Tag Archives: home office

Home Office mistreatment of LGBT people must be stopped

One of the low points of this week for me was reading about Aderonke Apata.  She came to the UK after her girlfriend was murdered in Nigeria but this week a Home Office barrister actually stood up in court in public and argued Aderonke couldn’t possibly be a lesbian because she had children and because she wasn’t “part of the social group known as lesbians.” Do people not think about how ridiculous these things sound before they say them out loud? The Independent reports:

But the Home Office argues that Ms Apata could not be considered a lesbian because she has children and has previously been in heterosexual relationships. Ms Apata’s barrister, Abid Mahmood, said these were “highly offensive… stereotypical views of the past”.

He told the hearing: “Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence.”

The Home Secretary’s barrister, Andrew Bird, argued that Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activity”. He continued: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

Holding hands with her wife-to-be Happiness Agboro in court yesterday, Ms Apata, 47, was surrounded by dozens of gay-rights activists.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria under laws passed in January 2014 and there has been a spike in violence against gay people.

There have long been concerns about the frankly cruel, inhumane and brutal way the Home Office treats LGBT people that pre-dates this government. While Labour were in office, they used to tell people that they’d be fine in their home countries if they were discreet. It is a matter of massive regret to me that the Liberal Democrats in government have not been able to stop the sort of nonsense that took place in that central London courtroom this week or that routinely takes place when LGBT asylum seekers are interviewed. The Home Office playbook reads like a bad 1970s sitcom, but its effects are far from funny.

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BBC Newsnight: ‘Innocent people’ on police photos database

A special BBC Newsnight report says:

Police forces in England and Wales have uploaded up to 18 million “mugshots” to a facial recognition database – despite a court ruling it could be unlawful.

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Asylum system continues to fail LGBT people

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Caroline Pidgeon writes… URGENT! Five minutes of your time could help ensure firearm licence fee changes in 2015

Feeling slightly restless between Christmas and New Year?  Are you one of those people who just can’t keep away from their computer or device? Fed up of the constant emails about sales?!

Well if your answer yes to any of these questions – and the fact that you are even reading this article suggest you might – then I have a suggestion for something to do.

Why not quickly complete a Home Office consultation on the issues of firearm licence fees?

Yes you read that correctly.

The consultation ends at the very end of Monday 29th December (I didn’t set the deadline!) so it really is now or never.

The issue, as I raised back in an article in August, is that the cost of a five-year licence for a firearm, has now been frozen for more than 13 years.

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++BREAKING: Lynne Featherstone to replace Norman Baker at Home Office, Lindsay Northover to go to DFID

I have to say I’m pretty chuffed with Nick Clegg’s announcement that Lynne Featherstone is going back to the Home Office for the final 6 months of this Government. She spent the first two years there and in that time did all the set-up work for the Same Sex Marriage Bill. Since she’s been at DFID, she’s maintained a good working relationship with the Home Office because she’s been implementing a cross-Government plan to tackle FGM that involves them. I hope that she might also be able to dig her Transgender Action Plan out of the long grass where it’s …

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How – or will – Nick Clegg replace Norman Baker in the home office?

jenny willottNorman Baker’s decision to quit as Lib Dem home office minister — citing significant differences with his boss at the department, the Tories’ Theresa May — means a vacancy has opened up. How will Nick Clegg fill it? We’re unlikely to have long to wait, but here are what I see as his options…

Nick could simply promote a current MP. If he does so, then the obvious choice would be Jenny Willott. She covered Jo Swinson’s maternity leave at the business department, earning good reviews along the way. A promotion …

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Norman Baker: “The Lib Dems want to restore the public’s trust in the police”

Norman BakerToday’s London Evening Standard front page splashes on the news that the Lib Dems intend to tighten the laws on stop and search, and require some police officers to wear body cameras when they stop someone:

Armed police, riot squads and officers carrying out some stop-and-search in London would have to wear body cameras under Liberal Democrat proposals unveiled today.

The law and order reform, which will be in the party’s 2015 general election manifesto, will also require police to get a judge’s approval to carry out controversial Section 60 stop-and-searches. The existing law lets a senior officer authorise the stopping and searching of individuals in a certain area without suspicion of wrongdoing if he or she believes violence is about to erupt or that people are carrying weapons without good reason.

