News

Statement on the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which will enable the government to repeal freedom of movement and associated rights of EU nationals, is an attack on human rights. We stand against the bill and this progression of the government’s hostile environment.

The Windrush scandal showcased the depth of the violence created by hostile environment policies to great public outrage. The new Immigration Bill and accompanying White Paper demonstrate that the government nevertheless remains shameless in seeking to broaden its power to destroy and disrupt the lives of ordinary people. It clearly intends to continue the worst aspects of the hostile environment, couched in the language of ‘eligibility’ and ‘compliance’.

In our view the provisions of this Bill, and many aspects of the immigration system in general, are not compatible with the fundamental rights to privacy, family life and liberty, which should be enjoyed without discrimination on any basis, including national origin.

We reject the politics and policies of dehumanisation that see people torn from their families, stripped of their liberty in detention centres, exploited in their workplaces and left fearful of accessing education or medical care.

We reject the government’s continued commitment to the cruelty of the hostile environment, immigration detention and charter flights.

And we reject the claim that any person is illegal. The cruelty of the border regime is neither necessary nor acceptable. It must be dismantled, so that we can build a society in which fundamental rights and human dignity are not slogans, but reality.

 

Signed:

Against Borders for Children

All African Women’s Group

Docs Not Cops

End Deportations

Global Justice Now

Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB)

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)

Lesbians and Gays Support Migrants (LGSM)

Med Act

Migrants Organise

Migrants Resource Centre

Migrants’ Rights Network

National Union of Students (NUS)

Right to Remain

Right 2 Work

Solidarity with Refugees

South East London Sisters Uncut

The Advocacy Academy

Unis Resist Border Controls

United Voices of the World

ACTION UPDATE: Assembly to #DropTheBill is on Monday 28th January 1pm

No Child Is Illegal
On Thursday 24th January, it was confirmed that the second reading will now take place on Monday 28th January in the afternoon. See FB event
This Bill gives the government a blank cheque to repeal the EU law that gives EU nationals and others free movement and associated rights. It also gives ministers (rather than Parliament) more powers to amend existing immigration law through regulations, which are barely scrutinised by Parliament and rarely meaningfully opposed. The British public, rightly, was outraged by the violations suffered by the Windrush generation as a result of the hostile environment. The new Immigration Bill and White Paper do not learn any of the lessons of the Windrush scandal. Instead, they continue the worst aspects of the hostile environment, couched in the language of compliance.

We strongly believe it’s important that that MPs hear our views and feel the heat from outside Parliament from the outset of this process.

Therefore, we are organising a very short demo with other grassroots groups next to George V statue at Old Palace Yard, College Green on Monday 28th 1-2pm to coincide with the Second Reading of the Immigration Bill, with a big photo at 1:15/1:30.

The aim is to reframe conversation about the Bill in terms of defending migrants’ rights, ending the hostile environment, and putting the injustices of Windrush right.

The more people, banners, and placards the better – so please do join us on Monday!

ACTION ALERT: Immigration Bill demonstration Mon 28th Jan 1-2pm College Green

The No Confidence Motion on Wednesday 16th January resulted in the suspension of the second reading of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (you can read it here ).
On Thursday 24th January, it was confirmed that the second reading will now take place on Monday 28th January in the afternoon.
This Bill gives the government a blank cheque to repeal the EU law that gives EU nationals and others free movement and associated rights. It also gives ministers (rather than Parliament) more powers to amend existing immigration law through regulations, which are barely scrutinised by Parliament and rarely meaningfully opposed. The British public, rightly, was outraged by the violations suffered by the Windrush generation as a result of the hostile environment. The new Immigration Bill and White Paper do not learn any of the lessons of the Windrush scandal. Instead, they continue the worst aspects of the hostile environment, couched in the language of compliance.

We strongly believe it’s important that that MPs hear our views and feel the heat from outside Parliament from the outset of this process.

Therefore, we are organising a very short demo with other grassroots groups next to George V statue at Old Palace Yard, College Green on Monday 28th 1-2pm to coincide with the Second Reading of the Immigration Bill, with a big photo at 1:15/1:30.

