Hidden Lives, Life in the UK, comedy gold, Luqman Onikosi, and more
So, today, a trip into London which included St Pancras Station today (in my other life I am a bit of a trainspotter - the history of railways is the history of the modern world, an interface of engineering, architecture, commerce, cartography, and of course migration, as well as much else - our whole concept of standardised time, for instance).
On at the station is the excellent exhibit 'Hidden Lives: The Untold Story of Urban Refugees' :
It's well worth a browse. The photo-stories are scattered throughout the upper and lower levels in a most impressive building. How appropriate that it is in the heart of such a truly international city, in the historic railway terminal which links London to the rest of the world, which is also a great symbol of Britishness.
It was quite heartening as well to see small crowds gathered respectfully around each photo-story.
More on the exhibit :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-20900282 - http://www.rescue-uk.org/what-we-do/hidden-lives-untold-story-urban-refugees - http://stpancras.com/events/hidden-lives-the-untold-story-of-urban-refugees/
UK citizenship to cover 'Britain's greats'. Migrants Rights Networks says why this is a bad idea :
(via https://twitter.com/donflynnmrn )
Want to become a British citizen? Better swot up on Monty Python:
From the Huffington Post UK - 'New UK Citizenship Test - How Would You Do?'
Three general comments here :
1/ As noted in this case ( http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/latest_news/changes_to_immigration_laws.aspx ), there have been in the region of 97 changes to immigration laws since 1994 already. Yet another change - and these changes, when they come, tend to be both fast and fundamental - is extremely onerous to the applicant, as well as the expense of investing in new study materials. It creates a bad feeling, to say the least.
2/ No doubt this poor change control contributes to the massive backlogs at UKBA which are constantly being uncovered : http://www.channel4.com/news/inspector-uncovers-huge-ukba-immigrant-backlog , http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21178405 , http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2013/jan/24/uk-border-agency-backlog-video?mobile-redirect=false , ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
The Independent Chief Inspector's recent report on the marriage/partnership backlog is here : http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/decisions-in-marriage-applications-are-reasonable-but-chief-inspector-raises-concerns-about-backlogs-and-a-lack-of-consideration-of-the-best-interests-of-children/
.. and here is a devastating report on legacy asylum cases : http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/UK-Border-Agencys-handling-of-legacy-asylum-and-migration-cases-22.11.2012.pdf
Quote via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20436013 - 'At one point there were 150 boxes of unopened mail from asylum applicants, their lawyers and constituency MPs stored in a room at the agency's Liverpool offices. '
More reports : http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/inspections/inspection-reports/2012-inspection-reports-2/
The Independent Chief Inspector on Twitter : https://twitter.com/ICIBIVine
3/ The media coverage is pointing to this being a 'citizenship' test. This is misleading; the Life in the UK test needs to be taken by anyone applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (not just those applying for citizenship). This includes, for example, spouses or civil partners of British citizens who have been here on 2 year visas. So something is missing in the coverage here, and combined with all the other changes (as noted here, a simple example - http://www.freemovement.org.uk/2012/09/06/new-statement-of-changes-sigh/ - changes which can be brought in with as little as one day's notice), bluntly, it messes people about.
To paraphrase John Vine himself ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2013/jan/24/uk-border-agency-backlog-video ) - people's lives are on hold, and there is a human side to all this (which of course includes the British partner and British children of those in the system) which is drowned out in the media storm over immigration.
(The excellent website Tabloid Watch has at present some 147 stories on immigration - http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/immigration - well worth browsing as a primer on how sections of the media distort everything, to the ultimate cost of everyone).
Part 1 of our new 'comedy gold' feature, an occasional piece on the lighter side of immigration of life :
Via Facebook - 'Is it just me, or is it a bit silly why the UKBA recognises the need for different pay between London and the rest of the UK for paying their own staff, but for the rest of us wanting to bring spouse in, it's not relevant?'
Part 2 of our new 'comedy gold' feature :
'Mark Harper blaming applicants for their applications being dumped in boxes in Sheffield because they did not follow an appeals process which did not exist at the time they applied.'
(via https://twitter.com/SalCardiff )
(To clarify somewhat : We believe that there was an appeals process back then, but UKBA
agreed to review cases outside the appeals process..so the issue is
Harper is trying to blame applicants for asking UKBA to review their
cases outside of an appeals process, rather than blaming UKBA for not
reviewing the cases, after it agreed to).
Sal refers to some of Harper's statements here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01q02mm/Today_24_01_2013/ - which Gerard (who tweets at https://twitter.com/gphearne ) has made a nice attempt at precis-ing :
Gerard writes on Facebook :
'I've made a first attempt at transcribing what Mark Harper said. I'm not claiming it's perfect but it's quite accurate. What struck me was the number of times he talked about people not LIKING a decision (slightly pejorative?) rather than not AGREEING with a decision, which would I think be a much more normal word choice. If you don't AGREE, you appeal, rather than if you don't LIKE.
