Immigration News Weekly Roundup – 17 November 2023
In a widely anticipated judgment, the UK Supreme Court this week stopped the Government’s controversial bid to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Government’s appeal, affirming lower court rulings that deemed forced removals to Rwanda unlawful.
Delivering the verdict, Lord Reed underscored the Supreme Court’s non-political role in simply interpreting international and domestic laws about refugee protection. He articulated the legal principle of “non-refoulement” which bars returning people to places, where they may face grave harm. This principle not only arises from the Refugee Convention, but numerous other treaties signed by the UK. Moreover, beyond just Human Rights law, multiple Acts of Parliament also require fair evaluation of asylum claims.
The Court held that evidence from expert bodies like the UN Refugee Agency should not have been brushed aside so readily by lower courts. Looking closely at this evidence, the judges found it clearly showed Rwanda does not presently meet the criteria for safe asylum seeker transfers.
Response from the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defiantly vowed new legislation to limit legal challenges and cement Rwanda as a “safe” option. However, immigration experts caution that the judgment has likely permanently grounded this controversial removal plan.
The other highlight of the week was that Suella Braverman had been sacked as Home Secretary. She defied No 10 over an article accusing the Metropolitan Police of bias in the policing of protests. James Cleverly is her replacement at the Home Office, with former Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly replacing him as Foreign Secretary.
An independent report this week by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BiD) underscored the immense barriers faced by immigrants seeking legal aid through exceptional case funding (ECF). Though created to help with complex cases after broader legal aid cuts, the ECF system appears plagued by hurdles at every turn.
The report found ECF applications are far too convoluted for applicants to handle alone, with all surveyed lawyers saying assistance is essential. Further, most cases with legal help did qualify for ECF, suggesting worthy cases are being left unaided. Finally, even those who obtain ECF struggle to secure representation, given the scheme’s limited funding. Overall, the report lays bare how ECF fails to provide the legal help and advice immigrants desperately require, powerfully making the case for reinstating broader legal aid.
The Sponsor Licence register has been updated again this week, indicating an increase in sponsored workers recruited in UK businesses. In parallel to this, the Home Office has also increased scrutiny on right to work checks. It is therefore crucial for organisations to maintain robust compliance systems. Penalties for employing illegal workers remain severe, including licence revocation.
With heightened scrutiny on sponsor obligations and migrant rights, immigration advisors will benefit from staying up to date on Home Office policies. HJT’s live online course, Home Office Audits scheduled on 21st November, provides timely guidance on recent audit regimes and Rule changes. See our Home Office Audit blog post here
For a full list of our course archive, visit here
We end with a note on the UK’s new electronic travel authorization (ETA) scheme now open to Qataris visiting Britain. The ETA exemplifies the government’s push to digitize and streamline the border experience for legitimate travellers. Looking ahead, the Home Office expects millions more visitors will eventually access the UK through the ETA system. This milestone launch kicks off the realization of a smoother, more automated entry process.
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This and more are covered in our Immigration News Weekly Roundup. The full list of updates on media news, reported case law and Home Office Policy and other document updates below.
MEDIA IMMIGRATION NEWS
Supreme court rejects Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – The Guardian
Rishi Sunak’s key immigration policy has been dealt a blow after the UK’s highest court rejected the government’s plans to deport people seeking asylum to Rwanda.
Five judges at the supreme court unanimously upheld an appeal court ruling that found there was a real risk of deported refugees having their claims in the east African country wrongly assessed or being returned to their country of origin to face persecution.
For full report, click here
Rishi Sunak to bring in emergency law after supreme court’s Rwanda ruling – The Guardian
Rishi Sunak has staked his political credibility on pushing through emergency legislation to resurrect his high-profile plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, after the supreme court ruled it was unlawful.
During a combative press conference on Wednesday afternoon, hastily arranged after the five judges unanimously rejected the proposal, Sunak said legislation would end the “merry-go-round” of legal challenges by setting out in law that the east African country is safe.
For full report, click here
What options are left for Rishi Sunak after Supreme Court’s Rwanda ruling? – The Guardian
After the Supreme Court’s comprehensive mauling of the government’s £140m plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, leaving the policy defunct, The Guardian examines the government’s options.
For full report, click here
Rwanda asylum plan: Fact-checking claims about the government’s policies – BBC News
The government has been defending its approach to asylum after its plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.
BBC News has looked at some of the claims made by the Prime Minister – and by Labour regarding the migrant crossings.