The aim is to reframe conversation about the Bill in terms of defending migrants’ rights, ending the hostile environment, and putting the injustices of Windrush right.

The more people, banners, and placards the better – so please do join us on Monday!

ABC takes legal action against Damian Hinds, Education Secretary of State, to end Hostile Environment policies

Today a coalition of teachers, parents and campaigners have taken legal action to force the Government to delete data it holds on schoolchildren’s nationalities and countries of birth – and prevent any pupil information being used to enforce the hostile environment.

Represented by human rights organisation Liberty, Against Borders for Children (ABC) is calling on the Information Commissioner’s Office to order the destruction of nationality and birth country data held by the Department for Education (DfE), and demand an end to all data-sharing between the Department and the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.

ABC contends that holding onto children’s nationality and country of birth data is unnecessary and serves no educational purpose – and sharing any pupil information with the Home Office breaches data protection laws.

The coalition also argues these practices violate children’s fundamental human right to privacy and must be brought to an immediate end.

Under a memorandum of understanding implemented in June 2015 the Department for Education (DfE) agreed to give the personal details of up to 1,500 schoolchildren to the Home Office each month to “create a hostile environment” for migrants.

In April 2018, the DfE announced it was suspending its deal with the Home Office and in June 2018 it said that schools would no longer be required to collect nationality and country of birth data in the school census. But the Department has refused to delete information that has been collected on approximately 8.6 million children since September 2016.

Figures released on 13 December showed that between October 2017 and September 2018, the Home Office requested data on 835 children from the DfE and the Department provided data in 247 cases.

Representing Against Borders for Children, Kwadwo Kyerewaa said:

“BAME and migrant communities have joined with civil society organisations to demand an end to the hostile environment in classrooms in England. We agree with Sir Michael Wilshaw that schools shouldn’t be used for border control. The Department for Education should live up to its purpose and ensure that every child right to education without fear of immigration enforcement.

Recent data sharing statistics show that families are providing data that has been re-purposed for immigration enforcement without their informed consent. We hope the ICO will put an end to this shameful and shocking practice.”

Lara ten Caten, Lawyer for Liberty and ABC’s solicitor, said:

“Amassing this data was never about education – it was a xenophobic attack on children’s rights by a Government obsessed with deportations no matter the human cost. The DfE has agreed to stop collecting this toxic information, there can be no reason for the Department to hold onto it.

“Everyone has a right to an education and no parent should fear sending their child to school. We are hopeful the Information Commissioner will strike a blow to the hostile environment by forcing the deletion of these foreign children lists and that he will ask Parliament to put a stop to any sharing of schoolchildren’s information that serves no educational purpose.”

Nationality and country of birth data

From September 2016, the Department for Education required schools to collect children’s nationality and country of birth data in the termly school census.

The policy was overturned in June 2018 following the start of legal proceedings by Liberty and ABC, and a boycott organised by the coalition group which saw more than 200,000 families in England actively refuse to provide the requested information.

Despite the Government climb-down, the Secretary of State for Education has refused to erase the data which was obtained through the census.

ABC and Liberty have today complained about the retention of data to the ICO, maintaining that keeping hold of it is unnecessary because it serves no educational purpose.

Information is already gathered on the number of students for whom English is not a first language. The country where a child was born or which issues their passport has no additional bearing on their ability to learn – and so the extra data has no value.

As there is no need to keep this information, doing so constitutes an unjustified interference with children’s right to privacy protected by the Human Rights Act and is arguably unlawful.

The organisations have asked the ICO to order the DfE to destroy the data it holds.

Hostile environment data-sharing

Liberty and ABC have also complained about the DfE’s data-sharing practices.

In the letter to the ICO, Liberty asserts it is unlawful for the DfE to provide the Home Secretary with pupil information. Organisations which can receive such information are named within the law. The Home Office is not included.

Sharing information on schoolchildren with the Home Office also breaches data protection rules as parents are not informed it may occur, nor are they made aware their children’s data might be processed for immigration enforcement purposes.

