Tuesday, 18 February 2014


Remember this in August 2012?

LINK to full story in The MAIL. ( He volunteered to fight for Britain. Now this soldier faces deportation and jail... all over a speeding fine )
LINK to this Glyn Strong's BLOG. (Deported for speeding offence )
LINK to UK Progressive. (Not fit for Purpose) 
LINK to TTV/VETERANS AID film and interview:(Two Tier Justice)

Today the High Court ruled against the Home Secretary's original decision describing the current "good character"  assessment process as "mechanistic and inflexible".
A victory for common sense and for the charity Veterans Aid which  supported this man from the outset.


 A veteran once threatened with deportation and a prison sentence for enlisting in the British Army today won his judicial review against the Home Secretary’s decision.

Mr. Poloko Hiri, a national of Botswana described by senior military figures as an “intelligent, motivated and hard-working soldier” with an “exemplary record of conduct”, has been supported by the charity Veterans Aid since being refused British Citizenship by the Home Office on the basis of a speeding offence for which he received 5 points and a £100 fine.

Mr. Hiri, who is presently studying law and living in Veterans Aid accommodation, said, “The first  thing that came into my mind when the barrister took my statement was ‘Where would I have been without Veterans Aid?’.I just don’t know. I couldn’t have gone back to Botswana - I wouldn’t have been anywhere. I am so grateful to Veterans Aid for all it has done for me and so very glad that this is over. I now want to get on with my life, finish my law degree and be  a good citizen of the UK.”

The Secretary of State had repeatedly asserted that Mr. Hiri was not of “good character”, because of this single offence but in her judgment Mrs. Justice Lang concluded that the good character test had been applied in a “mechanistic and inflexible” way. She said that all aspects of the applicant’s character, not just whether they have previous criminal convictions, should be taken into account adding “It is much wider in scope than that.”

CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy welcomed the ruling and said, “This charity deals with a large number of appeals from Foreign & Commonwealth veterans, and even serving personal who, through no fault of their own, have fallen foul of immigration rulings. I can honestly say that none have presented a better case for the system to be reviewed than Mr. Hiri. He was an exemplary soldier and is a most diligent and personable individual.

 “Although, after our intervention, he avoided deportation by seeking asylum, and was subsequently given limited leave to remain, the underlying wrong was the flawed process applied to his initial application. That decision deprived him of the means to survive by either working or claiming benefits; it was not only unjust but also inhumane. That said we are encouraged to note a general move towards greater flexibility in these cases and are grateful for the concern expressed by former Immigration Minister Mark Harper.”

* * *



The High Court today ruled in favour of a distinguished former member of the British Armed Forces who had been refused British Citizenship by the Home Office on the basis of a sole speeding offence for which he received 5 points and a £100 fine.

Mr Poloko Hiri, a national of Botswana, had been described by senior military figures as an “intelligent, motivated and hard-working soldier” with an “exemplary record of conduct”, who “had his character put to the test … where his peers have had to depend on him in austere and challenging environments.” Despite that evidence, the Secretary of State repeatedly asserted that Mr Hiri was not of “good character”, insisting on the narrow basis of his speeding offence.

Today the High Court held that the Secretary of State’s “decision-making process was legally flawed” and has set out that she should “re-consider her decision in accordance with the law”. Mrs Justice Lang DBE warned against the Secretary of State applying her policy on the determination of ‘good character’ in a “mechanistic and inflexible” way and set out that the Secretary of State “must consider all aspects of the applicant’s character” where “the statutory test is not whether applicants have previous criminal convictions – it is much wider in scope than that.”

In this case, the High Court has held that Home Office official “deliberately excluded from his consideration the circumstances of the offence and the mitigating factors”.

The Home Office frequently insisted in this case, in line with her policy, that it could not “overlook” or “disregard” Mr Hiri’s offence. However, Mr Hiri had repeatedly made clear to the Secretary of State that he took full responsibility for the offence and accepted that it must be taken into account; he simply asked to have that conviction weighed in the balance against all of the evidence he had provided, in order to assess his character as a whole. The holistic approach advocated by Mr Hiri has been upheld by the High Court today.