Anyway, see what you think:
John Humphrys (JH): It's a shambles
Mark Harper (MH): No, I don't agree. I mean let me just pick up on those two specific areas that John talked about there. I mean first of all, the 14,000 cases, the reconsideration requests, they weren't people waiting for a decision, these were people who'd put in an application, they'd had a decision, they didn't like the decision, and what they should have done if they didn't like the decision was go through the proper appeal mechanism. What they were trying to do was go round that process errm and ask us basically to go through and do their application again.
MH : No, no, yeah but these were people that hadn't put in an appeal, what they were trying to do...
MH : No, no, these are people who've not liked the decision, but rather than go through the proper process and and apply for an appeal, like the gentleman who you covered in your report, these were people who just said to us 'Can you just look at our case again?', and what happened was...
MH : Well in the past, the agency didn't have a process to deal with that, it used to accept those requests, but not resource them, which is why there is a backlog. We're very clear now, if you get a decision and you don't like it, and it's not the one you wanted, you apply for an appeal. There's a proper mechanism, we won't in future allow you just to say 'Can you just go through the process and do it all over again?"
MH : If we want to deliver good customer service, we need to deal with people's cases properly, we make a decision, err if they like the decision great, if they don't like it there's a proper mechanism to do an appeal. That's what we will ask people to do.
MH : Well no, he acknowledged that ... no, no he acknowledged in his report that people were dealing with it. There were some old cases, I'm not going to pretend that we did not inherit ... some old cases in the UK Border Agency ... well no, no, 14,000 of those cases, decisions had been made, people had been told the decision, they just didn't like the decision, and they chose not to go through the proper process.
MH : Yes, and what the border agency should have said in the past, it should have said 'No, there's an appeal process. If you don't like the decision, appeal. What it didn't do, it didn't do that, what it did, it kind of accepted these requests, didn't have a process to deal with them...
MH : ...but the point is these people had had their cases looked at, and they'd had a decision...
MH : ...no, they had ... they had a decision ... they had ... no, no, no ... and your, and your fair point is what they should have done is be given a clear message that, no, that wasn't the right way of doing it, they should have appealed. The way the agency in the past made a mistake was that it should, it wasn't firm enough about that, and we've now got a clear policy, published, about how we deal with those, which is people should appeal properly, and those people who've been refused, and not allowed to stay here, should leave the country, and we will be taking steps to make sure that they do.
MH : And the 2,100 cases to be clear, those have all now been looked at, they've been decided, there are a handful of cases where there's information required outside the agency, but those have been dealt with.
MH : No, I'm not going to say that, we, we inherited an agency which had a lot of problems, we've got a new management team to deal with it, they're getting a grip and dealing with it, we're not gonna deal with it...
MH : We're not gonna deal with it ... Well, if you listen to what he said... Well I'm not satisfied with the performance, as it is today, neither's the chief executive, but he said, and he said in his previous report, we're getting a grip, we're improving the agency, and actually an important thing in what he said, was he acknowledged a lot of the frontline staff are very dedicated, they're doing a good job, I've met a lot of them when I've been out and visited the agency, we need to give them the tools to do the job and deliver excellent customer service. That's the mission that we have, and that's the process that we're trying to undertake.'
Part 3 of our new 'comedy gold feature' - posted before but worth restating :
'New backlog of 16,000 immigrants just a 'customer service' issue, says minister'
Why is Britain sending Luqman Onikosi back to die in Nigeria?, by Alana Lentin.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/25/why-luqman-onikosi-remain-britain , and also at http://www.alanalentin.net/2013/01/27/why-is-britain-sending-luqman-onikosi-back-to-die-in-nigeria/
'There is no doubt, barring a miracle, that removing Onikosi to Nigeria will result in this young man losing his life. The UK is quick to preach when it comes to human rights abuses in other countries, but equally quick to moralise when the same victims of global inequality put its own ethics to the test. Are we really willing to cause a third, useless, death in one family? Because that is what failing to act to help keep Onikosi in the UK, where his chances of survival are good, will ultimately mean.'
Petition in support of Luqman Onikosi : http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/grant-luqman-onikosi-leave-to-remain-in-the-uk.html
And Luqman Onikosi's Facebook support group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/452820554754025/
We have written previously about Luqman's plight : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/todays-links-migration-weekly-humanity.html
... as well as the very similar plight of Roseline Akhalu : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-trials-of-roseline-akhalu-httpwww.html
Alana Lentin tweets here : https://twitter.com/alanalentin
Tory right presses Cameron to close UK to Bulgarians and Romanians.
NY Times thinks Cameron has it wrong on Europe.
'Prime Minister David Cameron, like much of the British public, is ambivalent about his country’s future in the European Union. He correctly recognizes that a Britain outside the union would count for less in world affairs, forfeit the privileged access it now enjoys to its largest trading partner, and lose its seat at the European table where matters of great importance to Britain are discussed — from cross-border banking rules to environmental regulation. '
Holocaust Memorial Day marked in UK.
Round up of news and research: climate change, migration and displacement.
Via https://twitter.com/MigrantVoiceUK , https://twitter.com/refugee_archive