The Round-Up: Christchurch, Islamophobia, Home Office Failures and Modern Slavery

25 March 2019 by

A white supremacist murdered 50 worshippers and injured 50 more in two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019.  The victims’ ages ranged from 3 to 77. Immediately prior to the attacks, the perpetrator emailed a 73-page manifesto to more than 30 recipients, including several media outlets and the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. It expressed anti-immigrant hate speech, white supremacist rhetoric, and an unequivocal statement that the motive behind the attacks was to accelerate anti-Muslim and anti-migrant sentiment across majority white nations. 

Prime Minister Arden has been praised for her decisive leadership, admirable compassion, and emphasis on the solidarity between her country and the victims (many migrants, some refugees), their families, and the wider Muslim community.  She announced the ban of all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles in New Zealand, and ordered a  royal commission to examine whether police and intelligence services could have done more to prevent shootings. She refused to use the terrorist’s name, and implored her countrymen and women to “speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.” The country’s Chief Censor made the possession and distribution of the gunman’s manifesto unlawful in New Zealand. The mosque’s imam thanked New Zealanders for their support, adding, “We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken.”

In the days since the attack, UK counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu has said that far-right terrorists are being radicalised by mainstream newspaper coverage. Basu condemned outlets such as the Sun, the Mirror and the Mail Online for uploading the gunman’s manifesto and his violent footage of the attack. On Wednesday, windows were smashed at five mosques in Birmingham. On Friday, an independent monitoring group reported that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across Britain increased by 593% in the week after the massacre.

In a Guardian interview with Simon Hattenstone, Miqdaadi Versi, head of media monitoring at the Muslim Council of Britain, further criticised the British press. He noted in particular papers which printed photographs of the shooter as a blond child, describing him as an ‘angelic boy’, and a BBC News presenter’s suggestion that anti-Muslim violence had intensified because the mainstream Muslim community had not done enough to condemn Islamist extremism. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Conservative counsellors suspended for posting Islamophobic or racist content online have had their membership quietly reinstated. 

In Other News

  • A new report published by the Home Affairs Committee has criticised the Home Office for overseeing “serious failings” at almost every stage of the immigration detention process. Failures by the department led to people being wrongfully detained, held in immigration when they are vulnerable or unnecessarily detained for too long. The report calls for a time limit on detention, as well as for “urgent reform” to ensure the process is transparent and humane.
  • In related news, a senior Home Office official has also repeatedly apologised for shortcomings during an inquest into the killing of Tarek Chowdhury, a “gentle and polite” man from Bangladesh who died in immigration detention in December 2016. Evidence from internal Home Office files showed Chowdhury was detained because his file was not processed in time to place him in a non-detained category. 
  • Additionally, a Home Office decision to refuse a Christian convert asylum on the basis of Bible passages that “prove Christianity is not peaceful” has been widely criticised and called a reckless “distortion of logic” by human rights campaigners. The Home Office has said that the letter was not in accordance with its policy approach to claims based on religious persecution, and that it is working to improve the training provided to decision-makers.
  • The family of Shamima Begum has initiated an appeal with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission against the home secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip the teenager of her citizenship. Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor who has represented Begum’s family since 2015, has said the decision is disproportionate since “it renders Shamima Begum stateless, it puts her life at risk, exposes her to inhumane and degrading treatment, and breaches her right to family life.”
  • Hestia, a charity that helps victims of modern slavery, has lodged a super-complaint against police forces after its investigation found just seven per cent of reported cases of modern slavery were being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by police. The Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove backed the super-complaint, stating that the criminal justice system is “alienating victims” and “undermining our ability to prosecute offenders.”
  • The Local Government Association has called on the government to provide specific funding to councils to support victims of modern slavery, citing the latest National Crime Agency statistics which show the number of council referrals of suspected victims to the National Referral Mechanism has risen tenfold in five years. The NCA’s recently published annual report shows that the number of cases involving UK children has doubled between 2017 and 2018. 

In the Courts 

  • Hameed & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department: The Secretary of State successfully appealed in a case relating to the Asylum and Immigration (Fast Track Procedure) Rules 2005 and the circumstances in which the respondent Pakistani husband and wife were detained at Yarl’s Wood IRC pending disposal of their appeals under the Detained Fast Track process. The Court of Appeal held that the judgement of Judge Anthony Thornton QC in the respondent’s judicial review proceedings in the Administrative Court contained substantive errors in reasoning and approach, resulting in conclusions which could not be sustained. The judge thought the 2005 Rules were systematically unfair and unlawful, and that it therefore followed that the tribunal decisions and detention were from the outset unlawful. This was inconsistent with the subsequent decisions of Ouseley J and of the Court of Appeal in TN (Vietnam) [2018]. The Court of Appeal concluded that the respondents’ judicial review claims should be remitted for a fresh hearing in the Administrative Court.
  • Jamaicans for Justice (Appellant) v Police Service Commission and another (Respondents)(Jamaica): The Privy Council considered whether the Jamaican Police Service Commission (PSC) had a duty to ensure that allegations of extra-judicial killings against an officer should be fully and independently investigated before accepting a recommendation that he be promoted. In giving the advice of the board, Lady Hale began by noting the formidable threat of criminal violence facing Jamaican police officers and the members of the public they have a duty to protect. This threat was weighed against the criticism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in the case of Michael Gayle v Jamaica [2005], that such killings occur ‘disproportionately’ and with ‘impunity’. In light of the fact that allowing officers to take the law into their own hands risked violations of the right to life, to due process of the law and to equality before the law, the Board concluded that the proper discharge of the PSC’s duty required an independent investigation, and advised Her Majesty that the appeal should be allowed.

On the UKHRB 

  • Rosalind English interviews South African high court judge Mr Justice Steenkamp on the difficulties surrounding strike action in a country with a booming population, struggling economy, high unemployment rates, under-resourced police and recurring issues with violence. 
  • Rosalind English provides an update on the latest developments around physician assisted dying, including the Royal College of Physician’s recent decision to drop its long-standing opposition and adopt a ‘neutral’ stance.
  • Samuel March has written an article about R (Medical Justice) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019], in which the High Court granted Medical Justice an interim injunction which will prevent the Home Office from removing or deporting people from the UK without notice. 
  • Rose Slowe has given her view on the prospect of a ‘no-deal Brexit’; namely, that it would violate the supreme law at both the domestic and supranational level. 

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