The Home Office says it is winning its battle to restore public
confidence in its immigration and asylum policies – a confidence
shaken, in the first place, largely by the propaganda spewed out by
the right wing press.
Asylum applications are down to their lowest level since 1997.
Ministers now believe that they have a “balanced” policy.
Immigration minister Des Browne says: “We have cut abuse and are
protecting our borders while at the same time offering a haven to
those genuinely fleeing persecution and providing controlled legal
routes for workers who want to make a contribution to the
If only. Every agency involved in trying to secure a future for an
asylum seeker has numerous examples of talent wasted and optimism
and mental health undermined by a system operating in first gear
with next to no flexibility.
Vildane Berani, 18, for example, came from Kosova with her parents
five years ago. The family was given 10 minutes to leave their home
by Serbian gunmen. Despite an amnesty deal offered to Kosovan
refugees four years ago, her refugee status is still unresolved. As
a result, although Vildane has gained six top grade A levels and
has been offered a place to study medicine at Oxford, she may be be
unable to become a doctor because she is currently classed as an
overseas student. She will therefore be expected to pay costs of
over a quarter of a million pounds.
Vildane’s head teacher, Giles Pepler, says she could be “an
enormous asset” to the UK and that she is the kind of talented new
recruit the NHS needs. The Home Office refuses to comment –
although, now that publicity has been given to this particular
case, the bureaucracy will probably be sorted for Vildane but not
for those who lack media access. Vildane’s mother is also a doctor,
and her father an engineer which raises another issue about the
deficiencies in Mr Browne’s idea of a “haven”. Bureaucracy means
that they are barred from using their qualifications, surviving on
benefits, until their right to stay is officially approved. That’s
Asylum seekers whether academically gifted or more ordinary mortals
should be given access to intensive courses in English and
supported to upgrade qualifications if necessary so they can find
an appropriate job, as soon as possible after entering the country.
Bureaucracy is inevitable – but squandering lives for years on end
while the red tape multiplies is a loss to all.