Experts have raised concern over the growing number of cases of a new Covid-19 variant that first emerged in India.Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been found in England, as well as four cases in Scotland.The figure of 77 cases comes from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7Officials have currently designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Brazilian Manaus or South African variants.Meanwhile, 600 people in the UK have now contracted the South African coronavirus variant, with an extra 56 cases being reported this week.PHE has not disclosed whether the figure includes cases detected as a result of surge testing. In London, extra testing facilities were launched this week to help limit the spread of the variant following a cluster of cases being discovered.Of the coronavirus variant first discovered in India, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College, said it was likely to be escalated to a VOC.Officials said there is currently no evidence to suggest that disease from the newly identified variant is more serious than previous ones, nor is there current evidence to suggest vaccines are less likely to work against it.It is understood that the cases detected in England are dispersed across different parts of the country and many are linked to international travel, but investigations are under way.According to PHE, the variant “includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R”.PHE said that mutations of the 484 spike protein have been associated with the Manaus and South African variants.The E484K mutation is reported to result in weaker neutralisation by antibodies in lab experiments, but the E484Q mutation is different and still subject to investigation.Viruses by their nature mutate often, with more than 18,000 mutations discovered over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the overwhelming majority of which have no effect on the behaviour of the virus.PHE’s latest findings mean there are now seven VUIs and four VOCs being tracked by scientists in the UK.Professor Altmann told BBC Radio 4’s PM: “I think we should be terribly concerned about it.“It is similar to the ones we know about – it mixes and matches some of the features we’ve seen before with this E484 change that we’ve seen before in a similar but different version in South Africa and Brazil, and then the infectivity change that we saw in the Californian variant.“As we keep saying, it is the infectivity change plus the new evasion.“This isn’t a ‘variant of concern’ yet but I suspect it will be.“I look at all of them and they are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry.”In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths.The country is not currently on the government’s “red list” for travel, which sees people who have been in those countries in the previous 10 days refused entry to the UK.British or Irish nationals, or people with UK residency rights, are able to return from red list countries but must isolate in a quarantine hotel for 10 days.Professor Altmann said he thought India “ought” to be placed on the red list of countries from which travellers are required to embark on a hotel quarantine upon arrival in England.The Imperial College expert said: “I find this a bit mystifying.“Obviously policy is not my area of expertise, but as a scientist I find it slightly confounding.“I know their variant hasn’t been proved to be responsible for their 200,000 cases per day but it is implicated in quite a high proportion of the genetic sequencing.“So it looks to me like it probably ought to be a red-listed country, as far as I can see.”Boris Johnson’s visit to India will still go ahead despite the soaring coronavirus cases in the country.The prime minister had already scaled down his at the end of April due to the country’s worsening coronavirus situation, but Downing Street has insisted it will still go ahead.A No 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The prime minister’s visit is still happening later this month.“We have said that the programme will be slightly shorter than it will have been, and you can expect the main body of his programme to take place on Monday April 26.“As you would expect, safety is obviously important and is a priority for us on this trip, which is why we will make sure that all elements of the visit are Covid-secure.”Johnson was due to spend four days in the south Asian country at the end of the month but, following talks with Narendra Modi’s administration, the “bulk” of the meetings could be fitted into one day.Asked why India has not been put on the red list despite the soaring number of cases, Downing Street said the situation is “under constant review”.A No 10 spokesman told reporters: “We add and remove countries based on the latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts.“We keep it under constant review and we won’t hesitate to introduce tougher restrictions and add countries if we think it is necessary.”But Labour said the blame for the Indian mutation making its way into Britain “rests squarely with the UK government”.Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Ministers have been warned time and again that failing to introduce a comprehensive hotel quarantine policy would leave us exposed to variants of Covid.”Related...Why We Can't Tell You How Many New South Africa Variant Cases There AreBoris Johnson Will Go To India Despite Soaring Covid Cases And New Variant Fears
