children for
immigration reasons. Together with its backers - the Children's Commissioner
for England, the Children's Society, Bail for Immigration Detainees and Women
for Refugee Women - they believe the current situation reflects shamefully on a
government that prioritises appearing "tough on immigration" over the welfare of
innocent young people.
[part of a NS press release]