"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.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

A confused government -  by Sonel Mehta

David Cameron has spent a great deal of public money and time wooing Indian citizens to work and study in the UK; asking them to bring their business, money and skills.  ‘We’re open for business’ he said, in an attempt to allay the concerns, held rightly so, of UK’s unwelcoming attitude towards migrants.  Even where the migrants were temporary (e.g. student visitors) whose impression of UK had already been tainted by the London Met fiasco and tales of international students having to line up overnight to register with the police;  and news of those legally resident here and even our own citizens being sent text messages telling them they were here illegally and therefore must leave!

Just when maybe the UK’s reputation as open for business was seeping through, came the Home office announcement of a £3000 bond for visitors from select countries (including India and unsurprisingly countries which just happen to be all non-“white”).  A policy which so clearly flirts with racial discrimination I’d like to think it has not been thought through – it has become very much a case of one step forward, ten steps back.   Australians are notorious for violating the conditions of their visa, especially those on a working holiday.  I’m Australian myself - I don’t want it to apply to us. But are we spared because we are a “white” country? Hmm.

Even putting aside the issues around liquidity and currency fluctuations associated with such a bond, I question the competence of a government which makes announcements (surely, but surely, Cameron didn’t approve of it) so frequently requiring backtracking and qualification... bedroom tax, landlord checks on migrants, fracking, open source software and even immigration.   Almost as if statements are rushed out to assess their viability based on the media response.

There have since the initial announcement, been murmurs from the government that this policy will only apply to “high-risk visitors”,  in response to outrage from the selected countries including a tit-for-tat policy and accusations of racism.   

As a pick’n’mix policy I don’t see how it could work.  A “high-risk” visitor is unlikely to obtain a visa to enter UK in the first place. If they do manage to do so, £3000 is a small price to stay here illegally.   So will the £3000 bond actually apply to anyone or is it just another disastrous, or successful depending on how you view the net migration target, PR move to deter migrants from coming to the UK?

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse..that they’d realise the error of their ways, we were greeted with another announcement by the Home Office on their contracting of vans carrying billboards encouraging undocumented migrants to leave the country. How?  Such people must sms a number for information on how to leave the country, else risk facing arrest.  They state that the government ‘could’   (note the use of a conditional word) provide financial help in the return home.    It screams of a government wanting to appear to be tough, rather than one actually having a policy which works; a fair policy with a positive impact on our economy and people.

Those in the UK illegally wishing to return to their home country, could do so easily. There are no exit checks and even if there were, why would they prevent anyone from leaving?  Those wishing to return home are unlikely to wish to flag their situation to the government by sending them an sms.  If they wanted to leave, and wanted help doing so, there was nothing preventing them from going and turning themselves in to the authorities.

I’m just bemused.  I'm curious to see what information is provided to people who respond, but if I send an SMS to this number will I be hounded on how I must leave the country or risk facing arrest? Will UKBA officers turn up at my door (my phone is registered to my home address) even though I am a British citizen?  Would those who use the number constantly need to be wary of a tap on the shoulder? Surely, if they send an sms they’re just alerting the authorities to their presence here, which they could easily do by turning themselves in, if they really wanted to leave? Does compliance with this prevent the 10 year ban overstayers are threatened with? Would it not be worth just waiting out for the amnesty after 20 years residence, be it legal or illegal?

What is the Home Office thinking with this strategy, or is it just that they have such an exceedingly high budget they’re looking to supplement the splurging of appealing judicial decisions to overturn UKBA visa refusals, where the rules are found to be onerous or applied illegally, by now wasting our money on moving billboards reminiscent of 1984?

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