Friday, 30 March 2012


The UK Border Agency planning to embark on a trial of dental X-rays, starting on 29 March. The proposal is announced by Zilla Bowell, Director of Asylum. For full details read on.......

" I am writing to let you know that, in conjunction with Croydon Council and Professor Graham Roberts of King's College Hospital, we are planning to embark on a trial of dental X-rays, starting on 29 March. The purpose of the trial is to establish whether dental X-rays are a useful tool in helping to establish people's ages when they have been assessed as an adult yet continue to maintain that they are a minor.

Many of you will be aware of the difficulties that arise when we are not able to establish, with any certainty, the age of an asylum applicant. We are keen to utilise any appropriate tool which can increase our levels of certainty (as long as it does not have a negative impact on the individual in safeguarding terms, of course). We believe that the process developed by Professor Roberts offers a potential means of achieving this, and we intend to explore the possibilities by testing his process within the framework of the asylum system.
We shall be offering individuals who are assessed by Croydon Council as adults, but who continue to contend that they are children, the opportunity to have a dental X-ray at Guys Hospital. The results will be passed back to the Agency, and the Agency will then contact the applicant. If the X-ray indicates that the individual is likely to be under 18, Croydon Council will be invited to review the age assessment in the light of the new evidence. If the X-ray indicates that the individual is likely to be over 18, their position will not change - they will continue to be treated as an adult in the asylum system, subject to any additional evidence emerging.

It will be made clear to asylum applicants who are offered the opportunity to participate (and, to be clear, the people who fall into this category are those who have recently been the subject of an age assessment from Croydon Council and who have been assessed as adults), that participation in the pilot is completely voluntary and that, if they do not choose to participate, it will not adversely affect their claim for asylum or humanitarian protection. We anticipate that the trial will last for three months. We are currently finalising the evaluation arrangements with the Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser".

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Monday, 26 March 2012

ASSISTED VOLUNTARY RETURN (Nigerian Diaspora Event 2012)

I got an invitation to attend an important event called “Assisted Voluntary Return”. I was invited to this event by a charity organisation called Association of British Nigerian Law Enforcement officers (ABLE).

This organisation is renowned for consistently working towards reversing the unflattering negative image often-labelled on Nigerians in Diaspora. They have been doing this for years by working in partnership with British and Nigerian Government Agencies.

This organisation is populated and run by Nigerian professionals working in various UK Law Enforcement Agencies, from Metropolitan Police to HMRC to Border Forces etc.

This Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) event was organised by ABLE in collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the Nigerian High Commission (NHC).

We had representatives from all the aforementioned in attendance as well as a representative from Choices (a charity organisation saddled with the responsibility of administering the AVR scheme), who all contributed and enlightened the attendees about the benefits of this AVR scheme.

I chose to write about this event primarily because it is a scheme that is geared towards giving Immigrants the choice of returning home with dignity instead of allowing themselves to be apprehended, detained and subsequently deported in handcuffs accompanied by escorts. Another reason is that anything that has to do with the welfare of Immigrants is a subject that is very close to my heart. 

The event, like I said, was held last weekend at Lister Hall along Lister Road, London E11 3DA.

It was very enlightening as there was a Questions and Answer session. It was generally an eye-opening event that I would recommend for any Immigrant in the UK to attend when next it is organised.

To those people that I invited to accompany me but turned down the invitation fearing that the event was a set up to round up illegal immigrants and ship them home. I make bold to say that I hung around at a secret location after the event to observe and nothing of such happened. I am sure that many of those that attended the event to attest to this fact.

I am saying this now so that we can all re-tune our mindset and keep our eyes and ears open to be able to absorb new ideas that would benefit us. It’s no gain saying the fact that many of our people have lost out of gaining vital knowledge and information because of unfounded fear and outdated sentiments.

Though the AVR scheme set up by the UK government is meant for all Immigrants in the UK irrespective of country of origin, but this particular AVR event by ABLE is aimed at Nigerians in the UK and is meant to:

  1. Raise awareness of the benefits of the Assisted Voluntary Return scheme;
  2. Encourage participation of Nigerian communities in disseminating this information and
  3. Highlight other initiatives in Nigeria to support returnees.

The AVR scheme is designed for all Migrants (including Asylum seekers) who have exhausted all appeal options and failed as well as the so-called illegal immigrants with no leave to remain in the UK.

The bottom line of this scheme – which I find interesting - is to accord Migrants a choice of returning home with their dignity intact and, in some cases, with a bit of financial incentive to help their reintegration back in their home country.

Mr. Steve Hall of the AVR Team, UK Border Agency spoke extensively about the benefits of this scheme especially how AVR is a better option for Migrants than an enforced return. I am reproducing hereunder an excerpt from the paper he presented so that readers can make up their minds on which option to take.

Enforcement versus Assisted Voluntary Return

Enforced Removal
Assisted Voluntary Return
May have little notice from the time they become removable.
Dates of departure are agreed with returnees.
May face the prospect of being arrested with a view to detaining them pending removal.
Individuals agreeing to return voluntarily will not subsequently be detained for removal.
In some circumstances, escorts will accompany the person being removed until they reach the country of return.
Escorts do not accompany returnees on their journey from the UK.

What is Assisted Voluntary Return?

