NON UK TOPIC: INDIAN POLITICS – MODI OR KEJRIWAL – THE CHOICE INDIA HAS IN THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS!

Posted by HSMP Forum at 1/12/2014 4:34 PM |

NON UK TOPIC: INDIAN POLITICS – MODI OR KEJRIWAL – THE CHOICE INDIA HAS IN THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS!

General / National elections in India are due in less than four months. The Congress led United Progressive Alliance is not seen as a popular contender for the upcoming general elections. Congress has been in the forefront since democracy and has governed the country most of the time post-independence. Congress has been extremely affected by an umpteen number of scandals during its rule, which seems to have largely contributed to the party losing elections in three of the important states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. Unlike the past, liberalisation and privatisation of media since 1990s paved the way to the vast number of exposures in the media about corruption.

The only other national party across India is the BJP, apart from the inexperienced party, AAP that can be a possible challenge during the upcoming elections. BJP came into prominence since early 1990s due to its right-wing Hindu nationalist propaganda.


Narendra Modi
Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi is widely argued as a divisive and communal figure. He rose from the lowest ranks of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and became the Chief Minister of Gujarat. A charismatic leader, who was voted to power in Gujarat continuously for the past three terms. However, his image was tainted after major communal riots, which broke out in Gujarat in 2002. Those killed during the riots were approximately 790 people from Muslim community and 250 from Hindu community. Around 2500 people got injured, and 250 went missing. Various rights activists, political representatives, and representatives from the Muslim community blamed him of allowing revenge against the Muslim community after a train carrying Hindu Kar Sevaks was burnt down allegedly by those belonging within the Muslim community.
A large number of allegations were made against him, and among them was that he has shown complicity and ordered the state police to not to respond to distress calls during the riots. However, Modi was cleared of any complicity in the violence by a Special Investigation Team, which was appointed by the Supreme Court of India. Irrespective of it, he is continued to be seen as a divisive and communal figure perhaps because he belongs to a party that was instrumental in giving rise to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 during which it came to prominence in Indian politics. Modi is banned from entry in the U.S and up until October 2012 was banned from entry in the UK as well.
Modi as a chief minister of Gujarat has been hugely successful in luring foreign investors in Gujarat, UK having largest investment in Gujarat compared to the rest of India again is a tribute to his enterprising qualities. Although the BJP once stood for nationalisation and protested against globalisation move of the Congress, soon adopted and propagated globalisation. Their policies are mostly in line with those of the Congress.
The remarkable success of Gujarat in various sectors and the simultaneous promotion of Gujarat, as a state full of prosperity under his leadership started attracting a larger audience towards the BJP, to the extent that he has now been designated as the prime ministerial candidate from the party.


Arvind Kejriwal
Kejriwal comes from a non-political background. He is a former Income Tax joint commissioner and an activist that was instrumental in bringing much-needed transparency through Right to Information in India. He was the mastermind behind the much popular anti-corruption movement, which proposed an independent body named as Lokpal to address issues concerned with corruption. An estimated Rs. 36400 crore is believed to have been lost due to corruption in India. In a country where individuals face corruption on a day-to-day basis, the issue caught widespread attention across India, which was represented in a large turnout during the movement. Anna Hazare was projected as the main face of the anti-corruption movement. Hazare has a history of fasting against issues concerned with corruption. However, he came into much prominence after the Kejriwal orchestrated movement of 2011.
Hazare fasted on various occasions and forced the government to give much consideration towards the Jan Lokpal drafts. The main parties’ image was greatly tarnished during the movement. Congress led government, BJP and some other parties did not budge to some of the demands made by the activists in the Jan Lokpal draft. As a result, Kejriwal and some of the like-minded lot decided to form a political party by the name of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP – common man’s party). Kejriwal’s decision was an outcome of provocation by senior politicians belonging to the main parties as they repeatedly ridiculed the activists and challenged them to enter politics to pass laws as they please. Kejriwal did not see hope in continued fasting, and his non-compromising approach did not leave him much room but to enter politics.
Kejriwal was later projected as a man who deserted Hazare who was believed to be his Guru / mentor. Few are aware that it was Kejriwal, who approached Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, etc. and initiated the anti-corruption movement. The movement was Kejriwal’s brainchild, although Hazare was the main person who was fasting and was hugely symbolic to the anti-corruption movement.
Kejriwal’s political entry was well received, and the Delhi elections saw the first-time entrants win 28 of the 70 assembly seats before the first inaugural year for the party. Kejriwal himself  defeated the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit by a huge margin. Kejriwal’s mostly nihilistic approach towards politics and politicians struck a chord with people. Kejriwal led AAP is fast becoming a sensation across India due to its popular policies and simplicity of those involved and a burning desire among the electorate to see change. It is considered similar to what happened in late 1970s when for the first time a non-Congress government was voted into power. However, the current trend for AAP is a step ahead. The party is receiving massive publicity and even neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, etc. are wanting to have a political party similar to AAP in their country.
AAP offers a third alternative against the two major parties that succumbed to various scandals during their rule both centrally and state wise. Most of those contesting elections from the party are common people without a rich or popular background, who seem to identify with the electorate and seem to hold their trust. AAP is a new and inexperienced party but can be pretty much a game changer in the upcoming elections. AAP’s approach has been towards participatory democracy and ensuring involvement of the electorate in the government’s regular decision-making. AAP is still in the process of finalising its manifesto and policies for governance on a national level.
Although BJP is a national party, but its image is affected due to various corruption scandals. Its economic and foreign policies are not much different from those of the Congress, and the  policies are mere extensions of the same. The party’s only notable stand is for removal of Article 370 from Indian constitution, which offers special status to Kashmir. However, it may not be practicable if they do not get enough numbers in Lok Sabha. Their NDA partners are unlikely to support any policies, which may be regarded controversial much similar to their last time in government during 1999-2004.
In addition, the party’s disapproval among most of those belonging to the minority communities in India may cause problems with the much-required numbers (MPs) to form a government at the centre that may likely leave it again at the mercy of its National Democratic Alliance coalition partners, which may not allow it to make any major changes.
Author – Amit Kapadia