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People take Covid-19 tests at a mobile coronavirus surge testing centre in south London." src="https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/6075eb452600006000b407cd.jpeg?ops=scalefit_630_noupscale" />Long queues have been formed after extra coronavirus testing facilities were set up in two south London boroughs as dozens of new cases of the South African variant were detected.Some 44 confirmed cases of the variant have been found predominantly in Lambeth and neighbouring Wandsworth, with a further 30 probable cases identified, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.People aged 11 and over who live, work or travel through those areas are being urged to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, on top of using twice-weekly rapid testing.Lambeth Council said eight additional testing sites have opened across the borough from Monday and facilities are also available in Wandsworth. absolute scenes at the lambeth town hall testing center queue looped around like 3 buildings— ezz (@uberfeets) April 13, 2021Ministers are under pressure to tighten quarantine laws after the cluster of cases emerged.Downing Street insisted the outbreak was being taken “very seriously” and “strong measures” had been put in place to prevent the spread of the variant.But Labour said the development was “deeply concerning” because of concerns that vaccines could be less effective against variants.Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to Priti Patel to call for a “comprehensive” hotel quarantine system.People stand socially distanced as they queue to enter a mobile coronavirus surge testing centre in Brockwell Park in south London." src="https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/6075eb281e0000d7150ff1ae.jpeg?cache=Ok6fR5SA9d&ops=scalefit_630_noupscale" />The BBC reported that the outbreak appears to have been triggered by an individual who travelled from Africa in February.According to documents seen by the broadcaster, the country involved was not on the red list for mandatory hotel quarantine at that time, but is now.In his letter to the home secretary, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “Labour has consistently called for a comprehensive hotel quarantine system, to do everything possible to stop variants reaching the UK.“However, the UK government has refused to act on these warnings and the prospects of further outbreaks remain incredibly concerning.“Sadly the outbreak in south London is an example of what can occur when action is not taken.”The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “I think this is something that we are taking very seriously and the effective surge testing processes that we have in place have been working well here.“We know that variants do pose a risk, it’s one of our four tests for the progression of the road map. But… we have strong measures in place to find and isolate any new cases.”Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he could not “see any reason” to deviate from the road map, which would see further lockdown restrictions lifted on May 17 in England.For people who test positive, a “comprehensive” self-isolation support service is available which includes payments of up to £500 for residents on low incomes.The DHSC said the operation is the “largest surge testing operation to date”, aimed at suppressing any possible new cases of the variant, with positive results from PCR testing to be sent for genomic sequencing at specialist labs.It said all those who have tested positive for the variant, with the first case in the area being found in early March, are isolating or have completed their isolation, and their contacts have been traced and asked to isolate.Director of public health for Lambeth, Ruth Hutt, said: “It is vital that all Lambeth residents take an asymptomatic PCR test so that we can identify all cases in order to stop the spread of this variant of concern.“Alongside taking a PCR test, we are asking everyone who lives and works in the borough to continue following the guidance in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.“That includes limiting your contacts with other people, washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, keeping your distance and covering your face.“If you test positive for Covid-19 via a PCR test or rapid lateral flow test it is crucial that you self-isolate so you don’t pass on the virus, and support is available to help you do that.”Related...Starmer Blasts Shadow Cabinet 'Cowards' Who Briefed Against His StaffOpinion: Rushed Vaccine Passports Would Do More Harm Than GoodModerna Vaccine Rolled Out In England As Next Phase Begins
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Keir Starmer has angrily rounded on “cowards” who brief against his staff and warned shadow ministers that they should quit if they’re unhappy with his leadership team.The Labour leader told the weekly meeting of Labour’s shadow cabinet that he was appalled by recent criticism of his aides, saying those responsible should “either stop now or have the guts to get out” of his frontbench team.In a rare flash of anger, Starmer said that if anyone wanted to criticise his leadership they should direct that at him rather than act like “cowards who attack my staff”.Most of his shadow ministers strongly welcomed Starmer’s words, although one insider said that there was “stony silence” from some on the Zoom call meeting.Among those who then spoke up to strongly support his approach were shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds.Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed and shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire stressed just how damaging such briefing was to the party particularly in an election period.Unnamed shadow ministers have in recent weeks criticised Starmer’s aides, including his chief of staff Morgan McSweeney, policy chief Claire Ainsley and political director Jenny Chapman, blaming them for Labour’s caution or its reliance on focus groups of former “Red Wall” voters.Starmer is also understood to be furious at recent briefings against frontbenchers Anneliese Dodds and Rachel Reeves.“We’ve got a vital set of elections next month and this stuff just shouldn’t be happening. It’s deeply disloyal,” one of those on the call told HuffPost UK.The May elections are Starmer’s first electoral test since he became leader a year ago, and he faces the added challenge of Labour defending its once safe seat of Hartlepool in a by-election.The Labour leader has campaigned on crime and policing, council tax hikes and the planned 1% nurses pay rise in the run-up to the May 6 polling day.Covid restrictions and the week-long pause to mark the passing of Prince Philip have derailed the party’s hopes to get reaching more voters directly.While Starmer has pointed out the party’s poll ratings have suffered from a “vaccine bounce” for Boris Johnson and the Tories, some MPs believe he needs to do more to set out his plans for a future Labour government.Related...Opinion: To Win Hartlepool Labour Must Focus On The Future, Not The PastA Year Of Keir: Will Starmer Pass The May Elections Test?A Year Of Keir: Can Starmer Inject More Passionate Politics Into His Leadership?