Handing over pupil information to achieve non-educational objectives also constitutes a breach of children’s fundamental right to privacy protected by the Human Rights Act – and so the data-sharing agreement is also arguably unlawful.

ACTION ALERT: Take 5 minutes to stop the Hostile Environment in your local school

Since our partial victory, the campaign has been working behind the scenes to end the hostile environment in Education.

We’ve written to every Member of Parliament and hundreds of members of the House of Lords to ask them, to take action to protect children from the Hostile Environment.

We have written to the Department for Education stating that they must do three things:
  1. Destroy nationality data collected since 2016
  2. Revoke the regulation that allows it
  3. Stop and prevent any data in children’s school records from being used for immigration enforcement.

They have responded saying that they will not do so, and that they did not give assurances that this data and legislation would not be used for future immigration enforcement purposes. We know that the existing school census data is already being used for immigration enforcement purposes. We want this to end and planning further actions which we will announce before the end of the year.

If you agree with us then please take 5 minutes today to support our three-point plan.
Use or adapt the following tweets and tweet at @educationgovuk, the Secretary of State @DamianHinds or your local MP:

“Hey @DamianHinds and @educationgovuk
Support @schools_abc three actions to protect all children from the hostile environment: http://www.schoolsabc.net/2018/11/november-action-alert/ #EducationNotDeportation #BoycottSchoolCensus”

“Education is a right for all children. Schools should not be part of the #HostileEnvironment
@DamianHinds please support @schools_abc three actions to protect all children from it: http://www.schoolsabc.net/2018/11/november-action-alert/ #EducationNotDeportation #BoycottSchoolCensus”

Also please WriteToThem.Com and tell your MP

“We know you’re busy but children can’t wait for their school to be made safe from the Hostile Environment.
In June 2018, the DfE confirmed nationality and country-of-birth data must no longer be collected by schools through the school census but they are not prevented from using gathered data for future immigration enforcement purposes.

In September, under the umbrella campaign of Against Borders for Children, over 25 leading child rights organisations and advocates including Liberty, Privacy International, and Just For Kids Law are challenging the Department for Education’s use of children’s personal information collected in the school census, in immigration enforcement. We need your help. Call for action to restore child rights.

Against Borders for Children (ABC) and DefendDigitalMe have written to you and the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds to ask the Department of Education to complete the work of ending the Hostile Environment to ensure no child fears deportation for exercising their right to an education. Please voice your support in parliament to ask the DfE to do these three actions to safeguard children:

1. Delete all pupil nationality and country of birth data held by DfE before March 2019.
2. Revoke the Education (Pupil Information) (England) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2016 (SI 808/2016) that enabled the collection of pupils’ nationality data.
3. Protect all personal data collected for children’s educational purposes under the Education Act 1996 (s 537a) from Home Office requests in immigration enforcement.

Regards

Victory confirmed for pupil data campaigners!

The UK Government has today issued new guidance for schools in England which confirms that nationality and country of birth data will no longer be sought. This is a major victory for campaigners, led by Against Borders for Children (ABC) alongside a wide range of privacy, human rights and anti-racism campaigners. ABC was set up in September 2016 to fight this policy, and has been running a successful boycott campaign as well as bringing a legal action with the assistance of Liberty. This data on children in English schools has been collected as part of the Prime Minister’s “hostile environment” agenda towards migrants, and was rejected by the House of Lords in November 2016. The National Union of Teachers, as was, also urged all parents to withhold this data.

However, no confirmation has yet been given that Ministers will order the deletion of data already gathered, and address data continues to be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. ABC will also work to end the exclusion of children with​ “no recourse to public funds” – a condition often attached to people without indefinite leave to remain – ​from free school meals. Alan Munroe, a primary school teacher and spokesperson for Against Borders for Children, said:

This is a major win for pupils, parents, teachers, and everyone in this country who believes schools should not turned into part of this government’s hostile environment agenda. But there is much more still to be done. We will continue to work with other organisations to ensure the legacy of this unnecessary and divisive policy is ended: that means all data gathered in the past must be deleted, and parents must know that their children will not be harassed at school or used against them.

