UK
Campaigners to put UK Border Agency before "court of public opinion"
26.02.2013


Migrants' rights campaigners are planning to put the UK Border Agency (UKBA) before the "court of public opinion", with the agency accused of "racism, sexism, homophobia" the "degradation of thousands of asylum seekers, including victims of torture, rape and abuse" and, in reference to the revocation by the UKBA of London Metropolitan University's visa licence last year, for "attacks on education for international students."

At an event in London on Sunday 3 March, a mock court hearing will hear "testimony and evidence from asylum seekers who have directly experienced the regime of immigration detention, fast-track [asylum applications], the brutal side of deportation attempts, and the aftermath of the UK system." [1]

The UKBA was established in 2008 following a merger of three other government agencies and has been the subject of fierce criticism since its inception. A 2009 report highlighted concerns related to powers of detention; [2] in 2010 the Parliamentary Ombudsman examined the agency's handling of applications and complaints; [3] and last year a widely-covered report by Medical Justice examined the immigration detention of torture survivors. [4]

A recent wave of negative news has seen the agency accused of failing to halt the practice of taking "reserves" to airports in case spare room becomes available on deportation flights, [5] as well as claims that "the health of hundreds of pregnant women and their babies are being put at risk" due to the policy of "dispersing" asylum seekers to accommodation across the country. [6]

A contract between UKBA and multinational security firm G4S, which gave the company responsibility for asylum seekers' housing, has also recently been criticised as a "disaster." Two groups behind a report on the issue have called for "an inquiry into G4S' contracts for housing, transport and initial accommodation in what it calls the 'asylum markets'." [7]

Detention conditions also saw a series of protests erupt late last year in the Yarl's Wood detention centre. Many of those perceived to be organisers of the protests were subsequently removed from the detention centre and placed in prisons across the country, a move accompanied by complaints of abuse. Subsequent deportation attempts were viewed as "political reprisals" by supporters. [8]

The protesting Yarl's Wood detainees were supported by campaign group Movement for Justice, who have also organised the event in London. The use of a "mock trial" format bears similarities to other events held by migrants' rights groups.

Last year the International Migrants' Tribunal highlighted the effects of the policies enacted by states through the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).

The tribunal found that the GFMD was guilty of "pursuing or promoting measures violating the rights of migrants"; "remaining practically or absolutely silent to stop or stem such violations and thereby perpetuating them"; and "systematically and habitually failing to act to alleviate the plight of migrants." [9]

Similarly, in May last year Tribunal 12 examined accusations of "continual violations of human rights and the systematic mistreatment of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers" by European authorities. [10]


Sources
[1] Movement for Justice, The UKBA on TRIAL
[2] Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Our Hidden Borders - The UK Border Agency's Powers of Detention, April 2009
[3] Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Ombudsman publishes report on UK Border Agency, 9 February 2010
[4] Natahsa Tsangarides, "The Second Torture": The immigration detention of torture survivors, Mediacl Justice, 2012
[5] UKBA letter to potential deportees institutionalises controversial 'reserves' policy, Corporate Watch, 17 February 2013
[6] Alan Travis, UKBA's dispersal policy 'puts pregnant asylum seekers at risk' says report, The Guardian, 25 February 2013
[7] Wide support for Inquiry into G4S Asylum Contracts, SYMAAG, 22 February 2013
[8] See coverage from Statewatch News Online: Expulsion of two leading participants in Yarl's Wood protest is "political reprisal," say campaigners; Campaigners demand freedom for immigration detainees transferred to prison after protests; Organised dissent at Yarl's Wood detention centre met with harsh treatment
[9] Final verdict of the International Migrants' Tribunal, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, 4 December 2012
[10] Report from Tribunal 12, Tribunal 12, May 2012; Jennifer Allsopp, Tribunal 12: migrants' rights abuses in Europe, OpenDemocracy, 15 May 2012
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