As if its appeals process weren’t bullshit enough already, the UK Border Agency has recently announced policies to make it even worse.

First, even more payment required:

People who want to appeal against a decision notice dated 19 December 2011 or later will need to pay a fee. The appeal fee will apply to most categories of visas and decisions.

It already costs hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds to apply for a UK visa or work permit in the first place, an obvious money-making scam the British government uses to supplement its “revenue”. Now, if a would-be immigrant feels he or she has received an unjust refusal, that person will have to pay the UKBA more for the privilege of watching it judge its own decisions. Or rather, lie about having judged its own decisions, glorying in shutting down appeals without even investigating the case or leaving a paper trail of so doing.

Who wants to bet with me that in 2012 we’ll see the number of dodgy visa refusals rise astronomically for the purpose of hoovering up these appeal fees?

Second, this catch-22:

Also, from 19 December people will need to lodge their appeals at the tribunal in the UK. We will no longer accept appeals at any of our overseas visa application centres.

So if you want to lodge an appeal against refusal of a visa to enter Britain, you have to lodge it…in Britain?

Good one, guys.

The UK Border Agency and Home Office are shining beacons of fascism. Seriously. And before anyone leaps in to accuse me of racism against the British and tell me to fuck off back to wherever—yes, I know it’s worse in the US, and no, I didn’t vote for them.

Just some brief remarks, because I expended most of my rage by silently live-tweeting.

There were two main things that struck me about what the party leaders had to say.

The first was something Brown said about an hour into the debate: that if the voters realised how much of their daily lives was affected by government policy, they would be a lot more politically engaged. Someone had asked about coalition governments, hung parliaments, and voter turnout, and his response was to point out that income, benefits, housing, the environment, business, crime, social cohesion, etc. etc. etc. were all inextricably linked to government policy and action.

Frankly, I was horrified. If your argument that people should exercise their vote is that government affects everything in their lives, you’re not exactly pointing out a positive there. Unfortunately, I think he’s right. I don’t like it, mind, but he wasn’t misrepresenting the truth (or whatever is the parliamentary language for lying). The fact of the matter is that he is right. Government in this country does have an impact on almost every aspect of people’s lives. And that is profoundly depressing.

Oddly enough, the other thing that really gripped my wick was also a Brownism. I expected not to have any reaction to Brown – I thought I was completely insensitised – but actually I found what he had to say more interesting (if also more objectionable) than the other two know-nothings on stage with him.

During the question on immigration, roughly 20 minutes before the end of the debate, Brown was defending Labour’s points system (introduced less than two years ago, by the way) by claiming that it made sure that the only non-EU immigrants who came here (legally) were ones with necessary skills.

I beg to differ, my friends. Having gone through the torturous process of the new points system, I can say with absolute certainty that it has nothing to do with skills and everything to do with wealth.

Now, some of you may argue that wealth is a good indicator of skills, and that showing a high previous income roughly correlates with having useful skills. Perhaps so.

But not if your job is highly skilled (in the general, wishy-washy sense) but low-paid. I was a teacher. Britain had a teacher shortage. Before the introduction of the points system, teachers could immigrate here quite easily. After it, only teachers of maths and sciences can do so easily, even though the shortage of teachers has not diminished, regardless of the subject being taught. The ‘skills-based’ points system application never enquired as to my profession or the skills necessary to work in it. It wanted to know how many degrees I had, and how much money I had earned in the previous twelvemonth.

I was fortunate in that I had been earning in sterling during that time. But an American, or Canadian, or Australian teacher wanting to come here would have been in a pickle (and I’m sure many were) because of the exchange rates. Teachers in those countries are paid roughly the same number amount as teachers in the UK. So, for example, a teacher in the UK might earn £25,000 p.a., while a teacher in the US, Canada, or Australia might earn $25,000 p.a.

But the ‘skills-based’ points system only considers your earnings in pounds sterling. So a quite respectable wage in the other Anglosphere countries becomes miniscule under this system, because it has to be converted into pounds sterling. When I first applied for my ‘skills-based’ points system work permit, the exchange rate was roughly £1.90 = £1.00. That $25,000 an American teacher might have been earning would only count, under the points system, as £13,000 – not enough to earn even a single point in the ‘previous earnings’ section of the application.

The honest-to-God truth is that Labour’s points system gives the highest rewards to those who have earned the most money, not those who have the most necessary skills. Third-world kleptocrats would have no problem immigrating to the UK, whereas skilled professionals earning what would be considered huge amounts in their native countries would be turned away because the points system measures earnings in pounds sterling, not the average wage in the country of origin.

The other thing I’d like to point out regarding Labour’s points system is that it gives huge advantage to those who have an MBA. Many, many people on the left wing are big fans of Labour because they have the impression that Labour will stick it to the evil capitalists. They do not realise that Labour’s immigration system is now designed specifically to favour those evil capitalists: an MBA will automatically grant a person 80% of the points they need to immigrate here. Add into that the points you gain for knowing English, and someone with an MBA will waltz into the UK, way ahead of doctors, nurses, teachers, blue-collar workers, etc – the very people the left wing are supposed to be supporting.

Now, obviously I don’t care much about the massive advantage MBAs have in the British immigration system. Businesspeople are all well and good. But I found that, in the reality of Labour’s ‘skills-based’ points system, it no longer profited me to be a teacher. Instead, I have gone into evil capitalism. This country, with its dire shortage of teachers, has lost a skilled and experienced teacher because it treated me like a piece of foreign shit: not as worthy as a businessperson, and not nearly as worthy as a native Briton, despite the kind of bottom-feeding scum who are native to this country and contribute nothing to it in the way of hard work, taxes, or civil behaviour. This government (and all prospective governments) has done everything it can in the past two years to reinforce their view that compared to even the shittiest British wastrel imaginable, I am inferior. There are Britons who have never worked or paid taxes – I do. There are Britons who are criminals – I’m not. There are Britons who hate me, as part of a general ‘inferior’ class, because I was not born on this soil and because they think I’m stealing something from them, either a job or resources, or because I’m diluting their pristine and delightful culture that… treats immigrants like shit.

I did not choose to come to this country out of romantic Anglophilia or anything like that. I came here because, in order to do my post-graduate degree, I needed documents archived in British libraries and it made more sense to get the degree here than to do inordinate amounts of travelling from the US. I stayed because, for the most part, I like the British people and I like British culture. I would certainly never do anything to harm either.

But I get more and more demoralised by the fact that a lot of British people, most of whom are perfectly happy to have me in their country, nevertheless go on about how ‘something must be done’ about all of these fucking immigrants. And they say it without realising just how hard it is, in reality, to be a legal immigrant in this country. They seem to have this idea that immigrants are just strolling over the border and doing whatever they please – and I can state without reservation that for 99% of immigrants, that is just not the case. It’s hard to immigrate here. And I’m not saying that’s wrong.

What I am saying is that none of the parties – none – are going to fix it in any reasonable, humane way. Cameron and the Tories want an arbitrary quota. Clegg and the Lib Dems want to intern migrants in particular regions. And the Labour party has already shown its fascist colours in making their points system overtly partial to wealthy businesspeople rather than, as Brown disingenuously avers, the highly skilled.

