Our Cases

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:

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 , 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?

Our Complaint to the National Removal Command

Further to our post on 2nd October 2015 regarding the broken fax machine at the National Removal Command which prevented us from making representations in JP’s case, we have lodged a formal complaint to the Home Office.

We request that the email address which we were told is only provided to legal representatives and detainees in ‘exceptional circumstances’ be made available all of the time and be printed clearly on all removal directions. It is unacceptable that the email address should have been withheld from us until after JP’s removal.

The following complaint was lodged on 8th October 2015. Until the outcome of that complaint we will be withold publication of the email address to provide an opportunity to the Home Office to make the address public themselves. The Home Office advertise that complaints are responded to within 20 days. Here is our complaint in full:

COMPLAINT

Dear Complaints Officer for the Home Office (National Removal Command),

I am writing to make a formal complaint about our difficulties sending faxes to the National Removal Command. This is an original complaint. The Habeas Corpus Project is a registered charity and limited company providing pro bono legal representation to individuals in immigration detention.

On Thursday 1st October 2015 we became instructed to represent JP (Home Office Ref: [ omitted here]  (DOB: [omitted here], Nationality: Jamaica) who was being detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

Facts

On Friday 2nd October 2015 JP was removed from the UK on [omitted here] to [omitted here], Jamaica at 12:40pm.

JP had obtained evidence prior to her removal that she was the victim of torture, confirmed by evidence contained within a Rule 35 report conducted by Dr. [omitted here] within Yarl’s Wood. In addition, she received a letter from her sister in Jamaica who had recently been viciously attacked by stabbing and hospitalised. The letter warned that the same fate may await JP upon her return to Jamaica.

I therefore prepared on her behalf a letter with Further Submissions for a Fresh Claim in Asylum. This letter is attached as Exhibit A. Due to the timing of her instruction to me, the earliest I could complete such representations was 11:00am on Friday 2nd October 2015.

At 11:20am I attempted to fax these representations to the fax number provided on her removal direction, 08703369480. The fax failed to be received at this number. I therefore called her immigration officer Mr. [omitted here] at NRC Birmingham 2 on 01213458055. Mr. [omitted here] assured me that the fax number was in fact working and that I should keep trying. I therefore tried an additional 3 times. Again, the fax failed to receive. Upon calling Mr. [omitted here] again I asked for an alternative fax number and /or email address as the matter was now extremely urgent. Mr. [omitted here] repeatedly refused to provide an alternative method of communication despite my repeated requests, stressing the urgency of the matter. I was simply told to ‘keep trying’.

A total of fifteen attempts to fax urgent representations to the Home Office were made, all of which ‘failed to receive’. Please see attached Exhibit B showing the ‘failed to receive’ messages we received after three attempts from our online fax system, which tries to send each fax three times, making it a total of nine failed attempts through this system. We also tried sending the representations manually from our other fax number (which is a physical fax machine) six more times, but every time our attempt was met with an engaged tone. We have had no problems sending faxes to other numbers from both of our faxes.

After multiple failed attempts to send the fax, we again called the National Removal Command (NRC). In three further separate telephone conversations with Mr. [omitted here], we pleaded with him to provide an alternative method of communication so that representations could be submitted. We were consistently denied. Faced with Mr. [omitted here]’s intransigence, we asked to speak to his manager and he refused upon first request. He finally then agreed to transfer us to his manager but we held for five minutes and the phone went dead. We were therefore never able to speak to Mr. [omitted here]’s superior.

Finally, at 12:43pm, we received a call from NRC Croydon to inform us that the NRC fax number which we had been sending our representations to (and which we were consistently told was working) was in fact not working, and had not been working since 9:45am. This news came 3 minutes after JP’s plane left the runway and it was now too late to make representations. After telling us that her flight had now left, the National Removal Command gave us an email address to send our representations to. This was despite previously repeatedly telling us that they could not give us any email contact.

Due to the ‘broken fax machine’, the refusal to provide an alternative fax number, the refusal to provide an email address (and subsequent provision of an email address, 3 minutes after her flight left the runway), our representations were not read by the National Removal Command. If they had been received, the Home Office would be obliged to consider our representations before removing her.

Consequence

Due to the (a) broken fax machine (b) refusal of the NRC to provide an alternative method of urgent communication until after our client’s removal (c) refusal to let me speak to a senior person within the NRC and (d) provision of an alternative email address 3 minutes after our client had left the runway; our client was removed from the UK on Friday 2nd October 2015 despite fresh evidence of her being the victim of torture and evidence from her sister that she may be at risk of persecution upon return.

It is wholly unacceptable that detainees’ legal representatives are unable to send urgent representations to the NRC. The consequence of the deliberate failure to provide a method of communication has arguably caused the removal of an individual to a country in which she will be subject to ill or degrading treatment contrary to the UK’s obligations under Article 3 of the ECHR.

The refusal by officer Mr. [omitted here] to provide an alternative means of communication was both unethical, unprofessional and, despite the urgency of the situation being made clear to him, arguably put the UK in breach of its legal obligations.

