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1 suicide attempt a day in UK immigration detention centers

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UK immigration detainees face abuse

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UK immigration backlog tops 500,000

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London mayor slams UK immigration rules

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ONS: UK immigration shrinks further

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It will not be possible for Britain to restrict the freedom of movement of Bulgarians and Romanians when transitional controls are lifted, the European Commission's vice-president has warned. Prime minister David Cameron told ministers earlier this we...

#DayWithoutLatinos: 10,000+ March in Milwaukee Against Trump's Immigration Crackdown

Amidst growing pushback against the Trump administration's immigration crackdown, more than ten thousand people marched in Milwaukee on Monday to "resist the wave of...

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In UK’s Heated Debate Over Immigration, Ministers Avoid Using The A-Word

LONDON -- Will President Obama’s plans for "comprehensive immigration reform," centred on a "pathway" to “earned citizenship” for 11 million undocumented immigrants, inspire British politicians to unveil similar proposals here?

In the UK, the number of undocumented immigrants has been estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1.1 million. The much-maligned UK Border Agency is attempting to clear a massive backlog of cases of some 320,000 people -- the equivalent of the population of Iceland.

Yet ministers studiously refuse to talk of reform, which has been criticized as "amnesty": to be seen as “soft” on immigration, illegal or otherwise, is considered the kiss of death in modern British politics.

Here, the debate over immigration reform revolves around devising new and ingenious ways of keeping people out of the country -- for example, the government’s "cap" on the number of immigrants allowed into the UK from outside the European Union, or the ongoing war on "bogus" foreign students from the Indian subcontinent –- rather than legalising the status of undocumented people who are inside the country (a process known as “regularisation”).

And Fortress Britain is, of course, part of Fortress Europe; across the continent, governments have erected an increasing number of hurdles and barriers to try and limit immigration into the EU from North Africa and the Middle East while far-right parties have exploited a growing fear of foreigners to make substantive electoral gains.

“Globally, European countries stand out as having a negative attitude towards immigration (and Britain especially so),” wrote Ben Page, chief executive of pollsters Ipsos MORI, earlier this year, “and this appears to be linked to economic stagnation, high unemployment and public-sector cuts providing a framework in which immigrants are likely to be seen as a drain on limited resources and a threat to limited opportunities.”

Nonetheless, there have been a few attempts to buck the trend. In December 2011, the Polish government announced a relief for an estimated 7,000 undocumented immigrants.

Here in the UK, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg –- prior to entering into coalition with the Conservatives and being elevated to deputy prime minister –- said he wanted to “regularise” the status of undocumented immigrants and bring them “out of the shadows”; his party’s 2010 manifesto pledged to “allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for ten years ... to earn their citizenship."

Influential Labour MP Jon Cruddas, now in charge of his party’s policy review, is also on record backing deportation relief for undocumented foreign workers who have been in the UK for a long time.

Remarkably, so too is the Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson. "If an immigrant has been here for a long time and there is no realistic prospect of returning them, then I do think that person's condition should be regularised so that they can pay taxes and join the rest of society," he has said in the past. (The capital is thought to be home to more than two-thirds of the country’s undocumented immigrants.)

But it would be a mistake to assume that relief for undocumented in the UK is around the corner. “In the U.S., ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ brings together a broad alliance of business and unions, human rights and race advocates and universities; and advocates have built an argument that two-thirds of Americans back by putting effective borders, a path to citizenship, and enforcement of labour market standards together,” says Sunder Katwala, founder and director of the British Future think tank. This contrasts with the UK, he explains, where “advocacy is fragmented.”

Reform is also deeply unpopular –- hence the reluctance of most mainstream politicians to utter the A-word. Poll after poll shows the public supports deportation of undocumented immigrants, no matter how expensive or impractical such measures may be, rather than "amnesties" or "regularisation." As Katwala observes, “The 2010 election, where the LibDems came under fire over amnesty, showed that there is a very long way to go to build public support and consent, and to offer credible reassurance that it would be a one-off to sort an effective system out, not the first in a series of amnesties seeming to create an open door policy for all.”

Few would pretend that there is anything resembling a "liberal" majority on immigration in the UK: A recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times revealed that 67 percent of the public thinks immigration has been “a bad thing for Britain” and 80 percent support the Conservative-led coalition government’s pledge to reduce net immigration into the UK from the hundreds of thousands to the "tens of thousands."

Consider, however, the results of YouGov’s latest “issues” poll. When asked which two or three issues were the “most important ... facing the country at this time," the economy came first, cited by 79 percent of the public, while immigration was second, cited by 49 percent. But when asked to rank “the most important issues facing you and your family,” the economy still came first (67 percent) while immigration plummeted to sixth (14 percent), behind health (33 percent), pensions (31 percent) tax (27 percent) and family life (16 percent).

The YouGov poll, incidentally, backs the findings of a recent "State of the Nation" survey conducted by British Future, which found that 19 percent of the public picked immigration as their top local concern while 30 percent put immigration first when asked to think about the tensions facing “British society as a whole."

As YouGov chairman Peter Kellner points out, “there is a huge gulf between people’s perception of immigration as a national issue, and one that affects their own lives.”

It is this “gulf” that the advocates of deportation relief, and a less draconian approach to immigration as a whole, will have to try and turn to their advantage if they are to secure popular support in the near future. In the meantime, the UK's undocumented immigrants will continue to remain in the shadows, watching the unfolding debate across the Atlantic with envy.

UK Border Force Attacked Over ‘Backlog’ Of 16,000 Immigration Cases

An "unacceptable" backlog of more than 16,000 immigrants waiting to hear whether they can stay in Britain has been discovered in a fresh investigation into UK border controls.

Some 14,000 applicants, growing at a rate of 700 a month, had already been refused the right to stay but are still pleading with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to reconsider.

And an additional 2,100 cases - shipped in a box from an office in Croydon to Sheffield - were still waiting for an initial decision at the time of the inspection - with some dating back a decade. The UKBA said these have since been cleared.

immigration

Immigration procedure has been slammed for being chaotic and inefficient

The backlogs were discovered by the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration John Vine as part of an inquiry into applications to remain in Britain on the basis of marriage.

"This is completely unacceptable and I expect the Agency to deal with both types of case as a matter of urgency," Mr Vine said.

The inspector said he was "surprised" to discover the UKBA is also failing to check whether applicants earn enough to look after themselves without having to rely on state handouts.

theresa may foreign students

Theresa May has been criticised over the backlog

Meanwhile, a separate inspection into how the UKBA and Border Force deal with criminals at ports, such as Heathrow Airport, discovered that the policy of swift removal is being rendered ineffective by the level of immigrants claiming asylum.

UKBA staff told the inspector the agency was sitting on 14,000 refused cases that the UKBA was asked to reconsider because there was "no policy" on how to deal with them.

Further investigation discovered "confusion" among staff, with one senior manager informing the inspector there was nothing to stop the cases from progressing.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of campaigners Migration Watch UK, said: "This is yet further evidence of the chaos in the immigration system from which they are taking years to recover."

During the inspection, Mr Vine discovered 2,100 cases that had yet to receive an initial decision, including some dating back as far as 2003.

Around 180 of these applicants wanted to stay in the UK due to marriage or a civil partnership, while the remaining cases related to other reasons.

In his report, Mr Vine said: "This situation causes anxiety, uncertainty and frustration for those individuals and their family members.

"Delays in deciding applications also mean that enforcement action is likely to be more difficult in the event that the case is ultimately refused.

"This is because the individual will have been in the UK for a number of years and may have developed a family or private life."

UKBA staff are not consistently applying the "income support threshold" rule to applicants who want to stay in the UK due to marriage, the report also found.

In one case, an applicant applied to stay in Britain because he was married to a person settled in the country who had a disposable income of around £200 per month - far below the minimum income support level.

The inspector also found that the percentage of allowed appeals in marriage cases was too high at 53% between April 2011 and February 2012.

Mr Vine said: "The agency needs to improve the quality of its initial decision-making to avoid the cost of unnecessary legal challenges and to reduce the proportion of allowed appeals where its refusal decisions are challenged."

The inspector's report also highlighted problems with the agency failing to take into account the rights of children when refusing further leave in the UK.

Mr Vine said children's rights were given specific consideration in one out of 21 examined cases of applicants refused leave in the UK, while the impact on UK-based children was not considered in any of the 39 overseas cases examined.

In a separate report on customs offences, the inspector found that the policy of using swift removal as an alternative to prosecution was not available in a large proportion of immigration cases.

Some 73% of the individuals covered by the investigation claimed asylum, meaning they could not be removed from the UK until decisions had been made.

Some 36% of cases remained in the UK awaiting the outcome of an appeal or a decision on their initial claim and nine individuals were found to be waiting nearly a year without a decision.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "These backlogs are a disease that has infected our immigration policy. What is more, as the backlog increases each month it is clear that this disease is spreading. The way the Agency operates requires urgent surgery of the most profound kind."

