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Immigration and the Fickle Media – Finding Yourself on the Wrong Side of the Rules

Immigration and the Fickle Media – Finding Yourself on the Wrong Side of the Rules

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Immigration and the Fickle Media – Finding Yourself on the Wrong Side of the Rules

Certain parts of the British media (and they know who they are) have a rather rabid approach to immigration: inaccurate and misleading headlines, inaccurate and misleading text, a general air of hysteria. Migrants do not, it is fair to say, always get a good or a fair press in this country. Some parts of the media are much better than others but the worst parts are decidedly bad. From certain sources you might get the impression that all migrants come to UK to go on the scrounge, which of course is hardly the case, but some journalists have created a sort of bubble-world.

But occasionally the media performs a remarkable volte face. It suddenly becomes the victim’s champion: but the victim being for a change a migrant, not the British taxpayer. There were recently a couple of such cases; you may have spotted them:

“’Exceptional’ student faces deportation three months before graduation”, “Woman sent back to Singapore despite 27-year marriage”.

The first case was about Shiromini Satkunarajah, a Sri Lankan national studying Engineering at Bangor University in Wales, who was described by the University as “exceptionally able and diligent”. Her immigration history was quite complicated, but the crucial issue was that her student visa extension application had been refused, and so she found herself on the wrong side of the rules.

She had been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, an institution somewhere near Milton Keynes, and the Home Office had informed her that she was to be removed back to Sri Lanka. An immigration removal centre (which is a kind of holding centre for migrants that the Home Office wants to remove from the UK) is not quite like a prison but it does nonetheless share the important characteristic that you are locked up in there. But, in her case, the decision to remove her was rescinded at the last moment and she is still in the UK and has been released from detention.

The second case was about Irene Clennell, a Singaporean national, married to a British citizen, with two British sons and one granddaughter. She had apparently previously been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK (ie settlement) but had subsequently lost it because she had spent too much time outside the UK, so she was also on the wrong side of the rules. She was detained in Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in South Lanarkshire in Scotland, and subsequently she was removed back to Singapore, in evidently distressing circumstances.

 There are a few observations we can make about cases like this. Firstly, the media is very fickle. On many occasions it castigates the Home Office for its allegedly lax approach to immigration control; it changes sides in an alarming way.  

Secondly – and a somewhat related point – the media is very good at starting campaigns and creating instant but temporary celebrities. In the case of Shiromini, a big campaign arose, pressure was put on the Home Office, and they changed their decision. But then what about all the cases that don’t get into the media? Those migrants don’t get their cases widely publicised.

As those who work in the immigration field will know, migrants are detained by the Home Office and threatened with removal on a regular basis. The types of migrant who may be thus detained vary considerably: some may be illegal entrants or those who have illegally overstayed for many years, but others may be those who have fallen foul of the rules – in some cases on narrow grounds – and thus no longer have any right to stay in the UK.

Thirdly, there is no doubt that the Home Office has, in the last few years, become more and more ruthless and determined in its operations – presumably in response to the political immigration agenda.

Fourthly, if you have an immigration issue or a potential immigration issue you really do need to deal with it. The Home Office has a way of suddenly and unexpectedly pouncing on migrants, even those whose only crime is that of having an application refused. The Home Office sometimes invites migrants to interviews or imposes reporting conditions on them and, in either circumstance, they sometimes detain the migrant and say that they will remove them from the UK. This sounds a bit “Hollywood movie” but it’s not, it’s real life.

Immigration law tends to be complicated, and for example in the case of Irene Clennell she fell foul of a Home Office rule called the “Returning Residents” rule, which can operate to remove settlement status previously granted.  Immigration law is also very procedural. There are deadlines and requirements, and if you do not meet them your application may be rejected or refused.

So in this kind of situation you may find that you need to take good professional advice.

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