Saturday, 17 September 2011

An Immigration Fraud

Immigration is a curious issue in British politics. Twenty and more years ago it was a core issue about which senior politicians would debate vigorously on national television and gain headlines in newspapers. Today there is the occasional soundbite but nothing more than that. All parties say they will be strict on abuses of the system but put forward nothing other than generalisations about how they will do it. When the party in power changes, nothing of any real substance ever seems to change.

In one important respect there is nothing any UK government can do because citizens of member States of the European Union have an almost unfettered right to come to this country. In another important respect there is nothing they should do because genuine refugees from the grimmer areas of human habitation must always be given a safe haven.

The point of today's waffle is something called the Ankara Agreement (for a summary of the parts that matter for present purposes, see here). One provision of the agreement allows Turks to apply for permission to enter and work in the UK if they intend to establish a business and show they have the financial means to do so. It is important to understand that an applicant who meets the criteria will be given the right to come and work here, there is no residual discretion to refuse an application that ticks all the boxes. What is required of an applicant is the intention to set-up a business and the money necessary to do so. The whole thing is about allowing in entrepreneurs, joining an existing business or working for a new business set-up by someone else is outside the Agreement. One might think very few people would qualify.

A whole industry has grown up around this aspect of the Ankara Agreement. There are firms of so-called immigration consultants who formulate applications for anyone who will pay them a fee.

These firms have template business plans they print-out with little or no amendment for scores of applicants. It goes without saying that the applicants are almost exclusively young men. One business plan that has been doing the rounds is the establishment of a bicycle taxi service in the West End of London. This was devised by one of the consultancy firms and has formed the basis of applications for permission to stay in the UK by dozens of men who came initially on student visas. It should be no surprise to anyone with a smidgen of common sense that most of them were not genuine students at all, they were the nephews (or sons of friends) of Turkish people already settled here and came to be part of their established businesses. They signed on as students at a language college of greater or lesser repute and worked in the uncle's (or father's friend's) restaurant or shop and then wanted to find a way to stay here when the period of their student visa was due to expire. From the beginning they came here to work and establish a life rather than to study, the student visa was simply a means to an end.

The Ankara Agreement is also treated as a means to an end. Recently I met a friend of a friend who used the bogus bicycle taxi business plan and was refused permission to stay because the judge saw through the scam. The applicant himself was disappointed but not surprised, he knew his intention was to continue working in his uncle's restaurant in the midlands and that he would rather smear his scrotum with toothpaste than operate a bicycle taxi. He knew the application was a scam, took his chance and lost.

I know others who have been given leave to live and work here under the Ankara Agreement despite having no intention at all to set-up their own business. Some just want to live a western life rather than a repressive Islamic life, others simply want to avoid national service in the Turkish army, most want both.

When discussing this topic with local Turks it is obvious that there is no desire to harm the UK behind the fraudulent applications that are made. There is no intention to scrounge benefits or to engage in criminal activity, the intention is simply to come here, work hard and make a life in the UK rather than in Turkey. A few days ago the excellent Mr Raedwald wrote about the Turks (here), his piece encouraged me to write on the subject because his positive view of Turks is the same as mine.

In the normal run of things I would be inclined to denounce systematic fraud of the type behind the hundreds of bogus applications made under the Ankara Agreement each year. I find it hard to denounce people who come here under student visas to see whether life here will suit them and, when they decide it will, want to find a way to remain so that they can earn an honest living. Of course there is a conflict between the honest lives they want to lead and the dishonest means they use to secure a right to remain here. It could be said that they do not want to lead honest lives at all because the lies told in their applications show them to be seriously dishonest. I understand that argument entirely and part of me agrees with it, the other part of me asks why people who want to work for a living should not be allowed to do so. Although their applications are fundamentally fraudulent they are not intended to harm anyone and, as far as I can tell, they do not harm anyone.

Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the Ankara Agreement. Since then I have been talking to a number of local Turks I have known for years, what they told me about the way the Ankara Agreement has been used for decades accorded exactly with the way it was used by people whose applications were recently allowed or refused and who allowed me to look at the paperwork. Some of it was quite astonishing, particularly the successful application of one man who applied on the basis he was planning to start a website design business when he has worked as a waiter in a Turkish restaurant since he came here two years ago and still does the same job today. He just wanted to stay here and continue his life here, the alternative was at least a year in the army followed by starting from scratch. He was lucky, his bogus application succeeded. Frankly, this country is better for having him here because he is good at what he does and benefits the business that pays him. It sould surprise no one that a Turkish restaurant keeps its customers happier by having good Turkish waiters rather than employing Wayne or Jermaine, why should there be any obstruction to a good Turkish waiter living here so that he can provide that service?

The Ankara Agreement induces fraudulent applications because it establishes an avenue for people from one culture to live a new life in a more appealing culture. Indeed, so appealing is the new culture that a whole business has developed around finding ways to use the opportunity provided by the Agreement. It is a massive fraud.

A better course would be to allow everyone in provided they pay their way - no benefits, no right to housing, no hand-outs. Earn your way or go home. The young Turks wouldn't be going home in a hurry.


Cornishgiant said...

This is of course the libertarian way - open borders. But with no right to medical treatment, benefits, education for your child until you have paid tax/NI for 5 years.

State education for children of immigrants could be provided at cost/subsidised so as to make it affordable. Kids would meet the 5 year rule by undertaking 5 years education in our state system, as would native kids.

Hence it could be applied to European citizens as well meaning that they could not move here and start claiming anything.

If only there were some politicians with balls.....

john miller said...

Scrotum? Toothpaste?

I think we should be told...

I never do word verification jokes , but now I will



TheFatBigot said...

It is a form of torture much employed by our friends from Sicily.