One of the most striking achievements of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition agreement was the pledge to end all detention of children for immigration purposes. Unlike areas such as prisons and civil liberties, where Liberal policies chimed with Cameron’s instincts, this is a policy that the Tories would never have implemented on their own. This is a hugely commendable policy, correcting an injustice that has shamed Britain in recent years
Unfortunately, the policy comes with a sting in the tail. In June we heard that the government planned to build a ‘reintegration centre’ in Kabul, for Afghani boys who had sought asylum in Britain. Such a centre is designed to ease them back into life in Afghanistan. The policy has a veneer of care but is in essence extremely cold-hearted if we can’t imprison children, we’ll simply deport them. Then last week there was a further development, a leak of a pilot scheme in the North-West of England. Under said scheme, failed asylum applicants would have 2 weeks to leave the country, after which they can be deported at any time without notice, presumably in a ‘dawn raid’ that has become so commonplace in the asylum system. The two week notice period would apply regardless of how long you had been in the country; a family might have been in Britain in 5 years, with children attending school and then given a mere 14 days to uproot themselves.
Many other injustices in the system remain: adult asylum seekers may still be subject to detention despite having committed no crime, most refugees are prevented from working legally or claiming mainstream benefits, leaving them frequently close to destitute. Most benefits that are received are in the form of supermarket vouchers, depriving the claimant of any meaningful liberty. On top of this there is the ingrained attitude of the UKBA, which as was recently revealed, has an institutional culture in which every accepted application is considered a failure, and the low standard of immigration tribunals and their decisions which require so many cases to go to appeal. All of this designed with one goal, confirmed by the leaked document, of increasing the number of removals, and keeping down the overall immigration headlines. This then is not a policy not driven by the needs of the immigrant, nor by economics, since, even in recession, migrants tend to do the jobs that British citizens refuse to. No, immigration policy continues to be driven by the desire for good headlines, regardless of any other factors.