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The purpose of this paper is that to highlight what I see as racist, unjust and inhumane elements in Britain’s immigration system and the culture of secrecy surrounds it. The permanent residents (who has indefinite leave to remain), central to this discussion not the illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers. Also immigration’s treatments of people coming over to Britain for a range of other reasons and with papers and visas they expect to be accepted have been highlighted.
Mainly my argument is, compared with other countries, UK is more suspicious of all people entering the country and they discriminate against people from ‘underdeveloped’ countries.
I have read and quoted from various books in the Immigration subject area. Mainly, Ms. Catriona J. MacKenzie’s dissertation “Africans & UK Immigration Controls” for the degree of Masters in Social Work & Social Policy, which has been submitted to the University of Glasgow in 1995 greatly helped me to construct this paper. I also conducted a number of interviews in UK and Turkey with individuals with immigration difficulties. I also made extensive use of the Glasgow University Library.
The membership of individuals in modern democratic societies is marked by the status of citizenship. Those who belong in a given nation-state have documents certifying their membership. More importantly, citizens possess a wide range of civil, political and social rights.
The reality has always been somewhat different. Most nation-states have had groups on their territory not considered capable of belonging, and therefore either denied citizenship or alternatively forced to go through a process of cultural assimilation in order to belong. Moreover, even those with formal membership have often been denied some of the rights vital to citizenship, so that they have not fully belonged. Discrimination based on class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion and other criteria has always meant that some people could not be full citizens. Securing the participation of previously excluded groups has been seen as the key to democratisation.
Nazism and the ‘Final Solution’ temporarily stigmatised racial-biological thinking after 1945. However, the ‘New Racism’ that emerged in the 1970s evaded the opprobrium of biological racism and eugenics by superficially relocating difference away from phenotype and genes and on to culture. This has had dramatic effect on nature and appearance of racism in Britain. By camouflaging hereditary qualities as cultural inheritance, it became possible for mainstream politicians to inject racism back into debates about nationality and citizenship.
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In the new discourse of racism, culture was taken to define the differences between the British and non-European immigrants. Ethnicity, religion, language and customs were held to render immigrants unassimilable without it ever being necessary to mention racial types. The shifting locus of racism reflected the new realities in British society: the virtual cessation of primary immigration after 1971 on the one hand, and the consolidation of ethnic minority communities on the other. These communities, on their own and assisted by certain race relations legislation, as well as policies of central and local government, began to assert their identities and ethnic agendas. The spear-carriers of white, ethnic nationalism found a new battlefield in multiculturalism. Cultural differences relocated the arena of conflict away from the margins of the nation and to its very core: the constitution, law, education and national religion. Citizenship, no less than national identity and nationality, has now acquired racially polarized meanings.
The current emphasis on the family as the training ground for citizenship and building a block of the nation has racial implications, too. Black family life has been systematically stigmatised and declared inadequate. The implication is that dysfunctional or incomplete black families produce bad citizens –members of the ‘underclass’. Hence, citizenship again becomes divisive, racial concept rather than an inclusive, universal one.
Overt linkages between nation, culture, religion and race are present in education policy too. The 1988 Education Reform Act prescribes the teaching of British history to all pupils and places on schools an obligation to provide an act of Christian worship. Successive ministers responsible for recent education policy have depicted this as necessary for the creation of a homogeneous population of loyal citizens. Conversely, Muslim schools are characterized as a breeding ground for dual loyalty and Fifth Columns as well as an alien fundamentalism.
This dangerous recasting of citizenship in the light of a changing sense of nationhood and national identity has not been ameliorated by Britain’s entry into Europe. Rather, party politics have led to an accentuation of national chauvinism and the reiteration of a narrow sense of Britishness defined against a farcically demonised ‘Europe’. British governments have sought to project on to the European Union their own restrictionist immigration policies and have supported an exclusive, Eurocentric definition of European identity and membership. Sadly, it seems as if the idea of a Europe of diversity is giving way to the notion of European homogeneity behind closely guarded frontiers. British politicians may yet succeed in making a ‘Little Europe’ in the image of ‘Little England’.
Britain after the World War II, like most western European countries, was faced with a chronic shortage of labour. This shortage was in some measure alleviated by the half a million or so refugees, displaced persons and POWs who were admitted to Britain between 1946-1951. Unlike most other European countries, however, Britain was in a position to turn to an alternative and comparatively uncompetitive source of labour in its colonies and ex-colonies in Asia and the Caribbean. Colonialism had already under-developed these countries and thrown up a reserve army of labour which now waited in readiness to serve the needs of the metropolitan economy. And it is to these vast and cheap resources of labour that Britain turned in the 1950s. The periods of economic expansion led to a rise in immigration, periods of recession to a decline – and this sensitiveness of supply to demand characterized the whole ‘stop-go’ period of the 1950s.
