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Two years after Windrush scandal, many await compensation | United Kingdom News

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Dominic Akers-Paul, 27, is still waiting for the full compensation he believes he is rightfully owed by the United Kingdom government.

He is one of the thousands of Windrush victims whose issues with immigration documentation have cast a troubling shadow over his personal and professional experiences.

His mother was born at sea, as his grandmother travelled between St Kitts and Nevis, the dual-island Caribbean nation and former British colony, and the UK. She was not considered a British citizen as a result.

Throughout most of her life, Dominic’s mother had difficulty proving she was British – a problem that was passed down to her son.

Before he finally received his passport from the British government when he was 18, Akers-Paul was restricted from leaving the country, and was unable to attend his grandmother’s funeral in the Caribbean.

He was also unable to work.

After completing secondary school at age 16, Akers-Paul sought to take on an apprenticeship. But he was forced to abandon that plan when the company that wanted to hire him asked for his right to work. At the time, he did not have the right documents.

Dominic Akers-Paul did not receive a British passport until he was 18 [Courtesy: Dominic Akers-Paul]

Many of the Windrush generation – people arriving in the UK from 1948 until 1971 from Caribbean countries – have been found to lack proper immigration documentation as a result of government failures.

The victims, whose immigration status was never formalised, were improperly classified by the government as being illegally resident in the UK.

The scandal also affects the descendants of these victims, like Akers-Paul.

Under the UK’s controversial hostile environment policy – an official strategy first announced in 2012 to make life as challenging as possible for those without a right to remain – access to healthcare, employment, and welfare was denied for the Windrush generation and other Commonwealth citizens.

In April 2019, a year after the Windrush scandal broke, the UK Home Office launched a compensation scheme to repair the damage.

But claimants and campaigners decried the offer as inadequate after taking into account the lengthy ordeal many had been put through.

The scheme was overhauled in December 2020 after a considerable outcry.

The Home Office increased the minimum “Tier 1” payment – a guaranteed base level for everyone whom the Home Office accepts is a victim of the Windrush scandal – from 250 pounds to 10,000 pounds ($350 to $14,100).

Since May last year, Akers-Paul has been in a battle with the Home Office for his payment.

He was initially offered a Tier 1 payment of just 3,000 pounds ($4,300), an amount that was later increased to 40,000 pounds ($56,400).

Believing that his case merited further consideration, Akers-Paul made a Tier 2 application.

This category acknowledges that the victim has suffered significant hardship as a result of the scandal.

The Home Office has requested extensive proof of suffering – including evidence Akers-Paul was rejected from the job years ago because he did not have a passport.

Campaigners say this kind of evidence is impossible to provide because it was not processed electronically or simply does not exist any longer.

“[The caseworker] said that there was no loss of earnings because I didn’t keep any of the letters detailing that they couldn’t hire me because I didn’t have a passport. Because I can’t prove that, they can’t offer any award,” Akers-Paul said.

“The evidence they want you to provide, they know you’re not going to have, and then when you can’t provide it, they say they can’t award you for something you can’t prove … So it’s sort of like it’s all set up for you to fail.”

Further, despite his lack of documentation rendering him unable to work or leave the country for 18 years, “[the Home Office] said that was only a couple of months of harm”, he said.

Akers-Paul pictured with his mother on graduation day [Courtesy: Dominic Akers-Paul]

Akers-Paul is appealing the Home Office’s rejection of his Tier 2 application, helped by lawyers working with Windrush Lives, a campaign group assisting victims of the scandal.

Windrush Lives told Al Jazeera: “The evidentiary burdens placed on claimants to the Windrush Compensation Scheme are extremely high and, in many cases, impossible to meet.

“This is a perverse inversion of responsibility for the Windrush Scandal, whereby claimants are yet again asked to provide evidence that they simply do not have, precisely because of the injustices of hostile environment policies that are supposedly being righted through the Scheme.”

Last month, a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation showed that 633 people out of an initial government estimate of 15,000 eligible claimants have received payments.

In a written statement to Parliament on April 29, Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that, of the 1,417 cases currently being considered by the Home Office, more than 500 cases have been in consideration for more than a year.

The Home Office recently revealed that 21 people have died waiting for compensation claims to be paid.

Campaigner Patrick Vernon launched a petition for the Windrush claims scheme to be managed independently by a non-government agency in order to “provide trust, respect, empathy and confidence to the victims and the families”.

