Author Archives: ousman

Statistics on our work so far! (infographic included)

gender chartIt’s been almost six months since we published our annual report so today we are publishing updated statistics on our work. The Habeas Corpus Project are pleased to announce that so far this year we have provided legal assistance to 66 people held in immigration detention. This means we have represented 167 people since we first began. If we continue at this rate we will have helped over 130 people by the end of 2016, an increase of nearly a third compared to the 101 people in 2015.

We have so far represented people from 50 different countries (see infographic above). We have have diversified our client base, and have been reaching out to a far greater number of male detainees. This is due to an increase in clients from Colnbrook and Harmondsworth, the predominately male detention centres beside Heathrow airport. Yarl’s Wood remains the detention centre with the most HCP clients.

So far this year, we have released 12 people from detention, visit ‘Our Cases’ for a post on some of our successes.This means we have helped secure the release of 32 people in total so far.
IRC chart
The team has worked extremely hard in providing justice for a growing number of detainees which has resulted in an expansion of our client base and successes. The HCP will continue to work to provide access to justice for people in immigration detention and hopes that the next six months will be as fruitful as the first.

Finally, a huge thank you to the staff, volunteers and donors who have made this work possible. At the top there’s a cool infographic depicting the wide range of client nationalities since we opened.

 

Emmanuel Surena Released from Detention

We are pleased to announce the release of Emmanuel Surena from Harmondsworth IRC where he spent one month in detention. The Habeas Corpus Project took his case on for free, as Emmanuel was not able to afford private legal representation. We prepared the necessary paperwork and represented him at his bail hearing on 9th June 2016 after which the judge ordered his immediate release.

Emmanuel’s case was a highly complicated one. Whilst in detention, his wife who had severe medical conditions, was placed under enormous difficulty in securing the well-being of their two children without their father. We lodged a bail application on behalf of Emmanuel, which involved preparing the bundle of supporting documents for the hearing. This includes witness statements, bank statements, proof of accomodation and letters of support from social services and the NHS and totalled nearly 50 pages. Our Director Ousman Noor advocated for him on the day of the hearing.

At the hearing, the Home Office representative argued that Emmanuel could not be trusted and that he presented a serious threat to public safety. Moreover, the Home Office attempted to persuade the judge that his surety, his wife, neither would have incentive to ensure that Emmanuel complies with his bail conditions nor would she be able to exercise any influence over him. The Home Office representative also stated that Emmanuel’s family was surviving ’adequately’ without his support. However, Ousman argued that detention should always be the last resort, and cannot be used as further punishment for a sentence already served. Moreover, he showed that Emmanuel’s detention had a serious impact on the physical and mental well-being of his family. He also pointed out that not only Emmanuel’s children were deprived of their father, but his absence put an disproportionately heavy burden on his seriously ill wife. Furthermore, his wife proved to be a trustworthy surety contrary to the Home Office’s advocate. Finally, Ousman’s argument convinced the judge who released Emmanuel after the 40-minute hearing. The success of the hearing was influenced greatly by the thorough and comprehensive bundle of documents put together by our caseworkers Freddy Russell and Zsuzsanna Godany.

After the hearing, Emmanuel and his wife expressed their deepest gratitude for the Habeas Corpus Project which we would like to extend to all our generous donors and indefatigable supporters. We share his story and the photo with his permission and wish him and his lovely family the very best!

Md Ali Reaz Khan Released from Detention

We are pleased to announce that the Habeas Corpus Project secured the release of Mohammed Ali Reaz Khan from Harmondsworth IRC where he spent more than 9 months in detention. Since he was not able to afford private legal representation, the Habeas Corpus Project assisted him and took his case on for free, preparing the necessary paperwork and representing him at his bail hearing on 1st June 2016 in addition to assisting in the preparation of statements for his asylum claim. Although the judge himself admitted that he was not going to grant bail when he first read the papers, he eventually ordered Reaz’s release from detention after being convinced through the course of the hearing.

