Brexit: Talks enter last day before crunch EU summit

Brexit flagsImage copyright EPA

EU and UK officials will resume Brexit talks this morning in the hopes of reaching a deal that can be agreed by leaders at a key summit on Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update the cabinet on the progress of the negotiations, which continued through the night.

On Tuesday there were reports a deal was imminent amid claims the UK had made concessions over the Irish border.

But Downing Street said there was “more work still to do”.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will update the bloc on what progress has been made between the two sides when he briefs EU commissioners and ambassadors later.

Mr Johnson is facing a race against the clock to reach a new Brexit deal before the two-day gathering of EU leaders.

Any deal will need to be published – along with a legal text – if the EU27 are to consider ratifying the withdrawal agreement at their summit.

That meeting is crucial because under legislation passed last month – the Benn Act – Mr Johnson is compelled to ask the bloc for a delay to Brexit if he does not get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 October and the prime minister has repeatedly insisted he will not request a delay.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption DUP leader Arlene Foster met the PM for 90 minutes on Tuesday night

But in addition to the challenges of reaching an agreement with the EU this week, Mr Johnson also requires support from Conservative Brexiteers and Democratic Unionists if he is likely to get his deal through Parliament.

Such support rests on the UK’s proposed alternative to the Irish backstop – the measure aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson held a series of talks with backbench MPs and leaders of the DUP.

After a 90-minute meeting with the prime minister, the DUP said “it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required”.

Earlier in the day, the party’s leader, Arlene Foster, said the party could not accept reported plans of a customs border in the Irish Sea – meaning Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the UK.

Another Brexiteer, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, told the Sun he would wait to see the full details of a deal, but added that a border down the Irish Sea would be “unacceptable”.

However, the chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, Steve Baker, struck a more upbeat tone, saying he was “optimistic” that “a tolerable deal” could be reached.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons and a former ERG chair, told LBC: “I think the votes are there now for a deal.”

DBP. Let’s have a new one, a new acronym of course, because Brexit has been nothing if not a journey through collections of syllables that once might have seemed unfamiliar to even political aficionados, but now trip off the tongue.

DUP? Easy one, the Tories’ Northern Irish allies.

ERG, obvious too, the European Research Group – the Brexiteers’ club.

Then there is NCP, what was once upon a time Theresa May’s plan for customs, the IP, the implementation period, the departure lounge after Brexit, and so on, and so on, and so, until we all lose the will to live.

If you are still with me then let’s introduce ‘DBP’, because on a very odd day in Westminster, it’s the phrase I have heard almost more than any other – difficult but possible.

Read Laura’s full blog here.

Regardless of what happens in Brussels, a showdown is anticipated in an emergency sitting of Parliament on Saturday – the first in 37 years, if it goes ahead.

MPs will be able to back or reject any deal presented to them and there will be discussions on what to do next.

However, Mr Rees-Mogg did not confirm the sitting would happen, saying it would depend on events in Brussels.

BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said the widely-held view among the EU was that the UK was unlikely to be leaving on 31 October, and the question was whether an extension could be short in order to iron out some small issues, or had to be much longer to deal with bigger problems.

Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?

Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.

Saturday 19 October – Special sitting of Parliament expected – and the date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by MPs and they have not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.

Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is currently due to leave the EU.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50063022

More children caught bringing knives into school

KnivesImage copyright PA Media

More than a thousand children were caught with weapons in school last year, according to a survey of 29 police forces in England and Wales.

The weapons included knives, blades, knuckledusters and a Taser stun gun, the Press Association survey found.

The children included a 14-year-old with a sword and a four-year-old with an unnamed weapon.

Head teachers’ leader Geoff Barton said the findings were “grim but unsurprising”.

The survey, which follows concern about rising levels of knife crime, was based on Freedom of Information data from police forces.

Rising problem

It found schoolchildren involved in incidents with many different types of bladed weapon, including lock knives, penknives, craft knives and garden shears.

In Bedfordshire, a pupil was caught in possession of a machete and in Manchester a samurai sword was recovered from school premises.

