UK Home Office in ‘continuous state of disaster management’ amid surge in immigration u-turns

Does appear to be the case as the various articles I have shared or seen indicate:

The Home Office has been accused of operating in a “continuous state of disaster management” as an increasing number of erroneous immigration decisions are being overturned only once they are publicly exposed.

A number of recent news stories about individuals being refused entry to the UK or threatened with removal have prompted officials to reverse decisions within hours or even minutes news articles being published online or in print.

In the past two weeks alone, The Independent has reported on two such cases. Both in involved people being barred from entering the UK because officials were “not satisfied” they would return home. Both were reversed within 12 hours of the articles being published.

Experts have warned, however, that the speed at which the decisions are reversed following media coverage raises serious concerns about the accuracy and fairness of the Home Office’s decision-making process.

It amounts to a “popularity contest” in which only those able to access journalists can get their cases resolved, they said.

Among the cases overturned after reporting by The Independent was that of Yvonne Williams, the 59-year-old daughter of a Windrush generation immigrant who was served with a removal order despite her whole family being in Britain.

The decision to prevent six-year-old, UK-born Mohamed Bangoura from returning home to his mother following a holiday was also reversed, as was the case of Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, a 27-year-old Afghan man who was threatened with deportation despite having served in the British army.

Journalists reporting on these cases are usually contacted by either the individual themselves, charities supporting them or, increasingly, solicitors representing them. Immigration lawyers said media coverage was now often the only way to obtain a “fair and timely” resolution from the Home Office.

Chai Patel, legal director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said that while it was good for individual cases to get resolved, the process exposed a “completely dysfunctional” system which is “incredibly unfair” for those unable to get their cases in the media.

He added: “It shows how little faith or consideration immigration officials have in their own decision-making that they’re willing to reverse them in a matter of hours, minutes sometimes, of them getting a bit of bad publicity. And it’s seriously concerning that instead of having proper processes, we now have a popularity contest where, if you can get enough people to shout about your case, the Home Office will just change its mind.

“Many will never get their case in the press because it’s too sensitive, or they don’t have the contacts or the lawyers to get in touch with journalists and they don’t have communities building campaign groups around them.”

Mr Patel said each Home Office U-turn was an admission that there is no solution to the underlying problem whereby people are ”consistently – almost as a matter of course – given entirely unfair decisions that will destroy their lives until they’re lucky enough to get them turned around”.

Danielle Blake, a legal expert from the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), said it was a “big ask” for clients to willingly expose their personal circumstances to the world, but conceded that media exposure was often required to obtain a fair and timely resolution from the Home Office.

She added: “As advisers we come across many clients who are in the most desperate of situations. A lot of them are separated from their loved ones and have been for a very long time. All of this adds several months onto an already long and emotionally draining process. It’s very upsetting to think that for those who wish to keep their story private, they face being stuck on a never-ending merry-go-round of paying exorbitant Home Office fees, only to come up against a brick wall of non-communication.”

With Brexit on the horizon, campaigners raised concerns that an already “broken” system is going to be placed under even more pressure, with potentially disastrous implications.

Mr Patel said: “The Home Office can’t function with the number of applications made currently. It’s going to get a lot worse when the government has to develop an immigration system that includes EU nationals as well. Whatever happens, the pressure on the Home Office both in terms of future migration and dealing with the people here already is going to be huge. To prevent disaster they need to completely reform every part of the immigration system, because currently it is completely broken.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear since his first day in office that he wants a different approach to the immigration system which provides control, but is fair and humane. If evidence about a case comes to light then it will be considered by caseworkers, but solely because a case is covered in the media does not mean it will receive a favourable decision.”

Source: Home Office in ‘continuous state of disaster management’ amid surge in immigration u-turns

Home Office ‘breaking law’ to expel highly skilled migrants

One story after another about policy and operational failures:

A judge has accused the Home Office of breaking the law and acting in a “nonsensical” way in trying to force two highly skilled migrants out of the UK by triggering a terrorism-related part of immigration law.

