Tuesday 14th August 2012
No inquiry on Glasgow refugee family tower block deaths
The Independent, 9 August 2012
The deaths of three asylum seekers who apparently leapt from a tower block more than two years
ago will not be the subject of a fatal accident inquiry, officials have announced.
The Crown Office concluded that it is "not in the public interest" to hold such an examination of the
deaths of Serguei Serykh, 43, his wife Tatiana, and his 19-year-old stepson Stepan.The trio
apparently threw themselves from the Red Road flats in Springburn, Glasgow, on March 7 2010.
It is understood that the three Russian nationals had been living in the flats for a short time after
arriving from Canada. They are said to have received a letter explaining that their accommodation in
Glasgow was to be withdrawn on the day that they died. Their deaths traumatised the community
which includes many people seeking asylum.
The charity Positive Action In Housing subsequently wrote to the then Lord Advocate, demanding a
fatal accident inquiry. Director Robina Qureshi wrote in March 2010: "Based on our experiences of the
way the UK asylum policy operates on Scottish soil, we believe that the Serykh family would still be
alive were it not for the way they were treated by the UK asylum system."
Deportation looms for the man who stole an ice cream
The Independent, 6 August 2012
A looter jailed for 16 months after taking a single lick of an unwanted ice-cream cone stolen from a
ransacked shop during last summer's riots is now facing deportation and a 10-year ban from Britain.
Anderson Fernandes, whose case highlighted concerns over harsh sentencing for those convicted of
involvement in the riots, has been told that he will be sent back to Portugal where he has no family
and spent only a few years as a child.
Fernandes wandered into a ransacked confectioner's in central Manchester in August last year and
helped himself to a cone and two scoops of ice cream. He took a lick, did not like the coffee flavour,
and handed it to a woman outside the wrecked shop, he said.
The 22-year-old, who had never before been in prison, was jailed for 16 months after district judge
Jonathan Taaffe said that he had a "public duty to deal swiftly and harshly with matters of this nature".
Fernandes, of Newton Heath, Manchester, said that the deportation order meant that he was being
punished twice. "I had never been to prison before. I thought I would get community service or a tag,"
he said. "It's not like I smashed a shop or broke anything."
He stole the ice cream after leaving court where he faced charges for an unrelated matter. "I walked
in because the lights were on and the door was open. I walked in to go and buy something. But once I
was inside, I realised there was no-one in the shop so I helped myself to the ice cream machine, got
an ice-cream and took it out.
Fernandes, a Portuguese national, served his sentence at Strangeways and then at Risley prison in
Warrington, where he received notification from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) that it was seeking
possible deportation. After serving eight months of his sentence, he was transferred to the Dungavel
Immigration Removal Centre in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. He has not seen his Manchester-based
family since because of the difficulties of travelling to see him. He said his mother, who gave birth to a
daughter just a month before the riots, had been badly affected by what had happened.
Fernandes, who moved to Britain with his family at the age of 13, has been told he will be sent back to
Portugal where he lived for a couple of years after leaving Angola where he was born. He is currently
appealing the decision. "At first I was shocked because I had never been to prison before and I didn't
know the system. It gives you time to reflect and sit down," he said.
His solicitor, Jackie Mason, said he was considered for deportation because he was sentenced to
more than a year in prison – a punishment she said was disproportionate to the crime. "He wasn't
really involved in terms of organising and rallying," she said. Under the terms of his deportation, he
would not be able to return to Britain for 10 years.
A spokesperson for UKBA said: "All foreign nationals receiving a custodial sentence of at least 12
months should be considered for deportation. Each case is looked at on its individual merits."Previous
offences, the severity of the crime and the question of whether they have family in the UK are all
taken into consideration before a decision is given to deport.
Senior judges and the Prime Minister David Cameron have all endorsed the handing down of long
sentences for those involved in rioting despite criticisms by lawyers and rights groups.
UKBA can't do the most basic aspects of its job:The borders agency fails
immigrants in ways that defy understanding.
The New Statesman, 7 July 2012
The unknown whereabouts of 150,000 people refused residency in Britain made headlines this week.
The UK Border Agency took the usual flack for failing to exercise a "clear strategy" to deal with these
cases. A Labour MP playing two populist cards with one hand – immigration and bonuses –
demanded the removal of bonuses from senior UKBA officials. The pattern is a familiar one.
Yet there are far worse practices for which the border agency ought to be held to account. It is
troubling barometer of public opinion that this is the issue that we choose to get up in arms about
when far greater injustices occur within the immigration system on a daily basis.
Gladys, a young dental nurse from Zimbabwe, is just one typical victim out of thousands, whose
liberty depends on the caprice of border agency decision making. She spent six months imprisoned at
Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre. Not because she posed a security threat or was a danger to
the British public, but because of a series of arbitrary decisions.
Before being detained, Gladys reported to the border agency’s Solihull centre every three months
while her asylum application was being processed. As an asylum seeker Gladys was ineligible for
benefits and, like all asylum seekers with cases pending, was barred from working, making the £7
train fare from Wolverhampton to Solihull an impossible expense.
She explained the difficulty of her situation to the border agency. They reacted, perversely, by making
her appointments fortnightly. Of course, Gladys could no better cough up £7 every two weeks, than
every three months, and once again she appealed to their common sense. The response was an
unannounced visit from the six immigration officers, who searched her, and carried her off to Yarl’s
Wood. "Strangely I was just at peace. I didn’t think I would be detained for this long," she told me.