That petition has gained nearly 60,000 signatures.

He told Al Jazeera that the NAO report underscores the need for the compensation scheme to be taken out of the hands of the Home Office.

“The scheme was not designed in the spirit and essence of restorative justice of righting the wrongs,” Vernon told Al Jazeera. “The bureaucracy and constant delays further reinforce the anxiety and trauma on the victims and families.”

He said the scheme “was not co-designed with the victims, but based on current processes which are part of the nature of structural racism in the Home Office and the ongoing implementation of the hostile environment policy”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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In COVID hit Asia, mixed messages on refugee vaccinations | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Medan, Indonesia – Earlier this month, dozens of Rohingya refugees landed on a deserted island off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

The refugees had been at sea for more than 100 days, having left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in a rickety wooden fishing boat, and were spotted huddling on uninhabited Idaman Island by local fishermen who used the island as a rest stop between fishing trips.

By June 5, just a day after their arrival, all 81 refugees, including children, had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The refugees were vaccinated in conjunction with the local government,” Nasruddin, the humanitarian coordinator of Geutanyoe Foundation, an NGO which provides education and psychosocial support to refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, told Al Jazeera.

“When we found them, they were in a crisis situation on the island with no food, water or electricity, so local residents brought them food and we also brought them 50 tanks of water,” he added. “The feeling on the ground was that we needed to share our vaccines with the refugees in order to protect them as well. No one complained that the vaccines were being given to refugees.”

Aceh Province has been widely praised by humanitarian groups, NGOs and the general public for vaccinating Rohingya refugees, but elsewhere in Southeast Asia, asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers have not been so lucky.

Hard line

When Nasruddin assessed the 81 refugees on Idaman Island, they told him that they had wanted to go to Malaysia. Some had family members who were already living there, while others were under the impression that the country had a more liberal policy towards refugees than its neighbours.

Some of the Rohingya refugees who arrived in Aceh earlier this month. They told NGOs that they had wanted to go to Malaysia because they had family there or thought it would be more welcoming to refugees than other countries in Southeast Asia [Cek Mad/AFP]

But like most countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention and while the government has said it will vaccinate everyone living in the country, it has also taken a hard line on undocumented migrants and refugees, including Rohingya.

“In February, the cabinet decided that in the interest of pandemic recovery all foreigners would receive vaccination free of charge, including refugees and undocumented migrants,” Lilianne Fan, the co-founder and international director of Geutanyoe Foundation who is based in Kuala Lumpur, told Al Jazeera.

“The COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force and Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as coordinator of the vaccination programme, have been vocal advocates of this approach.

“However, the recent statement of the minister of home affairs that those without valid documents should not be vaccinated, combined with renewed crackdown on undocumented migrants, contradicts the government’s earlier position and will simply drive more people into hiding and slow down Malaysia’s pandemic recovery.”

Malaysia went into its second strict lockdown at the beginning of June after cases of coronavirus surged – stretching hospitals and intensive care units to the limit. The health ministry announced 6,440 new cases on Friday.

The government has indicated that it will ease the lockdown as more people are vaccinated, and Khairy has consistently stressed that the programme will include everyone living in the country.

But as it did during last year’s first lockdown, Malaysia has once again stepped up operations against undocumented migrants.

Malaysia’s Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has declared that PATI – the acronym for undocumented people in the Malay language – will be detained and sent to immigration detention centres.

This month, he stressed that undocumented migrants had to “surrender” before they would be vaccinated.

In early June, a video from state news agency Bernama showed 156 undocumented migrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar being sprayed with disinfectant in Cyberjaya, near Malaysia’s international airport, after they had been detained.

Last week the immigration department shared a post on its Facebook page – styled like a poster for an action movie – with the headline “Ethnic Rohingya migrants are not welcome”. After an outcry, but not before it had been widely shared among refugee communities, it was deleted.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia on Monday expressed concern at “recent statements portraying migrants, undocumented or irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as a threat to the safety and security of the country and a risk to the health of Malaysians” and urged the government to rethink its approach.

“Instilling fear through threats of arrests and detention of undocumented foreigners is counterproductive in light of ongoing efforts to overcome the pandemic and achieve herd immunity,” it said, stressing the clear differences in the situations of migrant workers, and refugees and asylum seekers.