But if the free market economy decided the numbers of immigrants, economic growth and the colonial legacy determined the nature of the work they were put to. It was inevitable that in a period of full employment the indigenous worker would move upwards into better paid jobs, skilled apprenticeships, training programmes etc. leaving the dirty, hard, low-paid work to immigrant labour. The jobs which ‘coloured immigrants’ found themselves in were the largely unskilled and low status ones which white labour was unavailable or which white workers were unwilling to fill.
And since the opportunities for such work obtained chiefly in the already overcrowded conurbations, immigrants came to occupy some of the worst housing in the country. The situation was further exacerbated by the exorbitant rents charged by slum landlords. In the course of time the ‘immigrants’ became ghetto-ized and locked into the decaying areas of the inner city.
Everyone made money on the immigrant worker – from the big-time capitalist to the slum landlord- from exploiting his labour, his colour, his customs, his culture. He himself has cost the country nothing. He had been paid for by the country of his origin –reared and raised, as capitalist under-development had willed it, for the labour markets of Europe. If anything, he represented a saving for Britain of all the expense involved in feeding and clothing and housing him till he had come of working age. But capital and the state were concerned with the maximisation of profit, not with the alleviation of social need.
Race Relations Act:
The government introduced the first piece of anti-discriminatory legislation in the form of Race Relations Act of 1965, but this was a half-hearted affair which merely forbade discrimination in ‘places of public resort’ and, by default, encouraged discrimination in everything else: housing, employment etc. The incorporation, in the Act, of a clause to ‘penalise incitement to racial hatred’ turned out to be more useful in imprisoning blacks (and right-wing extremists) than in arresting the exalted nativism of the Rt. Hon. Enoch Powell, Ronald Bell Q.C. and others of their ilk and silk. The discrimination provisions of the Race Relation Act were to be implemented by the Race Relation Board and its local conciliation committees.
But the concern of integration during this period related more to the Asians than to the West Indians. The latter, it was felt, had ‘largely been brought up to regard themselves as British’, whereas ‘Pakistanis and Indians … showed almost no interest in being integrated’. The Asians, with their different cultures and customs and language and dress, their extended families and sense of community, and their peculiar preference to stay with their own kind, were a society apart. But they
were also a people who were industrious and responsible, anxious to educate themselves. They may not be assimilable, but they were certainly made for integration –a parallel society to be accommodated in a pluralist set-up.
The Race Relations board with National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants did not succeed in even getting that integration programme off the ground. The Board was virtually non-starter, so feeble and narrow were the provisions of the 1965 Act. The National Committee discovered discrimination everywhere it went but was frustrated into educating people out of their attitudes. ‘Education in school and out of school, education of adults as well as children, education of newcomers as well as indigenous population, education through conferences, through committee work, through social activities, through the Press…’ dragged on its first annual report in the tones of a forlorn manifesto. Hence in 1966 both bodies jointly commissioned the PEP (Political and Economic Planning) to investigate the extent of racial discrimination. Its report, published a year later, produced evidence to show what everybody knew: that racial discrimination varied in extent from ‘the massive to the substantial’.
The profound effects of racism were already showing in the growing militancy of the West Indian community. Increasing police harassment, particularly of West Indians, mounting discrimination in employment, housing and immigration sparked off militant struggles in the Caribbean community.
The state was faced, against all its convictions, with an unassimilable black community. The West Indians were not a part of British society after all. They even proclaimed that they had a culture and a tradition and a history of its own. They rejected British values and British culture. And worse, especially for the educationalists who had suddenly come upon the discovery that the West Indian child could not/would not speak English English: they rejected the English language itself. Once, as slaves, when they have been forced to accept the white man’s language, they had corrupted it so skilfully as to make it unintelligible to the slave master. Now they sought to ‘blacken the language suffuse it with their own darkness and liberate it from the presence of the oppressor.’ And out of that assertion of themselves was springing an anti-capitalist ideology and a politics of revolution. They posed a problem from within British society – they posed the problems of it. They could not be assimilated and they could not, like the Asians, be integrated. They were a canker in the body politic. The body politic itself was threatened. The need for integration and for anti-discriminatory legislation had assumed a new urgency.
The 1968 Act extended the scope of the 1965 Act to include discrimination in employment (with some exceptions), housing (with some exceptions) credit and insurance facilities and places of public resort. But the breadth of its concerns was believed by the unenforceability of its provisions. The Board would have to rely almost entirely on conciliation to obtain redress. It had no powers of enforcement but could resort to the courts, in extreme cases, to obtain an injunction restraining the defendant from further discriminatory practices. It could order the payment of special damages and damages for the loss of opportunity. Basically the Act was not an act but an attitude.