So let’s cease the lies, shall we? Forget complaining about racism towards immigrants. Let’s all just admit that the vast majority of British people are xenophobic hypocrites who preach endlessly about social justice but then vote to prop up an immigration system that is manifestly socially unjust. Oh yes, everyone has a right to education, healthcare, a living, blah blah, except immigrants. They can get to fuck. They’re stealing benefits that should be reserved for native Britons. And if they come here and work and pay taxes, then they’re stealing jobs. And if they come here as independently wealthy taxpayers, they’re diluting the culture.

Immigrants can’t win. And the three fuckers leaders have made that abundantly clear.

If I had the vote, I’d vote for whoever acknowledged that the vast majority of non-European immigrants subsidise your fucking state and come here because they want to be part of British culture.

But since I can’t vote, I simply have to ask the rest of you British people, with all sincerity and no small amount of self-interest: consider what the immigration system here is really like. Take a look at the UKBA website and see if you, as I did, could sort yourself out without a solicitor or immigration advisor. Ask yourself if you would be willing to do what I did to get a visa. Ask yourself if your boyfriend, girlfriend, or whatever would be willing to do what DK did for me. Consider whether you earn the minimum of roughly £22,000 p.a. that a foreigner needs to earn to get a work permit here, or whether you have have the master’s degree you would need. Really put yourself in an immigrant’s shoes. And then, when inevitably some of you discover that if you were an immigrant you would be turned away with a contemptuous laugh, give a thought to how you vote.

There are more people in Britain than simply Britons. Most of us have no say in this election. We are entirely at the mercy of whatever government is in power. If you have no preference yourself, consider what our preference might be. One of the primary precepts of libertarianism is that all people are human and equal, regardless of race, creed, gender, or nationality. Yes, we came to Britain knowing we wouldn’t have the vote. But I think most of us would like to think that the British are humane enough to consider us when making their decision at the polling station. We, the foreign minority, rely on you to protect us. Please don’t let us down.

As some of you may remember, I have had tremendous difficulties navigating my way through the UK Border Agency’s Byzantine bureaucracy in my attempts to maintain settlement here this year.

First, I was told in February that, because of the change in immigration laws, I would no longer qualify for renewal of my sponsored work permit. Teaching had been classed as a shortage occupation, obviating the need for employer-sponsors to justify hiring non-EU employees. After the change in laws, this applied only to teachers of maths and sciences – and, as a result, my school informed me they would not be able to continue employing me after my work permit expired.

Second, I decided to apply for a Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Migrant) permit, which would not be tethered to a particular job or employer. The application was tremendously complex, involving 50 pages of guidance notes, the provision of innumerable documents proving my recent earnings, educational attainments, mastery of the English language, maintenance of funds, and an £820 ‘processing fee.’ The endeavour was so complex that I had to call the Immigration Enquiries Bureau to clarify that I was doing it correctly.

Meanwhile, in the hope that I would receive this Tier 1 permit, I applied for a job at a different school and was offered the position.

I finally submitted the application in May; at the beginning of June, it was returned, marked ‘Refused,’ because, as it happened, the Immigration Enquiries Bureau didn’t know what they were talking about. When I rang them again, the same day I received the refusal notice, to clarify the same point that had resulted in refusal, they gave me the same incorrect information.

I wrote a pleading letter to the UKBA asking for reconsideration, and a pleading letter to my MP asking for advisement. My MP replied quite quickly to tell me he had taken the matter straight to Alan Johnson, the then-new Home Secretary. UKBA…didn’t reply at all.

Meanwhile, I contacted the new school where I was to start work in September and asked them to pursue a sponsored work permit. They told me they’d have to rescind the contract we’d signed and re-advertise the position in order to prove there were no qualified British/EU applicants.

At the beginning of July, my MP forwarded on to me a letter he had received from the Deputy Chief Director of UKBA. The DCD and his caseworkers had, according to the letter, reviewed my case and decided to stand by the original refusal. The same day I received this communication, the new school wrote to inform me that, alas, there were many qualified British/EU applicants for my position, and they were going to have to hire one of them instead of me. So, no sponsored work permit would be forthcoming (as I had suspected would be the case anyway).

Devastated and facing ‘voluntary repatriation,’ I travelled to the US for a week for a friend’s wedding. Upon re-entry to the UK at Heathrow, I was detained by the immigration officials, even though I had done nothing illegal and my work permit was not due to expire for another 28 days. Their justification for detaining me, they said, was that I might overstay my visa at some point in the future. They could also see, on their passport database, they the Tier 1 permit I’d applied for had been refused; but as their database didn’t tell them the circumstances of that refusal, I looked doubly suspicious to them. Since, however, they could not get away with further detaining me or deporting me, given they had no evidence of actual wrong-doing, I was allowed back into the country.

Which I then left again, almost immediately, with DK to get married in Cyprus. When we returned, the border agent seemed inclined to detain me again and questioned me pretty searchingly, but ultimately decided not to make an example of me.

At that point – with 4 days remaining on my work permit – I applied for a spousal visa, at a cost of producing more innumerable proofs of probity and a £465 ‘processing fee.’

Some weeks later, I received a letter commanding me to present myself for biometric enrolment – a condition of evaluating a spousal visa application. As I should have expected given their laughable identity management, the biometric enrolment officers were unable to tell me what would be done with my fingerprints and facial scans should my visa application be refused (again).

Here’s the new part – the shameful, jaw-droppingly incredible part – of the story.

Nothing further took place until mid-November, when I received, out of the blue, an email from the Tier 1 office which said:

Thank you for your letter of 5th June 2009 asking for a reconsideration of the decision to refuse your/your client’s leave application under Tier 1 (General) of the Points Based System.

Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your letter.

Due to you receiving the incorrect advice from the Immigration Enquiry Bureau I am exceptionally able to accept additional evidence to support your claim for previous earnings and will reassess your Tier 1 (General) application.

This, then, was the response to the pleading letter I’d written to the UKBA five months beforehand; and here it was also coming four months after my case had been reviewed at the special request of my MP and definitely refused by the Deputy Chief Director himself. What, I wondered, is all of this?

I sent along the additional evidence, of course, with a curious question about why the DCD had changed his mind. This was the UKBA’s reply:

Having spoken to Managers and checked our system we are unable to find any record of the MP’s correspondence or your application being reviewed.

Therefore, can you please send me the following documents:-

********** to cover the period stated in my previous email
Your passport
Copy of the MP’s correspondence you received.

Um, what? No record of my MP’s correspondence? So I posted my copies of those letters along, too.

Less than a week later, another email from the UKBA:

I can confirm that we will be overturning our initial refusal decision as I have sufficient evidence to award points for previous earnings.

As soon as I have received your passport I will ensure your leave is endorsed ASAP.

As you Tier 1 (General) application is now a grant what would you like to do regarding your spousal visa application. If you are no longer wishing to continue with the spousal visa application please let me know and I will arrange for the application to be withdrawn and the relevant fee refunded to you.

