Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: BHT’s Policy

(The BHT Board recently agreed the following statement on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking)

Modern slavery is an international crime, affecting an estimated 29.8 million slaves around the world. It is a growing global issue that transcends age, gender and ethnicities. It includes victims who have been brought from overseas and vulnerable people in the UK, who are forced to illegally work against their will across many different sectors such as agriculture, hospitality, construction, retail and manufacturing.

Our Policy

Our policy is underpinned by our values of Inspiring Change; Empowering People; Collaboration; Delivering Excellence; and Being Accountable.

BHT has a zero-tolerance position on violations of anti-human trafficking and anti-modern slavery laws.  We will not knowingly do any business with organisations involved in, or suspected to be involved in slavery, human trafficking, forced or child labour.  This includes such activities known to exist in their supply chains.

Through our services, not least the Immigration Legal Service and our frontline homelessness services, BHT will seek to represent and protect the victims and potential victims of slavery, human trafficking, forced or child labour.

If we find breaches of these laws amongst any of our contractors or in their supply chain, we will terminate any contract with them, and will as far as possible build such provision into any agreements with them.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires commercial organisations supplying goods or services with a turnover of above £36 million to prepare and publish an annual ‘Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement’.  All the while that BHT has a lower turnover than £36 million, we will publish a statement on our website and elsewhere setting out our policy.

All actual incidents or suspicions regarding slavery, human trafficking, forced or child labour (with the exception of cases being managed by BHT’s advice and legal services where client confidentiality exists) will be reported to the Chief Executive at the earliest opportunity and we will alert the appropriate authorities so that safeguarding, legal or other enforcement action might be taken.

(This statement also appears on the BHT website)

Advertisements

BHT in landmark Court of Appeal case that protects children and vulnerable asylum seekers

When I arrived in England in my late teens, I was somewhat bewildered and a little bit afraid, to be honest. I was also extremely lonely. I didn’t know how to meet people and the culture was very different to what I enjoyed growing up in South Africa.

Yet I had everything going for me. I spoke English as my first language, my skin is white, and I had a UK passport thanks to my English-born parents. Nobody doubted my right to be in England. I was entitled to claim financial support for my housing and living costs, which I did. I hadn’t experience trauma. In fact I had just about everything going for me.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be an asylum seeker, traumatised by war, murder and rape, traumatised by being separated from ones family, traumatised by abuse on the journey to the UK.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to fear authority for every good reason, to have people disbelieving you, having to cope with a legal system which is totally alien which uses cultural references that are unfamiliar to you. You have to rely on charitable giving to eat. You are alone, sad, homesick notwithstanding the horrors you have escaped from.

And then the officials tell you that you are lying, that there is an inconsistency in your story, that you will be deported.
This can be the experience of children going through the UK asylum system.

But a judgement in the Court of Appeal in the case of a 15 year old boy fleeing persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan, should mean that children, young people and other vulnerable persons, including those lacking capacity, have an effective right of access to the tribunal and a voice in the proceedings. The case was brought by BHT’s Immigration Legal Service, and argued by Stephanie Harrison QC and Raza Halim from the Garden Court Chambers.

In a nutshell, the Court stated that contradictory statements made by children should not always be fatal to a case, and that the child’s history should be taken in the context of the country material and the expert reports which should be given more weight than minor contradictions made by a child. The case also confirms that the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal have the power to appoint litigation friends in appropriate cases.

This case has established that “a child is foremost a child before he or she is a refugee”. The Court has provided new guidance to Tribunals to ensure that children and vulnerable persons have their voices heard in asylum proceedings.
Please take the time to read an account of the case and the ruling on the Garden Court Chambers website.

Welcoming the appointment of Baroness Hale as the New President of the Supreme Court

There are many things that have pleased me this week: the first woman Doctor, the Women’s World Cup Final this coming Sunday at Lords (although I am sorry that England pipped South Africa in the semi-final on Tuesday) and today’s news that Baroness Hale of Richmond has been appointed as President of the Supreme Court.

Baroness Hale of Richmond? Who is she?

Lady Hale was the UK’s first woman Law Lord in 2004 and later, in 2009, the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court.

She has been critical of the judicial appointments system for selecting from a pool of predominantly white men from similar economic and academic backgrounds.

Unusually for a Supreme Court judge, she has spoken out about cuts to legal aid. When the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (now an Act) was going through parliament, Lady Hale said that the government’s own equality impact statement accepts that the cuts will have a disproportionate impact upon women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

At BHT we have a special place in our heart for Lady Hale. When a Law Lord, she read part of the judgement of a case that our Immigration Legal Service took to the House of Lords that established the rights of women seeking asylum who were facing female genital mutilation. In that case, she criticised the lower courts, saying that the issues were “blindingly obvious” and that women facing such a fate were a particular group who would suffer harm because of their membership of that group, i.e. women. You can read more about the case here.

It was the most significant piece of casework that BHT has ever undertaken, one with the most widespread impact. It is something that we are very proud of and, therefore, it is with great pleasure we heard today that Lady Hale has achieved the ultimate recognition in her profession.

Solidarity with Refugees

This Saturday (31st March) there is a March in Lewes, organised by the Lewes Amnesty International Group and the Lewes Group in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, to demonstrate solidarity with Refugees.

If you are free and can make it to Lewes, please assemble at 12.30pm at County Hall for a rally in the Precinct and hear an address by the Mayor of Lewes, Cllr. Susan Murray.

BHT has an Immigration Legal Service, and we work with many refugees and their families. This is an area of our work that has seen its funding reduced for well over a decade, and there can be very hostile media portrayals of refugees. That is why I am promoting this important event.

