Statement on the London Hearing “HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT” ON TRIAL

Statement of the PPT General Secretariat on the London Hearing - ‘HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT ON TRIAL” PERMANENT PEOPLES' TRIBUNAL - LONDON HEARING·FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7, 20187 Reads

PERMANENT PEOPLES’ TRIBUNAL Founder: LELIO BASSO (ITALY) President: PHILIPPE TEXIER (FRANCE) Vicepresidents: LUIZA ERUNDINA DE SOUSA (BRAZIL) JAVIER GIRALDO MORENO (COLOMBIA) HELEN JARVIS (AUSTRALIA) NELLO ROSSI (ITALY) Secretary General: GIANNI TOGNONI (ITALY) SESSION ON THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS WITH IMPUNITY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEE PEOPLES (2017-2019) HEARING ON: HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT ON TRIAL: THE LIVING AND WORKING CONDITIONS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES London, 3 – 4 November 2018 Statement of the PPT General Secretariat General Secretariat: VIA DELLA DOGANA VECCHIA 5 - 00186 ROME - TEL:0039 066877774 E-mail:ppt@permanentpeoplestribunal.org www.permanentpeoplestribunal.orG

The public hearings of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on “The Hostile environment” held in London on 3rd and 4th November 2018 form part of a process of investigation which has lasted more than two years and has produced texts and judgments for the opening session in Barcelona (7th- 8th July 2017) and from Palermo (18th- 20th December 2017), Paris (4th – 5th January 2018) and Barcelona (29 June- 1 July 2018).
The earlier proceedings and the resulting judgments have provided an indispensable background and framework for the panel of judges at the London session, along with detailed factual and juridical support and integration of the evidence submitted to it. The main overall findings, presented orally at the conclusion of the hearings, are set out in the points which follow. The full text of the judgment, with detailed factual evidence and formal attribution of responsibility, will be made available shortly.
  1. The direct testimonies of the witnesses, together with the written and oral presentations of the experts, provide robust and comprehensive documentation of the dramatic and systematic violations of the fundamental rights to life and dignity of migrants and refugees, both as individuals and as a group, indicated in the Indictment as the target and victims of a spectrum of repressive legislation and policies enacted by the UK government over the last several years.
  2. The evidence and documentation clearly establish that the violations of fundamental individual and collective rights presented to the PPT are the deliberate, planned and systematic expression of repressive policies which, translated into legal provisions and norms, affect the full spectrum of the concrete rights which must be recognised in all human beings: rights to life, to dignity, to health, to work, to education.
  3. In all the critical domains of their existence, migrants and refugees appear to be the victims of an ever deeper and more pervasive political, juridical and cultural transformation of a society which accepts and promotes the reversal of the values of democracy, of binding obligations for Governments and of basic principles of international law as affirmed and enforced in the corresponding international instruments. Economic and security-driven legal measures are given priority and prevail over the inviolable legitimacy of the individual and collective rights belonging to human beings, which are denied.
  4.  The contemporary migration and asylum regime demonstrates a deliberate historical amnesia, ignoring the destructive consequences of British colonialism and the ways in which this continues to underpin the massive inequalities of contemporary global political economy. These inequalities are a key factor in impelling human mobility.
  5.  A policy which has defined itself as promoting a “hostile environment” corresponds to the non-recognition of migrants and refugees as people and members of society despite the disparate nature of their origins and of the causes of their migrations, displacements and expulsions. The transformation of persons exercising their fundamental right to migrate into ‘others’, aliens, potential or real enemies, invaders and aggressors, both in attitudes and in concrete behaviours such as labour contracts, reproduces categories of colonialism and slavery.
  6. A further reason for concern, and a confirmation of the direct responsibility of UK institutions, emerges from the documentation of the administrative and bureaucratic rigidity in the application of unjustifiable and opaque rules designed for the repressive control of people, the direct product of global models of development which pretend to bear no responsibility for the violations to the dignity of life, specifically of the most fragile individuals and groups.
  7. The London session has focused on the situation of migrants and refugees in the real life of a democratic society that can be considered as a model. The testimonies presented – factually so well documented, with a lucidity which could not exclude a deep emotional participation – are highly consistent in terms of severity and for their characteristics of systematicity and continuity with the findings of the previous sessions devoted to other aspects and steps of the migration process in the EU. The responsibility of the several institutions referred to in the testimonies and illustrated in the expert reports, have appeared to the panel of judges well proven, having regard to official norms and political documents. As mentioned above, the juridical (criminal and civil) definition of responsibility for the violations, with a careful assessment of the causal determinants and actors, will be the subject of the full report. But it is clear that the basic crime of denial of the rights to life, to dignity, and to the rule of law, can be considered ascertained beyond any reasonable doubt. Further, it is clear from the evidence heard in previous sessions, in different scenarios and modalities, and confirmed in some ad hoc reports in this session, that the UK situation is not unique, but rather is an expression of the broader processes and institutional responsibilities vested not only in the countries and the central institutions of the EU but also in the diffuse geographical and political scenarios where economic and environmental poverty, armed conflict and wars oblige human beings to become peoples without rights facing legal and racist violence, and the further violence of systematic impunity.
  8. This summary account of the public hearings and experience of the London session of the PPT would not be complete without underlining other even more impressive evidence in opposition to violations and impunity. The evidence the PPT has heard demonstrates the creativity and resistance of individuals and communities who, in a hostile environment, affirm and document that solidarity is not a crime but a resource, constantly renewed and shared as a perspective of “another future” – striving for new transnational strategies of action and solidarity among migrants and refugees themselves and with citizens. Beyond any repressive process of “identification”, migrants and refugees affirm their identity as human subjects and, through their common experience and their solidarity, their identity as a people. The PPT can be only one of the processes in support of their peaceful struggles for life and dignity.
Rome, 22 November 2018