Malaysia closed its borders during the first strict lockdown last year when immigration officers carried out a number of raids on areas under ‘enhanced’ lockdown. Rights groups fear more raids will deter people from coming forward for the vaccine that is crucial to Malaysia ending the COVID pandemic [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Rohingya made up about 57 percent of the 179,570 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia at the end of May.

Unofficial estimates suggest the country may have as many as three million undocumented migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Widespread problem

The mixed messaging on vaccinations for refugees is not exclusive to Malaysia.

In a statement released in early June, the UN refugee agency warned that a shortage of vaccines in the Asia Pacific region was putting the lives of refugees and asylum seekers at risk.

“Refugees remain especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Overcrowded settings, coupled with limited water and sanitation facilities, can contribute to increased infection rates and an exponential spread of the virus,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said in the statement.

There are almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, making it the single largest and most densely populated cluster of refugee camps in the world. According to Mahecic, the number of COVID-19 cases in the camps has increased dramatically in the last two months.

As of 31 May, there had been more than 1,188 confirmed cases among the refugee population, with more than half of these cases recorded in May alone.

None of the refugees in Cox’s Bazar has yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Mahecic added that, in many countries in the Asia Pacific region, there were not enough vaccines to go around, leading to groups such as migrant workers and asylum seekers being sidelined.

The UNHCR had observed a “worrying increase” in the number of coronavirus cases among refugees and asylum seekers in countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Indonesia, at least, appears to be starting to do more to address the problem.

The UNHCR says COVID-19 has begun to accelerate in the crowded refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, but no Rohingya living there have been vaccinated [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Other parts of the country have started to follow Aceh’s lead, according to the IOM, which vaccinated more than 900 refugees in the Indonesian city of Pekanbaru in Riau Province in early June in collaboration with the local government.

“IOM applauds the response of the City Government of Pekanbaru for making vaccines available to the refugee community in the city,” Ariani Hasanah Soejoeti, the national media and communications officer of IOM Indonesia told Al Jazeera, adding that all refugees in the city over the age of 18 have now received vaccines.

“Vaccines are one of our most critical and cost-effective tools to prevent outbreaks and keep individuals and therefore entire communities safe and healthy,” she said.

“The virus knows no borders or nationality; and neither should our solidarity.”





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Why Ethiopia’s 'alphabet generation' feel betrayed by Abiy

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PM Abiy Ahmed swept to power after mass protests, but his Oromo community still feel like outsiders.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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US pulls antimissile batteries from Middle East: Report | Joe Biden News

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As tensions ease with Iran, Biden administration moves to put US forces on more normal footing, Wall Street Journal reports.

The Biden administration is withdrawing Patriot antimissile batteries from four Middle East countries as the US reduces its military footprint in the region amid a reduction in tensions with Iran, a US news outlet reported on Friday.

The Pentagon is pulling about eight Patriot antimissile batteries from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system from Saudi Arabia that had been deployed by the previous Trump administration, the Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed US officials.

The redeployment includes hundreds of US troops who operate the systems and began earlier this month following a June 2 phone call in which US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the shift, according to the Journal.

The withdrawal of anti-missile batteries marks a return to a more normal level of defence in the region where the US continues to maintain tens of thousands of troops even as it has reduced forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Journal reported.

“We still have our bases in the countries of our Gulf partners, they aren’t shutting down, there is still substantial presence, substantial posture in the region,” a senior defence official told the Journal.

The US deployed Patriot antimissile batteries and troops to Saudi Arabia after Iranian drone attacks hit Saudi oil facilities and to Iraq in 2020 after a spate of missile and rocket attacks on US forces by Iran and Iranian-backed militias.

The US military acknowledged that more than 109 US troops had suffered concussions and other brain injuries in an Iranian ballistic missile attack on the Ain al-Assad military base in Iraq following the US air strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

President Joe Biden, who took over from former President Donald Trump in January, has sought to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East and US diplomats have been engaged in indirect talks with Iran on reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

US and Iranian diplomats engaged in a sixth round of talks in Vienna earlier this month as Iran considers rejoining the 2015 agreement prohibiting it from obtaining nuclear weapons in exchange for relief from punishing US economic sanctions.

Trump had unilaterally withdrawn from the Iran nuclear agreement and instituted a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran that Biden officials have said failed to achieve goals and had the effect of accelerating Iran’s nuclear development.

Iranians were voting on Friday for a new president to replace outgoing President Hassan Rouhani who had championed the nuclear agreement with the US in 2015.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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