News Briefing and Comment

02/17/2018 07:46 PM
Boris Johnson's speech and the hallucinatory world of British exceptionalism

Boris Johnson's speech and the hallucinatory world of British exceptionalism

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02/17/2018 07:47 AM
UNHCR 'dismayed' at Hungary's approach to asylum-seekers, refugees and NGOs

UNHCR calls on the Government of Hungary to withdraw a proposed bill that would deprive refugees of vital support from NGOs and civil society.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has expressed its dismay over recent additional restrictions at border crossing points in Hungary, which have further reduced access to the territory for asylum-seekers and refugees. It also called upon the Government of Hungary to withdraw a proposed bill that would deprive people fleeing war, violence and persecution of vital support from NGOs and civil society.

For the past few weeks, UNHCR has observed that the Hungarian authorities are, on average, only allowing two asylum-seekers a day to enter the country through the two 'transit zones' at the border with Serbia.

Since asylum-seekers who attempt to cross the razor-wire border fences are automatically removed, Hungary has practically closed its borders to people seeking international protection, in clear breach of its obligations under international and EU law.

UNHCR also has serious concerns at three new legislative proposals submitted by the Hungarian government to the Parliament on 13 February 2018. These proposals clearly target organisations that support the arrival or stay of asylum-seekers and refugees.

“Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. People should have access to seek protection and no one should be punished for helping those who seek asylum”, said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central Europe.

As Government support for asylum-seekers and refugees in Hungary has dwindled over time, the role of NGOs has become even more critical.

“NGOs play an essential role in advocating for rights and the rule of law, as well as for the delivery of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers, including medical and psycho-social care, housing, education, employment and legal aid. NGOs complement the work of governments. Their important work should be facilitated, rather than hampered”, Feixas Vihé added.

Hungary has become increasingly restrictive towards asylum-seekers and refugees in the last years. The building of physical barriers at the border and the introduction of restrictive laws and policies have increased the suffering of people who have often fled unbearable conditions in their countries of origin.

UNHCR urges the Hungarian Government, as an EU Member State, to ensure access to its territory for people seeking international protection.

UNHCR also calls on the Hungarian Parliament not to adopt the proposed legislative package. It is crucial that Hungary remains committed to protecting refugees and asylum-seekers, including by facilitating the essential role and efforts of qualified civil society organisations.



02/17/2018 07:21 AM
Call for ICC to investigate Libya's forced displacement of Tawerghan residents

Armed groups and civilian authorities in the Libyan coastal city of Misrata are blocking thousands of people from the town of Tawergha from returning to their hometown after seven years of forced displacement, says Human Righrs Watch.

Armed groups and civilian authorities in the Libyan coastal city of Misrata are blocking thousands of people from the town of Tawergha from returning to their hometown after seven years of forced displacement, Human Rights Watch said on 16 February 2018. Two men have died following strokes since 1 February, in the deteriorating conditions for families stranded in makeshift desert camps that lack adequate health facilities.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, should investigate those implicated in possible crimes against humanity against the Tawergha community, as part of her continued efforts to address ongoing grave abuses in Libya, says Human Rights Watch.

“Misrata militias and authorities who are barring 40,000 forcibly displaced people from returning to their homes after seven years of living in squalid conditions are being cruel and vindictive,” said Sarah Leah Whiston, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities in Tripoli should act to ensure that people already on their way to Tawergha reach it in safety and help them to rebuild their lives.”

On 1 February, the Misrata forces blocked thousands of people from Tawergha from returning to their town. The effort to return followed a long-anticipated decision by the United Nations-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to initiate the return process, based on an agreement brokered by the UN between representatives from Misrata and Tawergha that provided for reconciliation between the communities and compensation for victims on both sides.

Misrata militias forcibly displaced at least 40,0000 Tawerghans from their town in 2011 as collective punishment for their support of the deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, and alleged abuses by some Tawerghans against Misrata residents. Since then, the Tawergha community has been dispersed around the country in makeshift camps and private housing.

Thousands of people have tried to return since 1 February. Human Rights Watch spoke on the phone on 2 February 2 and 12 February  with Emad Ergeha, an activist and media spokesman for the Tawergha Local Council, the main body representing the displaced Tawergha community and coordinating relief. He said that when Tawerghans tried to reach their village on 1 February, armed groups from Misrata burned tyres, harassed people and shot in the air to intimidate them.

The Tawerghans were forced to retreat from checkpoint 14 and an area known as Industrial River road, on 1 February  and again on 4 February. During the latter incident, armed groups from Misrata injured Itimah Mohamed Jebreel, a woman from Tawergha, inside a relative’s car, Ergeha said.

Ergeha said that the families were stranded in newly erected makeshift tent-camps east of Tawergha. In Qararet al-Qatef, 35 kilometres east of Tawergha, between 240 and 300 families were staying in tents provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). An additional unknown number of people were staying with friends or relatives in the nearby town.

In Harawa, 280 kilometres southeast of Tawergha, an unknown number of families were staying in 20 to 25 tents, he said. People were also staying in a mosque and a social gathering hall in the town, provided by the municipal council. In Bani Walid, 100 kilometres southwest of Tawergha, 55 newly arrived families were added to the 230 families there who have been displaced from Tawergha since 2011.

