Our Cases

Pen is Mightier than the Sword! HCP secures another release

Our client AB* who was detained at Yarl’s Wood IRC since March, has been released from detention.

AB is a Zimbabwean national subject to a deportation order. A recent High Court case of The Queen (Babbage) v SSHD [2016] EWHC 148, notes, “The Zimbabwean authorities will not accept the return of their nationals unless either they hold a current passport or they sign a voluntary disclaimer indicating that they are willing to return to Zimbabwe”. Their position has been made clear “over a prolonged period” and that there “is nothing to suggest that stance is likely to change in the foreseeable future”. It was concluded that there was “no prospect of the Claimant being deported to Zimbabwe” and as such, further detention was unjustifiable. AB’s passport expired earlier this year and there was no prospect of deportation, the underlying purpose of immigration detention.

The Habeas Corpus Project wrote to the Home Office requesting information on what steps they were taking to deport AB given the highly unlikely chances of deportation.

The first letter was sent on 14/09/16. We phoned to chase an answer a week later and were informed the original letter had never been received, despite a successful fax receipt. With no response to this letter, we followed up with a new letter on the 28/09/16.

Again no response! The HCP managed to speak to AB’s caseworker on 05/10/16, and were told that our second letter had arrived, however they would not respond due to AB having more than one representative. We asked why this was a barrier to responding to our questions, but were instead met with interrogation over our authority to act. The caseworker had not heard of the Bar Standards Board and would need to confirm this was an acceptable authorising body before she would respond (she confirmed the written response would simply restate her reasons she couldn’t answer our questions).

With this obstructive behaviour frustrating case progression and unnecessarily extending the length of AB’s detention, the HCP sent a strongly-worded warning letter on the 11/10/16. This finally shook the Home Office awake; they realised that AB’s ongoing detention was inappropriate and she was released. We are delighted AB is able to return to the community!

*AB is not our client’s real initials, they have been used here to protect her privacy.

HCP Squad Gets Salami Released

On Tuesday 25th October 2016 the HCP represented Mr. Salami at a bail hearing at IAC Taylor House, London. Mr. Salami had been in immigration detention for 6 months but had no prospect of being removed from the UK in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Salami had no resources to pay a private lawyer and turned to the HCP for assistance. We prepared a bail application for Mr. Salami, got together all relevant documentation and statement and represented him at the hearing.

The bail application was prepared by Freddy Russell, caseworker for the HCP along with student volunteers. He was represented at court by Ousman Noor. This was a very difficult case with complex issues and a grant of bail was unlikely in the circumstances. However, due to strong preparation and advocacy on the day, we were very happy to see Mr. Salami released on bail.

Mr. Salami told the HCP, our staff and supporters ‘God bless you all, I cannot thank you enough’. Our squad took a group photo outside of Taylor House to celebrate our success.

 

 

HCP Secures Release of Potential Human Trafficking Victim

Today we were delighted to be informed that our client, BC, has been released from detention following a successful referral to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for Human Trafficking. BC’s very serious case had been entirely ignored by three previous legal representatives and the Home Office prior to our intervention.

The team at the Habeas Corpus Project visited Yarl’s Wood IRC on Wednesday 29th June 2016 to interview five female detainees, including BC. We were very distressed when BC told us of how she arrived to Europe. Her account gave us reason to believe that she was a potential victim of human trafficking (PVoT). Despite residing in the UK since 2002, being represented by three different solicitors and submitting numerous applications for leave to remain to the Home Office she was never identified as a PVoT by any of her legal representatives. The HCP’s first priority was to flag our concern with the appropriate authority. The government policy on PVoTs is centralised through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and the power to make referrals resides with “first responders” such as the police, government sponsored service providers and the Home Office. Solicitors cannot refer directly to the NRM, so the HCP compiled key case notes and contacted several first responders directly.