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Genuine refugees will face the ongoing threat of deportation as part of a government crackdown on asylum seekers.Priti Patel will on Wednesday announce that for the first time ever, asylum seekers who enter the UK through irregular means, such as crossing the Channel on a boat, will have fewer rights than those who arrive through safe and legal routes.The home secretary’s proposals to create a “two-tier” system were described by the Refugee Council as “wholly unjust” and “a stain on ‘global Britain’” because ordinary people fleeing war or persecution “do not have a choice about how they seek safety”.But Patel said the crackdown would “save lives and target people smugglers” by discouraging illegal entry to the UK.The proposals will mean that those who arrive in the UK illegally will first face deportation to any “safe country” they have travelled through, for example France.If this is not possible, but their asylum claim is successful and they are recognised as refugees genuinely fleeing war or persecution by the UK authorities, they will have fewer rights than previously.These refugees who have arrived through irregular routes will only be given “temporary protection status”, with regular reassessment for removal from the UK, limited family reunion rights and limited access to benefits.Those who have their asylum claims refused will face “rapid” deportation from the UK, with the appeals and judicial process reformed to speed up the removal process.Patel is reportedly also considering shipping asylum seekers to offshore reception centres while their claim is heard. The government is effectively creating a two tier system where some refugees are unfairly punished for the way they are able to get to the UK She will announce a raft of other measures, which Home Office sources said were permissible within the 1951 Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights, including: Redefining what qualifies as a “well-founded fear of persecution” to make it “much harder” for people to be “granted refugee status based on unsubstantiated claims”“Rigorous” age assessment with a national age assessment board “to stop adult migrants pretending to be children”Ensuring asylum, human rights and any other protection matters or claims are dealt with together ahead of any appeals processLife sentences for people smugglersChanging the law to make it easier to deport “dangerous criminals”, even “when they improperly claim to be victims of modern slavery”Allowing the winning party in asylum and immigration judicial reviews to claim costs from the losing sideImproved support for refugees to “help them build their life in the UK, integrate into our communities and become self-sufficient members of our society”HuffPost UK understands that the government also plans to expand safe asylum routes to the UK, but will not announce how many extra refugee places will be made available.According to the UNHCR, there were 31,752 asylum applications in the UK in the year ending September 2020.By comparison, just 3,560 people were given refugee status in Britain through safe and legal resettlement routes set up by the government in the year ending June 2020Last year, 8,500 people arrived into the UK by crossing the Channel in a small boat, and the majority of these claimed asylum, according to the Home Office.Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Patel said: “Under our new plan for immigration, if people arrive illegally, they will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay.“If, like over 60% of illegal arrivals, they have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not have immediate entry into the asylum system - which is what happens today.“And we will stop the most unscrupulous abusing the system by posing as children, by introducing tougher, more accurate age assessments.“Profiteering from illegal migration to Britain will no longer be worth the risk, with new maximum life sentences for people smugglers.“I make no apology for these actions being firm, but as they will also save lives and target people smugglers, they are also undeniably fair.”Responding to the plan, Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “The government is seeking to unjustly differentiate between the deserving and undeserving refugee by choosing to provide protection for those fleeing war and terror based on how they travel to the UK. “The reality is that, when faced with upheaval, ordinary people are forced to take extraordinary measures and do not have a choice about how they seek safety.“The government is effectively creating a two tier system where some refugees are unfairly punished for the way they are able to get to the UK. “This is wholly unjust and undermines the UK’s long tradition of providing protection for people, regardless of how they have managed to find their way to our shores, who have gone on to become proud British citizens contributing as doctors, nurses and entrepreneurs to our communities. “All refugees deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity, and it’s a stain on ‘global Britain’ to subject some refugees to differential treatment.”Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, meanwhile, said: “Measures are clearly needed to speed up processes and stop criminal gangs profiting from dangerous crossings. “However, we fear these plans will do next to nothing to stop people making dangerous crossings, and risk withdrawing support from desperate people, such as victims of human trafficking. Some of the ideas briefed from the Government have been downright ridiculous - like wave machines in the English Channel and processing people in the Ascension Islands, over 4000 miles away.“These plans also have nothing to say about protecting our borders from dangerous Covid variants or ensuring our NHS has the staff it needs as it recovers.”Related...Revealed: Unheard Stories Of Asylum Seekers Stuck In Limbo Because Of CovidI Came Here As A Child Refugee. Now Britain Has Abandoned Others Like MeHow The UK’s Broken Asylum System Fails Channel Migrants And Creates Public Backlash