Members of Jury hearing in London

Bridget Anderson - Professor of Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship at Bristol University. She formerly held the post of Professor of Migration and Citizenship and Research Director at COMPAS in Oxford. She has a DPhil in Sociology and previous training in Philosophy and Modern Languages. She has explored the tension between labour market flexibilities and citizenship rights, and pioneered an understanding of the functions of immigration in key labour market sectors. She is the author of Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Controls (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour (Zed Books, 2000). She coedited Who Needs Migrant Workers? Labour Shortages, Immigration and Public Policy with Martin Ruhs (Oxford University Press, 2010 and 2012), The Social, Political and Historical Contours of Deportation with Matthew Gibney and Emanuela Paoletti (Springer, 2013), and Migration and Care Labour: Theory, Policy and Politics with Isabel Shutes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Bridget Anderson has worked closely with migrants’ organisations, trades unions and legal practitioners at local, national and international level.

 

Wah-Piow Tan - A Balliol educated human rights solicitor in London representing Chinese migrants in the UK since 180s. A former political prisoner and exile from Singapore, Wah-Piow is well known since his youth as a student leader, activist, writer and public speaker advocating democratic reforms in Singapore. Most recently, in August 2018, he enjoyed unprecedented extensive media coverage following his 80 minutes discussion with the new Malaysian Prime Minister on the subject of expanding the democratic space in Southeast Asia. In 1980, Wah-Piow attended the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) hearing on The Philippines in Antwerp as an observer.

Maureen Byrne is a Councillor. She is a retired full time Equality Officer in Unite the Union. She has been on the Employment Tribunal panel for 30 years. Currently she is Employment Law adviser for the Stansted Airport Branch. Maureen is chairperson for the Bury St Edmund’s Women’s Aid Refuge and Local Association for Mental and Physical Handicapped Charity, a group supporting young people with special needs. She is the Town Council Chairperson of the Personnel Committee.

Dr Eddie Bruce Jones AB (Harvard); MA (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin); JD (Columbia); LLM in Public International Law (KCL is currently  acting dean and  Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck College, University of London  where he teaches and researches in the areas of human rights, comparative discrimination law, racism, sexuality and migration. He is an academic fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, a member of the New York state bar and a trustee of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. He serves with a collective of lawyers on the Independent Commission on the Death of Oury Jalloh in Germany (on police brutality and due process) and is the Sexuality and Gender Identity Resource Co-ordinator for the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Network based in Oxford

Leah Bassel - is a member of Haringey Welcome, a campaign group working for fairness, dignity and respect for migrants and refugees in the London borough of Haringey.  Leah researches the political sociology of migration, intersectionality and citizenship as Professor of Sociology at the University of Roehampton. Her books include Refugee Women: Beyond Gender versus Culture (Routledge, 2012), The Politics of Listening: Possibilities and Challenges for Democratic Life (Palgrave, 2017), and Minority Women and Austerity: Survival and Resistance in France and Britain co-authored with Akwugo Emejulu (Policy Press 2017).  She is currently co-Principal Investigator, with Akwugo Emejulu, of the Open Society-funded project Women of Colour Resist and has also led projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy.  Before pursuing an academic career, Leah was an emergency outreach worker in Paris where she provided humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers and created a circus camp project for refugee youth.  She holds a DPhil from the Refugee Studies Centre/Nuffield College, University of Oxford and a BA and MA from McGill University, Canada.  

Enrico Pugliese - is Professor of sociology of work, (Emeritus) at Sapienza- University of Rome, faculty member of the Graduate school in applied sociology, University of Rome La Sapienza. He is also research associate at Irpps (Istituto di ricerche sulla popolazione e le politiche sociali), National research council, Rome. He has been Professor of Sociology of work  at  the University of Napoles  "Federico II" where he served as chairman of the department of sociology and then as dean of the faculty of sociology. He has been visiting professor in several European and American Universities. He has been also meember of the National commission of inquiry on work at the Consiglio nazionale dell’economia e del lavoro, chairman of the Commission for drafting the immigration law of the Regione Campania. He has also been member of the advisory Commission of the City Mayor of Napoli for immigration policy. His main research interests include: international migration, Italian migration in Europe, third world immigration in Italy, migration policies, labour market with special reference to precarious employment and unemployment. His recent publications on migration include: Quelli che se ne vanno (Those who leave), Il mulino 2018, and International Migrations and the Mediterranean in Andreotti, Benassi, Kazepov (eds) Western Capitalism in transition, Manchester University Press 2018.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal: Its role in the people’s indictment of the ‘hostile environment’

Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). 

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) approach to uncovering the inconvenient truths that governments and other elites don’t want you to know about has been around since the days of the war in Vietnam.

In 1979 the tribunal took its present permanent form to provide a structure supporting the complaints of people denied the protection of human rights norms and law.  With a secretariat based in Italy, the PPT provides a means to scrutinise the actions of authorities which follows the structure of judicial inquiry. 

It was pioneered in the late 1960’s in the form of a tribunal into war crimes being committed in South East Asia, convened by the two of the foremost intellectuals of the day, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. Between 1974 and 1976 the tribunal was re-constituted to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorships in Latin America.

Recovering authority

Being independent of the structures of the state, the PTT is important because its judgments and decisions rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, as well as the integrity and capability to judge of the Tribunal members. The goal of PPT Sessions is “recovering the authority of the Peoples when the States and the International Bodies failed to protect the right of the Peoples.”