This was a difficult case. Reaz was detained last August and his continued detention was deemed appropriate on an allegation that he had ‘exceptionally poor immigration history’, an issue which Reaz disputed. Our volunteer Anna Ashford worked tirelessly to collect all necessary information, and prepared the paperwork for the bail hearing. At the hearing, the Home Office representative attempted to convince the judge that Reaz could not be trusted, accusing him of a failure to comply with his reporting conditions, working illegally in the UK, and breaching immigration rules, all of which was denied. Moreover, the Home Office was extremely critical that Reaz had only one surety, and attempted to persuade the judge that this surety to be too weak to exercise any influence over Reaz. However, our barrister, Ousman Noor argued that Reaz was never charged with the offence of working illegally, and that he made efforts to normalise his immigration status, that he had been accepted as a victim of torture and that his removal could not be considered imminent. Ousman also pointed out that Reaz was never put on reporting conditions, and that his surety, who had travelled from Scotland to London on the morning of the hearing in order to help his friend, was a strong and reliable surety. Eventually, Ousman’s argument and the commitment of the surety convinced the judge and Reaz was released from detention after a 30-minute-hearing.

After his release, Reaz expressed his deepest gratitude to Anna, Ousman and the team of the Habeas Corpus Project.

We publish his story and the photo with his permission and wish him best of luck!

The Home Office Finally Publishes A DSO on Internet Access in Detention

The Habeas Corpus Project website was among several websites that immigration detainees were blocked from visiting. We expressed our strong concern about this in in March 2015.

A Detention Services Order 04/2016 regarding internet access for detainees has recently been published by the Home Office, allowing detainees to have “reasonable and regulated access” for a minimum of at least 7 hours a day and 7 days a week – although an excessive demand of access will result in limited individual time slots. This DSO marks the first time the Home Office has set a standardised policy which must be followed by immigrations centres and includes guidelines that internet suppliers of detention centres must follow when providing their services.

This order gives detainees the right to access websites of educational, legal and news content, as well as to assist them in “maintaining links with friends, families and legal representatives and to prepare for removal”. As mentioned in our previous blogpost (link), we were informed by one of our clients that detainees were blocked from accessing our website, as well as the websites of other legal support organisations and even the websites of some solicitors’ firms.

This standardised policy should, in theory, mean that detainees will be allowed to access these previously blocked websites, but only time will tell whether this guideline will be complied by the detention centres. Access to these websites are of particular importance as it enables detainees to obtain information on legal support and assistance, and even more so at a time where cuts to legal aid are being made.

There are, however, other doubtful provisions that the Home Office has set, such as one where any detainee found to be attempting to access websites falling under the “list of prohibited categories” (Paragraph 11) will be suspended from further usage of the internet.
This includes

“Prohibited lifestyle categories:

Social networking (including Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms and instant messaging)

Pornographic material

Dating

Gambling

 

Prohibited harm related categories

Terrorism (extremist and radicalisation material)

Weapons and explosives

Racist material

Crime

Despite stating that detainees are supposedly allowed to maintain links with their friends and family in its procedures, it is still unclear as to why detainees would be denied access to social networking websites such as Skype and Facebook. The purpose of the order states how “reasonable and regulated” access to internet is granted as long as the “security of the detention estate is not undermined” and the Habeas Corpus Project fail to see how allowing detainees access to websites that would connect them with their friends and family can be a potential threat to the security of any of the detention centres.

In an independent review published by Stephen Shaw, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, Shaw was highly critical of the blanket ban of social networking websites, stating that such restricted access to the internet was counter-productive and he found no security objection from the centre operators. Any “downloading and uploading of files” are also prohibited due to security reasons and any detainee wishing to do so must report to the internet supplier’s security manager to receive the appropriate support.

The Habeas Corpus Project welcomes the loosening of the restrictions on the detainees’ access to internet and we are pleased that there is finally a standardised set of guidelines that internet suppliers must follow when monitoring the detainees’ internet. However, there are still certain aspects of the DSO that we find lack basis, such as the prohibition of using social networking websites and the strict conditions on the uploading and downloading of files. Since this DSO is to be implemented at the end of the month, only time will tell how this DSO will impact the detainees’ access to internet.