Result! I get the Tier 1 permit after all (only costing me £820, seven months of stress and anxiety, one job, and to date loss of four months’ earnings) and a refund for the spousal visa application! And yet, what about this correspondence of which there is no record?

The MP’s letter does state that someone has reviewed your application and decided to uphold the initial decision. However, having discussed your case with my Manager and the department who deal with MP’s
correspondence we could find no record of the response you received. It appears that its an administration error in the fact that this letter or the review haven’t been logged on the system. I am currently taking this forward with the relevant department.

Okay, so… neither the letter my MP wrote, nor the review it resulted in, nor the response he received from the DCD were logged into the system. Because of ‘administration error.’

Riiiiiiiight.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s worked out well for me. The visa itself arrived, shiny in my passport, last Friday. (That the visa is now firmly in my sticky paws is the reason I feel able to describe the climax and denouement of this whole sorry business.) But I can’t help suspecting that the complete absence of any kind of record of my MP’s involvement means something vaguely dodgy has gone on.

The MP in question is a well-thought-of guy, clean on expenses, and generally praised as being a model of integrity (as much as a politician can be such a thing). I doubt very much that he fabricated a review that never took place and forged a letter from the Deputy Chief Director of the UK Border Agency. Which leaves me wondering: did the DCD, or his minions, bullshit my MP? Because it mos def looks that way from where I’m sitting. And I’m certainly wondering if I should contact him again and tell him all of this. I imagine he’d like to know.

Especially given what Phil Woolas has been shooting his fucking mouth off about today: £295,000 in bonuses for UKBA senior officials! I wonder if the Deputy Chief Director and his non-existent reviews administration errors will be receiving some of that money.

Mr Woolas told presenter John Humphreys: ”I think the UK Border Agency should be praised – they are very brave men and women who protect our borders and they are getting on top of the situation.

”The chair of the (Home Affairs) Select Committee has said we are not yet fit for purpose and I’m defending my staff who put their lives on the line for us.”

Yeah, okay. Whatever. The UK Border Agency is a clusterfuck of gargantuan proportions and its officials patently couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. And Phil Woolas is a colossal asshole who should be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

And for the record, I still don’t know what’s happened to my fingerprints and facial scans…

VISA!!!!!!!!

*celebrate*

The visa problem may (repeat, may) be sorted out. So now Bella needs a job.

Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Oh, the poor man – it gets worse.

Jorge Cham, an American cartoonist who also happens to have a doctorate, regularly travels around North America and, lately, Europe, giving talks about his online cartoon, PhD Comics, graduate school in general, and procrastination. Though I’ve been reading PhD Comics since he first put them online (they began as a strip in the university student newspaper at Stanford), I’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of his talks.

I was delighted when I heard he would be giving a series here in Blighty, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend.

Imagine my mortification, then, when I read the latest update at his website. Those bastards at UKBA detained him at Heathrow, for no conceivable reason.

Funny – last time I came in through Heathrow, I was detained too, for no reason.

What the hell is going on with the Border Agency? Have they been given instructions to intimidate as far as possible any Americans entering the country, even if entirely legally, who do not fit the ‘tourist’ profile?

I don’t know what the legal niceties of being detained are, but having gone through it myself, I can assure you it is no picnic. Quite apart from the humiliation factor, it is actually detention, and whilst you wait to find out whether they’re going to stick you right back on another airplane, you have no access to communication whatsoever. You cannot phone a friend or a solicitor. You can’t do anything except sit there and hope that whatever arbitrary decision is made about you will be in your favour. You don’t even know whether the fact that you’ve done nothing illegal is enough to override the suspicion that you might one day do so.

People detained at borders have absolutely none of the civil protections granted to the lowest of the low criminals within those borders. The right to representation, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus – they have none of these. They can be shipped off, against their will, without ever having done anything wrong. I was angry enough about it when I thought UKBA were just persecuting me because of my visa history. Now I see they’re doing it to other people like me, with even less justification.

What the fuck.

And so, as part of my on-going attempts to continue living and working in this Promised Land, yesterday I had my appointment to be branded get my biometrics enrolled for an ID card.

The process revealed some flaws in the system. First of all, the Border Agency still has my passport, because it is still considering my visa application. So when I showed up yesterday to provide biometric proof of my identity, I did not actually have any ID, nor was I asked to present any. I could have been anybody. The Border Agency will have to go through the time-consuming process of making sure the pictures and signature I sent them match the picture and signature I gave yesterday. Handwriting analysts must finally be having their day in the sun.

Second, although their website states that the enrolment process takes 5-10 minutes, this is not strictly true. I showed up the requisite half-hour before my appointment time; two hours later, I finally had my five minutes of fingerprinting and facial scanning. The waiting room was packed full of people, like a slightly more civilised version of a refugee camp, most of whom were asleep. I kid you not; that is how long people were made to wait. I myself had a lovely hour-long nap, read the newspaper front to back, and managed a couple of chapters of a novel as well. However, as the Border Agency is quick to assure us, tougher checks mean longer waits. And we will all sleep soundly in our beds at night as a result.

Third, and most important, the people taking my biometrics had absolutely no idea what was going to be done with them. My primary concern since being told to go and give my biological data has been that the Border Agency may still refuse my visa application. If that happens, what is going to be done with my data? Will it be removed from their database? If not, what justification does the UK government have for retaining the fingerprints and facial scans of a non-resident foreign national? Unfortunately, my enrolment officer could not answer the question. Neither, it seems, can the Border Agency website. I find it difficult to believe nobody has asked this question. The Home Office has been enrolling foreigners on its biometric identity database for nearly a year now; a significant proportion of those are going to be people who never did get a visa. Is the Home Office removing their data from the database and destroying it? I doubt it.

The upshot of this whole tagging process is that I may, in the end, never get the visa, and a foreign state will end up possessing more of my personal data than my own government, with far less justification. It’s a worst-case scenario, I know, but still: the bastards.

Yes, that is how the universe is divided up these days; or if not the universe, at least the immigration queues at Gatwick South Terminal.

When the Devil and I arrived back in the UK this morning–three hours late because Thomas Cook Airlines make the Titanic seem like a pleasant transport option–from our lovely trip to Cyprus, we were greeted by the sight of two separate corridors at the border. Not just two separate queues, you understand: the Rest of the World now are now directed by a sign (helpfully footnoted with the legend ‘This includes US citizens’, in case we’re too stupid to realise we’re not part of the EU) down a cattle chute of their very own, beneath exposed piping, drop cloths, and alongside bare sheetrock walls, twice the length of the EU corridor, to meet with surly border agents next to another sign that proclaims, reassuringly, ‘Tougher checks mean longer waits’ and ‘We catch 2,100 immigration criminals a year.’

After some further surly misdirection, I was made to join the EU queue anyway, as one of the only three representatives of the Rest of the World in the terminal at that time. And was duly questioned, although fortunately not detained again, probably because I had associate firepower standing next to me.