IMMIGRATION BILL (HC BILL 110) 2013

Posted by HSMP Forum at 10/16/2013 5:55 PM |

IMMIGRATION BILL (HC BILL 110) 2013
The much controversial Immigration Bill[1] is out now and the progress of the Bill can be found on the Parliament[2] website.

It is important for immigrants and British citizens to be aware of this proposed law and possible repercussions it may have for them and / or their family members.

Summary of the Bill and some of the notable changes are discussed below:
The Bill is in 7 parts.
Removals
Part 1 is concerned with removals of persons who are staying unlawfully in the UK. It replaces section 10 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (IAA 1999)[3]. S.10 (2) of the IAA 1999 ensured removal direction does not affect an overstayer who made an application under s.9 of the IAA 1999, but this would not be applicable once the new law comes into force. Therefore, arguably this is going to affect overstayers as much as illegal immigrants in the UK or someone who has allegedly obtained leave by deception or someone whose leave expired. Currently, there are separate powers depending on whether a person is an illegal entrant, overstayer etc. which arguably is more sensible but this Bill tries to treat all those who do not have a leave to enter or remain in the same manner. It is likely that genuine people may be affected by this change, for e.g. someone who made an invalid application and becomes an overstayer.
Schedule 1 (enforcement powers) of Part 1 gives further powers to immigration and police officers to search individuals, for e.g. at paragraph 2, it states about searching a person, who is detained, if there are reasonable grounds  to believe concealment of anything which may be used to cause physical injury or escape from legal custody. It is just short of intimate search.

Paragraph 3 of schedule 1 also gives further powers to immigration officers in entering and searching premises without a constable.
The Bill also provides further powers to obtain biometric information from non-European family members of European nationals and those applying for British nationality in order to verify their identity and immigration status.
Clause 3, Part 1 of the Bill limits the ability of individuals, who are detained and awaiting removal from the UK, to be released on bail. It also makes provision preventing repeat bail applications. It especially gives some arbitrary powers to the Home Secretary by ensuring that a person is denied bail if she does not give her consent, in circumstances where there are existing directions in place for removal of the person within 14 days.

Appeal Rights
Part 2 is concerned with appeals. Clause 11 replaces section 82 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002[4] (NIA Act 2002). The government wants a blanket removal of current appeal rights for refusals of entry, refusals to vary leave to enter and remain and decisions to remove and deport. If the Bill becomes law then right of appeal to the tribunal will only be available for those protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) or Refugee Convention, such as  protection claim’ (i.e. a claim for refugee status or humanitarian protection), refusal of a human rights claim or a decision to revoke a person’s protection status. Further, section 84 of the NIA Act 2002[5] is to be replaced with limited grounds of appeal, such as, where removal breaches refugee convention or humanitarian protection or where the removal will be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998[6]. Immigrants would not be able to appeal under the ground that ‘the decision is not in accordance with immigration rules’ or even in circumstances where the decision is unlawful due to discrimination by public authority. And that is not all, the part substitution of s. 85 (5) of the NIA Act 2002[7] means that the Tribunal may not consider a new matter unless the Secretary of State has given the Tribunal her “consent” to do so.
The removal of appeal rights overall will be very unfair for immigrants in circumstances where even though they may have a good case but removal of the appeal rights means that they need to instead go for an expensive judicial review to challenge a refusal. In short, the government wants to remove immigrants’ access to justice.
Clause 12 further states that a protection claim or human rights claim appeal cannot be brought within the UK if the Home Secretary certifies that the claim is clearly unfounded or the person can be removed to a safe third country. This is usually the approach of Home Secretary in most cases which are successfully challenged in tribunals but the new law means no possibility of challenging the same and may allow the Home Secretary to carry out her unlawful act in breach of international laws.
At clause 14, the government interestingly tries to redefine the meaning of ‘public interest’ when considering Article 8 of the ECHR to ensure how the courts and tribunals interpret the same. The term ‘public interest’ is referred in ECHR only at Article 1 (concerned with protection of property) and Article 2 (freedom of movement)[8].  The state can interfere with qualified rights such as Article 8 – right to respect for private and family life under certain circumstances and the Article states, “there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. The government wants to redefine the meaning of public interest in breach of Article 8 of ECHR to include speaking English or being financially sound to be in the interests of “the economic well-being of the country”. The government states in the Bill that a person speaking English is less of a burden on tax payers and better able to integrate, and further states that those who are well off (financially independent) are better able to integrate in the society. It goes on to say little weight should be given to private life or to a relationship formed with a qualifying partner when a person is unlawfully present in the UK.
In Miailhe v. France (1993) 16 E.H.R.R. 332, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held at para 36 of its judgment that the ‘exceptions provided for in Article 8 (2) are to be interpreted ‘narrowly’[9]‘. In Funke v France (1993) 1 C.M.L.R. 897, the ECtHR held at para 55 that the need for interference must be ‘convincingly established’, and further at para 56 that ‘relevant legislation and practice must afford adequate and effective safeguards against abuse’. Overall, to say that this is a badly thought out clause (and the Bill) is an understatement.