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant attacked Home Secretary Theresa May's management of the UKBA.

He said: "In recent months we have learnt of files left unopened, letters left unanswered, hundreds of original decisions being overturned on appeal and applicants coming to Britain who did not prove they could support themselves.

"It all adds up to delay, confusion and a massive waste of taxpayers' money.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Agency is taking action to deal with historic backlogs and has a transformation plan that will put the Agency on a surer footing.

"This group of people have already been refused but are trying to circumvent the appeals process by requesting an informal 'reconsideration'.

"We've changed the rules to make clear that those not happy with the original decision should re-apply or appeal and if they choose not to, they should leave the UK voluntarily. We are contacting them to make sure they do this, but if they refuse we will enforce their removal."

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British home secretary Theresa May has announced plan to scrap the beleaguered UK Border Agency and bring it back within the Home Office.

Theresa May made the announcement in her talks to MPs at the House of Commons, adding that she will also split the "closed and secretive" agency into an immigration and visa service and a separate law enforcement command.

The new apparatus will be brought back under the direct control of ministers, she said.

The home secretary said that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) was "a troubled organisation … its performance was not good enough".

May explained that UKBA had four main problems including its size, its lack of transparency, its IT systems and its policy and legal framework.

"UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm's length from ministers. That was wrong," said May. "It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture. The new entities will not have agency status and will sit in the Home Office, reporting to ministers."

She added that the immigration agency has been such a "troubled organisation" for so many years that it will take many more years to clear the backlogs, which now top more than 310,000 cases, and fix the system.

MOL/JR/HE

Cameron’s crackdown: PM targets UK immigrants

Published time: March 25, 2013 13:59
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.(AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie)

Jobless immigrants will have UK government support payments ripped from their hands after six months. Further measures are to come into force preventing foreign entrants from even being put on a waiting list for social housing for two to five years.

Immigrants from EU states residing in Britain will lose their jobseekers’ allowance – a weekly government support payment- and other benefits, if they cannot prove that they’ve actively been looking for employment, David Cameron said in a speech on Monday.

He said that concerns that immigrants “take advantage of our generosity” were not just legitimate, "but right," adding that in the past, the UK had been a soft-touch.

Non-nationals will have to devise a way of proving that they have a ‘genuine chance’ of finding work. However, exactly how this would be done in practice is unclear. The ‘habitual residence’ test, sat by migrants who want financial support from the government, will also be made increasingly difficult.

Extra tests will have to be taken by people applying for social housing. Once the measures come into force it could take anything up to five years for residents of an area to even be put on a waiting list for a home.

However, Cameron said that he was “putting the welfare of the child at the heart of the...process”

There will be a clampdown on access to healthcare, as well as in housing and benefits payment. Immigrants entering the country from outside the EU will be forced to demonstrate evidence of medical insurance, and the NHS – a traditionally free institution - will impose charges for doctor visits. Potential immigrants entering to gain access to healthcare have had the label ‘health tourists’ slapped on them.

Earlier this month, it was announced that immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a deposit fee upon entering the country, which would only be reimbursed when they leave the UK, and only if they haven’t used its health service.

Even harsher measures are to be imposed on illegal immigrants. Steps are being taken to prevent illegal immigrants from getting credit cards or driving licenses, and their employers and landlords could be fined. Cameron said they were "doubling the fines levied against employers who employ illegal workers."

“Once we’ve found them we’re going to make it easier to remove them,” Cameron said. He added that he would ensure faster deportation, saying that “wherever possible” people would be deported first, and could appeal the decision second.

The new policies will come into force in 2014. The coalition's reforms would give Britain the toughest controls in the world, according to Conservative Minister of State for Immigration Mark Harper, who spoke to Sky News on Sunday.  

Cameron said that immigration got ‘badly out of control’ under Labour.

“Immigration has to be properly controlled,” he argued. “Under the last government this simply wasn’t the case. Immigration was far too high.”

However, net migration into Britain has fallen by a third in recent years, from 247,000 in June 2011 to 163,000 in 2012, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Additionally, their valuable contribution to the UK economy has been pointed out.

“Nothing wrong with debating immigration. But lets [sic] not omit the fact that immigrants put 6% more in to UK GDP than they take out,” said Parmjit Dhanda , former Labour MP, on Twitter. 

Cameron said that he wanted to train young British people to fill the skills gap, while saying that he was "rolling out the red carpet" to bright foreign students and entrepreneurs.

Last week, Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that restricting immigration would damage the UK economy.

The increasingly hard stance is shared by the country’s main three political parties. In light of the Eastleigh by-election results in February in which UKIP –a party renowned for its hard stance on immigration – won. All three major UK political parties are now cracking down on social support from the government; Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg voiced support for the entry fee on Friday, suggesting it could be as much as 1,000 pounds.

“We need stronger action against illegal immigration and a more effective system for the migration we need,” tweeted Labour Press Team’s Chris Bryant. “The immigration system just isn't working- fewer illegal immigrants are being stopped or sent back,” he said, going on to add that the test of the PM’s speech was whether he could stop the government’s expanding list of practical failings on immigration

“As we have said for some time, Britain does not need an arms race on immigration rhetoric, it needs practical measures to make sure the system works and immigration is properly managed and controlled,”
said Yvette Cooper MP Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary on Monday.

Cameron’s spokesman spent around 50 minutes prior to the speech fielding considerably skeptical questions from the press regarding whether Cameron's measures will have any impact whatsoever, according to the Guardian.

The UKIP is claiming credit for the outcry.

“Cameron will only create a whole pile of bureaucracy that will affect everyone in the UK, cost the taxpayer millions and will still be riddled with loopholes and therefore totally ineffective,” said UKIP’s Nigel Farage in a statement on Monday.

He went on to declare that the only way to prevent wide-scale immigration is for Britain to leave the EU.

David Cameron Accused Of Peddling Immigration Benefits ‘Myths’

David Cameron has been accused of peddling "myths" about the number of immigrants who claim benefits in Britain, after he said he wanted to stop the UK being a "soft touch".

In a major speech on Monday, the prime minister announced that from next year, arrivals from the European Union will be stripped of jobseekers benefits after six months unless they can prove they have been actively looking for a job and stand a "genuine chance" of finding one.

The government is pledging to beef up the "range and depth" of questions in the habitual residence test, which checks that people meet residence requirements for housing and income-related benefits.

However Cameron has been accused of offering empty anti-immigration rhetoric amid fears that Ukip poses a significant electoral threat in 2015.

His speech follows similar interventions on immigration by Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

Sarah Mulley from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank said that the UK was "not a soft touch" and that EU migrants are half as likely to claim out of work benefits as British nationals are.

"Migrants in general and European migrants pay more in to the system than they take out, that's largely because they are young people who are working," she told HuffPost UK.

Mulley said that while in theory the British welfare system and NHS was more open to EU migrants than other European systems were, this did not mean it was happening in practise. "The fact is it doesn't happen, at least not in any significant scale," she explained.

Official statistics show that migrants represent about 13% of all workers, but only 7% percent of out-of-work claimants and that migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) represent about 9-10% of all workers, but about 5% of out-of-work claimants.

Gillian Guy, chief executive at national charity Citizens Advice, said while it was important that the welfare system is fair, politicians "must be careful not to encourage myths or misconceptions about who benefits most from the welfare system".

"EU migrants are more likely to be in work and less likely to claim benefits than British residents. Overall, they are net contributors to the economy, putting in much more than they take out. These plain facts must not be obscured by political rhetoric," she said.

And Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, also said immigrants were "significantly less likely" to claim benefits than people born in the UK - and that those coming from EU countries put more into the economy than they took out.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that arrivals were mostly younger people whereas the bulk of spending went on healthcare and pensions for older people.

"All the evidence suggests that people who come here from within the European Union make a substantial net contribution to the public finances - they pay in far more than they take out," he said.

He also played down the impact of health tourism as a "minuscule" part of a wider funding issue.

"The problem with people coming from outside the UK in order to sponge off our health service - that may be a problem and we should certainly deal with abuse - but the figures tell us that they impose rather small costs on the health service and certainly, compared to the scale of the problem, it is minuscule," he said.

Cameron said the government had already taken "concrete steps" to bring down immigration and wanted to put in place more restrictions.

"Right now the message through the benefit system is all wrong. It says if you can’t find a job or drop out of work early, the British taxpayer owes you a living for as long as you like no matter how little you have contributed to social security since you arrived," he said.

"My view is simple. Ending the something for nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare."

According to the fact-checking website FullFact.org the overall relative generosity of the UK's benefits system in comparison to other EU states can be measured in a number of different ways.

British welfare payments are no more generous than most of Europe when both public and private spending (including private pensions and healthcare) is taken into account.

However UK is at the top of Europe's league table for benefits spending when counting the portion of spending administered by central government.

