HUGE PROFIT FOR GOVERNMENT FROM CHILDREN’S VISA FEES

The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has published his inspection of the Home Office’s policies and practices relating to charging and fees, together with the Government response.

Citizens UK has revealed through an FOI request that the Home Office is making £2 million a month profit from charging children for citizenship, with around 40,000 children estimated to be affected. Together with the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants, Coram, Let us Learn and others they have published a letter calling on the Home Office to stop profiteering from children’s immigration and citizenship applications.

This situation is completely unacceptable to Liberal Democrats and they are taking what action they can in all directions

It was agreed as Lib Dem policy last year that that we would “Significantly reduce and align the fees for naturalisation with the cost of processing applications” and specifically proposes “that the cost of nationality registration for children is limited to that which covers the administrative costs of processing the application”. Note that the actual cost is £372 per child.

Also in the Lib Dem “Ten demands for the Immigration Bill”: https://www.libdems.org.uk/ten-lib-dem-demands-for-the-immigration-bill includes “Cutting citizenship fees for children” and we’re keeping an eye on the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) current judicial review – when there’s a judgment on that we’ll have a good opportunity to raise it in Parliament.

Tim Farron and Kate Green are putting an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would establish a bespoke pathway to citizenship for EU citizens who get Settled Status, with fees “commensurate to the cost of administering an individual application” – so this would ensure that EU children already living here aren’t forced to pay the high fees.

On a linked issue, Ed Davey has a Private Members’ Bill on the specific issue of fees for Indefinite Leave to Remain for Armed Forces personnel & their families.  There are several thousand Foreign and Commonwealth nationals serving in our Armed Forces. Under the Immigration Rules, those who have served for four years or more are entitled to apply for indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK upon discharge, and to sponsor applications for their partners and children. However in recent years the fees for these applications have been increased, by successive governments, to exorbitant levels: they now stand at £2,389 per person, despite the unit cost to the Home Office of processing an application being just £243. This means that the cost of applying for a family of four is £9,556. Veterans and their families often therefore face a choice between: leaving the country, remaining here undocumented or taking out big loans to pay the fees.

Ed Davey and Jamie Stone have also tabled an Early Day Motion on the issue: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52668/foreign-and-commonwealth-forces-personnel

In addition, Ed Davey raised it at Home Office Questions on Monday: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-04-01/debates/9A562887-5EF2-4FE4-AFB5-11EF72C1DB09/TopicalQuestions#contribution-32BBBCA4-6AAF-444C-A7D9-741ED7AE0968

Whilst the Government is fixated on maintaining a hostile environment, Liberal Democrats are continuing to stand up for, and fight for, the rights of children living in the UK to become citizens, and play a full part in our British way of life, and take up the education opportunities offered to all children.

‘Cavalier’ Home Office failing in its responsibility for immigration detention

Time after time in recent years reports have come out on Immigration Detention. There has been the All Party Parliamentary Group, two Shaw Reports, and a recent one from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. And yet there is little progress on ending the disgrace of immigration detention.

A damning report has come out today from the cross party House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs. It has looked into Immigration Detention and the evidence based report is highly critical, often using the word “drastically” and “disgraceful” to describe what is happening.

It lists, paragraph after paragraph, matters that have supposed to have been improved, but have not. Particularly for those who are vulnerable, not supposed to be detained, and yet still are.

The report condemns lack of transparency, in the Home Office not reporting, or even recording, important information. It condemns the lack of independent oversight in decision making. It condemns decision makers not ever meeting the detainee face to face. In fact it condemns much, and calls for real action for radical change. It asks for progress on ATD ( alternatives to detention). All of which we agree with.

We can agree with its statement “ there is rapidly growing consensus on the need for reform” We call on the Home Office to urgently take steps for that reform, and as Liberal Democrats, we will continue to battle till it is won.

Detention Forum continues its hard work to bring people together to campaign, we are very happy to work with them and endorse their statement here.

All of the abbreviated points in Lib Dem Policy are called for in the report. A fuller paper is here, but the main points of our existing policy are :

  • Detention to be subject to judicial review within 72 hours, and to be no more than 28 days overall.
  • Detention to be used only as a last resort, for as few days as possible, for as short a time as possible.
  • A drastic reduction in the detention estate, which can, and should, be done.
  • An end to the detention of all vulnerable people. This includes victims of torture, those with mental illness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, victims of gender based violence, pregnant women, and people with learning difficulties.
  • Alternatives to detention through case-worker support in the community. · Better conditions in both refugee housing and in detention. Whilst welcoming, and supporting all moves for improvements in conditions, we continue to say that the Government must not let small improvements distract attention from there being very little need at all for Immigration Detention.