The current inquiry into violations of the rights of migrants and refugees has been taken up out of concern that the new politics that emerged across the world in recent years, with the common features of authoritarian populism and rigid nationalism, is having dire consequences for people who have moved across borders in pursuit of personal safety and improved livelihoods.

The PTT has convened hearings to consider the evidence on these issues in France, Italy and Spain. In November it will be coming to Londonfor a two-day session in order to hear first-hand accounts of the ways in which the lives of migrants have been affected by the toughening of immigration law and policy.

Exploitation

In preparation for the London hearing a team of UK-based migrant and refugee rights experts has been working to draft an indictment, setting out what they believe to be the most dangerous features of the situation in this country.

The indictment centres on the greater risks of exploitation that have been created for migrants by government policies which have undermined workplace rights for decades.  The growth of hyper-casualised, zero-hour contract jobs during this time has impacted on all workers but has had a disproportionate effect on people whose access to protection and rights are often obstructed by their immigration status.

The ‘hostile environment’, the impact of which on long-established migrants from the Caribbeanhas become so well understood since the beginning of this year, has drawn hundreds of thousands more into its maw whose situations are yet to be fully scrutinised by the public.  The London hearing of the PPT will be an opportunity to do that.

Challenging secrecy

Severely shaken by the revelations of extreme hardship imposed on hapless migrant groups, the UK Home Office has tried to defend itself by claiming that the shocking revelations of people losing their rights after forty or more years residence in the UK have been ‘exceptional’ cases brought about by poor decisions on the part of officials. 

The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has attempted to salvage the reputation of his department by promising that all will be put right after an internal review of its work has been completed.  In the meantime he has attempted to cover the whole operation under a blanket of secrecy, imposing ‘non-disclosure agreements’on aggrieved individuals as a condition for receiving compensation for the damages they have suffered.  

London hearing

The London hearing of the PTT will provide a opportunity to challenge this attempt at covering up the harm done to migrant and refugee communities. It is expecting to hear evidence from community-based organisations on just how systematic the business of stripping away rights for migrants has been over the years, compelling thousands to seek livelihoods in the most exploitative sectors of the labour market and denying them the right to pursue collective grievances through trade union representation.

The team convening the London hearing have made a public call for submissions of evidence from migrant community organisations, trade unions, legal representatives, faith communities, as well as from individuals who have experienced a violation of their human rights to security and a dignified occupation.

Visit the London hearing’s webpages for details on how to submit your evidence, or get in touch with the team of convenors to find out more about plans for the hearing in November. 

Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). He is a co-convenor of the London hearing of the PPT on violations with impunity of the rights of migrants and refugees.

Reports/Blogpost

Join us to put the Hostile Environment on trial  during the PPT Hearing in London.

This November the hostile environment will be out on trial in front of a panel of expert jurors. The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is coming to London as one in a series of hearings on the violations of the rights of migrants and refugees. This is a peoples’ tribunal and therefore we welcome the public to join us, hear evidence and make real links with on the ground groups that are fighting for the rights of migrants and refugees. Read further about the brief history of the PPT

The Permanent People’s Tribunal: Its role in the people’s indictment of the ‘hostile environment’

The current inquiry into violations of the rights of migrants and refugees has been taken up out of concern that the new politics that emerged across the world in recent years, with the common features of authoritarian populism and rigid nationalism, is having dire consequences for people who have moved across borders in pursuit of personal safety and improved livelihoods. Read more  by Don Flynn is a former director of the Migrants’ Rights Network and a past chair of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM).

Migrants before the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Barcelona

Bridget Anderson is Professor of Mobilities, Migration and Citizenship at the University of Bristol was serving as a juror at the hearings of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) in Barcelona. The PPT is a grassroots initiative  that searches for truth and moral reparation in the service of liberation and justice and is a direct continuation of the Russell Tribunal. In the last year it has held a series of hearings on the treatment of migrants and refugees within and at the borders of the European Union. The most recent one focussed on the gender dimension. People gave angry and moving testimonies. One of the witnesses reported on the forced separation of children from their mothers by the Spanish state. We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about the atrocity of the Trump administration’s cruel removal of children from their parents. Yet the forced separation of children from their mothers is perpetrated by European states too. Read the Article of BRIDGET ANDERSON, 27 July 2018, in Open Democracy.

 

 

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Contact us

We would be pleased to respond to any query you might have about the project.

We hope you will be able to Sign On to this Call for Support to the London PPT Hearing –this will be highly appreciated. The link for Sign-On 

For more information please e-mail us at pptlondon@transnationalmigrantplatform.net

In solidarity for the rights of migrants and refugees!

Don Flynn and Margaret Healy

 

Call for Support

SUPPORT our Call for a Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on
Violations with Impunity of the Human Rights of Migrant and Refugee Peoples in London
Click here for Sign-On

 

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE PPT
A BRIEF GUIDE

There are several ways that your organisation can help. You can either join us a Co-Convenor, or you can help us in small but important ways by becoming a supporting organisation.

What does the Co-Convenors Working Group do?

There are already 17 co-convenor organisations on the working group. They are helping to prepare the London hearing through raising funds, preparing leaflets, organising the preparatory work (translation, interpretation, and logistics) and attending regular meetings and participating in sub-committees.

What does a supporting organisation do?

By adding your name as a supporting organisation, you register your public support for the aims of the Tribunal. That’s enough and you don’t have to do more unless you want to.

Here are some other things you could do as a supporting organisation.