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Deputy PM to talk tough on immigration

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today announce tougher rules on immigration, intending to deter foreign visitors from overstaying on their visas.

Clegg, who is giving his first speech on the subject since joining the government, will call for a bail-like system of security bonds to tackle visa abuse by foreign visitors.

Under Clegg’s new proposal, visitors from the so-called “high risk” nationalities will be asked for deposits of £1,000, which will be repaid to them when leaving the country.

Clegg, who also chairs the Cabinet’s Home Affairs Committee, asked the Home Office earlier to run a trial “security bonds” plan by the end of this year in order to discourage visitors from overstaying.

Concerns have been raised in Britain over the number of immigrants flooding into the country after it was revealed that nearly half a million immigrants poured into the UK in 2011.

A recent poll showed that the British public considers immigration as the biggest problem the society is faced with, but UK citizens are basically tolerant to immigration, as long as new arrivals are in work and integrate into society.

MOS/HE

Immigration: Lib Dems Call For Security Bonds

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is to call for a bail-like system of security bonds to tackle visa abuse.

The bonds would be paid as a cash guarantee from visa applicants coming from high-risk countries and would be repaid once the visitor leaves Britain.

In his first speech on immigration as deputy prime minister, Mr Clegg will unveil the radical proposal at the liberal think-tank, the Centre Forum.

He will pledge to "lay the foundations for an immigration system that embodies this nation's instincts and its values" as he attacks the previous Labour government for "grossly" mismanaging the issue.

Earlier this month, Labour leader Ed Miliband  admitted his party failed on immigration.

Mr Miliband again said his party was wrong to relax controls - a move that allowed hundreds of thousands of foreigners to move to the UK.

Mr Clegg will say: "We are grappling with the difficult challenges in our immigration system.

"Brick by brick, we are rebuilding it. Day by day we are making sure, quite simply, that it works.

"All the British people ask is for a system they can have confidence in. We hear that, and we are delivering it.

"I'm determined we lay the foundations for an immigration system that embodies this nation's instincts and its values - our openness and tolerance on one hand, our sense of fair play, on the other."

The Deputy Prime Minister will say that visa "overstayers" are one of the biggest challenges faced by the immigration system and the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

"The challenge isn't just stopping people coming into Britain illegally, it's about dealing with individuals who come over legitimately, but then become illegal once they're already here," he will say.

To tackle this issue, Mr Clegg has asked the Home Office to run a pilot of so-called security bonds, which echoes an Australian system applied to family visas.

It is understood the cost of the bonds would vary but are likely to be in the region of four figures.

Mr Clegg will be seeking views on the proposal, including from the Home Affairs Select Committee .

"The bonds would need to be well targeted - so that they don't unfairly discriminate against particular groups," he says.

"The amounts would need to be proportionate - we mustn't penalise legitimate visa applicants who will struggle to get hold of the money."

But UKIP, which came second to the Lib Dems in the recent Eastleigh by-election after focusing its campaign on tightening immigration controls, ridiculed Mr Clegg's plans.

Party leader Nigel Farage said: "Nick Clegg now joins the cavalcade of party politicians who have suddenly noticed a simple fact, that they are not trusted with our country's borders.

"Since the Eastleigh by-election they have thrown initiative after initiative at the headlines, but to no serious effect. The bottom line is, there is nothing that he, or they, can do about mass migration into this country while our borders are controlled by the European Union."

Mr Clegg will also reveal plans to increase cash penalties for "unscrupulous" employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper.

The maximum fine is £10,000 per illegal worker - Mr Clegg will call for the penalty to "double" and has asked the Home Secretary to "look into the right amount".

But the deputy prime minister will also seek to reassure British businesses that the Coalition continues to prioritise "growth and building a stronger economy" with immigration a "key part of that".

He says: "The majority of people who come here work hard and make a contribution. Many have served - and still serve - in our armed forces.

"And if every member of an immigrant community suddenly downed tools, countless businesses and services would suffer.

"The NHS would fall over."

And Mr Clegg will hit out at the Labour party for leaving the immigration system in "disarray".

"The problem is that the system has not been well managed. It has been grossly mismanaged. I cannot stress enough just how chaotic it was."

The speech comes as the Government toughens its stance on immigration with a range of new measures aimed at bringing down net migration to the tens of thousands.

UKBA officials will conduct interviews with more than 100,000 student visa applicants from "high-risk" countries outside the EU to crack down on bogus students.

And a "genuine entrepreneur" test has been introduced to tackle the rising number of foreign nationals attempting to enter Britain by fudging their bank accounts.

But in the wake of criticism from politicians and the higher education sector, some immigration rules were recently loosened in a bid to give additional flexibility to businesses and allow top international students to pursue careers in Britain.

Cable Condemns Plans To Reduce Immigration

Business Secretary Vince Cable has rubbished plans to reduce net immigration saying it would do "enormous damage" to the UK. The Liberal Democrat said meeting a pledge to reduce immigration to under 100,000, was an "unattainable" target unless areas t...

UK civil servants stage mass strike on budget day (PHOTOS)

Published time: March 21, 2013 06:47
Striking members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picket the Houses of Parliament on budget day, in central London, March 20, 2013 (Reuters / Toby Melville)

A quarter of a million UK civil servants staged a mass walk-out in protest of sweeping budget cuts. Union members claim the government has refused to negotiate on their contested budget and have launched a three-month campaign to push their demands.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has warned that the budget day strikes are just the tip of the iceberg and “the start of a rolling program of walkouts and disruptive action to put pressure on a government."

Striking civil servants marched on number 10 Downing Street voicing their outrage at government cuts to pensions and wage packets, while the PCS held a rally in Westminster during Chancellor George Osborne’s speech.

"Civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the services we all rely on but, instead of rewarding them, the government is imposing cuts to their pay, raiding their pensions and trying to rip up their basic working conditions,” said General Secretary of the PCS  Mark Serwotka.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

The British government criticized the civil servant strike as counterproductive. Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude decried the walk-out as

“futile” and described its impact as

“minimal.” "The public will have been inconvenienced to a very small extent by the strike today," he said to press.

He claimed that only 95,000 staff members took part in the mass walk-out, while the PCS disputes this, putting the total figure at around 250,000.

PCS members who work in customs offices, immigration and job centers are demanding a 5 per cent pay rise.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne unveiled the UK’s 2013 budget on Wednesday, prompting the nation’s growth forecast to be downgraded by more than half over the next year.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

Screenshot taken from Ruptly footage.

Parents of British man killed by US drone blame UK government

The parents of a British-born man killed by a US drone strike after being stripped of his UK citizenship have spoken out for the first time – to say they will never forgive the British Government for his death.

Gamal Sakr blames government for son’s death. (Photo: Susannah Ireland/ Independent) Mohamed Sakr was born and brought up in London before he was targeted and killed in February 2012 in Somalia.

Now his Egyptian-born parents Gamal and Eman Sakr, who have lived in Britain for 35 years, have accused ministers of betraying this country’s democratic values.

Speaking to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from their London home, the couple said they believe their son was left vulnerable to the attack after the government stripped him of his British citizenship months before he was killed.

“This is the hardest time we have ever come across in our family life,’ Mr  Sakr said in tears. “I’ll never stop blaming the British government for what they did to my son. They broke my family’s back.”

The comments follow the revelations by the Bureau and published in the Independent that the Home Secretary Theresa May has ramped up the use of powers allowing her to strip UK citizenship from dual nationals without first proving wrongdoing in the courts.

The investigation revealed the Coalition government has stripped 16 people, including five born in Britain, of their UK passports. Two, including Sakr, were later killed by drone strikes and one was secretly rendered to the United States.

The law states that the government cannot make someone stateless when it removes their citizenship. But Egyptian-born Mr and Mrs Sakr say their son Mohamed never had anything other than a British passport, despite in principle having dual nationality.

In September 2010 the family received notification that the government intended to remove their son’s British citizenship, on the grounds that he was ‘involved in terrorism-related activity’.

It was the first known instance in modern times of a British-born person being stripped of his nationality. His family insist that the action meant Mohamed, who was in Somalia, was left effectively stateless and stranded.

His mother still can’t quite believe it happened. ‘I was shocked. It never crossed my mind that something here in Britain would happen like this, especially as Mohamed had no other passport, no other nationality. He was brought up here, all his life is here.’

Mohamed’s parents were so worried that their other sons might also lose their British citizenship that they renounced the entire family’s dual Egyptian nationalities, shortly after they were told that Mohamed had been deprived of his citizenship.

‘I did this for the protection of the family, because they grew up here, they were all born here. And I felt that for them it was my responsibility to protect them. It was the only way I could protect them against that stupid law,’ says Mr Sakr.

‘No member of my family ever had an Egyptian passport,’ says Mr Sakr. ‘For the kids it never crossed my mind that they would have anything other than their British passports. I know they are British, born British, they are British, and carried their British passports.’