“Libyan authorities and the UN both have critical roles to play in challenging these spoilers from Misrata”, Whitson said. “After accepting a generous compensation package, it’s deplorable that the Misrata groups are still trying to violently sabotage a long-negotiated agreement.”

Ergeha said that the number of people in the camps has fluctuated as many families have gone back to Tripoli and other cities, given harsh weather conditions, poor sanitation, lack of health care, and poor living conditions. He said that two men suffered strokes and died in separate incidents. He said that Al-Shaali Abunab died on February 1 in Tripoli Medical Centre, 245 kilometres from where he had been staying. Imhamed Ahmed Baraka, died in the town of Tarhouna on 12 February after suffering a stroke  two days earlier, Ergeha said.

On 13 February, a fire broke out at around 10 pm in one of the tents in Qararet al-Qatef, after families attempted to cook dinner, according to Ergeha. The incident resulted in two women from Tawergha suffering minor burns, he said.

On January 31, the Misrata Military Council, the Misrata Association of Families of Martyrs and Missing, and the Council of Elders of Misrata issued a statement opposing the anticipated return of Tawerghans on 1 February and seeking a postponement, claiming that parts of the UN-brokered agreement between the parties had not been fulfilled.

Human Rights Watch spoke by phone on 12 February with Abdelrahman al-Shakshak, head of Tawergha’s Local Council and lead negotiator on behalf of Tawerghans. He said that some people in Misrata opposed the return of Tawerghans despite the agreement and the transfer of 25 per cent of the compensation promised by the GNA as a first installment to victims from both sides. The agreement was to provide 463 million Libyan Dinars (US$348 million based on the official exchange rate) as compensation, according to an interview with Shakshak on the online news site Al Wasat, of which Tawerghan victims are to receive 170 million Libyan Dinars.

Shakshak said that the Government of National Accord had also made payments to the Interior Ministry, Ministry of Local Governance, and to the forces aligned with the government in the central region to facilitate the return.

Tawerghans have attempted to return to their hometown on several occasions since their forced displacement, but have been prevented each time by Misrata militias, who accuse them of fighting on the side of Gaddafi’s forces during the 2011 conflict and of committing war crimes in Misrata. Militias, mostly from Misrata, ransacked Tawergha in 2011, demolishing and burning many buildings in that city. Since 2011, armed groups from Misrata have been responsible for a range of abuses against Tawerghans, including shooting at camps of displaced Tawerghans, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture.

There has been a lack of accountability for crimes committed against Tawerghans. Libyan authorities have prosecuted only crimes attributed to Tawerghans, convicting them mostly for killings and unlawful possession of weapons, sentencing those found guilty to jail and even imposing death sentences. No one, in particular from the militias, has yet been prosecuted for the forced displacement of Tawerghans or other serious abuses against them.

The UNHCR  Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide that displacement should be limited in time and should not last “longer than required by the circumstances.” International law further stipulates that civilians forcibly displaced from their homes during a conflict should be allowed to return home as soon as possible without conditions.

Certain abuses committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population, including torture, arbitrary detention, and forced displacement, may constitute crimes against humanity. The UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya concluded in its March 2012 report that Misrata militias had committed crimes against humanity against Tawerghans and that the deliberate destruction of Tawergha “has been done to render it uninhabitable.”

The ICC prosecutor has a mandate to investigate crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in Libya since February 15, 2011. Human Rights Watch’s research in Libya since 2011 has found rampant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including mass long-term arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, forced displacement, and unlawful killings. In the face of mounting atrocities, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC prosecutor to urgently expand her investigations into ongoing grave crimes by all sides, including possible crimes against humanity.

Bensouda has said that the Libya situation continues to be a priority for her office and that she will not hesitate to seek new arrest warrants should the evidence support doing so. Given the serious crimes committed in Libya and the challenges facing the authorities, the ICC’s mandate remains crucial to ending impunity in Libya. The UN Security Council, which gave the ICC a mandate in 2011, together with ICC member countries should ensure the court has the political backing and resources to fully and fairly provide justice for the worst international crimes in Libya, Human Rights Watch said.

“The ICC Prosecutor should commit to investigating those implicated in serious crimes against the people of Tawergha”, said Whitson. “Libyan authorities are at the same time obligated to allow this displaced community to return home in full security and without risk of reprisal.”

* Human Rights Watch


02/17/2018 07:13 AM
Barnardo’s becomes partner in development of digital resource for care leavers

Barnardo's is partnering with the CareTech Foundation on a £1 million project to develop a ground-breaking digital resource to support young people leaving care.

Barnardo's is partnering with the CareTech Foundation on a £1 million project to develop a ground-breaking digital resource to support young people leaving care.

Such young people face a variety of challenges as they transition into adulthood, including feeling lonely and finding it hard to make a home for themselves. It is all too easy for them to become isolated and find difficulty accessing available opportunities.

In partnership with the app developer FutureGov and with the support of the CareTech Foundation, Barnardo's is developing a UK-wide innovative digital resource focused on the needs of care leavers.