The two substantial judgments will boost those campaigning to halt the use of paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules against people who have made legal amendments to their tax returns.

The judge quashed the Home Office’s decisions to trigger the power, saying the department had made errors in public law.

At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing expulsion from the UK under paragraph 322(5) for making legal amendments to their tax records, according to the support group Highly Skilled Migrants.

The judgments of the upper tribunal judge, Melissa Canavan, in the cases of Oluwatosin Bankole Williams and Farooq Shaik will strengthen the hand of the 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords who are to establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop misusing the power.

In the Commons on Thursday, one of those MPs, Alison Thewliss, demanded a debate on what she said was “the incompetence of the Home Office” concerning 322(5).

“We were promised on 21 June that there would be a review in the next few weeks. This has not emerged,” she said. “Too many highly skilled migrants are waiting for this government to make a decision, living in poverty and racking up huge debts.”

The leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, agreed to take up the issue directly with Home Office ministers on Thewliss’s behalf.

While at least 50% of immigration appeals against Home Office decisions succeed in the courts – a rate the Law Society said suggested the system was “seriously flawed” – the support group for those fighting paragraph 322(5) say their success rate is far higher, at 75.3%.

The figure is so high that it has caused legal experts to question whether the Home Office is cynically pursuing cases without merit.

In one of the recent rulings, Canavan cited a third upper tribunal judgment in which the Home Office was criticised for maintaining that migrants were responsible for the mistakes of their accountants, even when accountants later wrote to the government to admit culpability.

Canavan agreed that “the mere fact that an applicant is responsible for his own tax affairs does not lead to the inexorable conclusion that an applicant has been dishonest”.

Her judgment is at odds with a letter sent to the Lib Dem peer Dick Taverne last week by Susan Williams, a Home Office minister, defending the government’s use of the 322(5) power. “The courts have agreed that our conclusions were reasonable in such cases,” Lady Williams wrote.

Canavan said: “Where an applicant has presented evidence to show that he was not dishonest but only careless, the secretary of state is presented with a fact-finding task … The evidence must be cogent and strong.”

Source: Home Office ‘breaking law’ to expel highly skilled migrants

UK: Wrongful detention cost £21m as immigration staff chased bonuses

Yet more evidence of the rot within the Home Office’s approach to immigration:

The Home Office mistakenly detained more than 850 people between 2012 and 2017, some of whom were living in the UK legally, and the government was forced to pay out more than £21m in compensation as a result, officials have revealed.

Figures released to the home affairs select committee this week show there were 171 cases of wrongful immigration detention in 2015-16, triggering compensation payments totalling £4.1m, and 143 cases in 2016–17, triggering a further £3.3m in compensation.

Between 2012 and 2015 a total of £13.8m was paid out to more than 550 people after a period of unlawful immigration detention.

The document also reveals that bonuses were paid to both senior and junior Home Office staff according to whether targets for enforced removals from the country had been met. Some staff were set “personal objectives” on which bonus payments were made “linked to targets to achieve enforced removals”.

The detention figures give no detail about who was mistakenly held, although it is likely that these numbers contain some Windrush individuals who were wrongly sent to immigration removal centres or prisons ahead of deportation.

Cases are known of Windrush individuals who were nearly deported, such as Anthony Bryan, who was sent to an immigration detention centre last December and booked by Home Office staff on a flight back to Jamaica, a country he had not visited since he was eight. A last-minute intervention by an immigration lawyer meant his seat on the flight was cancelled and he was released from detention.

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has promised to provide figures next month for how many Windrush people were wrongly put in immigration detention; he has already acknowledged that 63 Windrush people were deported in error.

At least 10 people were paid about £120,000 each in compensation in the past two years although the majority of payouts were £20,000 or less, the permanent secretary to the home office, Philip Rutnam, explained in a letter to the home affairs select committee chair, Labour’s Yvette Cooper.

A small number of individuals who were wrongly detained received just a nominal payment of £1. Compensation is determined in part on an assessment of the “initial shock” experienced by those detained and is based also on whether the individual had any criminal convictions.