Mr and Mrs Sakr have thrived in Britain, running a successful business. They moved here from Egypt 35 years ago thinking it was a good place to raise a family.

‘It was democratic, and compared to where I was before in Egypt that was a big gap,’ Mr Sakr explains. ’There was no dictator here, no bad laws like there were back home, so we decided to start a new life.’

Mohamed was born in London in 1985 and grew up as a normal, sporty child. ‘He was very popular amongst his friends, yet very quiet at the same time, very polite, he was just a normal child,’ recalls Eman.

As he got older his parents had worried about him getting into trouble.  ‘He loved going out, he loved to dress up, to wear the best clothes, he liked everything to be top range,’ recalls Mr Sakr.

‘I used to tell him, after midnight there’s no good news. So I’d say, “Make sure you are home before 12”. He said “OK, OK I’ll try, you know,”’ said his mother.

In his early twenties he calmed down and in 2007 set up an executive car valeting business. His parents thought their son would follow in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps.

But in the summer of the same year Mohamed travelled to Saudi Arabia on what his parents say was a pilgrimage ‘with a couple of friends and their wives’, before heading to Egypt to join his family on holiday. From there, the Sakrs say, Mohamed and his younger brother also visited the family of a girlfriend in Dubai.

His actions were innocent, the family insists. But Mohamed was questioned for ‘at least three hours’ by immigration officials on his return to the UK. The questions focused on the countries he had visited and his reasons for going there.

‘He told them, “I didn’t plan to visit all these countries ­- it’s just how my summer has happened,”’ his mother recalls.

It’s thought that UK counter-terrorism officials were becoming concerned that a group of radicalised young men was emerging in the capital, influenced by British Islamists who had returned home after fighting in Somalia.

The Sakrs both say that their eldest son became the subject of repeated police ‘harassment’ in which he was stopped on numerous occasions by plain-clothes officers.

After one incident Mohamed told his mother ‘They’re watching me momma, everywhere I go they watch me.’ The family became convinced that their phones were being tapped.

Mohamed was spending a lot of time with a friend he had met when he was 12 – Bilal al­-Berjawi. The two had lived in adjacent flats.

The childhood friends would both lose their British citizenship weeks apart in 2010 – and would die weeks apart too, in covert US airstrikes.

Berjawi’s Lebanese parents had brought him to London as a baby, and like Sakr, Berjawi had drawn the attention of Britain’s counter-terrorism agencies.

The Sakr family insists they were not aware of any wrongdoing on Mohamed’s part, despite frequent trouble with the police.

In February 2009 Berjawi and Sakr visited Kenya for what they told their families was a ‘safari’.

Both were detained in Nairobi, where they were said to have been interrogated by British intelligence officials. The authorities suspected them of terrorism-related activities.

They were released and only deported back to the UK because both, at that time, still had their British citizenship.

While the two were still being detained in Kenya, police arrived at the London family home with a search warrant.

Cards left behind by officers identify them as members of SO15,­ the Met’s counter-terrorism squad. Mr Sakr says he was shocked to be told that the family might have to vacate their home for up to two weeks while officers searched. The indignant family found themselves put up in the nearby Hilton hotel.

Two days later the family was allowed home. And shortly afterwards Mohamed and Bilal were deported back to Britain.

Mr Sakr challenged his son: ‘I was asking questions, why has this happened and Mohamed said “Daddy, it’s finished, it will never happen again. It’s all done and dusted.” So I just put a cap on it and continued with a normal life.’

Mohamed’s mother insisted on accompanying him to a mosque so she could hear the sermons he was listening to.

I wanted to hear what they’re saying, I was always on top of this, always. I wanted to know why the police were after him, why?’ says Mrs Sakr. ‘So he used to take me to different mosques, and the sermons were normal, nothing unusual.’

In October 2009, with ever-growing trouble with the British authorities, Mohamed and Berjawi decided to slip out of the country. Neither told their families that they were leaving, or where they were going.

‘The police came asking “Where is Mohamed?” And I said “I don’t know.” That was the honest answer, I didn’t know where my son was,’ says Mr Sakr.

Months later Mohamed phoned his parents from Somalia. Both he and Berjawi were now living in a country gripped by civil war between radical Islamists and a rump UN-backed government.

While it’s been reported that both men were drawn to terrorist-linked groups, the Sakrs say the pair had innocent connections with the troubled east African nation. Berjawi had married a Somali woman in London, and Sakr at one time had also been engaged to marry a Somali girl.

Although both were killed by the US, most of the allegations against Sakr and Berjawi remain secret.

Some information has emerged, however. In November 2009, the pair were named along with a third British man in a Ugandan manhunt, accused of ‘sneaking into the country’ to plot terrorist activities. Later the men were linked to deadly bombings in that country’s capital.

The letter seen by the Bureau informing Mohamed’s family that he was losing his citizenship states he was ‘involved in terrorism-related activity’ and for having links with ‘Islamist extremists’, including his friend Bilal al-Berjawi.

The Sakrs remain defensive about these claims. ‘Have they done anything? Have they been caught in anything? Have they been caught in any action? Do they have any evidence against them that they have been involved in this or that? I haven’t seen. And they haven’t come up with it,’ says Mr Sakr.

‘It says they took his freedom away because he knew Bilal! Does it mean that because I know a bad person it means I’m bad, or know good people that I’m good? He’d known Bilal since he was 12 years old!,’ says Mohamed’s mother.

At first Mohamed wanted to fight the deprivation order, and his family hired lawyers in the UK. But they were told that in order to mount an effective appeal Mohamed would need to return to Britain.

Letter from the Home Office.

Letter from the Home Office.

His parents say he was too scared to come back.

‘He said, “Daddy, it is impossible for me,”’ says Mr Sakr. “He said, “If I go from here, they’ve already taken my passport from me, maybe they will catch me somewhere, and you will never hear from me again.” He knew something could happen to him.’

In February 2012, news agencies reported that a high-ranking Egyptian al Qaeda official had been killed in a US drone strike in Somalia.

It would be days before the family realised those reports actually referred to their son.

Mr Sakr says: ‘Their hands were washed. And that’s what they claimed when the news first came. They announced that Mohamed was Egyptian [cries]. That’s why they tried to show to the rest of the world, “He’s an Egyptian. He’s not British.”

‘Intelligence killed millions of Iraqis on the basis of wrong information. If we go and kill everyone based on intelligence information, then we are not living in the world of democracy and justice. We are living in the world of “Who has the power and who has the weapons to kill,”’ Mr Sakr rails.

‘If you’re not happy about a dictator or about rules or freedom of speech, and then you come to a country like Britain which we know for hundreds and hundreds of years has talked of democracy and freedom, and laws and justice. And suddenly you find there’s no justice, no freedom of speech, no democracy.’

© 2013 The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Fee to enter? Britain’s immigration crackdown continues

Published time: March 07, 2013 16:11

A Bulgarian shows his UK visa in front of the British embassy in Sofia (AFP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

Immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a fee, which would only be reimbursed when they leave UK soil, and if they haven’t used health services. The UK is taking an increasingly hardline stance, despite a recent sharp decline in immigration.

The UK is seeking to impose financial bonds “as a further deterrent to reduce non-compliance by high-risk nationalities,” a source close to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Daily Mail. Additionally, migrant family members already residing in the country would be made to pay a sum of thousands of pounds. It would be returned upon leaving the country.

If the reform goes through, immigrants entering the country for living and work purposes would have to put down the money to guarantee they wouldn’t ‘drain’ the country’s financial resources. Such resources would include things like non-emergency care from the health service. However, if British welfare was used by migrants entering the country, they would risk losing their money.

The entry fee would additionally be used to make sure immigrants didn’t outstay their visa  (and fining them if they do), consolidating an existing act. The Immigration and Asylum Act (1999), already gives the government the right to make immigrants front some money upon entering the country, which can be retained by the government should they remain in the UK after the expiration of their visa.

Individuals from two or three countries were tagged as “high risk”, and it is at them that the scheme is targeted. The UK will not be allowed to impose the charge on immigrants from EU countries who comprise the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone.

Bulgaria and Romania had hoped to gain the same freedom to enter the UK as other EU nations, and were expected to apply to join the zone in a meeting on Thursday. However, their entrance needed to be granted through a unanimous vote, and Germany announced their plan to veto the move on Monday.

“There will be no vote, and no decision,” a source in the EU's current Irish presidency told AFP on Wednesday. “Several nations have reserves or concerns.” As a result, residents of the two countries could be among those impacted.

Net migration into Britain has fallen by a third, from 247,000 thousand migrants in June 2011 to 163,000 in 2012, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Conservatives said they would clamp down on migrants, saying they were taking advantage of Britain's “soft touch,” which he was determined to quash.

