News

Parents, Pupils and Schools: Take Action to Retract Data! #BoycottSchoolCensus

Following the announcement last Summer that nationality and country-of-birth data must no longer be collected in the school census, we are calling for parents and pupils to take action to retract any previously collected data to resist the hostile environment.

The Department for Education scrapped the collection of this data in June 2018 following efforts by campaigners, parents and teachers. While the decision marked a major victory for campaigners, subsequent revelations show that national pupil data has been used for immigration enforcement purposes since 2015 – with a marked rise in data received by the Home Office following the census data collection that began in 2016.

Data previously collected is still being held on the National Pupil Database and handovers to the Home Office continue on a monthly basis – and while it does not appear that country-of-birth and nationality data is being transferred, parents and schoolchildren can take action now to retract this data submitted in the census between 2016-18.

We strongly encourage parents and pupils to object to the continued processing of data as we back calls for the Department for Education to take the following steps:

  1. The deletion of all pupil nationality and country of birth data collected and stored by DfE, as soon as possible
  2. The safeguarding of all pupil personal data collected through schools from Home Office requests for immigration enforcement purposes
  3. To revoke The Education (Pupil Information) (England) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2016

Parents & pupils, here’s how you can take action:

  1. Withdraw nationality and country-of-birth data collected between 2016-18:
    • Contact your school administrator in writing to demand that this data is not retained for your children at your school and that it is withdrawn from the Department for Education at national level and from other data transfers to Local Authorities or shared datasets
    • Follow up any correspondence with a request for written assurance that the data has been deleted

A template letter to to email or post to your school is available here and an additional form for your school administrator to complete can be found here. This second form is to ensure that requests to retract data will be sent to the Department for Education.

2. Help raise awareness of the right to request nationality and country of birth data removal from the 2016-18 school census collection: tag @Schools_ABC for a retweet – to help amplify our objections! #BoycottSchoolCensus #HostileEnvironment

3. Write to your MP supporting the above demands on the Department for Education to scrap the National Pupil Database.

Schools ABC and human rights organisation Liberty have lodged a complaint with the ICO about the retention of country of birth and nationality data and are expecting a response in the near-future.

How to show residency when the EU settled status automated checks don’t work

The Home Office report on the second phase of its EU Settlement Scheme pilot revealed this week that nearly one in five applicants did not receive sufficient evidence of UK residence from automated checks alone. Of the 27,000 decisions issued during Phase 2 of the scheme some 4,500 applicants for post-Brexit settled status were required to provide additional evidence of UK residence, with another 2,800 cases awaiting a decision.

These automated residency checks use the applicant’s National Insurance number to search government databases for existing records. The government says that the purpose of the checks is

…to make the process as simple as possible for the great majority of EU citizens, we will check employment and benefits records for proof of residence.

Where the automated checks of HMRC and DWP data do not indicate that the EU citizen has been continuously resident in the UK, or indicate that they have been continuously resident here for a period of less than five years, the applicant will then be able to upload documentary evidence of their continuous residence…

But the way the checks function in practice is, at best, obscure. What is certain is that they rely entirely on data held by government departments, some of which may be missing or incorrect.

EU citizens who do not have a full five years’ residence in the UK are not eligible for settled status, but are instead granted “pre-settled status”. The reported figures from the pilots do not distinguish between those who are granted pre-settled status simply because government systems do not hold sufficient data on their residence, and those who have actually been resident in the UK for less than five years.

Given the proportion of cases (10 out of 11) where pre-settled status has been upgraded to settled status following administrative review, and the additional cost and effort of challenging a decision, applicants may wish to check with HMRC and DWP before dealing with the Home Office, to see what data each department thinks it holds on them and correct it where necessary.

The Migration Observatory’s Unsettled Status study identifies significant groups of EU citizens who are at risk of failing to secure their rights under the Settlement Scheme. Reports from those assisting people undergoing the process indicate that vulnerable groups in particular can encounter difficulties in establishing residency. If you are helping applicants for settled status, the following may be useful.

The government acknowledges that the automated data checks are disproportionately likely to fail for people under 21, who will not have worked or received benefits in their own right for long enough to qualify, and for older people in long-term care. For this reason, the list of additional documents that applicants can provide if the automated checks fail includes:

letter or certificate from your school, college, university or other accredited educational or training organisation showing the dates you enrolled, attended and completed your course.

and

letter from a registered care home confirming your residence there.

In researching the EU Settlement Scheme it became clear that no template letter has been provided by the Home Office for people in these categories, so we offer these two templates which anyone is free to use:

Once filled in by the school or care home, and returned to the applicant, the applicant can log in to the Settlement Scheme website and upload a digital copy of the letter along with any other evidence of residency.

Changes to the scheme are being made on the basis of what has been learned from the pilots. In the last week, the government has added another document to the list:

employer letter confirming employment and evidence that the employer is genuine, for example, their Companies House number.

The excellent Carter Thomas Solicitors have drawn up an employer template letter. Again, this can be filled in by the employer, returned to the applicant and uploaded as proof of residency.

For those wanting more detail, I have also written an analysis of the EU Settlement Scheme application process – based on published materials, official statements, and conversations with those assisting or affected by the scheme – which asks questions that will need to be answered if the scheme is to be fair, impartial and supportive of vulnerable people.

Phil Booth

This piece was originally posted on freemovement.org.uk and is republished here with kind permission.

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