Some of those who received compensation payments were living in the UK legally. Other compensation payments were made to people who had no leave to remain in the UK but who had been detained for too long.

Rutnam, the most senior Home Office official, tried to minimise the significance of the numbers detained mistakenly, noting that this represented a small proportion of the total detained under immigration enforcement measures.

“By way of scale comparison, to support enforcement of the UK’s immigration law over 27,000 people are detained each year under immigration powers, with up to 3,000 people detained in either the detention estate or prisons at any one time,” he wrote. “Ninety-five per cent of people who are liable to removal are managed in the community, rather than in detention.”

But Labour’s Stephen Doughty, who sits on the home affairs committee, said: “These figures expose what many of us have warned for months: that the government has been wrongfully locking up individuals as well as wrongfully deporting others.

“The immigration system needs root and branch reform. How are millions of EU nationals to have any confidence in a system that wrongly deports and locks up people?”

The letter also gives details of performance targets in place for enforced removals from the UK, noting that these were in operation as early as 2000 (under Labour) and continued after 2010 (referred to in a variety of different ways – sometimes as “objectives”, or “business goals” or sometimes simply as “levels of ambition”).

Rutnam acknowledges that civil servants working within immigration enforcement received performance bonuses for good work, some of which is related to removals. In 2016-17, 23% of people working in immigration enforcement received an end-of-year bonus.

Confusion over whether removals targets were in place led to the previous home secretary Amber Rudd’s resignation in April, when she said “that’s not how we operate” in response to questions from Cooper over removals targets. Rudd said later: “I wasn’t aware of specific removal targets. I accept I should have been and I’m sorry that I wasn’t.”

Rutnam indicates that targets will no longer be in operation for deportation, noting that Javid has said he wants to “take stock on targets overall” and “specifically that he does not believe in quantified targets for removals and this, of course, is the basis on which we will be proceeding in the future”.

Source: Wrongful detention cost £21m as immigration staff chased bonuses

ICYMI: UK Government U-turn over anti-terror law used to deport migrants

Yet another example of apparent mismanagement by the Home Office:

The government has agreed to stop deporting people under an immigration rule designed to tackle terrorism and those judged to be a threat to national security pending a review, after the Guardian highlighted numerous cases in which the power was being misused.

The news came as the home secretary, Sajid Javid, admitted on Tuesday that at least 19 highly skilled migrants had been forced to leave the country under the rule.

A review of the controversial section 322(5) of the Immigration Act was announced in a letter to the home affairs select committee.

Javid said one person had been issued with a visa to return to the UK as a result of ongoing inquiries. He also said that all applications for leave to remain that could potentially be refused under the section have been put on hold pending the findings of the review, which is due to be completed by the end the month.

Javid’s letter to the home affairs select committee also admitted that the Home Office’s use of the clause – condemned as “truly wicked” and “an abuse of power” by MPs and experts – could have spread to other applications, including that of any migrant applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) who might have been asked to submit evidence of earnings.

At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK are facing deportation under the section of the act.

The high-tax paying applicants – including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals – have been refused ILR after being accused of lying in their applications for making minor and legal amendments to their tax records.

The controversial paragraph comes with devastating conditions. Migrants, some who have lived here for a decade or more and have British-born children, immediately become ineligible for any other UK visa. Many are given just 14 days to leave the UK while others are allowed to stay and fight their cases but not to work.

In addition, those deported under the terrorism-associated paragraph will have that permanently marked on their passports, making it highly unlikely they will ever get a visa to visit or work anywhere else in the world.

In one case exposed by the Guardian the applicant’s tax returns were scrutinised by three different appeal courts who had found no evidence of any irregularities.

Other cases included a former Ministry of Defence mechanical engineer who is now destitute, a former NHS manager currently £30,000 in debt, thanks to Home Office costs and legal fees, who spends her nights fully dressed, sitting in her front room with a suitcase in case enforcement teams arrive to deport her, and a scientist working on the development of anti-cancer drugs who is now unable to work, rent or access the NHS.

