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Government to increase asylum seekers' support by 80 pence a week

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:31:40 +0000

The Home Office has announced that it will increase the financial support provided to people seeking asylum by 80 pence, to £37.75 per week.

The Home Office has revealed that it will increase the financial support provided to people seeking asylum by just 80 pence a week.

After a period of consultation, the Home Office published the findings of its 2017 review into the cash allowance provided to people seeking asylum. Despite calls to make a much more significant increase in the level of support, the Home Office has said the rise should be from £36.95 per week to £37.75 per week. This change will take effect from 5 February 2018.

Refugee Action responded to the consultation and argued that the cash allowance for people seeking sanctuary should be no less than 70 per cent of mainstream benefits.

Mariam Kemple-Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said, “We acknowledge that the Government has responded to a consultation on the rate of asylum support by a small increase of 80p a week.

“But with soaring inflation and no increase to asylum support over the past three years, this should have gone much further – to at least 70 per cent of mainstream benefits.

“More people seeking asylum are waiting longer for their asylum claim to be processed. During this time, which in some cases can be years, people are left unable to work and struggling to survive on just over £5.00 a day.

“This takes a tremendous toll on the wellbeing of people who have fled conflict and persecution. Expecting people to survive on so little is incompatible with a compassionate asylum system.”

Also responding to the news, the Refugee Council’s Director of Advocacy, Dr Lisa Doyle said, “People seeking asylum, barred from working to support themselves and frequently new to the UK, are wholly reliant on government allowances to meet their daily living needs. The long delays currently experienced by many in the asylum system means that families are forced to live on this paltry amount for months, sometimes years on end. Surely a country like ours can do better by people who have survived untold horrors and are trying to rebuild their lives.”

Read the government review here

* Refugee Action https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/

* Refugee Council https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/

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Red Cross to increase assistance in Sudan's Darfur region

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:25:45 +0000

The Red Cross will increase its field assistance activities in Sudan's Darfur region in 2018, in partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will increase its field assistance activities in Sudan's Darfur region in 2018, returning to an area where years of conflict have adversely affected the health and welfare of residents.

The ICRC will also for the first time carry out new assistance activities in South Kordofan. Recent visits to South Kordofan and Central Darfur by the ICRC found people in need of food, safe drinking water and access to health care.

"Families living in Sudan's conflict-affected areas have been suffering much too long from the effects of prolonged violence," ICRC President Peter Maurer said during a three-day visit to Sudan that concluded on 11 January 2017. "It's notable that the Government of Sudan recognises these needs and is allowing the ICRC to carry out a broader range of activities in these critical areas."

The ICRC assistance activities will gradually increase in partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and relevant authorities. The ICRC hopes in the future to cross lines of control and directly assist all civilians suffering from conflict and violence, including in armed opposition held areas.

"We want to address short-term needs but we know we must also help strengthen the resilience of the people in the long-term," Mr. Maurer said. "The ICRC has a long history of working in Sudan, but no history of working in South Kordofan state. We look forward to being able to assist those in need there."

In South Kordofan, Mr. Maurer witnessed the opening of an ICRC-repaired water point where smiling children scooped up handfuls of clean drinking water from shiny taps. The ICRC plans to open a new office in Kadugli, a development welcomed by local authorities.

ICRC assistance in Sudan planned for 2018 includes the distribution of seeds, tools and pesticides to help internally displaced communities and host communities to grow their own food, aid that will help 108,000 people. Food or cash will be distributed to help those families until the harvest. ICRC teams will also repair water pumps and vaccinate livestock.

The ICRC resumed its field assistance work after suspending field operations in Darfur in 2015 because of limited access. The ICRC has continued to support orthopedic patients at the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, to reconnect families separated by conflict, and to act as a neutral intermediary during prisoner releases.