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A hunt is under way to locate one of the first people in the UK believed to have contracted a “deeply concerning” coronavirus variant that originated in Brazil.Six cases of the P.1 strain have been confirmed in the UK, three in England and three in Scotland.Two were confirmed in South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation, with Public Health England (PHE) saying the person did not complete their test registration card so their contact details are absent.The strain, dubbed the Manaus variant after the Brazilian city in which it was first detected, may spread more rapidly and respond less well to existing vaccines.Anyone who took a test on February 12 or 13 and has not received a result, or has an uncompleted test registration card, is being asked to come forward immediately, as health officials scramble to track down the individual.Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said authorities were working with the postal service to locate the person.Asked if it is known if the person had travelled to the UK or contracted the virus here, he told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t. Part of the reason why we want to locate them quickly is to understand more about them and their movements.“They could have had a home test kit or a test kit provided to them by their local authority. But they didn’t fill in the contact details.“We are working with the postal service to try and get other data to try and locate them, and this appeal is a belt and braces to try and make sure we locate them as quickly as possible.”Critics said the development exposed the “weaknesses” in the border protections against new strains and condemned the government for delaying toughening restrictions.The Gloucestershire cluster was said to originate from one individual who travelled back from Brazil and arrived in London on February 10 – five days before the government’s quarantine hotel policy came into force.The traveller isolated at home with the rest of their household under the rules in place at the time. One member exhibited Covid symptoms before getting a test.It is understood there were four positive tests in total in that household, two of which were confirmed with genetic sequencing to be the P.1 variant, PA Media reports.But officials are awaiting the results of sequencing on the outstanding two tests to see if they were infected by the Manaus strain.PHE and NHS Test and Trace are contacting the passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Sao Paulo, through Zurich, and landing in London Heathrow on February 10.Surge testing will be carried out in the Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke areas of South Gloucestershire.The remaining unlocated case is not believed to be linked to the others because the virus was found to have slight genetic differences.Officials said the individual’s test was processed on February 14, so believe it is likely they took it a day or two earlier.They believe that person is unlikely to have taken their test at one of the regional test sites, where staff can check if contact details have been provided, but it could have been a home test or from local surge testing.The Scottish government said three residents who returned to north-east Scotland from Brazil, via Paris and London, subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.The tests, completed in early February, were passed to the UK’s sequencing programme and were identified as being the Manaus variant.Officials are contacting the other passengers on their flight from London to Aberdeen.The cases are not thought to be connected to the three confirmed cases in England.The World Health Organisation has been informed of the cases, which have been designated “of concern” as the strain shares key mutations with the variant detected in South Africa.More work is needed but there are concerns that the existing vaccines may be less effective against the Manaus strain.NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis sought to allay concerns by saying vaccines can be quickly altered to tackle new strains.“The new vaccines which are being used for Covid can be adapted very rapidly so it’s likely that if we do need to change the vaccine that can be done in months, rather than years, which was the case with the more traditional vaccines,” he told BBC News.It is understood that officials became aware of the English cases on Friday and the Scottish ones on Saturday.The chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper, said: “This troubling development shows the weaknesses in the government’s Covid border measures.“The Brazil variant was first identified a month before one of these cases was brought in on February 10 and many weeks after the prime minister was warned that indirect flights were a problem, yet the Government delayed putting stronger measures in place.“We need to know urgently how all these cases have arrived in the country and why they weren’t prevented or picked up on arrival so that lessons can be quickly learnt and policies changed to protect the vaccine programme from further cases arriving.”Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the detection of the variant in the UK was “deeply concerning”.“It is now vital that we do everything we can to contain it. But this is further proof that the delay in introducing a hotel quarantine was reckless and the continuing refusal to put in place a comprehensive system leaves us exposed to mutations coming from overseas,” the Labour MP said.The quarantine hotel policy to protect the UK against new variants came into force on February 15 after much delay.It means those returning from “red list” countries, including Brazil, must quarantine in Government-designated hotels for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 for a single adult.Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution.“This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus.”Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour health secretary Matt Hancock would be holding a cross-party briefing on Monday morning to discuss the Brazilian variant cases.The disclosure of the variant’s presence came shortly after the Government said that 20 million people in the UK have now been given their first dose of a vaccine.Boris Johnson said it was a “huge national achievement”, after a rise of 407,503 first jabs in a day.Meanwhile, a further 144 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the official UK death toll to 122,849.And NHS leaders said nine out of 10 people aged 65 and over in England have had their first Covid vaccine.Related...First Cases Of Manaus Coronavirus Variant Found In UKMore Than 20m Brits Have Now Had Their First Dose Of Covid Vaccine