It also cannot be acceptable for some of the most deprived children in our schools to be unable to access school meals as a result of the “no recourse to public funds” policy. Many organisations are working to see this hateful approach ended too, and we will campaign alongside them so no child goes hungry because of a box ticked on a Home Office database. The future of this country must not be one where people are divided by racism and selfishness.

Gracie Bradley, Advocacy and Policy Officer at Liberty (and member of the ABC campaign), said:

This is a huge victory for parents, teachers, campaigners and generations of children to come. But it is shameful it took a nationwide boycott and legal action for this toxic policy to end – and it is disgraceful they are not deleting the data they did manage to collect.

Every child has a right to an education regardless of their background and the government has no business building lists of foreign children. This u-turn proves that if we resist and challenge xenophobic policies head on, we can and will dismantle the hostile environment.

DfE fails to give schools updated guidance on Hostile Environment nationality questions

In April, this year it was reported that the Department for Education (DfE) had decided to scrap nationality questions from the school census, completing the key campaign goal for Against Borders for Children. However since then we have been receiving examples (see photo) of children’s nationality and country of birth, which are still being asked for by schools.

So we are asking parents to do three things:

  1. Refuse to answer/leave blank those questions if asked
  2. Encourage other parents/carers particularly with children starting primary or secondary school to do refuse/leave it blank
  3. Please get in touch with us if you know someone who has been asked nationality questions, so that we can build up a better picture about how widespread this practice still is across the country.

These questions have already proven to have produced divisive and racist outcomes which was noted in the House of Lords. When the nationality questions were introduced shortly after the EU referendum, they have contributed to the hostile environment affecting millions of children particularly in diverse communities.

However since our campaign win, it is now clear that schools are still issuing nationality questions as the Department for Education have failed to update their official guidance on the School Census. Even though now it has been over 8 weeks since DfE’s decision to scrap this damaging practice was made public.

As we are aware of particularly primary schools asking incoming reception classes to provide these details, we are asking all parents and carers affected by this to continue to boycott these questions on the school census.

Until all schools are properly informed to scrap this information, this campaign will continue and we will also review the broader hostile environment in schools.

Together we can completely end this attempt to bring the hostile environment into our schools.

Refuse. Retract. Resist.

refuseretractresist

We won! DfE are ending the nationality school census!

The confirmation yesterday afternoon that the Department for Education (DfE) is to end the collection of nationality and country of birth data in schools in England has been hailed as a “comprehensive victory” by Against Borders for Children (ABC), which was set up in September 2016 to fight this policy.

More than 500 people donated a total of more than £12,000 to fund a court action to overturn UK Government policy on this issue, represented by Liberty.

The collection of this data on children in English schools had been part of the Prime Minister’s “hostile environment” agenda towards migrants (See Liberty’s guide – PDF). As such, it has been opposed by ABC, Privacy International, the Refugee Council, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, and even the House of Lords. The National Union of Teachers also urged all parents to withhold this data.

The data was initially going to be shared with the Home Office as part of a wider data-sharing scheme, still in operation, that provides for the school records and specifically addresses of undocumented migrant children and families to be provided by the Department for Education to the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.

The Government climb-down is the most recent in a series of hard-fought successes by campaigners, including scrapping of the data collection for 2-5 year olds, a guarantee that the data would not be shared with the Home Office, and the revelation earlier this year that at least 200,000 people had actively boycotted the nationality data collection, with a total of 25% of pupils failing to return any nationality data through the census.

The Government’s Data Protection Bill contains an immigration control exemption that would remove people’s data protection rights when their information is processed for immigration control purposes. During the Committee Stage debate, a Home Office Minister confirmed that the Government plans to use this exemption to allow the Home Office to secretly obtain children’s school records from the Department for Education to facilitate immigration enforcement.

Alan Munroe, a primary school teacher and spokesperson for Against Borders for Children, said:

“This news is a massive victory for a small group of activists with no budget and no staff: just a determination that our schools should be a safe learning environment for every child. ABC was set up just over 18 months ago to end the gathering of nationality and country of birth data on children in English schools as part of the Tory “hostile environment” agenda. That objective has been achieved, and we will be celebrating.