  • Circulate the call to all your members and encourage them to sign up as supporting members
  • Follow us on Face book and Twitter (@PPT_UK_Hearing)
  • Make a donation. We need £35,000 to cover the costs of the Tribunal.
  • Invite a member of the Co-convenors working group to your workplace to explain the PPT
  • Encourage your organisation to submit evidence for the Tribunal by the deadline of October 5th. (Details of how to format and submit your evidence can be found on our website)
  • Organise a safe space for a hearing at your workplace/community centre. We particularly welcome first-hand testimony for migrants and refugees themselves, though we recognise that can be difficult. At the hearing, we will be listening to evidence about the treatment of migrants and refugees in: hotel and catering industry; health and social care; care and domestic work; rural and agrarian work; construction; seafares and oil-rig workers. But we will also have a strand on Self-Employment and Destitution as well as work in detention.

Above all, join us on the 3rd and 4th November. This is a public opinion tribunal and the process belongs to you!

For more information please e-mail us at pptlondon@transnationalmigrantplatform.net

In solidarity for the rights of migrants and refugees!

We look forward to hearing from you.

Don Flynn, Dorothy Guerrero:Global Justice Now, Margaret Healy, Rita Chadha:Migrants Rights Network, Liz Fikete:Institute of Race Relations.
(PPT Steering Group – London Hearing, Co-convenors)

 

Indictment London

INDICTMENT London Hearing 2018

 

October  2018 
This indictment is also available on PDF, please click here for English, click here for Spanish

The Defendant to this indictment is the British government (in its own right and as representative of the governments of the EU and of the global North).

1. Preamble
This session calls on the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal to consider whether the policies of theEuropean Union and its member states in the field of immigration and asylum, particularly as they affect migrant peoples in the chain of labour, amount to serious violations of the articles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples signed in Algiers on 4 July 1976, to serious violations of the rights of individuals as enshrined in particular in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and, in their totality, to a crime against humanity within the meaning of Art. 7 of the Rome Statute.

The current indictment is presented as one of a series of indictments against the governments of the global North within the framework set out at the introductory hearing in Barcelona in July 2017. These indictments taken together set out the ways in which the governments of the global North and the institutions of the EU have (a) created conditions making life unsustainable for millions in the global South, thus causing mass forced migration; (b) treated those migrating to the global North as non-persons, by denying them the rights owed to all humans by virtue of their common humanity, including rights to life, dignity and freedom; (c) created zones which are in practice excluded from the rule of law and human rights within the global North.

Governments of the global North, together with the international financial institutions, pursue trade, investment, financial, foreign relations, and development policies which uphold a system of global exploitation that destabilises governments, causes armed conflict, degrades the environment and impoverishes and immiserate workers and communities in the global South, thereby forcing millions to leave their homes to seek safety, security and livelihood elsewhere.

At the same time, through policies of deregulation, privatisation, welfare state retrenchment and outsourcing of government functions, marketisation and flexibilisation, the restructuring of work and labour relations have been enabled in the global North, creating acute insecurity and precarity, depressing real wages and conditions of work for most workers.

Through labour and migration policies which permit freedom of movement for capital and for citizens of the global North while denying such freedoms to the citizens of the global South, their governments have allowed employers to take advantage of the vulnerability of migrants and refugees as they attempt to enter the labour market, which has created a migrant and refugee underclass of illegalised, super-exploited, deportable workers – a people without rights.

Migrants, people forced to move from the global South to the global North for reasons of war, conflict, persecution, dispossession and poverty, suffer violations of rights with impunity when they reach the global North regardless of their particular nationality or ethnicity. By virtue of their common experience they can be said to constitute a ‘people’ for the purposes of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (the Algiers Declaration), which provides that every people has a right to existence, and that no one shall be subjected, because of his national or cultural identity, to … persecution, deportation, expulsion or living conditions such as may compromise the identity or integrity of the people to which s/he belongs.

The following sub-articles of Art. 7 of the Rome Statute (crimes against humanity) are relevant to the considerations of the Tribunal:  c) Enslavement; d) Forced deportation or transfer of the population; e) Imprisonment and other serious forms of denial of personal freedom in violation of fundamental norms of international law; g) Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution … and other forms of sexual violence of equal seriousness; h) Persecution against a group or a collective possessing their own identity, inspired by reasons of a political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender-based nature; i) Forced disappearances of people; j) Apartheid; k) Other inhuman acts of the same nature aimed at intentionally causing great suffering or serious prejudice to the physical integrity or to physical or mental health.

Other relevant human rights instruments engaged by the indictment include: The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948); The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, the Protocol to Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (2000); the ILO Migration for Employment Convention (Revised) (1949), all of which have been ratified by EU member states.

Within this framework, the current indictment asks the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal to consider the economic, security, migration and labour policies of the EU and its member states, which together exclude, marginalise and deny basic human rights to poor migrants and refugees both at the borders and within Europe. In the UK, these policies are collectively known as the ‘hostile environment’, policies which have the avowed aim of making life impossible for migrants and refugees who do not have permission to live in the UK, and which remove such migrants from the rights to housing, health, livelihood and a decent standard of living, liberty, freedom of assembly and association, family and private life, physical and moral integrity, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, and in the final analysis the right to human dignity and to life. The Tribunal will also be requested to examine the legal infrastructure which underlies the ‘hostile environment’, in which migrants and refugees, with or without permission to be in the country, are in practice possessed of no rights, but at best privileges which can be withdrawn at any time.

While the ‘hostile environment’ policies have features particular to the UK, there are parallel provisions in other EU member states, which deny undocumented migrants access to housing, health care, employment and livelihood. Such policies are paradigmatic of the EU-wide treatment of poor migrants and refugees as undesirable and undeserving of human rights. This contempt finds multiple expressions, from the criminalisation of rescue in the Mediterranean, to the maintenance of inhuman and degrading conditions at refugee camps from Moria in Greece to Calais, France. It spreads downwards from government and encourages the growth of more and more extreme anti-immigrant racism and violence.