Quite apart from being pigeon-holed into Sneeches-with-Stars-Upon-Thars and Sneeches-Without-Stars by Angus McFergus McTavish Dundee Border Agent, what also peeved me was being questioned about the Refused Tier 1 Application (see here and here). The Border Agents can see on their little passport-reading computer that I was refused that visa but they can’t, apparently, see why. Evidently, this innocent piece of data makes me out to be quite the shady customer. So even though the refusal was entirely document-related, and due entirely to the Border Agency’s own misinformation, its presence on the database paints me with the brush of Immigration Criminal–they might as well slap a sticker on my forehead that says ‘Undesirable! Treat with suspicion!’ Because that’s exactly how the Border Agency are now treating me.

Somebody ought to relay to them that (a) living in Britain has now become so repulsive to some of its own citizens that they feel no shame in asking me ‘Why in the name of all that is holy and pure do you want to stay here?’ and (b) the United States is not yet such a shithole that its productive class are now fleeing in droves to the sunnier shores of the UK. It’s not as if I’m here to start a new life in a better land where all are free to pursue prosperity and happiness. All I wanted was to carry on enjoying my nice job and my nice home with my nice now-husband, fulfilling all the responsibilities of living in Britain without having access to any of the privileges. I don’t see why that’s so much to ask, or why it means I must not only put up with being shepherded about, marginalised, and interrogated like the sneakiest crim in history, but also be expected to feel safer and grateful for it at the same time.

That said, Cyprus was wonderful, and interestingly enough, provided a tremendous contrast: we went to the American Embassy in Nicosia to have a document notarised by the consul, and from start to finish, I was treated like royalty. Admittedly, royalty that has to be metal-detectored and patted down three times before being allowed into the Inner Sanctum, but royalty nonetheless. Everybody was polite, nay, downright friendly; they ushered me to the front of all the queues, no appointment necessary; the consul himself congratulated me in paternal fashion on the impending nuptials; and the guards were kind enough to arrange transport back to Larnaka for us–all because of my shiny blue American passport. Sometimes being part of the Rest of the World is quite pleasant.

…what all my immigration struggle is for; because having picked up yesterday’s Guardian rather lazily this evening, I appear to have forgotten in the midst of my spluttering, outraged indignation.

The story, on page 4, is headlined ‘Canvass for a political party to win points for a British passport, says immigration minister‘ (the headline on the website is sneakily different) and begins:

New migrants willing to canvass for Labour or another political party could get a British passport within a year under citizenship proposals announced today by the immigration minister, Phil Woolas.

They also face being sent on compulsory “orientation days” where they will be taught British values, social norms and customs – and be charged for the privilege.

What? What? What the fuck is this? Canvass for Labour! Pay under compulsion to learn to be British! This is the country that gave the world Locke, Mill, and its most cogent expressions of liberty. Are these ministers not listening to themselves?

A Home Office consultation paper, Earning the Right to Stay in Britain, proposes a new “points test for citizenship” and confirms that ministers are looking at ways of penalising those who demonstrate “an active disregard for UK values” when they apply for a British passport.

The Home Office refused to specify what might be covered by the phrase “active disregard”. Woolas said migrants would be expected to show their commitment to Britain. He declined to discuss refusing passports to those who protest at army homecoming parades, a policy idea attributed to Home Office sources over the weekend.

Ooh, and migrants can enjoy the pleasure of being penalised for showing ‘active disregard’ for UK values, without ever being told quite what that entails. Except that the juxtaposition of information in this article suggests that ‘active disregard’ for British values might include, oh I dunno, not canvassing for Labour.

Probationary citizens are to be given temporary residence for five years. They can accelerate or delay the process of becoming full citizens depending upon the pace of their integration into British life. The Home Office paper says a central pillar of this approach will be active citizenship. Those who take part in voluntary work such as becoming a school governor, or “contributing to the democratic life of the nation” through trade union activities, or by actively campaigning and canvassing for a political party, could get their citizenship within 12 months rather than the expected average of three years.

Voluntary organisations have protested that such voluntary work could be seen as compulsory in these circumstances. Concerns have also been voiced about the possible abuse of offering a passport in return for political canvassing.

Fucking right, there could be possible abuse. Wait – possible abuse? Surely not – the very purpose of this proposal is its abuse. Nor will it be called ‘abuse’ – because enshrining it in immigration law makes it legal.

Local authorities are to have a greater role in integrating migrants, including verifying the points accumulated by each applicant. They will also offer orientation days on British values and customs on top of the existing citizenship ceremonies.

The Home Office suggests these could be voluntary or compulsory, and that completing a course could contribute to the points total, but the cost will have to be paid by the migrant. A citizenship application this year costs £720, including £80 for a ceremony. The money is non-refundable in the event of refusal. More than 9,000 refusals were made last year, nearly a third owing to failing the “good character test” – mostly because of a criminal record. Only 610 were turned down because of lack of knowledge of English or of life in the UK.

Voluntary or compulsory, hmm? Cost to be paid by the migrant? No shit. I am astonished by my total lack of astonishment. Applications that cost buttloads, but the fee is non-refundable even if the application is refused? I am bowled over, truly I am. Let’s do the math: £720 per application, with at least 9,000 applications refused, equals £6,480,000 free and clear, for the acquisition of which the government did no work, but simply allowed desperate foreigners to donate to the revenue and operation of a country the citizenship of which they were subsequently denied.

Make that £6,480,820, actually, to include the fee from my own refused application.

Woolas said earned citizenship would give the government more control over the numbers of people permitted to settle in Britain permanently, with the bar raised or lowered according to need.

According to need? Is that some silly joke? You have to have wheelbarrows of cash sitting around just to apply for visas or citizenship in Britain, plus an earnings history the requisite size of which defies all sense, plus enough cash stored away to meet the maintenance requirement, plus fuckloads of spare time to devote to citizen orientation courses, compulsory volunteer work, and political canvassing – and they’re going to raise or lower the bar according to need? What need?

Oh, right: the need for more Labour voters.

Kill me now; I’m no longer sure I can stand the idea of living in a world like this.

UPDATE: Wow, nobody else seems to like this development either. Surprise!

Here’s Shazia Mira, commenting in the very same issue of the Guardian:

Scratch the surface even slightly, and what you find is the truth about how this government would like all its citizens – new applicant or not – to behave. Do not complain. Do not question authority. Do not protest. This government is behaving worryingly like an online predator who grooms children. It is grooming a population for unquestioning compliance. Not just migrants – everyone is being groomed.

And a Guardian editorial, again in yesterday’s issue:

“Once you’ve got a British passport you can demonstrate as much as you like. Until then, don’t.” If ever a caricature of a policy sounded designed to provoke a slap-down, then you might have thought this was it. But when a BBC interviewer yesterday described plans to overhaul the citizenship rules with these words, the immigration minister Phil Woolas signalled she had put it in a nutshell. The topsy-turvy idea of immigrants being made to respect supposedly British values, such as free speech, while being excluded from these themselves did not seem to faze Mr Woolas at all.