For full report, click here
Rishi Sunak sacks Suella Braverman as Home Secretary – BBC News
Suella Braverman has been sacked as Home Secretary, after she defied No 10 over an article accusing the Metropolitan Police of bias in the policing of protests.
Mrs Braverman was accused of stoking tension ahead of protests in London.
James Cleverly is her replacement at the Home Office, with former Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly replacing him as foreign secretary.
She said serving as home secretary was “the greatest privilege of my life”.
Mrs Braverman’s sacking kick started a major cabinet reshuffle by Rishi Sunak, as he reshapes his top team ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement.
For full report click here
UK opens electronic travel authorisation scheme – UKVI
The UK’s electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme has officially opened for Qatari nationals who, from today, need one to travel to the UK.
This landmark opening demonstrates the UK government’s delivery in transforming and digitising the UK border, enabling an increasingly seamless customer experience in the future for the millions of legitimate visitors who come to the UK.
For full report, click here
Migrant workers face exploitation as result of post-Brexit scheme, says report – The Guardian
Analysis by Work Rights Centre finds Home Office system prioritises immigration control over workers’ rights.
Thousands of migrant workers are at risk of exploitation because of multiple failures in the government scheme that allows them to come to the UK, a report has found.
The way the Home Office has set up the employer sponsorship system to replace freedom of movement after Brexit has prioritised immigration control over workers’ rights, according to the report, Systematic Drivers of Migrant Worker Exploitation in the UK, from the Work Rights Centre.
R (on the application of AAA (Syria) and others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 42
The United Kingdom Supreme Court has determined this week that Rwanda does not meet the safety standards required for the removal of asylum seekers. This judgment overturns the government’s intention to send refugees to Rwanda. The court emphasized that its role is non-political; it simply aimed to decide based on domestic and international laws about refugee rights. A core principle is “non-refoulment” – not returning refugees to places where they may face grave danger. This principle appears not just in the Refugee Convention but also in many other treaties that the UK has signed.
Beyond the Human Rights Act, multiple British laws confirm that asylum claims must be properly assessed. The Supreme Court held that lower courts should not have dismissed damning evidence from the UN High Commission for Refugees so lightly. This agency has expertise on refugee issues, so its views matter. Overall, the evidence clearly showed Rwanda does not currently meet the bar for safe removal of asylum seekers.
For full decision, click here
Hurdle After Hurdle: The Struggle for Advice and Representation through Exceptional Case Funding – report by Bail for Immigration Detainees
This report from Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) highlights the immense challenges faced by those seeking legal aid through exceptional case funding (ECF). ECF was intended to provide legal assistance in complex immigration cases after broader legal aid cuts. However, BID finds the ECF system is failing the vulnerable people it should serve.
The report reveals three key problems. First, ECF applications are far too complex for applicants to handle alone – 100% of surveyed lawyers said applicants need help to complete them. Second, when lawyers do assist with ECF applications, most are approved, suggesting these cases do warrant legal aid. Finally, even after securing ECF, applicants struggle to find lawyers willing to take their complicated immigration case with limited funding. Overall, the report paints a picture of hurdle after hurdle denying immigrants proper legal advice and representation. It powerfully builds the case for restoring legal aid to prevent injustice.
To access the full report, click here
HOME OFFICE GUIDANCE & POLICY DOCUMENT UPDATE
Caseworker Guidance: Previous breach of UK immigration laws has been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Guidance: Right to rent immigration checks: landlords’ code of practice has been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Guidance: Draft code of practice on right to rent has been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Caseworker Guidance: Litigation debt has been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Caseworker Guidance Immigration Act 2014 – appeals been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Guidance: UK visa requirements – list for carriers have been updated on 15th November 2023. To view the Guidance, click here
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Country Policy and Information notes have been updated on 14th November 2023. To view the latest Policy, click here
Guidance: Information booklet for asylum applications has been updated on 13th November 2023. To view the latest Guidance, click here
Prove your English language abilities with a secure English language test (SELT) has been updated on 13th November 2023. To view the latest Guidance, click here
Guidance: Bangladesh: tuberculosis test clinics for a UK visa has been updated on 13th November 2023. To view the latest Guidance, click here
Visit visa requirements for the following have been updated on 13th November 2023. To view the latest information, click on the titles of the listed category:
Caseworker Guidance: Exemptions for visa applications has been updated on 13th November 2023. To view the latest Guidance, click here
Transparency data: Ukraine Visa Schemes has been updated on 9th November 2023. To view the latest Guidance, click here
STAY TUNED FOR MORE IMMIGRATION NEWS NEXT WEEK