Reproduced from https://www.opendemocracy.net
Across the UK, imprisoned in immigration removal centres, sit hundreds of people for whom this country is home. They face deportation to countries they may not remember.
They can be forcibly removed before their appeals have been heard. Nineteen year old Katherine Beria is just one of these people. Katherine faces deportation to Guyana, though she has lived in the UK since she was 8 years old and has spent only 2 years of her life in Guyana – she was born in Venezuela, her story is testament to the complexity of human experiences that are subjected daily to Home Office decision makers.
Katherine will not have access to justice before she is deported as her case has been certified under Section 94B of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 – a new Section, introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and phased in from July last year for ‘foreign criminal’ deportation cases. Section 94B entitles the Secretary of State to deport foreign national offenders beforetheir human rights appeals against deportation are heard. The Conservative government catchily title this “deport first, appeal later”.
In the House of Lords today, the Immigration Bill 2015 had its second reading; Part 4 of the Bill proposes that S.94B can be applied to all immigration appeals. The reality of this legislation is little known, and this cause is not a popular one. Questionable legislation such as S.94B is often piloted on the ‘foreign criminal’ population, as the government predict cynically that few will oppose such measures for those they designate not ‘conducive to the public good’. This article attempts to illustrate S.94B’s devastating effects, before it is phased in further.
Katherine was abused as a child and shortly after arriving in the UK was taken into care by Croydon Social Services. Since surviving abuse as a child, Katherine has struggled with ongoing mental health problems, self-harm and suicide. She has witnessed domestic violence against her mother and dealt with the suicide of her step-father. Katherine has also been diagnosed with ‘Mixed Conduct Disorder’, a condition expressly linked to criminal behaviour.
When Katherine was 16 years old she committed 3 robberies and was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months detention. She earned early release from Medway secure training centre in Kent, but instead of being released in November 2014 she was served with a deportation order and kept imprisoned. Following the completion of her sentence Katherine was then transferred to immigration detention. Social work records note that “..she was upset and vented her anger in a productive way, calling services and local MP…”
She has no family or friends in Guyana or Venezuela. Her family and friends, particularly her mother and sister, have been eagerly anticipating her return to London. Katherine has been in Yarl’s Wood for 10 months now and has been refused bail three times.
Still a teenager, Katherine is technically a ‘care leaver’ and entitled to local authority support until she is 21 (25 if in education/training). In fact, Katherine has got a place at Croydon College to study Business Administration. Social work records praise Katherine’s maturity and development whilst detained, her reports are glowing. Even the G4S Resettlement Practise Manager at Medway writes in support of Katherine’s release, assuming that she will be released and will go on to live her life in the UK.
Yet the Home Office categorically claim that deporting foreign national offenders is in the public interest.* This statutory presumption stands though sentences have been served and seems to admit the ineffectiveness of the UK’s criminal justice system. Nowhere is it considered that the foreign national offender in question could be rehabilitated. A racist double punishment is prioritised – while British prisoners are released back into the community, non-British prisoners are transferred directly to immigration detention where they can be held indefinitely under immigration powers. There is no sentence left to serve for Katherine, just threat of return to Guyana.