Of course it didn’t faze him. Guess what I’m going to say next.*

Finally, Chris Huhne, a man I never thought I’d gaze upon with anything approaching approbation, slaps down these proposals. It’s kind of a girly slap, without much power behind it, but it’s a slap nonetheless:

In this case, the good ideas are obscured by the statement from Alan Johnson in the News of the World that points could be docked for bad behaviour. This is understandable if the government is referring to people committing criminal offences, but the notion seems to go further. The home secretary seems to want to be the chief constable of the thought police. In insisting that people demonstrate a commitment to Britain, they are suggesting that people could be barred from citizenship for engaging in “unpatriotic behaviour”. This strikes me as being distinctly un-British.

Britain has a proud history of freedom of expression and of citizen protest. Despite recent government attempts to curtail such freedoms, it is precisely this tradition that attracts many people to this country in the first place. It is paradoxical to suggest that migrants could be prevented from acquiring citizenship for engaging in behaviour that British citizens take for granted. People should not be barred from becoming British citizens merely because they have the temerity to criticise government policy. If that were the case, I would have failed any citizenship test many times over. Even some members of the Labour party would find it hard to pass.

Perhaps the government will set up a House un-British Activities Committee. I’d find that fitting.

The government will find itself facing difficult decisions and inevitably making mistakes in a system that will be both subjective and bureaucratic.

Mistakes? Subjective and bureaucratic? No, no, no, my naive Lib Dem. Guess what I’m going to say next.*

*That’s not a bug, IT’S A FEATURE.

It occurs to me that if the Border Agency discover this blog, I’m fucked…

Blogging has been light these past couple of weeks due to my travelling places (Edinburgh, mainly, which was lovely), and will continue to be light as I return to the US for ten days to attend a friend’s nuptial festivities.

Everyone who has commented here about my immigration problems has been enormously sympathetic, and I’m very grateful. Having this blog, and the input of its commenters, has really been an unexpected blessing, without which I don’t think I would have coped as well. So this post is also sort of a giant THANK YOU! for the support, including the unknown but brave gentleman who has offered to make an honest woman of me so I can stay here.

You will be perhaps pleased to know that I have not yet quit fighting; I have some plans in hand to continue the struggle. The British government has not seen the last of me. Nor has this blog, which I will update as and when I can from the US, although given the bride-and-groomly demands on my time and the parlous connection options available in the impenetrable swampy wastes of North Carolina, I do not expect it to happen often.

So au revoir until August, probably, when I will resume the reasoned yet flighty political discourse to which you have all become accustomed.

Today has been a day for finding out things through the post.

The school where I was offered a new job beginning in September has decided to rescind their offer and hire a UK/EU applicant instead.

And the Border Agency, even after discussion with my MP, is refusing to reconsider my Tier 1 application despite their own telephonic misinformation.

I have now exhausted all possible avenues to stay in the UK and I still am going to have to leave.

This has fucked up my entire life.

Even when repeating his own shit ad nauseam, Alan Johnson finds honesty a skill beyond his capabilities:

I know that some of you have real concerns about the government’s motives for introducing the card. When I announced this week that I would make identity cards wholly voluntary it was because I believe that there are real benefits that will make the card an attractive proposition for many people. I think the case for identity cards has been made, but understand that getting a card will be a big decision for some people. Easy or hard, I think it should be a voluntary decision, one that people choose to take, because they agree and welcome the benefits an identity card will provide.

The Guardian is cocking a snook, because the links in that section of Johnson’s piece take the reader to a comment post by Henry Porter that can by no stretch of the imagination be considered supportive of ID cards, the associated database, or a government that misrepresents the purpose of both and cannot tell the difference between ‘wholly voluntary,’ ‘voluntary,’ and ‘compulsory.’

As a matter of fact, Alan, to say that you would make identity cards ‘wholly voluntary’ is a big fat fucking lie, as I pointed out a few days ago:

It will remain compulsory for foreign nationals staying the UK long term to have an ID cards but Britons will only have one now if they request it.

Cheers, y’all. Rejoice in your newfound freedom from this travesty. I’ll just sit quietly over here in the corner, PAYING FOR YOUR FUCKING STATE, and wait my turn to be branded.

In the New Labour lexicon, ‘wholly’ means ‘mostly’ or even ‘partly’ or even – dare I suggest it – ‘not at all’?

The fact that a significant portion of the population of Britain (note I didn’t say ‘the British population’) will be required by law to have identity cards – guess what, peeps, immigrants can’t get a visa without one – means that they are not in any way, shape, or form ‘voluntary.’

I seem to recall, as well, that there were two justifications for issuing non-British people with British-government-mandated identity cards: one was terrorism, now scrapped as a justification apparently, and the other was that, oh, you know, ID cards will help you prove your right to work and live here – don’t you want that? Isn’t that fantastic? No more need for you to produce a passport containing your visa when applying for a job! Just show your ID card! What’s that? Will you still need that passport with the visa in? Oh, of course – we’re not giving up the fucking £820 per person we get from that little scheme! We’re just maximising profit, ’cause now you’ll be paying £820 plus the cost of an ID card, whenever we get around to finally admitting what that amount will be.

Dude, Alan, you’re just trotting out the same old shit as your predecessor, only much less sympathetically because Jacqboot, unlike you, did seem to understand the difference between subject and object pronouns in English.

As a final and rather despairing aside, so far Alan Johnson has not impressed me as Home Secretary. This bodes not at all well for the visa appeal I’m hoping he’ll agree to in the case of my Tier 1 application. Perhaps he’d look on me with a little more favour if I offered to proofread all of his future newspaper columns…?

Warning: this post contains self-indulgent moping.

In the last 24 hours, I seem to have dropped into a deep, bleak trough of depression, brought on by leaving my job and all the lovely people I work with, the fact that my immigration problems are still not sorted out, and the realisation that for all intents and purposes, life as I know it ends on 23 July, as I cannot see or plan what I will be doing or where I will be doing it or how I shall be making my living or whom I will be associating with beyond that date.

Tiny, petty things that normally do not affect me are being extrapolated in my brain into huge, paranoid dooms, from silly little incidents in my personal life all the way through to why today’s lunch plans have gone awry.

I was going to post today about Ed Balls’s announcement of licensing teachers, complete with ominous suggestion that said licences will be granted on how well a teacher complies with the prevailing educational ethos – Tim Worstall points out something I thought of immediately, which is that this plan is probably going to sneak in a PGCE requirement through the back door since the independent schools made such an outcry last year when compulsory PGCEs for all teachers were mooted – but I honestly couldn’t be arsed.

I’ve also been working up a gigantic treatise on another, rather broader, metaphysical political sort of thing, but I can’t be arsed to do that either.

Instead, I’ve been fantasising about how nice it would be if we could take holidays from our own brains the way we can from our jobs.

To the person who arrived at this blog by searching “tier 1 p60″:

I hope you have found my experience a helpful piece of ‘what not to do’ advice.

Flogging a dead horse, I know. Bear with me as I ramble.

Old Holborn links to a piece by Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, quoting in full, about the success of the BNP and how the mainstream parties’ stance on immigration has contributed to that.