The same figures were nevertheless used as the basis for a refusal because of basic tax errors allegedly made by the Home Office itself.

Commenting on the home secretary’s letter, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, said: “We’ve heard of a series of cases of highly skilled workers, employed in our -public services and senior jobs legally for many years, now being told to leave apparently due to minor tax errors.

“So it is welcome that the home secretary is now reviewing all those cases and putting decisions on hold.”

A group of about 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords have establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop deporting highly skilled migrants under the terms of the section.

The home affairs select committee highlighted the issue after questioning Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, about it in early May.

A few days later, they publicly accused the Home Office of being unfit for purpose and guilty of “shambolic incompetence” after the Guardian found letters written by Nokes that appeared to contradict her claim that she had only recently learned of the Home Office’s use of the section.

via Government U-turn over anti-terror law used to deport migrants | UK news | The Guardian

And one more:

A wave of devastating incidents of vital personal papers being lost in immigration cases has led to renewed calls for the Home Office to overhaul the way it handles documents.

The problem has been so severe that at its peak the department routinely mislaid thousands of files, a former senior immigration official said.

In the wake of the coverage of the Windrush scandal, the Guardian has spoken to people whose immigration status has been left in limbo after documents submitted to the Home Office have vanished.

Despite this the Home Office has never made a voluntarily self-referral to the data protection watchdog over lost papers.

Yvette Cooper, the chair of the influential home affairs select committee, said: “This is a question of basic competence. Too often we have heard about lost documents and simple errors by the Home Office that can have deeply damaging consequences for people’s lives.

“The Home Affairs committee and the independent inspectorate have warned the Home Office repeatedly to improve the competency and accuracy of the immigration system.

“It’s crucial they get the basics right. We’ve even recommended digitising and changing the system so people don’t have to submit so many original documents in the first place, given the risk of loss and delay.

“But ultimately this is linked to weaknesses in the Home Office casework system that urgently need to be sorted out. The immigration system is far too important a public service for these kinds of mistakes to be acceptable, or for repeated warnings from the inspectorate and the select committee to be ignored.”

The Guardian has heard cases ranging from lost birth certificates, children’s passports going missing, education certificates disappearing and appeal bundles misplaced.

Vital immigration papers lost by UK Home Office | UK news | The Guardian

‘I felt a nausea of fury’ – how I faced the cruelty of Britain’s immigration system | Nesine Malik | The Guardian

Good long read and reminder of how attitudes and processes can hamper, not foster, integration:

I first landed in England in September 2004. I took the underground from Heathrow and sat in the carriage with my luggage, face plastered to the window, as the train made its way through the late summer greenery of west London. Culture shock blended with a counterintuitive sense of ease and familiarity with a country – in fact, a whole hemisphere – that I had never visited. I had lived my entire life in Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and had come to the UK to study for a postgraduate degree at the University of London. Over the next weeks, I found the city and its people both bewilderingly cool and enthusiastically welcoming. That duality would go on to be the central theme of my life in the UK – confusing impenetrability accompanied by a yielding accommodation.

I settled in quickly, squatting in a relative’s spare bedroom until I could make arrangements. But I had severely underestimated the expense of London and, already impoverished by the high overseas student tuition fees, I began working while I was studying, my student visa allowing for 20 hours a week. I temped in offices across London, using an A–Z to find my way around. My topography of London is still anchored in the locations of those anonymous office blocks across the city. At the end of my course I extended my student visa in order to finish my dissertation and meanwhile was offered a contract as a research assistant at an investment bank where I had been temping. I went into the interview with precisely £15 to my name. Had the position not paid by the end of the week, I would not have been able to get through the first month.

A few weeks into the job and with a little disposable income for the first time in my life, I rented a room on a Bethnal Green council estate. Standing on the balcony, looking out at east London, I remember thinking that it was a sort of Valhalla. After a year or so, in 2007, a combination of student visa extensions and a partner visa by virtue of a relationship I was in at the time meant that I was granted limited leave to remain (ie with no recourse to public funds). After five years, I would be eligible for permanent residency.