* International Committee of the Red Cross https://www.icrc.org/en

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Israel should release 16-year-old Palestinian activist, Ahed Tamimi, says Amnesty

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:22:15 +0000

The Israeli authorities must release Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian activist who could face up to ten years in prison over an altercation with Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank last month, Amnesty International said ahead of her appearance in court on 15 January 2018. The Israeli authorities must release Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian activist who could face up to ten years in prison over an altercation with Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank last month, Amnesty International said ahead of her appearance in court on 15 January 2018. The teenager will appear before Ofer military court in the occupied West Bank accused of aggravated assault and 11 other charges, after a video - showing her shoving, slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers in her home village of Nabi Saleh on 15 December - was widely-circulated on Facebook. Ahed Tamimi confronted the soldiers during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The video shows that the soldiers, who were standing on the edge of the family’s walled front yard armed with assault rifles, were able to lightly swat away Ahed’s slaps and kicks. However, the clip outraged many Israelis, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett telling Israeli army radio that Ahed and two other women involved in the incident “should finish their lives in prison”.  The incident took place on the same day that Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammad, was hit in the head at close range by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. His family told Amnesty that he required surgery involving the removal of part of his skull. Four days after the incident, Ahed and her mother, Nariman, were arrested by Israeli soldiers. The arrests took place after Nariman, also a prominent activist, posted the footage online. Another cousin of Ahed’s, Nour, 21, was arrested the following day but has since been released on bail. On 1 January, Ahed and Nariman were charged with aggravated assault of soldiers and preventing them from carrying out their duties. Ahed faces a total of 12 charges, including incitement on social media and offences related to five other alleged altercations with Israeli soldiers over the past two years. Ahed’s lawyer says she has faced several long and aggressive interrogation sessions, sometimes during the night, and has received threats against her family by interrogators. According to her family, Ahed has also endured several physically-exhausting transfers from prison to court alongside other child detainees, without access to a toilet.  Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a state party, the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: “Nothing that Ahed Tamimi has done can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old girl. The Israeli authorities must release her without delay.  “In capturing an unarmed teenage girl’s assault on two armed soldiers wearing protective gear, the footage of this incident shows that she posed no actual threat and that her punishment is blatantly disproportionate. “Ahed Tamimi’s ensuing arrest and military trial exposes the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children who dare to stand up to ongoing, often brutal, repression by occupying forces. “Israel is clearly, brazenly flouting its obligations under international law to protect children from overly harsh criminal punishments.” Since 2009, the small village of Nabi Saleh, north-west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, has been the scene of regular Friday protests against Israel's military occupation, the theft of land and the loss of the community's water sou[...]



Army's new recruitment campaign described as 'misleading'

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:12:52 +0000

The UK army has been accused of misleading potential recruits with a new recruitment campaign that promises emotional support within the army.

The UK army has been accused of misleading potential recruits with a new recruitment campaign that promises emotional support within the army.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said the recruitment campaign is the army's latest desperate attempt to meet recruitment targets, which they have been missing for several years.

The PPU cited research showing the damaging effects of military training on mental health. The organisation said that military training is designed to remove the natural aversion to killing and to condition vulnerable teenagers to follow orders without question.

The army's new campaign also suggests that the army promotes equality, claiming that recruits are welcome regardless of sexuality, gender or religion. In response, the PPU pointed out that the army denies the most basic human rights to its employees, including the right to leave their job and the right to follow their conscience. They also routinely deny the human rights of civilians and others in countries in which they operate.

The UK is the only country in Europe to recruit people as young as 16 into the army.

PPU member Wayne Sharrocks, who belonged to the British army from 2006 to 2013, said, "Military training is a process of mental conditioning. Brutal physical punishments are common. Fear of questioning orders is instilled early on, while the army uses sophisticated techniques to remove the aversion to killing. All this has negative impacts on soldiers' mental health. This conditioning process is likely to be one of the main causes of PTSD in soldiers and veterans."

Symon Hill, Co-ordinator of the Peace Pledge Union, said, "The army's new recruitment campaign is misleading and desperate. The army exists to engage in violence in the service of the establishment, not to provide emotional support or to promote equality. The armed forces have been failing for years to meet their recruitment targets, which suggests that young people can see through the tacky adverts and recognise that the army is about violence and unquestioning obedience."

The Recruitment of Children by the UK Armed Forces – a critique from health professionals published by Medact, found that British army recruits aged 16 and 17 were particularly vulnerable to "PTSD, alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide" and that "military recruitment marketing takes advantage of adolescent cognitive and psychosocial vulnerabilities". Read the report here

A report published by Veterans for Peace in 2017, The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment based on veterans' testimonies, concluded that "army training isolates recruits from their civilian past, disorientates them, controls every aspect of daily life, keeps them under stress and uses group punishments to enforce compliance". Read the report here

* Peace Pledge Union http://www.ppu.org.uk/

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New report finds rising pay inequality amongst men driven by the hours they work