To sum up, immigration into the UK has increased at a huge rate since Labour came to power in 1997. Most of these immigrants have come from the Third World and do not speak English. This has put a burden on the resources and finance of the country and many British report a feeling of insecurity in their own country and a perception that their culture is being eroded. Government has done nothing to limit the numbers coming in or to make it more difficult to settle here.

It’s worth asking what makes Britain such an attractive destination for immigrants, and there are a couple of answers. For one thing, Britain for all its ‘social mobility’ problems is still one of the few countries in the world where a person can better their circumstances. There is a stable political system, comparatively little crime, violence, and corruption, and even in economic downturns it is possible for most people to work and make money. For people who are sick of living shitty lives in shitty places, Britain looks like a slightly less salubrious version of paradise.

For people who are sick of living shitty lives in shitty places and don’t want to work and make money, Britain is a lovely prospect because it has an extremely generous welfare state. If such people can get here, they are set for life. Perhaps not comfortably or in any kind of luxury, but certainly in a kind of plenty that is unavailable to most in the countries they are coming from.

It is impossible to eradicate the conditions that make Britain attractive to people who want to work and make money without seriously and stupidly disadvantaging the British themselves, who also like the stability and relative prosperity. Although scaling back the welfare state would probably result in lower immigration, again this is something many British don’t want to do, as such a course of action would also disadvantage the much of the native population.

However, as I can offer from my own experience, it is by no means easy to settle in Britain as an immigrant if one is honest. There are complicated forms and applications to complete, outrageous fees to be paid, and tremendous amounts of time and frustration involved. Whether one is applying for a work permit, residence permit, or marriage certificate, nearly every aspect of one’s life is investigated, checked, and double-checked for legitimacy. The Border Agency, whatever its faults, is very thorough, and I don’t think it applies its bureaucratic box-ticking stringency only to white Anglophone types. If there are people who are not legit whose applications are being granted, it is for one of two reasons: (a) collusion and falsification by officials in their own countries, or (b) collusion and falsification by officials here.

Thus it is entirely possible to limit immigration to the UK without voting for the BNP or appearing racist. Simply get rid of the welfare state and the corrupt bureaucrats here and abroad who are involved in the immigration process. In one fell swoop, Britain would become both harder to get into and less attractive as a destination, and people could stop whinging on about floods of brown people into the country who dilute white British culture.

Because for a large number of people who complain about immigration, it’s not because they think the country is becoming too crowded. It’s because they think the country is becoming less British, and because their hard-earned tax money is being wasted on supporting the same foreigners who are ruining the native culture. Or because the foreigners work too hard and steal the jobs. If the majority of immigrants to this country were wealthy, white-collar-industry, white, English-speaking Australians, Canadians, and Americans who used no public services but paid oodles of tax and only stole the jobs of Tory-voting middle class types, the outcry would be a lot smaller.

Before anyone accuses me of either criticising the British people or being a hypocrite, let me add that attitudes toward immigration in the US are no better, and in many ways actually worse. Although we have much more limited welfare – which means many immigrants to the US end up working – it’s very easy for people to get into the country illegally and incredibly difficult for people to get in legally. The INS operates on a quota system and more often than not refuses the applications of very hard-working foreigners who would benefit the economy of the country enormously. The US is harder to get into than a Promise-be-ringed teenaged virgin if you’re legitimate and easier than Jenna Jameson if you can climb over a fence. So I realise that my own country has its own contentious immigration issues. I don’t subscribe to them, however: the US has space and work enough for ten times as many people as live there, and we’re rather stupid about the whole business. We also have not historically had much of a problem with ‘diluting’ our pristine culture – so the objection to immigration there appears to be based entirely on the idea that living in the US is a privilege that should be granted only to a few deserving foreigners if they’re stupid enough to ask first rather than just barge in and demand amnesty.

My MP is my hero. This afternoon I received a letter informing me that he has written directly to the Home Secretary on my behalf.

Let it never be said that all MPs are useless.

As I explained in a previous post, one of the items I had to supply for my tier 1 application was proof of earnings; the Border Agency requires two separate documents that prove one’s income.

Because their ‘guidance notes’ are so Byzantine, before I made the application I rang the Immigration Enquiry Bureau to ask for clarification. The conversation went something like this:

Bella: I have here a letter from my employer and a P60 as proof of income. Do those count as two separate documents?

Chappy: Yes, yes they do.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when on Thursday I received a letter from the Border Agency refusing my application on the grounds that a letter from my employer and a P60 are not considered two separate documents – both being prepared, as they were, by my employer.

After recovering from the Britney marathon, I rang the Immigration Enquiry Bureau on Friday morning. The conversation went something like this:

Bella: I have here a letter from my employer and a P60 as proof of income. Do those count as two separate documents?

Lady: (after putting me on hold to seek clarification) Yes, yes they do.

Bella:. Yes, that's what I was told when I rang this number before making my application. Why, then, do I have a refusal letter here informing me that, in fact, they are not considered separate documents?

Lady: (after putting me on hold again) I must apologise for giving you incorrect information, but as you will see in the guidance notes…

Bella: The guidance notes say nothing of the sort. That’s why I rang for clarification in the first place. You people have given me incorrect information twice now, and according to this letter of refusal, I have no right of appeal or review. You must see that the Border Agency itself is partly culpable for my mistake: what recourse do I have?

Lady: All I can suggest is that you write to the case worker who considered your application and explain the situation.

So I have written to my caseworker, and to my MP, in the hope that they will reconsider the original application if I provide a second document (bank statements) to prove that income, and if they consult their own recordings of telephone enquiries.

Because I cannot make another application. For one thing, I do not have another £820 to spare. (TGS, thank you for your very kind offer.)

For another, the application also requires that one has maintained a minimum bank balance of £800 for three months prior to applying. This was easy to prove when I made the original application; but in paying their exorbitant fee, my balance dropped to £780 – twenty quid below their minimum requirement, meaning that I would need to wait a further three months to achieve that minimum balance and re-apply. Unfortunately, that would mean waiting until September to make a second application, and my current leave expires 31 August.

And for another, for the tier 1 application, one can claim points for age. At the moment, I am 27 and so can claim the maximum number of points. In July, I will turn 28 – and thus lose half of the points I was able to claim for age on my original application.

The upshot is that, unless the Border Agency abandon their bureaucratic impulses and allow a reconsideration, or my MP takes pity on me and does something to assist me, I will no longer qualify to remain in the UK as a tier 1 migrant.

One other possible option is the tier 2 category – a work permit sponsored by my employer. This prospect raises another problem: that of proving that I am a better candidate for the job than any UK or EU national. Considering the specialised job I do, in theory this would be easy to prove. However, in order to prove it, the school would need to show that they had advertised the position with the JobCentre for some minimum length of time. Which, naturally, they did not do, because teachers do not look for jobs at the JobCentre. So the school may not be able to prove my superiority to native Britons and Europeans. The tier 2 permit also, apparently, requires the applicant to get an ID card. I’m not real pleased with the idea of doing that, as one can imagine.

