Monday, 4 April 2022

The Ministry of Silly Questions?


The process for allowing Ukrainian refugees into the UK has been much-criticised, entirely justifiably, at a time when urgent action is needed to help those displaced by the war. Uniquely in Europe, the UK government is still insisting on people completing complex visa application forms before being allowed entry. The government insist that this is necessary for ‘security’ purposes, but have failed to provide any sort of explanation as to why that is a great concern here, but not important for any member state of the EU. It's probably just another example of English (and it is English in this case – both the Welsh and Scottish governments have called for a more flexible approach) exceptionalism – they probably do genuinely believe that England needs to be more careful than anyone else. Perhaps they even think that the ‘hostile environment’ which they’ve spent so much time and effort creating somehow makes the UK uniquely attractive.

It has certainly been made clear – even if it was not so previously – that the UK’s process, even in the case of people in desperate need, starts from the assumption that people (with the possible exception of corrupt billionaires) must be kept out. It’s not an admission process, it’s an exclusion process. The pathetically slow UK approach has, however, thrown a little bit of light on the standard process, which involves completing a 51 page form for each individual. When I first read about how long the form is, I found myself wondering how on earth anyone could actually devise 51 pages of questions in the first place. Part of the answer has emerged in recent days: one of the questions asked is, apparently, “Are you a war criminal?”. Whilst it’s easy enough to understand why any country might want to think twice before admitting war criminals, I can’t even begin to imagine the thought processes of the civil servant who decided that the way to find out was to include the question on an application form. The one thing of which we can be certain is that any war criminal seeking entry to the UK who gets to that question is not going to answer in the positive, a rather obvious fact which makes the question completely pointless.

It made me wonder anew what other silly questions might be included in the form, the very length of which is clearly intended as a deterrent in itself. We are supposed to accept that government efforts to ‘simplify’ the form for dealing with Ukrainian applicants (reducing it, apparently, to a mere 30 pages) is a demonstration of the government being flexible and accommodating. It’s actually more a demonstration of how the whole UK immigration process is about building the biggest possible barriers to entry (barriers which would have excluded the parents of the current Home Secretary as well as those of a number of other government MPs and ministers) and resisting any and all attempts to lower those barriers.

1 comment:

dafis said...

“Are you a war criminal?”. Good question. Some alert civil servant obviously has his/her eye on filling jobs selling British armaments to dodgy autocratic and pseudo democratic regimes. After all, a seasoned war criminal will be able to draw on his/her depth of personal experience when advising some dodgy Saudi prince on how a piece of kit can kill even more innocents in places like the Yemen.