On the Government’s Lists
May Brown, a Nigerian woman with leukemia, made the news last week when her sister was denied entry to the UK to provide life-saving stem cells. The Home Office said it wasn’t satisfied that the trip was genuine, or that the sister had enough money. This isn’t the first time Brown has been on the wrong side of British immigration; denied asylum in 2013, she attempted suicide. ‘We are sensitive to cases with compassionate circumstances,’ a Home Office spokesperson said last Friday, ‘but all visa applications must be assessed against the immigration rules.’
The human cost of Britain’s immigration policy is only going to rise. Fees to appeal against immigration decisions have just gone up from £80 to £490 without a hearing, or from £140 to £800 with a hearing. Pregnant women could soon be required to present a passport to receive basic care in NHS hospitals. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, had to backtrack on proposals to make British companies publish lists of their foreign workers; but the lists will still be compiled, they just won’t be released – as if that were any less disturbing.
There are other lists too. Not long after Rudd’s about-turn, a freedom of information request forced the Department for Education to admit it had passed information about individual children to the Home Office 18 times in the last four years. The information was used by the ‘absconder tracing team’ to hound missing asylum seekers. From this year the school census will include information on children’s country of birth, nationality and English proficiency. The DfE says this new information won’t be passed to the Home Office, but it looks very much as if the government is trying to make hospitals and schools into branches of immigration enforcement. All this at a time when Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is calling the status of EU nationals one of the UK’s ‘main cards’ in Brexit negotiations with the EU.
In the United States, for the moment, it’s only a presidential candidate, lagging in the polls, who’s musing about the worst kinds of xenophobic and nativist policies. In Britain, it’s the home secretary, the prime minister, the government. Who would have thought we’d miss having only a racist fringe?