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:11:01 +0000

More men in lower paid roles are working fewer hours or part-time, while higher paid men are working more. These changes have led to a ‘hollowing out’ of the male labour force, with fewer middle earners, according to a new report published by the Resolution Foundation. More men in lower paid roles are working fewer hours or part-time, while higher paid men are working more. These changes have led to a ‘hollowing out’ of the male labour force, with fewer middle earners, according to a new report published on 15 January 2018 by the Resolution Foundation. Counting the hours finds that this hollowing out means that the share of low-paid men earning less than £175 a week (a third of the typical male weekly wage) has increased by 70 per cent over the last 20 years, while the share of higher-paid men earning more than £1,060 (double the typical weekly wage) has increased by 15 per cent. In contrast, the share of middle-earning men – earning between £400 and £660 – has fallen by 15 per cent. The report rejects the consensus view that ‘hollowing out’ (the growing polarisation of pay) is principally about the loss of mid-skilled jobs like manufacturing. It notes that there has actually been relatively little occupational hollowing out in the UK overall, thanks to the rise of new professional and service sector mid-skilled jobs to replace the old ones. The Foundation says that the explanation for the growing divide in weekly pay packets instead lies in the big shifts in men’s working patterns over the last 20 years, which have largely gone unnoticed. This hollowing out has been driven in part by the rising number of male part-time employees, which has increased by over 50 per cent since 1997. Almost one in eight men work part-time today, compared to fewer than one in twelve 20 years ago. Counting the hours also finds a growing divide in the number of hours that men working full-time do. The average number of hours worked by low-paid men has fallen from 44.3 hours in 1997 to 42.2 hours in 2016, while increasing by 0.5 hours to 37.3 hours for high-paid men. Taking these two trends together, low-paid men now work fewer hours on average than higher-paid men (34.1 hours, compared to 36 hours) – a reversal of working patterns from 20 years ago. There has been no such hollowing out for female workers, with the big change over the last 20 years being a small rise in the share of higher paid women, while both part-time and full-time women have increased their hours over the last 20 years. The Foundation says that these changes are in part because of a more equal distribution of low-paid, part-time work between men and women. This is no bad thing, though the fact that over a quarter of low-paid men working part-time want a full-time job is a big concern. Involuntary part-time rates are highest for skilled tradespeople, cleaners, labourers, and those in sales and customer service jobs. Furthermore, while levels of underemployment (those wanting more hours work than they currently get) are stable for higher paid workers, they are well-above the levels of the early 2000s for low-paid men. Policy makers must be alert to people drifting towards low-paid short-hours work against their will, says the Foundation. Stephen Clarke, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “When people talk about the labour market ‘hollowing out’ they’re normally referring to mid-skilled jobs moving to other parts of the world, or disappearing altogether as a result of automation. “But Britain’s real hollowing out problem has much more to do with the hours people are working than the rates of pay different jobs bring. The increase in earnings inequality among men is about the increasing number of low-paid men who are either reducing their hours or moving into part-time work, in some cases against their wishes. “Stro[...]



Call for Boris Johnson to act on repression in Bahrain

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:03:31 +0000

The human rights organisation Reprieve has urged Boris Johnson, to intervene to halt repression in Bahrain, including the planned execution of political protesters. The call comes one year on from the Gulf Kingdom’s resumption of executions.

The human rights organisation Reprieve has urged the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to intervene to halt repression in Bahrain, including the planned execution of political protesters. The call comes one year on from the Gulf Kingdom’s resumption of executions. 

On 15 January 2017, Bahrain executed three people who were arrested in the wake of protests and tortured into ‘confessions.’ (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23695) Since those executions, the size of Bahrain’s death row has doubled, and at least two men face imminent execution on charges related to their attendance at political protests.

The Bahraini authorities have additionally engaged in reprisals against rights activists and their families. The authorities recently imprisoned the relatives of a UK-based campaigner, Sayed al Wadaei, who has spoken out about the death penalty and other abuses in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a close UK ally. Research by Reprieve has found that the British government has given substantial support to Bahrain’s prison system, as part of a recent package of ‘reform’ support. The package has included the training by Britain of hundreds of guards on Bahrain’s death row, where torture is rife.

Boris Johnson’s response to the executions last year was criticised by Reprieve as “woefully inadequate.”

Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at Reprieve, said: “Bahrain’s resumption of executions is a tragic reminder that the human rights situation in the Kingdom is deteriorating, despite the millions the UK Foreign Office has spent trying to reform the country’s police and prisons. Since last year’s execution of three protesters who were tortured into ‘confessing’, Bahrain has sentenced more protesters to death after unfair trials, while campaigners have been targeted for daring to speak out. Boris Johnson must make British security assistance to Bahrain strictly conditional on real reform. That includes an urgent end to the death penalty for protesters, and a halt to political reprisals.”

* Reprieve https://reprieve.org.uk/

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National Service will mark assassination of Martin Luther KIng Jr

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 14:22:23 +0000

Christian Aid and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey will be hosting a National Service at the Abbey on April 4, 2018 marking the 50th anniversary of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King's assassination.

Christian Aid and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey will be hosting a National Service at the Abbey on April 4 2018 marking the 50th anniversary of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King's assassination. The service, which starts at 12 noon, takes place on the same day that Dr King was killed 50 years ago.

'Rediscovering Justice', the theme of the service, will focus on three areas that distinguished Dr King's fight for justice and equality:

  • His Motivation – exploring the role of faith in seeking justice
  • His Conviction – the passion emanating from the world and circumstances of the marginalised and disadvantaged communities
  • His Actions – exploring his approach and what he did to bring about transformation

These themes will be further developed at a symposium after the service at St Margaret's church next to the Abbey between 3pm and 6pm.

Dr King, whose famous 'I have a dream' speech is recognised as one of the greatest pieces of oratory, led a civil right campaign that helped to transform American attitudes toward race and equality.

On Monday 15 January 2018 ,  Martin Luther King Day in the USA and a national holiday which remembers the slain civil rights leader, Christian Aid is extending an invitation to members of the public and our national and civic leaders to mark the occasion. The charity hopes the service will pose a real challenge to how we understand and respond to the many issues of injustice experienced in the UK and Internationally.

Mark Sturge, Head of England at Christian Aid, and one of the organisers says: "Dr King remains an inspirational figure throughout the world. His message of peace and his commitment to justice resonate with those who are fighting to make their communities or societies better places to live.

"We are delighted that this service will be an opportunity to not only remember Dr King's life and work, but to also rediscover those issues, such as justice, which remain unfulfilled in our world."

Christian Aid enjoyed a warm relationship with Dr King: on his occasional visits to the UK he would prioritise visits to its offices. Moreover, alongside the former British Council of Churches, Christian Aid would make appointments for Dr King and helped with his press and media

Mark Sturge added: "Dr King often pointed out that his Christian faith was the driving force behind his commitment to fight for justice. Likewise, our faith in Jesus is at the heart of our work to bring about real change in our world."

* Tickets can be booked here

* Christian Aid https://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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UNHCR appeals for more resettlement after 160 reported Mediterranean deaths

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:18:18 +0000

Survivors of an incident that may have claimed more than 60 lives have been picked up by the Italian coastguard and disembarked in Catania. In addition to eight corpses recovered by the rescuers, 56 people, including 15 women and six children, are feared to have drowned.

On Monday 8 January 2018, the survivors of an incident that may have claimed more than 60 lives were picked up by the Italian coastguard and disembarked in Catania. In addition to eight corpses recovered by the rescuers, 56 people, including 15 women and six children, are feared to have drowned.

On the same day, in a separate incident, a dinghy carrying 54 people capsised off Morocco. The Moroccan coastguard reported that two men had drowned.

On rgw following day, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and its partner, the International Medical Corps, assisted with the disembarkation in Tripoli of 279 refugees and migrants by the Libyan coastguard. The survivors reported that between 60 and 100 people were still missing at sea. No bodies have been found so far.

In September 2017, UNHCR appealed urgently for 40,000 resettlement places for refugees in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route. In all, 277,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in these countries.

Against these projected needs, UNHCR has to date received approximately 13,000 offers of resettlement places in 2018 and 2019. Most of these are part of regular established global resettlement programmes and only a few represent additional places.

Since November 2017, UNHCR has evacuated hundreds of vulnerable refugees, the vast majority children and women, from Libya to Niger. For unaccompanied children, a solution in the best interest of each child will be identified, while adults go through UNHCR regular processing with a view to identifying solutions for them, including resettlement.

UNHCR has been advocating for a comprehensive approach to address movements of migrants and refugees who embark on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean. These efforts should include building or strengthening protection capacity and livelihood support in countries of first asylum, providing more regular and safe ways for refugees to find safety through legal pathways such as resettlement and family reunification, and addressing the root causes and drivers of refugee displacement.