A big thank you to all our sponsors! The HCP completes the London Legal Walk

Yesterday a team from the Habeas Corpus Project joined over 10,000 people in the London Legal Walk, a 10km charity fundraising walk through central London. The team was made up of HCP staff, our volunteers, trustees and friends.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored us so generously. With your help we raised an amazing £1,972.75 for the HCP! This amount was far beyond our expectations and we are truly grateful to everyone who contributed.

Thank you also to the London Legal Support Trust for organising such a great event in aid of organisations promoting access to justice.

Remember, it’s not too late to donate! Click here to sponsor us.

Protest on 7th May 2016

This Saturday, 7th May, is National Day of Action against Detention in the UK and across Europe. There will be demonstrations being held across the UK detention centres, in solidarity with the thousands of people that are currently detained or those who have lived through experiences of detention. For information regarding your nearest demonstration, click on the link below:

Find out where protests are happening

Picture source: Movement for Justice

 

Susannah Ekpo Released From Detention!

We are delighted to announce Susannah Ekpo’s release from Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Susannah  had been detained in Yarl’s Wood for months without  any charges made against her. She was unable to afford private legal representation and so the Habeas Corpus Project took her case on for free. On 22nd April 2016, after our representation at a hearing, a judge ordered her immediate release.

Our caseworker Freddy Russell, assisted by our volunteers, helped prepare all of the paperwork for a bail application. This included filling in the bail form, collecting statements, bank accounts, passports, and proof of accomodation, speaking with sureties and drafting arguments for Susannah’s release. Our Director, Ousman Noor, then travelled to Yarl’s Wood on Friday 22nd April 2016 to advocate for Susannah on the day of her hearing.

At the hearing, the Home Office representative falsely accused Susannah of having ‘an atrocious immigration history’, of  ‘using deception’, of having ‘poor sureties’ and saying that ‘she cannot be trusted’. Ousman argued that, on the contrary, Susannah had a good immigration history, that her sureties were strong, that there was no prospect of her removal and that it was unlawful to maintain her detention. After an approximately 1 hour hearing, an Immigration Judge was convinced to release Susannah from detention immediately.

After the hearing, both Susannah and her sureties expressed enormous delight and gratitude for the work of the Habeas Corpus Project. We wish to extend this thanks to all those who have supported and donated to this project and helped secure the release of individuals such as Susannah.

We asked Susannah for her permission to write this story and she sent this lovely picutre of her to go on our blog. Thank you Susannah!

Our Statement to the Bar Council re: Home Office hacking phone calls to clients

The Habeas Corpus Project is extremely dissapointed to learn that immigration officials have been permitted to hack the phones of refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom are rape and torture victims, including conversations with their legal representatives such as the Habeas Corpus Project.

In response to this revelation, the Habeas Corpus Project have submitted the following statement to the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board, our regulatory authority. We look forward to their response.

To: The Bar Council and Bar Standards Board

Dear Sirs,

We at the Habeas Corpus Project wish to register our profound concern and alarm at the news that the Home Office has been granted powers to allow immigration officers to hack the phones of refugees and asylum seekers. It is understood that, following an amendment of the Police Act 1997, the Home Office now has the power of “property interference, including interference with equipment”. In practical terms, this allows them to hack the phones and computers of individuals and even to place listening devices in homes, cars and detention centres.

The Habeas Corpus Project is a charity that provides pro bono legal representation to people held unlawfully within the UK immigration detention estate. Our clients are often extremely vulnerable people whose cases involve deeply sensitive material. Many are survivors of rape, torture, human trafficking and are suffering from PTSD. This power is a gross invasion of their privacy, but more alarmingly, it will profoundly undermine the lawyer-client relationship of confidentiality which is one of the pillars that underpins their confidence in the representation they receive from us.