Inside Yarl’s Wood, things quickly got worse. When Gladys made an application for bail from Yarl’s
Wood, the agency claimed to have no record of her initial asylum claim. This meant she had start her
entire asylum application from scratch; further prolonging the already slow and cumbersome process.
The cloud of uncertainty which Gladys hoped might end with a decision on her future looked set to
It turned out the agency had misspelt her name on the first application, and so when she made a bail
application with her name spelt correctly, they failed to match up the two files. This revelation did not
nudge the conscience or common sense of any official; the process had to begin again. "The whole
system can be so frustrating," Gladys said. "It’s like they play mind games with you."
Gladys’ punishment continued when she refused to board a flight to Zimbabwe while her asylum claim
was still in progress. Yarl’s Wood staff, (the centre is run by Serco, who took over from G4S in 2007)
suddenly stopped her working the weekly nine-hour shifts available to all the women detained. The
pay is one pound an hour and helps pay for toiletries and phone credit.
Gladys spent much of her time at Yarl’s Wood in fear; fear that she would get ill and the staff would
not believe her; fear of what would happen if she was deported and left at Harare Airport; fear of
being forgotten. "I am just a number. CID number 404. You go crazy. A lot of people are suicidal. If
you don’t believe in something you will lose your mind." The psychological effects of indefinite
detention for immigration purposes have been well documented in Lancet and the Medical Journal of
Australia (MJA). The MJA has reported of detainees "dominated by hopelessness" engaging in
"repeated acts of self-harm or self-mutilation leading to acute hospital admissions."
It is not difficult to see how this might come about; the centres are effectively prisons. I remember my
initial shock at the level of security on my first visit to a removal centre. I signed a form agreeing to be
searched, provided two forms of identification, and had my fingerprints taken. I was not allowed to
take anything up to the visitors’ room and had to leave all my belongings in a locker. I asked the guard
if I could take my dictaphone or notebook; no. I was escorted to a small room and searched; I took off
my shoes and emptied my pockets. A tiny hair pin fell from a pocket and was confiscated. Each visit I
scan my now officially-remembered fingerprint three times before I am can enter the visitors’ room.
Sarah (not her real name), a sensitive and reserved 24-year-old detained at Yarl’s Wood is feeling the
impact of being detained eight months in these conditions, while she appeals against the refusal of
her asylum claim. She hates to complain, but yearns for a little kindness. "I don’t want to go mad," she
says. "I try not to hold it in my heart...it’s not easy." She cannot sleep, suffers constant headaches, but
refuses to visit the centre’s nurse because for fear of being called a liar.
Sarah and Gladys contrast starkly. Gladys was happy to be interviewed, to be asked questions, and
to challenge her treatment. Since being released, she has continued to campaign vocally against
immigration detention. But Gladys is the exception among the 3,000 odd detention estate (the highest
since 2001). Sarah is more typical; languishing alone, voiceless and forgotten. She will never make
Yarl's Wood Befrienders highlights issue of victims of trafficking in detention
Bedford Today, 3 August 2012
The full extent of trafficking in Bedfordshire may not yet be known, but one charity is already working
with victims at Yarl’s Wood in Clapham.
Last week the Times & Citizen reported how an urgent investigation into breadth of human trafficking
in Bedford Borough had been called for by Councillor Kristy Adams. And this week Heather Jones, of
the Yarl’s Wood Befrienders charity has spoken out about the history of abuse and forced labour that
many people at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Clapham have experienced.
She said: “It is something that we really come across a lot. Sometimes when they are telling us their
story you are suspicious that there is something missing, because if it was sexual it could be really
difficult to talk about.”
“I think victims of trafficking should not be locked up as it is not uncommon for a situation where
potential victims of trafficking are still kept in detention. It’s not prison and conditions are very good at
Yarl’s Wood but it’s very prison-like, they are behind locked doors and have had their freedom taken
away from them. For victims who have been trafficked into the sex trade they may well have been
locked up there, so to do it again is totally inappropriate.”
Heather said: “They are often very, very vulnerable and very frightened and are often chastised if they
do manage to escape for not going straight to the police. However they may well come from countries
where the police can not be trusted. Sometimes we have been the first people that they feel able to
talk about it to because we are not officials and being able to refer them to the Poppy Project for
support is also helpful because they can assess these people much better than we can. One girl I
met was quite young. Her father had died and someone turned up and offered to help because they
were a very poor family. Then this girl was offered the opportunity to come to England and work for
him but when she arrived he raped her and locked her in a house. Just when she thought he was not
coming back he would and the threats would start again. Then she ended up in a brothel and was
arrested by police for immigration offences. She was taken to prison and then on to Yarl’s Wood.
Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees: Campaign Meeting
Tuesday 14 August
O'Neill's Pub, Albion St / Bell St corner, Glasgow
The transfer of housing from Ypeople to Serco is under way. The eviction notices for refused
refugees have been delivered. The meeting will discuss where the campaign goes from here.
Scottish Detainee Visitors (SDV) 10th Birthday
Saturday 18th August
Garnethill Multicultural Centre, (21 Rose Street, Glasgow, G3 6RE)
SDV invites you to join in celebrating SDV’s 10th Birthday!
Come for a drink, a nibble, and a dance.