In his recent tirade against asylum-seekers and their advocates Phil Woolas was keen to point out that the primary purpose of the government’s immigration policy was to “reassure the public that the government is in control of immigration”. As I pointed out at the time this would indicate to me that its priorities are rather skewed and are being driven by tabloid headines. After all, surely the primary purpose should be to have a system which is efficient, fair and humane – if you have that then in theory public confidence should follow.
That is not neccessarily the case though, because public perceptions do not always match the reality. For example, one of the most common clichés we hear is that this country is a “soft touch” for asylum seekers, a notion that anyone with a cursory knowledge of New Labour’s treatment of asylum seekers over the last ten years would know is risible. There is a very good example here
Twins: Ziyad and Bahabga Zighem aged 6 years 3 months, Rahima 4 years and 4 months, Hani 3 years and 6 months, and Zinedine 2 years and 3 months, have spent the last 29 days in Immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood IRC and are still there today.
These five children are not seeking asylum nor are they migrants, they were all born in the UK, denied the parentage of the country they were born in, by deliberate, discriminatory legislation in the ‘British Nationality Act 1981′ (came into force 1982).
As Justin at Chicken Yoghurt points out, this story is particularly apposite in the light of the shocked reaction of the country as a whole to recent high profile child abuse cases. Our concern for children’s welfare seems to end when they are the offspring of people whose immigration status may be in doubt. So next time you see a New Labour minister congratulating themselves on the government’s “tough” stance on asylum and immigration just remember that it is very easy to be tough when the people on the other end are weak and vulnerable, and especially when they are three year old children.