It will feature content on:

  • Information and advice on living independently such as what to wear for work, how to cook for themselves and what support they are entitled to
  • Convenient access to, and reminders about, their Care Leaver Pathway Plan
  • The ability to check in quickly and conveniently with support workers rather than making phone calls or having face-to-face meetings
  • Access to tools to complete tasks as an adult, including collecting benefits, applying for a council house and keeping receipts

Javed Khan, Barnardo's Chief Executive, said: "We are extremely excited about this partnership with the newly formed CareTech Foundation and their support of our work with young people leaving care.

"Barnardo's has been keeping children safe, supporting them with an education and helping them to achieve their dreams for more than 150 years. Care leavers remain some of the most vulnerable young people in our society with figures showing 40 per cent aged 19-21 are not in education, training or employment.

"Barnardo's hopes to design an app that will help young people to access information in a way that truly works for them, providing immediate access to helpful information and producing data that will help us to evaluate how digital resources can reduce crisis points among young people.

"Barnardo's ambition is to be a digital leader in the sector and so we embrace technology's potential to drive new ways of delivering better outcomes for more children. We are therefore grateful to the CareTech Foundation for part-funding this innovative project and would urge other funders to come forward to help us improve outcomes for young people leaving care."

The project is expected to last between three and four years. Around 1,000 care leavers will benefit from the digital resource each year, with scope for many more to be supported.

Barnardo's hopes and expects the new resource will lead to the following outcomes:

•Care leavers reporting improved self-confidence in seeking solutions and problem-solving

•Care leavers reporting improved access, support and self-reliance to access help

•Young people and professionals reporting a reduction in crisis management at critical stress points

•An improvement in the uptake of Employment and Training opportunities, budgeting and financial management skills and support services

As part of the partnership, CareTech staff and service users will be directly involved in the testing and development of the new digital resources. The Foundation will also give opportunities to CareTech staff to volunteer with Barnardo's.

The CareTech Foundation is donating £300,000 towards the project and hopes other philanthropic organisations will join them to make the project a success.

* CareTech Foundation

* Barnardo's


02/17/2018 07:07 AM
Citizens Advice calls for integration of advice services in mental health settings

Eight out of 10 mental health staff said that dealing with a patient’s practical issues left them with less clinical time to treat their mental health issues, Citizens Advice has found.

Eight out of 10 mental health staff said that dealing with a patient’s practical issues left them with less clinical time to treat their mental health issues, Citizens Advice has found.

Over half (57 per cent) reported the proportion of time they are spending on non-health issues has increased compared to last year.

Citizens Advice conducted a survey of 244 mental health practitioners who deliver NHS England’s Talking Therapies programme. These services provide treatment of anxiety disorders and depression in England.

Nearly all (98 per cent) respondents said they had dealt with a patient’s non-health problems during an appointment in the past month.

The most common problems mental health staff are assisting with are debt and money problems, unemployment and work, housing and welfare.

Mental health staff reported these problems had a negative impact on their patients’ ability to manage their mental health, complete a course of treatment and ultimately recover. More than half of those surveyed reported increased stress as a result of dealing with these non-health problems.

Mental health staff reported they have spent appointment time helping patients with these problems through:

  • budgeting or debt management plans
  • contacting public services/agencies of the patient's behalf
  • providing supporting letters
  • assisting patients complete benefits applications
  • contacting creditors on the patient's behalf

Citizens Advice helped over 100,000 people who reported having a mental health problem in 2017. Citizens Advice data shows clients with mental health problems are more likely to face  multiple, complex problems compared to the average client. In 2017, clients with mental health problems had an average of 5.3 issues per client, compared to 3.8 problems per client overall.

In the past two years, Citizens Advice has seen an increase in the number of clients with mental health problems, including an 11 per cent increase in those who require advice on benefits.   

CItizens Advice is calling for advice services to be integrated in more mental health settings to alleviate the pressure on frontline mental health staff and to better support the needs of people with mental health problems. Roughly a third (34 per cent) of respondents had access to an integrated advice service within the mental health setting.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: "If you're living with mental health problems, everyday issues like managing your money, dealing with your landlord, or applying for benefits can be much more difficult to manage. But if these issues aren’t addressed, they can often escalate and make mental health problems worse - creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break free from.

“Providing people with practical support is essential to make sure these problems don't spiral out of control, but this should not be the job of already stretched mental health professionals. To reduce pressure on frontline NHS staff and better support people with mental health problems, advice services should be available in mental health settings as a matter of course.”

One of the mental health practitioners surveyed by Citizens Advice said: “There is always a certain amount of [practical problems] in therapy but it has become entirely unmanageable. Very often my entire assessment and subsequent intervention will be related to social or financial issues. That is not our role, can be stressful and is an expensive use of health care practitioners’ time.”

Dr Jed Boardman, Lead for Social Inclusion, Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “In order to stay mentally healthy, we all need enough money in our pockets, a decent roof over our heads, some valued work, and a supportive environment.  People with mental health problems need all of these to aid their recovery, as well as engagement with effective therapies.

“The effects of the present lack of advice services available for people with mental health conditions, as highlighted in the report, are exacerbated as mental health professionals try to do their job in the context of increasingly stretched resources. Integrating advice services in mental health settings is one important means of improving the lives of people with mental health conditions and the mental health workforce.”

