‘Speaking out helps’

This week we start a news roundup with an outrageous story worthy of the Windrush scandal – ‘Woman who gave birth in Jamaica stranded after baby refused entry to UK’
According to the Guardian :
‘A British resident who is stranded in Jamaica with her baby has been told by the Home Office the child cannot come to the UK because he has an “established life” on the Caribbean island.’
‘Tiffany Ellis, 28, has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, where she has lived since the age of eight. She gave birth to Xien Ellis on 30 April last year in Jamaica and has been trying to return to the UK ever since…’

However, there seems to be a happy ending here. 24 hours after the story broke, the Guardian (again) reported a u-turn :
‘A British resident stranded in Jamaica with her baby, who was told by the Home Office the boy could not come to the UK because he had an “established life” on the Caribbean island, has now been told by the Home Office that she can bring him, after the Guardian exposed the family’s plight.’
‘Just 24 hours after the Guardian’s article was published, the Home Office granted the baby’s visa and informed his mother, Tiffany Ellis – who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, where she has lived since the age of eight – that it was ready for immediate collection…’

There was also a petition : https://www.change.org/p/bring-baby-xien-and-tiffany-ellis-home

As one of our members succinctly described this, ‘speaking out helps’. Our experience of numerous campaigns in local media over the years suggests this is often the case.

(Source – Webster & Stevens, US National Archives – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megaphone#/media/File:%22Getting_em_up%22_at_U.S.Naval_Training_Camp,Seattle,_Washington._Webster&Stevens.-NARA-_533698.tif , public domain )

Long distance running champ, British hero of the London 2012 Olympics, and all-round national treasure Sir Mo Farah has revealed he was trafficked to the UK as an 8 year old . This was revealed this week in the BBC’s ‘The Real Mo Farah’ documentary : https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001977f

Born under the name Hussain Abdi Kahin in Somaliland, he was trafficked after his father died and kept in domestic servitude (in reality, slavery). Eventually allowed to go to school, and confiding in his teacher Alan Watkinson, he was eventually taken in by another Somali family. Once his running became good enough to represent Britain in sporting events, Mr Watkinson and others helped him gain UK nationality.

Now, obtaining British citizenship with false information can lead to it being removed by the Home Office. The Home Office, thankfully, has said that it will not do this ( https://news.sky.com/story/sir-mo-farah-relieved-home-office-not-taking-action-after-he-was-trafficked-into-uk-as-a-child-12651005 ) (though Sir Mo’s high profile may be a factor here, as we know of many other examples over the years where such kindness has not been shown).

It remains to be seen – although it’s probably unlikely given the Rwanda fiasco ( https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/14/european-court-humam-right-makes-11th-hour-intervention-in-rwanda-asylum-seeker-plan ) – that this will shift the ‘hostile environment’ policy in the meantime, although such cases do highlight that real lives are complex and irregular migrants are much more likely to be victims than criminals.

‘Mo Farah’s decision to reveal his traumatic past has lead to an outpouring of support’ (Huff Post)

‘The hostile environment explained’ (JCWI)

The Medaille Trust defends the rights of victims of modern slavery – of whom there are estimated to be 136,000 in the UK alone.
Spot the signs: https://www.medaille-trust.org.uk/modern-slavery/spot-the-signs
Read some case studies : https://www.medaille-trust.org.uk/case-studies

And contrast this coverage with this story from 2018 – another victim but not as high-profile – ‘Home Office accused of cruelty for ordering cannabis slave back to Vietnam’ (Guardian)

‘The Home Office has been accused of cruelty over a decision to send a child victim of trafficking, who spent years in enforced slavery cultivating cannabis plants in England, back to Vietnam, where he has no family.’
‘The child, known as S, was a 10-year-old orphan living on the streets of Hanoi, when he was picked up by gangsters and trafficked from Vietnam to England. For five years he was locked into a series of terraced houses which had been converted into cannabis farms, and forced to work as a cannabis gardener.’

Interesting post by Free Movement – ‘The government’s stance on Vietnamese trafficking victims is misconceived’.

Hsiao-hung Pai is a London-based writer (formerly shortlisted for the Orwell Prize) who focuses on trafficking and you can read some of her articles here https://www.theguardian.com/profile/hsiaohungpai and here https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/author/hsiao-hung-pai/

In particular, her book ‘Invisible: Britain’s migrant sex workers’ ( https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/17675149-invisible ) is a difficult but important read.