The Salvation Army, one of the approved first responders, quickly picked up on BC’s case. They contacted her to give an interview over the phone and made the referral on Friday 8th July. By Monday we received the first piece of good news: the NRM had accepted her referral. The successful NRM referral triggers a “recovery and reflection” period of 45 days provided for under the terms of the Council of Europe Convention.

Victims of trafficking are only considered suitable for detention in very exceptional circumstances. In Chapter 9.9 of the enforcement instructions and guidance (EIG) it is provided that during this 45 day period “individuals will not be detained (unless their detention can be justified on grounds of public order) and removal action will be suspended.”  Furthermore, BC cannot be removed in these 45 days and she has no criminal convictions. By the end of Tuesday, BC was still held in Yarl’s Wood so we began to draft a temporary admission requesting the Home Office release her while her case is concluded.

However, this morning BC was released from Yarl’s Wood! We could not be happier with this news as her continued detention was having a serious impact on her mental health.

This case demonstrates how detention and a lack of access to justice deprive immigration detainees from safeguarding mechanisms designed to protect them. BC’s very serious case had gone unnoticed or ignored and the HCP are very relieved she can now access the legal protection she is entitled to.

Our gratitude to the Salvation Army for their speedy and diligent response to our referral.

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!

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!

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!

Good News: NRC Enters The 21st Century

Some of you may recall the shambolic incident regarding the NRC’s (National Removal Command) broken fax machine late last year. After fifteen failed attempts at faxing urgent representations to the NRC and being told that “their machine is working” and there was no other means of contact, we have vigorously pursued a thorough complaint.

Our initial complaint was submitted on the 8th October and can be read here. Their response on the 17th November was unsatisfactory and can be read here. We then renewed our complaint on the 27th November. The full text is below.

On 19th January 2016 the Home Office replied. After looking into our complaints, they have agreed to improve the NRC’s technical communications. They informed us that faxes sent to the NRC will be converted into electronic format rather than printing hard copies. In addition, the Home Office has agreed to make available an email address for the NRC. Representations can now also be made to: NRCCorrespondence@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

It is an honour to welcome the NRC into the 21st century.

While the Home Office response may seem like small steps, the HCP considers this a real success. These changes should reduce the propensity for technical difficulties and make it easier for the Home Office to share documents across all departments. Our complaint has brought about structural change and removed a serious barrier to justice. Since the publication of our first blog on the subject, migrants, as well as their representatives, friends and family members have contacted the HCP to share their frustration when corresponding with the NRC. We hope that they can now make representations to the NRC without hindrance.

 

Dear Home Office Complaints,

I remain dissatisfied with the response provided to me in relation to my complaint dated 8th October 2015 and responded to on 17th November 2015. (see below).

The complaint relates to the fax machine number provided by the NRC which is defunct. I requested that additional fax numbers be provided in addition to permission to use the email address NRCcorrespondence@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. The response to the complaints suggests that the communications system will be changed ‘soon’ to make communication easier.

However, a date has not been provided for when this will the case. Since making the complaint matters have in fact become worse. Just today, I have attempted to submit urgent representations in relation to another client by way of fax. Yet again, as usual, the fax transmission has failed leaving no method of communicating representations to the NRC. I have already wasted an hour trying to get this fax to send. Further, the email address NRCcorrespondence@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk which was provided to me as the ’emergency’ email now no longer works. When I tried sending the same representations I received an automated response stating Please note: This inbox is NO LONGER IN USE.

This is an entirely unacceptable situation. I often need to make urgent representations to the National Removal Command on matters that involve potential serious violations of the prohibition of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and the right to life. The National Removal Command make it next to impossible to contact them or to serve documents.

This is a pathetic situation and brings the administration of justice in to serious disrepute. I therefore demand that the remedy sought in my initial complaint is immediately provided to prevent further miscarriages of justice such as the incident that prompoted this complaint in the first place. I demand that a date be provided for when the issues with communication to the NRC be rectified.

Success for the Habeas Corpus Project: Nurse Released from Detention

This week we have great news from the Habeas Corpus Project! We are pleased to share that we have helped to secure the release of AB, a 36-year-old woman from Jamaica.