Access to services
Part 3 of the Bill is concerned with ‘access to services’ and are concerned with the controversial proposals to award more powers to landlords. Clause 16 states that a person does not have a right to rent if the person ‘requires leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but does not have it, or if the leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom is subject to a condition preventing a person from occupying the premises’. Clause 17 further states, ‘a landlord must not authorise an adult to occupy premises under a residential tenancy agreement if the adult is disqualified as a result of their immigration status’. At clause 18, it imposes a penalty on the landlord of up to £ 3000 if the landlord rents premises to the person against the law. This is quite draconian and will just leave migrants at the mercy of the landlord. Some landlords may just be too scared to offer accommodation to immigrants and / or ethnic minorities due to this law and some may exploit the situation and seek more rent and may not offer an agreement to non-European migrants and may deny their legitimate rights. It will be naïve to think this would not affect settled immigrants and British citizens of ethnic minority groups. There is likely to be a large scale discrimination if this law comes into force.
Clause 35 prohibits Banks from opening an account for those without a valid leave.
That is not all. Clause 41 introduces a new inclusion within the section 97 of the Road Traffic Act 1988[10] where a person should not be granted a driving license if the person is not lawful in the country.
Clause 42 further gives ultimate power to the Home Secretary to revoke a driving license ‘where it “appears” ….that a license holder is not lawfully resident in the UK’.


Marriage and Civil Partnership
Clause 43 is aimed to give power to the Home Secretary to investigate a marriage on reference of the marriage registrar, and states a marriage can be investigated if both the persons are not exempt persons. Clause 44 defines exempt persons as someone who does not have a valid leave. The Home Secretary just needs to have suspicion to conduct investigation and the Home Secretary will always have reasonable grounds for “suspecting” anything. Again, there is a wider scope for discrimination over here by marriage registrars and the Home Secretary exercising arbitrary powers can be a matter of challenges under Article 8 of ECHR.


Fees
Clause 59 gives further powers to the Home Secretary ‘for fees to be charged in respect of the exercise of functions in connection with immigration or nationality’.
More comments and reviews may follow on the “immigration bill”. Please do share your thoughts. The HSMP Forum will be providing a draft letter for you to write to your MP about this draconian bill.
Author: Amit Kapadia
Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.

Twitter @amit_kapadia

[1] www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2013-2014/0110/cbill_2013-20140110_en_1.htm

[2] www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/

[3] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/33/section/10

[4] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/41/section/82

[5] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/41/section/84

[6] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/section/6

[7] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/41/section/85

[8] www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf

[9] See also Klass and Others v. Germany (A/28): (1978) 2 E.H.R.R. 214, para. 42.

[10] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52

HOUSING AND ECONOMY

Posted by HSMP Forum at 10/4/2013 1:40 PM |

HOUSING AND ECONOMY

The current state of affairs and the rising cost of living is evidence of the government’s mismanagement. Despite a stagnant minimum wage, the constant rise in rent, travel fares and everything else have left ordinary citizens struggling for economic survival. The government’s policy on housing is exerting pressure due to lack of rent control which in turn is making housing in general unaffordable for hard working people, and is also contributing towards rise in housing benefit budget. The rents in London have gone up by 40% in the last two years according to the National Housing Federation and in other cities around in England they went up by 10% at least. The days may not be far enough when people will be living in micro apartments while paying exorbitant amounts of rent.

The current day Rachmanism by some landlords who notoriously exploit and intimidate tenants need to raise some eyebrows. Some unethical landlords will resort to everything possible to make their little profit at the cost of exploiting and harassing the tenant. The government’s failure to bring in rent control measures gives most of these landlords license to abuse and exploit tenants.

Instead of bringing in measures to control rent and taking care of the working class, the government decided to bring in measures to enable landlords to question tenants about their immigration status. Which seems to be meant to reward landlords to take further control of their tenants, this sub agency of the Home Office sort of environment is just going to cause more hardship for tenants and / or migrants in general. Some landlords are going to just misuse the power they have been awarded to exploit and abuse, just the way some employers treat migrants with temporary leave to remain in the work places by not paying overtime and expecting them to work longer hours for too little wages. This type of arrangement, no doubt, will lead to further abuse of migrants in the UK where landlords may seek exorbitant rents due to the tenant’s status.

There has been an on-going hue and cry by the government about the tax payer footing the Housing Benefit bill of more than £ 20 billion in Britain. In this current economic downturn such huge spending does matter. Most developing countries do not offer any such facility for their citizens, for e.g. there are more than 96 million homeless people in India, a tax paying citizen will find himself / herself left in the lurch during old age after retirement with little pension money or for medical facility or during unemployment in a difficult economic climate. Unlike, in the more civilised countries the government is not just expected to tax its citizens but also to take care of them when they have problems, thus benefit system is a sign of a civilised country which does not leave its citizens in the lurch. But the recent school boy howler type of Rhetoric from the UK Chancellor, who seemingly sounds like a badly brought up child who lacks consideration for those outside his rich circle of friends, who shouts his lungs off to divide people further by branding them shirkers and strivers is not at all helpful. This stigmatisation further creates discord in the community and is used as an abuse by others in the community causing further divisions. While, leaving those genuinely left with no recourse but to take benefits with embarrassment and humiliation thus defeating the very purpose of a civilised country. There is a need for policies which are concerned for the real development of Britain and the divisive policies are no way of going forward.