She also – very early on – wrote about the plight of British people and their non-UK families under the then-new MIR and spotted the connection with the then-embryonic hostile environment. You can read her piece here (which I and many of those impacted by the rules contributed to) – https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/breaking-rule-partners-under-pressure/‘A breaking rule: partners under pressure’ :
‘The effect of new rules on family migration into Britain is to leave thousands of marriages in a limbo of enforced separation…’

“We are petrified that the government continue to change the criteria to obtain a settlement visa. Since we have been together, the visa fees have increased several times (note – remember this was written in 2013 and fees have spiralled since then!) , the English test was implemented – with a new English test set to be implemented in October 2013, along with many other rule changes. I cannot believe the UK government are discriminating against its own citizens, yet EU citizen have far more flexible/easy rules to bring their spouse into the UK. All I want is to be treated equally and not be treated as second class in my own country.”

Here’s a more recent piece by her on the plight of Hongkongers in the UK under the hostile environment policy : https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/hongkongers-find-a-rough-welcome-in-the-uk/

‘Extraordinary journey of the Birmingham boy who walked 5,000 miles to escape the Taliban’ (Birmingham Live)

This is remarkable. ‘About to be forced into an insurgent training camp for new recruits, the family of 15-year-old Sayed did the only thing they could think of – and smuggled him out of Afghanistan, with instructions to make his way to relatives in Birmingham.’
‘Over the next year the young lad walked through Iran, Turkey, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and France, evading border controls, enduring abuse, and living off scraps and handouts, rainwater and apples. With barely any money, no phone and hardly any belongings, he slowly made his way towards the UK.’

Speaking of Birmingham, on Sunday 17th July you can hear our Head of Operations and Services (and all round good egg) Ella speak at the IKON Gallery, Birmingham, from 3 pm onwards on the subject of immigration.

This is at the invitation of the legendary Salman Mirza and booking details are here : https://www.ikon-gallery.org/event/soapboxes

See RFUK (Ella again) give evidence to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee this week : https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/93cc01c0-44fb-4c8e-8a5d-d5a711ac9c06?fbclid=IwAR2l_Ur18t7alVgBorGxU16SsKfuCG-Z4LneboVJvhOwmzKG_Apan0_sSNo

Baroness Hamwee, a long-term and consistent ally of ours, opens by mentioning the 2013 report she chaired on the already devastating impact of the MIR – I’ve blogged on this before, but it’s a really important document, so I’ll share again : http://appgmigration.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/APPG_family_migration_inquiry_report-Jun-2013.pdf

Should the Human Rights Act be replaced with a Bill of Rights? Questionnaire by the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee : https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=nt3mHDeziEC-Xo277ASzSjmyhv4Lz8tPuToBKZcY2O9UNkxXNVhCWjNJQzk5RjE1NDFTSUQ2TEdMVC4u

Please can EVERYONE share and complete this. It takes literally 2 minutes and is very important feedback.

‘The Human Rights Act 1998 effectively incorporates into UK law rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Those rights include the right to life (Article 2), the right to be free from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3), the right to liberty (Article 5), the right to private and family life (Article 8) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 10), amongst others. The Bill of Rights would also incorporate those rights but make changes to how human rights are enforced and courts interpret and apply the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights. ‘

‘UK data watchdog investigates whether AI systems show racial bias’ (Guardian)

‘The UK data watchdog is to investigate whether artificial intelligence systems are showing racial bias when dealing with job applications.’
‘The Information Commissioner’s Office said AI-driven discrimination could have “damaging consequences for people’s lives” and lead to someone being rejected for a job or being wrongfully denied a bank loan or a welfare benefit.’

Definitely interested to see the results here. AI can play a role in amplifying biases already in society – both conscious and unconscious, current and historical; especially with self-learning data models which are largely opaque even to their developers, and this must be constantly – and proactively – guarded against.
From a couple of years ago – ‘Home Office drops ‘racist’ algorithm from visa decisions’ ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53650758 ). My suspicion is, although it’s impossible to prove, that such bias may have impacted on some of our members.

It’s worth reading a bit on the COMPAS recidivism study in the US which highlights related issues from a slightly different angle – a good summary is here : https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-the-compas-recidivism-algorithm
‘Our analysis of Northpointe’s tool, called COMPAS (which stands for Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions), found that black defendants were far more likely than white defendants to be incorrectly judged to be at a higher risk of recidivism, while white defendants were more likely than black defendants to be incorrectly flagged as low risk…’

‘Racism in facial recognition technology’ (Harvard)

‘Millions of black people affected by racial bias in health-care algorithms.’ (Nature) The underlying bias doesn’t have to be conscious – society is full of biases – but it can be amplified by automated technologies unless a conscious effort is made to check it.

‘Family denied chance to bring dying mother to UK vow to fight on after immigration judge dismisses case’ (i news)

Another terrible case, highlighting the cruelty of the adult dependant visa rules.

“What about our human right to wish to be by our mother’s side in her last days as opposed to her being depressed and lonely with an unknown carer? What about her dignity and respect?
“The judge thinks I can just up sticks and leave my home, family and job behind any time my mother needs me in India. I can’t. It’s not fair on my colleagues or my family. I’m not sure I’ll have a job to come back to.”

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