Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Goin' back

High point in the office today for me was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and throwing out lots of old crockery. I also went into town and bought some mugs. That is what recess is for.

On Monday, however, I've arranged to visit Yarls Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire, where failed asylum seekers are taken before deportation. In the past year I've made a few last minute interventions in cases where families had been taken to Yarls Wood, and managed to get them released so that they can submit further representations in support of their applications to stay in the UK. I've also spoken to organisations like the Children's Society and Barnado's about the detention of children in such places. So I thought it was about time I saw it for myself, to see what conditions are like and how the centre is managed.

I'm also going to be sending out an immigration survey to several thousand constituents soon. In the next parliamentary session there'll be a huge Immigration Bill, consolidating all previous immigration legislation and introducing further changes. I think it's important to know what constituents think before I get stuck into that.

In particular, I've tried to flag up in the survey some of the dilemmas facing those who have the responsibility for making decisions on immigration issues. Should we deport anyone and everyone who is here in breach of the immigration rules? What if someone has found themselves a partner, or had a child since they arrived here? Do we break up a family, or tell them that if they want to be together they will all have to leave the country? And if we allow them to stay, won't that just encourage people to enter into sham marriages or have a child just so they can stay here?

And what about foreign nationals who have committed criminal offences? To give an example; someone marries a British citizen, so has the right to be here by virtue of marriage, but then receives a conviction for dealing Class A drugs. I've got a few such cases at the moment, not necessarily involving drug dealers, but all involving people serving custodial sentences. Most of them have young children. Under current law, they'll be deported at the end of their sentences - which either means depriving a child of contact with its father, or sending a child that has been born and brought up in Britain away to another country.

This is suddenly starting to ring bells, and I'm remembering that I've blogged about this before. So all I will add is that I'm going to see if it's possible to post the survey on my website too, so that constituents (and only constituents) will be able to print it out and return it to me. Will no doubt attract some racist comments, but I hope it's nuanced enough to make people think a little bit before automatically entering into knee-jerk 'send them all back' or 'keep them all here' modes.


Bloke on the Torquay Omnibus said...

Enjoy cleaning out your cupboard (I'm sure that we will have to pay for replenishment);'s all good practice for 'cleaning out your desk' when the 'Dear Leader' decides to ask the country for a mandate.....which will result in the complete annihalation of you & yours for a generation. Start looking for a new job, or in your case unemployment, soon.

Northern Lights said...

It's a real shame that instead of contributing to a serious debate some people will stoop to childish name calling and unsubstantiated accusations.

Kerry said...

Can't really see what motivates someone to post something as puerile as this (Torquay bloke).

As it happens, I bought a few new mugs, paid for them myself - not a big deal. But tell me this. Would you expect a hospital matron to buy mugs, a kettle, kitchen supplies, etc, etc, for all the nurses working in their ward (and pay for them out of his/ her own pocket)? How about the manager of a job centre, or a housing benefit department? A police inspector or a headteacher? Or would they pay for it out of their office budget? Now tell me what's the difference between those public servants and MPs? (The answer is, our budgets are transparent, and we're publicly accountable. And we do tend to stump up for things out of our pockets because we probably wouldn't be able to afford the essential office equipment, wages, stationery, etc, out of our budgets if we didn't).