Not Saussure

February 6, 2007

Immigration offences and prison overcrowding

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 5:22 pm

Three cases in the local Crown Court on two successive days.

Today. An Indian citizen, who’d entered the country legally on his Indian passport as a visitor and then overstayed, working illegally, tried to leave the country to return to India. Worried about what might happen when the Immigration Authorities spotted he’d overstayed by a year, he equipped himself with a false British passport, which was detected at the airport. Twelve months in prison, which, in effect, means he’ll be deported to India (where he wanted to go in the first place) after 6 months.

A similar fate befell a chap from Cameroon, who’d entered the country illegally a year or so ago, couldn’t get on here as an illegal immigrant because he couldn’t learn English, so equipped himself with a stolen French passport and was caught trying to board a plane to Canada (presumably hoping his native French would serve him better in Quebec).

These two chaps will at least be deported at the end of their sentences, but no one knows what’ll happen to the lady who appeared yesterday. She’s from Somalia, or says she is, and has been working illegally — though perfectly satisfactorily — as a contract cleaner on the minimum wage for the last couple of years after her application for asylum was refused, thus obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception (the deception being that she falsely represented herself as being allowed to work here). Six months, which means she’ll be out in two weeks, having spent the last two-and-a-half months on remand.

No one’s sure what’ll happen to her after that. The Immigration Service don’t seem to have taken any particular interest in her whereabouts or fate since arresting her for working illegally and handing her over to the police. Part of the problem seems to be that her application for asylum was refused because they didn’t believe she’s from Somalia, which obviously means they can’t really try to deport her there, but they’ve no idea where they do want to send her.

In the meantime, of course, the poor woman’s got to eat so, assuming she isn’t released into the indefinate custody of Dr Reid’s minions, she’ll have little choice but to continue her criminal career as a contract cleaner.

I’m really not sure what to do. In the case of the first two chaps, obviously having and trying to use fake passports is a serious matter, particularly at the moment, but I’m not sure that blocking a prison place for six months is the best response. And in the case of the woman from Somalia or wherever it is, she’s doing no harm to anyone as far as I can see. She’s only a burden on the taxpayer because the law insists the courts make her one.

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  1. I like where you are going with this post. What is the point of keeping people here who want to leave?

    Moreover, why harass people we can’t do anything about when we get them to court anyway?

    This is costing so much and wasting resources a plenty.

    Comment by cityunslicker — February 6, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  2. It’s a bit more complicated than that, CityUnslicker, since using false passports and trying to board planes with them is obvious a pretty serious matter, which the government rightly wants to discourage.

    The way it used to work, I’m told, is that people just using false passports to try to leave the country to set up as illegal immigrants somewhere else should in the normal course of events take about two months to bring to trial, be recommended for deportation and then be deported.

    While they’re waiting to be deported they have to be held somewhere, and since they’ve broken the law they may as well be held in prison rather than an Immigration Service detention centre. Consequently, they were given 6-month sentences, which meant that when they were released on licence after three months every was in place for them to be rearrested by the Immigration Service when they left the prison and taken straight to the airport.

    Unfortunately, two things happened simultaneously. The Immigration Service went into melt-down with the foreign prisoners and new, stiffer, penalties were introduced for offences involving fake ID generally in preparation for the introduction of ID cards.

    Now what happens is that the Immigration Service arrest these people at the airport, hand them over to the police and just lose interest in them. Originally, someone from the Home Office was supposed to attend the trial to serve the initial deportation papers and be there to hear the judge recommend immediate deportation at the end of the sentence.

    They then decided this was too time-consuming — having someone take the whole morning going over to the Crown Court to wait for the case to be heard — so they’d do it administratively. In effect, this means the CPS forwarding everything to them, where it seems to vanish into an administrative black hole.

    After sitting round in prison for six months, the chaps are just released to seek voluntary repatriation from their embassy or vanish and work illegally or whatever seems best to them. It can’t be a sensible way to run things.

    And as this poor lady who may or may not be from Somalia, it’s a nonsense; she’s doing no harm to anyone and, in effect, she can’t be deported anywhere. Even if she were to tell the Immigration Service they were right and she’s actually from somewhere else, that somewhere else doesn’t have to believe her.

    Give her special leave to remain, say I, and let her carry on earning a living rather than being locked up at enormous expense.

    Comment by notsaussure — February 7, 2007 @ 10:55 am

  3. The problem is there is no real alternative to prison sentence that will enable courts to keep track of foreigners involved in cases like this. I would suggest we have immediate deportation. I agree with cityunslicker.

    Comment by Ellee — February 7, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  4. From my reading of your post, it appears to me that the Indian was not as culpable as the 2nd chap.

    Either way, why not just let them go home?

    Comment by james higham — February 7, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  5. In effect we used just to let them go home; the two or three months were needed for the various procedures attendant on deporting anyone even if they don’t object, such as making sure they are who they say they are and they’re not wanted for anything here or anywhere else , and that their home country agreed they were Indian (or whatever) citizens.

    What, though, would you do with a British citizen who was caught trying to board a plane to Toronto with a false passport (he got into trouble last time he was in Canada, so is worried they won’t let him in if they know who he is)? Just take the passport off him and tell him not to do it again?

    Comment by notsaussure — February 7, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  6. tip off the mounties and have him arrested there. Let them bare the cost of the imprisonment and trial.

    We just need to be more cute. occasionally the french can teach us good lessons on this.

    Comment by cityunslicker — February 7, 2007 @ 11:14 pm

  7. Good post. Should I dob in the person who works for me for four hours a week (@£8 an hour)? Decent, honest to a fault, hard working and always polite, so I don’t feel inclined to do so. Should I in the hope I can give a British person a job?

    Comment by Political Umpire — February 8, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  8. I don’t think the relevant sections of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 have come into force yet, P-Ump, but John Reid’s got various civil and criminal penalties lined up for people like you.   Can’t have people employing people who want to work for them, at well above the minimum wage — that way lies anarchy.

    Best keep quiet about it, maybe?

    Comment by notsaussure — February 8, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  9. Thought so. But I’m trusting he’ll get the sack as quickly as every other fascist prick whose held that job of late, and then his legislation will get stuck on the backburner.

    Who thought up a system whereby immigrants – legal or otherwise – can’t work? Nothing could be crazier. Asylum applicants could be given temporary work visas, to last for the duration of their claim with a fixed minimum and maximum period? Or would that be worse than what we’ve got now …?

    Comment by Political umpire — February 8, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

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