Whilst all sections of the community are affected by these changes but ethnic minorities and migrants are more negatively impacted.  This negative impact is increased by recent statements and policy shifts. For example, the Prime Minister in March 2013 spoke about curbing benefits for European migrants who have not contributed to the economy but this topic was splashed in extreme right wing media like Daily Mail and by the parties like British National Party alleging that in some areas 68% of housing benefit claimants are foreigners. Most of these right wing media and parties brand all non-white individuals as foreigners, majority of those referred as foreigners, the Asian and African origin residents are British citizens. It is also important to keep reminding the general public that non-European nationals, except asylum seekers, are not entitled to benefits. Unfortunately, the proportion of those seeking benefits among ethnic minorities, mostly citizens, may be higher than the proportion of their white counterparts but this can be attributed to the vast inequality which largely exists in the society and not because of their own doing. It is a fact which has been reported widely, based on survey and research outcomes, on how difficult it is for African and Asian origin people to get into employment or grow in organisations.

There are a large number of employers out there who will deny a job offer or even an interview just because of the person’s skin colour, religion and / or age. Most of them may not even receive an interview call even though their academic and professional achievements are far better and their CV stands out. But, you may still witness that someone with lesser grades and experience being chosen for the position and not you. Frustrating? It may be an understatement, and you will be left with the curse of keep trying and overlooking your eternal failures which is not your doing. It may all seem strange at first instance but a bit of googling and you will know that some people are resorting to extreme measures by changing their names to sound English so to get job interviews and into employment. Ironically what the government does about addressing such issues is by cutting down its budget for the already weak equality monitoring body like Equality and Human Rights Commission and in other words depriving it of its crutches and making it more difficult to bring cases of employment discrimination. Not surprisingly, there is more discrimination in government jobs and legal profession than other professions, and there were recent accusations of institutional racism against the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It just shows how utter failure equal opportunity is in the country.

Let’s hope the government will wake up some day and considers taking long term steps in order to ensure its overinflated budget on benefits is reduced by following some basic steps driven by common sense and not political motivation. Some suggestions to tackle the root cause are:

–         Need for creating more employment opportunities.

–        Empower and increase funds for race equality bodies and watch dogs. Ensure implementation of legislations concerned with equality and tougher sanctions against organisations which do not employ ethnic minorities at all or in management positions.

–        Introduce rent control measures which takes into consideration yearly increase in rent when interpreting the fair market rent. This will ensure more affordability by those on lower incomes and less reliance on benefits.

–        Invest more in affordable housing than airports and encourage first time buyers. Discourage buy to let investments.

Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.
Twitter @amit_kapadia

CHANGING NATURE OF LIFE IN THE UK

Posted by HSMP Forum at 5/4/2013 11:51 PM |

CHANGING NATURE OF LIFE IN THE UK

 

There have been many changes recently, more so since the last elections.

UK has been ever changing. Some 6 years back there were fewer people in trains in London and more likelihood of passengers being able to find a seat to sit. All that has now changed, there are huge crowds everywhere and a reduced council / government involvement when it comes to maintaining public places and extending facilities. Pollution of all kinds, whether it is noise, smell and wastes, is ever increasing. Worst of all is the rents are shooting up like there is no tomorrow and the travel fares are even more expensive.
However, salaries have not gone up for the working class and employee rights are on a decline. The government seem to believe that to make people work harder the rich should be rewarded such as the bankers with bonuses and the poor should be paid less.

Britain is more divided today. Changes in the political line of thinking can have serious ramifications. The chancellor and the government are attempting to divide the society by categorising people in the country as either strivers or shirkers.
Today, you are considered as a striver if you are working and paying taxes but if things do not work your way and you lose your job in this difficult economic climate, then you are branded a shirker who lives on benefits, unwanted in the society, an enemy of the state, who is destined to be looked down and castigated. You will be the one who is accused of putting on the curtains to sleep indoors without trying or intending to find any job irrespective of whether it is suitable to your qualifications or experience. The great political rich expects you to work shelving the stacks of some store like Poundland which will claim to give you an opportunity to gain some sort of weird professional experience without paying a penny,  something you will not wish even for your enemies.

But there is no choice here, not anymore, as the government thinks you need to pay for the benefits you claim in some kind and even if it is slavery then so be it.
Exploitation and abuse of jobseekers and employees is ever growing. Employers are applying unfair terms to employment of graduates (to even those with some experience) by making them work for free in the initial few months in the name of unpaid but competitive internships, which are similar to Quidditch classes. These employers at times promise jobseekers a purported contract on a later date if they are up to the employer’s arbitrary set standards. HM Revenue & Customs has recently started investigating some of these employers.
Employees have much lesser legal rights now to fight against such injustice. An employee who joined employment after April 2012 and is unfairly dismissed cannot sue an employer if he / she had worked for less than two years, which used to be one year until April 2012. Further, from April 2013, the collective consultation period for large scale redundancies have been reduced to 45 days from 90.

