Background to the delegation
On 8 February 2017, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration wrote to the Presiding Officers requesting an additional parliamentary delegation to investigate matters relevant to the Committee’s inquiry into migrant settlement outcomes.
On 8 March 2017, the Presiding Officers agreed to the Committee’s request for an additional parliamentary delegation to enable it to visit Europe and the United States in 2017 to investigate matters relevant to the Committee's inquiry into migrant settlement outcomes.
The Presiding Officers noted the interest from other parliamentarians on a similar topic and allocated two additional places on the delegation for interested parliamentarians who were not members of the committee.
The Delegation visited the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany between 2 – 16 July 2017.
The Delegation comprised of:
Mr Jason Wood MP (Delegation leader and Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Migration);
Ms Maria Vamvakinou MP (Deputy Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Migration);
Hon Shayne Neumann MP (Member, Joint Standing Committee on Migration);
Mr Julian Hill MP (Delegation member);
Mr Llew O'Brien MP (Delegation member); and
Ms Susan Cardell (Secretariat).
This Chapter is the report of that visit. Appendix D provides further information on the program of visits.
Aims and objectives of the Delegation
The main aims of the Delegation was to allow the Committee to gather information relevant to the inquiries terms of reference to:
Examine international best practice strategies for improving migrant settlement outcomes and prospects; and
Give particular consideration to social engagement of youth migrants, including their involvement in anti-social behaviour and gang activity and whether the Migration Act 1958 character test addresses these behavioural issues.
The delegation’s objectives included an investigation of:
Settlement services available for young migrants;
Approaches used to prevent young migrants becoming involved in anti-social behaviour and gang activity;
The implementation of migration policies in other jurisdictions relevant to settlement services and issues related to youth migrants; and
Best practice strategies for migrant settlement and integration.
The Delegation visited London, United Kingdom (UK) from 2 - 5 July 2017 as the first leg of the parliamentary delegation.
In the UK the Delegation met with a number of individuals and organisations to discuss issues related to violent extremism and terrorism, gangs and criminality, as well as migration and settlement.
Migration settlement statistics
The UK’s Home Office publishes a number of statistics on the number of individuals that were granted asylum, the number that continued to stay and how many were detained or returned. The statistics show:
In the year ending March 2017, there were 9,634 grants of asylum or an alternative form of protection to main applicants and their dependants, and an additional 6,245 people were resettled to the UK;
Of the 24,293 initial decisions on asylum applications from main applicants, 33 per cent were grants of asylum or an alternative form of protection, compared to 40 per cent in the previous year;
There were 152,044 main applicants granted an extension to their stay in 2016; 121,026 (80 per cent) allowed the individual to stay within their original broad category (e.g. students continuing to study), with the other 20 per cent having switched categories (e.g. Tier Four students switching to work);
As at the end of March 2017, 2,930 people were in immigration removal centres (IRCs), short-term holding facilities (STHF) and pre-departure accommodation (PDA);
As at 3 April 2017, there were 337 detainees held in prison establishments in England and Wales solely under immigration powers;
Total enforced returns from the UK, including those who were not directly from detention, decreased by four per cent to 12,666 in the year ending March 2017 compared with 13,248 in the previous year. In the same period, there were 24,786 voluntary returns; and
In the year ending March 2017, 6,171 Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) were returned compared to 5,810 in the previous year, an increase of six per cent.
The UK Home Office Annual Report and Accounts 2016-17 states that the UK operates four resettlement schemes:
The UK operates four resettlement schemes (Gateway, Mandate, the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme). The UK also operates a scheme for the relocation of Afghan Interpreters and in May 2016 announced an initiative to assist unaccompanied refugee children from Europe through section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016.
Between 1 April 2016 and the end of December 2016 the UK:
Resettled 5,453 individuals under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, including 2,726 children;
Resettled 524 individuals under Gateway and 8 under Mandate schemes;
Committed to relocating 480 children to the UK from elsewhere in Europe under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016;
Launched the community based sponsorship scheme in July 2016 for resettled refugees, enabling individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to support refugees directly;
Announced a new £10 million funding package for English language tuition for those resettled under the vulnerable persons and vulnerable children resettlement schemes; and
Added a provision in the Immigration Act 2016 that created a National Transfer Scheme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the UK to relieve the pressures felt by a small number of local authorities.
