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It's Going To Take More Than An Apology To Put Right The Windrush Scandal

23rd August 2018



The government’s apology to 18 people from the Caribbean who were wrongfully detained and removed from the UK as part of the Windrush scandal is a step in the right direction, but rings rather hollow given the true scale and nature of the underlying problems.

Despite the significant public exposure of its failings - its high error rate, appalling treatment and disrespect of all who come into contact with the immigration system - the government wants to portray the mistreatment of Windrush residents as an isolated incident, rather than the result of a deliberate and systemic exclusion and a culture of disbelief, driving refusal and deportation targets. The suggestion that only 18 people merit an apology is laughable – the government itself is investigating another 164 cases and what faith can any of us have in its analysis when the Home Office is known to have a significant error rate. 

The focus has been on people from the Caribbean but the problem is far wider and deeper affecting many long-term residents from other areas, particularly but not exclusively other Commonwealth countries. Proper independent scrutiny and review of Home Office decision making and procedures is required. We need a properly funded independent outreach programme and free legal advice to help identify all those whose lives have been ripped apart by the brutal system that has been developed in the UK. Many people have been driven onto the streets or forced into a twilight existence. The new Home Office dedicated Windrush Unit is unable to meet the original promise of resolving cases in two weeks, and as people wait for a response they remain destitute, unable to work or find accommodation. Charitable support is what keeps many victims of the Windrush Scandal going in the absence of any interim payments or support.

As yet there is no clarity on the compensation scheme, and here we may have some sympathy – how can a fair price be set for the disruption, ill health and monumental suffering that has been caused. Families ripped asunder. People driven out of their homes.  Jobs lost. Savings swallowed up. Debts incurred. Emotional and physical health destroyed.


Over 2,000 people have now been seen by the Home Office Windrush Unit but those of us in the field know that there are many more affected and academics have estimated that the number could be up to 50,000. Some will not yet know of the time bomb that awaits when they seek medical help or change of job and find that the new ‘hostile environment’ measures are there to ensnare them. The ‘hostile environment’ doesn’t apply just to long-term residents from the Windrush generation: for example, thousands of young British born children entitled to register as British citizens under the British Nationality Act of 1981 are prevented from doing so because they are required to pay an extortionate fee of over £1,000 – these are young people with no rights to work or study, wasting their potential because of government profiteering. The cost of processing applications is significantly less than the fee.

Extortionate fees are pushing many individuals into becoming ‘undocumented’, as are Home Office errors and delays. Without the right paperwork – and that’s what being undocumented means - individuals lose their jobs and homes and often face deportation to countries with which they now have little if any relationship. Meanwhile they are denied services and face detention – in appalling conditions, without time limit or judicial oversight - and at huge cost to the public purse, as well as to the individual. 

This is the context in which the Windrush scandal came to be; the government wants to reduce it to an apology to 18 people – a convenient carpet to sweep the problem under.  The ‘hostile environment’ and the negative Home Office culture are the problems that must be addressed to create a fair system that respects individuals and their rights. You cannot create a ‘hostile environment’ without contaminating the whole of society by creating mistrust, discrimination, exclusion and misery – exposed at its worst in the Windrush scandal.  It’s going to take more than an apology to put this right.

 
 


Sally Daghlian OBE,

Praxis CEO
 


This piece has been published by Huffington Post here.

Praxis Shortlisted for PR Weekly Awards

26st July 2018

 

Praxis' work uncovering the Windrush Scandal and protecting migrants' rights has gained yet another recognition: we are extremely glad to announce that PR Weekly shortlisted us for their Best Cause-Led Campaign Award.

 

Being shortlisted for this award (as well as the Third Sector Award) is a great endorsement of our work and it showcases the support from the wider society for a better treatment for migrants in the UK. 

 

We have been shortlisted for the Best Cause-Led Award as part of the 'Windrush Coalition': a small cohort of five charities - including Praxis - that have worked closely together to uncover the Windrush Scandal, working with the media and politicians. Our partners in this work are iMix, Runnymede Trust, the Refugee and Migrant Centre and JCWI. 

 

 

Praxis shortlisted for Third Sector Awards

24th July 2018

 

We are delighted and proud to announce that Praxis Community Projects has been shortlisted by the Third Sector Awards for our work uncovering the Windrush Scandal, holding the Home Office accountable and protecting migrants' rights. 

 

The winners for the award will be announced in September but being shortlisted for it is an achievement in itself and a great endorsement of our work: on the frontline, witnessing the effect of immigration policies on our service users; carrying out legal analysis and recognising trends; and with external communication and advocacy. 