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The family who drowned after the sinking of a refugee boat in the English Channel have been pictured – as a search for their missing 15-month-old baby continues.The bodies of Kurdish-Iranian Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six, have been found and identified, the BBC reports.Their 15-month-old son, Artin, is believed to be still missing. The family is believed to be from the city of Sardasht in western Iran, close to the border with Iraq.Rasoul’s brother told the channel he had sold all of his belongings and paid more than £20,000 to smugglers in a bid to secure a better future for his family.Pictures of the family have been shared publicly by a human rights organisation. تصاویری از اعضای خانوادە سردشتی کە در آبهای فرانسە غرق شدەاند https://t.co/KrHDJrFBLOpic.twitter.com/d4VN376ejb— Hengaw Human Rights Organization (@HengawO) October 28, 2020The tragedy is believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current migrant crisis.More than a dozen people from the boat have been taken to hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk, according to the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea.Charities say there is “no excuse for failing to act now” and called on the UK Government to create a legal route for refugees. Refugees charity Care4Calais said it was “utterly devastated”.Bertrand Ringot, the mayor of Gravelines, south-west of Dunkirk, described the deaths as “tragic”.He added that as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches, he will call for more security resources in the area around the port.Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “News that a child has died at sea while trying to reach safety in the UK is the horror that we dreaded would come.“Where is the decency and common humanity of the UK government?“How can they allow our children to perish in this way? It would be easy to create a legal route for refugees who reach northern France to seek asylum in the UK; there is no excuse for failing to act now.”Home secretary Priti Patel was strongly criticised earlier this year for suggesting sending in the Navy to stop refugees crossing the Channel, despite the fact the UK’s resettlement scheme has been closed since March – meaning there is no safe, legal route for refugees to reach the UK by other means.Mariam Kemple Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said the incident was “absolutely heartbreaking”.She added: “Our thoughts are with the people caught up in this horrible tragedy, their families, and the rescuers.“No one wants to see people make dangerous crossings but the government’s hostile rhetoric does nothing to help.“It must stop trying to look tough and urgently create more safe and legal routes for people to seek sanctuary in the UK.”Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds tweeted: “This is an absolute tragedy. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and people who have been injured.“It is a heartbreaking reminder of the human cost of this crisis.”Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This is truly awful news – and it is even more distressing that children should be involved in this tragedy.“The thought of children ending up in the cold waves is terrible.“These boats are incredibly dangerous. The criminal gangs who organise journeys in these precarious dinghies are profiting from putting lives at risk and from other people’s desperation.“The Home Affairs Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Channel crossings and into the work that is urgently needed to prevent more lives being lost.”Related... Two Young Children And Two Adults Die After Refugee Boat Sinks Off French Coast Opinion: Priti Patel Has Blood On Her Hands. Her Condolences Mean Nothing Exclusive: Child Refugee Resettlement Plummeted After Boris Johnson Became PM
Home secretary Priti Patel reportedly ordered officials to explore plans for building an asylum processing centre on a remote volcanic island in the south Atlantic – more than 4,000 miles from the UK.Home Office officials were instructed to look into the feasibility of transferring asylum seekers arriving in the UK to a centre on Ascension Island, a British overseas territory, according to the Financial Times.Another option said to have been considered was to construct an asylum centre on St Helena, another island in the group where Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.The Foreign Office was consulted on the proposals, according to the paper, and provided an assessment on the practicalities of shipping migrants to such remote locations.In the end, it appears that Patel decided not to go ahead with the scheme, however the Home Office made no attempt to deny that the idea had been considered.Labour condemned the scheme as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive”.A Home Office official said: “The UK has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection. Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future.“As ministers have said we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”Ascension Island, which is used as a staging post to supply and defend the Falkland Islands, has an RAF base and population of fewer than 1,000.Moving asylum seekers there and keeping them supplied was said to represent a considerable logistical challenge.Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “This ludicrous idea is inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive. So it seems entirely plausible this Tory Government came up with it.”The proposal appears to further reflect the influence of Australia – which has used offshore processing and detention centres for asylum seekers since the 1980s – on the UK’s immigration and asylum policy.The government has based its post-Brexit points-based immigration system on that developed in Australia.Patel recently met with former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, known for his tough stance on immigration, who was appointed by Boris Johnson as a trade adviser to the UK.Related... Spitting Image Creator Insists Show Won't Just Be Lampooning Right-Wing Political Figures Judge Grounds Charter Flight Due To Take Asylum Seekers To Madrid Priti Patel Has An Absolute Nightmare Trying To Defend 'Rule Of Six' Laws And Covid Testing