The Home Office assisted over 750 unaccompanied minors from a migrant camp in Calais, France, to the UK between October 2016 and February 2017.
On 19 April 2017 the British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000 a year.
Gangsline is a non-profit organisation established in 2007 to provide help and support to young men and women involved in gang culture.
The Delegation received a briefing from its founder and Chief Executive, Mr Sheldon Thomas, on migrant gangs in the UK. Mr Thomas noted that most gangs start as a social response where individuals where feeling unfairly oppressed. He highlighted that 40 per cent of gangs from Africa (Somalia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Ghana) may bring new levels of violence with them when they migrate due to the type of violence they have experienced in war torn countries.
Mr Thomas added that enforcement alone cannot solve this anywhere in the world and that education is the key.
British Refugee Council
The Refugee Council is a charity that works directly with refugees providing support in the areas of children’s services; resettlement services; therapeutic services; integration services; advocacy and destitution services.
During 2016-17, the Refugee Council supported 7,522 refugees and asylum seekers, 1,050 resettlement clients, assisted 3,318 separated children, and 880 therapeutic services clients, of which 122 were children.
The Delegation received an overview of the migrant settlement services that the Refugee Council provided to support refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, and Syrian vulnerable persons.
The Delegation discussed:
The Dublin Convention (a piece of European law with two main aims: to establish a common framework for determining which country in the European Union decides an asylum seeker’s application and to ensure that only one member State should process each asylum application;
Migrant settlement support provided by the UK Government; and
How migrants could apply for citizenship after five years if they passed a character assessment and were not deemed to be an adverse risk to the community.
With more than 43,000 officers and staff, the Metropolitan Police is the UK's largest police service and has 25 per cent of the total police budget for England and Wales.
The Metropolitan Police is comprised of the following four business groups:
Territorial Policing: Responsible for day-to-day local policing across London;
Specialist Crime and Operations: Responsible for a variety of specialist policing services;
Specialist Operations: Responsible for protection and counter-terrorism; and
Professionalism: Responsible for ensuring we operate ethically and to the highest standards.
The Delegation received a briefing on the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism strategy, how it responds to criminal activities conducted by gangs and intervention programs.
The Metropolitan Police highlighted that there were over 250 gangs in Britain with about 17 per cent of gang members in London having links or interest in terrorist activity.
They advised that they were administering a number of operations and programs, including:
Operation Channel aims to protect vulnerable people from being drawn into violent extremism by using mentoring and a multi-agency approach;
Operation Nexus which aims to improve the management of foreign nationals and foreign national offenders. Operation Nexus was formed in the second half of 2012 to identify, target and maximise immigration related tactical opportunities against the most harmful FNO’s. Operation Nexus works in partnership with the Home Office to locate and deport high-harm foreign national offenders. Approximately 150 arrests a day in London are FNO’s and approximately 54,954 prisoners a year are FNO’s;
Operation Meridian which works with the Metropolitan Police’s Trident team and links terrorist activity and criminal gangs; and
The Divert program works with the Milestone Foundation to divert young people away from crime and into employment or development. 116 people have been referred to the program since April 2015 and only seven per cent of those have reoffended.
Dr Sara Silvestri, Senior Lecturer, International Politics, City, University of London
Dr Silvestri is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics; runs specialist courses on Islamism, religion and politics, and the EU; and is head of the PhD programme.
Dr Silvestri spoke about counter terrorism, criminality and migration pathways. She argued that preventing criminal activity was most effective through supporting communities and counter terrorism policy should be nuanced with enforcement should be used as a last resort. She added that harsher penalties make closed communities, that Muslim families are as scared as everyone else of violent extremism and prejudice against Islamic migrants needs to be seen more broadly.
The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism and police. Their main priorities include prevent terrorism; cutting crime; controlling immigration; and promoting growth.
