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May faces backlash over treatment of #Windrush generation of migrants

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Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to resolve the status of thousands of British residents who arrived from the Caribbean decades ago and are now being denied basic rights after being incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants, writes Andrew MacAskill.

More than 140 members of parliament have signed a letter to the prime minister calling on her to resolve an anomaly that means many people who arrived in Britain as children between 1948 and 1971 are being denied health services, prevented from working and in some cases threatened with deportation.

There is growing anger that long-term British residents have fallen victim to rule changes in 2012 aimed at stopping overstaying. This meant that their legal status changed despite living, working and paying tax in Britain for decades.

Many have been told they need evidence including passports to continue working or getting health treatment. But many arrived on their parents’ documentation and never formally applied for British citizenship or a passport.

“That these individuals are being treated with such contempt, disrespect and lack of dignity is a national disgrace,” said David Lammy, an opposition Labour member of parliament and the author of the letter to the prime minister.

The immigrants are named after the Windrush (pictured), one of the first ships that brought Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948 in the aftermath of World War Two, when labour shortages meant that people from the Commonwealth, a network of mostly former British colonies, were invited to help rebuild the economy.

Almost half a million people left their homes in the West Indies to live in Britain between 1948 and 1970, according to Britain’s National Archives.

British media have reported cases such as a man who was denied treatment for cancer and a special needs teaching assistant who lost his job after being accused of being illegal immigrants despite living in Britain for more than 40 years.

The British government last week refused a request from the high commissioners of 12 Caribbean nations for a dedicated meeting on this subject at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this week.

May will hold talks on the issue with counterparts from Caribbean nations this week and she only became aware of a request for a meeting on Monday (16 April) morning, her spokesman said.

“She is aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old and she is clear that no one with the right to be here will be made to leave,” the spokesman said.

A Home Office official said the rejection was because the subject of the meeting was not clear.

An online petition calling for an amnesty for those who arrived in Britain from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean as children and a lowering of the level of documentary proof required from people who have lived here since they were children has now attracted more than 136,000 signatures.

EU

Commissioners Reynders, Johansson and Várhelyi attend EU-Western Balkans ministerial videoconference on Justice and Home Affairs

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On 22 October, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson took part in the EU-Western Balkans ministerial videoconference on Justice and Home Affairs, organized by the German Presidency of the Council. Commissioner Johansson and ministers from the region discussed co-operation on migration management, including: intensifying regional information exchange between Western Balkans partners, improving information systems, and enhancing reception and asylum capacity in light of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi also participated in this first discussion. Following a presentation by Europol on ongoing counter-terrorism co-operation in the region, ministers also discussed current challenges linked to terrorism and violent extremism, including progress on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan on Counter-terrorism for the Western Balkans.

Finally, enhancing operational co-operation to tackle organized crime was discussed, as will the EU's new Action Plan on firearms trafficking and the Action Plan on drugs. In the afternoon, Commissioner Reynders joined the ministers to discuss the pandemic and its impacts on the justice systems and fundamental rights, including the use of distance communication technologies in trials, guarantees in place to ensure respect of the right to a fair trial, protection of victims of domestic violence, procedures to uphold rule of law, and the proportionality of measures taken to mitigate the crisis.

Ministers then focused on access to justice in the digital age, in particular the benefits of digitalization of justice that could enhance the quality and efficiency of justice systems, as well as specific areas where further efforts are needed in the region. Finally, Commissioner Reynders updated participants on the implementation of two projects for the measurement of justice system performance in the region and presented the latest developments on rule of law within the Union, including the first Rule of Law Report.

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coronavirus

Commission approves €2.3 million Czech scheme to support health SPA facilities affected by coronavirus outbreak in the Karlovy Vary Region of Czechia

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The European Commission has approved a CZK 62 million (approximately €2.3m) Czech scheme to support providers of SPA medical procedures and curative rehabilitation treatments in the Karlovy Vary Region (Czechia) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that health SPAs in the region are currently facing due to the drop in the number of patients caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

This scheme complements a scheme to support health SPA facilities in the whole of Czechia that the Commission approved in August 2020  (SA.58018). The Commission found that the Czech scheme for the health SPA facilities in the Karlovy Vary Region is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (ii) will be granted no later than 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58198 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Environment

Commission launches Knowledge Centre to reverse biodiversity loss and protect Europe's ecosystems

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In the framework of the EU Green Week, the European Commission launches a new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity: a one-stop shop for science-based evidence to restore and protect the natural ecosystems that provide us with food, medicines, materials, recreation, and wellbeing. The Knowledge Centre will make the latest knowledge about biodiversity available to strengthen the impact of EU policies.

It will also help to monitor the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by the end of the decade. Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “Only what gets measured gets done. If we want to deliver on the EU Biodiversity Strategy, we need to better connect all the dots, and for this we need sound data. Be it on the status of pollinators, environmental impact of pesticides, the value of nature for business or the economic rationale of nature-based solutions. We also need to make full use of the digital transformation, Earth observation and citizen science. The new knowledge centre will bring all this together, improving the way we generate and manage biodiversity knowledge, for use across policy areas.”

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, responsible for the Joint Research Centre,  added:  “Science has a crucial role to play in conserving our biodiversity. Led by our own scientists at the Joint Research Centre, the new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will help the European and global research community and policymakers to harvest and make sense of the vast array of information available, streamlining it into effective policies that protect Europe's ecosystems and the services they provide for European citizens.”

In addition, the first ever EU-wide ecosystem assessment has arrived,  which finds that a wealth of biodiversity data exists that could help in taking the right action to alleviate pressures on our ecosystems, but much of it remains unused. The assessment shows that we are becoming more and more dependent on our ecosystems, which themselves remain under high pressure from the impacts of climate change and human activities. The Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will directly address challenges uncovered by the assessment. More information is available here.

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