The European Migrant Crisis: please support the work of BHT’s Immigration Legal Service

Over the last few weeks, few will not have been moved by the plight of those risking everything to find a safe haven in Europe, away from regions where war, oppression and strife are destroying lives and communities.

BHT’s Immigration Legal Service is a team of immigration advisors and solicitors who provide free legal help to asylum seekers.

The Immigration Legal Service is currently representing a family fleeing the conflict in Syria in their asylum applications to the Home Office. This is the information about that family provided by my colleagues in the Immigration Legal Service.

“When the parents arrived in the UK in early 2014 they were granted asylum. Their two sons, who lived with them in Syria, then applied to join them in the UK under the refugee family reunion provisions of the Immigration Rules. Their younger son aged 16 was granted asylum.  However their older son, Khalil, being over 18, was refused entry to the UK. Fearing for his safety, Khalil had already fled to Lebanon and has since made the journey to the UK across ten European countries, including in a dinghy from Turkey to Greece.

“He eventually made it to Calais where two other British family members went to visit him by car.  However, he still had to make a dangerous and illegal journey hidden in a lorry in order to enter the UK. As a Syrian, Khalil will almost certainly be granted asylum.  Because of the ongoing crisis in Syria, the Home Office is now recognising Syrians as refugees and, accordingly, granting them leave to remain in the UK.

“Like many Syrians this family has nothing to return to in their own country. Despite the ongoing crisis in Syria, there is no exceptional Home Office policy to allow Syrian asylum seekers to enter to the UK and to seek asylum.

“However, if they can make it to the UK they most likely will be granted asylum. Had the Home Office allowed this family’s older son to be reunited with his family he would not have had to make the dangerous journey to the UK to claim asylum. We will now work to ensure that he is granted asylum and is able to restore his family life in safety.”

We represent asylum seekers of all nationalities and in the event that their applications are refused (the Home Office refuses more than half the asylum applications it receives), prepare their cases for appeal before a Judge. We have a higher than 60% success rate at appeal, thereby ensuring that people who should have been recognised as refugees by the Home Office get the protection they need.

We act for many asylum seeking children who have no family or relatives to turn to for support (last year we acted for more than 100 young people). We also act in trafficking cases, some domestic violence cases and judicial review work.

Under the recent government cuts to free legal aid there is no longer funding available to assist the family members of refugees in the UK to make applications to join their families. We receive limited funding for the work we do, which often does not cover the cost of the cases.

In order to ensure that our service remains available to everyone in need of our help we have to secure additional funding and ask that you donate what you can so that we can continue to help other asylum seekers like this family to move on from the trauma of conflict and persecution in their own countries and begin to rebuild their lives in a safe environment. Please give generously.

You can support our work by making a donation on our JustGiving page.

Refugee and Migrant Justice

The news that Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) has gone into administration is bad news for its staff and more so for the 10,000 men, women and children who depend on its support each year.  In Hastings its seven members of staff support 250 people each year.

The charity’s problems arise from the method of payment by central government that, at best, puts a huge strain on the resources of an organisation, at worst makes an otherwise successful organisation not viable due to cash flow problems.

BHT itself is put under financial strain because of the payment arrangements which, like RMJ, sees us being paid at the end of cases.  At any one time we have £1 million due to us.

I am very pleased that Brighton Pavilion MP, Caroline Lucas, has tabled an early day motion in a bid to save RMJ.  I would call on all MP’s in Sussex to lobby the Ministry for Justice to reform payment arrangements.  If a large multi-national had such poor payment arrangements, arrangements that put charities and small companies out of business, there would be an outcry.  In difficult financial times, the government should ensure that it is doing everything possible to support charities and small businesses.

Refugee Week – amazing services, amazing people, doing amazing work

This is Refugee Week, and today BHT is hosting an event at our head office in London Road, Brighton.  There are representatives from a wide range of organisations including the City Council, Amnesty International, interpreting services, and refugee support groups.

BHT ‘s own services are there, too, including Support4Housing and Threshold (both services offer support to refugees, in the case of Threshold, women refugees and their children).

BHT’s main service working with refugees is the Immigration Legal Service, based at Community Base in Queen’s Road, Brighton.  Until today I wasn’t aware of some aspects of their work, such as 41% of the asylum clients whose cases we took on last year were children.  Most of these children will have come to the UK alone seeking refuge.  Many have spent months on dangerous journeys to get here, and some have been looking after younger siblings while doing so.

There are many reasons why these children have come to the UK.  They may have seen their families killed and their homes burnt down.  They may have been trafficked to be exploited by adults, sexually or in other ways.  They may be fleeing forcible conscription, female genital mutilation or forced marriages.

Others may be at risk of violence or imprisonment because of their ethnicity, their religion or simply because of who their families are.

On average, 43% of our work at the Immigration Legal Service is asylum related.  Last year (2009) we took on 306 new asylum cases.  Of the asylum clients whose cases were ‘closed’ (ie. concluded), 33% were granted refugee status, 52% were allowed to stay in the UK on some other basis (for example, humanitarian grounds), and just 15% had their claims refused.

With most of BHT’s work, the consequences of us not providing a service could lead to homelessness, hardship, even destitution.  The work undertaken by the Immigration Legal Service has more serious consequences.  If this service wasn’t here, those who might be returned to their ‘place of origin’ might be faced with even worse consequences, including death.

For all involved in Refugee Week, my personal thanks, especially to BHT’s staff in the quite exceptional Immigration Legal Service.