Simon Crine, Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said: “We at Money and Mental Health welcome this important new research from Citizens Advice. As our own research has shown, too often mental health professionals find themselves sorting out debt and money issues at the expense of doing their day job.  Integrating debt advice into mental health services would be a win-win for mental health professionals and people with mental health problems.”

* Citizens Advice


02/17/2018 07:05 AM
More than 423,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built in England and Wales

More than 423,000 homes have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research published today by the Local Government Association.

More than 423,000 homes have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research published by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The study, commissioned by the LGA and carried out by industry experts Glenigan, shows the backlog has grown by almost 16 per cent in the last year.

In 2015/16, the total number of unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales was 365,146, rising to 423,544 in 2016/17.

The figures also show that developers are taking longer to build new homes. It now takes 40 months, on average, from schemes receiving planning permission to building work being completed – eight months longer than in 2013/14.

The planning system is not a barrier to building. Councils are approving nine in every 10 planning applications, and granted planning permission in 2016/17 for 321,202 new homes - up from 204,989 new homes in 2015/16.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says the new analysis underlines the need for councils to be given greater powers to take action on unbuilt land which has planning permission.

It says councils need powers to act on uncompleted schemes, including making the compulsory purchase of land easier where homes remain unbuilt, and to be able to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.

The Government should also accept the calls of the LGA and Treasury Select Committee and scrap the cap on council borrowing so that councils can quickly build additional new homes that are affordable.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said, “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building. In fact the opposite is true. In the last year, councils and their communities granted twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed.

“No-one can live in a planning permission. Councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.

“To tackle the new homes backlog and to get the country building again, councils also need the freedom to borrow and invest in desperately-needed new homes, as recognised by the influential Treasury Select Committee last month.

“Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 housebuilding target set by the Government on their own.

“We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

* Local Government Association


02/17/2018 06:45 AM
Marking 60 years of CND

On 17 February 2018, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament marks 60 years of campaigning against nuclear weapons.

On 17 February 2018 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament turns 60. It marks 60 years of campaigning against nuclear weapons.

Since its inception at the height of the Cold War, CND has campaigned tirelessly for the end of nuclear weapons. From the very beginning Quakers have supported this work and will continue to do so.

In marking the anniversary Helen Drewery, Head of Worship and Witness, said, “For all of the 60 years since CND was set up, Quakers in Britain have been saying that 'to rely on the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is faithless; to use them is a sin.' We wish CND a happy birthday, but we, like them, long for a day of real celebration when hope has triumphed over fear and humanity has achieved nuclear disarmament."

A number of events are planned to mark CND's 60th year including the launch of a new book, CND at 60, telling the story of the campaigning work so far. The book will be launched on 8 March in the Quaker Centre Bookshop in London.

Last year, two-thirds of the 193 United Nations member states adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is the first legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons with the goal of eliminating them. The UK Government failed to uphold its commitment to multilateral disarmament by choosing not to participate in the negotiations on the nuclear ban treaty.

As partner organisations in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, this year both CND and Quakers are calling on parliamentarians to pledge their support for the nuclear ban treaty and work to promote the signature and ratification by the UK government.

* More details on events to mark CND's 60th anniversary here

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

* Quakers in Britain


02/17/2018 06:38 AM
Religious leaders call on Home Secretary to put a time limit on immigration detention

Religious leaders are calling on the Home Secretary to end the Government’s use of indefinite detention – calling it “unjust, ineffective and inhumane”.

Religious leaders have issued a joint public statement calling on the Home Secretary to use her post-Brexit immigration bill to end the Government’s use of indefinite detention – calling it “unjust, ineffective and inhumane”.

Senior representatives of the Church of England, Catholic Church, Muslim Council of Britain, Hindu Council, Sikh Federation, Reform Judaism and others have urged the Government to include a 28-day limit on in the forthcoming bill, which will establish the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system.

Their statement reads:

“The UK is the only European country without a statutory time limit on immigration detention. The routine use of indefinite detention is unjust, ineffective and inhumane. Evidence shows that it causes huge harm – not only to those detained, but to their family, children, friends and community.

“The time to act is now. We urge the Government to put some fairness, decency and due process into our immigration system and urgently put a 28-day time limit on detention.”

Every year, the Home Office holds around 30,000 people on immigration grounds, including elderly people and survivors of rape, torture and slavery – making the UK’s one of the largest detention regimes in Europe. No judge signs off on their detention and there is no legal limit on how long they can be held purely for the administrative convenience of the Home Office. 

The UK is the only country in Europe without any time limit on detention – an approach criticised by the UN Refugee Agency, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and a cross-party parliamentary inquiry, among many others.

This intervention comes as human rights organisation Liberty launches a major public campaign to End Indefinite Detention. The religious leaders have also added their voices to Liberty’s petition making the same call to the Home Secretary.

Research by the British Medical Association, Amnesty International, Detention Action, Women for Refugee Women and many others has revealed that indefinite detention causes serious mental and physical harm.

