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Home Office in the media

Home Office in the media: Tuesday 1 October

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Home Office in the media

Today's leading stories include anti-abortion protests, requests for a public inquiry into the Manchester Arena attacks and an individual visa case.

Anti-abortion protests

A pregnant Labour MP was targeted by anti-abortion activists who paid for a billboard poster campaign featuring a foetus near her home, the Times, Mirror, Mail and Guardian report.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, has said she was the victim of harassment after six posters of a nine-week-old foetus were put up with the slogan “Stop Stella”. She led moves to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland this year.

The coverage adds that the posters were paid for by the UK arm of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, an American anti-abortion group. They were taken down by the company that owns the billboards, Clear Channel.

Clear Channel has apologised, adding that it is reviewing its internal processes.

The papers report that Ms Creasy, who is pregnant, has called on the Home Secretary to intervene. The Guardian adds that she wants buffer zone legislation introduced.

She has further called on the Metropolitan Police to “stop the harassment” after the group were campaigning on Walthamstow High Street at the weekend. The Times and Mail report that officers attended but found no offences had been committed.

According to the coverage, the Advertising Standard Authority has received 100 complaints about the posters.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

This is a sensitive and complex issue, which is why we conducted an in-depth review of protests outside abortion clinics.

The right to protest is a vital part of a democratic society, but it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated.

We expect the police to take a firm stance against protesters who significantly disrupt the lives of others and use the full force of the law. There are already powers in place for police to restrict harmful protest activity.

Manchester attack inquiry

The Times and Mirror report that the coroner leading the inquest into the Manchester Arena deaths has confirmed that he has asked the Home Secretary for permission to hold secret hearings to consider intelligence material.

The papers report that Sir John Saunders has written to the Home Secretary seeking to convert the inquest into a public inquiry after she applied for “public interest immunity” on behalf of MI5 to keep “centrally important” information from the public.

The papers report that there are concerns from the families of victims and their representatives that converting the inquest into an inquiry will mean that they do not get the answers they want. John Cooper QC, criticised the application, saying it came from “the very group of people or organisations who are potentially in the firing line as far as these hearings are concerned”.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

It is vital that those who survived or lost loved ones in the Manchester Arena attack get the answers that they need and that we learn the lessons whatever they may be.

This process is an important step for those affected as they look to move on from the attack and we know that they want answers as quickly as possible.

Now that the coroner has decided that an inquest cannot satisfactorily investigate the deaths, the Home Secretary will carefully consider his recommendation and respond as soon as possible.

Academic visas

The Home Office has refused to grant visas for the two daughters of an American academic who was appointed associate professor in geography at Oxford University, the Guardian reports.

According to the paper, Dr Amber Murrey used an immigration lawyer to make sure the visa applications for her daughters - who have US passports - went smoothly. Her husband has business commitments overseeing property renovations in Cameroon, where he is from, and the couple had included joint written consent for their daughters to live with her in Oxford.

The coverage adds that Home Office rejection letters say that under immigration rules a child may only be given a visa if both parents are living together in the UK. This would be waived if the parent living here had sole responsibility for the children, or the other partner had died.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

We welcome international academics from across the globe and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.

All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence available, and in line with the immigration rules.

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