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Let’s bring the “polluter pays” principle to government decision making

imageAll too often Government departments get decisions wrong. Most notorious are the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions. Many people will be well aware of the anguish faced by those awaiting Employment and Support Allowance appeals, and the same is true for those waiting to see if they can stay in the country, or bring in a spouse.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…Please try to prevent the imminent death of a seeker of sanctuary

Yesterday I met Mr Isa Muaza who, until last night, was due to be forced on to a plane to Nigeria this evening. Though his removal directions have been moved – and set – for 29 November he remains at death’s door.

Isa is a failed asylum seeker who has been held in detention at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. The case is one of enforced removal, although very little real force will be necessary in his case. He has been on hunger strike and has lost 40% of his body mass. He is close to death.

Isa was not well when …

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Nick Clegg stops Theresa May’s £3000 immigration bond

nick cleggWay back in March, in a speech that, to say the least, was not well received in the party, Nick Clegg proposed that some people visiting Britain from “high risk” countries should pay a bond. He said:

One idea, which appeals to me, is a system of security bonds. And so I’ve asked the Home Office to do some work on it with a view to running a pilot before the end of the year.

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Norman Baker talks about immigration, conspiricies and taking on Teresa May

Norman BakerThe Independent today carries an interview with the new Lib Dem Home Office minister, Norman Baker. You know, that minister of conspiracy theories according to some media wags.

In his interview, Baker comes across as eminently sensible and defiantly Liberal. He is poised to reign in Teresa May’s excesses and tells the newspaper that has been told by Nick Clegg to range across all policy areas to “make sure there is a liberal voice clearly heard in the Home Office.”

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How to do Twitter, Home Office style

Oh, they have been busy bees at the Home Office this Summer.  The Go Home vans, immigration checks at tube stations, not telling Nick Clegg what they’re up to, it’s amazing they’ve found time for anything else.

On Tuesday they published their Twitter policy. While I’d like to think it was hastily drawn up in response to criticism of the way its account was used during the immigration spot checks, with statistics of how many people had been arrested were given along with disturbing photographs of people being bundled into vans, I’m not sure the wheels of …

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What are your rights if stopped by Home Office officials in the street?

I don’t often swear online. It usually takes an immense act of stupidity from a Formula 1 driver to incite me to do so, and the last time I tried that, the Chief Whip told me off mere seconds later. So profanity, even mildly, in a blog post is very unusual, particularly when directed at our leader. Which is why I did my little rant about these burly Home Office types turning up at tube stations and conducting checks on people’s immigration status on my own blog.

This is the second Home Office show of  disproportionate force in the last …

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Finally, the media pick up on Coalition split on offensive poster vans

There’s a big lesson to learn from the offensive poster van fiasco this week. Sometimes we Liberal Democrats, including me, can be quick to feel a dividing line between those inside the Whitehall Bubble and the rest of us. This week, we spoke with one voice. Liberal Democrats inside Government were every bit as livid as those of us outside at the presence of these vans on our streets. With their stark message “Go home or face arrest”, illustrated by handcuffs, they can only inflame tensions in communities.

We now know that the Tories have pulled a fast one on us. …

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Teather slams Home Office “Go Home” billboards as “straightforward intimidation”

The Evening Standard reports that the Home Office is planning on sending large billboards with “Go home or face arrest” on them around six London boroughs:

The billboards will also display the number of illegal migrants arrested recently in the relevant part of the capital.

Ministers say that the hardline message is intended to encourage visa overstayers or others here unlawfully to return voluntarily.

A phone number offering help – including potential free flights and other travel assistance – will also be shown on the adverts along with the promise that those who come forward voluntarily will not be detained while they

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Layla Moran writes… Child Detention still happens: Boy held at Campsfield for ‘2-3 months’

It is my belief that in a civilized society we should protect children. That they should not be punished for the actions of their parents or grandparents and that they should be given every chance of leading a fulfilled, healthy and normal childhood. And they most certainly should not be locked up without cause because of their family’s decision either.

Celebrating the end of child detention with Citizens UK #LDConf
Photo: Helen Duffett on Flickr.