3 Options for leaving the UK Voluntarily

  1. Leave the UK independently (own expense);
  2. Leave the UK under the Voluntary Departure/Removal procedure arranged through UKBA enforcement teams;
  3. Leave the UK under one of the Assisted Voluntary Return schemes.
Key influencing factors in AVR take up

    • Visible enforcement action/detention;
    • Security and political situations in countries of return;
    • Family dynamics and the desire for reunification;
    • Life in UK not as anticipated.
Advantages to all

  • If not detained, 3 months in which to prepare to permanently return;
  • Return with dignity as normal passenger;
  • Journey all the way home;
  • In some cases financial support (AVRFC, VARRP);
  • Supports micro-economy of receiving country;
  • A positive solution to unrealistic expectations of life in the UK;
  • Savings to UKBA and public services;
  • The best option.

VARRP – the scheme for asylum seekers

Open to asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers of any nationality (apart from UK, Swiss or EEA nationals) meeting the eligibility criteria.


  • Provides support in acquiring travel documentation;
  • Flight to country of origin and onward domestic transport;
  • Airport assistance at departure and arrival airports;
  • Reintegration assistance (£500 cash + £1000 in kind).

AVRFC – reintegration/eligibility similar to VARRP

  • One/both parents or guardians plus at least one child under 18 years;
  • Or, unaccompanied children under 18 years;
  • Irregular migrants or asylum seekers.

-              Other family members under 18 considered under VARRP or AVRIM (Voldep);

-              Each family member gets reintegration;

-              £500 cash + £1500 in kind per AVRFC family member.

AVRIM – the scheme for irregular migrants

Assists irregular migrants – illegal entrants, trafficked people, smuggled people, overstayers – of any nationality (apart from UK, Swiss or EEA nationals) to return to their country of origin with dignity.


  • Provides support in acquiring travel documentation;
  • Flight to country of origin and onward domestic transport;
  • Airport assistance at departure and arrival airports;
  • No reintegration assistance.

AVR – use of reintegration assistance

  • Children’s clothes shop (rental for premises, stock purchase);
  • Beverage sales (purchase of initial stock – own premises);
  • Fabric Sales (Wholesale to market traders);
  • Construction materials (iron rods no storage problems – plans for transport;
  • Barbers 9experience in UK – set up salon);
  • Minibus (mechanics experience – employs conductor);
  • Tractor (Construction delivery rather than agriculture – employs part-time driver).

AVR – advantages of the programmes

  • Enforcement action will not be taken leading up to departure;
  • Deal entirely with Choices, not UKBA;
  • 3 months preparation time (unless detained);
  • Depart with dignity as a normal passenger;
  • Advice support for all;
  • Financial support for VARRP and VARFC;
  • Eligibility criteria publicly available – honesty best policy;
  • It’s voluntary!
AVR – Key Actions

  1. AVR is often the best option to return home for those with no permanent right to stay in the UK;
  2. Anyone interested may contact Choices – who administer the scheme – on 0800 800 0007 (Freephone including from mobiles);
  3. Contact with Choices is in confidence – they are not part of UK Border Agency.

For more information you can email me at or reach ABLE at Mayfair House, 14 – 18 Heddon Street, London W1B 4DA. E-mail:


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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Automatic settlement for skilled workers to end

Here’s another update from the UK Border Agency.

As part of the government's commitment to reviewing the immigration system, last summer a consultation was launched proposing reforms to employment-related settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker routes.

Immigration Minister Damian Green has today announced the government's response to this consultation. The proposed changes will mean that skilled migrant workers coming to the UK under Tier 2 of the points-based system will no longer be able to settle in the UK simply based on the amount of time they have spent in the UK.

A new minimum pay threshold will also mean that only the brightest and best workers, who strengthen the UK economy, will be able to apply to stay in the UK permanently.

The new rules will break the link between coming to the UK to work and staying forever. Exceptionally talented people, investors and entrepreneurs will continue to have the option to stay. Skilled temporary workers wanting to apply for settlement will have to earn at least £35,000 or the going rate for their job, whichever is higher. Migrants doing jobs which are in shortage, and scientists and researchers in PhD-level roles, will be exempt from the £35,000 threshold. Temporary permission to enter and remain in the UK will be capped at 6 years, to reinforce the temporary nature of Tier 2.

Damian Green said:

'Settlement in the UK is a privilege. We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here to work can settle, and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and best.

'Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here but also those who are allowed to stay permanently.'

The government intends to:

  • continue to provide a direct route to settlement for investors, entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented migrants under Tier 1.
  • continue to provide a route to settlement for the best Tier 2 migrants, if they meet a minimum salary threshold of £35,000.
  • allow those who enter as PhD-level scientists and researchers to qualify for settlement without having to meet the £35,000 minimum salary threshold.
  • make all workers in shortage occupation jobs (currently including specialist nurses, teachers and social workers) exempt from the minimum settlement salary threshold of £35,000;
  • allow Tier 2 migrants to extend their temporary permission to stay in the UK up to maximum of 6 years, and introduce a 12-month 'cooling off' period;
  • retain a route for overseas domestic workers in private households, but only when accompanying a visitor and limited to 6 months' stay with no right to change employer;
  • retain the current route of entry for private servants in diplomatic households under Tier 5 (Temporary worker - International agreement), with a maximum stay of 5 years and no ability to change employer or to settle.

The government also plans to make changes to the visitor rules to allow a defined group of professionals to undertake specific fee-paid activities for short stays of up to 1 month without formal sponsorship requirements.

The government is reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. It has already taken action to reduce numbers by restricting the number of migrants from outside the European Union who can come here to work, and introducing changes to the student visa system. The changes announced today will bring greater control over who is able to settle in the UK.

Full details of the proposals, a summary of responses to the consultation, and Damian Green's written ministerial statement can all be found on the Home Office website.

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