The Home Office provided a briefing on refugees and asylum seekers noting:
In the UK, the federal government provides the framework on migration, while local communities/boroughs provide the support programs;
Non-EU asylum seekers can apply for citizenship after five years where they must state an oath and pay a fee. Prior to citizenship they must pass an English language test and have no adverse character assessment;
The UK Government has enacted a dispersal policy of those seeking asylum accommodation in the UK. The legislative intention was that by distribution across the country no one area would be overburdened by the obligation of supporting asylum seekers; and
The Home Office can withdraw the citizenship of dual nationals if they have been convicted of a serious crime or become a national security risk. If they are on a visa, the Home Office can deport.
The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office highlighted the effectiveness of joint taskforces targeting gangs, as both levels of law enforcement needed to tackle gangs; they bring different expertise, knowledge and skills.
Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration
CReAM is an independent and interdisciplinary research centre located in the Department of Economics at University College London. CReAM's research focuses on the causes, patterns and consequences of international population mobility and movements affecting UK, Europe and associated global processes.
The delegation met with Professor Christian Dustmann, Director of the Centre, who discussed the economic benefits of migrants; how to integrate people into labour market and incentivising them into developing skills; the welfare system; and the impact of language on career profiles of immigrants.
Professor Dustmann spoke on the need for quick pathways and certainty to obtaining citizenship. He added that saying ‘in three years, you may be sent home’ promotes short term thinking and attitude. Saying someone may be granted citizenship within certain time, promotes longer term thinking and greater attitude to seeking training/employment. Therefore it is a benefit to establish an individual’s refugee status quickly because temporary migrants do not work well to support the labour market long term.
Casey Review Team
In July 2015, the then Prime Minister and Home Secretary asked Dame Louise Casey to conduct a review to consider what could be done to boost opportunity and integration in our most isolated and deprived communities. The report of that review was released in December 2016 and made 12 recommendations.
The Delegation met with representatives of the Casey Review team who commented:
Britain is an increasingly diverse nation with a long history of immigration but it has changed dramatically in recent years. By 2011, 13 per cent were foreign born and nearly 20 per cent identified as belonging to ethnic minorities. Over the last two decades, total immigration to the UK has doubled, from around 300,000 people per year prior in 1997 to more than 600,000 in 2015.
Significant immigration from Asia and other non-European countries has continued over the last four or five decades, with much of this characterised by permanent settlement through marriage and family ties.
The reviews recommendations were based around the following themes:
Build local communities’ resilience in the towns and cities where the greatest challenges exist;
Improve the integration of communities in Britain and establish a set of values around which people from all different backgrounds can unite;
Reduce economic exclusion, inequality and segregation in our most isolated and deprived communities and schools, including improving English language provision through funding for community-based classes and appropriate prioritisation of adult skills budgets; and
Increase standards of leadership and integrity in public office.
The Delegation visited Sweden from 5 July to 9 July 2017 on the second leg of the trip.
The program was centred around Stockholm and the delegation undertook a site visit to a facility that housed unaccompanied minor asylum seekers; met with Government and enforcement agencies; and the Church of Sweden. Topics discussed included gang activity; violent extremism, terrorism and criminality; and settlement services.
Migration settlement statistics
The Swedish Migration Agency publishes a number of statistics on the number of individuals that applied for asylum and received residence permits in Sweden. The statistics show that between January and September 2017:
The Swedish Migration Agency received 19,218 application for asylum (of which 7,545 are unaccompanied minors);
The vast majority of those seeking asylum are citizens of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and Eritrea;
The Swedish Migration Agency made 44,226 decisions on applications for asylum (19,689 were granted and 18,157 were rejected);
There were 85,990 individuals living in accommodation provided by the Migration Board; and
12,273 migrants were granted a work permit.
Between January 2015 and August 2016 Sweden took in 170,000 asylum seekers (or 18 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants).
Sweden expected to spend €7.2 billion on migration and integration in 2016.
