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Coalition policies set people against each other

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Posted on March 28th 2013

Loathe as we are to add to the reams of comments on David Cameron’s speech on Monday and Theresa May’s announcement on the end of UKBA, we do have onr or two things to say.

We know of no one who will be sorry to see UKBA consigned to the dustbin. The frustrations of applicants, their relatives and their employers were very familiar in our casework department. The ineptitude was legendary, the subject of many a report from John Vine, the Independent Inspector of Borders and Immigration and by the dogged Home Affairs Select Committee. So many reports condemned UKBA, there was probably a drawer at in their Liverpool office with a backlog of critical reports in unopened envelopes.

Crudely

But what is to come rings an ominous sounding alarm. As ITV news so crudely put it on Tuesday night, one of the two new organisations to be set up in the place of UKBA will be responsible for “kicking out” people from the UK. The other will be the visa processing side of things. There is little detail in Theresa May’s announcement, but one thing that’s certainly missing is any word of hope that those who are entitled to move here will be treated with any more urgency or courtesy. Ms May in her statement to the House of Commons yesterday spoke of a

“high-volume service that makes high-quality decisions about who comes here, with a culture of customer satisfaction for businessmen and visitors who want to come here legally.”

Quality

That’s all she says about the immigration and visa service, nothing about family members planning to join their loved ones here, no word about students getting fair treatment, not a squeak about the renewal of Discretionary Leave to Remain which seems to us to be currently one of the slowest processes for a relatively straight forward decision. We would welcome a rise in the quality of decision making, but remain to be convinced as to how this will be achieved.

The other key reform needed is to raise the standard of immigration advice available in the UK – to put a stop to the factory style legal firms and immigration advisors who charge the earth for misleading advice leaving people out of pocket and frequently in a parlous situation. We fear this is wishful thinking under the current regime.

Forcible

The immigration law enforcement organisation sounds potentially brutal. As the numbers of forcible removals and deportations rise considerably, this looks set to be increased. However, as The Guardian has reported, almost half of the planned for enforced removals had to be cancelled last year, a sizeable proportion successfully challenged in the courts. How the communication between one organisation and the other works will have a big influence on the number of enforced removals that happen and should not have done so.

But the split of UKBA cannot be seen in isolation from other developments. Take David Cameron’s speech which when put under the spotlight came up with relatively little of any real consequence. Perhaps most significantly was the plan to fine landlords who let property to undocumented people. Checking (and properly understanding) documents, especially those of people with limited leave to remain will be off putting for some landlords and will most likely lead to an undeclared ban on renting to non-UK citizens. Without the posters appearing in landlords’ windows, this could herald a return to the days of “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” which really has already started.

Moral

The call for health care provision to be curtailed for immigrants and the now established situation in our universities which has staff checking up on the attendance record of overseas students, makes doctors, nurses and lecturers de facto border guards. Now reports, again in The Guardian, that schools might be expected to check the immigration status of children in order to catch more undocumented families shows the moral depths to which this government is happy to stoop to.

We now have examples of Romanians pretending to be Polish in order to be better accepted in the UK. Who knows what children in schools will have to say to protect themselves and their families when quizzed by teachers over their status? When someone feels the need to assume a Polish identity after all that has been said about Eastern European migrants, it is a shocking state of affairs. When children are to be interrogated at school it challenges the idea that we live in a decent society.

The work to make the UK even more hostile and even less welcoming is well underway.

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