Their findings add to the concerns expressed by Government-appointed reviewer Stephen Shaw about the impact of detention on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people in his damning 2016 report, which recommended an urgent reduction in the use of detention. He is due to report on the Government’s progress in coming months.

Alternatives to detention are used effectively in many other countries, including Sweden – where intensive case management and engagement have led to low rates of detention, high rates of return and increased confidence in the system.

Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said, “There’s no fairness, compassion or common sense in locking vulnerable people up and giving them no idea of when they might see their friends and family again.

“This is not about immigration. It is about how we treat fellow human beings. It cannot wait until Brexit is done and dusted – the Government must include a 28-day time limit on detention in its immigration bill. This suffering and injustice is happening every day in all our names. We must not walk by on the other side.”

Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Catholic Bishop for migration and asylum, said, "It has been demonstrated time and time again that indefinite immigration detention not only violates people's basic human dignity, but that it serves no meaningful purpose.

“It is shameful that we lag behind every other EU country in abolishing this practice and I sincerely hope that the Government will commit to introducing a more humane system at the earliest opportunity.”

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, said, “Britain has a proud record of treating people with decency and fairness. Accordingly, we deserve an immigration and asylum policy that is humane and sensible.

“Locking up nearly 30,000 men, women and children indefinitely every year is unjust and counterproductive. I urge the Home Secretary to place a time limit on immigration detention.”

Sanjay Jagatia, Director of the Hindu Council UK, said: “The human consequences of locking people up and giving them no idea when or if they will be released are shocking and shaming. This is a black hole at the heart of British justice and we must stand together to end it.”

Dr Muhammad Adrees, Convenor of the Muslim Council of Scotland, said, "The UK operates one of the strictest detention regimes in Europe and it is time we look at alternatives away from arbitrary detention.

“Above all, we must continue to fulfil our moral duty to help those who are fleeing, in some cases, unspeakable horrors and atrocities by providing them safety, dignity and opportunity to come to terms with what they've been through and to rebuild their lives.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said, “We are the only country in Europe to have indefinite immigration detention. It has become routine, is unacceptable and must come to an end.

“There is evidence this cruel and inhumane practice is causing harm and tearing families apart. In this country we have a proud tradition of upholding justice and need to treat people with respect and dignity by introducing a 28-day time limit.”

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Senior Rabbi, Liberal Judaism, said, “Indefinite detention causes huge harm – not only to vulnerable people who are incarcerated, but to their family, their children, their friends and their community. We cannot ignore this injustice perpetrated in our name.”

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, said, “Detention without limit destroys lives and has no place in a society which recognises the worth and dignity of all people. Our immigration system should reflect the values of justice and humanity that we aspire to uphold – at the moment it does not”.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism, said, “Indefinite detention violates the basic human right to justice, freedom of movement, and to know, if one is detained, why and for how long, and to have access to due process of law.

“Furthermore, detainees are often already traumatised by persecution and torture, may have no one to support them from ‘outside’, and may lack the language skills needed to understand the system. This leaves them lonely, frightened and bewildered.”

Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said, “At the Jesuit Refugee Service, we see again and again how immigration detention is life-destroying for those we accompany and serve. The UK is unique in Europe in having no limit on how long people can be held in immigration detention. The uncertainty caused by indefinite detention is a source of extreme stress and anxiety and contributes to a deterioration in physical and mental health, often compounding existing vulnerabilities.

“While some people are held in detention only for short periods of time, others can be detained for years before being released back into the community. The introduction of a 28-day time limit and the implementation of community-based alternatives to detention are now more urgent than ever.”

Full list of signatories:

  • Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Catholic Bishop for migration and asylum
  • Muslim Council of Britain
  • Sanjay Jagatia, Director of the Hindu Council UK
  • Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
  • Dr Muhammad Adrees, Convenor of the Muslim Council of Scotland
  • Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Senior Rabbi, Liberal Judaism
  • Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
  • Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism
  • Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK)
  • Jas Singh, board member of The Sikh Network
  • Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service

* Liberty


02/16/2018 09:34 AM
The decline of homeownership among young adults

Today’s young adults are much less likely to own their own home than those in their place one or two decades ago.

Whether they are rich or poor, today’s young adults are much less likely to own their own home than those in their place one or two decades ago. But the biggest decline in homeownership has been among young adults with middle incomes. In 1995–96, 65 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds with incomes in the middle 20 per cent for their age owned their own home. By 2015–16, just 27 per cent of that group owned their own home.

This group of young adults have after-tax incomes (including the income of a partner) of between £22,200 and £30,600 per year. A third of them are university graduates, while 30 per cent left school at 16. Three-quarters of them live with a partner, and around 60 per cent have children.

These are some of the key findings from new IFS research looking at how and why homeownership rates have changed for young adults over the past twenty years.