 

In particular, we have been shortlisted for the Charity Partnership Award: five charities part of the 'Windrush Coalition' - including Praxis - have worked closely together to uncover the Windrush Scandal, working with the media and politicians. Our partners in this work are iMix, Runnymede Trust, the Refugee and Migrant Centre and JCWI. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Praxis supports complaint to European Commission over UK removal of EU rough sleepers

29th June 2017

 

Praxis Community Projects has joined FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) and Migrants’ Rights Network to launch a complaint before the European Commission regarding the UK Government’s use of European Economic Area regulations to remove rough sleepers and their family members. At the present time, EU citizens may be subject to removal from the UK solely because they are sleeping rough, even if they are working or seeking work in the UK. The Government’s justification for this is that by sleeping rough they are abusing their treaty rights.

 

We believe that interpreting rough sleeping as a form of misuse of a right to reside contravenes EEA rules. For vulnerable EU citizens and their family members (including children) who have found themselves sleeping rough on the streets, this interpretation is unjustified and cruel. The UK is the only Government in the EU to have interpreted rough sleeping in this way.

 

We believe that people who are homeless should be supported, not criminalised. We therefore encourage the European Commission to undertake all necessary steps to clarify the UK’s policies targeting EU rough sleepers, by starting investigations and launching a formal infringement procedure.

 

To read more about the complaint, please read the press release here.

Impact Report launched

27th March 2017

 

Praxis has launched our new Impact Report, detailing our key achievements and activities during 2016. The report – which is available online and in print – includes features on our holistic approach, our innovative Street Legal project tackling rough sleeping, in-depth case studies, the work of our youth-led group Brighter Futures, and much more besides.

 

In 2016 Praxis gave specialist advice and casework to 1,467 people. We provided a total of 11,737 nights of safe accommodation, mostly to highly vulnerable mothers and children. Over 350 people attended our user-led groups and activities during the year. We launched our first ever men's support group, and also started a series of health and wellbeing activities. We provided specialist legal advice through Street Legal for 88 people who had been sleeping rough. Praxis Interpreting+ provided 5,481 hours of interpreting in 37 languages.

 

We continue to provide holistic support for growing numbers of vulnerable migrants who need our help. At Praxis we see people as individuals, not defined by the struggles they face. Many of the people we work with have multiple and complex needs. Our holistic approach recognises that these needs are inextricably linked. But we also recognise that people are more than just the sum of their needs. We consider all the factors in someone's life – not just the initial issue they come to us with, but also their strengths and abilities.

 

 

To request a print copy of the Impact Report, please email sam.waller@praxis.org.uk.

Tell the government to #StopSharing patient data!

20th April 2017

 

Praxis is supporting the #StopSharing campaign, launched today by our friends at Doctors of the World. The campaign is getting thousands of people across the UK, including medical professionals, to tell the UK government to stop using NHS patients’ personal information to track down migrants – and we need your help.
 
What’s the problem?
The UK government and NHS Digital, which stores NHS patients’ data, published a deal in January to give the Home Office easier access to migrant patients’ information. This allows immigration officials to get hold of patients’ personal details, such as addresses, and then to track down, arrest and deport undocumented migrants.
 
Patient confidentiality is essential for NHS staff to be able to do their job – and yet they have not been consulted about this deal. Concerns raised by medical organisations have been ignored and the agreement was made in secret.
 
The deal also makes vulnerable patients scared of getting healthcare. Doctors of the World’s UK clinics - one of which is hosted in Praxis' building - regularly see people in urgent need, including pregnant women and cancer sufferers, who are afraid to see a doctor due to data-sharing.
 
According to the Department of Health, the Home Office made 8,127 requests for data in the first 11 months of 2016 alone. This led to 5854 people being traced by immigration teams.
 
What’s Doctors of the World doing about it?
The #StopSharing campaign has several stages. First, they're launching a petition with the National Aids Trust and Liberty against the deal. They will take the petition to the government and ask them to respond.
 
They’re also launching a “Safe Surgeries” toolkit for healthcare professionals, which gives GP practices concrete ways to defy the deal and keep their patients’ addresses off NHS records. Later this month, a viral social media campaign will get underway.
 
How can I help? 
STEP 1:
Sign the petition. We’re launching a petition with the National Aids Trust and Liberty against the deal. We will take the petition to the government and ask them to respond. Use the suggested social media posts in step 3 to promote the petition and help us get more than 10,000 signatures.
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/stopsharingNHSinfo

STEP 2: 
Download the toolkit. The “Safe Surgeries” toolkit for healthcare professionals gives GP practices concrete ways to defy the data-sharing deal by keeping their patients’ addresses off NHS records, including using the GP practice address as c/o address. All suggestions are in line with NHS guidelines.
https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/SafeSurgeries-toolkit 

STEP 3: 
Contribute to the viral campaign. Download our social media pack with suggested Tweets, Facebook posts and graphics to spread the #stopsharing message far and wide. If you prefer to write your own posts, please always use the hashtag #StopSharing.