On Wednesday, the Labour party leader Ed Miliband promised to take a heavy hand with immigration. He stated that the party had got it wrong in the past, saying “millions of people are concerned.”

“Low-skill migration has been too high and we need to bring it down,” he said.

The Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for the closure of student visa loopholes on Thursday, saying that many overstay or abuse (e.g. working instead of studying), despite the party denying accusations that they are moving to the right on migration.  

The British Conservative party was shunted into third place in the Eastleigh by-election in February. The UKIP candidate, who beat the Conservatives, is a member of a party described by the Tory government as packed with “loonies and closet racists.”  

It has been suggested that parties are adopting a stronger stance because of UKIP’s reputation for being heavy-handed on immigration.

Labour MP Diane Abbot, issued a recent warning to her party not to “spiral downwards” by veering to the right on immigration as a result of the by-election results.

Tory Vice Chair Says Ukip Is ‘Connecting’ With Voters

The Conservative Party vice chair Michael Fabricant has called on his party to recognise the policies from Ukip that are "working" - and said that his party's voice was "muffled and not crisp".

fabricant

Michael Fabricant MP has tweeted his Eastleigh analysis

In a lengthy series of tweets published to his 9,992 followers on Friday night, MP Michael Fabricant, who has been one of the key figures leading the campaign for the third-placed Tory candidate Maria Hutchings in Eastleigh's by-election, said: "The only real winner was UKIP."


Michael Fabricant
If #Eastleigh is anything to go by - and it WAS just a and NOT a Gen Elec - UKIP clearly connected with Conservative policies!

David Vick
UKIP is doing a perfectly good job projecting Conservative core policies and principles. That's why we're all voting for it

"Nigel Farage [Ukip's leader] is right, the UKIP message 'connects' with the electorate and it's not just Europe but crime, immigration, too.

"UKIP appealed to protest voters but also to Blue Collar Conservative voters. UKIP do not have the resources to fight 650 seats effectively at a General Election. Also this was almost certainly a protest vote. But no-one should write UKIP off. They will do well in the European elections (their very raison d'etre).

hutchings

Cameron and the defeated Hutchings on the campaign trail

"UKIP are unlikely to do well in the General Election, but it is not toally impossible. The Conservatives need to 'connect' too."

He called on the Tories to change their "voice" to capture the Ukip voters. "The Conservative voice is muffled and not crisp. It does not clearly project Conservative core policies or principles.

"The party must now co-ordinate and simplify its message without policy distractions away from core principles.

"Everyone from the PM downwards must focus on the economy, immigration, crime, Europe and not allow other side policies distract."

In a tweet which seemed to refer to the recent gay marriage debate. "Of course, liberal policies do not distract Government from the core issues, but they are seen to do so by the electorate

"With UKIP clearly announcing policies the public want to hear, we must do the same."


Michael Fabricant
#Eastleigh Only real winner was UKIP. Cons share fell by14%, Lib Dem share fell by 14.5% (!!), Labour (the Opposition) didn't move at all.

He also attacked Labour's fourth place in the by-election. "Ed Miliband should ask himself: Why did UKIP do well and Labour not improve?"

But he warned: "When two centre right, eurosceptic parties scrap with each other, it allows a leftish, pro-Europe Party to achieve power."

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron was attacked by Tory backbencher Eleanor Laing, who was scathing of the “hurtful” Tory leadership, who she said had abandoned “ordinary Conservative voters”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World At One, the MP for Epping Forest said, “ordinary Conservative voters don't feel that this government is in tune with them,” adding that Cameron and his Westminster coterie were not “tuning in to the hopes and fears of the vast majority of ordinary people out there in Britain today”.

WATCH: Hutchings' Bizarre Exit From Eastleigh Count

SEE ALSO: Crisis For Cameron As Ukip Beat Tories And Lib Dems Win

SPINNING AROUND: Conservatives Spin Loss As Victory For Coalition

SOTU: Lukewarm Liberalism at Home, Hypocrisy Abroad

President Obama’s State of the Union Address provided some solace to progressives on some issues, but left a lot to be desired on others.

He was right to point out that we can’t keep “drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next”—a good, clean shot at Republican obstructionism on the fiscal cliff and sequestration.

But for the longest time in the first part of his speech, he focused on deficit reduction, which is an exaggerated problem. He said that “economists” say we need $2 trillion more in deficit reduction “to stabilize our finances.” Which economists was he talking about? Not Nobel Prize-winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, who have urged him not to focus so much on deficit reduction but rather on job creation.

And in his discussion of deficit reduction, Obama hinted that most people are going to suffer. “We can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful,” he said. That doesn’t sound like he’s making a good bargain to me. Instead, it sounds like he’s going to ask “senior citizens and working families” to shoulder a big part of the deficit burden, which they can’t afford to do.

"[The speech] was lukewarm liberalism at home coupled with Bush-league justifications for lawlessness and hypocrisy abroad."

His endorsement of universal pre-kindergarten was a positive step. But he acted like that would even the playing field by itself, saying, “Let’s . . . make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.” Actually, children in poverty are already behind, so how about tackling poverty in America? But Obama didn’t talk about eliminating poverty in the American context, only in the global context.

And as for high schools, he boasted about Race to the Top, which has been a nightmare, and said he now wanted to “redesign America’s high schools” so they can give students “the skills today’s employers are looking for.” What about giving students the skills to be engaged learners or thoughtful citizens?

On the positive side, he did come out for raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. But why $9 an hour instead of the $10 an hour that Ralph Nader has been calling for?

He did give some welcome shout outs to LGBTS and women and the cause of equality for all.

He did come out strongly for a fairer tax code, for gun control, and for protecting voting rights.

And he spoke forcefully for action on global warming, though he favored a “market-based solution.”

He proposed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, which was welcome.

And he said he wanted to fix the housing market by allowing “every responsible homeowner in America” to refinance at today’s rates. The problem is, he seems to be calling anyone who ever missed a payment an irresponsible homeowner, when they may have been unable to pay because they got sick or got laid off. Is he not going to help them at all?

He talked about comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship, as he did in his Inaugural address. Fortunately, he added the need to “cut waiting periods,” which can be 20 years or longer right now. Some people will die on that path to citizenship.

On foreign and military policy, he was the most disappointing. He threatened Iran again, saying, “Now is the time for a diplomatic solution,” and warning: “We will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

He was blatantly one-sided on the Israel-Palestinian issue, saying, “We will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.” He didn’t even bother to mention the Palestinians at all.

And appallingly, he defended his drone warfare and assassination policy. “Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans,” he said. And in the very next sentence, he had the chutzpah to add: “As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.”

He said his Administration “has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.” But is it “legal” just because he and his Justice Department say it is?

He also said, in a bald-faced lie, that “throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.” Try running that past Sen. Ron Wyden, who for months has been trying to get his questions answered on the Administration’s assassination doctrine.

He also sang from the hymnal of American exceptionalism. “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change,” he said. “In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights.” Tell that to the people of Bahrain.

This was neither Obama’s most eloquent defense of an affirmative role for government, nor was it close to his most honest discussion of U.S. foreign policy.

Instead, it was lukewarm liberalism at home coupled with Bush-league justifications for lawlessness and hypocrisy abroad.

© 2012 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Immigration Reform Prevents Employer Abuse

Oscar came to the United States at the age of 16 to work. There were no jobs for him in his native Guatemala, and he felt obligated to help support his parents.

He was lured across borders by the promise of work. He believed, as so many immigrants do, that there would be a job for him in America.

For the past five years, he has worked at a Los Angeles car wash that cheated him and other immigrant workers out of pay, refused protective gear and even denied drinking water.

Employers such as car washes, corporate farms, construction companies and lawn care businesses entice immigrants into the United States by providing jobs with no questions asked. They lure undocumented workers in, and then abuse them with impunity. This endangers all workers because the low-wage, hazardous conditions undocumented workers endure can become the standard. This is especially true in bad economic times. More border security is fine. But to ensure safe, family-supporting jobs remain the norm, America must hold employers to account for baiting immigrants.

Like many immigrants, Oscar, now 29, stayed with a relative when he arrived in America. At first, he found work delivering cosmetics. The company treated him decently but laid him off when business declined. That’s when he got the job at Vermont Car Wash in L.A.

The owner promised minimum wage, which was $8 an hour then in California. But when Oscar received his first paycheck, he discovered Vermont paid him $7 an hour and compensated him for only about half the hours he worked.

And that was good treatment according to two studies and an investigation by the Los Angeles Times. The L.A. Times inquiry in 2008, which was about the time Oscar began at Vermont, found the car washes “brazenly violate basic labor and immigration laws with little risk of penalty.” Some car wash companies gave workers only tips, so they were paid between $10 and $30 a day. Others paid as little as $1.63 an hour.