Site visit to facility housing unaccompanied minor asylum seekers
The Delegation visited a housing facility for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers with officers from the Swedish Departments of Social Services and Citywide Social Affairs.
At the visit, the delegation heard from the Unit for Unaccompanied Children (UUC) who organise Stockholm’s accommodation for single children and young people. This facility has the capacity to house 17 minors. When the delegation visited it had 12 male residents (11 Afghans and 1 Ethiopian, aged 15-17 years old).
The UUC noted that there were eight different residential centres for young unaccompanied refugees in Stockholm, with 280 places available overall. The Centres provide 24 hour staff, support in daily life and routines including health, schooling, leisure activities, travelcard, phone card, computer access and WiFi. The average age of the young asylum seekers is 17 years old, 80 per cent male, and countries of origin include Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Syria.
Ombudsman for Children in Sweden
The Delegation next met with the Ombudsman for Children: a government agency tasked with representing children regarding their rights and interest under the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child.
The Delegation discussed migrant and settlement related legislation and continued its discussion on minors being housed in residential care with the Ombudsman. In particular, they noted their 2011 report, Young Speakers – a method for listening to children, which reported on their findings from discussions with over 100 children and young people currently being fostered or in residential care on how they would like to see child social welfare improved in Sweden.
Swedish Police Authority
The Delegation attended a lunch meeting with the Swedish Police Authority and held a valuable discussion on violent extremism and terrorism. They noted that in Sweden, Police were often the first response to any perceived threat of violent extremism or terrorism. They advised that it should however be considered as last resort.
When commenting on deradicalisation programs in Sweden, the Police Authority commented that they did not appear overly effective because it only captured a small number of individuals. They commented on the need for programs aimed at addressing longer term issues such as low socio-economic neighbourhoods and suggested providing further integration and employment opportunities.
Church of Sweden and Swedish Red Cross Society
The Delegation received a presentation from two non-government organisations that provided assistance to asylum seekers: the Church of Sweden and Swedish Red Cross Society.
The presentation highlighted the Church’s work with other community organisations that provide settlement services and assist people granted asylum with integrating into society. They noted the establishment of a ‘Language Café’, where people meet over coffee, have a conversation and assist in language learning. There were lively discussions on migration and settlement related legislation.
Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention
The second last meeting of the day was with the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) which provides analysis and research for the government on perceived safety and criminal justice activity.
Brå noted the benefits of additional research on criminality and in particular on the correlation between time for integration measures and the level of crime. They noted a correlation between low socio-economic areas and higher levels of crime.
Ministry of Justice
The Delegation was provided with a briefing on gangs drawn from migrant activities, the pathway to citizenship and employment for migrants.
With respect to gang activity in Sweden, the Ministry of Justice commented that it was not a migrant problem but rather a socio-economic problem. They noted that over past 30 years, approximately 61 areas in Sweden with high migrant populations have evolved into low socio-economic areas with poor school results, low income, high unemployment, small housing for family sizes, and high rental accommodation which has led to ethnic segregation and disenchanted youth.
When discussing the pathways to employment, they noted that in February 2015, the Swedish Government introduced a fast-track initiative to match newly arrived immigrants with jobs in sectors with skill shortages. Fast-tracked initiatives include validation of professional credentials, language training, internships, mentors, guidance counsellors, and civics courses. It is expected that immigrants will establish themselves in the labour market within two years. The Healthcare and restaurant sectors have implemented the system.
Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society
On Friday 7 July, the delegation’s initial meeting of the day was with the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society to discuss its report on integration of newly-arrived adolescent migrants: Young and Extreme Violence – A Youth and Gender Perspective on Violent Extremism (Young and Extreme).
Young and Extreme is a compilation of knowledge about three violent extremist groups: left-wing extremism, right-wing extremism and Islamic extremism. The authors of the publication discussed the common norms, ideals and gender roles. Examples of propaganda used in the environment to attract young men and women were included, in addition to suggestions for preventative measures to stop young people from being attracted by such messages.
They concluded that it was best to use existing Swedish programs and civil society to connect people; that government facilitation was not enough; health issues must be taken seriously; programs required greater flexibility and they needed to seek the youth’s perspective on integration.
