Ruvi Ziegler’s letter to The Times on TAKING IN AFGHANS

Ruvi has published a letter in the Times critiquing the government’s treatment of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan in response to the Home Secretary’s column.

Read Ruvi’s letter in The Times online or see the transcript below.


Sir, The home secretary, implicitly acknowledging the dismal conditions facing Afghans who have come to the UK via the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), urges “landlords and local authorities to come forward with suitable homes” (Priti Patel, comment, Aug 30). This is yet another instance of the government outsourcing its responsibility towards those seeking protection here. Her article celebrates the UK’s “humanitarian approach to those fleeing oppression”. Yet the (legal) reality is that the many Afghans seeking protection in the UK who have not been able to access ACRS must find other means of getting to the UK, including through dangerous Channel crossings. When they do so they are subject to criminalisation under the Nationality and Borders Act. Should the home secretary get her way, they may find themselves on a deportation flight to Rwanda, alongside those fleeing conflict and persecution in Iran, Iraq, Eritrea and Syria.

Dr Ruvi Ziegler
Associate professor in international refugee law

Monitoring UK Household Access to Heat Pumps

The UK housing stock is old and thermally inefficient; one study found that homes in the UK “perform the worst in terms of thermal performance … compared to foreign counterparts” (Guertler et al., 2013, p. 10). Meeting the net-zero target by 2050 requires the elimination of fossil fuels from space/water heating, coupled with improved domestic energy efficiency. Heat pumps will be a key technology for improving the housing stock; they rely on (increasingly low-carbon) electricity and have a greater energy efficiency than natural gas boilers (HM Government, 2021; p.78). We analyse the quantity and distribution of existing heat pump installations to September 2021, looking at how current trends match government ambitions to reach 600,000 installations per year by 2028.

Current Heat Pump Adoption

William Forshaw completed an analysis of the state of heat pump adoption in his final year dissertation in the School of Construction Management and Engineering. He used EPC data for local authorities in England and Wales, which capture all heat pumps installed in new houses, houses marketed for sale, rental houses, and those where EPCs were required to gain access to grants. A summary of adoption from this data source relative to the number of households is provided below.

Figure 1: Map of heat pump uptake in UK local authorities (fraction of total households, using Jenks breaks)

While it is clear that adoption is relatively limited at present (the upper limit of adoption is just over 3% of a local authority’s building stock), one is able to explore the disparities in adoption to date. First, and unsurprisingly, air-source heat pumps are the dominant share of total heat pump adoption recorded (85%). Second, new dwellings made up 60% of households that recorded having a heat pump, with rentals only contributing 11%. Third, detached and semi-detached houses made up 66% of the total number of households with heap pumps installed. Mid-terrace houses only contributed 13%. Flats and maisonettes only represented 8% of households with heat pumps. Considering the latter two statistics, the question of access by lower-income households begins to come evident.

William went on to examine heat pump uptake vs index of multiple deprivation (IMD); this metric uses Office of National Statistics data to provide an indication of areas where lower levels income, employment, education, and other indices of deprivation are prevalent. He found that as local authority IMDs rose, the share of heat pumps in households dropped (Pearson correlation coefficient of -0.36).

Taken with their limited uptake in flats and rentals, this demonstrates the degree to which these lower income households have been excluded from early adoption of this low-carbon heating option. While this is consistent with other new technologies, it does underscore the need for action given this particularly important challenge of dramatically accelerating adoption. Otherwise, these households will be vulnerable if fossil fuels costs continue to rise (due to geopolitical reasons or carbon pricing). As a result, many calling are calling for incentives to encourage adoption within low income households.

Jane Connors receives an honorary PhD from the School of Law

Jane Connors (pictured centre), Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and the inaugural UN Victims’ Rights Advocate, was awarded an honorary PhD this week at the School of Law’s graduation ceremony.

Ms Connors has devoted her career to human rights and women’s rights, as a lawyer, and academic and a senior international civil servant. After completing her studies at the Australian National University, Ms Connors became an esteemed legal academic, including 13 years at SOAS, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. During that time Ms Connors established herself as a leading voice on women’s rights and human rights.  She has published extensively on these topics, and she continues to be invited to contribute to the leading and most prestigious collections and textbooks in this field.