School census: know your rights

26th September 2016

This year, the national school census is changing to collect new information about children’s country of birth, nationality and ethnicity. Rights campaigners are concerned that this data collection could lead to discrimination against migrant pupils. Against Borders for Children (ABC) is coordinating a national boycott, and you can find much more information on their website.

 

About the census
Schools, nurseries, colleges and other education institutions have been instructed to collect country of birth and nationality data on pupils aged 2-19. The Department of Education have not said what they will use this information for.

 

What you can do
1) You don't have to provide this information. You can opt out of the questions on ethnicity and nationality, but not the rest of the census. If you want to write to your child’s school to opt out, ABC has produced a template letter.

 

2) If you have already provided this information, you have until 5th October 2016 to inform the school that you have changed your mind and no longer want this to be sent.

 

3) Some schools are asking for passports and birth certificates. You do not need to present them.


Further information
For ABC’s full guide for parents, click here.
For ABC’s frequently asked questions, click here.
 

EU Citizens Living in the UK: A Self-Help Guide

12th September 2016

For many EU citizens living in the UK, now is an uncertain time. In June, the UK voted to leave the European Union. This 'Brexit' vote has left many people questioning how it may affect their future. At the moment nothing has changed, as the UK has not yet left the EU. However there are steps that EU citizens may wish to take now, to help to secure their position and to influence the debate.

 

Adrian Berry, a Barrister at Garden Court Chambers and Chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), has written an excellent blog entitled EU Citizens Living in the UK:  A Self-Help GuideThe blog clearly explains the different steps that EU citizens should think about taking, and we would encourage anyone seeking information to read it. You can also follow Adrian's Facebook page focusing on immigration here.

How does Brexit affect EU citizens?

Updated 12th July 2016

The UK recently voted in favour of leaving the European Union (EU). This vote has become known as ‘Brexit’. The Brexit vote may result in some changes in UK law in the future. But how will it affect EU citizens currently living in the UK?

 

No change for now

At the moment nothing has changed, as the UK has not yet left the EU. The UK will have to negotiate exit from the EU, which is likely to take at least two years.

 

If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, at present:

 - You can still live and work in the UK in the same way as before.
 - You are able to leave and re-enter the UK in the same way as usual.
 - Your rights in the UK remain exactly the same.

 

No one knows for certain what will happen during the process of negotiating exit from the EU.  However the government has released a statement saying: "When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK....will be properly protected." You can read the full statement here.

 

Residence and Citizenship

Some people who are exercising EU rights may be eligible for ‘Permanent Residence’ (usually if you have been exercising EU rights in the UK for at least five years) or may even be eligible for British citizenship (if you have been exercising EU rights in the UK for six years or more) and may wish to consider applying for these.  If you do wish to apply you should seek advice on your individual situation. You can also find the eligibility criteria for citizenship here.

 

What Praxis will do

Praxis continues to work with all vulnerable migrants and we will endeavour to keep you up to date with any news on changes to come.  We are not able to assist with applications for Permanent Residence or naturalisation (British citizenship), but we can provide advice on eligibility and evidence requirements.

 

For more information, please download our factsheet:

PRAXIS FACTSHEET ON ‘BREXIT’

Praxis view on the EU referendum

24th June 2016

Today we have learned that the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Given the momentous nature of this referendum, debate surrounding it has dominated news headlines and national discourse over the past few months. Immigration has been a key issue for both campaigns, and at Praxis we have been alarmed to see an increase in inflammatory rhetoric – generating and exploiting fear of migrants for political gain.

 

We have also seen encouraging expressions of support for migrant communities, and a strong message that we have more in common than that which divides us. In the coming weeks and months, we must move forward and try to build a more welcoming and accepting society for all people. We must continue to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society, including those seeking refuge. We must respond with humanity and compassion.

 

Here at Praxis, EU citizens are a key part of our team and make an important contribution to our work. We will seek to fully support our valued European colleagues as the situation evolves.

 

The result of the referendum has been settled, but many questions remain. Not least; what is the future for the estimated 3 million non-British EU citizens currently living in the UK? Although the official Leave campaign has given assurances that any new immigration system would not affect this group, legal experts say the picture is much less clear.

 

There are significant and understandable concerns among EU citizens living here. At Praxis, we expect to see an increase in enquiries from worried EU migrants. We call on all parties to make it clear that all EU citizens living in the UK are a valued part of the country’s fabric and that their rights will be protected. We encourage our supporters to sign a petition to that effect, started by the organisation British Future, which is here.

 

If you would be interested in getting involved with our work, we’d love to hear from you. We urgently need motivated volunteers to join our team; click here to find out more. To keep up to date with our work, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Web design: David Cross & Red Dust Digital