Swedish Prison and Probation Service
The delegation met with the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (SPPS) who provided a presentation on Sweden’s prison service and information on the prison population. They noted that 35 per cent of clients in care are foreign citizens; the crime rate was generally quite low; the main offences were violent (30 per cent) and drug related (26 per cent); and currently eight convicted terrorists were in prison.
The SPPS commented on the 61 low socio-economic areas in Sweden with high crime rates.
Swedish Public Employment Service, the Swedish Migration Agency, the County Administrative Board
The Delegation received a presentation and held a roundtable discussion with officials representing the Swedish Public Employment Service, the Swedish Migration Agency, the County Administrative Stockholm Board and the City of Stockholm on settlement services and related legislation.
The groups commented on the challenges in engaging migrant youth due to the delay in processing asylum seeker applications and mental health issues. They elaborated on the importance of early intervention programs for at risk youth and to maintain links between the police, social services, and migration agencies.
They noted an orientation program, the Swedish Introduction Plan, which is run by the Swedish Public Employment Service. They advised that the program is limited to 24 months duration; contains activities to support pathways to employment; provides civic and legal orientation and some basic knowledge of Swedish society and health.
Site visit to Fryshuset
The Delegation visited a youth support and peer mentoring organisation on the South Side of Stockholm. Fryshuset is a meeting place where people share and develop interests, social commitments, sports, entertainment, culture and educational programs.
Public funding covers around five per cent of the activities, the rest is financed by a mixture of grants, endowments, and fees for services such as educational and social programs. Fees are not paid by young people or individual clients but by co-operational partners and government agencies. Fryshuset employs around 600 people and receives around 4,000 visitors every month.
Dinner hosted by Ambassador Kenna
His Excellency Mr Jonathan Kenna, Ambassador of Australia to Sweden, hosted a dinner for the delegation with Mr Amir Rostami, PhD Student School of Sociology, Stockholm University/Former Superintendent at Swedish Police; Mr Joakim Sturup, PhD Student Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute; and Ms Matilda Broman, Head of Analysis Unit, Swedish Security Service. The Delegation discussed approaches to migrant settlement and integration as well as anti-social behaviour and gang activity.
For the third leg of the trip, the delegation visited Germany between 9 and 12 July 2017. The program was centred around Berlin.
In Germany the delegation met with representatives of the Federal Government, non-profit organisations and participants of the District Mothers program.
Migration settlement statistics
Six out of 28 European Union member States took in 80 per cent of the asylum seekers between January 2015 and August 2016. About 1.1 million of those asylum seekers have gone to Germany, which has drawn 14 incoming asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants.
In 2016, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees received 151,057 applications for asylum. Between January to September 2017, 75.4 per cent of asylum seekers were younger than 30 years and 61.1 per cent of all applicants were male.
In this same period, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees made 514,732 decisions on asylum applications (of those, 43.9 per cent were positive decisions).
Germany, like the UK, distributes asylum seekers across the country to increase job and language learning opportunities. In 2016, Germany provided 20,042 integration courses (aimed at providing language instruction and orientation) throughout the country at a cost of €559 million. The courses were provided by 1,734 providers and included 337,565 new participants. Since its introduction in 2005, more than 1.7 million have participated in the integration courses.
They have budgeted €12.7 billion for admission and integration of refugees and asylum seekers in 2017.
Federal Ministry of the Interior
The Delegation held a productive discussion with representatives of the Federal Ministry of the Interior on migration law, gangs and settlement services.
Discussion on migration law centred around the Integration Act, Residents Act and pathways to citizenship. The Federal Ministry of the Interior, when discussing the Integration Act, commented that it aimed to facilitate the integration of refugees into German society through the provision of integration classes, vocational training, employment and training opportunities, the assignment of a place of residence to avoid concentration in select areas, and permanent settlement permits for refugees who show that they are willing to cooperate and take integration classes.
