‘Cockroaches’. Migrants’ rights and the Midland Legal Walk.

By Dave Stamp.

As I write this, the polling booths have finally opened for voting following a General Election campaign, in which the subject of immigration has played a central role. With increasing regularity, migrants are portrayed less as human beings with aspirations, hopes and fears, but as a kind of toxic pollution. NHS waiting lists are depicted as the product of ‘health tourism’, while mainstream newspapers print, apparently without a moment’s hesitation, opinion pieces describing people fleeing war, persecution and abject poverty as ‘cockroaches’ to be dispatched with gunboats.

This noise, inevitably, has an effect on individuals with the power to make decisions affecting real people’s real lives. One family with whom we are working, resident in the UK for over a decade with 2 children born and resident in this country for significantly longer than the seven years set down in the Immigration Rules as the period beyond which it is not normally appropriate to ‘return’ children to their parents’ countries of origin, has been told by an Immigration Judge, no less, that their children had been availing themselves, at the tax-payers’ expense, to primary ¬†and secondary school ‘to which they were not entitled’. This, in itself, was considered sufficient justification by the Judge to refuse the family’s application for leave to remain in the UK.

This is a decision as fascinating as it is disturbing. Every child resident in the UK, irrespective of their education status, is not only eligible but actually required by law to receive an education. It simply makes no sense from a legal perspective- the perspective one might hope to be adopted by an individual paid from the public purse to be impartial – to describe a child resident in this country as receiving education to which they are ‘not entitled’. Such a claim, surely, is more informed by an individual’s personal and subjective prejudices, formed in an environment specifically designed to be ‘hostile’ to migrants, than by any dispassionate consideration of the child’s best interests.

ASIRT has been able to assist this family with the submission of an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, highlighting the errors of law contained in the Judge’s original determination. We hope to secure justice for this family, enabling them finally to enjoy the quality of life to which they are legally entitled. Yet increasingly, legal advice and representation is harder to come by. Cuts to legal aid have made it increasingly difficult for people fighting injustice to challenge the decisions affecting their lives, while charities providing legal advice such as ASIRT find it ever harder to access the funding enabling them to fill this gap.

This is why we are once again proud to be joining the Midland Legal Support Trust’s Birmingham Legal Walk, along with hundreds of other practitioners, service users and supporters to raise the money organisations like ours will need over the forthcoming twelve months, which promise yet more cuts, austerity and hostility towards the people routinely dehumanised and demonised by the media.

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