 

 

Immigration debate

Lord Roger Roberts initiated a debate in the House of Lords on immigration procedures, that can be read here. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2019-02-14a.2003.1&s=speaker%3A13477#g2003.2

There were many excellent points made in the debate, including of course a number of Lib Dem Peers. You need to read the full debate, but some of the points made included Roger saying :

  • how self employed people cannot use the Home Office app to apply for settled status for EU Citizens and yet 17.5% of EU Citizens are Self Employed.
  • The rate of Home Office decision failures. Successful appeals gone from 17% in 2005 to 40% in 2016. Huge mistakes being made. Better decision making needed
  • His disgust of the Alf Dubs amendment not being implemented & after 3 years only half of the 480 places filled according to Professor Sue Clayton.       It is a shameful effect on those Kids stranded in the EU
  • Much better treatment and legal advice is needed for unaccompanied children refugees in UK coming up to 18 needed, and he will continue to campaign for this.

Lord John Shipley spoke of the problems of delay and quality of decisions by Home Office giving examples.   He also spoke about the huge problems caused by what amounts to less than 28 days being given to new refugees to find somewhere to live, a job and any benefits.

Lord Tony Greaves made the point that there is a need for a right to appeal & legal aid for it in applications for settled status for EU Citizens

Baroness Sarah Ludford made the point that the Home Office is a byword for inefficiency, maladministration and heartlessness, with its “go home” vans, the Windrush scandal and the hostile environment. The migration and asylum system is not fit for purpose, and is set to fail, with the ridiculous migration target set by the Government.

Roger ended with the saying :

All these measures would give hope and huge self-respect to those who have had the most devastating experiences. I do not want to be part of a society that dehumanises people. We should not treat them as citizens of nowhere; I prefer Socrates’ claim:

“I’m not a citizen of Athens or a citizen of Greece, but a citizen of the world”.

Are we also not richer because of others who have contributed and are contributing to our lives? Remember: we were all immigrants once.

 

“A More Effective and Compassionate Approach to Immigration and Asylum” meeting. Reminder !

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary (LD4SOS) and Social Liberal Forum (SLF) 

Invite you to their Fringe meeting 

Saturday 16 March, 13.00-14.00 Novotel Hotel Rooms 1 + 2  

A More Effective and Compassionate Approach to Immigration and Asylum” addressing the Immigration Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Chair: Denali Ranashinge (SLF Council Member); with Suzanne Fletcher from LD4SOS; Holly Matthies from Liberal Democrat Immigrants

Sir Ed Davey MP and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Home Affairs will discuss amendments that celebrate and harness the positive contributions that immigrants and asylum seekers offer our communities and our economy.

LD4SOS SLF Fringe 16 March 2019

PROPOSED REPLACEMENT OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTRES (IDCS) AT HEATHROW

A Lib Dem view on this aspect of the Heathrow expansion and immigration detention centres.

A little publicised part of the consultation on the Heathrow expansion is that Colnbrook and Harmondsworth IDCs which are close to the airport will be closed – which is good – and replaced with one large IDC – which is not good. We understand that the overall number of detention places will remain the same but the space will increase by 25%.

The UK detains more people than any other European country. Lib Dem policy is that this cruel and unnecessary practice has to end. We want to see a massive reduction in the numbers of IDCs and the number of individuals detained; no one should be detained for more than 28 days and vulnerable people should never be detained. Instead of detaining people there should be investment in community alternatives to detention.

A range of groups are now getting together to campaign against the replacement of the IDCs. There is inevitably tension between the different campaign objectives. Many people believe that there should be no detention at all, and campaigning for a smaller, better-managed IDC only undermines that argument. There is also, of course, the wider campaign that opposes the 3rd runway at Heathrow – which many of us campaigned against as part of the Richmond By-election. If, by some miracle, the expansion was halted, then presumably the two IDCs would stay as they are – and as long as those places are there they will be filled – often by people who should not be detained at all.

With some reluctance LD4SOS recognise that it may always be necessary to detain some individuals who have not been given permission to stay in the UK and are going to be removed. It would be less traumatic if they were detained near to the airport they were flying out of. There is, therefore, an argument for a small well managed short-term detention facility as part of the Heathrow expansion. The facility should be designed in such a way that it can accommodate women and families separately to single males, and provide comfortable and dignified surroundings. The short term holding facilities in Heathrow itself (subject of much criticism from the Independent Monitoring Board) should also be replaced appropriately.

There will be further consultation over the proposals for Heathrow including sites for the new replacement IDCs over the next six months. Those of us living in London and the areas surrounding Heathrow will have already received a leaflet inviting us to meetings to discuss the proposed plans. There will be a wider national consultation later on this year. We understand, however, that the Home Office has asked that the discussion about the IDCs takes place in closed meetings. This is currently being checked and, if so, whether it can be challenged.

Inevitably most of the attention will be focused on trying to stop the third runway and understanding the impact it will have on the different sites proposed. But we mustn’t forget that the future shape of two of the major IDCs will also be decided, and we must seize the opportunity to campaign for a smaller and much improved facility. LD4SOS are trying to brief the key MPs/Peers/Councillors so that they are also aware of this issue. If you live in London or one of the surrounding areas do try and get along to the consultation meetings and raise the issue of IDCs (be really helpful to tell us what you are told) and also raise it with your MP or councillor.