Key findings on the falls in homeownership for young adults include:

  • Those born in the late 1980s are much less likely to be homeowners in their late 20s than their immediate predecessors. 25 per cent of those born in the late 1980s owned their own home at the age of 27, compared to 33 per cent for those born five years earlier (in the early 1980s) and 43 per cent for those born ten years earlier (in the late 1970s).
  • While homeownership for young adults has fallen furthest in the South East, it has also fallen in every region and nation in Britain. The proportion of 25 to 34 year olds who own their own home has dropped by 32 percentage points in the South East (from 64 per cent to 32 per cent) and by over 10 percentage points in every region and nation of Great Britain.
  • The homeownership rate of middle income young adults is now closer to those with low incomes than those with high incomes. 27 per cent of middle income 25 to 34 year olds owned a home in 2015-16 compared to eight per cent of those with low income (lowest 20 per cent for their age) and 64 per cent of those with high income (highest 20 per cent for their age). Twenty years ago, middle income young adults had homeownership rates much more similar to high income young adults.

This sharp decline in homeownership among young adults has been driven by the rapid rise in house prices relative to their incomes:

  • Over the past twenty years, average house prices have grown around seven times faster than the average incomes of young adults. The average (mean) UK house price was 152 per cent higher (2.5 times as high) in 2015–16 as in 1995–96 after adjusting for inflation, but the average (mean) after-tax family income of 25 to 34 year olds grew by only 22 per cent in real terms over those twenty years.
  • For nearly 90 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds, average house prices in their region are more than four times their annual after-tax family income; for nearly 40 per cent house prices are more than 10 times their income. Twenty years ago, less than half of young adults faced house prices of more than 4 times their income, and less than 10 per cent faced house prices of more than 10 times their income.
  • This dramatic rise in house prices relative to the incomes of young adults fully explains the falls in homeownership. Comparing a young adult today with a young adult twenty years ago whose income was similar relative to house prices, they are equally likely to own their home. The fall in homeownership is entirely explained by the fact that young adults’ incomes are now much lower relative to house prices on average.

The new research also looks at the difference in the homeownership rates of young adults from different socio-economic backgrounds:

  • Young adults from more advantaged backgrounds are significantly more likely to own their own home. Between 2014 and 2017, 30 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds whose parents were in low-skilled occupations (e.g. delivery drivers or sales assistants) owned their own home, compared to 43 per cent of those whose parents were in higher-skilled occupations (e.g. lawyers or teachers).
  • Most of this difference in homeownership between young adults from different backgrounds is explained by the characteristics of the young adults themselves. After controlling for differences in their economic circumstances such as their earnings and education, the homeownership gap between those from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds is just three percentage points.

Andrew Hood, a Senior Research Economist at the IFS and an author of the report, said, “Homeownership among young adults has collapsed over the past twenty years, particularly for those on middle incomes – for that group, their chances of owning their own home have fallen from two in three in the mid-1990s to just one in four today. The reason for this is that house prices have risen around seven times faster in real terms than the incomes of young adults over the last two decades.”

* Read The decline of homeownership among young adults here 



02/16/2018 08:09 AM
Fixing costs in medical negligence cases must not deny patient justice

Clinical negligence victims will be the main casualties in government plans to save the NHS money if adequate time is not taken to get the process of fixing costs right, the Law Society has warned.

Clinical negligence victims will be the main casualties in government plans to save the NHS money if adequate time is not taken to get the process of fixing costs right, the Law Society has warned.

Commenting on the government’s long-awaited response to its consultation on fixing recoverable costs for low value clinical negligence cases, Law Society president Joe Egan said: "While the Law Society does not oppose fixed recoverable costs in principle, the real savings for the NHS will come from learning from its mistakes and increasing patient safety.

"We fully appreciate the challenges faced by the NHS and its staff, but it must be remembered that clinical negligence claims are brought by people who have been injured through no fault of their own.

“Cases which are not necessarily the highest in value can still be complex and challenging. Fixing costs could end up limiting the time specialist solicitors can spend understanding the details of an incident in care. Patients must not be denied the legal help they need to get the full compensation they are entitled to in law.

“We welcome the formation of a Civil Justice Council working group to look at these proposals more closely. However, ministers have set a worryingly short timeframe for this group to determine how fixed recoverable costs will work in practice. It is crucial that adequate time is taken to get this process right, so that access to justice is not harmed in any way.”

If a fixed recoverable costs scheme is introduced for low value cases, there are still many details to iron out, for example the exemptions to the scheme and how the use of experts will be incorporated. These details still need to be carefully considered to avoid impacts on access to justice.

* The Law Society


02/16/2018 08:01 AM
Too many crimes going unrecorded by Thames Valley Police, says inspectorate

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and  Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published an assessment on the accuracy of crime recording in Thames Valley Police, which found that the force records around 80 per cent of crimes reported to it.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and  Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published an assessment on the accuracy of crime recording in Thames Valley Police, which found that the force records around 80 per cent of crimes reported to it. HMICFRS previously inspected the accuracy of crime recording in Thames Valley Police in 2014.

To assess the extent that recorded crime information in Thames Valley can be trusted, HMICFRS asked:

  • How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
  • How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
  • How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?

Based on these criteria, overall HMICFRS has judged Thames Valley Police as ‘inadequate’.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “I am disappointed with the quality of crime recording in Thames Valley. Although the force has implemented the recommendations from our previous crime recording inspection in 2014, we found that almost one in five crimes in Thames Valley are not being recorded properly – that equates to approximately 35,200 crimes a year.