My problems with the Home Office began in 2012. What should have been a routine application for permanent residency was turned down. I don’t remember the exact wording of the letter because my concentration shattered while trying to process what my lawyer was saying. The reason seemed to be that the right to permanent–after-temporary residency had been circumscribed. The laws had changed. “We’ll need to appeal immediately,” she said. “You don’t have to leave right away.”

It is hard to describe what it feels like to confront the possibility of leaving a country in which you are settled. I had by then been living, working (in emerging markets private equity) and paying taxes in the UK for nine years and enjoyed all the natural extensions of that investment – a career, close friends, a deep attachment to the place, a whole life. It is almost as if the laws of nature change, like gravity disappears and all the things that root you to your existence lose their shape and float away. I remember thinking, “I can’t leave, I’ve just bought a sofa.” It was a ridiculous thought, but that secondhand sofa from the local flea market was the first item of furniture I had ever bought. Suddenly, it signified the folly of nesting in a country that had no intention of letting me make a home.

In January 2010 David Cameron, backed into a tough stance by the looming election, announced a “no ifs no buts” pledge to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands. Theresa May took the helm at the Home Office in May and immediately set about making as big a dent in the net migration number, then about 244,000, as possible. Despite the Liberal Democrats making an attempt to dilute some of the crueller aspects of immigration law, condemning the “Go home” billboard vans May sent through the streets of London and publicly challenging Cameron on the tens of thousands figure, immigration policies continued to harden. They culminated in the 2013 immigration bill that declared the country would become a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants.

The resulting legislation represented a fundamental dismantling of the means by which all migrants could challenge Home Office decisions, despite around half of appeals ultimately being successful. By the time the 2015 immigration bill was introduced, the Conservatives, unfettered by coalition, introduced a host of measures that meant a hostile environment policy was surreptitiously rolled out against legal migrants as well.

Unable to tackle EU migration due to freedom of movement, the Home Office, while cutting its numbers of immigration case-workers, focused on non-EU migrants and their families, even when they were legal. “Discretion” – a word that sends chills down the spine of many a Home Office application veteran – became the governing principle. As with Nadir Farsani, a 27-year-old Saudi engineer who has lived in the UK most of his adult life and whose parents have British citizenship. He nevertheless had his student visa rejected by a case worker who decided a quirk of Arabic naming convention meant Nadir’s father’s supporting financial documents were not legitimate. Nadir was not informed nor asked to provide additional evidence and was asked to leave the country. While waiting for his application to be processed, his grandmother in Saudi Arabia fell ill and died. He could not travel to say goodbye.

Since 2010 I have experienced a constant attrition in the ranks of friends who did not have the means or the time to challenge often unfair decisions. Damned by discretion, rather than the law, they left.

The right to appeal decisions was curbed. The tier-1 visa, which had allowed for highly skilled migrants looking for a job or wishing to become self-employed, was abolished. Students’ right to work after graduation was limited and the Life in the UK test became a residency requirement. And British citizens began to be affected. In 2012 May announced rules that allowed only those British citizens earning more than £18,600 to bring their spouse to live with them in the UK. The figure is higher where visa applications are also made for children. She also made it all but impossible for people to bring their non-European elderly relatives to the UK. “Skype families” can spend years on opposite sides of the world, watching their children grow up on video.

Incentivised to reject, the Home Office grew ever more brutal and incompetent. Satbir Singh, CEO of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, is one of many British citizens whose application for his spouse to join him in the UK was rejected. They had satisfied all the requirements, but the Home Office lost their documents. In one of JCWI’s cases, a British citizen on a zero hours contract had a nervous breakdown due to the long hours he had to work in order to satisfy the income requirement. He needed hospitalisation but refused – two weeks off would mean that his income would fall under the threshold.

