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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Our two-tier rights regime

Watched a funny episode of the Welsh sitcom High Hopes, 'A Passage to India', which had this synopsis:
The Immigration Department, in the guise of Adam Mosley, plan to deport Muktar Rahman, the elderly patriarch of the local Indian restaurant, back to the Punjab. The community rallies around to save him, led by Mam.
Moseley indeed. In a big, black leather Matrix coat and a copy of Mein Kampf on the desk. All very funny and perhaps only in Wales as I'm sure some English newspaper/Minister would object were it on BBC1 (England).

Thing is, it was drawing on a big grain of truth. The 'Immigration Department' (the Home Office) may not actually be Nazis but they are out of control, with asylum seekers being deliberately made destitute, beaten in detention centres and the whole system riddled with racism and homophobia where other parts of government are being systematically un-riddled.

The treatment of refugee Zimbabweans (many of whom are professionals) has, perhaps, shone some light on just how disgusting the regime is in its treatment of people fleeing persecution. But I could quote you case after maltreated case, particularly of gay people.

Just where we are is best shown by the case of Labour populist Minister Phil Woolas who recently got out the big tar brush to attack NGOs who support such people as causing "more harm than they do good." Did anyone complain about what he said?

The Queen's Speech featured another attempt by the government to remove higher court appeal and review rights on refugee decisions by civil servants (which consistently find more than a third of initial decisions to be wrong under existing rules).

Other proposals included new powers for immigration officers to stop people in the street and demand to see proof of entitlement to be here, no statutory limitation on the length of immigration detention, no limitation of the power to detain children, anyone assaulting, obstructing or resisting anyone exercising functions 'under the Act' commits a criminal offence and - most relevant to the sitcom - the exemption from deportation of certain long-resident Commonwealth citizens has gone.

Were you aware? Read of this anywhere other than vague references to a 'crack-down' and Ministers being 'hard'? Thought not.

As Nick Clegg said on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are "fast developing a two-tier rights regime."

And what are we becoming in the process? Not the country which welcomed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees, or the Ugandan Asians, or exiled Poles or numerous others but some other country and, particularly, some other Labour party I barely recognise.

Smith, Woolas and their ilk come across as having not a shred of humanity. We are better than this.

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