14 March, 2011
All fur coat and no knickers
It is this latter sense that applies to the UK Border Agency's efforts to tackle the employment of illegal immigrants.
Local newspapers carry frequent reports of UKBA raids on business premises, which inform us that, for example, 16 Chinese nationals were found at the Fook Yew Tooh Chinese Restaurant, Acupuncture Clinic and Money Laundering Agency, of which 9 failed asylum seekers, 2 visa overstayers and 5 clandestine entrants. The proprietor has been served with a notice of potential liability for fines of up to £160,000. Of the illegals, three have been detained pending removal from the country, while the remaining 13 have been released on immigration bail. The report invariably concludes with a piece of boilerplate waffle from a local UKBA spokesmonkey about how seriously they take this sort of thing. You can often find links to a selection of these reports on the Migrationwatch UK newsfeed.
All good stuff, eh? More of it!
But wait, let's take a closer look. I've been watching some repeats of the fly-on-the-wall documentary series UK Border Force, recorded off Sky 3 (or the "samples of what you're missing because you haven't got a Sky subscription, you cheeseparing git" channel, as it has now been officially renamed). Several points emerge.
Firstly, illegals can only be taken into custody pending removal if they have identity documents which will be accepted by their country of origin on return. Those without such documentation must be released on immigration bail, usually with a weekly or fortnightly reporting requirement, until the necessary documentation can be obtained.
Secondly, getting such replacement documentation is a laborious process. The authorities in third-world source countries are frequently not only inefficient, but have little incentive to co-operate as their illegally-placed nationals are a valuable source of remittance revenue.
Thirdly, the great majority of the bailed illegals disappear promptly into the woodwork. What was particularly striking was the surprise in the voice of officers in follow-up interviews when a bailed illegal actually reported in.
Ah well, at least the employers are being effectively punished. Throttle the supply of illegal work; that's what will make a difference.
Or maybe not. The maximum fine of £10,000 per illegal is rarely levied. The going rate is typically £5,000. Which might still be a hefty disincentive except that, according to information winkled out of HMG by Frank Field and reported today, the actual take is no more than 20% of the fines levied. Fines are bargained down by "poverty-stricken" businessmen or otherwise not paid. (Incidentally, if you're puzzled by the unwonted lack of venom in that Guardian article, look again: it's a Press Association wire.)
We're not really trying, are we? Just going through the motions for the media.
Undocumented illegals should be detained until their papers come through. That will remove them from the UK economy and concentrate the minds of their home governments. Bugger the Human Rights whingers. Employers of illegals should be fined properly and if necessary driven out of business. Persistent deliberate offenders should be jailed.
And in the meantime, instead of whingeing about illegals and immigrants taking "our" jobs, potential customers might like to consider voting with their feet and eschewing their nightly Salmonella and Chilli Special, you know, the one served by the scruffy downtrodden-looking individual whose English vocabulary is limited to the number words.
Get a fucking grip.