The 1968 Act also re-formed the existing organisation, the NCCI, to create the Community Relations Commission – in order to complement the work of the Race Relations Board. The Commission’s task as defined by the Act was to ‘promote harmonious community relations’, to co-ordinate national action to this end through its local community relations councils, to disseminate information about matters affecting minority groups and to advise the Home Secretary. In theory, the Commission attempted to combat racial discrimination, the Board to penalise it. In practice, they were both educational and advisory and tended to overlap each other. In effect, they were to one degree or another both instruments of mediation –between sections of the ruling class, between the sectional interests and the blacks and, on the national level, between the whites and blacks.
In its seven years of existence the Commission’s task was over. The Race Relations Bill (February 1976) sees that its work is good and that its work is done. It has taught the white power structure to accept the blacks and it has taught the blacks to accept the white power structure. It has successfully taken politics out of the black struggle and returned it to rhetoric and nationalism on the one hand and to state on the other. It has, together with the Board, created a black bourgeoisie, especially West Indian (the Asian bourgeoisie was already in the wings), to which the state can now hand over control of black dissidents in general and black youth in particular. Britain has moved from institutional racism to domestic neo-colonialism.
In terms of the larger picture, what has been achieved in half a decade is the accommodation of West Indian militant politics within the framework of social democracy. The Asians had already settled into the cultural pluralist set-up ordained for them by the state as far back as a decade ago. The strategy of the state in relation to the Asians had been to turn cultural antagonism into cultural pluralism –in relation to the West Indians, to turn political antagonism into political pluralism.
But there was still ‘the second generation’. All the other blacks had been found a place within the system, but the young blacks stood outside it. As though to confirm the dialectics of history they, the British born, carry the politics of their slave ancestry. And so it is to them that the state now turns its attention in the Race Relations Bill of February 1976.
For, the anxiety of the state about the rebellious black youth stems not from the rhetoric of professional black militants, but from the fear of the mass politics that it may generate in the black under-class and in that other discriminated minority the migrant workers and perhaps in the working class as a whole –particularly in a time of massive unemployment and urban decay.
The Bill’s intention is not just to outlaw discrimination but to carry the fight against discrimination in most areas of society. And more significantly, it means to enforce the law. The law is no longer the instrument of education, it is an instrument of compulsion. More, it will redress the balance of discrimination in some areas by discriminating in favour of the disadvantaged blacks. And that is why the Government believes that ‘it is vital to our well-being as a society to tap these reservoirs of resilience, initiative and vigour in the racial minority groups and not to allow them to lie unused or to be deflected into negative protest on account of arbitrary and unfair discriminatory practices.’
Hence the new Race Relations Commission which replaced both the Board and the Commission ‘will have major strategic role in enforcing the law in the public interest’.
However that interest is defined –as ‘the public interest’ or the national interest or, unashamedly, the ruling class interest- it is certainly the interest of capital. For capital requires racism not for racism’s sake but for the sake of capital. Hence at a certain level of economic activity (witness the colonies) it finds it more profitable to abandon the idea of superiority of race in order to promote the idea of the superiority of capital. Racism dies in order that capital might survive.
The Home Secretary, addressing immigration staff at Dover and Folkestone in 1924;
“If when considering the desirability or otherwise of an alien’s presence in the UK doubt arises, benefit should be given to the country not the alien.” This not only expresses his opinion, it also sets the tune for immigration’s view of aliens.
When a person is arrested under the 1971 Immigration Act, they enter a system of justice administered by the Home Office, outside the jurisdiction of the Courts. Here, the executive discretion of the Home Office is almost totally unhindered by independent scrutiny. As such it is open to abuse and lax practice, with detainees having little redress. Over the years the number of those detained has increased, particularly the number of asylum seekers. The report ‘Britain’s Forgotten Prisoners’ quotes official figures suggesting approximately 10,000 people are held in short and long term detention yearly. The length of detention varies from a few hours to a matter of months or even years. In fact, one of the most soul-destroying aspects of the system is that there is no express limit on the length of time a person may be held.
In today’s civilised world, people have the pleasure of hassle free travel. Some countries abolish border controls from their neighbours or some do random checks. Ten EU countries have signed the Shengen agreement. Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway) another example. Either controls are avoided, or they make entry as simple and quick as possible. Some countries only ask their neighbour citizens to produce an ID card. Long before Shengen, Benelux did not make internal border checks. France had no passport control if you were coming from Britain. The UK, in this sense has been very much conservative and isolationist.
