Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A show of force - but only a show

I’ve been watching a TV programme called “UK Border Force” for the last few weeks, and it’s been pretty interesting on the whole. The officers working for the Immigration Dept come across as sympathetic, polite and even empathetic to the illegal immigrants they are meant to root out. Maybe it’s because their every action is being filmed and they’re careful about how they behave and what they say; maybe it’s been edited to show the nice side of these guys… but on the whole, I don’t believe that’s the case. (Yes, my cynical muscle was VERY surprised at being given an unexpected rest!)

The most interesting parts of the programme were how the immigration officers at Heathrow and other airports dealt with those they suspected of trying to enter the UK under false pretences. They were unfailingly polite even when it was obvious that pseudo students were lying through their teeth, blatantly stating that it was the colleges that were lying about their non-attendance of classes, and so on. (One of them even acted surprised when the “college” he was supposedly attending was confirmed as bogus by the officials – there was no college by that name, there was only an accomplice at the other end, pretending to be one of the staff!)

It takes immense patience to deal with such people day after day, I should imagine, and I was really impressed with the demeanour of the officials doing the interviews. They were a whole lot more polite than the little Hitlers working at the consulates in India, that’s for sure. I don’t think I could last 15 minutes of having to deal with these people without blowing a gasket, but these guys never lost their temper.

Anyway, much as I found the programme interesting, there were a few things that bothered me. The main one is that the effort, time and, presumably, money spent by the Border Force in rounding up overstayers and other illegals seemed pretty much a waste most of the time. For instance, at Calais Port, any illegal immigrants who were found hiding in the lorries that came through Customs were just let off by the British officials and the French police merely looked the other way. (Sometimes, but not always, the lorry drivers were fined.) Obviously the French authorities couldn’t care less about all those people openly living rough near the port, waiting for a chance to enter the UK. (Not that I think the would-be immigrants should be imprisoned, but there’s got to be some better way of dealing with this problem?)

What really got me is that for all the effort put into finding illegal immigrants, the officers could do pretty much nothing about sending them back. As emphasized over and over again in the programme, if the officers cannot find any identification (such as a passport or other papers), the illegals cannot be sent back to their home country. What's the point going after them? Maybe one in about a dozen gets sent back - eventually - to wherever he/she comes from. The others are basically let off again, with instructions to report to the local police station every week until their case is sorted. Yeah, right. No surprise that the majority of them vanish once again beneath the official radar.

Owners of “Indian” restaurants who employ illegals are fined a certain amount for each illegal caught there, and that’s it, really. Is that the best the authorities can do to employers who knowingly employ people who aren’t allowed to work in the UK, who shouldn’t even be here in the first place? Why not impose more stringent punishment on them as a deterrent? Hell, there are places that have been raided more than once, and I'm sure the owners have contingency funds set aside to cover any fines that might have to be paid! They would know the drill, wouldn't they?

And as for illegal car washing people found in supermarket parking lots, why not fine the supermarkets for letting them work there? Or for not stopping them working there? If the mega stores were threatened with hefty fines for every illegal worker found working in their stores, or even within their curtilage, I’m sure that the stores would do a much more efficient job of preventing them than any government department!

One of the places raided by the Immigration officials in the final episode of the series was Mushtaq’s, a large sweet shop in the Spark Hill (or Spark Brook?) area of Birmingham. I’ve been there once, to see if their goods were any good – unfortunately the sweets were below standard. Even their fresh jilebis and samosas were rather awful. I’d decided not to go back there anyway, and this programme set the seal on that decision. I shall stick to Suraj Sweet Centre (pure vegetarian) for all my jilebi requirements. I have explored most of the sweet shops in the area, Mushtaq’s being the last, and none of them are in the same class as Suraj’s. Three cheers for Suresh at Suraj’s!


Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

My three cheers only when I have eaten them ...;)Btw, what's with you and my sis and loving them jilebis? With or without vanilla ice cream then?

Anonymous said...

Why dont you come down, I shall get you wonderful jilebis from Ajnabi in Fountain Plaza (see how I am enticing you to make a visit, which is long long overdue:-))

On another note, Shyam why dont you give your views on Obama, a Black American, being elected for the first time. I strongly feel ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, but would love to know from you, as I admire your writing capabilities.
- maya -

King said...

human traffiking is not taken seriously in many countries yet! :(