On criminal activity, the Federal Ministry of the Interior acknowledged that ethnic groups were involved in organised crime, but they do not have a higher proportion involved in criminal activity and are not identified as being exploited. They added that petty criminals are vulnerable to radicalisation but that there was no direct correlation between crime and terror.
Federal Labour Agency
The delegation discussed integration and pathways to employment when it met with representatives of the Federal Labour Agency (FLA). The FLA pointed out that three-fifths of the unemployed refugees are younger than 35 years old; 69 per cent are male and 62 per cent have no qualifications to use in Germany. In Germany most occupations require a qualification (even shop assistants).
The FLA spoke about how collaboration with all stakeholders was critical for successful integration and identified six areas of action to address the integration of refugees and migrants: transition early from asylum process to integration process; compulsory language development (courses combined with internships at companies); careers counselling; skills identification; partial qualifications and further training; and interconnected employer initiatives.
The Turkish-German Centre (TGC) is a non-profit organisation founded in Neukoelln in 1996, with seven branch offices across Berlin. As a charity organisation, it is entitled to public funding for its projects, though it also has private donors.
The aim of the TGC is to offer assistance for migrants and to promote their integration into German society. Assistance offered covers the areas of education, employment, language, health and environment, integration and migration, as well as sporting and leisure activities.
District Mothers Program
The District Mothers program trains and employs migrant women to assist migrant families with integration, education and employment. The aim is to enable these mothers to act as mediators with other families within their cultural group that are not yet in a position to work with local authorities.
District Mothers work with migrant families in the district of Neukoelln where 42 per cent of the population are migrants, predominantly from Turkey and Arab nations. There are social issues including: high unemployment, limited language competence, inter-cultural differences, ethnic segregation, high numbers of people on welfare benefits, and low numbers completing secondary schooling.
District Mothers supports parents in education and how to care for their children and provides assistance to connect mothers and children to German systems. District Mothers encourage mothers to send children to kindergarten and to go to school. Through work of District Mothers, 80 per cent of children attend kindergarten.
Currently there are 70 District Mothers in Germany, all from migrant backgrounds. To be eligible to become a District Mother, applicants must be able to read (and write some) German; unemployed; open to education in German schools and meeting with different ethnic groups. Each District Mother is responsible for five families (including extended family).
Prior to certification as a District Mother, applicants must complete a six month course (128 hours of theory with 10 main subjects); pass a test; and demonstrate an ability to work with a family by presentation. Of 25 women who are currently participating in the District Mother’s course, it is estimated that 15 will qualify.
Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is a federal authority within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. With its decentralised locations (including branch offices, arrival centres and decision-making centres) it is in direct contact with all the players in refugee protection and integration work. BAMF plays a leading role in the implementation of migration and integration policies.
The delegation discussed the pathways to naturalisation with BAMF representatives, noting that, if living in Germany permanently, a person can apply to become naturalised under the following conditions:
Have an unrestricted right of residence at the time of being naturalised, or EU or Swiss citizen;
Have passed the naturalisation test (knowledge of the legal and social system, as well as living conditions in Germany);
Has a lawful place of residence and has been in Germany for eight years (this period can be reduced to seven years if you attend an integration course successfully, and can be reduced to as few as six years in the case of special integration measures);
Have an independent means of securing a living (including for family members entitled to maintenance) without resorting to welfare payments and unemployment benefits;
Has adequate German-language skills;
Do not have any convictions on account of a criminal offence;
Committed to the free democratic constitutional order of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany; and
Has lost or given up former nationality.
On returning asylum seekers, BAMF stated that returning asylum seekers depends on political and economic situation in their respective country of origin. In 2017, 18,000 people returned to their respective country voluntarily and 10,000 were returned forcibly.
United States of America
The last visit by the delegation was to the United States of America (US) from 12 July to 16 July 2017.
The program was centred around Los Angeles and the County of Downey and consisted of meetings with the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles, federal and local law enforcement and non-profit organisations.
Migration settlement statistics
Between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015, the US received 69,920 refugees. Of those refugees, 47 per cent were female, 53 per cent male and 47 per cent children.