We believe this development to be hugely discriminatory and a gross and unjustified abuse of Parliamentary powers. It absolutely interferes with our clients’ right to free and independent legal representation. Given this, the Habeas Corpus Project would urge the Bar Standards Board to speak out against this development and place pressure upon Parliament to reverse this deeply alarming development. This is a matter of deep concern to many barristers. Therefore we believe that the Bar Standards Board ought to add its voice to the chorus of criticism that has met this latest erosion of an individual’s right to have communications with their legal representatives guarded by legal profession privilege.

Yours faithfully,

Habeas Corpus Project

Good News: AA released after Pre-Action Letter!

Today we have received excellent news that our client has been released from Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre after the Home Office conceded to our Pre Action Letter threatening to take High Court action if she was not released immediately.

AA was detained at the beginning of this year and served with removal directions. However, following an application for asylum, these removal directions were cancelled, yet she remained in detention. The Habeas Corpus Project applied for Temporary Admission for AA on the basis that with a pending asylum application the length of time AA would be detained would be unreasonable, thus making detention unlawful. By this time AA had already been detained for 3 months, deemed a “considerable” amount of time according to the Guidance issued to Bail Judges. However on 5th April 2016 the Home Office was swift to reject this Temporary Admission request denying the length of her detainment would be unreasonable. Yet it is unforeseeable how long an application appeal will take and as such the Habeas Corpus Project sent a Pre-Action Letter to the Home Office asking them to re-evaluate this decision. Thanks to our letter the Home Office conceded as such AA will be released and able to continue her application appeal whilst living in the community.

The grounds of her Pre-Action Letter were weighted upon the principles of Hardial Singh which state that “if it becomes clear that removal is not going to be possible within a reasonable time, further detention is not authorised.” Detention is only legal is removal is imminent, and when immigration proceedings are still ongoing this is often not the case, yet often people are detained nevertheless. We are very happy that AA has been released and hope for similar successes in other cases challenging unlawful detention!

Professor Menski Kite Model Training: A Compliment to the Work of HCP

On the 15th of March 2016, the Habeas Corpus Project had the honor of hosting Professor Werner Menski, retired professor from the SOAS University School of Law specializing in South Asian studies. Professor Menski provided training to staff, volunteers and trustees on his Kite Model of Law.

Professor Menski’s Kite Model of Law is particularly relevant and applicable to the Habeas Corpus Project’s work of providing pro bono legal representation in challenging unlawful detention of migrants and asylum seekers in the UK. The Kite Model of Law proceeds on the basis of taking a legally pluralistic stance which reflects global socio-legal realities (Menski 2011). A socially responsible approach, Menski argues, that acknowledges society, culture and competing value systems is necessary in teaching of the law (Menski 2011).  A disregard of the latter is one akin to the challenges of kite flying; where one wrong move could compromise and risk a crash of the legal structure (Menski 2011).  Importantly, the four corners of the kite incorporate what Menski finds are four competing laws which are crucial to consider in the decision making processes; namely, nature, society, state law and international law.  The first corner, nature, takes into account factors such as religion, ethics and nationality.  The next corner, society, pays mind to socio-legal approaches in decision making.  The third corner of has the theory of positivism at its core and the final corner, international law, takes human rights into account.

This training has helped the Habeas Corpus Project to provide a comprehensive legal learning experience to those committed to challenging unlawful detention.  A legally pluralistic approach to this challenge informs our work on a daily basis in advocating for individuals right to liberty.  This feat is a particularly complex one, where individual’s human rights are central and furthermore, considerations of the social and legal remain relevant. It remains dually important for us to flag these implications to the State, where we seek to elucidate that detention produces profound impacts on individuals lives. Considerations of the physical and mental toll, lack of access to justice and medical services, previous experiences of torture or sexual abuse are central to our work; an approach which finds its roots in the acknowledgement of legal pluralism.

The Habeas Corpus Project would like to thank Professor Menski for a thought provoking presentation and we greatly look forward to expanding the community’s knowledge on issues of unlawful detention.