Which people do you imagine the UK authorities are not currently seeking to remove from the country: a 56-year-old former postman born in the US to an American soldier and British mother but who has worked here all his life, 7,000 overseas nurses who have been working in the NHS for years, or three convicted sex offenders from Libya who, while undergoing training in Britain, stole bicycles and rode to Cambridge where they assaulted young women?
Yes, you guessed right, the last ones: Naji El Maarfi, Khaled El Azibi and Mohammed Abdalsalam. They are being put up at an immigration centre while their asylum applications are considered. They are reportedly claiming that it would breach their human rights to send them back to Libya because as convicted sex offenders they could face persecution.
How have we ended up with an immigration policy that comes down like a ton of bricks on hardworking people who have been contributing to our economy for years and yet invites serious criminals to stay? As if it were not bad enough that convicted criminals are allowed to make asylum applications, the Libyan three are almost certainly funded by public money.
The legal costs of asylum seekers are funded largely through legal aid via organisations such as the Refugee Council, which received £4.1million from the Government last year, and Refugee Action, which received £19.6million.
Few will begrudge money spent helping people who are genuinely fleeing war or persecution. But it is an outrage that our money is being used to hire lawyers to fight on behalf of sex attackers taking advantage of the system.
The trio came to Britain as part of a contingent of 320 soldiers who were being trained by our army in an attempt to bolster the Libyan government’s ability to maintain security in its country, which remains strife-torn following the removal of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.
Following the sex attacks our Government terminated the scheme and sent the other soldiers home. The only ones left in Britain are the sex attackers themselves. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the warped incentive that our asylum system is giving to people who want to come to Britain: if you want the right to stay in Britain you should commit a crime.
The case of the Libyan trio has not been decided yet and it may be that their case is rejected and they are swiftly repatriated. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. Even if they lose initially you can bet there will be appeals. My money is on them still being in Britain in five years’ time.
Take the case of “AB” – we are not even allowed to know his name – a Moroccan who has spent the past 16 years fighting deportation from Britain. He originally came here in 1986 and committed a sexual assault on a woman in 1991. After four years in jail he was deported but managed to sneak back into the country in 2000. The difference that time round was Tony Blair’s Human Rights Act had come into force, which allowed him to claim that he had a right to a family life. He has successfully claimed this ever since even though his wife and children left him after his conviction.
Then there was the case of the nine Afghans who hijacked a plane in 2000, had it flown to Stansted and then claimed asylum. Unbelievably they had it granted in 2006. Yes, UK asylum law now encourages people to hijack aircraft.
Our immigration system may be flawed
It also encourages extremist preachers because several have used their fear of prosecution in their home countries as a reason to avoid deportation.
At the same time the Border Agency seems to pick on innocent people at random, threatening to deport them. Christine North, of Clacton, was born in Germany to a British father and has lived here for 25 years since she was seven. That didn’t prevent immigration officials writing to her last year and telling her she had no right to live in Britain.
It is a pathetic attempt on the part of the authorities to appear tough.
But sending in the heavies to people who have lived here most of their lives, paid taxes and obeyed the law hardly makes up for the Government’s failure to deport criminals and terrorists.
Yes, we have a moral duty to help genuine refugees but the UN agreement reached in the wake of the Second World War was to help people fleeing persecution on the grounds of their “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. It was not intended to help terrorists and criminals.
No one should ever be considered for asylum on the grounds that they might face shame in their homelands as a result of criminal offences they have committed here. Neither should they be eligible for asylum if they have committed or planned acts of terror here.
All foreign criminals who commit imprisonable offences should be repatriated as soon as they have finished their sentences – if not transferred to a prison in their home country while they are serving those sentences.
If that is incompatible with the Human Rights Act then it should be torn up and we start again with human rights legislation which recognises that the public – and especially victims of crime – have rights too. We must have an immigration system which refuses to reward crime.