Nearly 80 per cent of refugees admitted to the US were from Africa or near South/East Asia, the top three from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Syria.
In the same period, the US Department of Homeland Security received 26,124 applications for asylum. 17,878 of those applications were granted asylum affirmatively and 8,246 were granted asylum defensively.
The US grants humanitarian protection to asylum seekers who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry or claim asylum from within the country. In that period, the United States granted asylum to 26,124 individuals.
In January 2017, President Trump issued executive orders to cut the refugee admission ceiling for 2018 from 110,000 to 45,000, and to suspend the refugee resettlement program for 120 days. These policy changes have been challenged in federal court and are currently largely prevented from implementation. As of 7 June 2017 more than 42,000 refugees had been resettled.
Federal Bureau of Investigations
The delegation received a briefing from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on anti-gang initiatives and the work of gang taskforces, including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) taskforce and 18 Street taskforce.
The FBI noted that authorities are having large impact by removing the gangs’ leadership. They added that gang recruiters target the young, and therefore need a collaborative effort involving Los Angeles City and non‑government organisations to support youth. Members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) are deputised to have all the authority of FBI and work together with drug enforcement authorities. The FBI also highlighted the effectiveness of both law enforcement agencies working together to target gangs as each provides different expertise, knowledge and skills.
MS-13 gang is an international gang that originated in LA in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants. Originally the gang's main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans. Many MS-13 gang members were deported after being arrested and many of those returned and have been deported multiple times. As a result of deportations, MS-13 recruited more members in their home countries. Now MS-13 is in South America, USA, Spain and across Europe. It is the second largest gang in Los Angeles. There are approximately 20,000 MS-13 in US and in El-Salvadore there are approximately 14,000. 2,000 are active and many are in prison.
Homeland Security Investigations
Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) is an arm of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The HSI National Gang Unit deals with multi-national gangs such as MS-13. Treasury declared MS-13 as a trans-national organisation so HSI can target money laundering.
HSI noted that a person in the US on visa, can be deported after completing a sentence, if they have committed a crime. Individual cases, however, are assessed on a case by case basis and a decision whether to deport will depend on the type crime and residency status.
HSI officers are based all over the world, working with a respective countries security agencies, investigating and sharing information, and assisting to facilitate prosecutions.
The delegation had an enlightening conversation with a gang informant.
Los Angeles Police Department
The LAPD advised the delegation that there are 18,000 police forces in USA, and of those, 15,000 have a total of 50 police officers. Each County has its own police force.
On gangs in Los Angeles, the LAPD noted that there were 400 gangs in Los Angeles; 40,000 gang members in Los Angeles; over 50,000 gang members in Los Angeles County; and 284 Gang Officers in LAPD.
The LAPD are training officers in intervention along with enforcement. The LAPD has a standard protocol to make contact with intervention partners to find out the situation in any given community. The LAPD started to work with members of the community and individuals who were formally gang members. Families are playing an important role in intervention work and trends are showing less violent crimes and homicides.
The LAPD Jeopardy Program is a gang prevention/intervention program for boys and girls ages 8 through 17 and their parents. Each station has the program. Jeopardy combines the strength of the community, neighbourhood schools and the police departments to positive effect, including lifelong attitudinal changes in the young people so as to have a positive impact on the community. Jeopardy targets at risk children, offering a variety of educational and physical projects, from tutoring to martial arts.
The LAPD commented that they were able to seek a gang injunction: a restraining order against a group. It is a civil suit that seeks a court order declaring the gang’s public behaviour a nuisance and asking for special rules directed toward its activity. Injunctions can address the neighbourhood’s gang problem before it reaches the level of felony crime activity. There were currently 45 active injunctions in the city involving 72 gangs.
The delegation visited the Homegirl Café, one of several enterprises run by Homeboy Industries, a non-profit that provides training and employment for former gang members and at-risk youth.
Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles
The delegation visited the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles to discuss citizenship and gang reduction programs. The Mayor’s Office highlighted the vast amount of people currently living with the City: Los Angeles has 4 million people; Los Angeles County has 10 million people; 44 per cent are foreign born; in Los Angeles there are 39 different nationalities and the city has the world’s largest populations for outside their country of origin such as Iran, Ethiopia, El Salvadore, and the Philippines.