The University of Illinois at Chicago Labor Education Program investigated car washes in the Windy City and found they ripped off their mostly immigrant work force by about $2.2 million a year. Nearly a quarter of the workers subsisted below the federal level for extreme poverty – even after they worked more than 40 hours a week. Eighty percent received no protective equipment and many were cut, suffered rashes or experienced nausea and dizziness from the car wash chemicals. Two-thirds did not have access to clean or free drinking water at work.

In addition, a 2008 study by three non-profit organizations, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” found employers who paid low wages in New York City, L.A. and Chicago routinely violated labor laws, committed wage theft and exposed workers to hazards. The workers included undocumented immigrants but native Americans as well.

The L.A. Times investigation and the studies expose several causes for the exploitation. One is insufficient enforcement. Another is the vulnerability of undocumented immigrants.

When workers like Oscar complained, car wash owners threatened them. It’s not an empty threat. Last May, after Palermo’s Pizza factory workers in Milwaukee signed a petition to form a union, the company fired 89 workers, claiming they were undocumented and refusing to wait for documentation.

Oscar says when he asked his co-workers about the wage theft, they said the owner told them that he could do whatever he wanted because the workers had no rights.

Workers don’t really have rights unless they are enforced. Non-profit groups and unions in New York, Illinois and California have helped some workers attain their rights. They’ve filed numerous lawsuits against car wash companies and badgered state agencies to cite companies for violations. For example, last May, with the help of community groups, immigrant workers at a Bronx car wash sued and four workers at an LA car wash filed a class action suit for unpaid wages and other abuses.

In January of 2012, the California state attorney general’s office secured a $1 million settlement from eight car wash companies for wage theft. Last July, a New York judge sentenced a Bronx car wash owner to 32 days in jail and ordered him to pay $150,000 to workers denied minimum wage.

A little less than two years ago, Oscar and the workers at the Vermont Car Wash got help from the Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) and the United Steelworkers (USW) union. Oscar said a co-worker told him that the USW could help them get paid their rightful wages if they organized and bargained collectively with the car wash owner. Oscar, who is unmarried and has no children, agreed to meet with an organizer because he was receiving so little in wages that he was having a hard time supporting himself and sending money to his parents. He explained:

“I couldn’t put up any longer with what the owner was doing.”

When a group of workers told the owner they wanted a union, Oscar thinks the owner was relieved that they weren’t filing a costly lawsuit. The owner agreed a year ago to recognize the union, and Oscar and his co-workers now receive the correct pay. They get breaks, drinking water and protective gear like rubber gloves. The USW represents workers at three L.A. car washes now, and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union represents workers at five in New York City.

Oscar said he believes that if no path to citizenship is provided to the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in America, business owners will feel free to continue to mistreat workers, documented and undocumented, because unions and community groups won’t be able to help them all.

President Obama has proposed new legislation that would provide a path to citizenship and further secure the boarders, but, critically, it would also crack down on companies that lure undocumented workers into the country by illegally hiring them.

That is essential to secure the dignity of all workers.

Awful weather, poor cuisine: Romanian newspaper launches prank anti-UK ad campaign

image from http://www.gandul.info

image from http://www.gandul.info

Public fears in the UK over mass immigration by Eastern Europeans has prompted a peculiar response from Romania: One newspaper published a series of ads playing on British cultural stereotypes, and saying why people should move to Romania instead.

­“Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water,” one of the ads proudly states, hinting at the high costs of living in the UK.  Another ad made fun of British cuisine: “We serve more food groups than pies, sausage, fish and chips.”

Other ads touched upon politics, weather and even women: "Half of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister."

The 'Why don`t you come over?' ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper Gandul and GMP Advertising firm in response to numerous reports in the British media about a possible government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.

"I wouldn’t say we were deeply offended by the British initiative, but we felt it deserved an answer that tackles this ridiculous fear of us invading the UK. The solution was to turn this [false] problem on its head and invite the British to invade us instead,” said Mihai Gongu, Creative Director at GMP Advertising.

Gandul added that the campaign is also a sincere call for British people to visit Romania and to see that “Romania is a much better country and Romanians a more decent people than the negative image painted by some recent stories in British and international media.”

image from http://www.gandul.info
image from http://www.gandul.info

Romanians welcomed the ads with widespread enthusiasm, and quickly began to design their own posters with a special application launched by the newspaper.

Gandul's prank campaign comes amid hype in the British media predicting that hundreds of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians will come to the UK for work after immigration restrictions are lifted at the end of the year. Some of the government measures circulated by the media included an advertising campaign painting a negative portrait of the island in order to decrease the number of immigrants.

The UK has also recently introduced changes to the citizenship test. The ‘Life in the United Kingdom’ test and handbook are aimed at immigrants who want to settle permanently in the UK. The test will now include many cultural questions, while overlooking a lot of practical issues.

image from http://www.gandul.info
image from http://www.gandul.info

image from http://www.gandul.info (Autor: Lee Jackson)
image from http://www.gandul.info (Autor: Lee Jackson)

Holy Grail of UK citizenship: New test poses Monty Python puzzlers

The crowd waves their Union Jack flags as The Queen leaves Seaham, Sunderland (AFP Photo / John Giles)

The crowd waves their Union Jack flags as The Queen leaves Seaham, Sunderland (AFP Photo / John Giles)

Immigrants to the UK will now have to make sure they know all about Monty Python and the Queen’s exact age – all this is included in a new citizenship test. This comes as London is set to launch an ad campaign to discourage the immigrant influx.

­The ‘Life in the United Kingdom’ test and accompanying handbook will be aimed at migrants wanting to settle permanently in the UK who already speak English to a high level. It is intended to encourage participation in all aspects of British life, but completely passes over questions based on more practical knowledge.

Those sitting the test will be expected to have detailed knowledge of all the cultural intricacies at the ‘heart of being British’. The UK Home Office’s list of sample questions requires knowledge of traditional British holiday customs, patron saints, and locations of historic landmarks.

Foreigners angling for the right to reside in the UK will also be expected to learn about all aspects of British culture, from how to deal with trick-or-treaters at Halloween to comedy acts such as Monty Python and the Two Ronnies. Meanwhile duller, more routine questions regarding water meters and job interviews have all been phased out.

The new 45-minute exam features questions such as “At her jubilee in 2012, how many years as queen did Queen Elizabeth II celebrate?  A: 20 B: 40 C: 50” and “What flower is traditionally worn by people on Remembrance Day? A. Poppy B. Lily C. Daffodil D. Iris”. The quiz will be issued effective March this year. All those wishing to gain British citizenship will have to take it. A score of 75 per cent from 24 questions will be the pass mark.

However, at least part of the intention behind it could be to reduce the numbers of immigrants entering the UK.

Minister for Immigration Mark Harper said on the Home Office website that they “have made radical changes to the immigration system and are determined to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands into the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament. The latest figures show these reforms are working, with net migration falling by a quarter in the last year.”

 Under-selling to Eastern Europe

Alongside the announcement of the new test, potential immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania may no longer appreciate the opportunity  to attempt the broad-reaching series of questions, as simultaneous plans are announced to  launch a "negative advertising campaign" which one minister said would “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold,” according to The Guardian.

Instead, it will focus on the downsides of British life – perhaps the excessive rain, lack of jobs, or expensive public transport costs.

However, the idea comes in contrast with recent PR efforts which include the billions of pounds Britain spent on the Olympics or the Home Office launching a guide to ‘Britishness’ for potential citizens that opens with the phrase: “Britain is a fantastic place to live: A modern thriving society.”

The move comes after Conservative party MP Philip Hollobone claimed that the Romanian and Bulgarian communities in the UK will treble to 425,000 within two years.

Overall, more than 150,000 ‘Life in the UK’ tests were taken nationally last year.

Don Flynn of The Migrants' Rights Network told the BBC that the test was “like an entry examination for an elite public school,” and reiterated criticisms that have been aired over how relevant naturalization procedures are to the adoption of the British lifestyle.

However, the Home Office website declared that the measure will ensure “Britain continues to attract the brightest and the best migrants from across the world.” A spokesperson from the Scottish Refugee Council told Herald Scotland that the changes would make the test much harder for refugees to pass and called for the entire process to be reformed.

Immigration curbs examined: No 10

An advertising campaign highlighting the pitfalls of life in the UK such as the rain expected to drench the country this week could be used by the Government to put off would-be immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria. The measure is reported to be among...

British ‘brain drain’: Young talent quits UK for warmer economic climes

Unemployed young people stand in line outside a job centre in central London. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Unemployed young people stand in line outside a job centre in central London. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Millions of people have emigrated from the UK over the last 10 years, most of whom seek to find a job in a more favorable economic climate. Graduate immigration is on the up as well in what’s been dubbed as the ‘talent drain’ by the British press.

According to statistics accumulated by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, over 3.5 million people have fled the country in the last decade.

The number has increased sharply over the past decade, going from 363,000 a year to a peak of 427,000 in 2008. However, during the past four years statistics have plateaued again, averaging off at 350,000 a year.