The principle of reject and hope no questions are asked has given rise to instances of unfathomable cruelty. In one case, reported in February, an interviewee began hallucinating. When her rejected case went to the supreme court, the judge said, “Reading that interview, it is apparent that the claimant was very unwell at the time … She appeared to be talking to people who were not there and the interview nonetheless continued, including beyond a time when she asked whether or not she had wet herself.”

The hostile environment also began to chew up those who had lived their entire lives in the UK. Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the country decades ago have discovered that in a hardened immigration climate they are without the necessary papers. So Paulette Wilson, a 61-year-old former cook in the House of Commons, was sent to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre last October and taken to Heathrow for deportation to Jamaica, a country she had not visited since she was 10. A last-minute legal intervention prevented her removal, and, following media coverage in the Guardian, she was granted a residency permit.

In most cases, the speed with which the Home Office capitulates when challenged is a clear giveaway that decisions were made in the hope they would not be appealed. In my case, I appealed my residency extension and prepared a case with a litigation lawyer – only for permanent residency to be granted days before my appearance in court. There was no explanation and we had not provided, yet, any new information. My joy was followed by a nausea of fury. I had bankrupted myself trying to pay the £30,000 legal fees and lived in a constant anguish of instability, paralysed and yet tensed for action, only for the decision to be overturned because it was wrong in the first place, and because the Home Office couldn’t be bothered to fight it.

Forty per cent of cases brought before a judge on appeal are overturned. Consider that this applies only to the small number of individuals who have the means to appeal, and the scale of the wider miscarriage of justice becomes apparent. At one point, the government was proposing that the rule of “deport first, appeal later” that currently applies only to foreign national criminals be applied across the board; thankfully, this was eventually overturned by the supreme court, which declared it unfair and unlawful.

The original sin, the motivation for so much of the inhumanity being visited on applicants, is the “tens of thousands” target, an unrealistic and arbitrary number, backed by no intelligence or research. But the heart of the dysfunction throughout the past eight years isn’t that immigration laws have tightened, it is that they have become unpredictable, as new rules are introduced or scrapped. There have been 45,000 changes to immigration rules since May took over at the Home Office. Both applicants and immigration officials are navigating the system using a map whose contours and geology shift constantly. Farsani compares the process to “climbing a crumbling staircase”.

At the same time, the public tone, led by the Tory populism on immigration, became sharper and the idea that the UK had a soft-touch immigration system grew stronger. By the time the Brexit referendum campaign was under way, the national perception of the country’s immigration rules was in fantasyland. It was surreal to watch when, at the same time, I was unable to secure a residency, let alone a passport.

And the ignorance culminated in Brexit. The mainstreaming of lies was complete. A points-based system? We already have one. It’s called a tier-2 visa and to avail yourself of it you have to have sponsorship and a job offer from a UK employer, as well as sufficient funds to sustain you until your first salary. An NHS surcharge? We already have one. Every non-EU citizen who takes up a job or student position in the UK pays £150-200 before the visa is issued. They also pay national insurance, taxes that go towards the Home Office, plus high and escalating fees to process routine applications – in addition to fees paid to all the outsourced affiliated agencies that administer peripheral processes such as English tests and interviews.

Sometimes, going through that third-party machinery was like being in some dark comedy. The £150 English language test I had to book last-minute (or my naturalisation application would have been refused) took place in a lugubrious, privately run testing centre in Holborn, in London. Examinees were kept apart by a complicated, completely over-the top system. The examiner and I chatted amiably for a few minutes before she started the test. Then the frequency changed. Loudly and very slowly, she began: “Have. You. Been. To. Any. Festivals. Recently?” I said no and then she began to painfully explain what a festival was. I assured her that I knew, but just hadn’t been to any recently. She looked down at the subject notes where we had been asked to pick a topic we would like to speak about. I’d written down “Canada” as I had just arrived back in London that morning after delivering a keynote speech at a labour union event in Toronto. “Canada!” She said. “What. Can. You. Tell. Me. About. Canada?”

