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Britain expelled three Chinese spies last year who were in the country posing as journalists, according to a report published by a local media outlet on Thursday.

British daily The Telegraph claimed the three men were “intelligence officers for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security.”

The article did not name the individuals, but quoted a government source as confirming that they claimed to “work for three different Chinese media agencies.”

The report came as the UK government is set to take up new legislation on spying and the Official Secrets Act in the next parliamentary session due to start in May.

“This would aim to outlaw acts of malign interference and influence by foreign states that do not currently meet the threshold of illegality,” read the article.

The news of Chinese spies being deported follows the UK’s move to revoke the license of Chinese state-affiliated broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN).

Britain’s broadcast watchdog, Ofcom, said on Thursday that the news channel was not under the editorial control of the stated license holder and its operations were in breach of UK laws.

It said a process is also underway to sanction CGTN over its coverage of last year’s protests in Hong Kong.

“In 2020 we found CGTN in breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code for failing to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests, and also found a serious breach of our fairness and privacy rules,” the authority said.

“Due to the seriousness of these breaches, we told CGTN that we would consider imposing sanctions.”

The regulator said it has “three other fairness and privacy investigations about content on the CGTN service which also remains ongoing, pending further consideration.” AA

Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent (PA) The Home Office placed hundreds of asylum seekers in controversial military barracks following fears that better accommodation would "undermine confidence" in the system, internal documents reveal. Concerns have been mounting about conditions in two Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites – known as Napier Barracks, in Folkestone, Kent, and Penally Barracks, in Pembrokeshire – since they were were repurposed for housing asylum seekers last September. Campaigners, lawyers and humanitarian groups have reported poor access to healthcare and legal advice, as well as concerns over coronavirus safety. The barracks burst into flames on Friday and asylum seekers say they have suffered electricity and hot water outages since the fire, with Kent Police saying five men have been arrested after a disturbance at the camp. It has now emerged that the Home Office, in its equality impact assessment of the plans to use MoD sites to house asylum seekers, justified the move by stating that housing these individuals in more “generous” accommodation would “undermine public confidence in the asylum system”. Critics say the document shows ministers “pandering to prejudice” and jeopardising health for “political ends”. The assessment states that destitute asylum seekers are “not analogous” to British citizens and other permanent residents who are in need of state welfare assistance, and that the “less generous” support provided to this group is “justified by the need to control immigration”. “Any provision of support over and beyond what is necessary to enable the individuals to meet their housing and subsistence needs could undermine public confidence in the asylum system and hamper wider efforts to tackle prejudice and promote understanding within the general community and amongst other migrant groups,” it states. The decision to use military barracks as accommodation for asylum seekers came less than a month after the Home Office apologised for an “operational failure” which meant asylum seekers were placed in a hotel in Ms Patel’s constituency of Witham. The apology came after former Ukip leader Nigel Farage shared a video of himself in front of the hotel claiming “illegal migrants” were living there. Shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch said the claims were “reprehensible” and an “affront to the values of the British people” to lock people into accommodation with no way to self-isolate, and called for residents to be moved into Covid-secure housing “as a matter of urgency”. Sophie Lucas, solicitor at Duncan Lewis, a law firm that has represented a number of asylum seekers who have subsequently been moved out of the barracks, said the document insinuated that a less generous system for asylum seekers was a “legitimate response” to outcry from extremist groups. “Instead of attempting to combat bigotry and hostility towards asylum seekers, the Home Office have pandered to prejudice. Penalising an already extremely vulnerable group of people in this way is unlawful,” she said. Chai Patel, legal director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “The government implied these cramped and disused barracks were being used as temporary housing because there was no alternative. “But this document reveals that Home Office has been jeopardising people’s health for partly political ends – prioritising playing ‘tough’ on migration over the lives of extremely vulnerable people, who’ve been placed in conditions reminiscent of those they were fleeing.” The equality impact assessment seen by The Independent, which was carried out in September, also stated that social distancing was possible in the barracks, citing that “beds in dormitory style sleeping quarters [would] be at least two metres apart” and that “regular cleaning will take place to reduce Covid risks”. It said residents would receive “equivalent assistance” to that which they would have if placed in alternative initial accommodation or a hotel. A Covid outbreak at Napier Barracks – which has not been used by military personnel for more than five years – eventually spread to more than 100 people after asylum seekers were banned from leaving the site and threatened with arrest if they did. Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at British Red Cross, said the sites were “completely inappropriate and inhumane” as housing for refugees, and called for them to be close “urgently”. "Tragically, for the individuals who have been made to live in these sites, the fears that we and others had have been borne out. The people we’ve spoken to have told us that they didn’t receive health screenings, were given little or no information about what was happening to them, and simply do not feel safe in the barracks,” she added. Bridget Chapman, of local charity Kent Refugee Action Network, said the Home Office’s decision to use “inappropriate and isolated” buildings as asylum seeker accommodation was a “deliberate choice to create a narrative of being deliberately tough on those seeking sanctuary”. Dr Claire van Nispen tot Pannerden, an infectious disease consultant at Doctors of the World, said the assessment failed to address the reality of the ongoing pandemic, describing it as “beyond negligent” to accommodate people who are not from a household in large shared accommodation with shared facilities. Mr Philp said he rejected allegations that asylum seekers had not been able to access healthcare or legal advice, claiming they could access healthcare “whenever needed” and were “freely able” to contact legal representatives or support. “These sites have accommodated soldiers and army personnel in the past – it is wrong to say that it is not good enough for asylum claimants,” he added. By May Bulman/The Independent/Yahoo
Police have issued thousands of pounds worth of new fines to people caught at illegal house parties. Authorities across the country gave out £800 penalties after the rate was increased from £200 on Friday. Devon and Cornwall Police issued £12,800 worth of fines to 16 people in Plymouth on Saturday morning when were caught breaking the rules, the BBC reported. Sgt Dan Brenchley said: "Whether or not the individuals learn from it, or if they pay for it, we don't know. "But we just hope that the more fines increase and the more powers the police get, the more this small minority of people will listen to what the government are saying and help fight this virus." Watch: New fines introduced for house parties Scroll back up to restore default view. In Derbyshire, police broke up two parties and issued 16 fines, with most of the penalties being given to parents as some of the people caught were under 18. Inspector Nick Booth added: "I am keenly aware of just how difficult it is not seeing friends and family for such an extended period of time - but now is not the time to be behaving in such a way. "This week we passed the tragic figure of 100,000 deaths during this pandemic and I would urge everyone to think long and hard about their actions." The latest coronavirus laws came into force as part of tougher measures to crack down on illegal gatherings during the pandemic. The penalties apply for groups of more than 15 people and will double after each offence, up to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders, Home Secretary Priti Patel said last week when she announced the plans. This supersedes previous fines of £200. But the £10,000 penalties for unlawful groups of more than 30 people will still only apply to the organiser. According to the legislation, which has now been published and is called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, the £800 fine is cut to £400 if paid within 14 days. As well as those in private dwellings, the rule also applies to similar gatherings in “educational accommodation”, the documents setting out the new law said. The new laws give police powers to access Test and Trace data, the documents also suggest. Yahoo News

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