A 16-year-old Sudanese boy has drowned in the English Channel while trying to reach the UK.Marlène Schiappa, France’s citizenship minister, tweeted that she felt “immense sadness” after the teenager’s body was found washed up on a French beach on Wednesday morning. “A 16-year-old Sudanese migrant who disappeared at sea last night has been found dead on Sangatte beach this morning,” she said.“This unbearable tragedy moves us even more with [French interior minister] Gérald Darmanin against smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings.”Migrants making the perilous crossing of the English Channel have been a focus of the UK government amid a record number of journeys.The official resettlement scheme has been closed since March 30, giving refugees no safe or legal route into the UK. The programme was announced in September 2015 by prime minister David Cameron, in response to a national and international outcry over the global refugee crisis.Home secretary Priti Patel spoke of an “upsetting and tragic loss of a young life”.This is an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life.This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people. Working together we are determined to stop them. https://t.co/ARZovx8RUf— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) August 19, 2020Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said on Twitter of the 16-year-old’s death: “Utterly heartbreaking. By closing safe routes to seek asylum we are pushing desperate people into dangerous situations with devastating consequences.“Our govt must make protecting and saving lives a priority in their approach to English Channel crossings.”Utterly heartbreaking. By closing safe routes to seek asylum we are pushing desperate people into dangerous situations with devastating consequences.Our Govt must make protecting and saving lives a priority in their approach to English Channel crossings. https://t.co/cnzuxAzcAu— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) August 19, 2020Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said it was “devastating” to learn of the death, and called it “horrifying but wholly expected”.  She added: “We have repeatedly warned Priti Patel it was only a matter of time before her toxic policy to deny safe and legal routes to the UK would cost lives.“This death lies firmly at her door. She should consider her position.”We knew this would happen, and now it has.Things need to change. We need a way for people's asylum claims to be fairly heard without them having to risk their lives. We need this before someone else dies.— Care4Calais (@Care4Calais) August 19, 2020It was revealed this week that vulnerable asylum-seeking children arriving by sea are being held in a Border Force processing centre after Kent’s council reached capacity.Large numbers of children reaching the UK have led to an “unthinkable” situation where Kent County Council says it “cannot safely accommodate any more new arrivals”.Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, said: “We can only imagine the fear he felt and our hearts go out to his family.“These young boys in Calais are our friends. They are fun to be with despite the horrors they have been through. Some are cheeky, some are smart, some like football, some like books. None deserve to be here [in a cand none deserve to die alone in the sea.“This young boy’s death starkly demonstrates the total failure of our government to do anything to help these children who are in such desperate straits. Their failure to implement the Dubs amendment; their failure to negotiate for family reunion; their failure to do anything for the people here who are simply asking for our help.“Things need to change. We need a way for people’s asylum claims to be fairly heard without them having to risk their lives. We need this before someone else dies.”Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the government’s response to the situation in the Channel has been “lacking in compassion and competence”.“Ministers urgently need to step up work with international partners to find a humanitarian solution to this crisis, which is costing lives,” he added.Charity worker Bridget Chapman, of the Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “This death was completely avoidable. Along with many other migrant and refugee organisations we have been calling for safe passage for some time now.“Meanwhile the government’s response has been both chaotic and callous, and utterly against the proud British tradition of offering refuge to those in need.“The government needs to step up to its humanitarian responsibility immediately and ensure safe and legal passage so that we avoid any more unnecessary deaths.”Related... Refugee Resettlement Scheme Still Closed Despite Record Channel Crossings Lone Children Who Cross The Channel Are Being Held In A Border Force Processing Centre Priti Patel Says Migrants Crossing The Channel Fear They Will Be 'Tortured' In France
