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Does Britain really want Ukrainian refugees?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Come to any of our ThinkIns on the invasion of Ukraine for free to contribute to the discussion, using the invite code JOININ.The polls suggest that Britain wants to welcome Ukrainian refugees, and the government has announced commitments to allow more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country. But a difficult dilemma remains: many people voted Brexit so the UK would reclaim control of its borders, and two weeks after the invasion, the number of visas issued remains very small. Britain has issued under 1,000 visas – an amount dwarfed by smaller European countries like Moldova and Romania. How can the government reconcile its pledge to impose tighter controls on immigration, with the need to respond to the refugee crisis caused by the invasion? Was the confusion around entry requirements just incompetence, or is time to admit the UK is now a hostile environment for migrants? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Daniel SohegeSafeguarding Expert, Love146 Enver SolomonChief Executive, Refugee Council

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Does Britain really want Ukrainian refugees?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Come to any of our ThinkIns on the invasion of Ukraine for free to contribute to the discussion, using the invite code JOININ.The polls suggest that Britain wants to welcome Ukrainian refugees, and the government has announced commitments to allow more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country. But a difficult dilemma remains: many people voted Brexit so the UK would reclaim control of its borders, and two weeks after the invasion, the number of visas issued remains very small. Britain has issued under 1,000 visas – an amount dwarfed by smaller European countries like Moldova and Romania. How can the government reconcile its pledge to impose tighter controls on immigration, with the need to respond to the refugee crisis caused by the invasion? Was the confusion around entry requirements just incompetence, or is time to admit the UK is now a hostile environment for migrants? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Daniel SohegeSafeguarding Expert, Love146 Enver SolomonChief Executive, Refugee Council

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Sensemaker Live: Britain’s borders – what took so long?

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been accused of ignoring legal advice over the treatment of migrants at a processing centre in Kent.  It was claimed that decisions she made led to 4,000 people being held in a facility designed for just 1,600, without adequate food or bedding.  As the argument raged, the Home Secretary was summoned to the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs. “The British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast, and which party is not.”Suella Braverman speaking to the House of Commons As you can hear from the reaction, her comments were controversial. Some criticised her  use of language, particularly as she was speaking just a day after a petrol bomb was thrown at a migrant centre in Dover. But the Home Secretary’s point was clear: she wants to reduce the number of people coming into the country on small boats from France. In fact, she specifically singled out Albanian migrants, who she said were “not welcome and should not expect to stay”. “Some 40,000 people have arrived on the South Coast this year alone. Many of them facilitated by criminal gangs, some of them actual members of criminal gangs. So let’s stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress.”Suella Braverman speaking to the House of Commons At the heart of Suella Braverman’s argument is the idea that they’re not real asylum seekers. So what are the facts?  Albania isn’t a conflict zone, and she says many of these migrants are simply taking advantage of loopholes in the UK’s immigration laws to try and enter the country illegally. But the real picture is more complicated than that. *** According to Home Office data, Albanians make up a third of all channel crossings to the UK and it’s true that more are entering the UK than ever before. “Two years ago, 50 Albanians arrived in the UK in small boats. Last year it was 800, and this year so far it’s been 12,000, of which about 10,000 are single adult men.”BBC According to Eurostat population figures, about 1 per cent of all adult men in Albania travelled to the UK through these routes. It’s not immediately clear what’s driving this sudden migration. The UK government has called Albania a “safe and prosperous” country. But, as the BBC’s Ros Atkins puts it… “Prosperity is relative. Albania’s median hourly wage in 2018 was 1.70€, the lowest in Europe. In the UK it was nine times higher. And one global poll in 2018 found that 60 per cent of Albanian adults wanted to leave. The only countries where that figure was higher were Haiti, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.”BBC It has also been reported that an increase in crime and corruption in Albania is driving people out of the country. But none of this is necessarily new.  One reason that the number of migrants could be increasing now is that the journey has become cheaper.  “Before, for an Albanian that wanted to go to the UK, they have to go on the back of a law, and this was costly, and this would cost £20-25,000. Well now, you can cross the channel just by paying to the smugglers £3-4,000.”BBC But the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney, has a different perspective. Here he is speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee. “The rise has been exponential, and we think that is in the main due to the fact that Albanian criminal gangs have gained a foothold in the north of France.”Dan O’Mahoney speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee There is a real mix of people coming into the country through channel routes. Some are economic migrants looking for a way to earn more. Others are victims of trafficking, smuggled in to work in the informal economy – including at cannabis farms. Most who reach the UK will apply for asylum, in order to be considered refugees. Home Office figures show 7,627 Albanians claimed asylum in the year to June 2022. That’s more than double the rate of the previous year. Overall, 53 per cent of asylum claims by Albanians are accepted as genuine. For single adult men, the acceptance rate is very low, at about 14 per cent. This means the majority are either sent back to Albania, or they never see through their claim.This isn’t the case for Albanian women. 90 per cent of their claims are accepted. “Most of the Albanians getting a positive decision are female. And it’s believed that many of them are victims of trafficking who haven’t been able to – whom the Albanian state has not been able to protect, and that’s why they’ve qualified for asylum.”BBC The government is reportedly drawing up plans to develop a “fast track” system for Albanians, so their claims will be assessed separately. The aim is to facilitate their return to Albania and dissuade others from crossing the channel. But the conversation won’t end there. *** Suella Braverman’s comments inflamed Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who says her focus on his country is discriminatory. “Is nothing but fuelling xenophobia and targeting, singling out community and practically going totally against the great British tradition of integrating the minorities.”BBC The nationalities of people claiming asylum will vary every year, depending on global politics.  What’s clear is that the system is in crisis – with no safe route to the UK for asylum seekers and a massive backlog in the processing of cases for those who do arrive in the UK. And while Suella Braverman – and a succession of home secretaries before her – have used increasingly contentious language, there is some important wider context: the scale of asylum applications in the UK is nowhere as large as the caseload in France and Germany. This episode was written by Patricia Clarke and mixed by Ella Hill.