AB came to the UK in 2004 to study nursing. In Jamaica, she left behind of sexual abuse, sexist and homophobic discrimination; fearing return to a life lived in a constant state of threat and insecurity. Most importantly, AB has established a life for herself in the UK, having close ties to her local community and church.

Notably, AB was fully compliant with the Home Office’s reporting procedures and reported back to them weekly as required. Despite this, she was detained and sent to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, where she then contacted the Habeas Corpus Project. We asked that her removal be deferred and made a temporary admission request. The Home Office agreed to defer her removal and she was subsequently released. AB is now able to continue the asylum process while her claim is being processed. The Habeas Corpus Project is overjoyed that AB can continue to cultivate a safer life for herself.

Update on our Complaint to the National Removal Command

On 8th October 2015, following the shambolic failure of the National Removal Command to provide a working fax number or email address in an emergency situation, we lodged a formal complaint to the Home Office. The full complaint can be read here

On 17th November 2015, we received the following unsatisfactory response:

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Dear Sir/Madam  

Thank you for your email correspondence of 8 October.  We are sorry that you found it necessary to complain about the service offered by UK Visas and Immigration. 

You have expressed your dissatisfaction surrounding the difficulties you have experienced when attempting to send faxes to the National Removal Command (NRC), specifically in relation to your client, Ms JP and her immigration matter.

In order to safeguard an individual’s personal information and to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, we are limited in what information we can provide when the request is made by someone who is not the applicant.  We have no record that Ms JP has provided written confirmation that she wish’s for you to act on her behalf.  Therefore, we are unable to provide you with information relating specifically to Ms JP’s case.

With regards to your attempts at contacting us via fax, the NRC is aware of the difficulties that some individuals have experienced when attempting to contact teams responsible for detention and removal, and is implementing a change to systems to enable better communication.  This includes the centralisation of correspondence systems, the publication of email addresses to encourage electronic communication, and a diversion of resource to ensure that correspondence from those with removal directions in place is prioritised.

Please accept our apologies for the service you received when attempting to contact us in order to seek an alternative method of contact in connection with this matter.  I can assure you that we take all complaints seriously and we value the feedback provided in order to help improve the services we offer to customers.

If you remain dissatisfied following this response, you may ask for a review of your complaint within one month of the date of this response.  Please submit full details in writing about why you remain dissatisfied, using one of the following methods: email to complaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, or by post to UKVI Complaints Allocation Hub, Long Corridor 11th Floor, Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon, CR9 2BY.  A review will be undertaken by a member of staff who has not dealt with your initial complaint.

Yours faithfully

Central Correspondence Team

Customer Service Operations

UK Visas and Immigration

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Particularly frustrating about this response is the refusal to engage with the issues regarding our client JP on the basis that they have not received written notification that she wished us to act for her. Written notification was within the fax that was sent to the National Removal Command 15 times (and failed to receive each time) which is the whole basis of the complaint in the first place. Written notification was also within the email sent to the National Removal Command. Despite ‘taking our complaint very seriously’, the Home Office have (a) taken longer than the advertised time limit to respond to our complaint and (b) continue to ignore the fact that we submitted written confirmation of our client’s instruction to us and have brick-walled us yet again.

Even more frustrating is the vague promise that the National Removal Command ‘ is implementing a change to systems to enable better communication.  This includes the centralisation of correspondence systems, the publication of email addresses to encourage electronic communication, and a diversion of resource to ensure that correspondence from those with removal directions in place is prioritised.‘ We have found this promise to be completely empty. Several days after providing us with the email address to contact the National Removal Command, the email address was blocked and now only sends an automated response saying ‘do not use this email address anymore’. We have continued to have serious problems communicating with the National Removal Command. Further, despite the promise, the National Removal Command have failed to provide a time-frame for when this new ‘improved’ system will be implemented. How many individual’s will have their right to justice effected while the National Removal Command continue to deny provision of a working email address to contact them?