None of the 14 EU countries have any questioning system. France and Belgium only check passport and resident card, Germany and others check resident visa only. In USA, arriving US residents are not asked questions. The only proof is Passport and “Green Card”. Every visitor to the USA required filling a landing card except for Canadians and US residents (Green Card holders).
The atmosphere in British entry ports immigration area is very different, often hostile and highly unwelcoming. The intimidation is in the air. One can feel the fear and anxiety of the passengers. The officers at the desks ogling the passengers and Chief Immigration Officer in the background are a constant and powerful reminder of detention, interrogation and deportation. The only signpost is “No Photographs!” There is no comforting words, leaflets or those “Zero Tolerance” posters for abusers. One feels that the legal rights of the person is not covered in this area. Interviews are not recorded; there is no video or audio recording to monitor the Immigration Service and to check if they are on the wrong side of the law. They definitely look and feel untouchables!
The whole service is out of touch. There is no help desk in the airports to ask or inquire about anything. They answer the telephones but not answering enquires. If you phone to complain you get the answer. “Please put in writing and sent it to complaints unit. We are very busy with incoming flights and are not able to answer you!” polite and intimidating enough! If you are adamant, they will most certainly hang up and you will realize their thinly veiled hostility.
In 1998 April, I was leaving the country from Manchester Airport Terminal I. Before the embarkation the Immigration Officer checked my passport an verbally abused me and said “I would like to see you behind the bars!” There was another female Officer next to him and she heard what he said to me. On my return I made complaint in writing. Their reply came the end of July 1998 and saying “..I have been unable to substantiate your version of events…there was no comment from the male Immigration Officer.”
The behaviour of Immigration reflects out dated patterns of behaviour like those 19th century aristocrats, which is deeply racist as a result of both its insularity (the Little England syndrome) and its experiences with colonialism. They do the talking, they ask you the questions, they give the final decision. If you dare to ask questions, they do not feel obliged to answer. If you insist, they will tell you arrogantly where to go (complaints unit!) It is somehow very obvious that they feel at home with the complaints unit! It proved it is like sending complaints letter to Himler about SS. What chance do you have?
Their way of work mostly that of secret services. They do not give out anybody’s name. That is including the one who is dealing with you. The complaints service is always defensive of their staff and their response to you is full of self-justification. The chances are you will get an apology is almost zero. They motto is “our staff are the most valuable asset”. They never go against them for a mere foreigner. That is the main reason the residents and visitors are always kept in dark. They never explain, never apologize. I cannot call it pragmatism, because pragmatism requires a bottom line of principle, which they do not have one. It is much like they are waging a guerrilla style physiological warfare; hit those liar, opportunist, low class foreigners!
The complaints are being looked into one unit, which is called “Complaints Unit” is more like a politburo. They are themselves immigration officers. When one makes complaint against immigration officer, the unit interviews the officer involved but not complainant. In practice, it is complainant’s word against Immigration Officer, which can easily be denied. It is near impossible to produce evidence against Immigration Officer, as their area is restricted area. No recoding of any kind! It is not easy to guess what the officer involved says to the complaints unit in the comfort of talking someone who totally sympathises him and supports his action (saving Britain syndrome!). Success on complaint is limited partly because the complainant is not asked to give evidence or interview. As we are outsiders all we get a letter after 6 moths, total denial of the facts.
In January 2000, I was going to Gambia from Manchester II and I needed to seek to obtain some prior guarantee of admission for my wife in the light of the settlement visa whenever she is granted. The FCO leaflet about settlement visa states that even if one has such visa, he/she could be refused entry. Before boarding plane, I phoned Immigration at the Airport and requested more information. The person answered the phone replied exactly what the leaflet already says. When I persisted for more explanation he got very suspicious and said; “why are you asking all this? Do you have something to hide?” I found this behaviour totally unacceptable and made written complaints in February 2000. Complaints Unit answered it in October 2000 saying that “it is not the practice or purpose of this Unit to arrange investigations which are considered to be of frivolous or vexatious nature. I consider that your allegations in this instance are vexatious, and no complaint investigation will therefore be undertaken.”
On the whole, Immigration discourages the people to make complaints. The number of complaints is running about 300-400 a year comparing the number of non-EU passengers entering UK, which runs in millions. Only a single rail company receives thousands of complaints regarding train cancellations and delays in UK. This is mainly majority of them do not even know that they can make complaints. Almost none of them know any address to make one. If they are advised to make if they have something to complaint about, most of them are too scared to make in case it would jeopardise their future entry. It is very difficult to convince them; “Immigration has unlimited power to question you to their satisfaction or, to detain you if they are not satisfied, but they have no power to take any action against you if you make complaints against them!” Do they really expect anybody to believe this? The Complaints Unit do not accept complaints by telephone regardless of passenger’s ability if he/she can write English. They send the answer in six months time even if the passenger’s stay in UK just for a week. In every sense, complaints unit works and believes the job in less than whole-heartedly. It is hard to understand the wisdom of establishing “Complaints Unit” essentially from the same sources, to deal with their colleague’s misconduct. It is like making a complaint about a criminal to his mother and to expect her to punish her son.