* UNHCR http://www.unhcr.org/uk/

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ACLU comments on Trump's reported remarks on Haiti and African countries

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:11:30 +0000

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticised President Trump's remarks which reportedly opposed including protections for people from Haiti and African countries in an immigration deal, calling those places “shithole countries.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticised President Trump's remarks which reportedly opposed including protections for people from Haiti and African countries in an immigration deal, calling those places “shithole countries.” According to media reports, Trump made the comments at a White House meeting about Dreamer legislative negotiations, asking why he should allow immigrants in from those countries rather than from places like Norway.

Lorella Praeli, American Civil Liberties Union director of immigration policy and campaigns, said: “President Trump has been consistently honest about the white nationalism behind his immigration policies. His latest salvo is directly contrary to the decision Congress made in 1965 to do away with the racist per-country quotas of the past and bring our immigration policies in line with the civil rights era.

“The crisis facing Dreamers, manufactured by the Trump White House, is an urgent one. It is incumbent on responsible members of Congress to stand up for a different vision of our country, to reject attempts to derail legislative progress, and to deliver on the urgently needed legislative solution for Dreamers.”

* More about the Dreamers here

* The American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/

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More than 40% of school kitchen staff 'in debt due to low pay'

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:04:26 +0000

A survey of school catering staff found that many borrow money to make ends meet, and do regular unpaid overtime to keep school kitchens operational.

Four in 10 (41 per cent) of school kitchen staff are worried about their pay, with one in five (21 per cent) earning the minimum wage, a new UNISON survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 1,200 school catering employees found that four in ten (43 per cent) say they are weighed down with debt (other than a mortgage). A quarter (25 per cent) of the staff responding say they have had to take out loans from banks, credit unions or payday loan companies simply to make ends meet. One in five (21 per cent) have had no choice but to borrow money from friends and family.

At the same time, almost half the respondents (46 per cent) said that it’s impossible to do their jobs within their allocated hours. A third of kitchen staff (33 per cent) regularly do between two and five hours of unpaid overtime every week to keep their school’s kitchens operational. Almost one in ten (nine per cent) school catering staff regularly work five or more hours unpaid.

Stress also has a significant impact on the catering employees, with one in four saying they feel stressed all or most of the time. One fifth (20 per cent) of kitchen staff say they’ve had to take on a second job to try to cover their monthly outgoings.

The lack of training and the feeling that kitchen staff are not seen as a valued part of the school team were also cited as issues that troubled them. One third (33 per cent) say they’ve not received any training in the past year, and 35 per cent of respondents felt excluded as a member of the school as a whole.

UNISON national officer for education and children’s services Ruth Levin said, “It’s disgraceful that some of the lowest paid employees in our education system are doing hours of unpaid overtime every week just to keep our school kitchens running and the nation’s school children fed.

“Many school kitchen staff said they were the main breadwinners for their families and have fallen into debt as the result of the freeze on their already low wages. As a country attempting to tackle the growing childhood obesity crisis, it’s imperative the government and head teachers place a greater value on their role in keeping children healthy.

“UNISON is calling on all employers to provide both fair pay and ample training to all school kitchen staff.”

* UNISON https://www.unison.org.uk/

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Inquest opens into the death of Emily Hartley in New Hall prison

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:57:51 +0000

Emily Harltey, who had a history of mental health problems, was sentenced to over two years imprisonment for arson after setting fire to herself, her bed and curtains.

Emily Hartley was 21 years old when she was found dead in HMP New Hall, Wakefield on 23 April 2016.  In May 2015 she was remanded into custody after she set fire to herself, her bed and curtains. This was her first time in prison. 

Emily had a history of serious mental ill health, including self-harm, suicide attempts and drug addiction. She had been admitted to mental health units on numerous occasions in the past. In August 2015, following her arrest the court decided to bail Emily from New Hall to a bail hostel rather than transfer her to a secure hospital.  Whilst in the hostel she began taking drugs again.  In November 2015 she was sentenced to over two years imprisonment for arson and returned to New Hall.

Emily was monitored under the suicide and self-harm management processes known as ACCT, which meant that she had to be observed at regular intervals. However, she continued to self-harm and told staff on numerous occasions that she wanted to end her own life. She asked to be moved to a different part of the prison, complaining that staff were not listening to her and that she was being bullied. Disciplinary procedures were often used to deal with her behaviour. On the day she died, Emily phoned her mother explaining that she was feeling manic and that no one was checking on her for hours at a time, despite her being on twice hourly observations.