Image copyright Getty Images

Thames Valley police discovered a bayonet in a school and in the West Midlands, a 15-year-old was found in possession of an axe.

The figures showed 1,072 incidents involving weapons, up from 831 in the same areas in the previous year – but did not include statistics from the biggest force, the Metropolitan Police in London.

The data was based on the financial year – and the survey found anther 311 incidents between April and August 2019.

‘Serious violence’

“Serious violence is a growing problem amongst young people and we continue to work closely with partners to address this,” said Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, lead for young people on the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

“Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon is never the right choice.”

But Lucy Martindale, a youth worker from south London who campaigns against knife violence, said: “The situation is getting worse, even just this year.

“Some young people I speak to say before they leave the house – where most people check they have picked up their keys and wallet or purse – they check they have their knives with them.”

Mr Barton, general secretary of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said this is a problem that schools cannot tackle on their own and called for more community support and “investment in policing”.

Gang pressure

“The scourge of weapons has grown worse in recent years, and while there are a number of complex factors involved, a key issue has been cuts in policing and local support services for vulnerable families.

“Gangs have filled this vacuum and often pressure and groom young people into dealing drugs and carrying weapons,” Mr Barton said.

A Department for Education spokesman said £10m had been invested in “behaviour hubs” to share information between schools on improving discipline.

“We have strengthened teachers’ powers so they can take action if they suspect a pupil has brought a prohibited item, including knives, into school.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-50056275

NHS screening ‘needs to fit with busy lives’

Generic picture of a woman receiving a mammogramImage copyright Science Photo Library

There needs to be easier access to NHS screening programmes in England, including evening and weekend clinics, to increase uptake, a review says.

The report by Prof Sir Mike Richards also called for tests to be offered in a wider variety of locations, including mobile units.

And it recommended using social media to promote what was available.

The government had asked Sir Mike to look at the five adult programmes covering cancer and other conditions.

They are:

  • bowel cancer (men and women aged 60 to 74, or from 55 in some pilot areas)
  • cervical cancer (women aged 25 to 64)
  • breast cancer (women aged 50 to 71)
  • abdominal aortic aneurysms (a weakness in the main blood vessel supplying the heart) (men aged 65)
  • diabetic eye screening

Sir Mike, a former national cancer director and chief inspector of hospitals, said the screening programmes were saving 10,000 lives a year through prevention and early diagnosis.

Image copyright Science Photo Library

But it was clear they were still not reaching their full potential, especially the cancer ones.

Some 15 million people are invited to take part in these screening programmes each year – but just over 10 million take up the invitation.

Uptake for bowel cancer screening is lowest, at below 60%.

Changes are already being introduced, including a new easier-to-use screening test for bowel cancer.

And Sir Mike said the use of artificial intelligence and genetic testing would continue to drive forward improvements.

But, he said, more needed to be done.

Car parks

“People live increasingly busy lives and we need to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to attend these important appointments,” Sir Mike said.

He wants to see more use of different locations.

Most screening takes places in hospitals and GP centres.

But there is work being done to offer some of the tests via mobile units at supermarket car parks and in other health clinics, such as sexual health centres for cervical screening.

Weekend and evening opening could also help, Sir Mike said.

He also called for more to be done to engage the public.

He highlighted local projects that had increased uptake by posting breast cancer screening opportunities into Facebook community groups and carrying out follow-up phone calls to people who did not take part in bowel cancer screening.

Meanwhile, he said, responsibility for all the screening programmes should lie with NHS England – at the moment it is shared with Public Health England.

And improvements in IT programs were needed – something NHS England is already looking at.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said they were “sensible recommendations” that would be acted on.

Macmillan Cancer Support gave its backing to the recommendations, saying they should be implemented “urgently”.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-50045477

Harry Dunn’s parents meet President Trump at White House

Harry DunnImage copyright Justice4Harry19
Image caption Harry Dunn died in hospital after his motorbike was involved in a crash with a Volvo

Donald Trump has said the chief suspect in the death of crash victim Harry Dunn will not return to the UK, the teenager’s parents have said.

Anne Sacoolas, 42, returned to the United States days after the crash which killed the 19-year-old.

Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said the president was sympathetic when he met them at the White House but did not agree to Mrs Sacoolas’ UK return.

She was also at the White House, but Harry’s parents declined to meet her.

Harry died near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August when his motorcycle was in a crash with a Volvo.

Mrs Sacoolas – who is reportedly married to a US intelligence official who was stationed at RAF Croughton – was interviewed by police but then returned to the United States after claiming diplomatic immunity.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charlotte Charles (l) and Tim Dunn (r) want Anne Sacoolas to return to the UK

Ms Charles said after the White House meeting: “When [President Trump] held my hand, I gripped it a lot tighter and I was honest with him and just said… ‘if it was your son you would be doing the same as us’.

“He actually gripped my hand a little bit tighter and said ‘yes I would be’. And that’s when he said he would try and look at this from a different angle.

“I can only hope that he was sincere enough to consider doing that for us.

“He’s the one in control here, but we’re the ones in control of our situation as much as he can be – we still want justice for Harry and we will take it as far as we possibly can to ensure that that’s done.

“We do feel that we have done as much as we can at the moment.”

Tim Dunn said of turning down the chance to meet Mrs Sacoolas at the White House: “We weren’t ready to meet her – it would have been too rushed.

“It’s not what we wanted – we wanted a meeting with her in the UK.”

But he added that the trip to the White House “didn’t feel like a stunt”.

“I think the president was very graceful and spoke very well to us.

“He listened to Charlotte very well, she spoke excellently to him and he was very understanding.

“I genuinely do think he will look to resolve this in a way that will help us.”

Image copyright Aiken Standard Archive
Image caption Anne Sacoolas, pictured on her wedding day in 2003

Over the weekend, Mrs Sacoolas broke her silence over Mr Dunn’s death in a letter via her lawyers.

In it she said she wanted to meet his parents “so that she can express her deepest sympathies and apologies for this tragic accident”.

Mrs Sacoolas was said to be covered by diplomatic immunity as the spouse of a US intelligence official, though that protection is now in dispute.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-50064595

The UK cities where rent is rising the fastest

Nottingham skylineImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nottingham recorded the fastest increase, the figures show

The cost of renting a home rose fastest in Nottingham, Leeds and Bristol in the past year, research indicates, while Aberdeen recorded the biggest fall.

The survey, from property website Zoopla, said tenants moving into a Nottingham home this summer paid 5.4% more in rent than a year earlier.

Leeds and Bristol (up 4.5%) were the only other UK cities where rents rose faster than UK average wage growth.

On average, renting a UK home has become more affordable, Zoopla said.

Part of the reason lies in an increase in the number of people buying their first own home, relieving some of the pressure on the rental sector.

Tenants moving in Aberdeen – where the local economy is affected significantly by the oil industry – saw rents drop by 4.1% in the third quarter of the year, compared with a year earlier.

Coventry and Middlesbrough also saw renting become cheaper, according to the inaugural Zoopla quarterly rental report.

Who is affected?

Nearly three-quarters of 16 to 24-year-olds and almost half of 25 to 34-year-olds rent from a private landlord, according to the government’s Family Resources Survey.

The sector is concentrated in London, with about a third of rental properties in the UK found in the city. This is also where the typical rent per month is the most expensive.

The Zoopla report suggests that the typical tenant in the UK spends nearly a third of their earnings on rent (31.8%), slightly less than the peak in 2016.

Outside of London, tenants spent the highest proportion of earnings in Oxford, Brighton and Cambridge, with the lowest in Hull, Bradford and Stoke.

UK-wide rental prices are up by an average of 2% in the last year, which is about half the typical level of wage rises.

“Renting is more affordable today than the 10-year average. [An increase in] first-time buyers, 80% of whom exit the private renting sector to buy, has also moderated rental demand,” said Richard Donnell, of Zoopla, which has based the figures on its listings and other data.

“Rental affordability varies widely across the country, reflecting the relative strength of local economies.”

Across the UK, homes take an average of 17 days to rent, based on the time between a listing being posted and removed. This is down from one year ago, when homes took 19 days to rent, and much shorter than the time it takes to sell a property.