In addition, there are plans in place to discourage Employment Tribunal claims itself; there is a new fee structure proposed for Employment Tribunal claims and ranges from approximately £ 250 for issuing a claim to £ 950 for a hearing.

Some people will not hesitate to support the parties implementing these plans, perceiving it as a matter of personal opportunism. Affluent people would not mind supporting parties who are closet racists or xenophobic as long as these parties ensure their interests and save them from heavy tax burdens. They do not care that it comes at the cost of making the poorest in the society pay for their miseries and their disadvantaged position in the society. It was once said, if you have one cow you vote for the labour but when you have two cows you vote for the conservatives but this has no relevance in the current day.

If you think the changes are outcome of who is governing the country alone then you may be wrong. Political parties have no significant policy differences anymore and there is only narcissism of small differences. Political ideology is compromised for the sake of vote bank politics and the ideology keeps changing with an eye on power, similar to a business trying to desperately sell its products to the consumers. There is heavy discounting, undercutting and schemes to lure the consumers, even though you may have not asked for, but you will still be surprised with a buy 1 and get 1 free coalition partner.
Whatever seems popular is immediately adopted and becomes policy of a political party. Every time the Home Secretary disgorges her hate filled policies and we see the labour party’s Shadow Home Secretary trying to better her. While leaving everyone to ponder, what does each of these parties stand for?

What is the point in having a different party? There is no party which speaks for the weaker sections of the society, since it is not in vogue anymore. It is all about winning the elections and principles do not matter. They are easily changed to best fit the majority perception.

In these difficult times, the country needs political parties (and individuals) who can keep their principles above any sort of power hungry and inconsistent behaviour pattern. Ideologies and principles above any sort of vote bank politics is need of the hour.

Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia

IMPACT OF DISCRIMINATORY NEW CHANGES ON FAMILY LIVES OF IMMIGRANTS

Posted by HSMP Forum at 2/20/2013 7:42 PM |

IMPACT OF DISCRIMINATORY NEW CHANGES ON FAMILY LIVES OF IMMIGRANTS

In July 2012, the coalition government introduced a new set of rules that had a strong impact on family life. The rules required a British citizen or those settled in the UK to earn a specific income, if they wanted to invite their spouse and/or children, who were non-European nationals to join them in the UK.

The changes also introduced a new set of criteria which made it more difficult for those wanting to invite their non- EU parents as dependents. There is a new requirement that the parent should require care for their day to day needs. The threshold is particularly stringent because it does not just take into consideration financial dependency and age of the applicant (parent) but in addition requires them to have a minimum level of physical impairment or in need of care, and further that the required care is not available in their country of origin.

The changes are particularly unfair and irrational, because European nationals are subject to no such restrictions and would be able to bring in a non-European spouse without any income criteria but not a British citizen or permanent resident.

The irony of the changes is that it deprives citizens and permanent residents of the right to have a family life in the UK. This may just be because someone is earning couple of thousands lesser than the required earning of £ 18,600 and that person will never be able to invite his / her partner to the UK. Someone who has a widowed mother, who is old and fully dependant on her son / daughter in the UK and has no one to rely on in her country would still be unable to spend her time with her children during a crucial stage of her life.
Furthermore, the changes will definitely have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities. The Commission for Racial Equality earlier in 2007 pointed out when the previous government was enforcing earning thresholds that those who fall foul of high earning criteria are disproportionately from ethnic minorities. Apart from being victims of discrimination in the job market, they are likely to be victimised even further by these changes as they are deprived of a family life. This argument is further supported by the HSMP Forum’s judicial review judgments in 2008 and 2009. Therefore, the available evidence only confirms that the majority of those who are / will be affected by these draconian changes will be those who emigrated from Asian and African countries and are permanent residents or have become British citizens (or children of those emigrated years back). This also takes into consideration the fact that non visa nationals may be able to find temporary consolation, as the partner or parent would be able to visit on temporary basis, unlike the difficulties for visa nationals. The government may waste no time in refusing even visitor visas for the latter based on speculation that they may not return to their country.

The changes seem to have been calculated to cause maximum impact on ethnic minority families and meant to make it very difficult for British citizens and permanent residents who are of Asian or African origin to continue to live in the UK. Some have approached the forum due to the distress the changes have caused and some say they may consider moving back to their country of origin due to their inability to sponsor their partner or bring their parent to the UK even though they will be able to maintain them without recourse to public funds. The outcome of these cold blooded and savage changes may mean some may be forced to uproot themselves yet again.

Even if someone fulfils the criteria, one is still faced with the numerous applications and inflated application fees required to attain settlement for a spouse; making the whole process economically burdensome for the immigrant families. Overall, the changes have unfairness written all over them.

Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia

IMMIGRANTS AND INTEGRATION

Posted by HSMP Forum at 12/14/2012 9:56 PM |

IMMIGRANTS AND INTEGRATION

The call of politicians from both conservative and labour parties asking immigrants to integrate into the community is nothing new. Reginald Maudling, the Conservative Home Secretary when introducing the Immigration Act 1971 which favoured White Commonwealth over other Commonwealth countries, argued that integration into British culture is easier for those coming from a White dominated country rather than those coming from an Asian or African country. Integration for him seemed to be concerned with racial characteristics.