The note below sets out some of the features of the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants developed as policy in the UK since 2012, with their historical roots.

2. Explanatory note: the ‘hostile environment’

In 2012, the UK home secretary Theresa May said that she planned to create a ‘really hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants in the UK, so they would leave the country. In the wake of her announcement, she set up an inter-ministerial ‘Hostile Environment Working Group’ (a title later changed, at the request of coalition partners in government, to ‘Inter-ministerial group on migrants’ access to benefits and public services’, tasked with devising measures which would make life as difficult as possible for undocumented migrants and their families in the UK. The explicit intention is thus to weaponise total destitution and right-lessness, so as to force migrants without the right to be in the country to deport themselves, at low or no cost to the UK.

The policies which this group devised were contained in the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, in secondary legislation and guidance documents, and in operational measures adopted by the Home Office and partner agencies. They include:

(1) Housing: The ‘right to rent’requires private landlords to perform immigration checks on prospective tenants, their families and anyone else who might be living with them. Landlords renting property are liable to penalties and potentially to imprisonment if someone without permission to be in the UK is found living as a tenant or lodger in their property. The right to rent was piloted in 2014 and was extended throughout the country in 2016, despite an (unpublished) Home Office survey indicating it was not working and was leading to greater racial discrimination in the housing rental market, findings confirmed by civil society organisations and landlords’ associations (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, 2015, 2017).

Those who cannot prove their citizenship or status in the UK, and are unable to access rented property and have ended up homeless and on the streets, include a significant number of pensioners who have lived in the UK since early childhood (the ‘Windrush generation’).

Acts of parliament in 1996 and 1999 had excluded asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and migrants on temporary work visas from homeless persons’ housing and social housing tenancies (the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 created a separate agency to provide destitute asylum seekers with no-choice accommodation outside London and the south-east).

The ‘right to rent’ measures breach the right to adequate housing without discrimination, which is recognised in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) Art 25 (as an integral part of the right to an adequate standard of living), and in Art 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), further amplified by General Comment No 4 on Adequate Housing by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991). Insofar as homelessless affects human dignity and physical and mental integrity, the measures also breach Art 1 UDHR, Arts 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Arts 1 and 3 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (EUCFR).

(2) Health care: A requirement for National Health Service hospital staff to check the immigration status of all those attending for non-emergency treatment, and to demand full payment in advance from those unable to show their entitlement to free treatment, was implemented through regulations which came into force in April 2017. Those unable to establish their lawful status in the UK and those with visitor status are charged 150 per cent of the cost of treatment. Emergency treatment does not require advance payment but patients are invoiced later for it. The regulations followed restrictions on free hospital treatment in 2015, since when those in the UK as students or with work visas have been required to pay an annual health levy (now £400 per person per year).

They have resulted in many expectant mothers not attending for ante-natal treatment, causing lasting damage to their unborn children, and to cancer patients and others with very serious conditions being unable to start treatment for lack of funds.

The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 allowed the NHS to pass on details of patients to the Home Office for enforcement, and informal arrangements for such data sharing were replaced by a formal agreement (MoU) in January 2017. After doctors’ groups such as the British Medical Association (BMA), medical charities including Doctors of the World, campaign groups such as Docs not Cops and members of parliament in the select committee on health called on the government to end the agreement, which was deterring sick people and expectant mothers from seeking medical help, the government announced a partial suspension of the MoU in April 2018.

NHS Regulations had from 1982 onwards provided that visitors to the UK were not entitled to free non-emergency hospital treatment, although NHS staff were not obliged to charge or to perform immigration status checks and most did not. Primary health care (at doctors’ surgeries) remains free to all regardless of status, as attempts by government to extend the charging regime to primary care have met with very strong resistance from NHS and public health workers.

The denial of free hospital treatment to those in need, who cannot prove their immigration status or do not have secure status, and/ or measures which deter people from seeking medical treatment, violate the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief or social or economic condition. It is reflected in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organisation, in Art 25 UDHR and in Art 12 ICESCR 1966. It also violates the right to physical and mental moral integrity recognized in Art 8 ECHR and Art 3 EUCFR.

(3) Criminalising work The 2016 Immigration Act continued and perfected the process of criminalisation of migrants’ work which had started two decades before, when in 1996, the ban on work for asylum seekers and for those without permission to be in the country began to be enforced by employer sanctions: penalties for employers who employed those without authorisation to work in the UK. While the law was hardly used, it paved the way for much stricter sanctions in 2006, with the creation of a criminal (as opposed to a regulatory) offence of knowingly employing unauthorised workers, which carried a prison sentence; increased regulatory penalties; stricter documentary checks for employers to avoid penalties; and intensive enforcement through raids on mainly small, ethnic-owned workplaces. In 2016, the penalty was doubled to £20,000 per worker, and a new criminal offence of illegal working was created, which enabled undocumented workers’ wages to be confiscated.

Opportunities for legal work in the UK have been closely tailored to the demands of the economy since the post-second world war reconstruction. From the 1971 Immigration Act onwards, unskilled workers from outside the EU were not admitted, apart from groups such as seasonal agricultural workers and domestic workers - temporary workers with no rights of settlement or family unity, controlled entirely by their employers and not permitted to change employer. Asylum seekers were not permitted to work while they waited for their cases to be determined, a process which could take years. Visas for work have largely been restricted to those with a high level of education, qualification and income (and since 2009, under the points-based system, points are also awarded for youth). In 2010, graduates were no longer permitted as before to remain in the UK for two years for post-study work.

