Immigration laws in this country are a shambles, and if today’s report in The Times is anything to go by, are being made on the hoof. It’s also a classic case of “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t,” and no government, regardless of its political hue, is going to get it right all of the time.
I refer to the High Court’s decision to grant Judicial Review of the government’s decision to change the rules regarding skilled migrants, and their right to stay. Under the old rules, skilled migrants earned ‘brownie points’ [hang on, is that a racist comment?] on an upward sliding scale, so that after five years of honest skilled toil, they could apply for permanent settlement. In November 2006 the government changed the way in which these ‘brownie points’ could be earned, and eighteen months later, a pressure group calling itself HSMP Forum, creepy, finally woke up to the possible iniquities of this change and made their challenge in the High Court. So here’s another enigma on a conundrum set to run and run. The government tweaks, and the High Court tweaks back.
In the perception of the great British public, or at least those who can trace their ancestry back to the Second World War, immigration is a dirty word, coloured in black and white [hand on, is that another racist comment?] and never in shades of grey. If Johnnie Foreigners want to come here, then they come here on our terms, and not theirs, which, depending on your perception, is either right or wrong. If they are skilled, preferably white, speak good English, do not interfere with our women, are not a burden on the State, and behave themselves by going to the back of the queue and are at all times deferential, then they are grudgingly welcomed. But if they are coloured [oops!] have no skills, have funny foreign names, sport bushy beards, shout the odds five times a day from minarets, and want to blow us all up, they are definitely not welcomed, and shouldn’t be here in the first place.
To a fair minded society, these stereotypes do nothing but exacerbate racial tensions and distrust, but reconciling fears, real or imagined, in the perception of the great British public, is “camel through eye of needle” stuff, if you’ll forgive the pun.
I have some sympathy with the government in this latest challenge to its right to govern, simply because the thorny question of immigration to the greater glory of the nation is incapable of resolution, either short or long term. By its very definition, immigration policy has to be built on shifting sands, as the problem never stands still long enough for any sensible solution to be formulated and implemented and, at the same time, to pass the High Court test of ‘perceived’ fairness.
But where the government consistently scores ‘own goals’ is in the implementation of immigration rules. The great British public needs to be reassured that where foreigners, regardless of colour, creed or political persuasion, are here unlawfully, they should be expelled, as they are in any other civilised country. These endless appeals, and then appeals on appeals, which on average take as long as eight years, need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. And ‘urgency’ should be the buzzword. Perhaps then, the courts will get behind the government and help, rather than hinder.