Mr Maudling’s predecessor Roy Jenkins, the Labour Home Secretary in 1966 said, “I do not regard [integration] as meaning the loss, by immigrants, of their own national characteristics and culture. I do not think that we need in this country a ‘melting pot’, which will turn everybody out in a common mould, as one of a series of carbon copies of someone’s misplaced vision of the stereotyped Englishman… I define integration, therefore, not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.” Politicians approach to integration has differed from time to time. We see a large number of politicians blaming divisions in society on what they say immigrants’ failure to integrate.

You should speak English proficiently to work in the public sector, says Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who seems to suggest that speaking English proficiently is the only means to integrate. What should be the level of proficiency seems to be a riddle. According to some, English is not good enough until and unless the accent is same as the English natives themselves. This could only suggest you should be English to integrate with the English. It raises the suspicion that when Labour comes to power, it will ensure that only those born in the UK will be entitled to a job in the public sector and thereby likely to add to the already high rates of unemployment among ethnic minorities. The repeated reminders for immigrants to integrate are so flawed that they instil a sense that immigrants are second class citizens. The word integration is time and again consistently misused and has started sounding demeaning against immigrants and is taking on an increasingly negative connotation.

These days we see very few politicians speaking the truth and not merely aiming for the majority vote bank. How important is it for politicians to have a moral base? Are they responsible for changing the belief of the people through their own philosophies? Gandhi advocated that a happy marriage should be instituted between politics and morality and that politics must have a moral base.

Challenging the misleading statements on integration by politicians belonging to prominent parties, the Race and Equality campaigner Lee Jasper has responded in his tweets, “People of African descent here for generations speak perfect English & we are still marginalised”. Racism is believed to be the reason for lack of social integration in most cases but most politicians lack the character and courage to say that to their electorate when they complaint about immigrants around them and instead shamelessly collude with the anti-immigrant sentiments for their own gains.

The Conservative led government’s approach seems to be, ‘when you pay tax you are British and when you take benefits you are an immigrant’. Such is the divide and rule philosophy. When you try to create such divisions on the basis of ethnicity or class then how can you ensure bonding between people? How important is it for the government and politicians to ensure integration? Integration requires mutual appreciation and tolerance. Many of the highly qualified and skilled immigrants at times find it offensive when questioned about their integration. For e.g. a naturalised British doctor couple, who are originally from India, say that no matter how many times they invite their White English neighbours and colleagues over for a get together and try to form friendships they are never invited back and are kept at a distance. They seem to make the effort at all times but still are ignored. Integration here seems nothing to do with the ability to speak good English but only proves that it needs to be a two-way process.

It is heart-warming to read a recent news article on BBC News Europe on a couple in Prague who were joined for lunch not by their usual friends or relatives, but by strangers from foreign lands. There are always such nice people around who tries to make an effort and make those immigrants coming to a foreign country feel welcome and that is a step towards integration. But it requires two to shake hands and that is what integration is all about.

Why would immigrants who come here from a different country not try to integrate and as a consequence miss out on a social life? Contrary to what is popularly believed they are more eager to bond. It is not the immigrants who are not making an effort to integrate and it is not the language either in majority of the cases, it is at times the politicians who are creating divisions and not doing enough by speaking out the truth. The fact remains that, in most cases, it is not the immigrants who are not making an effort to integrate.

Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia

Interesting web links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20428114

 

VICTIMS VERSUS CRIMINALS

Posted by HSMP Forum at 11/28/2012 3:13 PM |

VICTIMS VERSUS CRIMINALS

With a rising number of robberies, burglaries, shoplifting and housebreaking cases, London has really become an unsafe place to live in. The public is increasingly being targeted by unscrupulous lads for mobile phones, money and jewellery.

Many of the victims are women, belonging to the ethnic minorities who wear their gold wedding chains (known as “mangalsutra” in India or “thalikkodi” in Srilanka) as part of their culture. Theft of such invaluable possessions often has psychological and emotional effects, making it difficult for them to get on with their lives.

These incidents affect the victims and witnesses in different ways:

A man who was robbed of his chain did not make a formal police complaint initially since he thought it would be impossible to recover the chain. However, he made a complaint to the police after he spotted the offenders at a later date. Having made a witness statement, he hoped to have recognised them in an identification parade but was later informed that the identity of the offenders could not be established and hence they were released. He said it was highly disappointing that the police were seeking him to identify the culprits from some unclear and confusing video footage which made it difficult for him to identify the offenders. According to him, following the formal procedure was a complete waste of time which got him nowhere. Also, it has scarred him so much that he now finds it difficult to walk down the streets alone.

A victim of domestic burglary, this Srilankan woman says wearing jewellery on special occasions is a matter of great pride for their community. She was devastated after this jewellery was stolen from her house for which her family had saved for a decade. Her shop was also targeted by miscreants who made away with goods worth thousands of pounds, robbing her family of their only source of livelihood. The family now is struggling to run their business and cannot afford to buy any jewellery. Besides, the incidents have left a deep impact on their child, who too is scared to move around freely even inside their own house. Both these incidents have been reported to the police but no progress has been made.

In another incident, an elderly person had to be admitted to hospital for a week after he was seriously assaulted by robbers who were trying to steal his chain. He says he had called the police for help but they never arrived at the spot.

