I wrote this article several weeks ago. Its re-published here.
The world heaved a sigh of relief when the British Home Secretary Theresa May scrapped the controversial £3,000 premium bond entry fee bonanza into the UK and reversed the van policy which called on all illegal immigrants to return to their home countries. It has since been reported that only 1 person left the UK because of the aggressive scheme. Nigerians and indeed other nationalities (who are still waiting for up to a year or more for a decision from the Home Office) have also received text messages and phone calls and
letters in their mail asking them to leave the country. These distressing texts and mails have the approval of the Prime Minister David Cameron who has said, he agrees with the method with which Capita (the
company with the contractual obligation of sending these uncomfortable text messages) employs. These nasty text messages have not been pulled back.
With right winged media propagating anti immigration content suggests that the British public have no sympathy for the immigrant (illegal or otherwise) at the moment. Or perhaps not! It is a dire season for Nigerians who have become illegal immigrants. With the Immigration Act coming into force in the spring of 2014, things will get tougher and nastier. These Nigerians resort to their
churches and communities for support. It must have been the pressure borne on concerned Nigerians, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nigerian High Commission amongst others that made the embattled Home Secretary reverse both very controversial policies. Who knows? We cannot surely attribute the reversal to the goodness of Mrs May’s heart. It looked like British society were embarrassed into taking action. Most people felt uncomfortable with the draconian measures.
Looking to be tough on immigration, the UK fails miserably still to address the shambolic state of their border controls nor help to tackle the exploitation of illegal workers. Exploitation of illegal workers which is
tantamount to economic slavery continues to happen unabated in the country. Minority ethnic groups including Nigerians continue to exploit the sanity of those without papers. Ranti (not real name) lived in the
UK for 20 years as a toilet cleaner, in all those years, she never got married or had children. She never sought to improve her education qualifications either. She found herself unceremoniously deported back to Nigeria when her employer/boyfriend gave her a dodgy check which attracted the attention of the police when she tried to cash that cheque. The message is clear, undocumented workers will find it hard to erk out a living in England today.
The number of undocumented workers who are turning to prostitution remain unclear. Unlike before illegal workers have the right to normalize after 14 years. Under this government, that has now turned to 20 years.
The only other option would be marriage. But with the new immigration Act coming in, non citizens, would have to write the Home Office asking permission to get married. Even marriage cases where genuine, normalization would take place in Nigeria as applicants must now return to their home countries to process their application.
On a broader scale, immigration to Europe is always in the news. Citizens of repressed countries often pay criminal gangs obscene sums of money, to get them to Europe. For as long as Nigeria and indeed Africa remains in this state of economic mess, this trend will continue unabated. A couple of weeks ago, an over loaded boat carrying about 500 people including women and children from Somalia and Eritrea drowned on the coast of Lampedusa in Italy. Italy known for its fierce anti-immigration policy was shocked and shamed into beginning a debate about its tough and inhumane immigration policy as over 350 bodies were pulled from the wreckage.
Shameful to note that three Italian ships had passed the boat in distress and they had done absolutely nothing to help. The following week, about 50 more people drowned in another boat wreckage on the same coast. Two weeks ago, 92 women and their children were discovered dead in the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert as they fled the poverty, repression and violence in the Niger Republic. They had literally died of
thirst in the gruesomely hot Sahara Desert. They were on their way to Algeria. Why are African immigrants this desperate? Why are many more people choosing to risk their lives in pursuit of the golden Fleece in Europe? What are African governments doing to stem this tragedy?
Nigerians and indeed Africans must ask themselves why migration to Europe must cost the continent so much. Again as said before, unless African states prioritize the interests of their citizens, many more lives
will perish in this consuming drive towards a new life in Europe. Is it a new life indeed? The streets of Europe are not paved with gold. Africans need to realize that they are trading a set of problems for another when they move here. Many Nigerians already know that immigration to the UK is no longer a straight forward business. Many of the doors to immigration which opened in the 90s and late 2000s have been closed. The HSMP route is no longer available, students can no longer turn their student visas to work permits and so on. It is a lot harder now. For those who want to emigrate lawfully, Canada, Australia, New Zealand are perhaps better options than the United Kingdom at the moment.
The Home Office may have reversed the £3,000 premium bond and the dreadful vans, but it will still go ahead with the promulgation of the Immigration Act. When that happens, there would be much tears and
heartaches before portions of the Act is challenged in the courts. There would be tears for the following reasons. The Immigration Bill would force private landlords to quiz tenants about their immigration status and restrict access to bank accounts for people without permission. The Bill will include measures to allow the UK to ‘deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal later’ where there is ‘no risk of serious irreversible harm’. A requirement is also included for temporary migrants, such as overseas students to make a contribution to the National Health Service to prevent the so called ‘health tourism’. Other measures include new powers to withdraw the driving licenses of illegal immigrants, cut the number of deportation decisions that can be appealed against from 17 to four, make it easier for the Home Office to recover unpaid civil penalties, require banks to check against a database of known immigration offenders before opening bank accounts and clamp down on people who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage or civil partnership.
The Home Office at the end of the day will become the sole cause of heart attacks, panic attacks, mental illness in many Africans from spring of 2014. A word for Nigerians
living in the UK as undocumented workers is to engage the services of experienced immigration lawyers to get themselves sorted before the spring of 2014. If returning home is the only way they can normalize their
papers, they should do what they need to do. No place better than home anyways.