Media

We note that the Independent newspaper wrote an article about this event which can be read online. Note, we did not provide any comment to the Independent newspaper, nor were we asked.

However, the newspaper claims that a journalist spoke to the Home Office about the incident. The Home Office did confirm that the fax machine had been broken that morning. The Home Office spokesperson alleges that an alternative email address had been provided. However, they do not clarify that this email address was only provided after our client had been removed from the UK. This is a blatant distortion of the facts.

Failed faxes on 7th October 2015

Yesterday, Wednesday 7th October, we tried to send a fax to the same number regarding a different client in order to send an application for Temporary Admission. After 6 failed attempts, see Exhibit C, we then spoke to Mr. [omitted here] at NRC Birmingham 1 who refused to give us an alternative fax number or an email address. We then spoke to his manager (who did not disclose her name) and she also refused.

Remedy:

The issue of the broken fax machine was clearly not a one-off. We have learned that the fax number 08703369480 is a centralized fax number for the whole of the National Removal Command. We often get notifications of failed attempts to fax correspondence to this number, as demonstrated by the subsequent more recent failures.

A better means of urgent communication to the National Removal Command MUST be provided.

There are two remedies:

  • An email address should be written clearly on all removal directions, where urgent representations can be sent. We have learned that the email address [email address] is a working email address with which representations can be made (this was made clear to use after our client had already left the UK). This email address should be stated on all removal directions so that legal representatives have a means of communication with the NRC when the fax machine is not working. There is no good reason why this email address should not be provided to ALL individuals who are being removed from the UK.
  • Additional fax numbers should be provided to ensure that one is working at all times as the one provided is clearly prone to failure which can have appalling consequences.

We await your reply. Our contact details are as follows:

Email: [email protected]

Telephone/Fax: 0207 112 5370

Address: Habeas Corpus Project, 78 Cromer Street, London, WC1H 8DR

Yours faithfully,

Ousman Noor,

Director and Barrister,

Habeas Corpus Project

Obstructing Justice: Client Forcibly Removed After “Fax Machine Broken”

Today our client JP was forcibly removed from the UK on an aeroplane at 12:40pm, despite 15 attempts to fax urgent representations to the Home Office this morning, all of which ‘failed to receive’. In 4 telephone conversations this morning, we pleaded with the National Removal Command (responsible for receiving urgent representations) to provide an alternative method of communication so that representations could be submitted . We were consistently denied. We were told multiple times that their machine was working and ‘we should keep trying’. We were told that there was no alternative fax number nor was there an email address we could send our representations to. We kept on trying, each time the fax would fail. Each time we pleaded with the office to provide an alternative, each time we were refused.

Finally, at 12:43pm, we were told that their fax machine was in fact not working, and had not been working since 9:45am. This news came 3 minutes after JP’s plane left the runway and it was now too late to make representations. After telling us that her flight had now left, the National Removal Command gave us an email address to send our representations. This was despite previously repeatedly telling us that they did not receive emails.

JP fled Jamaica following a life of extreme abuse. She had been in the UK for seven years and had no criminal offences. Last week an independent medical practitioner based at Yarl’s Wood found the history of repeated sexual abuse to be genuine and amounted to torture.  This important new piece of evidence would have to be considered before she could be removed from the UK. We were instructed by JP just yesterday. The representations that we attempted to make this morning requested that this new medical evidence be considered and her flight be delayed until consideration had taken place.

Due to the ‘broken fax machine’, the refusal to provide an alternative fax number, the refusal to provide an email address (and subsequent provision of an email address, 3 minutes after her flight left the runway), our representations were not read by the National Removal Command. If they had been received, the Home Office would be obliged to consider our representations before removing her.

We are deeply saddened and frustrated by what has occurred today. The intransigence of the Home Office means they have failed to uphold fairness and justice, and are now returning a survivor of hideous abuse to the country from which she escaped.

Our best success yet! Kareen Nelson stays

A resounding victory for the Habeas Corpus Project this week, as we represented Kareen Nelson, a 66 year old national of Jamaica, in her application for judicial review and for an injunction against removal.

Kareen arrived to the UK 18 years ago and has lived peacefully in Birmingham ever since. She came to look after her father who was a British national. She did not claim benefits and was an active contributor to her local church.

Previously, those who have resided in the UK for 14 years can apply to stay in the country legally. The law was changed on the 9th July 2012, increasing the required amount of time to 20 years. However, the Secretary of State promised that applications made before this date were to be considered under the old rules.

Kareen had been living continuously in the UK for over 14 years and applied for leave to remain two days before the new law was introduced. She was refused. The Secretary of State claimed that as her application was considered after the deadline, the new 20 year rule applied. Despite being contrary to the promise made, the government introduced new laws which allowed the Secretary of State to renege on her own promise. This position was apparently endorsed in the Court of Appeal decision in Singh & Khalid v SSHD [2015] EWCA Civ 74.