Thus, there is very little I can do at the moment (although my employer and I are investigating the tier 2 possibility), and whether I can remain in the UK beyond the end of August is for the most part out of my hands and up in the air.

I am very irritated that, based on their own incorrect advice, the Border Agency has refused me permission to live and work here, especially since I can clearly support myself and will contribute to Britain’s economic well-being. I suppose those factors are simply not as important to the Government as indulging the bigotries, misconceptions, and protectionist instincts of a small number of the populace.

Some people over at the Devil’s Kitchen have suggested that marriage might be the answer and, having looked into it on a whim, it would seem that taking such a step would indeed take care of the immediate problem. Unfortunately, in reading the Border Agency website and this poor man’s horror story, I see that it would only suffice for two years, whereas the tier 1 application, had it been granted, would have lasted for three. Also, if I’m going to marry anyone, I want it to be for the, y’know, romantic and practical reasons – not because I need a visa. The very idea offends my ego.

No, I’m not really in it, but still…

For petty bureaucratic reasons, my immigration application has been rejected by the Home Office, and the consequent emotional devastation has reduced me to watching ‘Britney Spears: From the Beginning’ on Music4. At the moment, she’s doing a Joan Jett cover.

Does she love rock and roll? I’m not convinced. If she really loved rock and roll, she wouldn’t generate the shitty pop music she generates.

But never mind Britney.

Fuck the Home Office and Jacqui Smith (or whoever’s in charge of it now). Fuck this Labour Government, and the imminent Tory Government that will preserve this travesty of a points system. Fuck the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, Ted Heath, and all the other apparatus of the EU that means jobless benefit claimants are considered more deserving of residency in Britain than an employed taxpayer with a net contribution to the British economy. Fuck Brown, Cameron, Clegg, and any politician whose pusillanimous pandering to political correctness has resulted in the exclusion of every foreigner like me, and I’m sure there are many, who is willing to endure endless fees, paperwork, and inconvenience just to have the right to live and work in what I, for one, believed was a great nation.

Britain is the home of liberty, modern democracy, and free enterprise: what the hell has happened to this place? If you haven’t voted yet, go out and stick it to these bastards. I wish I could.

And yes, I’m bitter. Sue me.

*sigh*

Deluged in more visa paperwork. The new permit I’m applying for has a 73-page application and 50 pages of guidance notes. It will cost me £820 to make the application, not refundable if I am turned down. I also have to provide somewhere between 8 and 12 original documents proving my antecedents. This includes:

  • my passport, which the border agency will keep until they get round to throwing me some breadcrumbs
  • two separate documents proving my qualifications
  • two separate documents proving my income in the past 12 months
  • three months’ worth of official bank statements proving funds for maintenance
  • one document proving I spent a year as a full-time student in the UK (not related to the two above for qualifications) despite the fact that I’ve lived here full-time for almost four years
  • proof that I can speak English

Now you would think, considering today’s budget, that UK plc would be desperate to attract and keep middle-class professional types like me (after all, we provide the lion’s share of tax revenue); and, rather than charging me £820 for the privilege of being a cash cow in what is now surely the worst of the first-world nations (economy at least as bad as everywhere else; climate worse than everywhere else), HM Government ought to be paying me £820 not to fuck off.

Or at least not demanding that I contribute to the UK economy in exchange for permission to continue to contribute to the UK economy.

[Some of you may wonder, in light of my bitching and moaning, why I'm so determined to stay here. No need to go into details, but there are rather compelling personal reasons.]

Although I suspected something like it might be on the way, I was rather unprepared yesterday to be called into the office of my boss and the bursar and told that, as of July, I will no longer have a job. I put something on the blog briefly yesterday, but I was in no shape to write a considered analysis of the position in which I found myself, and it is only now, after copious applications of beer and sympathy, that I feel calm enough to say anything worthwhile.

In October 2008, the UK Home Office changed its immigration policy vis a vis overseas nationals. They could not, of course, do anything about immigration from within the EU. Previously, visa and work-permit applications were reviewed on a case-by-case basis (with, you understand, the payment of accompanying fees), and under that system, renewing my own work-permit and leave to remain was quite easy. I teach; teaching is a shortage occupation; my criminal record is clean; end of story.

The new system is points-based and extraordinarily complex. My background and qualifications (or lack thereof; see here) do not add up to the requisite number of points. The essential problem comes from my lack of formal teaching qualification, and this has always been a bit of a catch-22: I cannot work without the PGCE, but I cannot afford to do the PGCE unless I work. There are ways around that lack of paper-qualification, which I was going to undertake in the 2009-2010 school year.

Under the old system, while all secondary-education teaching was considered a shortage occupation, my employers did not have to prove that they could not find a British or EU national to employ to do my job. Under the new system, only the teaching of maths and sciences is considered shortage, and I teach neither. If the school wished to continue employing me, it would first have to advertise the position, interview candidates, then prove conclusively that, despite my lack of a PGCE, I am still more qualified than the native candidates. (My having worked in the post for the past two years does not, unfortunately, count toward that proof.)

But the school does not wish to continue employing me. I do not have the points; they cannot prove on paper that I’m better than other applicants; and the time for advertising teaching posts is now.

‘We are very satisfied with the work you do,’ said the head. ‘Under other circumstances, we would be keeping you on. But there are criminal penalties now for flouting the new immigration laws, and the school hasn’t the time to wait and see if you can find a loophole.’

I have lived in the UK for several years now, and I have worked in this job at this school for two of them. The school is lovely, the pupils are engaging, the subjects I teach are enjoyable and fascinating, and the staff I work with are friendly and intelligent. My flat is pleasant, and my flatmate is wonderful. The friends I’ve made in this country are close and dear to me. I have grown used to living here, to the British way of doing things, to the British sense of humour and British hospitality. When I return to the US every now and then to visit my family, I feel alien there, and things about the way people live and think in the US bother me in a way they never used to.

Sometimes I bitch about being a foreigner in the UK – it’s impossible to get a credit card, for instance, and too many people ask me what I think of Bush and/or Obama – but it’s a hell of a lot better than being a foreigner in my native country, which is how I feel every time I go back. There is nothing for me in the US except my family, and the best family in the world cannot compensate for everything I will have to give up if I return to the US. I like the UK. I don’t want to leave.

Restrictions on immigration are something that have never particularly appealed to me, a libertarian. I support the free movement of labour, although I realise that on a tiny island like Great Britain, that’s not a terribly good policy. Restrictions may be necessary because space and housing are at a premium. But I cannot support any policy that puts me, and people like me, out of a job. Under the old system, I was a tax-paying asset to the common weal; under the new system, I am a dirty foreigner stealing a British job from a British worker. And yet the only thing that has changed is the system – not me.

And so to keep anti-immigration fucknuts happy, and to compensate for its inability to restrict immigration from EU countries, the British government is going to throw me out of my job and my home, and the British people will give their assent without a murmur.

Trust me, peeps: he means it.

I now have the sure and certain proof.

Fucker.

