Compassion and immigration control have appeared as unreconcilable concepts since Theresa May’s appointment as Home Secretary. Ever since she took office in 2010, Ms. May has appeared determined to respond to the tabloids’ cries that the UK is letting in too many immigrants. Certainly we need some way of determining how many and what kind of immigrants should be let into the UK, but May’s policies and the actions of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) have persistently and ruthlessly attacked the wrong kinds of immigrants with, in some cases, a blatant lack of concern for human dignity.
Take for example the case of Roseline Akhalu, a now 49-year-old Nigerian who came to the UK in 2004 to take a masters degree in development and gender studies at Leeds University. She was stricken with kidney failure shortly after arrival. In 2009 she received a successful transplant, but relies on regular hospital checks and must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. Since March 2012 she faced deportation by the UKBA to Nigeria, where she claims she will not be able to receive adequate medical treatment and could die. Fortunately, last Friday (30th Nov) a judge quashed the Home Office decision based on article 8 of the European convention on human rights.
No one claims that the NHS is not suffering a huge strain on its resources, and of course those who funded the institution through their tax money deserve to reap the benefits first. But let’s imagine a completely unlikely yet pertinently hypothetical situation in which Ms. Akhalu turns up at your doorstep and says that she needs a small amount of your money or she will definitely die. Nobody else can help her but you. If you send her away she will die. You’d give her the money, wouldn’t you?
Some argue that states may – and indeed ought to – adopt a different set of moral standards to the individual. This is often necessary, but in the case of immigration decisions it shouldn’t be. If Ms. Akhalu had indeed been deported to Nigeria and died, nobody in the UK would have been affected by it and our NHS would probably have saved a little bit of money. But can we really adopt such a closed world-view where we treat human beings from other countries as being of less worth than our compatriots? It’s not as though Ms. Akhalu is Abu Qatada, who harbours extreme religious view antithetical to a free society like Britain. She clearly wanted to live here, as shown by her volunteering work and how her friends gave evidence in court about the value she added the local community. She deserved to stay.
Let’s move on to some younger victims of Theresa May – namely, the under-reported (what are they doing now?) case earlier this year of thousands of international students at London Metropolitan University who faced deportation after the university had its highly-trusted status (HTS) revoked. I ran into the National Union of Students’ (NUS) International Students’ Officer Daniel Stevens at the NUS Demo in London on 21st November when I was covering it for my students’ newspaper. He was marching with some students from London Met – but Mr. Stevens seems to be one of the few standing up for these young victims.
On a similar note, the abolition of the Tier 1 Post-study Work Visa last April unfairly penalised international students currently studying in the UK. It should only have applied to new applicants, not existing students. Having invited them into our country to spend tens of thousands of pounds on our education system, promising them up to two years in the UK after their studies to look for work, but then to turn around and say actually we want to kick you out between one-three months after graduation is a gross deception on the government’s part. I’m sure many prospective international students would have looked elsewhere – the US, Canada, Australia – if they’d known that was going to happen.
There’s one final issue I’d like to touch upon, and it’s a measure which has received scant opposition in the press besides a few articles when it was first introduced. I’m talking about the new £18,600 minimum salary requirement for bringing in a foreign partner from outside the European Union Economic Area (EEA). Essentially this means a ban on many working-class Brits from marrying foreigners, which seems absurd considering how many members of the opposite sex (or same, depending on your persuasion) we encounter these days who don’t posses that vital document which is a British passport. This measure is, in my opinion, an unwarranted intrusion into one’s personal life and a breach of the human right to fall in love with just about whoever we please, thank you very much.
If you need any more evidence that our government is daily sacrificing human dignity to the cold rationality of economics, note how it’s planning to ease restrictions on Chinese tourist visas so more of the nouveau riche Chinese can stimulate our economy on Oxford Street by buying up all the designer goods. That’s fair enough – but at the same time it is turning a blind eye to all those suffering under May’s immigration regime.