Free Movement Weekly Immigration Newsletter #6

Welcome to the weekly Free Movement newsletter!

I was pleased to see one of the three new asylum backlogs get some media coverage at the weekend. I have been baffled as to why the government created this situation ever since the Illegal Migration Act was first published in July last year. Essentially, they seem to have blocked a cohort of people (the Illegal Migration Bill backlog, i.e. people who arrived from 7 March 2023) from being granted leave, even though the duty to remove would not apply to them (as if it ever does come into force it would currently apply to those who arrived from 20 July onwards).

UNHCR set out proposals for what should be done for this group in October last year. As it has from the outset, a grant of leave seems to me to be the only possible outcome given there is nowhere to send them all, no matter how much the government does not want to do this.

It is also worth remembering that not everyone who has arrived and claimed asylum since 7 March will be caught by the provisions of the Illegal Migration Act, and a blanket prohibition on processing claims made since then seems likely to be unlawful (it reminded me of this recent story on a secret pause on trafficking cases). 

I spotted a highly bizarre answer from an immigration minister last week in response to a written question. Tom Pursglove MP appeared to claim that people in the asylum system are restricted to shortage occupation list roles on the “expert advice” of the Migration Advisory Committee. In fact, in October 2023 that “expert advice” was very clearly stated to be that “if granted the right to work, asylum seekers should be able to work in any job”. As I explained in here, the change restricting people to shortage occupation list roles was made seemingly out of spite by the government after they lost a case in the Supreme Court, and it is not based on evidence of any sort. 

A reminder of the Civil Legal Aid review, the deadline for response is 21 February. A couple of additional resources for anyone preparing a response: Jo Wilding has prepared a couple of documents, A menu of civil legal aid policy options for a new government, and a timeline for implementation. The National Audit Office published a report on Friday which is also likely to prove useful for anyone preparing a response. The NAO stated that the “MoJ must ensure that access to legal aid, a core element of access to justice, is supported by a sustainable and resilient legal aid market, where capacity meets demand”.

The Rwanda Bill is back in the House of Lords today for committee stage, so this is where things are likely to get a little interesting, although – as ever – it probably isn’t healthy to hope or expect that the Lords will achieve much in the way of damage to the Bill. Let’s see. 

On Free Movement, first of all just to flag up that Colin is doing a webinar on the Illegal Migration Act and Safety of Rwanda Bill on 5 March, and there is a 20% off discount code available for just a couple more days. 

Last week, we updated our immigration health surcharge explainer with the new fees, we had the last in our series of tax articles – this one on buying a property in the UK, and this on the recent changes to the trafficking guidance. There were also a few new cases, including this one by the Asylum Support Tribunal on the process that should be followed when moving people onto the Bibby Stockholm.  

Read on to see everything else from Free Movement last week, as well as what we have been reading elsewhere. 

Cheers, Sonia

What we’re reading

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee (CPT) publishes report on its 2023 ad hoc visit to the United Kingdom on immigration detention – Council of Europe, 8 February

English test scandal: students renew fight to clear names after 10 years – The Guardian, 11 February

Supreme court rules Government must support EU migrants at risk of not being able to meet “most basic needs” – Child Poverty Action Group, 8 February

Supporting unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK and are at risk of going missing: Good practice guidance – Missing People, 2 February

Government concedes judicial review of regulations removing licensing requirements for asylum seeker accommodation – Doughty Street Chambers, 7 February

Home Secretary admits Article 3 ECHR breach and concedes unlawful detention claim for £105,000 – Garden Court Chambers, 6 February

Press release: High Court to determine whether the government’s hostile environment is again targeting and trapping the wrong people – RAMFEL, 4 February

Weather data casts doubt on government’s claim over fall in migrant crossings – BBC News, 7 February

Australia paid companies linked to suspected drug and weapons smuggling to run offshore detention, review finds – The Guardian, 11 February

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