Ms Connors has always been deeply committed to both the academic and practitioner ways of protecting and promoting human rights. From 1996 to 2002, she served as Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, of the United Nations. She subsequently moved to Geneva, where she took up a number of positions at the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, including as Director, Research and Right to Development Division. During this time Ms Connors devoted her career to the practical protection and promotion of human rights.

At the same time, Ms Connors raised a family, often taking her young daughters with her to conferences and on field trips. At a time when many women were unable or unwilling to take their families with them to work, Ms Connors normalised combining a high-flying career and motherhood, setting an example and paving the way for other women in this field.

Ms Connors currently is the first UN Victims’ Rights Advocate. In that role she has created and taken forward a coordinated and strategic response to victim assistance. In this role she works with victims in conflict and post-conflict societies, seeking to address their needs by engaging with their lived experience. She also works with government institutions, civil society, and national and legal and human rights organizations to build networks of support and to help ensure the full effect of local laws, including remedies for victims.

Throughout her work Ms Connors has remained dedicated to teaching and mentoring. She provides expertise and advice to human rights defenders around the world. Despite her extensive work commitments, Ms Connors has served as Chairperson of the global network Keeping Children Safe, Board and Advisory members for key human rights organisations and projects, and as Professor in Practice at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security. She has inspired and helped generations of activists, practitioners and academics. We are privileged and proud to have had Ms Connors partner with the University of Reading on research projects, speak at our events, and generously give guest lectures to our students.

Outstanding student recognised in the Stowe Family Law Prize 2022

The School of Law is delighted to announce that Ben Norman has been awarded the Stowe Family Law Prize for the best performance in the final LLB Family Law module. Stowe Family Law, Reading (SFL) generously sponsor this prize which will offer Ben the opportunity of work experience in  the SFL offices in Reading.

Ben’s performance was an outstanding first class display of intellectual rigour, critical engagement and independent thought. Professor Thérèse Callus, module convenor for Family Law said ‘I am so proud of Ben’s achievements in his final year and his performance in family law was one of the best I have ever seen. Ben was a pleasure to teach and participated actively and thoughtfully throughout the year. The SFL prize duly recognises his obvious commitment and hard work in his studies. We are immensely grateful to SFL for supporting our students and sponsoring this prize. Ben is a very worthy recipient.’

Ben said: ‘Family Law is a wonderfully run module and the teaching team make every topic extremely interesting. The module provides a fantastic insight into both the socio-political issues of what is a Family as well as the legal protections available.’

The Family Law Module provides students with a working knowledge of how private law relates to the family and to the breakdown of families. The content of the final year module includes critical engagement with family law policy trends and debates, coupled with the study of the relevant law on the creation and dissolution of formal (and informal) partnerships, domestic violence, financial provision and arrangements for children following family breakdown.

Stowe Family Law are specialists in assisting married and non-married cohabitants with their finances, property ownership and child arrangements during divorce and separation. For the last few decades, the firm has had its finger on the pulse of political & policy issues surrounding family law, including why the law seeks to regulate certain familial relationships and how it is done.

Islamic State: how western European states are failing to protect 28,000 children born to foreign fighters

The Irish national and former soldier, Lisa Smith, has been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, of joining Islamic State (IS). Smith left Dundalk in 2015, bound for Syria. On her return to Ireland in 2019 she was charged with membership of an unlawful terrorist group and financing terrorism. She was found guilty of the first charge but not guilty of the second. Smith now awaits sentencing.

Read the full story here.

University of Reading lead on the establishment of a partnership with the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland

The School of Law are thrilled to have led on the establishment of a partnership between the University of Reading and the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland.

The University of Hargeisa is the largest public university in Somaliland. It is the leading higher education institution in Somaliland and provides a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses.

The School will be collaborating with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) which is a teaching and research centre at the University of Hargeisa. It was established in 2008 by the University of Hargeisa and Eastern Mennonite University in the United States of America to provide a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing conflict and violence in the Horn of Africa. The IPCS was the first Institute of its kind to engage in teaching and research in areas of peace and conflict studies in Somaliland, and remains the only one in the Somali-speaking region in the Horn of Africa.

From an educational point of view, activities with IPCS can give our students a unique perspective on international peace and security issues from within a territory that is recovering from conflict.

Second, from a research perspective the University of Hargeisa and IPCS present opportunities for collaborative research and future relationships in the Horn of Africa and beyond.