Home Office staff are to be given training so that they “understand and appreciate the history of migration and race” in the UK in response to the Windrush scandal, Priti Patel has announced.Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the home secretary assured MPs that lessons had been learned from the disaster, during which people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.Patel said her response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review has been “swift, strong and uncompromising” and announced a number of changes in the way Home Office staff would be hired and trained.She said: “Mandatory training is being introduced for new and existing members of the Home Office staff to ensure everyone working across the department understands and appreciates the history of migration and race across the country.“There are simply not enough individuals from Black, Asian or minority ethnic staff working at the top in senior roles and there are far too many times where I am the only non-white face in the room.“Action must happen now. So right now, I am introducing more diverse shortlists for senior jobs, specialist mentoring and sponsorship programmes to help develop a wider pool of talent and drive cultural change.”Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Windrush scandal “must lead to real and lasting change”.He said: “All the more shocking that 60 people received compensation from the Windrush compensation scheme in its first year of operation. Ministers must get a grip of this scheme.”Related... Who Is Tony Sewell, The Head of The Government's New Racial Disparity Commission? Windrush Victims Told To Prove Cases 'Beyond Reasonable Doubt' Windrush Review Recommendations Accepted By Government In Full Windrush Compensation Scheme Is Traumatising Victims All Over Again
It found that 81 percent of ‘suspects’ flagged by Met’s police facial recognition technology are innocent, and that the overwhelming majority of people identified are not on police wanted lists.According to Sky News, since that time the Met has has conducted 10 trials at locations including Leicester Square, Westfield Stratford, and Whitehall during the 2017 Remembrance Sunday commemorations.Worryingly, the independent report found that four out of five people identified by the Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition technology as possible suspects, are actually innocent.The academics warned the tech was unlikely to be justifiable under human rights law, and that courts would likely rule that the use of the technology was unlawful.David Davis MP, a former shadow home secretary, was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying that the research by Prof Peter Fussey and Dr Daragh Murray at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre showed the technology “could lead to miscarriages of justice and wrongful arrests” and poses “massive issues for democracy”.“All experiments like this should now be suspended until we have a proper chance to debate this and establish some laws and regulations,” he reportedly said.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said her staff spend a “considerable amount of time” blocking or removing “highly offensive and misogynist” abuse directed at her on Twitter and called on platform bosses to act “a lot quicker” to shut down problem accounts.Abbott said: “I never had this scale of abuse when I first came into politics and racism was an issue then as now, but it’s the anonymity and the ease of Twitter which has put racists into overdrive.”She pointed out that online racism was being reflected in media and politics, “not in the same visceral way, but I think that it finds an echo in mainstream coverage and that’s very troubling”.Former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted her agreement with Abbott on Tuesday, calling on Twitter to step up.Labour MP Luciana Berger this week tweeted screenshots of numerous anti-Semitic messages she had received after voicing her position on a vote of no confidence in PM Theresa May.The report found black women were disproportionately targeted, being 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or “problematic” tweets.
Another night in which the Towns rejected Labour but Corbynistas cling to city results as “evidence” their experiment is working.Up until Thursday I was the Leader of Basildon Council.The Council was hung and the Tories needed four seats to win back overall control.That’s until they started counting the votes.In the 72 hours before polls opened, the Shadow Home Secretary was prominent on TV and radio.It is hard to shake the feeling that Labour could have lost every single seat in every single election that it fought last week and still the Corbyn cult would have said all was fine.
Theresa May is under pressure to explain what she knew about Home Office deportation targets following Amber Rudd’s resignation, as the string of recent cabinet losses was dismissed as “unwanted noise”.Rudd dramatically resigned on Sunday evening and admitted she “inadvertently misled” MPs when she told them targets did not exist.The prime minister is expected to announce Rudd’s replacement as home secretary on Monday.Rudd’s resignation has left May, who served as home secretary between 2010 and 2016, exposed.Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, has demanded May face MPs today.“All roads lead back to Theresa May and her tenure as home secretary,” she told the BBC.
Rudd telephoned the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to tell her of the decision on Sunday, after mounting pressure over her role in Home Office policies that led to some so-called Windrush generation migrants, many of whom have lived in the UK for decades, being threatened with deportation.Rudd first told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that she was unaware of any targets for removing illegal migrants, and later said she had not seen the leaked memo, written by Hugh Ind, the director general of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement agency.However, with mounting evidence emerging detailing the extent of the knowledge within the Home Office about the targets, Rudd decided that she should take responsibility and go.Labour said she was effectively acting as a “human shield” for May, whose policy when she herself was Home Secretary of creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants was blamed for causing the problems they now faced.Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told BBC Radio 4′s Westminster Hour: “I think Amber has done the right thing.“When I called for her resignation last week I reminded her that when Lord Carrington resigned over the Falklands he said it was a matter of honour.