The principle motivation for leaving the UK is the search for a job, with 89 per cent of long-term immigrants being of working age, says the UK Home Office.

“Over the last 10 years, more than a third of British, EU and non-EU citizens who emigrated left to take up definite jobs but a much smaller proportion [18 per cent] of British citizens compared to the other two groups [34 per cent of EU citizens and 42 per cent of non-EU citizens) left to look for work,
” wrote the Home Office report published at the end of 2012.

Australia has traditionally been the most coveted destination for British nationals of working age over the past two decades, with the US following closely behind. Emigrants of retirement age tend to prefer destinations within the EU, such as France and Spain.

Those British citizens who chose to leave are more often than not highly-educated professionals seeking to work for pharmaceutical, aerospace, engineering and creative companies that are based abroad.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois told the Daily Telegraph that the growing rates of emigration were indicative of a talent drain that is dealing “enormous damage” to the UK economy.

In addition, last year a record amount of graduates quit the UK in search of employment in more favorable job climates.

Government statistics showed that in 2011, an average of one in 10 students looked for jobs abroad after graduating. The UK’s most successful higher education institutions were looked at in the report, including Cambridge, Durham, Exeter and Oxford.

Concerns have been voiced in British society that the departure of newly-graduated young professionals may leave a skill vacuum that will cause significant problems for the UK economy in the future.

Director of The Emigration Group, Paul Arthur, told the Yorkshire Post “there has never been a better time to emigrate.”

“The UK is continuing to experience a ‘brain drain’, with many Brits in professional or managerial positions emigrating to pursue careers abroad.”

British expat John Lucas, who moved to Australia three years ago, told the English publication “he had no plans to return to England.”

“With the 2008 global recession, the UK market was slow. But in Australia the market is still booming and there remains a great deal of opportunity for a construction business,” the 32-year-old said.

At present unemployment in the UK stands at almost 8 per cent, and the government is introducing sweeping economic cuts with a view to curtailing national deficit. Graduates have suffered the most in the economic crisis with unemployment at 9 per cent, and over 8 per cent still jobless six months after graduation.

Brits rate immigration as society’s biggest issue — poll

AFP Photo / Hugo Philpott

AFP Photo / Hugo Philpott

The British public views immigration as the biggest issue facing society, but UK citizens are basically tolerant to immigration, as long as new arrivals are in work and integrate into society, it was revealed in a poll reported in The Observer.

The poll found that one in three people believes tension between immigrants and UK citizens is a major cause of division, while over half those questioned believe it is one of the top three causes, a major new survey entitled ‘State of the Nation: Where is Bittersweet Britain Heading?’ found out, the British Sunday paper wrote.

Over the past two decades immigration has increased to historically high levels, with 100,000 more people entering than leaving the country every year since 1998.

Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, the think tank which carried out the survey, said it showed that there was a national anxiety about immigration which politicians needed to address.

However, he pointed out that the results suggested that there was very little relation between the geographical distribution of immigrants and the levels of people’s concern. For example, immigration was regarded as a divisive issue by 19 per cent of people in the north-east of England and 20 per cent of people in Wales. In both areas a 2011 census showed that one in 20 people were born abroad. But in London, where one in three people are immigrants, the number of people who regarded immigration as divisive, still stood at 20 per cent.

“People are obviously very anxious about immigration. But I was struck by how much it was driven by a national rather than a local tension. And I don’t think anyone has any confidence in how it is managed as a system. Also there is concern around national cohesion, identity and ability to cope with the scale of change,” said Katwala.

Other issues considered the three essential traits of a Briton were respect for the law, freedom of speech of others, and an ability to speak English. These came out as the top criteria among all ages and social classes in the survey, which polled 2,515 people aged between 16 and 75. Treating women and men equally and respect for people of all ethnic backgrounds and faiths came fourth, fifth and sixth on the list respectively.

The release of the poll’s results coincides with an upcoming speech by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, in which he hopes to aid efforts of integration into society. He is expected to stress that knowledge of English is vital to social mobility and for the economy as a whole.

The survey also found that three in four people think that the UK is in a housing crisis, an issue that has been on the political agenda of all parties for a number of years. Current Housing Minister Nick Boles is proposing that green field sites, currently protected by planning law, should be built upon in order to provide much needed new housing stock. All age groups surveyed said that owning your own property is better than renting.

When asked what made people proud to be British, the NHS came top, with 45 per cent of people saying it was the institution they were most proud of. The armed forces came second, with 40 per cent of people saying they made them feel proud to be British, while in light of the Olympics and the Paralympics, 38 per cent said ‘Team GB’.

When people were asked if being born in Britain was important to being British, two thirds said as long as someone has worked here for up to 15 years, they should be allowed access to the welfare state, regardless of where they were born.

Finally, roughly two thirds said they would rather be British than any other nationality in the world, while around 15 per cent said they would rather not be British and 20 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.

Government’s Drive To Expel Foreign Students Is ‘Damaging UK Economy’

Calls to crackdown on bogus foreign students have driven large numbers of genuine overseas applicants to competitor countries, damaging not only universities but also the UK economy, a university chief has warned.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, said repeated statements by ministers to be tougher on immigration had made international students feel unwelcome.

She said universities are reporting a significant drop in the number of students applying from overseas, particularly from India, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia,

"These are countries that send large numbers and also they are important countries in terms of international engagement, so we want to be promoting and fostering relations with them, not erecting barriers," she told The Guardian.

Any fall in foreign applicants will impact not only universities but also on the economy and international relations, she warned.

"They bring connections that reap dividends in financial and cultural and social terms way into the future," she said.

"We are concerned about the language and the atmosphere being created, not least because it plays very, very badly internationally.

"Whatever the intentions of the politicians are ... every time these sorts of comments are made by the Home Secretary or others it does have a potentially very damaging impact internationally."

LIKE HUFFPOST UK STUDENTS ON FACEBOOK | FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

In November, Boris Johnson issued a warning over prejudice against foreign students in the UK, saying new visa rules introduced by ministers sent out the "wrong signal".

Following the London Mayor's visit to India, a private Indian university announced its plans to open a campus in London for 15,000 foreign students.

Overseas students are estimated to be worth £8bn a year to the British economy, a figure projected to rise to £16.8bn by 2025, according to a study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Home Secretary Theresa May last month announced the introduction of face-to-face interviews for 100,000 applicants for student visas a year.

She said the government's success in closing down bogus colleges and cutting student visa numbers by 74,000 (26%) last year as part of a drive to reduce overall net migration but insisted that there was no cap on legitimate students from outside the EU.

Dandridge said politicians need to portray the UK as being open and welcoming to international students without compromising immigration laws.

Mark Harper, the immigration minister, added: "The UK's education system is one of the best in the world but to maintain this reputation it is vital that we tackle the abuse of the student route, while making sure Britain remains open for business."

Check out the HuffPost UK international students section for up to date news on foreign students

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Deporting homeless EU migrants breaks their free movement rights

EU citizens sleeping rough in the UK are being routinely deported under new immigration policies,...

EU migrants could lose right to stay in Britain within weeks

European migrants arriving in Britain could lose their right to stay permanently from next month...

London gallery under fire for hosting ‘neo-Nazi’ art & ‘Islamophobic’ speakers

A London art gallery has been criticized for exhibiting neo-Nazi artwork, hosting openly Islamophobic speakers...

Brits may need visas for Europe post-Brexit

The EU could introduce a visa regime for British travelers wanting to head to the...

Number of Romanian & Bulgarian immigrants coming to Britain hits record high after Brexit...

Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK following the June 2016 EU referendum has...

Nigel Farage calls Swedish city ‘rape capital of Europe’ in show of solidarity with...

Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage has backed recent criticism by US President Donald Trump of Sweden’s...

Mexicans build ‘human wall’ in defiance of Trump's hostile rhetoric (VIDEO)

A ‘human wall’ of over 800 students was formed along the border between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico...

Planting Seed for Strikes in the Trump Era, #Strike4Democracy Sweeps Nation

Planting the seed for future large-scale walk-outs, hundreds of events are taking place coast-to-coast on Friday as part of a national "strike for democracy." Heavy...

To Resist and Reclaim, Hundreds of Recess Events Planned to Target Lawmakers

Members of Congress are heading home this weekend amid a high likelihood of encountering angry—and empowered—constituents who are ready to confront them at town...

There Is A Strong Case For A Second Referendum on EU Membership Prior To...

Theresa May’s Brexit plans have prioritised immigration over everything else, including leaving the single European market as a price worth paying to end freedom...

Danish Parliament Passes Resolution to Ensure Denmark Stays Danish

The Folketing, Denmark’s unicameral parliament, has passed a resolution stating that Danes should not become minorities in Danish communities, as figures show the...

British bosses fear losing key EU workers when Brexit bites

Over a quarter of British businesses are now worried their European staff will leave once...