“There is still some unfinished business, though: the data which has already been collected must be deleted, and the DfE must stop sharing children’s addresses with Home Office enforcement teams. ABC members will also keep working with others to fight data-sharing across all of our public services, using what we have learnt here to build a truly welcoming environment for all.”

Gracie Bradley, Advocacy and Policy Officer at Liberty (and member of the ABC campaign), said:

“This is a huge victory for the teachers, parents and campaigners who stood up and refused to comply with this poisonous attempt to build foreign children lists. It gives hope that – if more people stand up and resist – we can succeed in dismantling the Government’s hostile environment policies piece by piece.

“But it doesn’t change the fact that the Department for Education is still sharing the addresses of hundreds of children and families with the Home Office every month – and the Government freely admits that it will use the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Bill to help the Home Office access yet more school records for immigration enforcement.

“Until undocumented people are able to access vital front line services without fear of being shopped to the Home Office, there will still be children in the UK robbed of their right to an education and worse.”

Joy Patel, a spokesperson for Docs Not Cops, said:

“While this is great news, we note that the government bluntly rejected the Health Select Committee’s urgent request that data-sharing between NHS Digital and the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes be put to an end. Data sharing and upfront charges in the NHS work together to deter patients, often those who are the most vulnerable in society, from seeking crucial treatment. This includes children who are not exempt from these charges.

“Healthcare workers have a duty of care and confidentiality to their patients, and this is eroded by the government’s attempts to use public sector workers as proxy border guards. We call on the government to scrap its policy of data sharing between the Home Office and all statutory bodies.”

High Court Blocks ABC Legal Challenge

The High Court on Friday halted a bid by ABC to bring a judicial review of the UK Government’s decision to obtain nationality and country of birth information on students in English schools. Proceedings were issued against the Secretary of State for Education on Friday 8th December 2017, and ABC as the claimant have been represented by Liberty, the civil liberties and human rights organisation. ABC raised £12,385 from the public to cover legal costs via CrowdJustice, a public interest crowdfunding platform, but the High Court refused to grant ABC permission on two grounds:

1. Out of time

There is a statue of limitations on a judicial review is usually three months since enactment of a new law, however this can be waived when there is a significant public interest. The court chose not to waive this barrier.

2. Alternative remedy

The court agreed with the DfE that ABC could challenge this through the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rather than through court. ABC’s argument was that this change was brought through an act of parliament and so can only be challenged through a judicial review. ABC will now look at the ICO route.

Our legal challenge will be taken to the Court of Appeal but this may take up to a year before being heard. So our legal route has been paused until we hear back from the Court of Appeal.

Campaigners have argued that the collection of nationality and country of birth data fulfils no identifiable educational purpose, especially given the separate collection of data covering the numbers of pupils for whom English is not their first language. This indiscriminate data gathering exercise violates the rights of children and their families to a private life, ABC and others believe.

Wasi Daniju, a spokesperson for ABC said:

“This is a significant setback for efforts to legally challenge this aspect of the Home Office’s unfair and unjustified ‘hostile environment’ agenda, first established when Theresa May was Home Secretary. We believe there is a strong public interest case and that this point of law should be challenged in court, which why we will take this to the Court of Appeal. Other cases will continue, though, such as the Migrants’ Rights Network challenge to the sharing of patient data between NHS Digital and the Home Office. We will continue to back all efforts like this to overturn cruel and divisive policies of this sort.

“We are also not done with the Department for Education, despite this disappointing news. We will prepare a challenge through the Information Commissioner’s Office. We will continue to work towards our goal to ensure every school puts the education and safety of all children ahead of this perverse ideology.

Every child has has the right to education, free from discrimination and fear.

“ABC would also like to thank the more than 500 people who pledged their money to support this court case. There will be money left over from the £12,385 we raised, once we cover the costs of getting this far. If we are unable to take the legal route further we will donate any surplus funds to Project 17, a charity that works to end destitution among migrant children.”