Mrs Justice Lang DBE has set out that in these cases “The Defendant is entitled to adopt a policy on the way in which criminal convictions will normally be considered by her caseworkers, but it should not be applied mechanistically and inflexibly. There has to be a comprehensive assessment of each applicant’s character, as an individual, which involves an exercise of judgment, not just ticking boxes on a form.”

Toufique Hossain, Public and Immigration Law Director at Duncan Lewis and solicitor in the case says:

“Those who will read this judgment will see that the Judge applied fairness and common sense to this case. Our argument was simply that a man who gave his life to fight for this country, and in every other way but for one speeding offence, showed good character, should not be deprived of British Citizenship. It is a shame this had to go all the way to the High Court. The Home Secretary should have seen sense long ago instead of fighting this case. We are grateful to the British Armed Forces and to Veterans Aid for all their support for our client.”

Mr Hiri was represented by Raza Halim of Garden Court Chambers. Solicitor, Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis.

Friday, 4 October 2013


Glyn Strong's Blog can now be found HERE on the menu bar of  her website.

Monday, 27 August 2012


A report by Glyn Strong &; Torquil Boyd (TTV Pictures)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Deported for a speeding offence

Not fit for purpose

SATURDAY 25th August, 2012: Today The Mail reveals how Poloko Hiri, a Commonwealth citizen with an  ‘exemplary’ record in the British Army,  is being ordered out of the UK for  committing a single speeding offence.
Only Britain’s scandalously incompetent immigration system would hound a man with a proud record of service to  this country while allowing foreign rapists and killers who should have been deported years ago to walk the streets with impunity.

THIS has got to be one of the most outrageous abuses of power the UKBA has exercised in recent times. Or perhaps 'exercise' is the wrong word to describe this inflexible and unsupple organisation. 

The letter that effectively rejected Poloko Hiri's appeal described how leniency could be applied in cases of one-off misdemeanours of a minor nature - such as motoring offences. It then proceeded to say that his single speeding fine did not fall into that category.

 Poloko Hiri on Ops with his colleagues

Classifying this soldier as a 'foreign criminal' may be semantically correct. -  by virtue of Home Office rules - but as a Welshwoman with an (albeit now spent) speeding conviction, I could be described as the same. 

OK - I jest. But there is no redeeming humour in this story.

If a letter from a soldier's Officer Commanding, vouching for his integrity and character, can be over-ruled by a bureaucrat who has never met him, what hope of sanity prevailing anywhere in the UKBA. In theory, discretion can be exercised - indeed it recently was, in favour of admitting the girlfriend and child of a Fijian officer to the UK . . .  after his death!


Poloko Hiri has a daughter in this country, he has given four years  service to the British Army, he has skills and a university place, he is educated, articulate and armed with enough learning credits from his time in the Armed Forces to part fund his higher education  . .  I could go on.

To  earmark this man for  deportation, knowing that on return to Botswana he will be arrested under a Foreign Enlistment Act that has already seen once British soldier imprisoned, is seriously discomforting The signal it sends to other Foreign and Commonwealth soldiers is clear - when you are no longer serving, you are  utterly disposable.

But the fact is, these 'disposable people' are veterans - the same  people we speak of with such reverence and pride when the national mood or the tabloid headline requires! These 'veterans' are the people ostensibly protected by the 'Military Covenant' - aren't they?

A UK national who has served for just weeks in HM Armed Forces, and been dishonourably discharged for a serious offence,  can be seamlessly absorbed back into civilian life knowing that he has access to the support of around 3000 military-related charities for the rest of his life.

Men like PH, and Fijian veteran  'Bale' Baleiwai, who have served honourably and earned glowing reports ( and in Bale's case five medals )  find themselves in the surreal situation of seeing minor transgressions treated as criminal offences. This 'special treatment' distinguishes them from the men and women alongside whom they have served, and sometimes fought, for many years. It is flagrant two tier justice and it's effect in humanitarian terms is both brutal and disproportionate.