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Does Britain have an answer to immigration now?

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been accused of ignoring legal advice over the treatment of migrants at a processing centre in Kent.  It was claimed that decisions she made led to 4,000 people being held in a facility designed for just 1,600, without adequate food or bedding.  As the argument raged, the Home Secretary was summoned to the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs. “The British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast, and which party is not.”Suella Braverman speaking to the House of Commons As you can hear from the reaction, her comments were controversial. Some criticised her  use of language, particularly as she was speaking just a day after a petrol bomb was thrown at a migrant centre in Dover. But the Home Secretary’s point was clear: she wants to reduce the number of people coming into the country on small boats from France. In fact, she specifically singled out Albanian migrants, who she said were “not welcome and should not expect to stay”. “Some 40,000 people have arrived on the South Coast this year alone. Many of them facilitated by criminal gangs, some of them actual members of criminal gangs. So let’s stop pretending that they are all refugees in distress.”Suella Braverman speaking to the House of Commons At the heart of Suella Braverman’s argument is the idea that they’re not real asylum seekers. So what are the facts?  Albania isn’t a conflict zone, and she says many of these migrants are simply taking advantage of loopholes in the UK’s immigration laws to try and enter the country illegally. But the real picture is more complicated than that. *** According to Home Office data, Albanians make up a third of all channel crossings to the UK and it’s true that more are entering the UK than ever before. “Two years ago, 50 Albanians arrived in the UK in small boats. Last year it was 800, and this year so far it’s been 12,000, of which about 10,000 are single adult men.”BBC According to Eurostat population figures, about 1 per cent of all adult men in Albania travelled to the UK through these routes. It’s not immediately clear what’s driving this sudden migration. The UK government has called Albania a “safe and prosperous” country. But, as the BBC’s Ros Atkins puts it… “Prosperity is relative. Albania’s median hourly wage in 2018 was 1.70€, the lowest in Europe. In the UK it was nine times higher. And one global poll in 2018 found that 60 per cent of Albanian adults wanted to leave. The only countries where that figure was higher were Haiti, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.”BBC It has also been reported that an increase in crime and corruption in Albania is driving people out of the country. But none of this is necessarily new.  One reason that the number of migrants could be increasing now is that the journey has become cheaper.  “Before, for an Albanian that wanted to go to the UK, they have to go on the back of a law, and this was costly, and this would cost £20-25,000. Well now, you can cross the channel just by paying to the smugglers £3-4,000.”BBC But the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney, has a different perspective. Here he is speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee. “The rise has been exponential, and we think that is in the main due to the fact that Albanian criminal gangs have gained a foothold in the north of France.”Dan O’Mahoney speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee There is a real mix of people coming into the country through channel routes. Some are economic migrants looking for a way to earn more. Others are victims of trafficking, smuggled in to work in the informal economy – including at cannabis farms. Most who reach the UK will apply for asylum, in order to be considered refugees. Home Office figures show 7,627 Albanians claimed asylum in the year to June 2022. That’s more than double the rate of the previous year. Overall, 53 per cent of asylum claims by Albanians are accepted as genuine. For single adult men, the acceptance rate is very low, at about 14 per cent. This means the majority are either sent back to Albania, or they never see through their claim.This isn’t the case for Albanian women. 90 per cent of their claims are accepted. “Most of the Albanians getting a positive decision are female. And it’s believed that many of them are victims of trafficking who haven’t been able to – whom the Albanian state has not been able to protect, and that’s why they’ve qualified for asylum.”BBC The government is reportedly drawing up plans to develop a “fast track” system for Albanians, so their claims will be assessed separately. The aim is to facilitate their return to Albania and dissuade others from crossing the channel. But the conversation won’t end there. *** Suella Braverman’s comments inflamed Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who says her focus on his country is discriminatory. “Is nothing but fuelling xenophobia and targeting, singling out community and practically going totally against the great British tradition of integrating the minorities.”BBC The nationalities of people claiming asylum will vary every year, depending on global politics.  What’s clear is that the system is in crisis – with no safe route to the UK for asylum seekers and a massive backlog in the processing of cases for those who do arrive in the UK. And while Suella Braverman – and a succession of home secretaries before her – have used increasingly contentious language, there is some important wider context: the scale of asylum applications in the UK is nowhere as large as the caseload in France and Germany. This episode was written by Patricia Clarke and mixed by Ella Hill.