Victims state that they are now wary of opening their doors even for the postman or a neighbour. Others claim that it has instilled a sense of suspicion in everyone around them. Those who boldly came forward to give evidence as witnesses in courts now are worried about the ramifications of their actions. They do not have any faith in the police who they doubt will be able to protect them from the offenders if they turn up as witnesses in court. Some witnesses who reported such matters to the police were threatened face to face by the culprits of dire consequences.

The police are unhappy with the public that most of them do not report such crimes and even if they do, they do not cooperate enough. But contrary to what they say, the situation becomes worse if the victim comes forward to do so; they are expected to follow a lengthy procedure of making their witness statement and then recognise the offender from some unclear footage at an identification parade. It is a pointless exercise if ultimately the victim’s evidence is not considered ‘strong enough’ in identifying the criminal, and then the case is closed.

Well, what happens if the victim has given their evidence without leaving any room for suspicion? Will the criminal be duly punished for his/ her offences? The answer would be a disappointing “no”. When the criminal’s offence is proved with ample evidence, if they admit that they have committed the offence and if it does not come under the pre-defined “serious offences” the prosecution service will be so considerate towards them that they are not prosecuted, but are given a “conditional caution” meant for adult offenders.

“Conditional caution” is given “when the Crown Prosecutor is satisfied that the public interest can best be served by the offender complying with suitable conditions aimed at reparation, rehabilitation or punishment”. A prosecution will continue only if the offender fails to comply with the conditions.

Statistics show that a conditional caution or a sentence does not make any difference in the intention of the criminals to reoffend. Statistics show more than half a million crimes were committed by known offenders last year, half of which were carried out by career criminals. The shocking rise in the reoffending rates urges the Ministry of Justice to reform the criminal justice system so that offenders are properly punished and the root cause of their behaviour is addressed.
As far as the victim’s plight is concerned, on the one hand, their naivety is threatened and exploited by the offenders, and on the other hand it is challenged by the police.  All the pains they have undergone in losing their valued possessions and the time and effort taken to co-operate with the police in finding the criminals oddly vanishes  into thin air when the criminal is let out with a simple  “conditional caution” or perhaps with no caution at all.

A “conditional caution” will affect the offender only in terms of their future employment or air travel plans, which seems irrelevant and unsuitable to an offender who has indulged in crimes like robbery or burglary. It sounds as if the judicial system is trying to protect the criminals rather than the victims.

Is there any guarantee that the offenders will not commit a crime, if they are given a conditional caution? Will the police or prosecution take responsibility for any future offences by the criminal on conditional caution? What is the solution offered by the system to the victims? Is it unrealistic for the victims to expect that justice will be meted out?

The questions remain unanswered.

Author: Dr Subbulakshmi Natarajan
Dr Subbulakshmi Natarajan is a committee member of the HSMP Forum and campaigns against anti-social behaviour and crime in her local area.

THE BALLOT BOX AND THE PRISON

Posted by HSMP Forum at 11/24/2012 2:15 AM |  |

THE BALLOT BOX AND THE PRISON

The recent political tension revolving around prisoners’ right to vote has been widely debated. The issue surrounds strong political sentiments and the newspapers and television programmes created awareness and found widespread public opinion against the European Court of Human Rights judgments urging the UK to amend its law. The UK’s refusal to adhere to the Court’s ruling may mean it will be in breach of its international obligations.

 

The country’s domestic law yet again clashes with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Representation of the People Act 1983 (amended in 1985 and 2000) prohibited sentenced prisoners from voting except those on remand and on electoral register.
It is unlikely that there would be a big problem in prisons for denying prisoners a right to vote but the fact that there have been cases in courts for allowing such a right to be exercised provides ample evidence that there are prisoners who want to vote.

 

This issue which is now a controversy, faced the test in Hirst v United Kingdom (74025/01) (2006), a case which challenged section 3 (1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The case was brought by Mr John Hirst who spent his time in prison for murdering his land lady with an axe and was given widespread publicity for his racist views on an MP. But irrespective of individual characters and their opinions, what should be considered is the content of the European Court of Human Rights judgment. In 2005, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights upheld the decision of the European Court that the UK had violated article 3 imposing a blanket restriction on all convicted prisoners irrespective of the length of their sentence and the gravity of their offences. The Grand Chamber concluded that section 3(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 is incompatible with Article 3 of the First Protocol of the ECHR. The Grand Chamber emphasised that right to vote is a right and not a privilege and rejected the idea of automatic disenfranchisement based on what might offend public opinion.

 

Earlier in 2001, the United Nations Human Rights Committee said that it ‘fails to discern the justification’ for blanket prisoner disenfranchisement and considers it an unwarranted and additional punishment that contributes nothing ‘towards the prisoner’s reformation and rehabilitation, contrary to article 10(3) in conjunction with article 25 of the Covenant’.

 

In February 2011, Members of Parliament (MPs) voted 234 to 22 to maintain the blanket ban on prisoners’ right to vote. More recently in May 2012, the Grand Chamber gave UK an extra span of 6 months to amend its blanket prohibition regarding the voting rights of prisoners. The UK government like most other countries in the Europe need not remove the ban completely but must introduce some measures, for e.g., allow voting rights to prisoners who may not have committed very serious offences such as terrorist activities or a murder.