Emily took her own life whilst in the exercise yard but was only found two and half hours later. The inquest into her death will seek to explore the following issues:

  • The adequacy of suicide and self-harm risk assessments (ACCT process)
  • The use of disciplinary processes as punishment for her behaviour
  • The prison’s lack of compliance with the ACCT observation process.

Emily’s was one of four deaths at HMP New Hall in 2016, three of which were self-inflicted and one not yet classified. Her death came a month after the self-inflicted death of Lynsey Bartley, 29. In October 2017 there was a further self-inflicted death in the prison.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said, “Emily was the youngest of 12 women to take her own life in prison in 2016. Just like the many women who died before her she should never have been in prison in the first place. This inquest must scrutinise her death and how such a vulnerable young woman was able to die whilst in the care of the state.”

Emily's inquest willl be held at Wakefield Coroner’s Court, West Yorkshire. It will open on 15 January 2018 at 10.00 am and is expected to run for three to four weeks.

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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'EU Withdrawal Bill will not protect UK rights': open letter

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:46:58 +0000

A group of human rights legal experts and organisations has signed an open letter on the importance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights ahead of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returning to Parliament this week.

A group of more than 20 organisations and human rights legal experts has signed an open letter on the importance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights ahead of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returning to Parliament this week. The letter was published in the Observer.

"The EU (Withdrawal) Bill – returning to the House of Commons this week – will not protect people’s rights in the UK as the Government promised. This is in large part because the Bill removes the Charter of Fundamental Rights from our law.

"The Charter protects rights important to all of us: including rights to dignity, protection of personal data and health; and protections for workers, women, children, and older people, LGBTI and disabled people.

"The Government’s analysis of the Charter repeats its assurance that rights will not be weakened following Brexit. However, independent legal advice shows this to be wrong.

"Losing it creates a human rights hole because the Charter provides some rights and judicial remedies that have no clear equivalents in UK law.

"Furthermore, by keeping the wide and complex body of EU law while throwing away the Charter which is the code to unlock it, the Government risks creating confusion, jamming itself in a mountain of legal cases.

Rights without remedies are just symbols. We need legal guarantees in the Bill about the kind of society we want to be after Brexit. For the Government to honour its promise of preserving existing rights it must retain the protections in the Charter."

Signatories:

Adam Wagner, Barrister
Amnesty International UK
British Institute of Human Rights
Children's Rights Alliance for England
Coram
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Equality and Diversity Forum
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Fawcett Society
Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES)
Jonathan Cooper OBE
Just Fair
Liberty
National Aids Trust
National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO)
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Schona Jolly QC
Scottish Human Rights Commission
UK Race and Europe Network
UK Women’s Budget Group
Unlock Democracy
Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children

* Equality and Human Rights Commission https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

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Campaigners condemn immigration checks on bank account holders

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:32:16 +0000

Campaigners have condemned the Home Office’s introduction of immigration checks on bank current account holders, which came into effect on 12 January 2018.

The Migrants’ Rights Network, Global Justice Now and No Borders in Banks have issued the following joint statement condemning the Home Office’s introduction of immigration checks on bank current account holders, which came into effect on Friday 12 January 2018.

"We are deeply concerned by the adding of another element to the already pernicious and established ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. We believe the measures will have harmful and discriminatory consequences including:

  • Current accounts being frozen or closed down incorrectly, due to a high error rate in the Home Office data used for the checks
  • Vulnerable migrants – already at heightened risk of exploitation due to their immigration status – being denied safe access to their money, and forced to rely on black financial markets and cash
  • These same migrants being left unable to meet their most basic needs, such as for food and housing. Accessing such services is a right for everyone, no matter your immigration status.
  • Account closures being be felt disproportionately by people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, given the links between immigration status and ethnicity

"We are also worried by the lack of clarity around an appeals process for affected individuals. Moreover, given the Home Office’s notorious track record in processing complaints, we fear any process eventually established will be poorly run and lengthy. This will further compound the issues raised above.

"It is also important to note that the banking sector itself – including representatives from RBS and TSB – have expressed their own concerns about implementing the checks. With such clear opposition from all sides, we demand the UK government ends this unethical, harmful and discriminatory policy immediately."