The typical tenant spent nearly four years in the same property, Mr Donnell said.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50056177

Extinction Rebellion: Police ban London protests

Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central LondonImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central London

Police have been clearing Extinction Rebellion activists from Trafalgar Square after issuing a London-wide ban on the group’s climate change protests.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the Metropolitan Police said demonstrators protesting in the capital after 21:00 GMT would be arrested.

On Twitter, the group’s London branch called the move “an outrage”.

The protests, which began last Monday and were due to last two weeks, have resulted in more than 1,400 arrests.

A number of demonstrations have been staged across the capital by the group, which is calling on the government to do more to tackle climate change.

In the latest move, on Monday, hundreds of protesters targeted the City of London, blocking the crossroads outside the Bank of England.

The Met said there had been 1,445 arrests by 14:00 on Monday, with 76 people charged with offences including criminal damage and obstruction of a highway.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the ban had been imposed due to breaches of the Public Order Act and “ongoing serious disruption to the community.”

Image copyright PA Media
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Protesters gather their belongings as police work to remove the last of the Extinction Rebellion demonstration

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Media captionTrying to balance the right to protest with preventing obstruction

Previously, protesters had been warned by police to protest only in Trafalgar Square or risk arrest.

However, on Monday evening police began removing protesters from the site.

In a statement on Twitter, Extinction Rebellion London accused police of “back-tracking on promises made” and that MEPs had told them the clearing of Trafalgar Square could be “in contravention of UK law”.

Four people who had locked themselves together inside a so-called peace tent were cut out of their locks with machinery by police.

Pam Williams, 71, glued herself to the spot where her tent stood as police arrived to take it.

She said protesters in Trafalgar Square were only given 30 minutes’ notice before the 21:00 deadline.

‘I’ve glued myself to the ground’

“I feel possibly that they’ve been approached by people we’ve upset today, maybe the finance sector or the banking sector,” she said.

“I’m refusing to leave and I’ve glued myself to the ground.

“My husband has taken away the tent, the police haven’t got it. I shall stay here until I’m arrested.”

Referencing the City of London demonstration, Mr Taylor said protesters had caused “further disruption to people and businesses” with police making more than 90 arrests.

He said officers had “been working hard to keep London moving” during the protests and that they had begun “getting things back to normal”.

He added: “The policing operation continues, and we will continue to take action against anyone engaged in unlawful protests at locations targeted by Extinction Rebellion.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50051279

Corbyn: Voter ID plans discriminate against ethnic minorities

Jeremy CorbynImage copyright AFP
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn made the comments at a rally after the Queen’s speech

Plans to make all UK voters prove their identity will “disproportionately” discriminate against ethnic minorities, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The government outlined plans in the Queen’s speech on Monday to require people to bring photo ID to polling stations in order to vote.

Mr Corbyn claimed the move was an attempt to “suppress voters” and “rig” the next general election result.

The government said the plans were “reasonable and proportionate”.

Approved photographic ID would include passports and driving licences.

The proposals follow two trials which involved five areas in England during council elections last year and 10 areas in May this year.

During the first trial, about 340 people were turned away from voting and did not return with ID, compared to about 750 people in the second trial. That represented less than 1% of eligible voters in both trials.

Currently, only voters in Northern Ireland have to show photo ID before they can cast their vote.

Speaking at a rally on Monday, shortly after the Queen’s speech, Mr Corbyn said the plans were a “blatant attempt” by the Conservative Party to “deny people their democratic rights”.

He added: “The people that the Tories are trying to stop voting will be disproportionately from ethnic minority backgrounds, and they will disproportionately be working class voters of all ethnicities.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhat did we learn from the Queen’s Speech? The BBC’s Helen Catt explains

Research in 2015 by the Electoral Commission, the independent body that sets the standards of elections in the UK, indicated that about 3.5 million citizens, or 7.5% of the electorate, did not have access to any approved photo ID.

The research suggested that women are considerably less likely than men, and black people considerably less likely than white people, to have a driving licence.

Certain ethnic groups such as Gypsies and Irish Travellers are also much less likely than the average to have a passport, it found.