As from 2016, too, immigration rules were changed to remove rights to settlement for those earning under £35,000 per year. This measure was introduced so as to ensure that ‘only the brightest and best workers who strengthen the UK economy’ are allowed to settle permanently in the UK; the others are now required to leave the UK after six years. The rationale for the rule changes is thus unashamedly neoliberal and nativist, treating the workers concerned as disposable commodities.

At the same time, while EU nationals have rights to move freely around the EU for work, homeless EU nationals from eastern Europe found sleeping rough in London have had their identity documents confiscated, which prevents them from obtaining employment, and they have found themselves detained and deported for ‘abuse’ of free movement rights.

These measures breach the right to work recognised as universal by Art 23 UDHR, and enshrined in Art 6 ICESCR and Art 15(1) EUCFR.

They should be seen against the background in which the governments and institutions of the EU and of the global North have abdicated their international law obligations to protect workers and ensure decent working conditions and fair pay, enabling the entrenchment of exploitative labour practices and oppressive labour conditions in both the public and the private sector. In the UK, the government has repeatedly refused pay rises to public sector workers while allowing managers to take obscenely high salaries; refused to adopt a genuine living wage; failed to enforce minimum wage and other labour protection vigorously; and has encouraged or condoned companies’ use of zero-hours contracts, their manipulation of ‘self-employed’ status, agency working, undermining of the right to organise and other actions which deny rights and protections to workers and employees.

These acts and omissions breach the right to just and favourable conditions of work protected by Art 23 UDHR, and to freedom, equity, safety and security at work, contrary to the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).[1]

(4) Social security and asylum support: Migrants admitted to the UK for visits, work, study or family reunion are subject to a condition of ‘no recourse to public funds’ which prohibits access to means-tested benefits. Since 1999, they have been disqualified by social security regulations from access to any such benefits.

Asylum seekers are eligible to receive about £37 per week (an amount which in 2014 represented around 50 percent of basic income support). The level of support was based on the assumption that the determination period would be around six months, since it was accepted that no one could live on this amount for longer. The period for determination of claims is frequently measured in years rather than months, but the amount has not risen in line with living costs. Support was denied to late and refused claimants in 1996 and again by legislation in 2002. and in 2009 the removal of basic benefits and accommodation was extended to families with children who did not leave the UK when required to. Those eligible for asylum support often have to wait for several weeks or months to obtain it, leaving many homeless and utterly destitute.

In 2007 the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights condemned the level of and exclusions from asylum support as ‘enforced destitution’, which ‘in a number of cases reaches the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment’. It concluded that the ‘deliberate policy of destitution falls below the requirements of the common law of humanity and of international human rights law.’ A 2014 report by IRIS, Poverty among refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. An evidence and policy review, found that destitution was a deliberate policy calculated as a deterrent to others considering coming to the UK.

Measures deliberately depriving anyone of the means of life breach Arts 9 and 11 ICESCR (right to social security and to an adequate standard of living), and may also constitute inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Art 5 UDHR, Art 3 ECHR and Art 4 EUCFR.

(5) Education: In June 2015 the Department for Education (DfE) entered an agreement with the Home Office to pass on details of school pupils obtained through the schools census, to enable the Home Office to trace unlawfully staying families for deportation. The agreement, whose aims included the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ in schools, was secret, and only came to light in December 2016, after the DfE added questions on nationality and country of birth to the census. A proposal by the home secretary not to permit children of migrants with irregular status to attend school or to push them to the back of the queue for school places, was rejected by the government. A public campaign by activist group Against Borders for Children, supported by teachers and parents, led to the dropping of the nationality and country of birth questions from the school census in April 2018, but the data sharing agreement remains in force, and campaigners believe it deters those with irregular status from sending their children to school.

Insofar as the measures are calculated to deter parents from sending children to school, they breach the universal right to education without discrimination, recognised by (inter alia) Art 26 UDHR, Arts 13 and 14 ICESCR, Protocol 1 Art 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR), Art 14 EUCFR and Art 28 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

(6) Other data sharing measures: Apart from the measures described above in relation to the NHS and schools, the 2016 Immigration Act imposed a general duty on public bodies and others to share data and documents with the Home Office for immigration enforcement. In addition, from January 2018 banks have been obliged to conduct quarterly checks on current account holders and to close accounts of those suspected by the Home Office of unlawful stay. These provisions were suspended in May 2018.

Powers to share data with and to require the provision of information to the Home Office by other government departments and agencies, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, marriage registrars and local authorities, were granted by legislation from 1999 on.

From 2009, universities and colleges were obliged to collect and transmit to the Home Office the personal details, attendance, progress and other relevant information on non-EU students enrolled on courses, as well as to check the documents of all staff including visiting lecturers. Failure to monitor students led to suspension and in some cases withdrawal of their licence to enrol non-EU students.

The Data Protection Act 2018 exempts data collected and shared for immigration control purposes from rights of data subjects to access the data held on them, to the extent that disclosure may prejudice immigration control.

These measures disproportionately interfere with rights to privacy (Art 8 ECHR) and data protection (Art 8 EUCFR).

(7) Commercial fees: Home Office fees for visas and their renewal have risen exponentially in recent years, to reflect ‘the value of the product’, which makes applications for settlement, for regularisation or for citizenship prohibitively expensive. An application for settled status for a woman subjected to domestic violence by a spouse costs £2,997; for a dependent relative it now costs £3,250. Children born in the UK, who are entitled to register as British after ten years’ residence, are required to pay a fee of over £1,000, while those arriving in the UK as young children will have to find visa fees, including the health surcharge, amounting to £8,500 over ten years.

