"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Abuse of power

Several years ago my granny travelled from India to Australia alone, despite speaking barely a word of English.  She had to change planes in Thailand (spoke no Thai either) and on arriving after nearly 20 hours travelling, found Aussie immigration and customs officers to be very welcoming with their ‘G’day, welcome to Austraya’.  I still have a vivid memory of her sitting in my parents living room grinning her head off at having made the journey without any of us to help her, and of course being able to see in the flesh her favourite (okay, only!) granddaughter contributed to some of the wattage in the smile.

Fast forward a few years and I’d never ever want my granny to travel alone to the UK, despite the flight now being shorter and direct, not because she’s older, but because I would not want her to be alone with a UK immigration officer (IO).

Australian family and friends speak of UK IOs being arrogant and rude.  However such travellers have an inner confidence which tends to come naturally to those with a western or affluent upbringing, with little fear of authority – and certainly no reverence towards ‘white man’.     

For most though, approaching an IO tends to be fraught with tension, even when you’re not doing anything wrong.  Helplessness, confusion and wariness compound where the person seeking entry is Asian or African, or does not speak English fluently.  Unfortunately, there is still too often a reverence for white people especially those in positions of authority.  The Empire has a lot to answer for and the treatment of Radha Patel at the hands of multiple immigration officers (IOs) only highlights that the recipients of this reverence are all too quick to take advantage of it, albeit oh-so-undeserved.

On 23 May 2011 Radha arrived at Heathrow where she encountered IO Newton and Chief IO Davies.  These two officers subsequently falsely imprisoned, and maliciously and deliberately bullied Radha.  They made up lies to try and justify their behaviour and then engaged in a cover-up.  

Radha's passport was impounded for nearly a year, preventing her from even returning to India where her two young children were.  The High Court on 30 July awarded Radha £125,000 in compensation for the behaviour of the IOs, for which frankly 'serious misconduct' is too mild a term.  Yet the chances are that Home Office will appeal!

What terrifies me, is that this behaviour is probably more prevalent – we heard about this case, and that too years after the event.  How many others remain underground?  It petrifies me that IO Newton and Chief IO Davies may still be on the Home Office payroll – with their salaries therefore paid for by taxpayers - instead of rotting in jail.  That with a slap on the wrist, if even that, they've been left to wreak havoc on more unsuspecting arrivals.

I believe Home Office staff are often incompetent, although admittedly that is probably more a reflection of their training and the culture they’re bred in, than pre-requisites for their hire being stupidity or ability to be difficult just for the sake of it.  No matter how anti-family UK’s policies are, no matter what the HO culture is, or how much the nation lets itself be swept up in anti-immigration propaganda, as human beings we should be able to answer to our conscience; we must distinguish between right and wrong.   

No one should have the power of these IOs who brazenly lied to harass and bully a woman who posed no threat.  The subsequent cover-up rather than admission of guilt indicates we have a bigger problem than a rogue IO or two.  When looked at with other incidents, to me it indicates abuse of power being a characteristic all the way to the top. 

Isabelle Acevedo was deported today. She admitted to being in the UK illegally.  She was not stealing nor claiming any benefits.  She paid for food and shelter with money earned from cleaning the homes of the rich, and politicians (often also rich).  Mark Harper was one such politician, who resigned, in a grand but as it turns out hollow gesture, as Immigration Minister for not having conducted the checks he expects everyone else to.  Who the other politicians were that Isabella kept homes clean for we don’t know. Maybe they were Labour – hence the resounding silence from the opposition on the contrasting treatment whereby Isabella was snatched from her daughter’s wedding for working illegally, whilst Harper was promoted to a Cabinet position, despite also having broken the law by employing someone working here illegally.  It smells fishy and reeks of hypocrisy.  As I said, abuse of power all the way to the top.

Politicians seem to have forgotten their job is to serve us. They are answerable to taxpayers for spending our money, be in it the form of compensation such as that paid to Radha, the c£100m in legal fees for immigration and asylum cases paid to Treasury Solicitors alone by the Home Office under this government and the waste of resources in 20 enforcement and police officers raiding a wedding to arrest one harmless woman.  Don't even get me started on their expense claims.

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