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Immigration Scandal: Brodie Clark Resigns, Theresa May Doesn’t

Posted on the 09 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Immigration scandal: Brodie Clark resigns, Theresa May doesn’t

Theresa May, home secretary. Photocredit: ukhomeoffice: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5703221554/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The scandal surounding the relaxation of border checks, ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May, continues. A pilot scheme was introduced in July to reduce the time spent checking EU nationals as they entered Britain – but apparently, many non-EU nationals slipped through the net as well. Things are hotting up, now.

May has accused Brodie Clark, the senior  civil servant at the UK Border Agency, of going beyond ministerial guidelines on passport checks. He was suspended last week. Clark, who managed some of the toughest situations of the past few years – including the Yarl’s Wood fire – has, however, resigned. He hasn’t gone quietly, either: he’s launched an attack on May. The Home Office says that May is right; Clark says he never authorised anything beyond what he’d been ordered. Clark will now give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee, and is planning to sue for constructive dismissal. May, however, is not going to resign over the affair. The immigration problem is still causing ripples in the commentariat. With the population projected to reach 70 million (and two thirds of that coming from immigration), should the country be more or less open to immigrants?

“I am saddened that my career should end in such a way after 40 years’ dedicated service. My employer has disregarded my right of reply in favour of political convenience,” said Brodie Clark, quoted on The Guardian.

Who’d have May’s job? Being Home Secretary’s a tough gig, said The Times’ political editor, Roland Watson. It’s a “myriad of scandals waiting to happen.”  May has so far been keeping quiet, but this “policy initiative” – which didn’t go through Parliament – has stymied her somewhat. Cameron’s standing by May, so she looks secure for the moment – but it’s not “the end of the affair.”

Oh the irony. Richard Ford in  The Times wrote a praise-filled profile of Brodie Clark,  saying he has a reputation as a meticulous, humane and principled man whose background in prisons  (he joined the Prison Service in 1973) has helped him excel in operations. He was almost universally admired; although Ford noted, a little dryly, that whilst “his previous jobs had been about preventing people getting out, at the UK Border Agency his key task was supposed to be preventing illegal migrants and criminals getting into the country.”

Time to close the borders! This scandal is pointing up a bigger issue, said Frank Field and Nicholas Soames (both Chairmen of the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration) in The Daily Telegraph, firmly on the right hand side of the political spectrum: simply put, “the sheer number of people arriving here.” Population growth is putting huge strains on our infrastructure; some of the only places more densly populated than England are Bangladesh and South Korea. Sure, the recovery shouldn’t be imperilled by cutting migration. But we must “break the link” between simply working here, and settling here. We should keep people here only if they give “real value” – something we can base on salary. Immigration must be kept down to under 40,000 a year. For this, we need “tough measures”, approved quickly. A Times cartoon by Peter Brook showed people such as Hitler and Osama bin Laden walking blithely through an airport pushing their luggage.

I’m not so sure… Danny Dorling in The Guardian said that immigration officials aren’t very welcoming. Queuing is hard – especially if you’ve got children, or you’re old. You might be questioned for hours if you don’t look European enough. Border controls don’t actually reduce illegal immigration or terrorism – look at the US, which is positively flooded with illegal migrants. It’s massive inequalities in wealth that cause migrants to go to countries.  Tough border controls really only make some people stay because they’re scared they won’t be able to come back. At least we’ve got something worth queueing for in Britain – but how would you like it if you tried to go to Spain and you were grilled for hours? We should look at being citizens of “something a little larger than one small country.”

But hang on – it’s all wrong! The editor’s letter in i said that it was time the Home Office invested huge amounts of money into a system that obviously is broken – the Borders Agency needs new technology as well as staff numbers so it can protect us from illegal immigrants and terrorists.

Really, really wrong? But look at public opinion, said The Daily Mail’s Comment pages. Over 100,000 people have signed an e-petition organised by MigrationWatch (called No to 70 million) asking for more effective immigration controls. The “bitter truth” is that even if migration policies worked, overall numbers “would continue to increase.” There’s not even a chance that the Tories will fulfill their promise to cut numbers to below 100,000 by 2015. It’s time to listen to the public – and one of the first things to do is a Commons debate.


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