UK asylum flights to Rwanda grounded; Singapore to expand elderly care; US Supreme Court shields feds from personal lawsuits: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 16/06/2022 | Updated on 21/06/2022
Priti Patel looks down holding speech notes before a draped union flag

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UK’s Rwanda deportation scheme stalled after ECHR issues legal challenge

The UK government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda was halted this week as planes due to fly the first deportees out of the country were grounded due to a last-minute legal challenge from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The scheme, which the UK Home Office says seeks to deter people smugglers, has faced heavy criticism from politicians, lawyers and human rights figures. Prime minister Boris Johnson defended the plan, saying people trafficking rings places asylum seekers in grave danger and incurs steep processing costs to the British taxpayer.

Last week, the UK High Court rejected an application submitted by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union calling for a short injunction against the flights. The union represents 80% of UK Border Force staff, and its case was supported by charities Care4Calais and Detention Action. The inital ruling marked a win for the government’s plan, with Mr. Justice Swift adding that the home secretary Priti Patel should “be able to implement immigration control measures”, and that “preventing that would be prejudicial to the public interest”.

But the ECHR then stepped in, cited criticisms from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee that asylum seekers would not have access to fair procedures on their claims once in Rwanda. This prompted it to issue a measure delaying the deportation until three weeks after a judicial review.

Following the court’s intervention, Patel said the UK would begin plans on the next flight with immediate effect. Speaking in the UK House of Commons, she said: “We will not stand idly by and let organised crime gangs, who are despicable in their nature and their conduct, evil people, treat human beings as cargo. We will not accept that we have no right to control our borders.”

Singapore sets out to expand elderly care services with 2025 targets

The Singaporean government has said its Ministry of Health is planning significant expansion of elderly care services to meet the needs of its ageing population.

The government wants to double its current number of eldercare centres to around 220 by 2050, as well as increase its nursing home beds to more than 31,000 over the next 10 years.

According to Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s health minister, the department has already managed to grow bed capacity by 70% over the past 10 or so years. Speaking at an annual seminar for the Agency for Integrated Care, he added that the community care sector faced significant pressure to keep pace with demand for end-of-life care, as well as more regular GP visits.

“Over the last few years, we have tested and integrated new models of care between hospital and home. We will have to do more for palliative care to be further anchored in the community,” Mr Ong said.

Each of the centres are expected to take responsibility for a maximum of around 4,000 senior citizens. These facilities will be available to patients in between GP visits, which elderly citizens with chronic conditions current visit once every few months.

The ministry will also look to upskill nursing staff, particularly in areas that involve assisting patients at the end of their lives and providing their loved ones with emotional support. Ong said this would reduce the number of difficult transferrals between care home to hospital that are currently asked of elderly patients.

US Supreme Court shields federal officials from personal lawsuits

The US Supreme Court has moved to protect federal employees from lawsuits brought against them by citizens who claim they have violated their constitutional rights.

The case Egbert vs. Boule saw a conservative majority rule in federal agents’ favour, whereby any attempt to bring action against a government employee for physical assault, for example, would not be recognised under the law.

The case relates to an altercation that occurred in 2014 between Erik Egbert, a Border Patrol agent, and Richard Boule, the owner of a bed and breakfast. In the scrimmage, Egbert allegedly pushed Boule to the ground for resisting his investigation into the whereabouts of an undocumented immigrant he believed to be based at Boule’s establishment. Boule later sued Egbert for an excessive use of force violation as well as a retaliation violation.

US citizens can sue federal agents for violating their rights at a federal level, based on a Supreme Court case known as Bivens vs. Six Unknown Named Agents dating back to 1971. In this latest case, however, the court said that using constitutional violations to base such claims would undermine the work of Border Patrol agents, as well as US national security. It also said the court system was ill-equipped to assess damages against federal personnel.

According to a report by Government Executive, Alex Reinart, director of the Center for Rights and Justice at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, and an expert on Bivens, said the decision unambiguously benefits federal agents. 

“Border Patrol officers, no matter what they’re doing, aren’t going to be held accountable under Bivens,” he said.  “It would be great if federal officials did not violate the constitution but that’s not the case. Federal officials violate the constitution all the time.”

White House releases government-wide IT plan to improve cybersecurity and digital services

The Biden administration has published a new IT modernisation plan outlining its aspiration to embrace digital technologies and improve customer experience.

The framework, produced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), stresses the need for federal agencies to mobilise existing funding to improve cybersecurity and data analytics capabilities. Both areas it argues are crucial to delivery of effective modern public services as well as robust national security policy.

Clare Martorana, the OMB’s federal chief information officer, said that the federal government was “at a unique moment in time to drive digital transformation”, having received US$1.35bn in funding for IT modernisation through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ARP is the country’s US$1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus package.

“We recognise the significant investment that congress has made in securing and modernising federal IT and have assembled this plan to explain how we ensure the wise investment of each dollar congress has entrusted to us towards its highest use – creating the most impact for the American people,” Martorana said.

According to the framework report, OMB’s aim is to “maximise the impact” of three funds tasked with supporting agency IT upgrades. These comprise the Information Technology Oversight and Reform (ITOR) account, a fund geared towards government efficiency, effectiveness, and security; the Federal Citizen Services Fund (FCSF), which supports public engagement with federal government through a variety of cross-government programmes; and the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which enables agencies to access capital.

Read more: US federal agencies to upgrade cyber and data capabilities as part of government-wide IT plan

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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