“I was coming from Turkey with my daughter. I am permanent resident in Glasgow and have business. I had a Turkish, my daughter had British passport. When we landed in Glasgow Airport, the officer seemed to confused one adult with Turkish, a teenager daughter with British Passport without her mother. I think he thought that I kidnapped my daughter. Without him asking me, I said, she is my daughter, we are coming from holiday. He replied that ‘I do no believe you!’ I was so upset but said nothing. He went inside and did checking on me. 10 minutes later he stamped my passport. I really minded to be humiliated by someone whom he gets his salary from my paid taxes. I did not make any complaints, because I made an application for “naturalisation as a British Citizen” naturally they are the same people and a copy of my complaints letter would be sent to them. After that how can I expect to have a favourable decision? I am not stupid!..” (Mr. E. Dursun 1998).
“I live in London and have a kebab shop. I am resident for over ten years. So many times I was harassed at Heatrow and Gatwick Airports when I came back from my holidays. I never made complaints. If I did, next time they would give me much tougher time and might send me back for pleasure. Who do I find to help me if that happens? Who will run my business? Who will pay my losses? I can not afford all that for a mere complaint! I think the government knows everything and want to keep it that way.” (Mr. K. Sayar, 1999).
It is hard to understand why a tick layer of secrecy covers them? On one occasion one officer tried to justify not giving their name out by saying “we are deporting the people...that is our policy to decline to identify officers in certain circumstances where it seems reasonable to do so, including for example where there may be possibility that they or their families could be subject to physical threat or verbal written abuse..” But did not explain the fact that police are not only deporting the people, they are catching them, locking them up, sometimes life imprisonment is given, destroying millions of pounds of drug business. The judges impose heavy sentences, yet we public know their name. Is that the acceptance of immigration’s guilt? Comparing the job what others are doing, deporting someone without any punishment, even paying his return airfare hardly justifies this kind of secrecy. It would be better and more constructive if Immigration spent their efforts to build better relationships with the community rather than spending their time and resources to hide deeply from the people. It is also utterly difficult to expose any corruption in Immigration if it happens under this deep secrecy.
Immigration at present hardly represents the British people in their manner and does not share the same British values. They do not believe in the church, they do not believe in the family, and they do not believe in any religion or any moral value. They do not value culture and diversity. They use the language of colonial master. It is highly remarkable where the country the Queen is the defender of the faith, but On Her Majesty’s Service is full of offenders of the faith from the Hell. Their practices have strong discriminatory and racist undertones. They adopted a bogus polite behaviour. They are ruthless people. Their questions are hostile and confrontational. The foreigner’s life, family, their assets, their religion are nothing to them. They are here to destroy them morally and emotionally. They are always suspicious of them and every instinct of their body clearly shows it. How those people could judge passengers of every nationality on moral grounds and decide “I am satisfied you are honest, or I am not satisfied! You are a liar!” when they do not have any visible moral value? Dealing with public requires a bottom line of moral principles, ethical, humane and legal standards.
The services like immigration are so powerful in nature. That is why most countries do give a mere power of stamping passport and refusing entry only if the passenger does not have visa. The power could be used for racial or personal aggravation, or settle the political, historical scores. It is easy to harass the people in the name of duty and on top of that they have a very high protection, which there is no country in the world like UK.
The Usual Suspects
Racial prejudice is a force behind immigration. For Immigration, there are good guys and bad guys. Those from the third world could hardly be honest. They are the one doing all sorts of illegal activities such as overstay, bogus asylum, drug trafficking, illegal immigrant trafficking, bogus marriage, forge passports and visas, false declaration when obtaining visa, breaching immigration law, entry into the UK illegally, claiming money from public funds. Immigration believes nothing good comes out from them. The one you are dealing may well be one of them. If not? The benefit is given to the country not the alien! At some time during the passport examination, all the non-EU passport holders are checked against the Suspect Index routinely in case he/she might be hunted by police for a criminal act. But EU passport holders are exempted. This is clearly violation of some principles laid down in “Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as amended by Protocol No.11” Article: 14 ‘Prohibition of Discrimination’.