Going over some visa paperwork this morning on the UK Border Agency website (the loading of which sucked up my computer’s entire capacity to do anything for four minutes), I found myself slogging through stupid shit and remembered, with considerable fury, this fucking abomination from a couple of months ago.*

Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary and total whore, announced in November that all foreign nationals wishing to live and work in the United Kingdom must acquire an ID card containing, among other things, their fingerprints and facial-scan data. This includes foreign nationals already living and working in the UK, who will need to apply for their ID cards when they seek to renew their visas.

She had this to say about it:

Foreign nationals living, working and studying here legally want to be able to prove that easily. We want to prevent those here illegally from benefiting from the privileges of Britain.

Erm… I do not care about being ‘able to prove’ my legality ‘easily.’ As far as I’m concerned, the reason I apply for (and pay through the nose for) my visa and work permit is to put the onus on the government: it is their job to prove I am here illegally. Unless there is some reasonable cause to believe otherwise, the assumption should be that I am a law-abiding member of the public whose presence in the UK is perfectly legal.

Businesses, other employers and colleges want to be confident that those they are employing or taking onto courses are who they say they are, and have the right to work or study in our country.

I am certain this is true, but the reason businesses, employers and colleges want to be confident of this fact is so that the government does not investigate and/or fine them for paying/admitting ‘illegals’ to work/learn.

Immigration officers and police officers want to be able to easily verify identity and detect abuse. We all want to see our borders more secure and human trafficking, organised immigration crime, illegal working and benefit fraud tackled.

What kind of ‘abuse,’ exactly, would this be? Never mind the fact that most of the humans trafficked into the UK or committing benefit ‘fraud’ are from within the EU. The EU, of course, does not count as ‘foreign’ because one of the purposes of the EU is to ensure the free movement of labour. Can we please, please also acknowledge that, for instance, the 7/7 bombers were ‘”ordinary British citizens“‘, and the common excuse for these ID cards (the safety of the public and prevention of terrorism) is a complete prevarication?

The remark about benefit fraud particularly amazes me. If this government is so stupid, ineffectual, and incompetent that it cannot keep track of who is who and what benefits they should be getting, perhaps the solution is not ID cards but instead (a) to throw out the present government, or (b) dispense with the benefits system.

Along with the new points system starting this week, ID cards for foreign nationals will bring real changes to how we control migration by locking foreign nationals to one identity – using fingerprints and facial images.

Fingerprints and facial images, eh? And this data is going to be oh-so-secure, isn’t it, o Mighty and Wise government who lost the personal and bank details of 25 million (yes, million) people on a carelessly-posted disk, lost 17,000 asylum-seekers’ data, lost the details of 3 million learner drivers on a hard drive left in the USA, and left a wodge of Foreign Office briefings on the seat of a fucking train? Even those shits at the Guardian are unimpressed.

Within three years everyone coming here from outside Europe for more than six months will be given a card showing they have the right to be here and work or study.

I’ve already got a bloody document that shows I have the right to be here and work! Why must I be issued with another one?

The National Identity Scheme will deliver a secure and simple proof of ID for all those legally entitled to live and work in the UK – and the majority of people say they welcome identity cards and the benefits they will bring.

Is this for fucking real? The majority of people what? Where is the survey in which over 50% of people claim to welcome these ID cards? Who are these lunatics? They certainly aren’t the poor foreign nationals who will be forced to carry them around.

Let us also keep in mind the salient fact that foreign nationals, the first people in Britain for whom this identity ‘scheme’ will be mandatory, are in fact the only people living in the bloody country who are not allowed to vote. Coincidence? Je pense que non.

That is why I will be inviting those who want the chance to get one of the first UK identity cards to pre-register their interest.

Yes, let us see how many takers you get on this one.

I am confident the small group of volunteers chosen for these first cards will quickly realise, like I already do, that identity cards are secure, convenient and here to help protect us all.

This final paragraph is particularly galling. A small group of ‘volunteers?’ Presumably these are the lunatics who will be ‘pre-registering their interest.’ And yet the selection of the word ‘chosen’ suggests either (a) these may not necessarily be volunteers, or (b) this is the government’s pathetic attempt to make it sound as if the pool of ‘volunteers’ will be so big that they’ll be stymied by their surfeit of options.

Either way, I am fucking floored by the characterisation of the ID cards as ‘secure, convenient and here to help protect us all.’ How is giving all ten of my fingerprints ‘convenient’? Surely I will have to take myself to a special face-scanning station to get my face scanned; it’s not as if there will be booths for it in Tesco (as there are for passport photos). And there is no question of ID cards being free, surely? Will I have to pay another £90 for it on top of the £800 I already pay for my visa and work permit?

‘Secure,’ hmph. Vide supra.

‘Helping to protect us all’ is another good one. From what – benefit fraud?

The assumptions being made in this ‘article’ are astounding. First, that I as a foreigner am happy to surrender my privacy, and to pay for the privilege of doing so, to protect the British public. Not being able to vote, I have been given no choice in this matter whatsoever. And the British public I’m surrendering my privacy to protect are, if Ms Smith is to be believed, in favour of this scheme, which will save us from the scourge of ‘illegal working and benefit fraud.’

Second, let us not forget that I already possess two documents that prove I am living and working here legally: my visa and my work permit. These documents do not, of course, contain biometric data. They also do not need to be carried on my person at all times. How long will it be, I wonder, before it is announced that ID cards must be carried always and produced upon demand? And of course, the demand will require reasonable cause, but here in the UK, where the police can (or so I’m told) ‘demand’ your DNA when they question you, even if you have done nothing wrong, or lock you up for, what is it now, 28 days? without charge, how ‘reasonable’ is the demand to see my ID card going to have to be?

I object to being scanned, printed, and tagged like a piece of fucking livestock.

*It really ruined my afternoon, all right?

From the Telegraph, I see that Gordon Brown, our monocular prime minister, is trying to weasel out of his pledge of ‘British jobs for British workers.’ It was a stupid thing to say, considering the free movement of labour that is about the only benefit of the UK’s membership in the EU, and now there have been strikes over some Italians taking the fabled ‘British jobs.’

Fair enough; I’d probably weasel too.

But then, when asked his view on possible sympathy strikes, he burbled this:

“That that’s not the right thing to do and it’s not defensible,” he replied. “What we’ve set up as a process to deal with the questions that people have been asking about what has happened in this particular instance.”

That’s not even a sentence.

He went on: “When I talked about British jobs, I was taking about giving people in Britain the skills, so that they have the ability to get jobs which were at present going to people from abroad and actually encouraging people to take up the courses and the education and learning that is necessary for British workers to be far more skilled for the future.”

He wants people in Britain to have the skillz. Hurrah. But his loquacity (can I call it that, or is the choice of word almost too kind?) is awe-inspiring. The education and the learning. Well done. Skillz – learnin’, you know – for British workers to be more skilled.

Wouldn’t it have been vastly easier, and consumed less precious oxygen, for him to say, ‘I didn’t mean jobs. I meant skills. You know. British skills for British workers. QED. Now fuck off, I’m busy.’? Clearly, sensible, concise elegance is too much to ask for from somebody who makes his living by his silver tongue. The twat.

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