Insofar as these high fees prevent migrants from regularizing their status, they interfere with rights to private life protected by Art 8 ECHR and Art 7 EUCFR.

The cumulative effect of the above measures, in particular the denial of the right to work in lawful employment, the exclusion of migrants from all social security benefits and the exorbitant fees for immigration applications, is to drive many migrants into illegal employment, where they are wholly at the mercy of employers, subject to abuses ranging from sexual harassment to non-payment of wages, and with no legal recourse because of their status, violating rights to access to justice and to an effective remedy for the breach of rights (Arts 2, 7 UDHR, Arts 6, 13 ECHR, Art 47 EUCFR). Non-EU workers without regular status are excluded from access to workplace rights, minimum wage and other protections. Women, who make up a high proportion of these workers, are put at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in addition to other forms of exploitation, which also directly and indirectly affect children and young people.

(8) Family life: Immigration rules were changed in 2012 so that regular migrants from outside the EU who earn under £18,600 are not entitled to have their spouse or partner join them, and they must earn £22,400 to bring a child as well, and a further £2,400 for each additional child.

The rule change was unnecessary, since migrants seeking to bring in family members were already required to show that they could accommodate and support them without recourse to public funds. It is designed to ensure that poor people cannot have family life in the UK.

The ‘deport first, appeal later’ measures in the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts allowed for the removal from the country of migrants who were appealing on the ground that removal would breach their right to respect for their family life, before the appeal was heard.

Many cases have been reported where young children as young as six months old have been separated from their parents by parents’ detention. Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) has represented 155 parents separated from their children by detention so far in 2018.

The measures interfere with the right to respect for family life, protected by many human rights instruments including UNCRC and Art 8 ECHR. Interference with family life is only permitted in human rights law if it is lawful and necessary in a democratic society for public safety, the prevention of crime, the protection of the rights of others etc.

(9) Policing and detention: In 2012, Operation Nexus was launched, a joint police-immigration enforcement operation which relied on police intelligence rather than findings of guilt to identify ‘high-harm’ individuals for deportation. The following year, the government launched Operation Vaken, an attempt to frighten undocumented migrants into leaving the country, with billboard vans driving around migrant areas telling them to ‘Go Home! Or face arrest’, simultaneously with an aggressive operation involving immigration checks on minority youths at London tube stations.

Enforcement became an important priority in the late 1990s and 2000s. Enforcement officials grew from 120 in 1993 to 7,500 in 2009, when thousands of aggressive raids on ethnic businesses and homes took place. A notorious operation in 2009, which illustrates the relationship between lack of workplace rights and insecure residence rights, involved an ambush on cleaners at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, who had just won the London living wage following a hard campaign. Invited to an early morning meeting, the cleaners found themselves locked in by immigration officials who checked their entitlement to work in the UK and arrested several for deportation. Despite solidarity actions by students, nine were deported. However the cleaners and their supporters continued their campaign for just treatment and in 2017, they won the right to be employed directly by the school, giving them equal pay and conditions with the school’s other workers.

The UK is the only EU member state where indefinite administrative detention of migrants is legal under domestic law, and many immigration detainees have been locked up for several years. There has been a strong campaign, involving many parliamentarians, for a 28-day detention limit. On many occasions, judges have condemned the lengthy detention of vulnerable people, and several times have ruled it inhuman and degrading.Indefinite detention causes mental illness and severe distress, and has resulted in numerous suicides and episodes of self-harm.

The UK was an early privatiser of immigration detention, with Harmondsworth detention centre run by Securicor in the 1970s. Seven of the eight long-term detention centres (now named ‘immigration removal centres’ or IRCs) are privately run. They are exempt from minimum wage legislation, and in 2018, centre managers refused to increase the pay of detainees doing menial work there from £1 to £1.15 per hour.

These measures violate rights to liberty, proclaimed as a peculiarly British fundamental right and value by judges, and also seen as fundamental in the UDHR and the ECHR; to decent conditions of work (see above); and to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.

(10) The hostile environment at the borders: As Europe closes its borders to poor migrants and refugees, informal camps have sprung up at the border bottlenecks, where little or no official help has been provided, volunteers seeking to provide help have been criminalised and harsh policing measures have been deployed, including beatings, attacks with dogs, and theft or destruction of belongings. At Calais, where migrants and refugees hoping to cross the Channel to Britain have been arriving since the 1990s, their encampments have been repeatedly destroyed. The big camp known as the ‘jungle’, with makeshift church, school and shops, was bulldozed in October 2016 and police routinely spray sleeping children with tear gas and destroy their tents and sleeping bags, and beat older migrants, while the Calais mayor, seeking to prevent another ‘jungle’ encampment, banned the unauthorised distribution of food and clean water despite diseases such as trench foot developing for lack of clean water. (The ban was overruled by a court which ordered the installation of taps for drinking and washing water.) The UK government contributes to the cost of policing migrants in Calais.

The harsh treatment of those in the encampments and at the borders is inhuman and degrading treatment, contrary to Art 3 ECHR, whose protection is designed to be absolute. Such treatment can never be justified by any policy objective.