As Kim Baleiwai told me earlier this week, "If my husband had come home from Afghanistan or Iraq in a body bag, he would have been described as a hero. Because of a scrap with a fellow soldier that was dealt with summarily by his CO he has been branded a criminal. Surely if  Bale is considered good enough to die for this country, he should be considered good enough to live here!"

Doubtless Poloko Hiri's friends and family are having the same thoughts.

* The charity Veterans Aid (/www.veterans-aid.net/ ) has helped more than 70 Foreign and Commonwealth service personnel and their families since January 2012. It has been dealing with their diverse citizenship and leave to remain problems generally for the last five years. Working with TTV (www.ttvpictures.co.uk)  the charity has commissioned a short video report on the subject that can be seen on its website. A documentary on the Military Covenant and its application to Foreign & Commonwealth service personnel is planned.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Interview with Tom Stoddart

Interview with photojournalist Tom Stoddart
A short film by Torquil Boyd & Glyn Strong (TTV) for the Perspectives exhibition (http://78perspectives.com )

 * See the exhibition website for further details, films, views, reviews and interviews.

Heidi Mines, Tom Stoddart and Glyn Strong
at the Perspectives exhibition - More London 
July 25- 11 September 2012.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

People Power, magic - and bad video!


The link above takes you to a page of interviews recorded by volunteers at the Perspectives exhibition on London's South Bank. They clearly aren't done by professionals - although hats off to the team who have been inviting viewers of Tom Stoddart's pictures to comment in this unusual way.

OK, I'm not impartial - I've been involved in this project from the outset, but something amazing (and I don't often used that word!) has been taking place in the cathedral-like atmosphere of the Perspectives area. It may be outdoor, just yards away from  City Hall ('London House') and the giant screen on Potter's Field - but it is a space apart. People looking at the pictures fall silent and often stand in front of a single image for many minutes. Some shake their heads in disbelief. Some cry or are visibly moved. Some get angry.

The curious intimacy of this place has another effect. People talk to one another. Within the first week I met Mohamed, the man who was shot 10 times in a racially-motivated street shooting in Amsterdam in the '90s. My colleague Sha discovered that John Hamilton, the man looking at the picture of the famous Barlinnie jail rooftop protest was one of the people who took part in it . . . now a friend of one of the prison officers whom he was throwing slates at. Both men have been on personal journeys of pain and reconciliation. Both were deeply moved by particular pictures.

Time telescopes in this temple-like area; I've uploaded video interviews of people from all over the world. When it is over on 11 September I will start to count them . . . right now I can hardly keep up with the mail, the filming and daily photography requirement, the website and video updates.

This exhibition had no corporate support, agency staff or team of 'creatives' working on it. It happened because a few people believed in it ( they know who they are )  and with the participation of the International Committee for the Red Cross it became a reality that we could all be proud of.

Each day those of us who mingle with the crowds - Tom included - find people taken back in time to places and events that have personal resonance for them. It is emotional for us as well.

Yesterday I met an Iraqi doctor, educated in Russian and now resident in Britain. I have recalled the awful years of the Balkans conflict and Siege of Sarajevo with people who lived through it, seen visitors from the DRC, Burma, Somaliland, Sudan and Albania state at pictures that bring their pasts to life. 

On day three a child asked her father why the girl in Tom's recent South Sudan picture was digging for water in the earth. "Can't she get it from the tap?" she asked. "Sweetheart, there are no taps where she lives . . " he began to explain.

More to follow.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Veterans Aid - Frontline support when and where it's needed.

Written by Glyn Strong

First published in  ‘THE CORMORANT’ 2011

*Since this was written Veterans Aid has championed the cause of at least 100 Foreign and Commonwealth ex-servicemen and women who through bad advice or legal anomalies have faced deportation and/or acute hardship. (See post below)

One veterans charity is much like another right? They all mean well, have the same objectives and operate to the same exacting standards.

If you agree with this statement, it’s likely that you think all veterans are the same. Hardly likely given that there are around 4 million of them! 