Labour has stepped up the pressure on Amber Rudd to resign amid a dispute over whether she knew the Home Office had targets for the number of people who should be deported.The home secretary has claimed she “wasn’t aware of specific removal targets” set by her department.She also told the Commons Home Affairs Committee last week: “We don’t have targets for removals.”But on Sunday morning, Brandon Lewis, the former immigration minister, admitted he had spoken to Rudd in 2017 about the “overall target” to increase deportations by 10%.Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, also seized on a letter sent by Rudd to Theresa May last year in which she explicitly mentioned her “ambitious, but deliverable” desire to step up deportations.“The Tories’ shameful attempts to cover up their mess must end.
Sadiq Khan has said Amber Rudd must resign, saying it “beggars belief” for her to claim she did not know the Home Office had targets for the number of people to deport amid the Windrush scandal.There was speculation on Friday evening the home secretary could resign after she initially said the Home Office had no such targets, only to say they did but she was not aware of them, only for The Guardian to publish a leaked memo sent to her in 2017 that specifically stated the targets.After several hours of silence, Rudd tweeted she was “sorry” she didn’t know about the targets and would make a statement to parliament on Monday to answer “legitimate questions that have arisen on targets and illegal migration”.Khan has previously held off calling for Rudd to resign, though both Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, did earlier this week.But now Khan writes in Sunday’s Observer: “The latest revelations have exposed Amber Rudd even further as someone who appears completely unaware about what is going on in her own department.Rather than hiding behind process or blaming civil servants yet again, the time has now surely come for the home secretary to resign.”
Data scientists at Evolution AI studied more than 3 million tweets sent to British members of parliament from the beginning of 2017 to March 2018 and flagged tweets containing obscenities, aggression, and rude language.Twitter said it works with the government and political parties to provide support for anyone receiving abuse.This is pretty run-of-the-mill politicking, taking aim at police spending cuts made while Prime Minister Theresa May was in charge of law enforcement as home secretary.But one Twitter user responded by advocating ethnic cleansing: "Great work Diane for creating a no go zone under your watch and your black community.Another response to Abbott's tweet reads: "What are you gonna do when these fantastic 'West Indian mums' start getting the hump that their precious angelic teenage sons got searched 'for no reason' by 'racist police'?People like you have caused this anti police culture in London!"
Labour’s Diane Abbott has blasted the Government for overseeing one of the Home Office’s “biggest scandals” as she called out the “shameful” treatment of the Windrush generation who took “unparalleled pride in being British”.The Shadow Home Secretary was responding to Amber Rudd in the House of Commons after the Tory minister announced those caught up in the scandal will be entitled to gain British citizenship at no cost.In a passionate rebuttal, Abbott outlined how many members of her own family were part of the post-War migration to the UK from the Caribbean as Britain struggled with a skills shortage.The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington told Parliament: “My parents, brothers, sisters and cousins, largely worked in the National Health Service, in factories and in transport.“One of my uncles said to me that he had never missed a day of work.“This was a generation with unparalleled commitment to this country, unparalleled pride in being British, unparalleled commitment to contributing to society and hard work, and it is shameful that this Government has treated this generation in this way.”
Amber Rudd should consider resigning as outrage grows over threats of deportation to the Windrush generation of immigrants, Diane Abbott has said.The shadow home secretary said on Wednesday morning that Rudd should take “responsibility” rather than seek to blame Home Office officials.“This is has caused so much misery and has ruined so many people’s lives and there so much unity in the House of Commons on both sides of the chamber about this subject, she needs to consider her position,” Abbott told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.It emerged this week that thousands who answered the post-World War II call to come to the UK to work in essential services are being denied access to state healthcare, losing their jobs and even being threatened with deportation.Yesterday it emerged thousands of landing card slips recording the arrival of migrants to the UK were destroyed by the Home Office eight years ago - when Theresa May was in charge of the department.The prime minister apologised to Caribbean leaders at a summit in Downing Street on Tuesday morning.
Jeremy Corbyn will duck a challenge to debate tackling anti-Semitism in Parliament this afternoon, his office has confirmed.Communities Secretary Sajid Javid threw down the gauntlet to the Labour leader last month after Corbyn found himself engulfed in yet another row about anti-Semitism in the party.But Corbyn will not take part in Tuesday’s Parliamentary debate, with his office telling HuffPost UK that Javid’s opposite number – Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne – will lead from the opposition’s despatch box, as that is parliamentary procedure.Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is due to speak, as Home Secretary Amber Rudd is set to take part.It is understood Corbyn will be in the Chamber for the debate, which is due to begin at 4pm, but is not planning to speak.I’m going to ask for a debate in Parliament on anti-semitism in coming weeks.
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