The government plans to offset this risk by introducing a new form of identity document voters can apply for free of charge.

It said the plans would help give the public confidence that elections are “secure and fit for the 21st century”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman added: “Showing ID to vote is a reasonable and proportionate way to protect our elections – it is something people already do in everyday life and voters in Northern Ireland have been doing it with ease for decades.”

Campaign group the Electoral Reform Society said its research suggested there were only eight allegations of impersonation made out of the millions of votes cast during council elections in 2018.

Its chief executive, Darren Hughes, said 3.5 million voters did not have access to photo ID, making them vulnerable to missing out.

“When millions of people lack photo ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) voters,” said Mr Hughes.

However, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly accused Mr Corbyn of “sowing the seeds of division”.

“If anything, tougher checks against electoral fraud will protect the democratic rights of all communities,” Mr Cleverly added.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50051178

Brexit: EU ministers to be updated as talks continue

EU flagsImage copyright Reuters

EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg are to receive an update on Brexit talks from the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, later.

Discussions between EU and UK officials aimed at reaching a Brexit deal have intensified in recent days.

Hopes of a deal being agreed before the 31 October Brexit deadline were boosted after a meeting between Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart last week.

But Mr Barnier this week said “big gaps” remained between the UK and EU.

‘Final hours’

Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, went further, saying there was not enough time for a deal to be reached.

After meeting the European Council’s president-elect Charles Michel, Mr Rinne said: “I think there is no time in a practical or legal way to find an agreement before the EU Council meeting. We need more time.”

In response, housing secretary Robert Jenrick rejected the remarks, stressing a “great deal” of progress had been made and negotiators are working “very intensively”.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The EU is capable of moving extremely quickly if they wish to.

“Like any negotiation with the EU, and in fact with any major negotiation in life, everything happens at the last minute.

“This was always going to be both complicated and come down to the final hours and days, so this doesn’t surprise me. We are going to work round the clock to try to secure it.”

The comments came as negotiators stepped up efforts to work out a way to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop, the contingency measure to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland that is seen as the key factor in the talks.

On Monday, Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney raised hopes on an agreement being reached before the EU summit by saying a deal could possibly be achieved as soon as this week.

“But we’re not there yet,” he added.

In similar comments, Mr Johnson told senior ministers there was “still a significant amount of work to get there” but a “pathway” to a deal was still visible.

With talks in Brussels ongoing, a Cabinet meeting expected to take place on Tuesday has been postponed and is now likely to take place on Wednesday. Downing Street sources say it is to allow for a fuller update on Brexit.

It’s extremely hard to see how a new Brexit deal can still be agreed by this Thursday.

Negotiations continue – but time is tight, and, to use the words of even the most upbeat of those involved, “there’s still much work to do”.

EU internal talk is focusing now on a possible “holding pattern statement” at this week’s EU leaders summit, along the lines of “we’ve made great progress in negotiations but still need more time”.

There are also renewed mutterings about a new Brexit summit, maybe towards the end of the month.

Read more from our Europe editor.

The two-day EU summit is crucial because the prime minister must get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday if he is to avoid asking for a Brexit delay.

The Benn Act passed by MPs opposed to no-deal says he must ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if MPs do not back a deal by then.

However, Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out requesting such an extension, prompting speculation that he may seek to sidestep the legislation.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested it could be possible for the government to use European law to achieve no-deal.

“Theresa May got an extension not through UK law but through EU law and, until the 1972 European Communities Act is repealed, EU law is superior law in the UK,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

Labour has threatened court action to force the PM to obey the legislation.

Regardless of what happens in Brussels, a showdown is anticipated in an emergency sitting of Parliament on Saturday – the first in 37 years.

MPs will be able to back or reject any deal presented to them, or there will be discussions on what to do next.

Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?

Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.

Saturday 19 October – Special sitting of Parliament and the date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by MPs and they have not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.

Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is currently due to leave the EU.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50044873

British holidaymakers ‘traumatised’ after arrest at US border

Protesters, with a small child, holding a sign saying 'kids my age are in cages without their parents'Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, calling for immigration detention centres to be shut down earlier this year. The British couple detained are not pictured here

A British couple say they have been detained in the US after accidentally crossing the border from Canada.