“I am satisfied that the force works very hard to ensure that victims of crime, especially vulnerable victims, are safeguarded. It now needs to ensure that it records crimes at the earliest opportunity, and that there is proper supervision of crimerecording decisions.

“Since our inspection in September 2017, I have been in close contact with Thames Valley Police and I am encouraged by the immediate steps that the force has taken in response to our findings. Since our inspection, Thames Valley Police has developed a plan to address our concerns, and have set up a group chaired by the deputy chief constable with strong oversight of progress. HMICFRS will re-visit the force later in 2018 to assess this.”

* Read the report  here

*  Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and  Rescue Services


02/16/2018 07:49 AM
Ten thousand civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2017

More than 10,000 civilians lost their lives or suffered injuries during 2017, according to the latest annual UN report documenting the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan.

More than 10,000 civilians lost their lives or suffered injuries during 2017, according to the latest annual UN report documenting the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan.

A total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released on 15 February 2018 by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office. Although this figure represents a decrease of nine per cent compared with 2016, the report highlights the high number of casualties caused by suicide bombings and other attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

Yamamoto, who also heads UNAMA, expressed deep concern at the increased harm to civilians caused by suicide attacks. “I am particularly appalled by the continued indiscriminate and unlawful use of IEDs such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices in civilian populated areas. This is shameful”, he said.

The second leading cause of civilian casualties in 2017 was ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces, although there was a decrease of 19 per cent from the record levels seen in 2016.

The report attributes close to two-thirds of all casualties (65 per cent) to anti-government elements: 42 per cent to the Taliban, 10 per cent to Daesh / Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), and 13 per cent to undetermined and other anti-government elements. 

Pro-Government Forces caused a fifth of civilian casualties: 16 per cent were attributed to the Afghan national security forces, two per cent to international military forces, one per cent each to pro-Government armed groups and undetermined pro-Government forces. Unattributed cross-fire during ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces caused 11 per cent of civilian casualties.

Women and children remained heavily affected by conflict-related violence. UNAMA documented that, in 2017, 359 women were killed – a rise of five per cent – and 865 injured. Child casualties – 861 killed and 2,318 injured – decreased by 10 per cent compared with 2016.

Attacks where anti-government elements deliberately targeted civilians accounted for 27 per cent of the total civilian casualties recorded in Afghanistan in 2017 – mainly from suicide and complex attacks directed at civilians or civilian objects.

The deadliest single incident documented since UNAMA began recording civilian casualties in 2009 occurred in Kabul on 31 May when a suicide attacker detonated a truck laden with approximately 2,000 kilos of military grade explosives during the morning rush hours in a densely populated area. This massive blast killed 92 civilians and injured 491.

“Afghan civilians have been killed going about their daily lives - travelling on a bus, praying in a mosque, simply walking past a building that was targeted. The people of Afghanistan, year after year, continue to live in insecurity and fear, while those responsible for ending lives and blighting lives escape punishment,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes. The perpetrators must be identified and held accountable”, he said.

The report attributes 1,000 civilian casualties (399 deaths and 601 injured) and the abduction of 119 civilians to Daesh / ISIL-KP. “The group mainly targeted civilians in 2017 but also conducted indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against security forces in civilian areas”, the report states. UNAMA recorded 160 deaths and 252 injuries to civilians during six attacks targeting places of worship, religious leaders, and worshippers claimed by Daesh / ISIL-KP in 2017. 

The report observes that the number of airstrikes conducted by international military forces and Afghan air forces increased significantly. UNAMA documented 631 civilian casualties (295 deaths and 336 injured) from aerial operations conducted by pro-government forces, a seven per cent increase from 2016, and the highest number from airstrikes in a single year since 2009. Aerial operations accounted for six per cent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2017.

The report commends actions taken by the Government of Afghanistan and Pro-Government security forces in 2017 to protect communities from harm, highlighting the 23 per cent reduction in civilian casualties attributed to pro-government forces.

Other protection measures adopted by the Government included a national policy to prevent civilian casualties and ratification of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapon instruments, which under Protocol V directs clearance of explosive remnants of war.  

The report stresses the importance of implementing Protocol V, noting that in 2017, UNAMA documented 164 deaths and 475 injured as a result of explosive remnants of war. Eighty-one per cent of the victims were children and many of those who survived lost limbs or eyes, and suffered other serious injuries and psychological trauma, limiting their prospects for a normal life.

Among its recommendations, the report urges parties to the conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian installations. It calls on anti-government elements to cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects and the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of all IEDs. 

* Read the report Afghanistan: Protection of civilians in armed conflict annual report 2017  here 


02/16/2018 07:44 AM
Campaigners claim victory as PM reportedly drops plans for new peers

Campaigners have hailed a ‘victory for voters’, after the Prime Minister reportedly dropped plans to ‘stack’ the House of Lords with new peers.

Campaigners have hailed a ‘victory for voters’, after the Prime Minister reportedly dropped plans to ‘stack’ the House of Lords with new peers.

The news follows a BMG poll for the Electoral Reform Society which revealed the scale of opposition to the plans.

Theresa May had originally intended to appoint around a dozen Conservative peers, while Jeremy Corbyn was set to appoint three – with the appointments to be made in the coming weeks. However, the Prime Minister appears to have shelved the plans.