The Migrants’ Rights Network and No Borders in Banks are keen to hear from anyone affected by these changes. All information will be treated in strictest confidence.

* Migrants' Rights Network https://migrantsrights.org.uk/

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Re-brokering of failed Academies Trust schools criticised

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:25:33 +0000

The National Education Union says schools run by a failed Academies Trust have been 're-brokered' to new sponsors with complete disregard for the views of parents and staff in the communities affected.

Commenting on the announcement that 11 of the 21 academies currently run by the failed Wakefield City Academies Trust have been re-brokered to new sponsors, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said, “Once again the Department for Education has shown complete disregard for the views of parents and staff in the school communities that have been so badly let down by the collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT).

"Despite being told that their school’s sponsor has spectacularly failed, parents have not been consulted throughout the process. The so-called ‘engagement’ exercise for parents and staff to meet the proposed new sponsor does not constitute meaningful consultation, with one trust holding its parents’ meetings in just one location, many miles from the schools affected. It is no surprise that parents and staff have no confidence in the academy system and do not believe that their legitimate concerns are being listened to.

“There are many unanswered questions. We need to know whether the deficits run up by WCAT have been paid off. Those schools that loaned money to WCAT, much of it raised by the voluntary activity of parents, need to be told whether these funds will be reimbursed. Parents and staff must be given assurances that going forward the schools will have sufficient funds to provide a high quality education to all pupils with the staff and resources in place to do so.

“It is to be hoped that the new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, looks closely at the events leading up to WCAT’s failure and asks probing questions about the failure of the Regional Schools Commissioners to step in sooner. In addition, there must be a new mechanism for dealing with such situations in the future. Parents and staff should have the right to meaningful consultation over the identity of the new sponsor and they should also have the option of the school being returned to the local authority family of schools, where democratic oversight of both academic quality and financial probity can be better assured.”

* NEU https://neu.org.uk/

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UN chief expresses full support for peace process in Colombia

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:12:06 +0000

In an official visit to Colombia, UN Secretary-General António Guterres met with the country's President in Bogotá where the UN chief said it is the duty of all the citizens of the world to support the peace process there. In an official visit to Colombia, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres met with the country's President on 13 January 2017 in  Bogotá, where the UN chief said it is the duty of all the citizens of the world to support the peace process there. “We see more and more conflicts arising, and old conflicts with no solutions in sight; and that is why what happens in Colombia is of fundamental symbolic importance for the world,” Mr Guterres told a press conference at Palacio de Nariño, Colombia's presidential palace, following a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos. The purpose of Mr Guterres' visit is to take stock of achievements that followed a peace agreement between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) in November 2016, which ended 50 years of conflict. The UN chief also seeks to reinvigorate the implementation of the peace deal, including the process of reintegrating former rebel combatants into society, and ensure that Colombians are committed to stay the course. “This mission is clearly a mission of solidarity with Colombia and with the Colombian people in a historical moment and of enormous importance for Colombia, for Latin America and for the world”,  Mr Guterres said. His visit also comes ahead of legislative elections in March and presidential elections in May, and at a time when a temporary ceasefire agreement between the Government and another rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has just expired. The UN chief said he was impressed by Colombia's commitment to not only building peace but also guaranteeing the presence of the State throughout the Colombian territory, including the presence of administration, security, public services, education, and health in creating a development framework for civil society and for the private sector, all of which is an enormous challenge. “It is something that is not done miraculously, from one moment to another. But I want to reaffirm here the full commitment of the United Nations in supporting the Colombian government in this project of enormous importance, to build peace but at the same time to build an inclusive democracy, capable of ensuring that the entire national territory benefits from development”,  he emphasised. “There is no justification for armed violence. Peace is the only answer that today can solve the problems of poverty, the problems of development and the problems of equality and democracy,” he said. President Santos thanked the Secretary-General for his visit and the continuing support of the United Nations and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which is currently monitoring compliance with the agreements established in the peace agreement. The President highlighted the effort of Colombia to end the conflict and reiterated to Mr. Guterres his Government's determination to continue moving in that direction. “It is a process, we are the first to recognise the challenges that we are facing, the most important has to do with the issue of security in rural areas, which suffered so long in the armed conflict ... As I always say, peace is like a cathedral and must be built brick by brick”, he said. Mr Guterres met with officials of the Government and Armed Forces, as well as with FARC-EP leadership and the Catholic Church. On Sunday, 14 January, the [...]