“I am a lawyer in Turkey. I decided to visit my friend in Scotland. I got two years multiple entry visitor’s visa from Istanbul. When I arrive in Glasgow, Immigration Officers took me to a room. There I was held for four hours, without any food or drink. They only allow me to go to toilet. I was not allowed to phone my friend who was expecting me at his home. In the end, my friend made enquiries when I did not turn up, Immigration asked him to come to the Airport. Minutes after he arrived, they gave me my entry stamp. To this day, I do not know why they did it. They never explained anything (Mr. M. Ustundag 1995).
Immigration Officers are more careful if they are dealing more than one person at a time in case they will be witness to any misconduct. They prey on lone travellers and exploit government protection to the full. Any kind of intimidation and abuse is possible. We hear those word quite often such as “I do not believe you”, “You are a liar”, “how did you get this visa?”, “where do you live and/or work?” “Where is your wife?!”, “why did you go abroad?” etc. Most importantly, their body language is a textbook example of racial hatred, resentment of dealing and admitting a foreigner into UK, expression of unpleasant gestures, enjoying sadistically if the passenger shows any sign of fear of deportation. A simple and basic human reaction to those including British people’s day to day behaviour is a few comforting words of “there is nothing to worry about, you are resident, this country is your home, we are just doing a routine check” etc. They simply enjoy the fear of the people and play with their emotion. Without doubt, they are hardliners. Witness the police; they are even very polite to a murder suspect when they question him/her. They always say politely “it is just a routine question..” etc.
“I am a Turkish born, Belgian citizen, living and working in Belgium. Sometimes I come to UK to visit my friends with my Belgian passport. When I disembark from the ferry in Dover, I go straight to EU passport holders line. Each time I come here, immigration man asks me where my birthplace is. But I never see he is asking the same questions other Belgian passport holders who appear to be born in Belgium. No other EU countries I visited have this questioning. They are not supposed to ask me anything. This is a pathological mistrust. I really hate English, they are far too suspicious people.” (Mr. Ibrahim Bayindir, Plezantstraat,13- 9240, Zele-Belgie).
There is no standard of the number or nature of the questions for the Immigration Officer, which the law says to ask passengers. It is to their “satisfaction” which can easily be interpreted “racial hatred, harassment, humiliation”. Immigration Officer can exceed the limit and defend his action “I was not satisfied”! They like to be flexible the way to be satisfied without any responsibility. There is nothing one can do. They are more powerful than Prime Minister. They use every scare tactics to make the passenger believe the only way out is to co-operate! If not, they could give him a very rough ride. There can be no court action against them, as they are exempt from Race Relations Act.
“I am permanent resident in London. 9 years ago, I got married to my English wife and have two children. I have Turkish passport. I am doing Halal meat business and very often travel to France and Netherlands. When I return from Europe by car, the immigration at Dover is usually easy. I do not get off the car they only stamp my passport. If I go by air, each time I came back to UK I have to give all accounts of my business. Why did I go, what I am doing, how did I get this visa etc. Sometimes questions are longer and really annoying. I do not think Immigration realise the importance of foreign trade and especially export that is vital for UK’s prosperity. They do not value the work. They do not believe economic development. They value the passport. They are like Communist Party, suspicious of everything. They make me feel like I am a criminal, or what I am doing is wrong. A lot of people who does not have business and live on public funds do not go abroad; therefore they do not have any problems with immigration. I do not want my re-entry hanging on balance or at the mercy of someone whom I pay his salary. I want automatic entry into UK with my residency visa without hassle.” (Mr. B. Tasci, 2000).
The people of UK do live and work on the basis of trust. The basic principle of law is that “innocent, until proven guilty!” Even police adopted the same behaviour. Immigration is on opposite side. They are always suspicious and tend to disbelieve whatever we say. Is this a clear breach of Common Law?
“I am a resident in England. I was on holiday in Turkey and coming to London from Istanbul. The Turkish passenger next to me on plane asked me a few questions about UK and said it is the first time he is going. He said he is going to study for one year in Colchester but he has no idea how to get there. I said, after landing at Heatrow, I could guide you to central London and there, find the train. In Immigration area I got my passport stamped and started to wait for him behind the desk where he was giving interview to one immigration officer and showing his papers. The passenger was visibly sweating and shaking like those who is going to be deported. After 5 minutes he got his one-year entry. I was appealed. This was downright a torture but physiologic one. I am still thinking that if he was to be given entry, why he was harassed like a spy?” (Mr. M. Yilmaz 1995)
It is not unusual that a lot of passengers particularly students who come to UK for the purpose of study had a humiliating initial interview for the first time of their entry which caused such emotional trauma that could not face another one. For this reason, they are too scared to go abroad for holiday or family visit, therefore they stay in UK until the end of their studies. Apart from that so many students who found entry difficult, avoided going abroad and explained the reason such as “if I went, I thought, I might not be re-admitted” while their visas and passports perfectly in order.