On Tuesday the Electoral Reform Society released BMG Research polling which showed that 59 per cent of Conservatives are against the new peerages, as well as 63 per cent of Labour voters (excluding don’t knows).

Of those with a view, 60 per cent of the public oppose the mooted appointments – compared to just nine per cent who support them.

And nearly four in five (78 per cent) of those with a view believe there are already too many Lords, with the figures being the same for Conservative voters – 78 per cent believe the second chamber is too large.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said, “This is a significant victory for voters if true. There is overwhelming opposition to any new peerages, with the House of Lords already bursting at the seams.

“Adding yet more Lords would not only cost the taxpayer a fortune, it would be an insult to voters who deserve legislators who are accountable.

“After coming under huge pressure, Theresa May appears to have done the right thing. This could be a turning point in her leadership – and opens the door for finally giving voters the revising chamber we need.

“Rather than delaying these appointments, the government must now confirm they will not be packing the unelected chamber with any more Lords. We need a moratorium on all new appointments until there are real plans for reform.

“They could start by responding to the Burns Committee, which came back with piecemeal plans for a smaller house at the end of last year.

“But they should be far more ambitious, and ensure that their rhetoric about sovereignty and democracy after Brexit is matched by a fully- and fairly-elected revising chamber.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the ERS said, “Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn should cancel these planned appointments and say enough is enough.”

* Electoral Reform Society


02/16/2018 07:32 AM
Woman jailed in stillbirth case released after decade in prison in El Salvador

A woman who was jailed following pregnancy-related complications resulting in stillbirth, has been freed after a decade behind bars.

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, who was jailed following pregnancy-related complications resulting in stillbirth, has been freed today after a decade behind bars.

With at least 27 women still imprisoned under El Salvador’s total ban on abortion, Amnesty International has called for an end to the country’s extreme anti-abortion laws.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty, said, “It’s encouraging to see Teodora stepping out of jail, where she should have never been in the first place. But El Salvador is still far from fully ensuring the rights of women and girls in the country.

“Authorities in El Salvador must urgently repeal this outrageous abortion ban which has created a pervasive context of discrimination, pain and injustice.”

In El Salvador, women who suffer pregnancy-related complications resulting in miscarriages and stillbirths are routinely suspected of having had an abortion, which is banned in all circumstances. Prosecutors often charge them with ‘homicide’ or ‘aggravated homicide’, which carries a penalty of up 50 years in prison.

Teodora suffered a stillbirth in 2007, after experiencing severe pain and bleeding at work. That day, police arrested her as she lay in a pool of blood. She was later sentenced to 30 years for ‘aggravated homicide’ in a trial marred by irregularities.

El Salvador’s Ministry of Justice eventually commuted Teodora’s sentence, but did not overturn the conviction or recognise her innocence. Her lawyers now intend to clear her name and seek compensation and redress for the 10 years that she spent behind bars.

At least 27 other women are still incarcerated under El Salvador’s draconian abortion law. Those punished are often from impoverished backgrounds, with little access to education, health care or justice.

* Amnesty International


02/16/2018 07:31 AM
More children of public sector workers pushed into poverty, says TUC

One in seven children with a parent working in the public sector will be living in poverty by the end of this financial year, according to new TUC analysis.

One in seven children (550,000) with a parent working in the public sector will be living in poverty by the end of this financial year, according to new TUC analysis.

The research shows that since 2010, an extra 150,000 children have been pushed below the breadline as a result of the government’s public sector pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts.

The analysis shows:  

  • One in seven children (550,000) living with a public sector worker in their family will be below the poverty line this April – an increase of 40 per cent since 2010. 
  • Families where both parents work in the public sector are the biggest losers from the government’s pay restrictions and benefit changes. Their average household income will be down around £83 a week in real terms by April 2018.
  • Households where one parent works in the public sector and another works in the private sector will lose on average £53 a week.
  • The South West (up 55 per cent) has seen the biggest increase in child poverty rates among families with a public sector worker in England. It is followed by the North West (up 51 per cent) and East Midlands (up 50 per cent).

Separate TUC analysis shows that holding down public servants’ pay reduced spending power by £8.5 billion in England alone last year.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said, “The government's pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts are causing needless hardship.

“Public servants shouldn’t have to worry about feeding or clothing their kids. But many are struggling to afford even the basics. Ministers must give public sector workers the pay rise they have earned. If they don't more families will fall into poverty.”

The public sector pay analysis is modelled on real wages falling by 13.3 per cent between 2010 and 2018 for workers in health and education. And by 14.3 per cent for workers in public administration.

The analysis includes all tax and social security measures introduced under the 2010-15 coalition government and subsequent conservative governments, including Universal Credit.

Commenting on the analysis, UNISON Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea said, “Poor pay has left many public sector families desperately watching the pennies.

“A career helping and caring for others was never going to make millionaires of NHS, school and council staff, but none of them would have expected to be so hard up after years of public service, and for their children to be the ones that suffer.

“A society that values its public services must extend that worth to the workforce too. It’s time ministers paid up and lifted thousands of children above the breadline.”