The Los Angeles Mayor’s Office is working to advance policies of immigrant inclusion and develop integration. States and cities are taking a lead on immigration policies in the United States.
When discussing citizenship, the Mayor’s Office commented that it takes an average of five years to apply for citizenship and family members may be quicker. There is currently a backlog with nine months to process citizenship applications and while there is a test on American culture, there is no test of English language competency.
The delegation met with the Gang Reduction Youth Development Office in the Mayor’s Office. They oversee strategies which involve the provision of prevention services, gang intervention services, violence interruption activities, and involvement in peace-making activities. Their mission is to strengthen the resiliency of youth/young adults, families and communities to the influence of gangs by fostering public/private collaborations and supporting community-based prevention and intervention services. Programs include:
Summer Night Lights: 32 parks are cleaned up by gangs on Wednesday to Saturday nights. The whole community is involved including gang members and police which encourages engagement. Volunteers provide meals and activities in addition to intervention work. Half the program’s funding is from the City and half is from private sources.
Gang Prevention program: works with youth that present at least four of nine risk factors. Once eligible clients are identified, they have a case worker work with the whole family.
Sports and Arts program: is administered at selected sites and offers specialised sports clinics and art workshops to participants free of charge.
Violence Interruption program: Intervention workers alongside LAPD.
The delegation met with representatives of Homies Unidos which provides youth life skills and parenting programs for target families and gang at-risk and gang involved youth.
One program is The Epiphany Project which is a 12-week educational course designed to help non-active gang members reintegrate into their communities. Upon completion of the program, Homies Unidos pays for the removal of any visible gang-related tattoos. Over the past five years, Homies Unidos has removed more than 300 gang related tattoos.
Through Family Wellness Workshops Homies Unidos works to build mutual understanding between parents and children. To ease the struggles as young people embrace a life without violence, Homies Unidos seeks to enlist support and participation of their families. Workshops enhance relationships and communications skills to help maintain family wellness and keep families together.
Homies Unidos participants are in a unique position to intervene and curtail the troubles of at-risk youth through leadership roles because they were once at-risk themselves.
Mayor of Downey City and Downey Police
The last visit on the program was with the Mayor of Downey City and Downey Police Lieutenant Mark McDaniel, President of Gangs Out Of Downey (GOOD), who discussed the GOOD and the After School Program Information Recreation Education (ASPIRE) Programs.
The GOOD program focuses on prevention, intervention, education, and collaboration and aims to:
Sponsor the removal of graffiti;
Support gang suppression;
Educate parents and youth in gang avoidance;
Provide interventions for youth at risk of gang involvement;
Encourage the establishment of new diversionary programs; and
Stimulate responsible behaviour through recognition.
The City of Downey and the Downey Unified School District collaborate to administer a State grant to provide the ASPIRE program at a number of schools. ASPIRE students are provided with a daily snack from the Downey Unified School District Food Services. Homework assistance is provided for approximately one-hour per day as well as active recreation for at least 30 minutes a day. The program focuses on active engagement in activities that expand the learning from the school day and is geared to be fun and educational for both the elementary and middle school sites. Ninety six per cent of youth in City of Downey graduate from high school.
The Delegation expresses its appreciation to the staff of Australia’s Embassies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany. The guidance of these officers was very much appreciated. Particular thanks are extended to the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the Hon Alexander Downer AC; Ms Lynette Wood, Ambassador to Germany; and Mr Jonathan Kenna, Ambassador to Sweden.
The Delegation appreciated the informative briefings and assistance provided by officers of the Australian Parliament's International and Parliamentary Relations Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Delegation was honoured to have been hosted at a lunch in Sweden by Mr Urban Ahlin, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament and Mr Johan Nissinen MP, member of the Swedish Parliament.
The delegation expresses its thanks to the many individuals and organisations who generously gave their time to meet and share their views with members during the visit.