 

The Prime Minister David Cameron recently quoted in November 2012 that the idea of prisoners voting in elections made him sick. His views are in line with the majority of the politicians in the country but Mr Cameron may soon be forced to reconsider his position. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve recently told the MPs: “If Parliament chooses not to implement the judgment, it would be a serious matter, because it would place the UK in breach of its international obligations to which it is a signatory. I accept that other countries are in breach of their implementation obligations, but that does not provide an excuse for our not honouring our own.”
It is important for the UK to follow the footsteps of other countries. In Germany, only people convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism or political violence are disenfranchised from exercising their voting rights. Iceland bans serious offenders, while Italy and Greece prohibits prisoners with life sentence from exercising their vote. On the other hand, countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain allow their prisoners to vote.
A quote from Winston Churchill, Home Secretary in July 1910 says it all; he said “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state, and even those of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.”

 

What the United Nations Human Rights Committee said earlier and the European Court of Human Rights held may be contrary to the member states public opinion as it is not a decision based on a popularity contest, unlike that of the most politicians. Denying prisoners the right to vote in this day and age is primitive. The politicians have their own egos to deal with and their disagreement with the European Court’s verdict is nothing new. Some of them want to get rid of the Human Rights Act 1998 and abandon the ECHR obligations and are finding ways to gather public support. There is a need for a Court to have an upper hand when deciding on matters concerning a smaller section of society. Politicians who are generally interested in majority support and views cannot be expected to protect the rights of the minority segments at all times.

 

Prisoners are those who break the law and as a consequence have been sent to prison and the politicians now intend to break the law (European or international law) by not adhering to the Court’s judgment. It will be a poor state of affairs to see the politicians abusing their powers to deny those who are facing punishment their right to vote, and in the process break the law. The MPs need to show flexibility and should debate on allowing prisoners who have not committed very serious offences and/or are not awarded life imprisonment, to exercise their right to vote.


Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia

IS THE CURRENT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM DISCRIMINATORY?

Posted by HSMP Forum at 11/19/2012 4:17 PM |

IS THE CURRENT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM DISCRIMINATORY?

The Education Secretary Michael Gove was recently quoted that ethnic minority pupils were “under-marked” by teachers and white pupils were “more generously” marked. He further stated the need for papers to be marked externally, while arguing that “External tests are fairer,” and “With external testing there is no opportunity for such bias – the soft bigotry of low expectations – and tests show ethnic minority students performing better” and that external tests “are not only a way of levelling the playing field for children of all backgrounds they are a solvent of prejudice.”

This was met by immediate rebuttal by some teachers saying Mr Gove’s comments were rubbish.

Earlier research and reports provided evidence of under-marking of Ethnic Minority students in higher education. Government statistics showed students from minority ethnic groups were less likely than their white peers to achieve top marks in their degrees. The report argued that while universities may have race equality policies, there was “a need to couple the intentions of these documents with practices that enable all to feel part of the institution’s community”. UK is ethnically diverse but that does not mean discrimination does not exist. At times, its existence is so discreet that it makes it even more difficult to prove its occurrence.

Educational institutions become defensive when there is pressure to change the existing system. Many institutes do not even offer a re-marking facility for an aggrieved student; they just blatantly dismiss any possibility of discrimination or resort to some pre-determined lengthy investigation procedure. The procedure makes it extremely difficult to challenge their decision in any meaningful way. Often, making a complaint of discrimination could result in the victimisation of the student who is perceived as a troublemaker and subsequently isolated by his peers.

The powerful and evil institute is aware that fear of repercussion could deter any student to come forward and often the other students’ lack of strong character makes it difficult to gather witnesses for the victim, which is used by the institutes to their advantage. A student spending a lot for his / her education ends up being denied even a fair procedure for re-evaluation. The student is expected to accept the mark as his / her destiny even though he / she believes to have been awarded a lower mark due to discrimination, while other students enjoying a more preferential attitude do get away with a more lenient marking.
The procedures make it very difficult for students to even obtain information in terms of overall results of an institute as per the ethnicity of its students. The institutes will simply hide behind the pretension of protecting identification of its database. What makes the educational system so rigid and immune to scrutiny? Is it right to assume that the regulatory bodies seem to be sleep walking through the process or do they simply believe they owe this unmindfulness to the institutes in order to protect them?

Some educational institutes have had their licences revoked for supposedly breaching the rules laid down by the UK Border agency for overseas students. However, other institutes get away scot-free when they are found to discriminate against ethnic minority students. This clearly shows the nature of law and the government’s priorities.
The concept of anonymous marking has been a recent introduction to the assessment system. However, its efficacy is highly suspect, when it boils down to the fact that same faculty assessing a student’s work on a daily basis ends up marking their exam paper as well.
The argument of anonymous marking may not hold any weight. For e.g. hand written work of a student can be easily identified on the basis of;

– Writing styles

– Vocabulary and syntax of a non-native English speaker

– Use of certain verbs or tenses hinting at a regional or class background

 

Is there any correlation between under-marking in the academic work of ethnic minority students and the rising unemployment among them? Certainly, grades matter a great deal and make it much easier or more difficult for a graduate to obtain a job and as a starting point of consideration for many employers when it comes to shortlisting candidates. There is a serious need to correct this major flaw in the system pertaining to discrepancy in marking, which may make or break future careers of many ethnic minority students.

Mr Gove’s external marking argument makes more sense and maybe a better means of protection for ethnic minority students in all levels of education.


Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality, human rights abuses, and deals with the issues faced by overseas and ethnic minority students.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia

References:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9676039/Michael-Gove-says-external-exams-stop-the-bigotry-of-teachers.html#

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7202358.stm