“I came to London to study English in 1987 June. When I arrived, I was held at Heatrow Airport for three hours. They did not tell me the reason for waiting. I was afraid that they would send me back. Too much embarrassment to family and friends. After that, they stamped my passport and gave me six months. I started my study. Every time my visa expired, I went to Croydon and extended it. I stayed in London in total two years and nine months all the time with a student visa. During this time I never left UK. I simply could not face another fear of detention. (Mr. H. Bosnak 1990).
Currently, if anyone is wrongly detained, there is no court action against it, but if police makes a wrongful arrest, one can sue the police. After long hours of wrong detention and humiliation they would advise you that you could make a complaint. If you do, 6 months later you will receive a half-baked answer like this “...when you arrived, the immigration officer (no name) was not satisfied immediately, and he felt that further enquiries were necessary before a properly informed decision could be taken.. once the enquiries were completed, the immigration officer was satisfied that you are given entry.. ”
“I got married to a Scottish wife and given one year leave to enter. I decided to go on holiday to Australia, and stayed there one month. When I came back as a returning resident before my visa expired, I was held four hours at Heatrow Airport without any reason. At the end, my Scottish wife came to the Airport and I was released without any explanation. I was scare to death in case they separate me from my family forever. Now, I have indefinite leave to remain. Immigration denies everything I have been raised to believe; such as family, religion, community. (Mr. R. Sezgin 1984).
They also occasionally do passport and visa checks at the aircraft gate in a very aggressive and bullying manner as well as in immigration hall. Those are strictly the aircrafts coming from poor third world countries that immigration thinks they are likely to be sub-human. If anyone complaints about double passport control and reason, all he/she gets the answer like this “we just make sure that everything is in order.” No appeal, no trial, no nothing!
However, the fact remains that the immigration and nationality laws can in no way be described as ‘firm but fair’. Whilst it is self-evident that any society needs to provide legal guidelines regarding immigration, to be acceptable these must be fair. As such the guidelines should be clear, with no room for arbitrary decision-making; they should be applied indiscriminately, irrespective of race or colour; and they should be applied in such a way that they do not adversely affect the well being of law-abiding citizens, however recently they may have attained the privileges of citizenship. The fact that this is not the case is a source of concern, and the fact that the Asian community has been particularly badly affected points to an inherent racism in both the law and the manner in which it is being applied.
It is clear that the institutionalised state-sanctioned racism, which has been a central tenet of British Immigration and Nationality Legislation throughout the twentieth century, lays the foundation for foreigners to be treated as second class citizens in Britain. Very few white people, except those active in fighting racism, are willing to believe the descriptions of contemporary reality offered by blacks. There is a growing and deep-rooted mistrust of the forces of law and order. In some instances normally law-abiding people have felt compelled to contravene the legislation.
Ironically, during the debate of Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill of autumn 1992, opposition spokesman Tony Blair argued that the new proposals were too harsh and that the priority given to weeding out false claims might well prejudice genuine claims. The time limits imposed in the appeals procedure were too tight and, as many visitors’ appeals were successful, it was unjust to abolish the right, especially as refused visitors would have no redress against the refusal being entered in their passport, which might then jeopardise future applications.
Kumar Murshid, chair of the National Assembly Against Racism, looks to the new Government to make much-needed changes.
Immigration legislation in Britain over the decades has been justifiably perceived by black people as fundamentally racist. The entire ethos of this quite complex area of legislation appears to be about either keeping black people out of Britain, or generating pressures on those already here with permanent rights of residence. The 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act is a particularly racist piece of legislation that should be done away with in its entirety.
It is imperative that meaningful steps are taken sooner rather than later by this new Government and a radical review of immigration legislation embarked upon so that we can have genuine non-racist immigration and asylum policies.
Proposals for Change:
The Introduction of a series of increasingly restrictive immigration legislation over a comparatively short period has caused plenty problems for foreign families in Britain. As these families have been caught up in a situation over which they have little control the British government has an obligation to be sensitive to their needs. The following proposals would go some way towards addressing their situation.
1- Everyone with a right to remain indefinitely in the UK should have a right to have their partner and children join them.
2- Where children are concerned the tests of ‘sole responsibility’ and ‘support and accommodation’ should be abolished.
1- Those who have “indefinite leave to remain” should not be questioned if their passport clearly shows that they have not been outside UK for more than two years.
2- Independent people should monitor the Immigration Services at the entry ports, and also they should give the final decision for deportation or detention. All the interviews with the passengers should be recorded.
