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The UK Border Agency: de-moralised

The UK Border Agency: de-moralised

In his speech on Monday addressing the long term causes behind the recent looting, David Cameron blamed the State. The communities that erupted need less help, not more, it would seem. In some classic post-Blair, verb-free rhetoric, Cameron recited some rather tired soundbites (communities, rights, responsibilities, the usual). He also blamed human rights and that old chestnut of health and safety. His strongest language was reserved for government itself, though:

“Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged – sometimes even incentivised – by a state and its agencies that in parts have become literally de-moralised.”

By ‘de-moralised’ Cameron clearly did not mean ‘listless’ or ‘demotivated’. He meant that the State and its agencies are moral vacuums, sucking good old-fashioned values and general stiff upper lip out of the population at large. More specifically, Cameron suggested that the State contributes to children being left without fathers.

On this analysis, the UK Border Agency must be one of the worst offenders in government. That particular agency has absolutely no respect for the institution of the family. It needs saving from itself before it does yet more long term damage to individuals, families and communities.

That is not to say the UK Border Agency is responsible for the riots. The media are putting forward enough supposed experts to rush to judgment on the causes and there is no need to add to the nonsense here. However, it is important to highlight the hypocrisy of accusing the State of de-moralising society while simultaneously being responsible for an immigration policy that is utterly devoid of morality or humanity.

While some civil servants at the Home Office have been working hard on social inclusion and encouraging active parenting, other civil servants within the same department have been busy working to ensure that children will never see their fathers again. Still worse, civil servants at the UK Border Agency have traditionally taken the view that British citizen children with an immigrant parent can be expected to grow up abroad in a different education system, culture and linguistic environment, but with an absolute right to return to the UK when they are old enough to make that decision themselves and afford the plane ticket. It is rather difficult to see how that promotes social cohesion and good old- fashioned values. It is a recipe for future alienation and resentment.

Once a person has children, it makes no sense whatsoever to separate them from those children. The fact that the person is an immigrant should be irrelevant – both that person and his or her child are still human beings and are still part of our society. Nevertheless, even where the parent has committed no crime, it is almost unheard of for the UK Border Agency to allow a parent to remain on the basis of human rights. This can do no good to society in the long run and it goes against everything the likes of David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith purport to believe about the importance of the family. Those beliefs apparently do not extend to immigrants and their children, for whom the political right has a blind spot.

Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, was recently asked to describe his worst day. “Whenever we lose court cases,” he apparently replied. He must have a lot of bad days, because the UK Border Agency seems to lose every single big case that it defends. Indefinite detention is a moral abomination and costs the taxpayer a fortune. The Border Agency lost the big test cases on detention. The Certificate of Approval marriage scheme made it impossible for many immigrants to get married, despite right wing politicians extolling the virtues of the institution. The Agency lost the test case on that one too. The increase in the spouse visa age forced young British women to leave the safety of the UK, their friends and their families, all in the name of preventing forced marriages. They lost that one, of course. British citizen children were being denied the right to grow up in their country of nationality… I think you get the picture.

The courts are repeatedly saving the UK Border Agency from itself and using human rights laws to do so. Civil servants there should wake up and realise the long term damage they are doing to families and society with their total disregard for the fundamental human right to a family life. Human rights are the solution, not the problem.

Free Movement
The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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