The really dirty secret is that the government can stop non-EU migration dead whenever it wants. Of the 170,000 non-EU migrants who came to the UK in 2016, about 90,000 were granted tier-2 employment. These are visas that we can simply stop issuing. But the economy needs the labour, something the government will not admit, instead choosing to treat applicants as people who somehow manage to come to the country against its will. If anything, the UK needs more non-EU migrants to plug skills gaps, particularly in the NHS – yet doctors offered jobs in hospitals are being blocked from coming to Britain because monthly quotas for skilled worker visas have been oversubscribed.

And, if Brexit finally goes through, into this inflexible immigration system will march three million EU citizens whose status will need to be registered and regularised. It is simply, for those of us who have been through it, a terrifying prospect. And May still doubles down, running the Home Office from Downing Street. In mid-February she overruled the Home Office in order to insist that EU citizens who arrived during a Brexit transition period would not have the automatic right to remain in the country. The move has caused alarm in the Home Office, with government sources admitting that work on a separate registration scheme had “barely begun” and “almost certainly” would not be ready in time. May then backed down.

The cavalier detachment with which these big decisions are made cannot be isolated from the general corporate cheapening of human life that has set in over the past decade. Satbir Singh sees immigration policy as indivisible from this environment. “If you look at what has happened in Britain over the last eight years,” he says, “there’s a thread of institutional degradation that runs through it all. Whether you are waiting for medical treatment, a welfare payment or an immigration decision, we are all clients, standing behind a glass window.” And we were the lucky ones. We weren’t in detention, which almost 28,000 people entered in 2016-17. We weren’t the ones being interviewed while hallucinating and wetting ourselves. We weren’t being handcuffed as we left burning buses.

And still the plight of migrants and their families doesn’t resonate with the British public as loudly as it should. I have heard the argument that no one has a right to settlement in a country that is not their country of birth many times. But other than in asylum cases or when people are joining family members, it is often the case that a life in the UK just develops organically. Sudan, where I am from, is in my bones, but the UK is where I had built a life just by virtue of the time I spent here. Via study and work, relationships and just the day-to-day of living, an investment is made in the country that you do not wish to unwind. Is that not, at its heart, what integration is? Is that not, allegedly, the Holy Grail? Satbir Singh, having won the right to bring his wife to the UK after the Home Office admitted its mistake, reflects on what is now, effectively and deliberately, an alienating process. “The first interaction you have with the state is suspicion, that you are a liar, a cheat and a fraud. This is an enormous roadblock to integration.”

In 2017, the permanent residency that was granted on appeal qualified me for British citizenship. More than a decade after that moment of pregnant possibility on a balcony in Bethnal Green, and 14 years after excitedly taking in the view of London’s parks on a train from the airport, I was making my way towards my naturalisation with leaden feet. The citizenship had been so shorn of its significance, so stripped of its essential meaning, that the ceremony felt like a formality. And when it was over it felt hollow. My relief was dulled by exhaustion and sadness that becoming the citizen of a country in which I had invested so much had been marred by an extractive, dishonest and punitive system. I now looked forward to only one thing – to never have to think about any of it again.

But the day after the ceremony I was crossing a bridge I had crossed thousands of times before, absentmindedly listening to Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place. It was one of those cinematic London winter dusks, when the rich colours in the sky cast a benign, almost otherworldly light on the water. And I heard the lyrics – “Home is where I want to be” – for the first time. Every grain in the scene around me sharpened as a welling of belonging stung my eyes.

“They don’t want you to integrate,” Farsani had told me. “They want you to fail so they can point their fingers at you and say, ‘Look, immigrants do not integrate’.” But we do, because the country, in spite of its broken immigration system, slowly, organically, casually, naturalises you in ways that cannot be validated by a Life in the UK test, citizenship ceremony or exhaustive application dossier. But daily this natural, healthy process is being violated, via administrative incompetence and politically instructed cruelty, to fulfil a soundbite “tens of thousands” target the government cannot meet, and is too proud to jettison.

via ‘I felt a nausea of fury’ – how I faced the cruelty of Britain’s immigration system | UK news | The Guardian