David Connors, 30, and his wife Eileen, 24, say they are being held in Pennsylvania with their three-month-old baby and are “traumatised”.

They say were driving with relatives on 3 October when, to avoid an animal, they veered onto a small road.

A police officer then pulled them over, told them they were in the US state of Washington and arrested them.

The couple have detailed the “scariest experience of our entire lives” in a sworn statement that was provided to BBC News by their lawyer.

The family statement is the basis for a legal complaint lodged by their lawyer with the US Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

US immigration authorities confirmed to the BBC that the couple were being held, but denied their allegations of mistreatment.

Where were they taken?

The family’s attorney, Bridget Cambria, of Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, said the couple were driving in the Vancouver area on 3 October when they took a detour to avoid an animal on the road.

The family say they did not realise they had strayed over the US border.

They were pulled over by a police officer who did not read them their rights, nor allow them to “simply turn around” and go back to Canada, according to the complaint.

At first the young family say they were separated – with Mr Connors being held in a male-only cell, and Eileen Connors and their infant son in a women’s cell.

Later, the husband was taken to a detention centre in Tacoma, Washington, while his wife and their baby son were taken to a budget hotel near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to the complaint.

The following morning they say they were driven to the airport, which raised their hopes that they were being flown back to Canada or the UK.

“But that was not the case,” Eileen Connors says in the sworn statement. Instead, they were flown to Pennsylvania – on the other side of the country.

They were taken on 5 October to Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC), one of three immigration detention centres in the US that can accommodate families.

Mrs Connors says: “We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed the family was in detention at the BFRC facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

A spokesman for the agency told the BBC that BFRC “provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process”.

“Reports of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false,” he added.

‘The worst experience’

The couple’s sworn statement says the cells are “frigid”, and staff have refused to turn the heating on until the end of next month.

“When I ask how I am supposed to keep my baby warm in this horrible cold, all they tell me is to put a hat on him,” Mrs Connors said in the statement.

“My baby can’t wear a hat all the time, he feels uncomfortable with hats and mittens and starts to cry.”

Staff, she added, confiscated her son’s formula for three days, as well as his teething powder, and would only provide “disgusting” blankets that smelled “like a dead dog”.

They say the baby’s skin is now rough and blotchy and he appears to have an eye infection.

“We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to,” Mrs Connors said. “It is not right.

“We have been treated unfairly from day one. It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through.

“We have been traumatised and it has even damaged our relationship. No one should have to suffer this kind of treatment.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-50050467

Bulgaria v England: Euro 2020 qualifier halted twice due to racist behaviour from fans

England players and officials considered leaving the field but chose to stay on in Sofia

England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria was halted twice as fans were warned about racist behaviour including Nazi salutes and monkey chanting.

The first pause came in the 28th minute with England leading 2-0.

A stadium announcement then condemned the abuse before stating the match would be abandoned if it continued.

However, the game was stopped again in the 43rd minute before restarting after discussions between the referee and England manager Gareth Southgate.

England went on to win 6-0 in Sofia to strengthen their place at the top of Group A.

‘One of the most appalling nights I’ve seen in football’

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke was at the game and witnessed the abuse first hand, saying it had left a number of the England players and staff visibly upset.

“I heard examples of appalling racist chanting,” he said.

“I was looking at a group of people, all in black – about 50 of them – who were making what looked like political fascist gestures. I couldn’t be sure, it was 100 metres away but it looked appalling.

“I’ve spoken to one or two of the players and I’ve also spoken to one or two of the backroom staff, because we don’t just have a multiracial team, we have a multiracial backroom staff.

“They were visibly emotionally upset, and I spoke to Gareth after the game too and I offered him our full support.”

Clarke says he expects European football’s governing body Uefa to conduct a thorough review of the incident.

“Uefa, who I’ve spoken to throughout the game, at half-time and at the end of the game, will be carrying out a thorough investigation to make sure this appalling scene of terrible racism is treated appropriately,” he said.

In a statement, the FA confirmed England players were subjected to “abhorrent racist chanting” and that it was “unacceptable at any level of the game”.