Passports and Visas: the Entire Rotten Show

Photo by Laurie Avocado | CC BY 2.0 Last August, returning to the US from Australia, I had an intriguing experience with an immigration officer...

Trump is a Catastrophe, But So was the TPP

Since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I’ve found myself talking for the first time with a lot of my 20-something...

‘Do more for child refugees,’ daughter of ‘British Schindler’ tells Theresa May

Theresa May must do more to help child refugees, the daughter of the ‘British Schindler’...

‘I hope you don’t get raped’: Far-right mouthpiece shocks woman in TV refugee debate

A former member of the British National Party (BNP), who was invited on Channel 4...

How Corporate Media Paved the Way for Trump’s Muslim Ban

  NBC News (1/25/17) covers Donald Trump signing the immigration ban. President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations justifiably led to...

A Hard Look at Islamists Hiding Behind the Pink Pussy Hat Protesters

Around the world legitimate protests in recent years were turned into color revolutions. So-called humanitarian groups attach themselves to protests and in many cases...

Baiting Iran: How Trump Risks Inflaming the Middle East

President Trump is adding further venom to the raging sectarian hatreds tearing apart Iraq and Syria by his latest ill-judged tweets. These have far greater...

With 'Echo of Trump,' French Far-Right Leader Le Pen Launches Presidential Bid

Riding on the coattails of far-right victories in the U.S. and U.K., France's Marine Le Pen officially launched her bid for president on Sunday...

Donald Trump ‘doesn’t care about talking to Parliament,’ wants pomp & bling on state...

US President Donald Trump is not interested in addressing Parliament during his state visit to the UK, and instead wants to focus on the...

#BoycottBudweiser: Twitter clash over beer company’s Super Bowl migration ad (VIDEO)

Hours before Super Bowl LI kicks off, a Twitter war has erupted over Budweiser’s half-time advertising...

From Mar-A-Lago to Far-and-Wide, Protesters March Again as Anti-Trump Movement Persists

A weekend of continued anti-Trump protest... Check back for news and updates below... For the third weekend in a row, people in the United States...

Trump Schooled on Separation of Powers

President Trump is getting a crash course on the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers as federal courts knock down his...

Muslim Ban Blocked: Federal Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction Against Trump Order

A federal judge in Washington state issued a nationwide injunction late Friday against President Donald Trump's controversial executive order on immigration—widely denounced as a...

The Left Is Self-Destructing

The mindlessness is unbearable. Amnesty International tells us that we must “fight the Muslim ban” because Trump’s bigotry is wrecking lives. Anthony Dimaggio at...

Trump Bends to Neocon Pressures

Exclusive: President Trump’s calls for reorienting American foreign policy look to be disintegrating in his first two weeks in office...

Government’s Brexit negotiation White Paper ‘says nothing’ and is ‘too late'

The British government has released its White Paper setting out its Brexit plans. ...

The Left Is Self-Destructing

The mindlessness is unbearable. Amnesty International tells us that we must “fight the Muslim ban” because Trump’s bigotry is wrecking lives. Anthony Dimaggio at...

Petitions for and against a Trump state visit to Britain will be debated in...

A counter-petition supporting US President Donald Trump’s planned state visit to the UK will be...

Winston Churchill’s grandson apologizes for ‘woofing’ at female MP

Tory MP Nicholas Soames was forced to apologize in parliament for ‘woofing’ at Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. The barking mad outburst came...

Trump’s state visit puts Queen in ‘very difficult position’ – retired diplomat

US President Donald Trump’s planned state visit to the UK puts Queen Elizabeth II in...

Gay Nigerian man faces ‘unlawful’ deportation from Britain

British authorities are preparing to “unlawfully” deport a gay man to Nigeria on Tuesday night, despite fears he will be targeted and attacked on...

48 British rabbis cite Holocaust in condemnation of Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

Almost 50 British rabbis have condemned US President Donald Trump’s travel ban as “inciting and...

Schwarzenegger slams Trump ban

Here Is Some of the Human Misery Caused by President Trump’s Muslim Ban From...

With the sweep of his pen, President Donald Trump caused the U.S. immigration system to go into total disarray and sowed global chaos and...

‘Focus on ISIS, not starting WWIII’: Trump blasts Senators McCain & Graham

The latest targets of US President Donald Trump’s ire are fellow Republican Senators John McCain & Lindsey Graham, who Trump says should focus on...

Nigel Farage & Katie Hopkins back Trump’s #MuslimBan, want the same for Britain

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and political commentator Katie Hopkins have voiced their support for US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on citizens from...

Executive hyperdrive: Trump’s first week in White House

President Donald Trump’s first week was a bumpy ride of executive orders, with the commander-in-chief and...

#DeleteUber: Twitteratti wrath is swift as Uber drivers ‘break’ JFK taxi strike

#DeleteUber is trending on Twitter as angry customers vow to scrap the ridesharing app after reports alleged that Uber drivers broke a strike staged...

More US judges rule to restrict Trump ‘Muslim ban’ travel order

Three more federal judges, along with a district judge, have issued rulings barring authorities from deporting...

First They Came for the Immigrants–and NYT Said People Should Anonymously Inform on Them

Of course, the actual immigration violator the New York Times “Ethicist” wants a reader to turn in to the state is unlikely to be...

Ongoing Brexit Blues

Photo by DAVID HOLT | CC BY 2.0   Last week Theresa May announced that the UK was preparing for a “hard” Brexit, meaning that the...

British govt spies on its citizens' health records to catch illegal immigrants – report

Thousands of National Health Service (NHS) patients have had their data accessed by the Home...

Trump to order Mexican border wall, ban refugees from 7 Muslim countries

A red-letter day on “national security” is in the cards for US President Donald Trump, who...

EU nurses working in Britain could pose public health risk, warns watchdog

Britain’s nursing regulator has warned the government that a lack of checks on foreign nurses working in UK hospitals could be putting public health...

Tony Blair is to blame for Brexit, says Chancellor Hammond

British Chancellor Philip Hammond has blamed Tony Blair for Brexit because the ex-prime minister allowed...

Corporate Contributors to Trump Inauguration Seek to Curry Favor

Despite the incoming administration of President-Elect Donald Trump’s efforts to keep inauguration donors secret, The New York Times has reported seven of the event’s...

Total Insanity: Brits should learn Polish, Punjabi, & Urdu to make immigrants feel welcome...

British people should learn immigrants’ languages to be more welcoming, according to a Cambridge professor, who says integration is a “two way street.” University of...

Trump’s UN pick Nikki Haley shows support for Israel, hard line on Russia

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, nominated to be the new US ambassador to the UN, told...

Germany welcomes ‘clarity’ as Europe reacts to Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Germany’s foreign minister has welcomed a “bit more clarity” from UK Prime Minister Theresa May after her major Brexit speech on Tuesday, saying it...

Theresa May set to confirm ‘hard Brexit’ from single market in major speech

Prime Minister Theresa May will confirm the UK will leave the single market in a major speech on Tuesday. Other priorities include removing Britain from...

Police investigating home secretary’s foreign workers speech as ‘hate incident’

Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s speech on foreign workers at a Conservative Party Conference is being...

Theresa May hints at ‘hard Brexit’ outside single market

Prime Minister Theresa May has hinted the UK is heading for a ‘hard Brexit,’ as...

Economist admits BoE’s Brexit financial collapse warnings were ‘a misjudgement’

Economists failed to predict the 2008 financial crash and completely misjudged Brexit’s impact, the executive...

Learn the language or go home: MPs want proof migrants can speak English before...

Migrants should have to learn English when they arrive in Britain, or prove they can...

Terrorist suspect with ‘links to Osama Bin Laden’ wins 21-year legal battle to stay...

A wheelchair-bound Algerian terrorist suspect with alleged links to Osama Bin Laden has won a...

Cashing out? Banks to reveal post-Brexit plans

Banks in the City of London will tell investors as early as next month whether they plan to move their operations out of post-Brexit...

Washington Post Wants Endless Wars of Aggression

(RINF) - In a New Year’s day editorial, WaPo discussed the “unsupportable” and “dangerous” Trump presidency - seditious sounding language. He “pose(s) (a) threat to...

National Socialism Bad

George Soros is at it again.  Don’t blame him for the calamities facing the various countries of the west.  It is all Germany’s fault;...

Labour divided over Brexit following Keir Starmer remarks on free movement

The debate over immigration has heightened among Labour ranks following comments made by the party’s Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer, who said that EU...

Britain in 2030: Brexit & robotics herald inequality, mass unemployment – IPPR

Britain faces a decade of low growth in the wake of Brexit with widening income...

Deaths, Deportations and Arrests: Violence Against Migrants in Morocco

"We are in MoroccoHere, many Blacks have lost their livesHere, it's BoukhalefThe Moroccans call us azziaThey talk about us to scare their childrenAnd when...