Counting illegal immigrants (and emigrants)
Messrs Cameron and Davis of the Conservative Opposition, and the usual suspects among the tabloids, are having a field day over the ‘admission’ by the ‘director of removals and enforcement’ (you couldn’t make it up) in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, David Roberts, in his evidence to the home affairs select committee, that he hadn’t got the faintest idea how many illegal immigrants there were in the country. Taunted by David Cameron over this at today’s prime minister’s questions, the prime minister — instead of enquiring how a Cameron government would propose to count illegal immigrants — fell back on the tired old trope of putting the blame on the system inherited (nine years ago!) from the government’s Tory predecessors, including especially Michael Howard’s ill-favoured régime at the Home Office. True to form, in the words of the Times report, “Mr Blair sent a letter to Mr Reid saying that he wanted additional progress made in tackling the stock of failed asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants.” I bet he does.
It must be only a question of time before our new home secretary, “Dr” John Reid, announces that he will shortly — i.e. next week — introduce a new Illegal Immigrants (Enumeration) Bill 2006, under which:
– All illegal immigrants will be required to declare their illegal status to an immigration official on entering the country;
– All illegal immigrants will be required to report every week to their local police station so that the numbers and whereabouts of all illegal immigrants may be collected from all over the country and the statistics laid before parliament;
– Special illegal immigrant reporting centres will be set up on all remote beaches and at small airstrips where immigrants enter the country illegally so that they can declare themselves to immigration officials and be counted on arrival;
– In addition to the existing queue channels at airport arrivals for British and other EU nationals, Commonwealth citizens, and Others, there will be a new channel for Illegal Immigrants;
– There will be a new offence of failure to count and report an illegal immigrant, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, followed by automatic deportation to a country of the home secretary’s choice except where the offender can show just cause why he should not be deported (e.g. because he is a British citizen or because despite being a foreigner he can prove that he has been condemned to death in his country of origin).
“Dr” Reid will append to his Bill a certificate of its compatibility with the Human Rights Act and a stern warning that he knows the address of any judge who has the impertinence to suggest otherwise.
Cutting-edge technology will be employed for keeping track of the numbers of illegal immigrants coming into the country. Sales of those clickers for counting people in queues will soar.
Amid all this hilarious knockabout stuff, however, one menacing snippet emerged. According to the BBC’s account, “Mr Roberts said he could ‘understand the public’s frustration’ but the system would be tightened up when new ‘electronic borders’ came into effect.” The prime minister also foreshadowed yet more draconian border controls in answer to PQs today:
Mr Blair also outlined two measures to help the country reclaim control of its borders. He said: “First of all, we need to introduce electronic borders. And secondly, we need identity cards both for foreign nationals and for British nationals if we want to track people coming in and out of our country and know the identity of people here.”
This apparently refers to plans to check us all electronically out of the country every time we leave it, as well as (more defensibly) every time we re-enter it. Presumably more than simply showing our passports on departure will soon be required: passports will be electronically scanned, irises and finger-prints checked, ID cards (soon) produced, scanned, recorded. Hundreds of people’s flights will be delayed every time a passport photograph, iris, finger-print record or ID card doesn’t match the intending passenger. The long queues for immigration control at Heathrow and other airports and ferry terminals of those who have just landed will be matched by similarly long queues of those who hope to be allowed to depart. Check-in time for departure will obviously have to be increased to three hours or more. The question whether any illegal immigrants identified in the departures queue should be allowed to leave will have to be decided in each individual case by a senior immigration official. It will all add immeasurably to the excitement and glamour of international travel.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!”