Thursday, 6 June 2013

They'll let anyone in these days

   My wife and I are sitting in a waiting room at a Government office in a suburb of Birmingham. There is quite an air of camaraderie among the people waiting with us, an American businessman and an Indian couple about our age. This is a regional UK Border Agency office, and we are all here for the same reason: to apply for or renew a UK visa.
    It amuses me sometimes that people forget my wife, who hails from the other side of the Atlantic, is an immigrant. "But she's..." They pause, looking embarrassed. I want to complete their sentence for them: "White?", but don't.
    There's a lot of nonsense talked about immigration. From all sides, those on the left like to see talking nonsense on immigration as purely a right-wing issue but the fact is they're as guilty as anyone. With varying degrees of accuracy depending on whom you are talking to those pesky foreigners bring jobs, take jobs, take homes, cause chaos in hospitals, run hospitals, take all the benefits, pay half the taxes, do no work and do all the work. Politicians like to sound tough on immigration but hate to get involved with it while the immigrants themselves just want to get on with their lives.
    All of which brings me to us, sitting in that waiting room near Birmingham. Over the past decade and a half we've had to deal with the visa system several times. Each time it's happened a cheque has changed hands, but one thing's certain. I know every time we'll be paying twice as much as we did the last time for the same service.
    The politicians have hit on the perfect formula, you see. They stand up at a party conference and say they'll get tough on immigration. Rousing speech, standing ovation. The tabloid readers see that and go away happy, at last, they think, Something will be Done about illegal immigrants!
    Meanwhile those of us who have to deal with the system release a groan. We know what they'll really do, which is double the price for the legal immigrants. After all, going after illegal immigrants requires a bit of effort, and that's not what governments do!
    We wait long enough for the chairs to become uncomfortable, then my wife is summoned away to the two desks for document checks and biometrics. We go away for lunch, and on our return she's told her application is successful.
    I wish those from all sides who go on so much about immigration could spend a morning in that waiting room.


  1. I get that here, it's amazing how people don't actually realize what they are saying...

    (In English from a Dutch person)
    'Stace, what do you to all the foreigners coming here and stealing the jobs'

    'Actually, I quite like it...'

    It normally takes a few seconds for the penny to drop :)


  2. Notwithstanding and what you say is true but there are some illegal immigrants and also legal immigrants who are only here to get out of the system what they can, often by fraudulent means. I wasn't aware that anyone who marries a citizen of the UK (or anywhere else for that matter) was still obliged to apply for a visa or the renewal of same. There is an alternative isn't there? Would your wife still need a visa if she made herself a citizen of the UK? Perhaps she doesn't wish to do that.

    Shirley Anne x

  3. Interesting post, Jenny. I, together with a few other friends, have been helping a guy of Nigerian origin who has been living and working in the UK for decades. Someone in the civil service decided that his paperwork wasn't in order and he was 'informed' that he would be deported/repatriated (or whatever the politically correct term is). Thankfully, the story had a happy ending and he's been granted residence, but the process was nothing if not aggressive.

    But I guess our immigration laws are open to abuse and, as you say, it makes good politically-charged news. I just wish politicians and the Daily Mail would remember that there are real people at the sharp end of their policies, not just statistics.

  4. The immigration people are sometimes a law unto themselves with their decisions, aren't they.

    Even people marrying Brits need visas, they have to to stop marriages of convenience. Mrs. J fortunately has more than one avenue.

  5. Nice to know petty bureaucrats exist on both sides of the pond. (Not that I didn't know that, but it's always "nice" to be reminded that they're the same no matter where you are…)