England defender Tyrone Mings, who was making his international debut, said the players had decided as a group at half-time to continue the game.

“Just before the end of the first half the appropriate next step was to return to the changing room,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We made a common-sense decision to play the remaining few minutes and decided at half-time. Everybody made the decision. The manager, the team, the supporting staff. We spoke about it at half-time and we dealt with it and escalated it in the right way.

“I am proud of how we dealt with it and took the appropriate steps.”

The Vasil Levski Stadium was subject to a partial closure for this match after Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist behaviour of fans during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by concerns of potential incidents of racism, with England striker Tammy Abraham saying the players would be prepared to walk off the pitch if they were targeted.

Southgate held a meeting with his players over the weekend to underline the Uefa three-step protocol in dealing with racist incidents – but the subject provoked an angry response from the Bulgarian football authorities.

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov had accused England of having a bigger racism problem than his own country.

What exactly happened during the game?

Some fans in the Bulgaria section of the stadium appeared to make Nazi salutes

After making a pass, England defender Mings glanced over his shoulder and could be heard calling towards the touchline: “Did you hear that?”

Within minutes the game was stopped.

Striker Harry Kane was in conversation with referee Ivan Bebek on the halfway line while a stadium announcement was made to condemn racist abuse and warn fans that the game could be abandoned if it continued. At the same time, England manager Southgate was talking to a number of his players.

The game resumed but was stopped again just before half-time. Southgate and several England players were in discussion with match officials before the game was restarted for a second time.

A group of Bulgaria supporters wearing black hooded tops – some wearing bandanas covering their faces – started to leave the stadium after the game was halted for a second time. BBC Radio 5 Live reported that some made right-wing and racist gestures while heading towards the exits.

After six minutes of time added at the end of the first half because of the delay, Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov was seen in a heated debate with a section of home supporters near the tunnel while the rest of the players headed for the dressing rooms for half-time.

What is Uefa’s approach to dealing with incidents of racism?

Uefa has a three-step protocol, introduced in 2009, in place for dealing with such incidents in matches.

For the first step, the referee will speak to the stadium announcer and demand the halting of racist behaviour.

If it continues, the referee can take the players off the field into the dressing rooms for a period of time and the stadium announcer will make another address.

If it still continues, the match will be abandoned.

In this incident, the first step was taken. The players were asked if they wanted to come off the pitch, but decided to continue.

Southgate said: “I explained to the players that if anything else did happen in the second half we would be coming off.

“We all saw the second half was calmer and that allowed our players to do their talking with the football.”

Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling scored twice, while Marcus Rashford and Kane were also on target in a win which moves England to the brink of a place at Euro 2020.

‘There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans’

This is not the first time in England’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign that their players have been subjected to racist abuse.

In March Sterling was vocal in condemning the abuse received by England players during their 5-1 win in Montenegro.

Montenegro’s punishment was to have two home games played behind closed doors and a fine of 20,000 euros (£17,000).

Anti-racism group Kick it Out has urged Uefa to take strong action, saying the governing body’s current sanctions are “not fit for purpose”.

“We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men’s team by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises,” it said.

“It’s now time for Uefa to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action. The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that Uefa’s sanctions are not fit for purpose.

“There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If Uefa cares at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow.”

Uefa told BBC Sport any action in response to Monday’s events would have to follow on from a disciplinary committee, which in turn has to wait for a referee’s report.

‘This is a seminal moment’

Former England striker Ian Wright, a pundit for Match of the Day who was covering the game for ITV Sport, said what happened in Sofia could be a “seminal moment” for the issue of racism in football.

“It’s a fantastic moment,” he said, referring to the players’ response to the abuse. “What is good about it is we have a generation of players – not just black players – who won’t tolerate it any more.

“This is the ‘by any means necessary’ generation. They don’t need to take that any more when they have their own platforms and the protocol to stick to.

“It’s a great day. I feel really good watching this. We have had so many games where we have had this racial abuse and people say ‘just beat them on the pitch’. It doesn’t do anything. Today, they won because [the abusers] had to leave.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50048932