Blair Outdo Idi Amin?
British Home Office plans to send back numbers that could run into
hundreds of thousands, officials have indicated.
White Paper being prepared by Britain's
Home Office aims to send back potentially hundreds of thousands of illegal
The British government plans to start sending back about 2,500 a week
almost as soon as the operation is launched early in the year, officials
Because of its very nature there are no reliable estimates of the
population of illegal migrants in Britain. But one figure citing Home
Office estimates has put the figure around a million. The Home Office
plans to send back numbers that could run into hundreds of thousands,
If even a substantial fraction of that number is sent back, the scale of
this forced exodus would dwarf the expulsion of Asians by Idi Amin from
Uganda in 1972.
The Home Office hopes to flush illegal workers out partly through their
employers. Under present law an employer faces up to 10 years imprisonment
for employing illegal labour. But the law has rarely been enforced. Under
the proposals to be made in February the law will be actively enforced,
and the punishment for employers hiring illegal migrants will be raised
from 10 years
to 14 years imprisonment.
We need to start getting much tougher with them, Blunkett said at a
meeting at the Foreign Policy Centre last week. I'm intending to send a
signal to those who feel theres nothing evil about the way in which they
take and use the lives of others, often exploiting them when they are
got them here illegally claiming neither nationality nor asylum status.
Blunkett has been going public with several of the proposals in the White
Paper on Asylum, Immigration and Citizenship. There is little opposition
to the proposals from either the opposition parties or by the mainstream
The only opposition comes from some immigration groups and the illegal
workers themselves. The proposals have shaken families of these migrants
from the Indian sub-continent. Hundreds of thousands of South Asians have
settled in Britain illegally.
I have no papers here, a restaurant worker from Southall told IPS. But I
have two sons age 10 and 12, he said. They were born here, so does that
make them illegal as well?
It does, unless at least one of the parents has legal status. Under
British law residence will be allowed in such cases only if someone has
been living in Britain despite illegal entry for more than 14 years. The
number of people who have entered Britain illegally over the past 14 years
reported to be in hundreds of thousands.
South Asians feel particularly vulnerable because they can easily be
spotted from their skin colour. Also, they are concentrated in some
localities, and in just a few professions like catering and retail trade.
According to Blunkett as many as 60 per cent of the work force in Britains
catering business is illegal.
It is very unfortunate that the Secretary of State is talking about
targets for sending people back, Habib Rahman, chief executive of the
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) told IPS. The
government should instead adopt a pragmatic and humane approach.
People who have been working and are filling a need should be regularised
in their jobs rather than sent back, he said. People have come because of
all sorts of circumstances, and they have nowhere to go back to, he said.
The government will cause great human misery by this move.
Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, says many illegal
workers are filling a need for both skilled and unskilled labour. If you
simply crackdown on the employees without tackling the question of demand,
you will not solve the problem, he says.
Migrant workers from South Asia entered Britain legally until the end of
the fifties. But they have continued to enter Britain illegally for more
than 40 years now. The number of illegal arrivals is reported to have
risen dramatically over the last decade.
It is only over the last year or so that the British authorities have
toughened entry controls and maritime patrolling. That has still not
stopped the flow. We know of people coming here on boats, in buses, in
trucks all the time, an immigration lawyer from Birmingham told IPS.
Over recent years the largest number of illegal migrants caught have been
from the Balkans and from Eastern and Central Europe. But these people
have found it much easier to merge into the mainstream, the lawyer said.
The Home Office proposes to employ new staff to form hit squads that will
raid suspect hideouts to round up illegal workers. Besides catering these
squads will zero in on construction, clothes manufacturing, agriculture
and also IT.