3- The complaints against Immigration Officers should be investigated and answered by independent people. At the time of entry, the officer involved should offer his name to the passenger without being asked.
4- Everyone who is admitted into UK should be given a leaflet with full address of Immigration Complaints Unit and encouraged that they should not be silent if they have anything to complaint about. This would substantially reduce the abuse of the passengers. All complaints should be answered in four weeks time.
5- The Law should be changed and those ambiguous definition such as “satisfying immigration officer” must be defined. The residents should be exempt from filling landing card. The definition “returning residents” should be changed to “permanent residents”, and they must have automatic right of entry without satisfying immigration officer to explain why he needed to go on holiday.
6- Anybody has indefinite leave to enter and has lived more than 5 years should get British passport on demand. If he is not eligible for that, he should not be eligible for residency and he should be repatriated to his country of birth. In this way the racist governments would not be able to create inferior citizens, which could be kept under the thumb. Anyone refused British Citizenship should have full appeal rights against the decision.
7- The Immigration Services as a whole should not be exempt from Race Relations Act. They should be included.
8- The reason of questioning residents partly to find out if the person is the rightful owner of the passport. In other words, they check against forgery. But Immigration never has the same practice for EU passport holders. Forgery can take place in any form. EU passports could be counterfeit as much as non-EU passports. It is clearly against equal treatment and deeply racist. This practice must be at the same level.
9- Independent people must give full training to immigration officers in various aspects of immigration issues and the basis of major religions. They also must be made aware of the different public opinions and ideas.
10- “No Photograph” signs should be removed from immigration areas.
11- Every resident of UK who has been abroad in the last twelve months should be sent a questionnaire and asked various questions regarding their opinion of Immigration service. The Landing Cards they fill after disembarkation have their name and address. They should be given assurances that their name will not be disclosed to Immigration; only independent people will read their answers.
12- The practice of checking non-EU passport holders against ‘Suspect Index’ while EU passport holders’ exclusion is a violation of Human Rights. Either this practice to be abolished, or should include everybody entering UK without discrimination.
Visitors and Students:
1- People requiring visas to enter Britain should be allowed to alter their immigration status, for example from visitor to student provided they have a bona fide course and the necessary financial resources, or from student to permanent resident in case of marriage, provided their marriage is genuine.
2- The Home Office must introduce greater flexibility when considering changes in circumstances, particularly when students are some way through their courses.
3- Rights of appeal against refusal, removed by the 1993 Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act, for prospective students and those following a course for less than six months and visitors who have family members settled in UK, must be reinstated.
4- Everyone arriving with a valid visa, if not immediately admitted, should be given temporary admission, the only exception being if there is clear and tangible evidence that their admission might cause a threat to national security.
5- Anyone with a valid visa refused entry should be informed of their right of appeal while within Britain, and given every assistance to do so.
6- The right of appeal to those with visas who are refused entry at a British port should be restored.
7- An independent body should be set up to monitor immigration detainees by the police and immigration authorities; the numbers detained, period of time and reasons for detention should be published monthly on a case by case basis.
8- Anyone detained without just cause should be entitled to compensation.
Detention in any circumstances can have serious psychiatric and medical consequences. Most Immigration Act detainees have not been charged with any offence, have not been brought before a court, do not have the right to apply for bail, and have no time limit on their detention. Their detention without charge, trial conviction or sentence is entirely in the hands of the Home Office.
1- No person should be arrested, detained or otherwise deprived of liberty for the purpose of enforcing Immigration controls save where it is necessary because of reasons specifically referable to the individual concerned.
2- Detainees should be provided with written information in their own language about why they are being held and their rights whilst in detention.
3- Detainees should be provided with unrestricted access to free independent legal advice and representation of their choice. On request the detainee should have access to an independent and competent interpreter of his choice and to medical advice, examination and treatment from a practitioner of detainees choice.
4- Immigration interviews must not be conducted in an oppressive manner. Immigration officers must be fully trained in how to interview people who have long and tiring journey. A legal representative and independent interpreter should be present and the proceedings should be tape-recorded.
Immigration Rules: Immigration Acts administered under these; gives great discretionary powers to Immigration Officers; can be changed without parliamentary debate. Unless strong sense of checks and balances introduced, foreigners of UK will live under the dark shadow of Immigration years to come. If Immigration there to monitor the passengers, who is going to monitor Immigration for all their crimes?
The effect of all this has been the creation of a climate of fear, described by one African pastor as follows:
“The foreigners as a whole has the immigration nightmare, and anybody who’s got an immigration problem knows that it’s like cancer, something you know is going to get one day… what we have seen is a tightening of an already tight bolt… this tightening of course, has led to more fear for foreigners”. (1994)