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The death of Mercy Baguma: is the UK asylum system broken or just cruel?

Make sense of this week’s major news stories in a live editorial conference with Tortoise editors. Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.Last month the cries of a distressed toddler led Glasgow police to the body of his mother, a 34 year-old Ugandan asylum-seeker. Mercy Baguma could not work because of Covid, and she was an NRPF – with No Recourse to Public Funds because of her asylum status. She died in “extreme poverty”. Is there any justification for the system that let this happen, or is it, as Claudia Webbe MP has said, a stain on our collective soul?Chair: Giles Whittell, Editor and Partner, TortoiseSensemaker Live is in partnership with Santander.Our special guests include:Yvonne Blake is the co-founder of MORE (Migrants Organising for Rights and Employment) in Glasgow. She is a lifelong advocate of social justice, collective responsibility, lifelong and life-wide learning. Her activism focuses on providing practical support through capacity building, networking and skills sharing to empower the migrant community, which she believes are fundamental in the transformative process of black economic liberation and self-actualisation.How does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comRead our ThinkIn code of conduct here.What is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.How we work with partners We want to be open about the business model of our journalism, too. At Tortoise, we don’t take ads. We don’t want to chase eyeballs or sell data. We don’t want to add to the clutter of life with ever more invasive ads. We think that ads force newsrooms to produce more and more stories, more and more quickly. We want to do less, better.Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view. Those companies, of course, know that we are a journalistic enterprise. Our independence is non-negotiable. If we ever have to choose between the relationship and the story, we’ll always choose the story.We value the support that those partners give us to deliver original reporting, patient investigations and considered analysis.We believe in opening up journalism so we can examine issues and develop ideas for the 21st Century. We want to do this with our members and with our partners. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.

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Migration: The state of asylum

Worldwide the vast majority of asylum seekers come from failed and dangerous states to which they cannot return. Yet in many countries their status is a political football and their fates are determined by a process that requires them to prove first that they are not economic migrants. Britain is a case in point: internment pending verdict, no right to work and only a third of initial applications approved. What happened to common humanity? What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.30pm, starts promptly at 7pm.  Please note, latecomers won’t be admittedThinkIn tickets are included in all Tortoise memberships. There is no additional price to pay to attend a ThinkIn for members. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership. Until Wednesday February 6 2019 only, non-members can enter the code SNOWYAY to book two complimentary tickets to any ThinkIn.