Sadly for many years, this was not only true but also prevalent. Children who were here illegally were held in immigration deportation centres for months and sometimes years, were not allowed to go to school, not allowed to develop. A child does not, in full understanding of the consequences, make the decision to enter a country illegally. It would have been the decision of their family in whatever form that may take; yet until 2011 they were punished as equals to these adults.

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The ins and outs of the Snoopers Charter

web snoopers charterYou may be forgiven for being confused over whether the Snoopers Charter (aka the Communications Data Bill)  is in or out.

Back in December Julian Huppert reported that the Joint Committee that was looking at the Bill had unanimously agreed that it would have to be significantly amended to be acceptable. In an article in the Independent he wrote: “We have gone through the Home Office proposals – and the results are damning. The Bill as it is simply cannot proceed. “

In April, Nick Clegg vetoed the Bill, and

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Official: the snoopers’ charter is dead in this parliament

One element missing from the Queen’s Speech was the Communications Data Bill, aka the ‘snoopers’ charter’. No surprise to Lib Dems: Nick Clegg torpedoed it last month.

So I had a momentary spasm of concern to see on ConservativeHome this story from Mark Wallace: The Snoopers’ Charter comes sneaking back. Again.

I asked Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert (who’s played a crucial role in safeguarding civil liberties this parliament, including on this Bill) if there were any truth in it, and got an immediate reply…

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An open letter to Jeremy Browne MP on civil liberties… Part 1: The failed regulator

Dear Jeremy

I doubt that in amongst all the ludicrously large number of issues that pass across the desk of a minister, and a Home Office one no less, you will have noticed a small victory I scored over the Home Office recently.

But I hope you’ll give a pause for thought to the implications of the ruling the Information Commissioner made in my favour over the Home Office (decision notice reference FS50469527).

Partly it’s because of what it says about the never-quite-dead proposals for a huge expansion of monitoring of our online activity. Partly it’s because of what the case reveals …

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LibLink: Sarah Teather – Asylum through a child’s eyes

Former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather was personally thanked by Citizens UK at Liberal Democrat Conference in September for her role, as Children’s Minister, in ending child detention for immigration purposes. She said then that there was much more to achieve on the way the UK Borders Agency operates.

This week she’s launched an enquiry into the support for families within the asylum system. She wrote about that enquiry and what she wants to achieve for Politics Home:

If you have never had a conversation with a young asylum seeker about their

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Only a week to respond to Lynne Featherstone’s consultation on equal civil marriage

Time is running out to respond to the Government’s consultation on equal civil marriage which has been implemented by our own Lynne Featherstone.

It’s really important that everyone who believes in equal marriage should make sure that their voice is heard.

The consultation closes a week tomorrow, 14th June. Don’t leave it till the last minute – make sure you do it today.

If you’re unsure about the issues, those nice people at LGBT+ Lib Dems have prepared a helpful pack which outlines all the issues and arguments.

I also thought you might like to see the video Cambridge Liberal Democrat Councillor Sarah Brown did for the Out 4 Marriage campaign, which was reported in Pink News recently.  She talks very movingly about how she and her wife had to dissolve their marriage in 2009 and opt for a civil partnership. She describes how painful it was to have their years of  marriage “confiscated by the state”.

 

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Julian Huppert MP writes… Safeguards to control state surveillance

Stories came out yesterday, leaked as ever from some unknown source, which have led to justifiable outrage about proposals to capture all our online communications. We all know that one shouldn’t entirely trust what is in newspapers, especially when the security services are involved and there is a palpable lack of detailed announcements, but liberals everywhere are rightly anxious.

I’m extremely concerned about the extension of state surveillance, and have fought hard to stop it. Since I first got wind of the proposals in 2010, I’ve had a series of meetings with industry experts and others about it. I asked the Prime Minister about it in October 2010 and, while the details remain cloaked, I have some idea of what might be proposed.