3. Specific charges against the UK government (in its own right and as representative of the EU and member states and the global North)

1 Within a work force impoverished and rendered insecure by neoliberal policies, it has ensured that migrant and refugee workers often remain super-exploited, marginalised and deprived of rights by legal and operational measures including:

  1. Failure (in common with virtually the whole of the global North) to sign or ratify the UN Migrant Workers’ Convention;
  2. Failure (unlike many other states in the Global North) to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention, and the removal of rights and security from domestic workers;
  3. Legislation imposing employer sanctions for bosses employing undocumented workers, enforced by violent raids on, in particular, small ethnic minority employers, who can be fined up to £20,000 and even imprisoned for employing an undocumented migrant or refugee worker;
  4. The creation of the criminal offence of illegal working, under the Immigration Act 2016, which allows for the confiscation of workers’ wages;
  5. The denial and/ or restriction of rights to work for asylum seekers;
  6. Maintenance of a legal framework which excludes undocumented workers from protection against abuses including non-payment of wages, unfair dismissal and race and sex discrimination, which are particularly rife in the hospitality, leisure, service, agriculture and construction sectors;
  7. Failure to provide sufficient ongoing funding for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to enforce decent conditions of work;
  8. Failure to provide legal aid in employment-related cases, and the removal of public funding for advice and assistance in these cases;
  9. Failure to ensure complete separation of enforcement visits by GLAA from immigration enforcement;
  10. Removal of European Economic Area (EAA) nationals who are destitute and who cannot find work;
  11. The exemption of immigration removal centres from minimum wage legislation, enabling multinational security companies to profit both from the detention contracts and from the cheap labour of detainees.

2. Meanwhile, the government’s policies with regard to immigration and asylum have fostered racism, Islamophobia and nativism, and have deliberately created a ‘hostile environment’ for non-citizens which involves (in addition to the criminalisationof work) enforced destitution, denial of rights to housing and essential medical treatment, indefinite detention and deportation. These policies violate international human rights obligations to protect rights to life, to dignity, to physical and psychological integrity, to respect for private and family life, to liberty, and to protection from forced labour and from inhuman and degrading treatment. This has been achieved through:

  1. Increasingly restrictive visa policies which limit legal rights to enter and stay in the UK for work (for non-EEA or third-country nationals) to a small and diminishing number of highly qualified or corporate employees, with extortionate fees for issue and renewal;
  2. Immigration rules and Home Office policy which treat domestic workers as the property of their employers;
  3. The provision of no-choice, often squalid asylum accommodation to asylum seekers, who are required to live on an impossibly small weekly allowance;
  4. Legislation requiring private landlords and agents to check immigration status before renting out accommodation;
  5. Legislation and policy that denies most refused asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants, any benefits or support, as well as any except emergency NHS hospital care;
  6. The entrenchment of racialised viewpoints about migrants in the control system to the point that people of colour resident for decades are exposed to the suspicion of having no lawful right to reside, denied essential services, and threatened with enforced removal;
  7. The removal of legal aid for non-asylum immigration cases;

3. The government, by policies which make it impossible to live without working and simultaneously making work illegal, forces vulnerable people to accept conditions of super-exploitation and total insecurity as the price of remaining in the country, and enables private companies to profit from such super-exploitation.

4. Additionally, while EU free movement law recognises the importance of family unity for EEA nationals who move in order to work, the government’s family reunion rules for non-EEA nationals (whether they are admitted as workers or as refugees) are extremely restrictive and result in long-term separation of families.

5. These policies also work to the detriment of the rights of children, who are exposed to risks of exploitation and abuse when they attempt to migrate in their own right, or to hardship and destitution as a consequence of policies which deny public funds support to family migrants.

6. At the same time, the government, in its own right and as an EU member state, facilitates the making of vast profits by security corporations through contracts for the border security regime, the housing of asylum seekers and for the detention and deportation of migrants, while overlooking or condoning brutality, racism and other human rights violations, criminal offences, fraud and negligence, committed by their agents against migrants and refugees, in fact rewarding them through the continuing award of such contracts.

Questions for the Tribunal

The Tribunal is asked to consider the cumulative effect of all these measures, policies and operations taken together, in creating and maintaining a people without rights within Europe and at its borders.

  1. To the extent that the Tribunal finds the above violations proved, how to they fit with the general pattern of violations found by the Tribunal in its hearings at Barcelona, Palermo and Paris?
  2. How does the creation and maintenance of a rightless people sit with the pretensions of Europe to be a cradle of universal human rights and values and with the human rights instruments written, signed and ratified by European states?
  3. How does the continued tolerance of the suffering of those condemned as rightless affect the rule of law?
  4. Since the protection of fundamental human rights is designed to embrace both the executive and juridical arms of state, to what extent does the treatment of migrants destroy this bridge between the political and the juridical?
  5. To what extent can are migrants experimental subjects or guinea-pigs for a broader destruction of the rights of populations under globalisation?
  6. How do government policies and ministerial statements treating poor migrants and refugees as ‘benefit tourists’, ‘health tourists’, ‘a swarm’, help to exacerbate popular racism and encourage hatred of migrants and racial violence?
  7. Has the Tribunal found examples of resistance against these measures which can act as models or markers for future action?

[1] Insofar as the ILO Migration for Employment Convention and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’ requirements of decent and safe working conditions apply only to workers lawfully on the territory, these instruments themselves unjustifiably and wrongly entrench the exclusion of undocumented migrants from rights recognised as universal.

- END-

The hearing in London will taken place in late October. It will convene before a panel of international judges. The panel will consider and indictment which sets out charges against UK authorities for violating the rights of migrants and refugees. The co-convenors will shortly be sending out a call for evidence relating to the charges set out in the indictment. The purpose of this request is to ask whether your organisation could register its support for the London hearing by agreeing to join our list of sponsoring organisations.

As co-convenors  we would be pleased to respond to any query you might have about the project. We could also provide you will a representative of the steering group to meet with you or speak at any meeting of your organisation about the plans for the London hearing. More information will follow soon…