According to the Charity Commission there are nearly 3,000 organisations registered with the aim of supporting ex-Servicemen and women. Some have been operating for more than a century – others for a matter of weeks. Few have the pragmatic approach of Veterans Aid, its range of expertise or its commitment to delivering help to those in difficulty at point of need.

Those who know about ‘VA’ often ask why it doesn’t have a higher profile in the Service community – one answer is that its remit is to help ‘Veterans in Crisis’ and, media scare stories notwithstanding, there simply aren’t that many. Another explanation is that it doesn’t assume that the words ‘veteran’ and ‘hero’ are interchangeable. “The most heroic thing many of those who come to us have done is put up their hand to ask for help,” says former RAF officer and CEO Dr Hugh Milroy.

Last year VA provided 20,000 nights of accommodation, took around 2,000 calls for help from all over the world, put an average of 4 people per month into alcohol or substance rehab facilities and enabled 150 formerly homeless veterans to move into homes of their own. And all this on an annual budget of just over £1million.

But that’s not the real story. VA’s achievements aren’t about quantity – they’re about quality and a philosophy of treating everyone who seeks its help as unique.

“The men and women who come to us are individuals in crisis; in the last 12 months we’ve helped Guards officers, TA soldiers, single mothers, training failures, veterans  of  WW2, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Gulf 1 &2, the Falklands, Iraq – and even one or two from Afghanistan. Virtually none have experienced PTSD or claimed a link between military service and their subsequent problems” says Milroy.

“If there’s a ‘common factor’ in post-discharge crisis, it’s life! Poverty, debt, relationship breakdown, mental illness (like one in four of the population) and drink or substance abuse. Veterans are not immune to the problems that affect everyone else, and although most (about 94 per cent) transit seamlessly to ‘civvy street’ a few do end up facing issues that threaten to overwhelm them.”

Milroy, who is Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies at Kings College, speaks from a position of some authority. A PhD researching the reasons for street homelessness,  tri-Service operational experience and many years association with Veterans Aid have positioned him as a voice to be reckoned with.  A straight talking iconoclast he  is unequivocal about the scale and nature of the perceived problems - and courted as an expert by overseas governments and academics.

“It is wrong to perpetuate myths that raise expectations of failure,” he repeatedly tells journalists. “The streets of Britain are NOT littered with homeless ex-Servicemen for whom nothing is done. You are ‘citizen plus’ if you are a veteran as those who come to us discover.

“The ‘hero stereotype’ may help to raise funds, but the things we need money for are pretty prosaic. We address people’s most basic needs – provision of food, new clothes, footwear and shelter – having confirmed that they are bona fide veterans we start the ‘unpacking’ process that gets to the root of their problem. You would not believe some of the things that we’ve done or paid for to help people put their lives  back together – a ticket to Katmandu, a DNA test and a set of oil paints, to name but three!”

VA presently operates from a 58-bedroom hostel in London’s East End and an HQ/Drop-in centre in Victoria. The latter straddles three floors and features a motley selection of second-hand furniture.  Milroy’s office doubles as a store-room and on a busy day staff perch with laptops on the staircase or take clients to the cafĂ© next door .

A familiar thread of service humour colours the daily banter; the ‘veteran helping veteran’ philosophy permeates every aspect of the help process. “Our aim is to act immediately delivering a message that conveys feelings of safety and hope,” reflects Milroy. “It’s hard to  give people the privacy and dignity they need in our current premises, but we have some wonderful friends and supporters and with their help we will one day be able to migrate our team of experts to a centre that is more suitable.

“We already operate virtually – helping UK veterans from all over the world and utilising links with all the established Service charities (e.g. SSAFA, the RBL, ABF/Soldiers Charity, RN and RAF benevolent Funds, Combat Stress and St Dunstan’s). We already have an ‘A&E’ service staffed by a barrister, psychiatrist, social worker, case workers and substance abuse specialists. This is a thoroughly post-modern organisation – an agile, responsive powerhouse of expertise committed to Churchill’s exhortation to ‘Action This Day’.

All we need is the financial support to do what we’ve been doing for nearly 80 years that bit better”