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Opinion: Lynne Featherstone’s defence of evidence-based translational medicine is welcome

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The sparsely-attended adjournment debate on Wednesday secured by Conservative MP David Amess, saw a rare thing – a genuine discussion based around the merits of peer-reviewed scientific research and a robust defence of an evidence-based approach to translational medicine from Lib Dem Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone. For a biology nerd interested in the application of scientific knowledge to public policy it had all the ingredients of a pre-Christmas gift – I can fully recommend the Hansard transcript for a full picture (yes, I am that sad…).

Mr. Amess has some track record of Parliamentary campaigning against animal cruelty, …

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Lynne Featherstone launches body confidence teaching pack

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Met Police and Home Office put on special measures for breaking rules

One for the bureaucratic irony files this. The Information Commissioner has announced that 33 public sector bodies have so regularly broken the rules on responding to Freedom of Information requests that they have been put in special measures.

The 33 bodies are all being required to fully document how they handle future requests and report monthly to the Information Commissioner on how they are doing are complying with the rules. Their record will be reviewed in three months time.

Home Office frontage. Photo credit: </a>…</p>
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Rejoice! 11 months (and 1 new government) on and the Home Office responds

Long term readers may recall my concerns over how the approach the Independent Safeguarding Authority was taking to the Vetting and Baring scheme, and in particular the way its guidance suggested that it didn’t really treat being found innocent in a court as counting as being innocent.

The ISA passed the issue on to the Home Office, and – as I previously reported – then there was silence, despite prompts from me. Silence too reigned when I contacted my Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn, three times about the matter. Between them they didn’t even reply the once.

The ISA had the …

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Home Office report recommends labelling of airbrushed images aimed at children

The Home Office has published an independent review into the sexualisation of young people, conducted by psychologist Linda Papadopoulos.

The report warns that children are being increasingly exposed to sexual imagery through advertising, music videos, computer games, magazines and some children’s clothing lines.

From the BBC:

Unless sexualisation is accepted as harmful, we will miss an important opportunity… to broaden young people’s beliefs about where their values lies,” said Dr Papadopoulos, a psychologist. The report’s 36 recommendations include calling for games consoles, mobile phones and some computers to be sold with parental controls already switched on.”

Other recommendations include banning “sexualised” music videos before the TV watershed, making digital literacy a compulsory part of the curriculum from age 5, and labelling airbrushed images:

Evidence suggests that even brief exposure to airbrushed images can lead to acute body dissatisfaction. To help combat this, efforts to raise levels of media literacy should be accompanied by initiatives aimed at encouraging society to take a more critical and questioning approach to the harmful perpetuation of unrealistic ideals. I therefore recommend the introduction of a system of ratings symbols for photographs to show the extent to which they have been altered. This is particularly critical in magazines targeting teen and pre-teen audiences.

The BBC, in reporting the findings, indulges in a little airbrushing of its own:

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Memo to Home Office: it would be terribly nice if you sometimes answered a letter

From a letter to my MP:

I emailed Sir Roger Singleton on 14 September about my concerns with the way the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s guidelines state that if someone has been found innocent in a court of law that does not mean they could have been completely innocent. Particularly given the many issues about the ISA’s remit, this choice of wording in their own guidelines is one of obvious concern.

I heard nothing so I emailed again on 16 October. On 19 October I was told by the Vetting & Barring Scheme Information Team that the issue had been passed to

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Tackling crime: talking to and involving the public works

The Home Office has recently published a review of the research into how to improve public confidence in the police. One of their conclusions? The very community politics idea, expressed in very New Labour vocabulary, that

The strategies most likely to be effective in improving confidence are initiatives aimed at increasing community engagement. Three out of the four interventions classified in the ‘what works’ evidence all included an element of communicating and engaging with the community (embedding neighbourhood policing; high quality community engagement; and using local-level communications/newsletters).

In other words: talk to people, listen to them and involve them. That is …

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Better late than never

Some positive news today in the fight for justice for Gary McKinnon, the Asperger’s sufferer and alleged computer hacker who is facing extradition to the USA, a fate which it is believed could jeopardise his health:

The Home Secretary confirmed today that he had “stopped the clock” on proceedings to extradite the British alleged hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States. Alan Johnson told MPs that he was examining new medical evidence in the case, and would allow Mr McKinnon’s lawyers more time to consider medical reports and make legal representations.

Mr McKinnon, from North London, is wanted by US prosecutors

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