Today the Guardian reported that a Polish man who went to the police to report an assault on his wife was questioned about his immigration status and handed over to immigration officials who detained him in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. He has been in detention for the past two months.
There are genuine arguments for controlled immigration and “taking back cotrol of the border”. There is also merit in finding and deporting those who are in the country illegally. But what can possibly be the point of making life hell for those who have done nothing wrong? What purpose is served by casting the net of suspicion so wide that it causes collateral damage?
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There is the “unfortunate error” made by the Home Office when it sent out up to 100 letters to EU nationals ordering them to leave the country. There are cases of people who have lived more than 50 years in the UK and came close to being deported because they could not prove that they moved to the UK as children in the 1960s. There are stories of EU nationals applying for permanent residence in the months after Brexit who had their applications rejected because of technicalities. And then there is today’s case of a man being detained for two months and threatened with deportation after reporting a crime.
What does the future hold? Starting from January banks will be helping Theresa May create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants by carrying out immigration checks on their customers. It would be a miracle if these checks don’t generate false positives—legal immigrants who are mistakenly flagged up by the system, whose bank accounts are closed or threatened with closure. There is the general uncertainty about the rights and status of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit and what process they will have to follow in order to continue living their lives.
And while one part of the country seems intent to make life as hard as possible for immigrants another part seems unable to do without them. Proposals for a “barista visa” have been floated and farms complain already about a shortage of migrant workers.
I would like to look optimistically into the future, but after hearing Philip Hammond admit that the cabinet has not yet discussed the government’s preferred “end state position” after Brexit, it is hard to shake off doubts.