She was detained in Yarl’s Wood where immigration officers would force Kareen on to a plane for her to be removed from the UK. Only a few days before her removal, Kareen contacted the Habeas Corpus Project. Barrister Ousman Noor worked to obtain an injunction against the removal. Only several hours before her removal, an injunction was granted. Shortly after, we were able to secure her release from Yarl’s Wood.

As the judicial review proceeded, the Secretary of State defended the decision to refuse to grant Kareen Nelson leave to remain and force her removal. However, Ousman lodged a 20 page skeleton argument arguing that the case of Singh & Khalid could be distinguished and that the Secretary of State’s decision was anomalous and unfair.

Upon receipt of our arguments, the Secretary of State retreated and agreed to reconsider Kareen’s case under the old laws before it went to court and to pay legal costs. This is a comprehensive triumph for justice and for the Habeas Corpus Project. We are delighted that Kareen has the chance to continue building the life she has created over many years in the UK.

Court Victory: Hospital Attendance Secured

The Habeas Corpus Project recently represented AB for an oral renewal hearing for permission for judicial review. She had been detained in Yarl’s Wood in November 2014 pending her removal to South America.

AB suffers from an ear condition with potentially very serious health complications, including deafness and even meningitis. This was caused by an assault that took place in 2013. Multiple medical practitioners advised urgent operation.

The operation was booked for the 5th February 2015, but she was refused transportation from Yarl’s Wood to the hospital on the grounds that she was to be removed from the UK on the following day. The Secretary of State was unwilling to re-arrange the date for her removal.

These events are concerning, particularly as her deteriorating condition is possibly life-threatening and could have been cured by this one operation. It was argued by the Habeas Corpus Project that the refusal to allow her attendance at the hospital was a breach of the Detention Services Order 3/2005 which states that “every effort should be made to keep external medical appoints… unless removal is arranged to take place before the date of the appointment”.

AB was not removed following administrative errors. She contacted the Habeas Corpus Project and we represented her at Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

In court, the Habeas Corpus Project managed to secure an agreement with the Secretary of State to allow her to attend hospital for the operation and not consider any removal action until after surgery. We are pleased that our work has allowed AB has the chance to remedy her health before leaving the UK.

Another Victory for Habeas Corpus Project : Coptic Chistianity Case Proceeds

The Habeas Corpus Project represented EY at Field House, Upper Tribunal, London today for an oral reconsideration hearing for judicial review. EY claimed asylum in the UK on the basis of being a Coptic Christian from Egypt, where persecution of this minority has persisted since the 2011 revolution. Despite being the victim of a stabbing and fractured skull, he has been detained in the infamous Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre, Oxfordshire for several months.

EY’s application had been dismissed by the Home Office and successive appeals had failed. The application for Judicial Review had also been refused by a previous judge and EY was due to be removed next week. A victory at this stage was therefore crucial for preventing removal and progressing his case.

The case was a complex one, with skilful orators making a case for both sides. However, the judge determined in favour of EY, agreeing with arguments made by Barrister Ousman Noor of the Habeas Corpus Project that EY should be granted permission to proceed to a full hearing. The Habeas Corpus Project is very pleased to have secured a victory at this stage and will now concentrate efforts on getting EY out of detention as soon as possible.

Court Victory for the Habeas Corpus Project!

The Habeas Corpus Project yesterday achieved a spectacular court victory for client Ms. C, detained at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.

Ms C has been detained for 10 months. She has never been charged with any offence. In April 2014 she claimed asylum in the UK due to persecution on the basis of her homosexuality in her country of origin. Ms C was put on the fast track meaning her claim was decided and refused within 2 weeks. She had appeals heard and dismissed by judges in both the First Tier and Upper Tribunal. Ms C submitted fresh evidence relating to her claim but this was again rejected by the Home Office. Upon challenging this rejection, a High Court judge determined that her claim was without merit and denied her permission to proceed.

At this stage Ms C’s previous lawyers gave up on her case. In January 2015 she contacted the Habeas Corpus Project. Our volunteers including Memmi Rasmussen, Holly Jackson and Ousman Noor worked closely with Ms C, determined to provide legal representation and challenge her rejection.

On 4th February 2015, Ousman Noor travelled to the Manchester Civil Justice Centre and after a 1 1/2 hour hearing, persuaded a High Court judge to grant permission to challenge the Home Office by judicial review. The judge found that Ms C had an arguable case and the matter should proceed to a full hearing.

The victory is an enormous success for Ms C and the Habeas Corpus Project and has encouraged us to remain determined in our effort to provide pro bono representation to immigration detainees.

Yarl's Wood IRC Visit

On Saturday 20th Decemeber 2014 the Habeas Corpus Project conducted it’s first official visit to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Ousman Noor and Bethan Rogers conducted interviews with two detainees who are to become our clients. They have been detained in Yarl’s Wood IRC for 4 months and 8 months respectively, neither have been charged with, or committed a criminal offence.

The Habeas Corpus Project has already successfully obtained a High Court injunction prohibiting the removal of one client. We will continue to represent her throughout proceedings as the case progresses to determine whether she should be granted leave to remain and be relased from detention.